The Kenai-Soldotna Fish and Game Advisory Committee voted unanimously Wednesday to send a letter to state legislators and the governor opposing the nomination of an area fishing guide to the Alaska Board of Fisheries.
The decision came after an hour of committee discussion and public comment that was overwhelmingly opposed to the nomination of Brett Huber, executive director of the Kenai River Sportfishing Association. Of the more than 30 people present at the meeting, only one person spoke on Huber's behalf.
Discussion focused overwhelmingly on Huber's role in shaping recent decisions by the controversial Board of Fisheries, especially the restrictions the board placed on early-run Kenai River king salmon. Also called into question was Huber's affiliation with KRSA, which sponsors the by-invitation-only Kenai River Classic fishing derby each July.
"Basically, (Huber) has privatized the river. They have this derby, and all they do is create hassles for everyone else," said John McCombs, a commercial fisher from Ninilchik.
Only Bob Estes, a Kenai River fishing guide, spoke in favor of Huber's nomination.
"I think we need more sport fishing representation on the board," Estes said. "(Huber) is a good advocate for sport fishing on the Kenai River."
Estes says guides should not be vilified for what they do. He believes Huber can be a strong advocate for Alaskans who enjoy fishing on the Kenai River.
"I think the general public needs to understand what (guides) do. People seem to think it's only nonresidents we take out. I take a lot of Alaska residents fishing," he said.
Huber was appointed by Gov. Tony Knowles earlier this month to fill one of the three vacant positions on the board. The appointees still have to be approved by a joint session of the House and Senate. Although the Legislature's approval is not required, a joint session is usually held near the end of the legislative session to either confirm or deny the appointments, according to Knowles' press secretary, Bob King.
Sen. Jerry Ward, R-Nikiski, has previously said he is opposed to Huber's nomination. Ward said Thursday that he expects a joint session to be called within the next two weeks to discuss appointments, although an exact time frame has yet to be established.
Kenai-Soldotna Advisory Committee chairman Brent Johnson, a commercial fisher, said the group wanted to send a strong message to Juneau that Huber's nomination is opposed by central peninsula residents.
"This area definitely does not want to have him on the board," Johnson said after the meeting. "He just doesn't have the personality traits to be open-minded."
However, Huber says he's more than willing to listen to other people's views. He said Thursday that he was unaware that the board had even planned to meet to discuss his nomination. He said that during the meeting, he was in Homer discussing his nomination with a group of concerned citizens there.
However, he said, the advisory committee's decision didn't surprise him.
"The only part that surprises me is that I live in the community, and to find out the local advisory committee met to discuss my nomination without even contacting me ... that's interesting," Huber said.
"I have no problem meeting with folks who want to meet with me. I've heard from people who support me and people who oppose my nomination," he said.
Johnson speculated that the committee's opposition to Huber's nomination will sway the Legislature.
"The community definitely will be heard. Community opposition (to Huber) will make a difference," he said.
If approved by the Legislature, Huber will claim one of the seven seats on the Board of Fisheries July 1. Board members serve three-year terms and are eligible for reappointment by the governor.
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