With season around the corner, take note of new regs in effect

Posted: Friday, April 25, 2008

Boating season is just around the bend, but power boaters should be aware of some new regulations on the Kenai River for this season.

Clarion File Photo
Clarion File Photo
Sport fishermen head upstream on the Kenai River near it's mouth as the sun sets over the city of Kenai. New regulations affecting boats and their motors go into effect on the Kenai River this season.

"They went into effect on March 1, 2008," said Jack Sinclair, Alaska Division of Parks Superintendent for the Kenai/Prince William Sound Area.

The new State Park regulations are intended to address excess hydrocarbons in the river, which in the past have been found at such high levels particularly throughout the month of July, exclusively during days when powerboats were on the river that in 2006 the lower 19 miles of the Kenai River was declared an 'impaired water body" by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.

However, Sinclair said "We saw the need to keep the whole river clean, not just where we saw excesses."

The new regulations will allow outboard motor size to increase from 35 horsepower to 50 horsepower in the Kenai River Special Management Area (KRSMA), and make it illegal to have a motor with a total horsepower rating greater than 50 horsepower (except for Kenai and Skilak Lakes).

"The reasoning behind this change is to allow boats that are commonly used on the Kenai River especially in the lower river to operate more efficiently and produce smaller wakes that will be less destructive on river banks. It is important to note that this greater efficiency will be lost if boaters overload their boats. The should be kept as light as possible and operated at a safe speed for the conditions," Sinclair said.

In addition to the horsepower increase, regulations also require all motors used in the month of July to be either a four-stroke or a cleaner direct fuel injected (DFI) two-stroke motor, and any motor that exceeds 35 horsepower to be a four-stroke or DFI two-stroke.

"This includes the waters of Kenai and Skilak Lakes," Sinclair said.

According to Sinclair, this new regulation was created to remove the single most polluting element that affects the river: the carbureted two-stroke motor.

"Larger two-stroke motors exhaust proportionally greater amounts of fuel into the water than smaller outboards, so all motors larger than 35 must conform to the cleaner burning motor types," he said.

"The state standard for hydrocarbon levels is set to protect aquatic life, including aquatic insects and fish. Protecting the bottom of the food chain and juvenile fish is critical for continuing the Kenai River's productivity, and why it is so critical that the unbridled use of older two-stroke motors is curtailed," Sinclair said.

In regard to what constitutes a cleaner motor type, Sinclair said all four-stroke motors qualify, as well as the newer generation two stroke-motors that use direct fuel injection technology currently manufactured by Evinrude, Nissan and Tohatsu. A DFI motor should not be confused with the older, electronic fuel injected (EFI) two-stroke motors.

"EFI motors are not approved for use in July," he said.

Also, all owners of boats with motors operated within the KRSMA that exceed 35 horsepower and all motors that operate during the month of July will need to obtain a decal for their motor. These will be issued by Kenai River State Park Rangers.

"These small red decals will be applied to the rear of the cowling of the motor by the ranger. This will allow the ranger to verify that the motor is indeed a four-stroke or DFI two-stroke motor. These decals can be issued in the field, normally at the state park boat launches, but they can also be issued after a person is under way on the river," Sinclair said.

The new regulations also require that no power boat may be used within the KRSMA that is in excess of 21 feet in length or 8 feet, 10 inches in width, without a permit. This boat size limit does not apply on Kenai and Skilak Lakes, though.

"This new regulation provides a grandfather clause for any boat over 21 feet in length or 8 feet, 10 inches in width if the owner provides proof that they purchased the boat prior to March 1, 2008," Sinclair said.

Any power boat in excess of these size restrictions that was purchased after March 1 may not be used within the KRSMA. After Jan. 1, 2010, all owners of powerboats used within the KRSMA must comply with the size restrictions.

There will also be some new restrictions that will apply to the mouth of the Kenai River to address excessive hydrocarbon levels in the lower river. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has issued an emergency order for 2008 regarding the personal-use fishery on the lower four miles of the Kenai River which states that fish may not be taken from a boat powered by a two-stroke motor, other than direct fuel injection (DFI).

For more information on this particular regulation, contact Fish and Game at 907-262-9368. For more information on all other regulations visit http://www.dnr.state.ak.us/parks/krsma/krsmanewreg.htm or call the Alaska Division of Parks at 907-262-5581.

Joseph Robertia can be reached at joseph.robertia@peninsulaclarion.com.

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