Two months before the first sockeye heads up the Kenai River, controversy over the increasingly popular dipnet fishery is already set to take the stage.
Members of the Kenai City Council are slated to begin discussions tonight on whether to allow city residents to park free and launch their boats from the city dock at no charge during the July dipnet season.
Vice Mayor Joe Moore is asking fellow council members to consider creating parking or launching passes for Kenai residents whether they are property owners or renters as long as they reside within the city limits of Kenai.
Residents would be required to bring proof of residency to Kenai City Hall to obtain a pass, which would allow free parking at the south and north beaches during dipnet season as well as free boat launching at the city dock during the fishery.
City attorney Cary Graves has provided the council with his legal opinion that the move could be considered discriminatory because the beaches between high tide and low tide are subject to the public trust doctrine, which guarantees a public access easement.
He suggested the council possibly consider a seasonal rate discount for residents. The discount would be designed to give an economic benefit to a resident who might dipnet throughout the fishery, but not to someone who only visited Kenai for one day or a weekend of dipnetting.
The council also is scheduled to consider buying about 10 acres off Beaver Loop from the state for a possible future water well site. The state has agreed to sell the land to the city for $8,750 as long as the land is used for a public or charitable use, according to City Manager Rick Koch.
Also up for consideration tonight is the purchase for about $80,000 of a new ice resurfacing machine.
Koch said the city has two Zamboni machines that are 32 years old. Both are used at the ConocoPhillips-City of Kenai Multipurpose Facility.
“Having one 1975 Zamboni as a backup is nice, but having a 1975 Zamboni for your front line isn’t,” he said.
A new resurfacing machine costs $72,385, and shipping is estimated at $5,500.
Appropriations of $20,000 and $35,000 are to be introduced for paving a parking lot at the airport and constructing a urea storage building there for winter ice and snow removal from airport ramps.
Koch said the city customarily has purchased the urea from Agrium in North Kenai, but when the plant shut down during the past winter, the city was required to look elsewhere for a source and pay shipping to get the urea to Kenai.
“With a urea storage building, we’ll be able to stockpile and store urea in the winter,” Koch said.
Prior to scheduled business, the council is set to hear a presentation by the Kenai Watershed Forum and Kaleidoscope Charter School on plans for creek cleanup, Adopt-a-stream and a storm drain stenciling project to track water from the time it enters a storm drain to the time it exits into a water body.
The city council meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.
Phil Hermanek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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