The Kenai River Special Management Area was created in 1984. Following development of the Kenai River Comprehensive Management Plan, the state Department of Natural Resources began registering river guides.
In 1991, the state parks division was asked to develop a program limiting the number of river guides. But the Alaska Department of Law determined that the grandfathering system they developed was not defensible in court.
In 1992, the division conducted the Kenai River Carrying Capacity Study, evaluating the public's recreational experience, conflicts between users and tolerance of possible management actions, according to background provided by the division. That study showed that nearly three out of four respondents favored limiting guides, including about half the guides themselves. Even so, the division could not directly link conflicts to river guides apart from all river users, and the law department advised against using the study to limit guides.
The Alaska Board of Fish did limit some guiding opportunities, but over the 1990s, the percentage of Kenai River king salmon harvested by guided anglers continued to rise, the division said.
In November of last year, Jim Stratton, director of the division, issued an order temporarily suspending the issuance of new guiding permits for the 2003 and 2004 seasons.
It was that moratorium that DNR Commissioner Thomas Irwin lifted last month when advised the state likely would lose a court challenge to the moratorium.
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