City of Kenai administrators think area fishers will take the good with the bad when it comes to the changes that will be implemented during the personal-use fishery on the south side of the Kenai River.
A fee for using the fishery will be charged when it opens July 10-31. The specific amount has yet to be determined, but it will be between $5 and $10. Kenai City Manager Linda Snow and Bob Frates, director of Parks and Recreation, both said they didn't think fishers would oppose paying to use the fishery.
The fee will help offset the costs of the improvements being made to the fishery, namely portable toilet service.
"There were no (toilets) there," Snow said. "We have had lots and lots of complaints about people using the sand dunes as a latrine area. I have seen photos of the area, it's just full of human waste and toilet paper. It's really not a sanitary situation and they didn't have any choice, other than getting in their vehicle again and driving somewhere."
The city has been trying for several years to contract portable toilet service for the fishery but was unable to find anyone willing to do it because of the limited access to the fishery, Snow said.
There is no road to the fishing area, so a contractor would have to haul the units along the beach with a four-wheel drive vehicle to place them, then haul the units back to empty them.
After years of trying to solicit someone to provide the service, the city finally got two bids in this year. One was from a company in Anchorage, the other from S & R Enterprises Inc. in Soldotna. S & R won the bid and will provide eight units for 21 service days while the fishery is open.
"I am so glad that they are going to do this because we've really been wanting to see this proposal for quite some time," Snow said.
The addition of portable toilet service got city administrators thinking about what other changes should be made to the fishery.
An information kiosk with the rules of the fishery will be added to the parking area, as will signs and fencing to protect environmentally sensitive areas. The Department of Fish and Game Sport Fish Division has been working with the city on this project, providing logistical support, ecological information and educational pamphlets to be placed in the information kiosk, Frates said.
An increase in users and a desire to implement a plan similar to the one in effect during the fishery on the north side of the river prompted these changes. According to Frates, vehicle counts at the fishery were up between 250 and 300 last summer.
"As word gets out on the south side and as people discover the access point it becomes pretty popular," he said.
The fee will be implemented to pay for these improvements. A fee collection box with envelopes will be added to the area, as well.
"It just got to the point where it looked like we were going to be doing the same thing on the south side that we were doing on the north side," Snow said. "It's inequitable to have one side have a fee and one side not."
The revenue collected from fees will finance the changes retroactively, as will grant money the city hopes to obtain to fund the project. The city also anticipates receiving a $10,000 coastal impact assistance grant to pay for the bulk of the project, including a four-wheel, all-terrain vehicle, Snow said.
According to Snow, the city also is looking into two other grants but has not received confirmation of them.
This money will reimburse $16,000 in start-up funds taken from the city's general fund balance to pay for the project. An ordinance requisitioning that money went before the Kenai City Council at its May 15 meeting and was approved by a vote of six to one. Council member Jim Bookey voted against the ordinance, saying he didn't like spending that money when the money to reimburse the general fund wasn't yet secured.
The Board of Fisheries made another change to the operation of the fishery when it closed fishing from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. In the past the fishery was open for 24 hours, so many people set up tents for shelters and storage of supplies while they were fishing. That will no longer be allowed after 11 p.m., Snow said.
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