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Kenai Peninsula Borough extends river protections

Posted: Monday, June 05, 2000

KENAI (AP) -- The Kenai Peninsula Borough is gearing up to enforce new rules to protect the Kenai River and other rivers within the borough.

The old Kenai River Habitat Protection rules restricted development along 73 miles of the Kenai River. The new ordinance, passed last month, extends similar protection to 10 of the river's tributaries as well as 14 other rivers from Hope to English Bay.

''We just added approximately 400 new miles of rivers and tributaries,'' said John Mahorcich, borough resource planner at the Kenai River Center.

The borough expects to add one additional full-time planner and one half-time planner to enforce the ordinance. To cover the expense, it has added $100,000 to the budget proposal now before the assembly.

The original Kenai River ordinance set a habitat protection zone extending 50 feet from each side of the river. Some activities are allowed within the zone without borough permits. Those include construction of boardwalks that meet borough standards, removal of hazardous trees and recreation that involves no construction or excavation.

The ordinance, however, requires a borough permit for most building, clearing, excavation and commercial use within 50 feet of the river. It authorizes permits only after the borough planning commission finds that the proposed work will cause no significant erosion, habitat degradation or water pollution, and that denying the permit will deprive the owner of reasonable use of the property.

About 2,000 parcels front the Kenai River, and about 1,200 front the newly added streams. However, those include land owned by agencies such as Alaska State Parks and the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Meanwhile, most private owners want to protect rivers and fisheries, Mahorcich said.

''People know where the 50 feet is, and they're staying outside it,'' he said. ''Those people bought that property for a reason, and they want to protect it.''



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