We're almost there.
The personal-use dipnet fishery at the mouth of the Kenai River closes Saturday night, and come Sunday morning, calm and quiet will have returned to the city.
While it's been popular of late to bemoan the inconveniences that come with the popular fishery, we should take a moment to count our blessings. Indeed, the personal-use fishery, for all its negatives, has given thousands of Alaskans a reason to come to Kenai at a time when there are plenty of reasons -- the price of gas, the economy, the traffic, the crowds, the weather -- to stay home.
The city of Kenai spends a bit more than $200,000 each year in managing the fishery, and nets a profit of about $40,000 through boat launch and parking fees. City Manager Rick Koch has said that the hassle of managing the dipnetting hoards is more trouble than the small profit is worth, and there are many Kenai residents who would tend to agree.
But there is a bright side. The fishery does create a number of seasonal jobs, filled by locals -- that's a good thing when the rest of the world is concerned about putting people to work.
And while no one looks forward to the inconveience of longer lines at local merchants and restaurants, and longer driving time along the Sterling Highway where it seems every other vehicle has a dipnet lashed to the roof, the fact is, people are coming here and spending money. No, they don't spend as much as a tourist on a high-end fishing excursion, but ask any business person, every dollar counts.
So if you drive through Kenai on Sunday, and all that's left of the dipnet fishery is the lingering odor of decaying fish carcasses, it's OK to be thankful we have our town back to ourselves, and to grumble about the cleanup chores ahead.
But at the same time, let's be grateful. We're lucky enough to have access to a natural resource that every year provides the city with its very own economic stimulus.
In short: The Kenai River personal-use fishery may be difficult to manage, but we'd miss it if it were gone.
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