Dipnetting busier than ever

Kenai sees most lucrative -- and expensive -- year yet

Posted: Monday, August 06, 2007

Kenai's expenditures for this year's dipnet fishery are not yet totaled, but revenues tallied after the closing Tuesday night surpassed $220,000 for the first time.

"What all this means is we had a busy year so many more vehicles, so many more people," said City Manager Rick Koch on Thursday.

Koch said revenues were $200,343.72, compared with $173,000 in 2005, the most recent complete dipnet season on the Kenai River.

The fishery was curtailed just 12 days after opening last year, due to poor sockeye salmon spawning returns. Kenai city revenues totaled $110,000.

On Wednesday, Mayor Pat Porter cautioned Koch about reporting only revenue figures.

"The press is going to print those," Porter said. "I wish you would include the city's costs."

In past years, the city has made its complete financial statement regarding the fishery available to the public, and plans to do so this year once all operating costs are tallied, according to Koch.

The manager did predict expenses to be greater than in past years, based on the normal schedule for pumping portable toilets and emptying Dumpsters not being adequate for this year's amount of activity.

Koch also said capital improvements necessitated by the dipnet fishery need to be factored in.

"Last year, we built two additional ramps (at the city boat launch) at $350,000," he said. "They were 100 percent driven by the dipnet fishery."

The $30,000 the city spent on the new, permanent toilet at the north beach parking area also was driven primarily by the dipnet crowds, as was paving the north beach parking lot, he said.

When asked whether the city viewed dipnetting as a benefit or a burden, Koch said, "The dipnet fishery is a benefit to the city, especially to businesses in the city."

As the merchants' sales increase, the sales tax revenue for the city increases, as well.

At the same time, he said the fishery can be seen as a detriment.

"Are you comfortable having 10,000 additional people in town?" he asked rhetorically.

All things considered, Koch said "any excess revenues from the dipnet fishery go to the city's general fund, which benefit all the citizens of Kenai."

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