The city of Kenai could get a new wildlife viewing area and a second road into the city dock if the city council and the state Department of Fish and Game come to agreement on a conservation easement transfer.
The council will take up the matter at tonight's regularly scheduled meeting.
"It's a rather complicated transfer that Rick (Ross, former city manager) put together during some negotiations with the state," said Kenai Mayor John Williams.
The proposed resolution would transfer a conservation easement on about 500 acres of wetland bounded by Bridge Access Road, Boat Launch Road and the Kenai River from the city to Fish and Game's Habitat Division.
Williams described the deal as being part of another transfer the city is granting Fish and Game's Habitat Division on the other side of the Warren Ames Memorial Bridge. The conservation transfers will allow the city to get out from under federal Board of Recreation restrictions on property atop the Kenai River bluff near the senior center.
It is not a carrot being offered to Fish and Game to smooth the way for a bike and pedestrian trail alongside Bridge Access Road that has been proposed amid some objection over habitat concerns.
"The bike path would be built in the Department of Transportation's right-of-way," said Habitat spokesperson Mark Kuwada in Anchorage.
"I think this is a great project," he added. "It's a great opportunity to provide lasting protection for resources out there. It seems like a win-win deal for everybody."
Kenai City Manager Linda Snow agreed, saying the area is not suitable for other development.
"And in return, we get a bird viewing platform and get money to construct a new access road," she said. "It seems like a really reasonable project."
The state will build a new wildlife viewing platform off of Boat Launch Road for the city, as well as a second access road to the boat launch facility. Habitat will use money from a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grant to build the projects. The new access road will be built closer to downtown than the existing one. The plan is to allow only one-way traffic on each; one in, the other out.
The sale price has not been determined yet, as no appraisal has been made. But Snow said it will be fair market value, which Kuwada said was around $500 an acre.
"That's a rough approximation. It's all wetlands, and they don't appraise very high," he said.
The council will address the issue relatively early in tonight's meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. in the basement of city hall.
Also on the agenda is a resolution endorsing one of the two choices for a boat ramp facility along Beaver Loop Road. The Legislature appropriated $350,000 for purchase of property near Cunningham Park late this past session.
While the appropriation, ushered through by Rep. Eldon Mulder, R-Anchorage, designated a 10-acre lot upstream of Cunningham Park, the state Division of Parks proposed four lots adjacent to and just downstream of the park instead. Public comment was overwhelmingly against that idea, and it enjoyed little support on the Kenai council. The council will have the endorsement of the original 10-acre parcel before it tonight.
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