As I just recently returned from the annual meeting of the American Fisheries Society in Wisconsin and did not have the opportunity to do so earlier, I would like to apologize for the recent misunderstanding regarding KRSA's stance as to where the January Board of Fish meetings should take place. As explained in Matt Tunseth's article last week, the BOF voted last month to uphold and be consistent in their two-year-old policy of only holding the meetings in Anchorage, Fairbanks or Juneau. In relation to this issue, some letters to the editor and a Clarion editorial blamed KRSA for confusing the issue by citing security concerns based upon past meetings. I would like to take a moment to personally apologize for that confusion.
I sent an e-mail to Diana Cote, BOF executive director, to point out that the BOF should take security issues under consideration. It was my mistake alone in not having this correspondence reviewed by the chair or other KRSA board members, as is our policy. Although I stated that security needs to be considered regardless of where the meeting is held, I erred in bringing up the issue of security in relationship to the meeting location. These are distinct issues and should be addressed separately. I'm sorry for any misunderstanding that may have resulted due to an e-mail that should have been reviewed by our board, and I promise, as executive director of KRSA, to do better in the future. I accept full responsibility for this mistake and offer my apologies.
It was never my intent to call into question the quality of the Soldotna Police Department, Soldotna Alaska State Trooper Detachment and the safety of our communities or its meeting facilities. From experience of living in this community for over a decade, I know our police are among the best in the nation and that we live in a safe and secure region. My father, my uncle and my cousins all have had distinguished service in law enforcement; I deeply respect the hard work and dedication of those public servants who put their safety on the line so that the rest of us may lead our lives peacefully. I sincerely regret any inference to the contrary.
I also want people to know that KRSA strongly supports the economic development of the peninsula and fully realizes the impact visitors have on our region. Our Kenai River Classic results in an economic infusion into this area to the tune of $1 million a year. We fully support our local business, the chambers of commerce and the various tourism organizations. Our board members are business owners in our communities and rely on both local citizens and visitors for their income so we most definitely support the local economy.
On a final note: KRSA will be writing a letter to the BOF asking them to consider having two days of public comment conducted via interactive video conferencing in Soldotna on a Friday and Saturday, so those who work can have an opportunity to let their thoughts on the various proposals be known. While this does not take the place of having the entire meeting on the peninsula, it may be a compromise they may consider. That way, local folks could still address the board, see them and talk to them live, while the board in Anchorage could be seen and heard live by those in Soldotna.
KRSA already has looked into this possibility, and the University of Alaska Anchorage would be open to this possibility on their Anchorage campus while the Kenai Peninsula College Kenai River Campus in Soldotna could support those people on the peninsula who wish to testify.
We feel this technology could be utilized at the January meeting, as well as future BOF meetings, where issues that affect smaller populated areas could be commented upon by those who live in these areas the way the public process is supposed to work. Plus, these people would not have to take off days from work to attend meetings held away from their homes and workplaces. In fact, the KRSA board has agreed to pay the university for any costs associated with supporting this during the January meeting. KRSA believes this fits well with our mission of education and feels this would be a win-win situation and everyone would benefit.
KRSA is dedicated to the conservation of the Kenai River as a sustainable resource for all user groups to enjoy in a responsible manner. We will continue to work with the BOF and strive to do what is best for the fish and assure fair allocation of our sports fishery resources.
Ricky Gease is the executive director of the Kenai River Sportfishing Association.
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