Kenai council backs disaster declaration

Posted: Monday, September 11, 2000

The Kenai City Council unanimously approved a resolution in support of the Kenai Peninsula Borough's commercial fisheries disaster declaration Wednesday night, though the approval came with the reservations of several council members.

"I'm not going to oppose this resolution, but it surprises me that no one is here from the fishing industry to speak about it," said council member Bill Frazer.

Frazer recalled a luncheon before Kenai Chamber of Commerce members at a meeting on March 16, and how he thought commercial fishers had been rude to Gov. Tony Knowles, the guest speaker.

"I was at that function in a semi-official capacity and was yelled and screamed at and called names," Frazer said. "(But) I'm going to overlook that incident and support this measure."

Mayor John Williams agreed.

"When I was asked to sign a letter (supporting disaster declaration) prior to the borough assembly's action, I asked a legislator who called me, 'How do you think Gov. Knowles will receive this after the unfortunate incident that took place?'"

Council member Linda Swarner commented she found it ironic that she had not been contacted by any commercial fishers in support of this issue, and that she found the March demonstration disturbing.

Council member Duane Bannock pointed out that while commercial fishing has indeed collapsed, fish processors are still some of the largest taxpayers in the city. He supported the resolution, but pointed out commercial fishing is just a part of the local economy.

"We have diversified enough that our economy can move on," he said.

Meanwhile, Soldotna Mayor Ken Lancaster has sent a letter to assembly president Bill Popp expressing his wish to support the disaster declaration.

"This dismal return affects all of us who live and work on the Kenai Peninsula," Lancaster wrote in a letter dated Aug. 28. "A poor fishing year has a ripple effect on the basic economy."

Lancaster called for scientific studies to pinpoint what is causing the decline in salmon stocks in Cook Inlet.

"It is very important that these questions be answered to find out why the fish are not here in order to be able to effectively deal with this in the future," he said.

The disaster declaration will be on the Sept. 13 Soldotna City Council agenda as an informational item only, Lancaster said.

"We probably wont act on it, unless the council really wants to."

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