Boat launch selection tabled

Posted: Tuesday, September 11, 2001

Land along the Kenai River got a lot of discussion from the Kenai City Council at last week's meeting.

The city tabled two resolutions, one stating a preference for where a proposed boat launch could be located, the other, granting a conservation easement to the state on 500 acres of wetland.

The city found itself in a Catch-22 regarding the boat launch. The Alaska Legislature appropriated $350,000 to acquire a 10-acre parcel upstream from Cunningham Park, off Beaver Loop Road.

However, the state Division of Parks suggested a four-acre site adjacent to and just downstream from the park because there were fewer wetland issues.

Last month the city had before it a resolution to support the lower river selection, but there was vigorous public opposition. Citizens said it would increase traffic at the park and in their neighborhood. Some council members worried it might cause problems between bank fishers and people launching or retrieving boats.

So at Wednesday night's meeting, the council had before it a resolution supporting the upper river selection.

However, Mayor John Williams predicted the sale price for that lot would be double the $350,000 appropriated, and that the state would not provide more.

The lower selection, at less than half the size of the upper, probably could be bought for $350,000, he said, but with no public support for it, he doubted it would fly.

"I recommend we drop this resolution in its entirety and get with the state agencies about state land downstream near the bridge," he said. "If we approve this, it will not consummate the sale."

Parks has a viewing area on the southwest corner of the Warren Ames Memorial Bridge that it hopes to expand in the future. Williams suggested it might be a more palatable option.

Council member Joe Moore from the beginning proposed a south side of the bridge boat launch.

Council member Jim Bookey agreed with Williams that a boat launch there was a logical step, but expressed concern the money may not hold out.

"I hope the money is reappropriated. I don't want to lose it completely," he said. "The lower Kenai needs a boat launch."

Council member Linda Swarner mentioned that at least one constituent, who owns a private boat launch in the city, disagrees and is opposed to a new public one. She did not elaborate.

In the end, the matter was tabled pending further discussions with the state.

Regarding the conservation easement resolution, covering approximately 500 acres to the northwest of the Warren Ames bridge, the council tabled it as well, referring it back to the city administration for more negotiation with the state.

The easement was to have been given to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Habitat Division, in exchange for a new wildlife viewing platform and second access road to the harbor.

Bookey had several reservations in connection with the easement.

"We are giving the state of Alaska 100 percent and total control over this property," he said.

He also had a concern he called "far-fetched."

"In the '64 quake, land sank and land raised," he said. "What happens in 50 years if the land rose and no longer was wetlands and it became valuable property?"

City Manager Linda Snow said that issue could be negotiated into the easement, but Bookey still wasn't convinced.

"Negotiating with the state always seems like a good idea at the time, but after five years it doesn't," he said.

Council member Duane Bannock pointed out that the city would be giving up "a lot of land for a bird viewing platform."

The mayor suggested granting the easement could be tied in with constructing a boat launch near the bridge, even though the two projects come under the purview of different arms of the state government.

Snow said she would be happy to try and get the two departments together.

Council member Pat Porter questioned if all of the land was unusable wetland and suggested lopping off two small lots on the north end of the selection, which have more tree cover.

That suggestion will be discussed with Fish and Game and also will come before the Kenai Harbor Commission.

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