Hydrocarbons back on agenda

Kenai River Working Group to present resolution to Kenai council

Posted: Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Kenai Vice Mayor Joe Moore hopes to leave today's city council meeting with his colleagues' support as he and the Kenai River Working Group bring a resolution to the State Board of Fisheries.

As a result of the Kenai River being deemed impaired by the Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the cities of Kenai and Soldotna and the Kenai Peninsula Borough drafted a joint resolution that asks the Board of Fisheries to come up with "means and methods" of taking fish below the Warren Ames Bridge during the month of July that would reduce the level of hydrocarbons.

"This resolution is an attempt to show a unified effort to ask the State of Alaska Board of Fisheries to help us out with removing the Kenai River from the impaired status," Moore said. "I couldn't think of a better request than a unified request from all the municipalities. I don't think it's ever been done before and the state of Alaska would have to listen to local municipalities versus just the City of Kenai."

The Kenai River Working Group began working on a resolution in March and Moore said the public input the group has had so far has been positive. One method of fishing at the mouth of the Kenai River without adding to the hydrocarbon problem is the possibility of eliminating two-stroke motors on the river during July.

"There's really only a problem with hydrocarbons during the month of July, and for a blanket elimination of two-stroke motors on the Kenai River for the entire year may be unreasonable," Moore said, adding that during any month other than July hydrocarbon levels aren't an issue.

Kenai City Manager Rick Koch said there is no law regulating hydrocarbon levels outside the Kenai River Special Management Area (KRSMA) and getting the DEC, the Alaska Department of Fish and Gamer and the Division of Natural Resources to work together on this issue was difficult. But, he, like Moore, said it isn't necessary to completely eliminate two-stroke motors from the river.

"There are people that have fished the Kenai River for decades," he said. "(It's not) necessary to prohibit them from being in the river."

Moore said the Kenai River Working Group submitted a proposal to the Board of Fisheries in April to regulate motorized use for fishing on the Kenai River, but because of the large number of proposals they consider each year, the group hasn't yet received any feedback from the board. The group also has received assistance from the Kenai Watershed Forum and feedback from the Kenai Area Fisherman's Coalition, he said.

"We hope the fact that we have a unified statement or request from three local governments, directly affected by the Kenai River, will carry some weight with the Board of Fish," Moore said. "I hope to get my council's blessing on the resolution to take back to the group when we meet again later this month or the first part of next month."

Lori Dilley of Hattenburg, Dilley and Linnell Engineering Consultants will fill the council in on the status of the city's water improvement plan. There will also be a public hearing on increasing the Senior Citizen Fund for Tesoro Gas Cards by $2,500.

The city council meeting begins at 7 p.m. at Kenai City Hall.

Jessica Cejnar can be reached at jessica.cejnar@peninsulaclarion.com.

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