Kenai RAC up for debate

Subsistence issues may spawn new committee

Posted: Thursday, September 28, 2006

Looming questions have left local fishermen scratching their heads over what to make of an Alaska Federal Subsistence Board proposal to create a Kenai Peninsula Subsistence Regional Advisory Committee.

“Is there any way to get good answers to these questions?” Alaska Department of Fish and Game Advisory Committee member Joe Connors asked at the committee’s meeting in Soldotna on Tuesday night.

When, how and with whom a possible Kenai Peninsula RAC would be formed is, for the most part, still being determined, as the board decides whether the peninsula should be separated from the Southcentral RAC it is currently part of to an 11th RAC.

Tuesday, Fish and Game Advisory Committee members tossed about bits and pieces of information they had heard as they puzzled over what a Kenai Peninsula RAC might mean for the peninsula.

Advisory committee member Roland Maw, for example, said he had been told that although a decision to create a peninsula RAC remains uncertain, the application period for people who would like to become members of the RAC, should it be created, already has ended.

This is true said Office of Subsistence Management Federal Advisory Act Coordinator Ann Wilkinson on Wednesday.

The application period for people interested in becoming a members of the possible Kenai Peninsula RAC, ended in July, she said.

But that does not mean a reopening of the application period is entirely out of the question, Tom Kron, Office of Subsistence Management acting deputy assistant regional director, said Wednesday.

“It was already opened and closed, but since that time there’s been a lot that’s happened, and I don’t know if that may generate some change or not,” Kron said.

Because time is limited, however, reopening the application period could prove challenging, he said.

If there is support for a peninsula RAC, it could be in place and evaluating proposals as early as this winter.

However, a decision over whether the application period should be reopened is premature, Kron said.

“Basically there would have to be a decision to form a council first, before we even deal with the names issue,” he said.

Additionally, should a peninsula RAC be created this winter, a third of its seats will be up for review again the following year, reopening the opportunity to apply for a seat on the RAC, he said.

At Tuesday’s meeting, members said they also were unclear about how many seats on the possible new RAC would be designated to each user group.

Wilkinson said the Office of Subsistence Management currently is undergoing a process to clarify the membership balance process for councils.

“These councils are subsistence councils, and they will have a balance of members,” she said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean equal numbers, but there will be a balance of subsistence, sport and commercial users on the council.”

People interested in applying for seats available in December of 2007 on the peninsula RAC, should it be created, should apply by Jan. 10, she said.

Possible boundaries also are in the air, and members at Tuesday’s meeting wondered if the boundaries might be drawn to include Anchorage.

The answer is yes. Anchorage could be included in a peninsula RAC, Kron said.

“You gotta decide where to put these big urban areas, and the earlier board’s assessment was that it made sense to have Anchorage within the Kenai region,” he said.

The board thought it made sense to include Anchorage in a peninsula RAC because a high percentage of people in Anchorage utilize the peninsula, he said.

Like the peninsula, Anchorage currently is represented by the Southcentral RAC, which also represents Prince William Sound, the Copper River drainage, Cook Inlet drainage and the inland waters and lands of the Glennallen area.

Due to controversy over the possible creation of a peninsula RAC, the board has slowed the decision making process down and plans to hold two public meetings where the public can ask questions and make comments on the issue.

The times and locations of the meetings have not yet been determined. However, one will be held in the Kenai-Soldotna area and one in Homer or Ninilchik and sometime in October.

The Office of Subsistence Management also is accepting written comments from the public on the issue until Nov. 9. For more information on how to apply for a seat on the possible Kenai Peninsula RAC for December 2007, call Wilkinson at (907) 786-3676.

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