Most dipnetters not local

Posted: Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Of the 6,330 dipnetters surveyed in Kenai this year, 90 percent said they live elsewhere.

That is one of the surprising facts contained in the 2007 Dipnet Report to be presented to the city council Wednesday, according to City Manager Rick Koch.

Only 3 percent of those surveyed said they live in Kenai. The remaining 7 percent reside elsewhere on the Kenai Peninsula.

With cumulative revenues of $200,343, this was the busiest dipnet fishery to date, and the report said Saturday, July 21, was "the busiest day in the history of the fishery."

The dipnet fishing season ran from 6 a.m. July 10 to midnight July 31 on the Kenai River.

With the elevated participation this year came higher costs namely for portable restroom services and extra challenges ranging from parking issues to pedestrian traffic on the dunes and litter, according to Parks and Recreation Director Bob Frates.

Fee shack attendants randomly surveyed dipnet participants, Frates said, and from the total revenues, it appears about one-third were surveyed.

In response to beach litter, damage to the dunes and parking lot overcrowding, the city administration will make recommendations to the council as to how some of the revenues should be spent.

One recommendation is to purchase 5,000 feet of fencing to protect dunes and vegetated wetlands from pedestrian and motorized traffic. Thirty signs reading: "Keep off Dunes $100 Fine" and "Keep off Wetlands $100 Fine" also would be purchased.

Administration also is recommending two additional seasonal enforcement officers and one public safety officer be hired to provide extra support to Kenai police officers. The public safety officer would be a year-round position supporting police officers, the animal control department and the city's code enforcement officer.

Garbage and fish waste service improvements to the tune of $12,500 are on the list as well. Administration is recommending that $7,500 be donated to a non-profit organization or school sports booster club that is willing to perform regular litter patrol and cleanup duties on the south shore as it does on north beach during dipnet season.

Roll-on, roll-off 20 to 30-yard Dumpsters would be placed on Kenai Avenue and on Dunes Road and pairs of trash and fish-waste receptacles would be placed at 400-foot intervals along both shores.

The total cost of administration recommendations is approximately $75,000.

The Kenai Police Department, this year, responded to 153 calls for service related to the 2007 dipnet fishery, the majority of which were to pick up cash from the pay shacks or iron rangers.

Eighteen vehicles were impounded, nearly all for parking violations; and four people were arrested for crimes including driving under the influence on an all-terrain vehicle.

The police reported no deaths or serious injuries this year, and no one drove over a pay shack as one group did at south beach last year. The booth was unoccupied at the time.

This year, part of one parking lot needed to be evacuated while the Kenai Fire Department responded to a report of propane leaking from a recreational vehicle. No injuries were reported.

City department expenses singled out for the dipnet fishery included $4,590 for police, which includes pay for 34.5 hours of police presence and 90 hours for seasonal enforcement officers; $60,089 for Parks and Rec, including $18,900 for portable toilets and $10,250 for Dumpsters; and $11,210 for boating facility expenses, including an additional $1,500 for portable toilets and $500 for Dumpsters.

The Public Works Department also spent $30,855, including $18,721 for operations and $12,134 for capital construction. Dock ramps needed to be set and removed, mud must be removed from the ramps annually and concrete barricades needed to be placed at the end of Main Street for traffic control.

Last year, with an abbreviated dipnet fishery due to low salmon runs, the city took in $110,489 in cumulative revenues. The preceding year, which was a full season, brought in $173,464 the previous high year.

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