KRSMA sets priorities

Posted: Sunday, October 19, 2003

The Kenai River Special Management Area Advisory Board, the group tasked with advising Alaska State Parks on Kenai River issues, set its priorities for the upcoming year Thursday evening.

Based on the board's new list, its priorities haven't changed much. The only change the board made was to modify its priorities from a numbered to an alphabetical list. Board members said the change was needed because the numbered list made it appear as if certain priorities were more important than others, when in reality, all the priorities should be on equal footing.

The only priority the board has a question about is the ongoing effort to complete a Kenai River boat wake study, which has yet to be finished because of funding issues. Board member Rick Wood asked if it was realistic to include the study if funding can't be found.

However, board member Chris Degernes, who works for Alaska State Parks, said she believes the study is still viable, if the state can identify outside funding sources.

"I'd like to give that a shot still," Degernes said.

Included in the board's priorities for 2003-04 are:

A) Working to add more lands along the river to the special management area;

B) Finding ways to limit the number of fishing guides operating on the Kenai River;

C) Continuing habitat protection and restoration work, which includes the boat wake study and other habitat management issues;

D) Continuing water quality monitoring work throughout the Kenai watershed;

E) Finding ways to improve recreation use management along the Kenai; and

F) Seeking funding for the board's priorities.

In other action Thursday, the board:

Forwarded without comment to the governor's office a list of four candidates who applied to fill two board vacancies. The candidates are Jeff King, Floyd Heimbuch, John Nelson and Richard Hahn.

Heard an update from Park Ranger Bill Berkhahn. Berkhahn said the three park rangers operating on the Kenai had a busy, but successful summer, thanks mainly to volunteers and campground hosts who helped out this year.

He said park staff is stretched extremely thin, and without volunteer support, there would be no way the state could manage its Kenai River campgrounds and park land.

"Without volunteers, there would be no way we could do what's required of us," he said.

Received an update on the state's Sterling Highway bridge project in Soldotna. DOT Project Manager Judy Daugherty told the board the state plans to erect a temporary bridge upstream of the new bridge.

Board members expressed concern that the temporary bridge will not be able to handle pedestrian traffic, and also said they were worried the project could have environmental im-pacts.

Daugherty told the board DOT is working closely with the Department of Environmental Conservation to ensure contamination from an adjacent site does not spread into the river. As for the pedestrian traffic, Daugherty said she hadn't heard much concern from the public on the issue. She said the bridge is expected to be finished by spring 2006.

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