State officials to discuss aid after salmon failure

Posted: Tuesday, November 07, 2000

Representatives of the Gov. Tony Knowles' administration will be in Soldotna on Wednesday to hear if there is anything more the state can do to help following last summer's dismal return of upper Cook Inlet sockeye salmon.

"There isn't any new aid available," said Debbie Tennyson, local government specialist for the Department of Community and Economic Develop-ment.

"It's more that given the fact that there wasn't a disaster declaration and the state doesn't have money to spend (for a disaster), it's a discussion of whether existing programs could be focused to work better for the borough.

"This is a discussion opportunity, really. It's giving the borough a chance to talk to representatives of the state and the governor's office and to explore if anything else can be done. And it's a chance for the state to hear the borough's concerns."

The administration denied requests from the Kenai Peninsula Borough and several others for disaster declarations following poor fishing last summer. Knowles did ask the federal Small Business Administration to declare an economic injury disaster for the Kenai borough. SBA's subsequent declaration makes low-interest loans available to commercial fishers and other small businesses hurt by the dismal run.

"The governor's office is concerned about the effects of a nonsuccessful fishing season and wanted to do a little outreach to find out if there were other ways the state could assist, and to look to the future, as well," Tennyson said.

The meeting, which is open to the public, will start at 1 p.m. in the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly chambers at the Borough Building in Soldotna. Tennyson said she expects Deborah Sedwick, commissioner of the Department of Community and Economic Development; Bernice Joseph, deputy commissioner of the Department of Community and Economic Development; Jim Chase, deputy commissioner of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs; and Andy Ebona of the governor's office to attend.

Representatives of the Depart-ment of Transportation and Public Facilities, Department of Health and Social Services and the Depart-ment of Environmental Conserva-tion also will be present.

Tennyson said there will be no representative of the Department of Fish and Game.

"It isn't a discussion of various fishery things," she said. "We're not talking allocation issues."

Ed Oberts, assistant to borough Mayor Dale Bagley, said he thinks there should be some opportunity for public testimony.

"I know that to some extent, they want to have a government-to-government meeting, but I think some public participation would be good," he said.

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