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Another group jumps into troubled Kenai waters

Kenai Area Fisherman’s Coalition advocates resource sustainability, balanced allocation, sound management

Posted: Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Just when you thought you had all of the Kenai River-related acronyms figured out, local fishermen have added yet another group to the long list of organizations monitoring the Kenai Peninsula’s cherished river and fish that enrich its waters.

The Kenai River Special Management Area Advisory Board, Kenai River Sportfishing Association, Kenai River Watershed Forum and Kenai River Guide Association represent just a sample of the many groups mobilized around Kenai River issues and that offer a range backgrounds that vary as much as Alaska’s weather.

But the group of local fishermen and retired biologists who have formed the latest organization to join the pack believe that, until now, at least one valuable perspective has been missing from this mix.

The latest Kenai River group, the Kenai Area Fisherman’s Coalition, represents a combination of personal use fishermen, unguided anglers and biologists with an eye toward proper fisheries management, sustained resource stability and balanced allocations between user groups.

“We’re a ‘Joe Fisherman’s’ group,” said Dwight Kramer, a private angler and founding member of the group.

The group hopes to raise awareness among personal-use fishermen and unguided anglers who are sometimes shut out of the political process by special interest groups, Kramer said.

“We feel like things have been operated in a vacuum by special interest groups here in the fisheries,” he said. “The public doesn’t have much awareness and we want to raise awareness on fishing issues and conservation issues on the river and other Kenai Peninsula streams and rivers as well.”

The group is made up of 15 members, including eight retired federal and state biologists.

The group’s members hope to influence Kenai River management decisions with a perspective that’s based on sound biology, not tainted by government or special interest money, said Jack Dean, the coalition’s chairman.

“We’re trying to combine this thing where we’re taking the biological position and looking out for the local unguided fisherman that fishes on the river,” he said.

Together the coalition’s biologists have more than 120 years of experience in studying Kenai Peninsula ecosystems, Kramer said.

“They know every study that’s ever been done in Cook Inlet and we feel that we can rely on their expertise,” he said.

The coalition took its first public stand on a Kenai River issue in a letter read by Kramer at a KRSMA meeting Thursday.

In the letter the coalition said it supports a Department of Environmental Conservation proposal to list the Kenai River as “impaired” under the federal Clean Water Act.

The group hopes the listing will propel agencies involved in Kenai River issues to do some comprehensive assessments of the river and establish long-term goals to address issues such as crowding and pollution, Kramer said.

“We want to do what is best for the resource. That’s our mantra,” he said.

Up to now the coalition has received its funds from members, has filed for nonprofit status with the state and is in the process of filing with the federal government.

The coalition is still organizing its infrastructure and is not yet accepting new members, Kramer said.

Patrice Kohl can be reached at patrice.kohl@peninsulaclarion.com.



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