Most members of the Kenai Area Fisherman's Coalition (KAFC) agree that keeping two-stroke motors off the Kenai River during the month of July in order to combat the hydrocarbon problem is a good idea. But they contend that a year-round ban of two-strokes coupled with allowing boaters to raise their horsepower to 50, not only alienates private anglers, it creates a double standard that they find hard to justify.
"Combined use of all motors from August through June wouldn't exceed half the (hydrocarbon) standard," said KAFC board member Dwight Kramer. "A $5,000 or $6,000 motor is a big deal to a lot of folks. It means having to give up fishing on the Kenai River when they're not causing any problems."
While the regulation to phase-in four-stroke motors or direct fuel-injected two-stroke motors in order to address hydrocarbon exceedences on the Kenai River and to combat wake erosion by increasing the horsepower from 35 to 50 awaits the Lieutenant Governor's signature, Kramer and other members of the KAFC sent a letter to the Department of Law last week in the hopes it might cause regulators to re-think their decision. The letter outlines the problems they have with the regulation, stating the KAFC feels the proposal arbitrarily denies one user group future access to the river.
Ken Tarbox, another board member for the KAFC, said by banning two-stroke motors on the river year-round by 2010, the Department of Natural Resources places an unnecessary burden on local fishermen going out to fish for coho salmon in August. Increasing boaters' horsepower from 35 to 50 puts more hydrocarbons in the river, approximately one to two parts per billion, Tarbox said.
Banning the dirtier two-stroke motor from the river while increasing the horsepower benefits the guide industry while ignoring other user groups.
"The agency doesn't appear to be receptive to other alternatives," he said. "We proposed (DNR ban) them only in the month of July and then let natural attrition of these motors run its course and eventually they'll be off the river."
In an e-mail, Kramer said owners of two-stroke motors already pay a heavy price during the July's king salmon and personal-use fisheries, and DNR should have a responsibility to treat them fairly the rest of the year.
"Environmental standards are set as a benchmark, much like speed limits," he said. "If they aren't broken then we should assume that citizens are operating within a margin of safety established by those responsible for the well being of the resource."
Before submitting KAFC's letter to the Department of Law, Kramer said the coalition approached the Kenai Area Special Management Board as well as agents with DNR, but haven't had any luck in reversing the year-round two-stroke ban. The Department of Law was the coalition's last resort.
"We're hoping DNR backs off this thing," Kramer said. "We talked to them at the KRSMA meeting the other day. We've been working with them (by) providing them data and we expected some consideration from them. When they came to that meeting, they just kind of wanted to wash their hands of it. They're not giving folks the consideration needed."
Dave Athons, another member of the KAFC board of directors, echoed the sentiments of Kramer and Tarbox. He said there will be an open meeting for general members to comment on Board of Fish proposals at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday at the Cook Inlet Aquaculture building. Staff members from the Department of Fish and Game will be on hand to give an explanation of the proposals under consideration at March's fish board meeting in Anchorage.
"Our meeting is an open meeting to discuss proposals," he said. "It's open to general members or prospective members who would like to come, visit and make comments."
Jessica Cejnar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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