Recognizing Kenai River has problems good, but action needed

Posted: Wednesday, December 03, 2003

The op-ed piece on the Kenai River was a reasonable acknowledgement of many problems (Peninsula Clarion, Nov. 30).

This, however, is an unfortunate pattern in that there is this upwelling of concern, followed by public outcry, a new study, and then no action is taken.

At Board of Fish meetings in 1999, Bob Penney had the erosion study squelched. The Dorava study concluded 90 percent of bank erosion is caused by outboard motors. Later, fish board vice chair Dan Coffey got $50,000 of wake study money to hold halibut meetings.

This is the same meeting (1999) that Chairman John White pledged zero net loss on habitat. At the fish board meeting in 2002, the habitat degradation was quantified in a report to the board. Chairman Dan Coffey cursed and threatened commercial fishermen about bringing up habitat again.

Coffey, White and former board member Larry Engle have all been re-appointed to the fish board's special advisory panel. Why? They could not get it done in the eight years under Gov. Knowles so now we get to watch this political effluent drag the process sideways some more. No thanks. Bad idea.

From the recent story on in-river pollution, state park supervisor Chris Degernes said "The solutions shouldn't come from the government on this." I would be glad to put on some green clothes for $60,000 a year and speak in favor of two more drift-only days in July during the peak of outboard motor pollution.

On the subject of the high number of guides, the issue was tabled by the Kenai-Soldotna Advisory Committee. How is it the commercial fishermen can be limited outside the Kenai River but the in-river commercial fishermen can be limited outside the Kenai River but the in-river commercial fishermen aren't?

There are some simple solutions here. We pay millions of dollars for experts that bring forward recommendations we ignore. The common thread here is that many people are connected to the river in many ways.

What kind of river do you want in the future?

Maybe you can't handle the truth! The simple truth is the river can no longer accommodate these ever increasing throngs of humanity. A collective acknowledgement is good but action is required.

John McCombs , Ninilchik

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