When it comes to the river, time will tell

Letter to the Editor

Posted: Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Increasing the horsepower of outboards on the Kenai has ominous implications for the future — we simply can’t continue to encourage a growth industry on and to the detriment of a finite resource.

To believe that increased boat speeds will produce a safer fishery is, I think, wishful thinking that may come back to bite us. Surely a superficial examination of highway safety records will show that any increase in highway speed results in a proportionate increase in accidents. Can we honestly expect anything different from faster boats?

Habitat is being degraded by motorized angling activity and more. Using bigger motors may or may not slow down erosion, but how commendable is it to merely slow down abusive activity when to the degree than nonmotorized use is increased, to that exact degree the habitat degradation caused by motors is entirely eliminated?

Pandering to motorized use of the river is a pitiful substitute for doing the right thing, which is to reduce such activity.

Furthermore, if it’s true that there are no more boats on the river than there were 20 years ago — and that’s something of an “if” — it remains that during that time period commercial user numbers have about doubled, leaving the data sadly documenting just how many private anglers have stopped fishing the Kenai River altogether.

Finally, many people are appalled at what they witness on the Kenai, viewing wholesale catch-and-release, combat fishing and trophy hunting as an angling and social disgrace. Rather than attempting to continue to commercialize and develop an increasingly fragile Kenai River fishery, we should instead take a longer-term view, endeavoring instead to capitalize on the quality of the experience rather than sheer quantity.

The months ahead will determine whether the juggernaut of motorized exploitation of the Kenai continues unabated and even encouraged or whether farther-sighted options prevail, slowing things down. Time will tell.

If you oppose increasing horsepower limits on the Kenai, it is imperative you contact Chris Degernes at the Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation and voice your opinion. All that’s needed for the success of a bad idea is for no one to support a good idea.

John Nelson

Soldotna



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