The city of Kenai will be the first to take action toward curbing hydrocarbon pollution in the Kenai River, if the city council approves an ordinance directed at that goal tonight.
A city ordinance limiting use of the Kenai boat launch to vessels with four-stroke or direct-injection two-stroke motors is scheduled to be introduced at the council meeting, which begins at 7 p.m.
If approved, the restriction would go into effect May 1, 2007.
The state Department of Natural Resources is considering a measure banning all two-stroke motors, except those with direct fuel injection, from Kenai River waters within the Kenai River Special Management Area. That ban would take effect Jan. 1, 2008.
Both proposals are in response to a Department of Environmental Conservation report showing levels of total aromatic hydrocarbons emitted from motorboats exceeded the 10 parts per billion limit a number of times during the month of July in nearly every year dating back to 1991.
At the city council meeting two weeks ago, Council member Rick Ross questioned why DEC has known about the pollution for so long and has done little about it.
The lone representative DEC sent to that meeting, Jim Rypkema, told the council he had only been with the agency six months and could not answer the question.
At that meeting, the council did approve a resolution supporting efforts to reduce hydrocarbon levels, but stopped short of endorsing the DEC Category 5 impaired designation.
The council encouraged the DEC “to work more cooperatively” with the city of Kenai, the DNR, Alaska Department of Fish and Game and others to undertake efforts to lower hydrocarbon levels in the lower Kenai River.
On Tuesday, City Manager Rick Koch said the DEC recommendation to place the Kenai River on its Category 5 impaired water body list “gives them five years to come up with a solution.”
“No one in the administration or on the council thinks they should need five years,” Koch said.
“An action such as we’re contemplating may lower the parts per billion to 10 or lower,” he said. “We think it’s important that somebody takes the lead.
“The ordinance is a statement by the council that the river is very important and we’re going to take action,” Koch said.
Also on the agenda tonight is a resolution to continue the Angler Drive improvement district paving project.
“What’s interesting about this improvement project is the assessment methodology,” Koch said Tuesday.
Customarily, property owners’ shares of the cost of a paving project are based on the size of their lots or the length of their property’s frontage on the road to be paved.
For this project, assessments will be based equally on the property’s square footage, the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s assessed value of the property and the number of properties included in the improvement district.
“In this subdivision, we have a number of different kinds of lots,” Koch said.
“We have undeveloped lots, large lots with very nice homes and lots with conditional use permits to operate as guide businesses,” he said. “We tried to address all the different land use amounts.”
The council also will be asked to consider amending the city’s health insurance deductible requirement for city workers.
By switching to a Health Reimbursement Arrangement with a $1,000 deductible, the city can save more than $366,000 in insurance premiums per year, according to Koch.
From the savings, the city would pay the $800 increase in the deductible, so employees would not incur additional costs. Money would also be set aside for employees to use to cover qualified health related expenses.
No changes would be made to employee medical, dental, mental health, spinal and vision coverage.
Phil Hermanek can be reached at phillip.hermanek @peninsulaclarion.com.
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