Attempt to postpone horsepower plan drowns

River talk revs up

Posted: Sunday, December 17, 2006

A last-minute attempt to stall a proposal to increase horsepower and remove carbureted two-stroke motors on the Kenai River failed Thursday after the proposal’s proponents urged park advisors to continue to support the proposed changes.

At the Kenai River Special Management Area Advisory Board’s meeting Thursday, board member Curt Shuey asked fellow members to recommend the Department of Natural Resources delay making a decision on whether outboard horsepower limits should be raised from 35 to 50 and carbureted two-stroke motors removed on the Kenai River in the Special Management Area.

Shuey said the regulation changes could prompt river users to purchase new boating equipment and, consequently, make it difficult for regulators to make changes in the future, particularly if the regulations currently being proposed do not lead to the results proponents hope for.

Proponents of the proposed regulation changes say raising the horsepower limits to 50 will help boats plane on the water’s surface and, consequently, reduce boat wakes and erosion, and that removing inefficient carbureted two-strokes motor from the river will reduce hydrocarbon pollution.

Those who oppose the proposal to increase horsepower limits, however, say raising limits may increase the amount of hydrocarbons being released into the river and exacerbate safety issues. Opponents of the second part of the proposed regulation changes say removing carbureted two-stroke motors from the river would disenfranchise private users, who they say may not be able to afford to switch to either the four-stroke or direct fuel injection two-stoke motors that would still be permitted.

Earlier in the year, KRSMA voted to recommend DNR change regulations to raise horsepower limits and remove inefficient two-stroke motors, and some on Thursday said they thought it unwise for KRSMA ask DNR to postpone a process KRSMA had begun, particularly as DNR closes in on a decision.

Ricky Gease, Kenai River Sportfishing Association executive director, said that after two years of considering the horsepower issue, KRSMA had come to the right conclusion, and changing course at this point would tarnish its credibility.

“What faith is anybody in the public going to have in this body if you accept this proposal (to postpone)?” he said. “I think your credibility will be shot.”

Board member Dick Hahn, however, said the board has toiled over other river issues, such as crowding, longer than it has over horsepower issues and it would be wiser to take time to make the right regulation changes than to make the wrong regulation changes and have to change them again.

Others, however, said they were confident the proposed changes would improve the river and urged board members to continue to support them.

“It’s unfair to the river to not take actions and clean this up now,” said Montey Roberts, who testified at the meeting. “I think it’s greedy on some individuals’ parts who want to go back out there with a two-stroke that they know is puking fumes in there ... that kind of thing doesn’t need to happen. You guys have done your research and you need to move forward.”

Some, however, said KRSMA had not finished its homework before it recommended the regulation changes and that KRSMA should do more to ensure the proposed changes will resolve environmental problems and offer the best means of resolving them.

“This group did not look at alternatives, it was just black and white — 50 horsepower and get rid of two-strokes — that’s really remiss and it’s a disservice to the public process,” said Kenai Area Fisherman’s Coalition member Dwight Kramer. “And a disservice to private boaters who are going to take the brunt of this.”

Hahn, who supported the proposal to ask DNR to delay a decision, said he thought the proposal to raise horsepower limits should be scrapped.

“Going from 35 horse to 50 horse is going in the wrong direction, absolutely in the wrong direction,” he said. “The right thing to do if you really want to make it right 20 years from now is start phasing in drift (boat) fishing.”

He said gradually adding more and more drift boat fishing only days would eliminate all of the environmental problems that the current proposals aim to solve and more, including erosion, safety and crowding.

“Even if you get rid of the two-strokes you’re still going to have hydrocarbon pollution, all over the river, you’re still going to have erosion, all over the river, and you’re going to have boat crowding forever, because anytime you can fish a hole again and again ... that’s where you congregate,” he said. “But nobody wants to hear this.”

DNR will take public comments on the regulations until 4 p.m. Tuesday.

For a copy of the proposed regulations call Chris Degernes at 269-8702. Written comments can be e-mailed to Chris_Degernes@dnr.state.ak.us or faxed to 269-8907.

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



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