Port Graham Hatchery Set To Reopen

The Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association has officially taken over ownership of the Port Graham Hatchery. The organization has plans to begin pink salmon operations later this summer.

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At full production, the Aquaculture Association expects salmon returns to the Port Graham Hatchery to generate between $2.2 and $5.6 million dollars annually. In a news release, Association Executive Director Gary Fandrei called the purchase a “great opportunity” for the association, the community of Port Graham and Cook Inlet salmon users.

Carolyn Cherry is Hatchery Operations Coordinator for the Association. She says the hatchery used to be run by the non-profit Port Graham Hatchery Corporation, under the Port Graham Village Council. When pink salmon prices dipped to a level that made the hatchery unsustainable in 2007, the corporation shut it down.

Cherry says the aquaculture association would own the existing building and equipment at the hatchery and would lease the land. She says the hatchery has been kept in good shape and costs to reopen should be minimal.

The reopening of the hatchery could also have an economic impact on Port Graham. Cherry says the hatchery would employee four people year-round and another 6 to 12 people in the summer months. If the hatchery is successful, the association hopes the now-dormant cannery in Port Graham could also be reopened, leading to more jobs and economic activity.

The Association collected broodstock from Port Graham Bay in 2012 and 2013 for incubation at its Tutka Bay Lagoon Hatchery. Those fish are expected to start returning to Port Graham Bay this year.

-Aaron Selbig/KBBI-

City To Consider Buying Birch Ridge Land, Water Rights

A work session is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 23rd, to discuss the city of Soldotna buying the land and water rights of Birch Ridge Golf Course. (Photo: birchridgegolf.com)

The Soldotna city council will discuss whether or not to get into the golf business at its meeting this week. A proposed resolution would allow the city manager to negotiate purchasing the land and water rights at Birch Ridge Golf Course.

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If the city council adopts this resolution, it won’t mean a private golf course turning into a municipal one. Council member Linda Murphy, who is sponsoring the resolution, says it’s a little more nuanced than that.

“The purpose of the resolution is not to finalize the sale Wednesday night, but to instruct the city manager to start negotiations…for the land and the water rights that the golf course is situated on. In my opinion, I’d still like to see it continue to be operated as a golf course, without the city operating a golf course.”

Long time owners Pat and Myrna Cowan are looking to retire. And selling a golf course, lock, stock and barrel, doesn’t have a particularly rosy outlook at the moment. But that’s no reason to lose the course, Murphy says.

“The reality is, the economics don’t work out for a private entity to buy the golf course. It would be 20 to 30 years before you would recoup your investment. And so, if the city doesn’t step up to the plate and at least purchase the property, and have some sort of agreement for operating the golf course, the Cowans will probably be forced to subdivide it and sell if for homes. I think there are plenty of places left to build homes, and I would hate to lose this open space that we have.”

If the economics of selling don’t work out right now, she says the economics of keeping it do work for the city. The golf course, Murphy says, is like any other attraction, and can lead visitors to other businesses in town.

She says there’s no final number on what it might cost the city to buy the land the course sits on and the accompanying water rights, but $800,000 is in the ball park.

“When you look at this, I don’t see a change to the city’s balance sheet, because we’d be exchanging cash for property that’s very valuable. And the water rights have value unto themselves. And in my opinion, the land is going to appreciate in value much faster than our money is appreciating in value sitting in a savings account.”

To keep the city out of the management of the course itself, any deal would include bringing in a third party to run the day-to-day operations. The resolution calls for a waiver of liability for losses or claims resulting from those operations, and a payment in lieu of taxes, since that property would fall off the city’s tax rolls if it’s purchased. The council will discuss this one at its meeting Wednesday night. A public hearing would be scheduled for a later date if its adopted.

-Shaylon Cochran/KDLL-

Green Roof Tops Get Top Honor At Caring For The Kenai

Homer High School senior Katherine Dolma delivers her winning Caring for the Kenai presentation Thursday at Kenai Central High School. (Photo: Shaylon Cochran/KDLL)

The 24th annual Caring for the Kenai prize returns to Homer this year. Katherine Dolma won for plan to install green roofs throughout the Kenai Peninsula School District.

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Katherine Dolma has been working on this project for years. When voters on the Kenai approved a bond measure last fall to spend $23 million dollars on school repairs, including aging roofs, she saw her opportunity.

“There are actually 43 acres of roofing in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District that need to be replaced. That is equal to 32.5 football fields…fields that could be converting carbon dioxide into oxygen,” Dolma told the judging panel.

They do this by putting several layers on top of the existing roof. One for insulation, one to waterproof, then a growing medium. Dirt, if you will, and then the show piece layer. Flowers, or a vegetable garden, or native plants.

“When you use native plants, the maintenance is much reduced. If you’re going to have a flower garden or vegetable garden, you’re going to have to maintain it much the same way you would any garden, which would be a really great educational opportunity,” Dolma said.

So the idea is that by planting native grasses on top of the school district’s building, they’ll help reduce runoff, keep that water clean, more efficiently regulate the temperature inside the building and last longer than a traditional roof. The district doesn’t have any plans to install sod roofs at the moment.

This isn’t exactly a new idea. Sod roofs have been in use in places like Norway for thousands of years. But they’re only in limited use today. Dolma’s research found that, on average, a green roof will last two to three times as long as one made with more traditional construction materials. She found one in Portland, Oregon that’s been used, leak-free, since 1975.

Dolma says the next step is to try and get a test roof put up. She’ll have to petition the school district and the Borough Assembly to get the okay on that.

Other winners included the Skyview high school green club in 4th place. They kept almost 350 pounds of books out of the landfill, and sent them to Africa, with plans to send a lot more. Third place, worth $900, went to Taylor Shelden from KCHS. She advocated increasing local food production with high tunnels. Junk mail was the target for Kirsten Maxson, a freshman at Kenai. She hopes to place a recycling bin next to every mail box cluster in Kenai.

That second place entry received $1,100. Katherine Dolma’s first place prize was $1,600 cash. The science classrooms where all of these students developed their ideas will split $20,000 for supplies, materials, field trips, maybe. Dolma says she hasn’t decided what she’ll put on her classroom wishlist.

“I haven’t even thought about. I hadn’t considered that I would get this far. I’m stunned. But I’m sure he (Homer science teacher Matthew Stineff) will use it in the best way that it can be used,” Dolma said.

-Shaylon Cochran/KDLL-

Stars Look To Get Back To Post Season

The SoHi Stars practice Wednesday in Soldotna. They open their season May 1st against Kenai. (Photo: Shaylon Cochran/KDLL)

Spring sports are getting underway all over the Kenai Peninsula. KDLL’s Shaylon Cochran dropped in on a practice with the SoHi softball team, and brought back this preview for the season.

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On a makeshift diamond in the outfield of the Soldotna little league fields, the SoHi Stars are finally getting in some reps outdoors.

The Stars made it to the state tournament two out of the last three years. They’re coming off an 8-5 season last year.

“My goal is to go to state. We didn’t go last year, and it was nice to go my freshman and sophomore years, and also being more accurate with my pitches,” said senior pitcher Serena Prior.

“And getting some good hits,” senior Allison Nelson added.

Second year head coach Kelli Knoebel says the first step toward that goal is simply getting the team working together as one. That’s part of her coaching doctrine.

“We have a philosophy that we drop everything at the door. If there’s anything going on, personal life or in school, I’m approachable in that regard, but it’s very important for them to have a team and something they can come to with a positive influence. And when we have positive influences, we all know that things become a little bit easier. The kids will come together at times. They know I can only come out at certain times, so they take it upon themselves to pick everybody up.

This was the team’s first outdoor practice of the year. Overcast, a little rainy. About 40 degrees. Typical Alaskan softball weather. But none of that is on Kenley Kingrey’s mind when she’s scooping up grounders at the hot corner.

“(I’m) kinda focused on the play. And then, just get the ball. Take it in, get it where it’s going, don’t worry about anything else.”

Keeping tabs on all the action behind the plate is catcher Delaney Schnieder.

“It’s actually pretty stressful, because you have to tell everyone what’s going on because you can see the whole field. You have to keep them aware of what the runners are doing, where to throw it.”

“It’s going to take commitment every single day here at practice. Us working not as individuals, but as a team, as a unit,” Knoebel says of getting back to the post season.

“We know where our schedule is. We come out with good fire, with good focus; attack at the plate, get our pitches in and things will be looking pretty good for us,” she said.

The Stars open the season May 1st against Kenai.

-Shaylon Cochran/KDLL-

May 1 Kenai
May 2 Kodiak
May 3 Kodaik
May 7 @ homer
May 8 Skyview
May 9-10 anchorage round robin
May 13 @ Kenai
May 16 colony/Wasilla
May 17 colony/Wasilla
May 21 homer
May 23 @ Palmer
May 27 @ Skyview

Assembly Votes Down Pay Changes At Seward Meeting

Bruce Jaffa of Seward addresses the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly at its annual meeting at Seward City Hall Tuesday. (Photo: Shaylon Cochran/KDLL)

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly held its annual meeting in Seward Tuesday night. The Assembly continued its debate about how to adjust members’ pay.

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Picking up where we left off a couple weeks ago, the Assembly discussed Bill Smith’s version of this ordinance to adjust Assembly compensation. The overall effort is to try and save some money for the Borough, and still give the Assembly a fair deal. Future Assemblies, actually. This new pay package won’t go into effect until 2016. All of the current Assembly will either be gone due to term limits, or up for reelection.

The Bill Smith version of this deal ties Assembly pay to inflation, the consumer price index used in Anchorage. Since 2000, Assembly members have been paid a flat fee of $400 a month. That monthly paycheck goes up to $560 now. That’s the fair deal part.

The savings part got underway at the last meeting with Brent Johnson’s original version of this ordinance. He says some of the extra perks, like a vehicle allowance or money to pay for a home internet connection aren’t necessary. And trimming those costs will help fill in the gaps created when voters approved a property tax cut last year.

“Voters wanted to reduce the Borough government when they voted to raise the property tax exemptions. And so in light of that, I’m looking for a way to do what the voters wanted to do. It’s not a question of whether you’re over compensated. I think you work hard for your money, every one of you,” Johnson said.

They got into the nuts and bolts of insurance. What it means, technically, to be a full time or a part time Borough employee. What the insurance costs are for those two groups. Assembly members are classified as full time. And for those who do participate in the Borough’s insurance plan, the annual premiums run about $18,000. Each.

“There’s something wrong with that picture. And so that is why I keep bringing this up. For me, that is wrong, wrong, wrong. And I realize when I get off of this, I’ll have to get on Obamacare. I don’t know where I’m going to come up with the rest of the money for that, but darn it, I want to fight it somehow, and this my little way of trying to do that.”

Support for Johnson’s idea was pretty thin. It failed by a 7-2 vote. But not because they didn’t agree that insurance costs are too high. Sue McClure noted that Assembly members can always opt out if they feel their compensation is too generous. Wayne Ogle said that reclassifying the Assembly as part time employees in order to cut insurance premiums in half only solved part of the problem. But there was still that $25 a month the Assembly gets to pay for internet access. Mako Haggerty said he couldn’t support eliminating that one, based on a story Johnson had told him.

“One night, you were downloading a large packet off the internet. And you ran out of time on your internet card. And so you woke up and midnight and began downloading because you had free internet between midnight and five. I really do appreciate that dedication, but I just think the 25 dollars might compensate you for that dedication,” Haggerty said.

Now, that one would save $2,700 a year. And at this point in the debate, that was still a victory for Johnson, who was trying to get anything to pass. And he did have some support from Charlie Pierce before the vote.

“Give me something!” Johnson said, to the amusement of his fellow Assembly members.

“I’ve been looking for something for five years in the way of cost savings and I haven’t been successful yet. And I don’t think you’re going to be successful either. I support what you’re trying to do and I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but I don’t think this Assembly is up to it,” Pierce said.

That amendment actually did pass, by a 5-4 vote. But even after all of that, another 5-4 vote defeated the entire thing, leaving the Assembly’s compensation package intact, at least for now.

-Shaylon Cochran/KDLL-

Brown Bears Still Napping, But Not For Long

Just one female brown bear was seen during a recent air survey. More will emerge from dens in the coming weeks. (Photo courtesy the Redoubt Reporter)

As we continue to march toward spring, unconfirmed reports of brown bears emerging from their dens are picking up. KDLL’s Shaylon Cochran spoke with area wildlife biologist Jeff Selinger to find out when we can start expecting to see our ursine friends.

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In a couple more weeks. That’s when the Kenai’s brown bear population will really start waking up en masse. ADF&G biologist Jeff Selinger says they’re planning a second round of aerial surveys soon.

“We’ve got 22 adult female brown bears with radio collars. Only one of them was out of the hole, and she was sitting up and as soon as the plane flew by she dove back in. All the others were still in dens.”

When sleepy time is over, the hunt for food begins. Recently, I heard, anecdotally, of a bear around Homer that had learned how to let itself into houses right through an unlocked door, because evidently bears can open door knobs? Selinger says, yeah. It could happen.

“It wouldn’t surprise me. Black bears in particular have a reputation for being able to break into things. There was a report of one out on the east coast that learned how to operate bear-resistant containers. It was the only one that could do it. It learned how to get into containers similar to the ones we have around town where you poke your finger in and you have to hit a latch, move the latch over and lift the lid at the same time. They figure that stuff out. They’re real curious and they’re real creative and they’re pretty darn intelligent.”

Those curious, intelligent bears were the source of a lot of community enmity last fall. At a meeting at the Kenai River Center, several people shared stories similar to Richard Link, who said he wasn’t comfortable letting his grandkids play outside of his Soldotna home, as bear sightings have become more frequent in recent years.

“If you people think it’s fine to live with bears, wait. Without the moose for the bears to eat, they’re going to get hungry and they’re going to eat something. And it won’t be long before it’s somebody’s child,” Link said.

There was a pretty loud call for expanding hunting opportunities for brown bears then, but Selinger says the Department still wants to keep human-caused moralities to a minimum, whether through hunting or defense of life and property killings.

“The Department has just come out after the last meeting held in March, and it’s our intention to close the season as we approach a 17 adult, female bear cap. We do not want to exceed 17 adult females dying from human causes this year on the Kenai.”

He offers most of the usual suggestions to keep those bear-human conflicts to a minimum, based mostly on the fact that bears don’t really want to work any harder for food than they need to.

“It doesn’t take a whole lot of energy to push over a plastic garbage can or for that matter, for a brown bear to pull a sheet of plywood off a chicken coop that doesn’t have electric wire around it. It’s probably a lot easier than chasing down even a moose calf. If we can reduce anything to do with bears getting free food from people, I think we would see a drastic decline in the number of bears we see staying around town.”

For hikers and fishers, firearms and bear spray do the trick when used properly, but, he says making plenty of noise is often the best defense.

-Shaylon Cochran/KDLL-

Soldotna Puts $50K Toward Skyview Pool Budget

Many budget questions remain, but for now, the Skyview high school pool has at least one financial supporter: the city of Soldotna. The city council voted unanimously to put some money toward keeping the facility open, but it’s still not enough.

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It was with some trepidation that the council voted to add $50,000 to its budget, which could then be donated to the district to help keep the pool open. Soldotna Mayor Dr. Nels Anderson said these aren’t typically the sorts of donations he supports.

“I struggled with this. As I’ve commented before, I voted against, when I was on the council, all the dance supports and other things. I felt like we needed to have a policy that the public bought into, or a specific figure the public bought into, that we had a sum that we could donate or divvy up at our discretion. And this is a total exception to that.”

Several members of the council voiced concerns about putting money into something that should be in the budget for the school board. Council member Linda Murphy said rather than the city stepping in, the Borough should take up the cause, but that she saw a lot of value in keeping the pool open for the community.

“I lived in Seward for 25 years, and the pool there opened when my daughter was in kindergarten and she had swimming every year from kindergarten through 12th grade in that pool. That pool was used by the community in the evenings, early mornings. I know when I first moved to Seward, there were a number of kids who didn’t know how to swim and that pool, I think, probably saved a lot of lives.”

Council member Paul Whitney also had some reservations, including increased use of the Soldotna pool if the one at Skyview closes.

“I think the pressure put on the Soldotna pool, for everyone to start using that, would be just tremendous. I look at it as a one shot deal. Give the school district another year to come up with a solution. In the meantime, the pool can stay open.”

This $50,000 in no way guarantees the pool does stay open, though. Annual operating costs run in the neighborhood of $225,000. Central Peninsula Hospital has been approached as a possible funding source. The Borough hasn’t yet finalized its budget and how much funding it will put into the school district. And of course, the state’s final call on education funding is still in the air.

School district spokesperson Pegge Erkeneff says some of those things will be known soon, though, starting with the district’s budgeting process.

“It’s going to all be happening in the next several weeks. Monday (April 14th) at our school board meeting is when we need to pass our budget. But then the legislative session ends mid-April, whenever it’s going to complete, but that’s coming up really soon. We’re just looking in the next several weeks, everything coming together.”

Depending on just how everything comes together, Anderson says this expense for the city might not stay in its budget.

“I think in practical terms, if there is some additional funding that comes from the community, the school board members are looking for an excuse to put the pool back into the budget. If there were a couple of committed funds like this, it will happen. But if it doesn’t happen, obviously this is a moot vote.”

The school district faces about a $4.5 million budget shortfall. Some or all of that could be made up with support from the Borough, which it has given in the past. And indications from Juneau are that there will be at least some increase in education funding for next year.

Update: The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District announced Friday it would reinstate $180,000 in funding for the Skyview pool in the 2014-2015 budget. The School Board will vote on that budget Monday, April 14th.

-Shaylon Cochran/KDLL-

Micciche Proposes State Smoking Ban

A proposal that would ban smoking in most public places in Alaska is making headway in the state Senate. Senate Bill 209 passed out of the Senate State Affairs Committee last week. The bill would ban smoking in office buildings, sports arenas, taxicabs, bars and restaurants, among other public places.

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Many places in Alaska, including Anchorage, Juneau and Bethel, already have similar bans. As a result of those bans, nearly half of Alaska’s population is already affected by a workplace smoking ban.

Soldotna Senator Peter Micciche is the bill’s sponsor. He told the Senate State Affairs Committee Thursday that normally, he a “small government kind of guy.” In this case, however, he feels it’s appropriate for the government to get involved to protect the health of workers.

“Just as it’s appropriate for government to set safety standards in automobiles, electrical codes for wiring (and) requirements for infant and child carrier seats,” he said.

Micciche says the state takes on much of the economic costs associated with second-hand smoke, which he said kills more Alaskans each year than automobile accidents. He also made the point that second-class cities and unorganized boroughs in Alaska do not have the legal authority to enact their own smoking bans.

But most importantly, Micciche said the issue is for him, a very personal one. He spoke about his father, who passed away from a smoking-related illness.

“My father made his personal choices,” said Micciche. “But my siblings and I didn’t. I’m the lucky one of the three. They all had respiratory issues from living through second-hand smoke effects.”

Micciche said more than 400 businesses and organizations have signed on in support of his bill. Committee Chairman Fred Dyson said most of the comments his office has received about the bill have also been supportive of the state doing something.

Larry Hackenmiller testified from Fairbanks on behalf of the Interior Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant and Retailer’s Association. He said Fairbanks rejected a similar law. He also took issue with some of the numbers put forward about hazards related to second-hand smoke.

“There is no hazard to second-hand smoke in a workplace … period,” said Hackenmiller.

Gary Superman owns the Hunger Hut bar in Nikiski. He called the smoking ban an infringement on his rights as a business owner. Superman described his bar as a “blue-collar tavern” that would be “irreparably harmed economically” by the ban.

Kenai businessman John Parker spoke in favor of the proposed ban, saying it would “level the playing field” for business owners on the Kenai Peninsula who may be afraid that banning smoking would give a leg up to their competition. More importantly, Parker said that customers and employees have a fundamental right to smoke-free air.

A couple of amendments have been proposed to the bill. One would include the use of e-cigarettes in the ban. The other would set up an appeal process for businesses who would like to “opt out.”

The bill also provides an “opt out” clause for local municipalities, which would be granted only if a local election is held and a majority of voters choose to exempt themselves from the smoking ban.

After nearly an hour of testimony, SB 209 passed out of the Senate State Affairs Committee.  It heads now to the Health and Social Services Committee. A companion bill is also working its way through the Alaska House.

-Aaron Selbig-KBBI-

KCHS Students Spend A Day In The Life

Lt. David Ross of the Kenai Police Department shares his career experience with KCHS students Wednesday at Kenai Christian Church as part of the annual career day. (Photo: Shaylon Cochran/KDLL)

Wednesday morning was a day in the life of a professional for 135 students at Kenai Central High School. The annual job shadowing day helps juniors either confirm an interest in a career, or gives them some second thoughts.

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“We had a gal a couple years ago (who) wanted to be an OBG-YN until she saw a baby being born via Caesarean and she said ‘I’m out. I’m not doing this.”

That story, from Kenai Chamber of Commerce president Johna Beecah is what the job shadowing day is all about. Giving kids a brief glimpse of what it’s like in the working world they think will be most interesting. Sometimes it ends like that. But not always. Allie Ostrander says now she’s even more interested in becoming a nutritionist.

“It was really cool just to see the daily activities of a nutritionist and I got to see what it was like to interact with the patients and just what his duties were. It was eye opening and it really helped me understand what nutritionist did,” she said.

The whole thing starts in December. Students sit down with a counselor and, based on interest, aptitude and some other qualifiers, they list the top three jobs they’re interested in. That’s where the Chamber of Commerce comes in.

“We sit down and we partner with the business community to try to fulfill the student’s wishes of the top job choice. Sometimes we do have to trickle down to that third job choice. It’s definitely an effort between the high school and the Chamber,” Beech said.

And then on the actual day, they spend the morning seeing what it’s like, then come together for lunch and some speeches to hear how other people found their careers.

Kenai Police Lieutenant Dave Ross told the students over lunch he tried a number of things before he found a career in public service.

“I started off as an engineering major. That lasted about a week and half after I got to school and I decided that’s not as much fun as I thought it would be. That’s a lot of work. So then I became a business major. I’m not sure how long that lasted, but somehow that morphed into an economics major, and then a criminal justice major. There might have been a couple other majors in there, but that’s where I stopped, with an interest in criminal justice,” Ross said.

And even after that, it was a number years before he got on the force. And that’s not uncommon. Labor studies show that within five years of graduating college, 25 percent of workers will change careers. That’s true of this generation and older ones.

Tommy Carver of the Kenai Fire Department said he too tried his hand in several different areas before a fishing trip put him on his path.

“Flew down to Mexico, we’re out on a boat fishing for marlin and he says ‘have you given any thought to the fire department’. I said I used to think about it all the time, that’s what I wanted to do. I hadn’t really considered it at that point, but still in the back of my mind I knew that that’s what I wanted to do. About a year later, a position came open, that was May first of 2001 and I’ve been there ever since,” Carver said.

Rebecca Willard spent the morning shadowing Redoubt Reporter publisher and editor Jenny Neyman, who managed to convince her that journalism is still something worth pursuing. And that just like every career, there’s a ladder to climb.

“You work hard and you pay your dues to get to where you are. There’s not a lot of benefits out of it,..high stress, low reward.But I like that. I like feeling like I did something good. Giving more to people,” Willard said.

While some, like Willard and Ostrander, sound pretty convinced about their career choices right now, not everyone is. And Lt. Dave Ross says that’s true for him, too.

“That feeling may never go away. I still have that feeling. I had it through high school, I had it through college, I had it through my first career and through this career, I still share some of that indecision about what I want to do next when I can retire. Do I want to stick with this or do I want to move on to something else. So you do have to make a decision and do something, but you may never get rid of that feeling of what what you want to do for the rest of your life, because I think many of us adults in the room still have that feeling.”

-Shaylon Cochran/KDLL-

 

Setnet Group Petitions Board of Fish

The state Board of Fish shot down an emergency petition to change management sections for commercial setnetters last week. The Board didn’t agree that there is an emergency.

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The petition was submitted by a new group, the South K-Beach Independent Fisherman’s Association, or SOKI for short. What they wanted the Board to do was split up the Kenai river district and the Kasilof river district, where east side set netters fish. Both areas fall under the Kenai river late run king salmon management plan. There are some new restrictions for setnetters under that plan, which was adopted by the Board earlier this year. SOKI argues that there’s a lot of difference between in fish are available, and when, in different spots along that 70-plus miles of beach. Board member Fritz Johnson said because the run timing is a bit different between the two rivers, it would be nice to manage them differently.

“There is value in having something more terminal in terms of management that may allow the Department (of Fish and Game) more precision with regard to managing these areas. This is the reason I felt compelled to bring this up.”

ADF&G fisheries biologist Pat Shields told the Board that splitting the sections up, or decoupling them, would make things a little easier for managers, because their goal right now is to get as many king salmon back to the river as possible, while still providing those setnetters some reasonable opportunity to fish for reds.

“The Kasilof section, in most years, catches more kings than the Kenai River and East Forelands sections due to the fact that they fish more days. They open up in June and we fish all the way through July 8th, only in the Kasilof section. Once the two sections begin fishing together, the Kenai section will catch more kings, on average, daily.”

One of the biggest restrictions for setnetters is the limit of 36 hours per week of fishing. Shields says with all these sections managed in the same way, with that number of hours, over escapement of reds becomes more of a possibility.

“Under the expected sockeye run that we have forecast for this year, yeah, there’s an increased likelihood with that few hours, that we could be looking at large sockeye escapements in both rivers. We’ll do our best, with the hours that you have provided, and in light of the king salmon situation, to manage the sockeye fishery to get as close to the goals as we can.”

Even with that possibility, the Board didn’t find a need to decouple those areas to give fishermen a different opportunity to catch sockeyes depending on when they actually show up. In the end, they agreed unanimously that area managers already have enough options to achieve the escapement goals for both kings and reds.

-Shaylon Cochran/KDLL-