This year’s commercial salmon harvest was bad. Really bad.
The harvest in Upper Cook Inlet was reportedly the lowest since 1971, with drift gillnet and east side setnet harvests 86 percent lower than their respective recent 10-year averages. On top of that, the price for sockeye salmon paled in comparison with recent years.
That burden hits close to home for a lot of Kenai Peninsula fishermen. At the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting Tuesday, representatives from the United Cook Inlet Drift Association and Kenai Peninsula Fishermen's Association called on the assembly to request that the state of Alaska declare an economic disaster for Upper Cook Inlet commercial salmon fisheries.
Tim Dillon, the executive director of the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District and the borough’s census coordinator, thought he had until the end of the month for a final census push. Now that deadline is today, due to a Supreme Court ruling to end counting early.
That’s complicated a process that was already made difficult by the pandemic.
“It’s kind of left us in a scramble,” Dillon said. It’s been so difficult this past year with COVID and the starting and stopping and everything and it’s really been pretty bizarre.”
The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly voted to cover the $250,000 used by the borough to mitigate floods in Seward earlier this month.
Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce issued an emergency disaster declaration Oct. 2 when heavy rainfall from the day before caused flooding on the eastern peninsula, creating a large load of sediment that damaged borough-maintained roads. Among the damaged areas were Dieckgraeff Road, a gravel road that is the only pathway to the borough’s solid waste transport facility in the Seward-Bear Creek area, as well as two subdivisions.
Residents of Kenai, Soldotna and Kachemak have been eligible for housing relief funding for a month or more. Soon, residents from the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s unincorporated areas will be able to apply for rent and mortgage relief, as well.
The relief comes from a partnership with the Alaska Housing Financing Corporation. Much like the programs in the cities, this one will subsidize up to $1,200 per month for eligible households, paid directly to recipients’ landlords.
The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation is now accepting public comment on a plan by Hilcorp Alaska LLC to move a jack-up rig to the Tyonek Platform in Cook Inlet. The department issued a preliminary approval for Hilcorp’s plan Oct. 5.
The rig in question is a Spartan 151 jack-up rig, currently in storage in Seward. The Tyonek Platform, where it would be stationed, is the northernmost platform in the inlet and a previous asset of ConocoPhillips. Hilcorp, an independent energy company with a history of reviving old drilling infrastructure, bought the North Cook Inlet oil field in 2016.