If Senate Bill 232 makes it through the Legislature, it will cost $5 for an Alaskan to get a personal-use fishing permit. Sen. Peter Micciche sponsored the bill. It gives the Legislature the ability to appropriate money for the fees for municipalities that host personal-use fisheries.
At its meeting Wednesday, the Kenai City Council voiced support of the measure. Councilman Robert Peterkin submitted the resolution.
"It’s something that I feel is very important for our community. I don’t feel that the dip-netting operations should fall on city of Kenai residents to support it and I think that this is the first step in trying to get some help with the revenue on this to help provide the services that we’re paying for,” Peterkin said.
Councilman Tim Navarre pointed out that Kenai residents will also have to pay the fee.
“I’m concerned with the cost to the fishery for the people using it. And there’s Kenai residents, a great number of them, that use that fishery. And so, therefore, we’re voting for an additional cost for them to have to pay, as well as other people,” Navarre said.
The city already charges parking and launch fees at the two beach access points and the city boat launch to help defray costs incurred in managing the hordes of dip-netters who descend every July to scoop up sockeye salmon. But many of the city’s costs are fixed, whereas fish runs — and people running to Kenai to catch them — are not.
“It’s been a mandate on the city of Kenai — unfunded mandate — all these years,” Councilman Henry Knackstead said. “… And we went under almost $100,000, $90,000, two years ago. And every year it’s a bit of a crapshoot. What’s the fishery going to do? Is it going to go into August? The fish, how are they going to come in? And all of that.”
Money raised from the permit fee would be divvied up to municipalities based on the total number of days fished in all personal-use fisheries in the state, divided by the number of personal-use days fished within the municipality.
The Kenai dip-net fishery is the largest in Alaska. The state manages the other fisheries in upper Cook Inlet, at the Kasilof River and Fish Creek. Participants in the Chitina personal-use fishery in the Copper River have paid a $15 permit fee since 2017.
For the 2019 fishery, even though the city spent about $56,000 less last July and saw a good return of fish, increasing revenues almost $60,000, the city still expects to come in $3,000 in the hole.
The resolution passed unanimously.