The start of dipnetting season on the Kenai river is just a week away. Over the years, the city of Kenai has slowly refined how it handles the thousands of visitors that pass through.
City manager Paul Ostrander says not much will change this year, but fee shacks on the north and south beaches will see some upgrades.
“The only improvements we’re making right now is some improvements to the shacks on the north beach side and also some improvements at the south shack. They won’t be visible to folks. They’re primarily running conduit to provide more permanent power and internet to those shacks we hadn’t had previously.”
Of course, the big variable this year will be fish. The projected sockeye run is below average this year. Ostrander says his concern, beyond those low numbers, is how the Department of Fish and Game will react. A worst case scenario would be shutting down the dipnet season early.
“If that happens, we need to be able to respond to that, which, depending on the situation, we have to respond differently. If it’s July 20th and they shut down, we have to make the decision (of) do we remove all the Port-a-Potties, do we remove all the trash receptacles, do we actually have to eliminate some employees that were (hired) specifically for the fishery? The consideration there is is it going to be a shut down for the remainder of the year? Is it going to be a temporary shutdown and they’ll fire back up later? Those are all things we need to consider and things we need to prepare for. It’s a difficult scenario if it’s temporary, certainly. The other difficulty is you very seldom know if it is (temporary). They’ll shut it down and if the numbers rebound, we might open it back up. It’s the uncertainty that’s difficult to manage.”
The personal-use dipnet fishery is set to start on July 10th and run through the end of the month.