Pacific Rim Logistics, the company behind the Cannery Lodge in Kenai, is moving ahead with big plans to expand its facility near the banks of the Kenai River. The Kenai City Council recently approved the sale of a few tracts of land which include an airstrip and the Dragseth Mansion. That would allow for fixed-wing aircraft to land near the lodge and mansion. The city’s Planning and Zoning Commission will be voting on conditional-use permits for PRL at its meeting this week. City Manager Paul Ostrander says PRL will have more to show the city before it can begin its operations.
"If the conditional-use permits are approved by the (Planning and Zoning) Commission on Wednesday, that would allow PRL to begin to use that airstrip, once they have fulfilled all the conditions in the permit itself. An example of one of those is that they have to have an operational plan for review by the city, and until we have that operational plan, they won’t have authority to use it."
He says those plans will provide more details about how and how often the airstrip will be used, how that facility will work with the FAA and Kenai airport and how that airstrip will be maintained.
"They’re not going to be allowed to bring material into the airstrip and the airstrip has to retain its nature, the way it is now. In other words, it has to be a grass strip, it can never be improved beyond that. As part of the operational plan, I would anticipate that they would include plans for how to improve the existing strip."
The other conditional-use permits would allow for a restaurant, office and event space, but the airstrip, and future plans to house a small fleet of inflatable airships are the main show, and also the main concern for some. The area is a productive migratory bird habitat. The city has received letters from local birders raising concerns about what impacts air traffic could have on that habitat, and also about the potential safety issues there could be during fishing season.
"The airstrip ends directly north of our new beach access, so there needs to be provisions within that operational plan on how they will basically coordinate with the city for any crossing of aircraft across the south beach access, how that’s coordinated certainly during the personal-use fishery, and at any time of the year."
PRL took the Dragseth Mansion off the city’s hands for $825,000. Proceeds from that and the other land sales will go toward the city’s South Beach Access Road project. The Planning and Zoning Commission will discuss the permits for the airstrip when it meets Wednesday at 7 p.m. at city hall.