Contentious resolution on Tutka Bay hatchery fails

The Homer City Council had 22 items on the agenda for its regular meeting on Monday night, but one item, Resolution 17-002, “supporting sustainable fisheries in Kachemak Bay through fisheries enhancement and habitat rehabilitation,” led to more than an hour of public testimony, all of it during the “public comments upon matters already on the agenda” portion of the meeting.

That resolution sought council support for Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association efforts in the Leisure and Hazel Lakes sockeye salmon stocking and the Tutka Bay pink salmon and sockeye salmon stocking.

The Tutka Bay project got the most criticism. CIAA proposes moving pink salmon fish rearing pens from Tutka Bay Lagoon to the head of Tutka Bay, where fry would imprint and return to that area instead of the lagoon, not mixing with other salmon stocks and making fishing easier. The net pens would be set up from mid-March to mid-June.

Most of the nearly 30 people testifying spoke in favor of the resolution.

“That’s the issue of what we’re describing here. It’s not something new. It’s a way of being more
effective,” said commercial fisherman Glenn Carroll.

Kachemak Bay State Park advocates said the net pens would harm the scenic and recreational values of the park. Kirsten Dixon, co-owner of Tutka Bay Lodge, a high-end lodge visited by affluent guests like the King of Norway, said the net pens would be detrimental to her clients’ wilderness experience.

“I feel, however, if the hatchery efforts spill out beyond the lagoon, the ‘natural zone’ nature of the Bay will turn into something quite unnatural and something quite unaesthetic,” she said.

Others urged the council to avoid a potentially divisive issue.

“You’re in a tough spot,” said Alan Parks, a former commercial fisherman. “The way this is put before you, it’s put before you in a contentious way.”

Parks proposed some changes to the resolution, but the council chose not to tinker with it. Council member David Lewis introduced the resolution, but said he would vote against it. That caused council member Tom Stroozas to ask why he would vote against a resolution he introduced.

“I will bring any resolution someone brings me and let it stand on its own merits,” Lewis said. “This is local government. … They have a right as a voter to have that resolution brought forward.”

Lewis moved to postpone a vote on the resolution until the next council meeting, when council member Catriona Reynolds would return from vacation. She did not attend Monday’s meeting. With he and council member Donna Aderhold saying they’d vote against the resolution, Lewis said he felt postponing it would at least give the resolution a full hearing and vote — and allow Mayor Bryan Zak to vote in the event of a 3-3 tie. The motion to postpone failed 3-2, with council members Shelly Erickson and Stroozas opposed. Although a majority voted in favor, council rules require four affirmative votes for an action to pass. The resolution itself also got three votes, with Lewis and Aderhold opposed, but again failed for lack of four votes.

In other action, the council:

• Introduced on first reading an ordinance that would remove prohibitions on public commenting such as making personal, threatening, impertinent or slanderous remarks or becoming boisterous. The city attorney recommended deleting that section because it would violate freedom of speech. That ordinance comes up for second reading and action at the Jan. 23 meeting.

• Renewed a lease with Icicle Seafoods that no longer grants special conditions the company enjoyed when it operated a processing plant before it burned down in 1998. The new lease is the same as other general leases on the Spit;

• Approved a resolution for an automatic aid agreement between the Homer Volunteer Fire Department and Kachemak Emergency Services. Under that agreement, KES will send a ladder truck whenever a fire call comes in for the city central business district, and

• Passed on second reading an ordinance clarifying that the mayor has the right to cast a tie-breaking vote even when attending telephonically.

The council next meets at 6 p.m. Jan. 23 for its regular meeting in the Cowles Council Chambers, Homer City Hall.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.

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