Assembly needs to hear from those who want to protect salmon streams

Wasn’t it interesting to receive the mailed flyers recommending the repeal of Kenai Peninsula Borough Ordinance 2011-12, from Chicago, Ill. Wow, with all their big city problems, amazing they take an interest in Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula.

First off, if the assembly accepts Ord. 2013-18, Ord. 2011-12, which was never enacted on the Kenai Peninsula, will be history. As so carefully explained by Chief of Staff Paul Ostrander at the assembly meeting on June 4, every issue brought forward by the public during the task force meetings has been addressed in Ord. 2013-18. It seems like the only people who attend the meetings and speak are those opposed to any protections for our salmon rivers. And that is sad. Those of us who do care, need to make our voices heard, too.

What brought us to the peninsula? I know for myself, the fishing opportunities and ability to provide for family was a huge incentive. I think that is the case for many of us. Yes, the state does try to protect the rivers, but it is up to us on the Kenai Peninsula to extend that protection to the streams that are the nurseries for the future generations of fish.   

The  existing code, which was passed in the year  1996 and 2000 affected more than 3,000  private parcels of land and  covered the major rivers of the peninsula. I believe it  was Drew Scalzi’s proudest moment of his service on the assembly, because he recognized the need.  

The new code will add another 1,000 parcels to fully protect what is the Kenai Peninsula’s economic engine, our fisheries. The code will grandfather existing uses. It certainly does not deny land use, but instead asks the property owner to protect that which we need to protect for the future. It does not lessen property values.

The ordinance coming before the assembly on June 18 is huge — 27 pages because it lists every water body individually, but it’s worth looking at and noting how the borough is bending backwards to accommodate both property owners’ concerns and the need to protect the fishery nurseries.

We cannot afford to lose our fisheries, and to wait is folly. Just as the Watershed Forum has worked over the past five or six years to replace culverts to assure fish passage, so, too, we need to protect the streams they utilize.

I hope those of you who agree with me, will take a moment to let the assembly know how you feel. It is easy. Email the clerk, Johni Blankenship at jblankenship@borough.kenai.ak.us, and she will distribute your comments to the assembly. Linda Murphy is the assembly president.

 Milli Martin

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