After much public testimony and discussion, the Homer City Council at its last meeting passed a second resolution concerning the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s proposal to reverse the ban on personal watercraft in critical habitat areas of Kachemak Bay.
The council originally passed a resolution asking Fish and Game to extend its comment period by 90 days and provide scientific information to back up its proposal on Dec. 16.
Fish and Game did extend its comment period by 15 days. The last day to submit comments was Jan. 21.
The department announced its plan to repeal the current ban on personal watercraft in the Fox River Flats and Kachemak Bay Critical Habitat areas in December. Rick Green, special assistant to the commissioner, has said that user groups, including the Personal Watercraft Club of Alaska, have been petitioning Fish and Game to open the critical habitat areas to use for Jet Skis, and that’s why the issue has come up again at this time.
At its Jan. 13 meeting, the city council passed a second resolution urging the state of Alaska to “retain the ban” on personal watercraft in those critical habitat areas until Fish and Game “provides adequate responses” to the council’s first resolution. The new resolution also asks Fish and Game to provide “an analysis detailing the City of Homer’s potential legal liability exposure” if the ban were to be repealed.
The council also asked for adequate funding to adopt and enforce new rules should the ban be reversed.
The resolution was approved by a 4-1 vote, with council member Heath Smith casting the no vote. He said he felt the council’s original resolution was sufficient and didn’t see the necessity for a second one.
“If they didn’t listen to that, what makes you think they’re going to listen to this?” he said.
More than 20 people gave public comment on the resolution at the meeting. Some urged the council to pass it, saying Fish and Game has not exhibited proper public process with this proposed repeal.
Others questioned why the city was even weighing in on an issue that is being decided by a state department. A few commenters said it wasn’t appropriate for the city to be taking a stand on this issue.
“This is a question of the city providing comment as a stakeholder,” said council member Rachel Lord during her comments on the resolution. “And I know some people feel like we shouldn’t ever do that. I’ve gone back and forth on that question myself. … I do believe it’s appropriate as a stakeholder to provide public comment.”
Reach Megan Pacer at firstname.lastname@example.org.