Streams ordinance in crosshairs

A familiar subject — the anadromous streams ordinance — overshadowed the Oct. 9 Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting, again.

Three residents, including Fred Braun, a local Realtor and head of the Citizens 4 Responsible Waterfront Land Use, testified against the measure to the assembly while scores of residents sat in the audience holding up private property rights signs.

Nikiski resident Jack Porter said he thought the borough had neglected to properly inform residents of the ordinance’s impacts and called for a repeal and re-notice.

“The resolution, or whatever it is that’s going on here, I had no prior notice of what was happening, what it would mean to my property or property I have interest in and to my estimation the borough has not accomplished their responsibility to the people of this borough to notify them of what this ordinance means,” he said.

Kasilof’s George Pierce called the ordinance an “overreach” and asked the assembly to listen to the people.

“Look at all the people that are against this — it is getting more and more and more, so maybe (somebody) will stand up and repeal this ordinance,” he said. “I just don’t understand why you are doing this.”

Each time a resident testified against the ordinance, the group stood, cheered and clapped.

“Ladies and gentlemen we can do without the applause, we know why we are here and we are trying to conduct an orderly meeting, please,” said assembly president Gary Knopp.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre addressed residents’ comments in his mayor’s report. Navarre said he had faith in the task force recently established to work through many of the issues brought up by residents. He said that process allowed for “ample” opportunity for public input and review.

“It is important and finding that balance is something I think the task force will do a good job at and come forward with recommendations that will both make sense and result in improvement in the public policy that we apply (to) habitat protections and private property rights,” he said.

The Kenai River and 24 other streams in the area are managed currently under the habitat protection rules. The anadromous streams ordinance expansion added 2,317 stream miles and habitat near the shores of anadromous lakes to the district.

The ordinance protects the near-stream habitat of all anadromous streams and lakes — which host fish migrating from the sea to spawn in fresh water — in the borough 50 feet up the bank from the ordinary high water mark.

The idea is by protecting the habitat, the safety and future of the fish — primarily salmon — are better secured, advocates of the measure contend. Opponents contend the measure is onerous, isn’t within the borough’s powers and infringes on private property rights.

Borough code on the issue includes a prior use rule, creates tax incentives for improvement and compliance and creates a permitting system for property owners to receive approval for projects on property in the protection district. Implementation for the east side of the borough was scheduled for January 2013, but Navarre reaffirmed Tuesday he would not implement the ordinance on the east side until the task force makes recommendations. The task force’s next meeting is at 6 p.m. today in the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly chambers.

Assembly member Ray Tauriainen said he wanted to talk to the borough’s legal department about how the issue was noticed, which was legal according to code, the borough’s attorney previously said.

“Something isn’t right,” Tauriainen said. “I get notified that a piece of property that I own, the street is going to be changed from an avenue to a lane, but somebody isn’t going to be notified that 50 feet of their property is going to be taken away? Something is not right there.”

Borough assembly addresses
River Center

During the meeting, the assembly unanimously approved an ordinance and resolution reincorporating the Donald E. Gilman River Center into the borough’s planning department, made the River Center’s top job a manager — not director — and reduced the pay for that position.

Assembly member Mako Haggerty said committee members voiced several concerns about Ordinance 2012-37, specifically about a “lack of staffing” at the River Center and what level of management the borough would have on the River Center once it comes back into the planning department.

Resolution 2012-080 created the manager position and was amended to place the position at pay level 4, which has a minimum salary of $69,928, a mid point of $82,166 and a maximum of $94,405. The pay range for the position was previously raised from level 3 to level 5 before the position was changed to be a director under former mayor Dave Carey’s administration.

“There were a lot of reasons to do this, but basically the River Center came out of the planning department and because the director recently retired now would be a good time to put it back into the planning department and save a little bit of money on the position of director,” Haggerty said.

There also were committee questions, Haggerty said, about “inefficient enforcement” on some of the codes the River Center is in charge of, including KPB 21.18, which contains the anadromous streams ordinance.

However, Navarre said the ordinance wouldn’t change much at the River Center.

“It is not going to change any of the control and it is not a power grab or anything else,” he said. “It is just a different way of managing it.”

Navarre said the move made sense because the River Center worked well when under the planning department and the move could have spinoff benefits. The money saved from reducing the position’s pay could be used to reduce the budget or allocate funds for more, lower level River Center administration, perhaps to enforce the anadromous streams ordinance, he said.

The borough tabled in January a resolution to create a senior clerk position at the River Center.

“Additional staffing or enforcement may be something that we will want to look at,” Navarre said. “We are not reducing staff over there, we are just changing the level from a director’s level to a manager level and we will still be running the center.”

In other business

In other news, the assembly approved unanimously Resolution 2012-078 certifying the Oct. 2 election results. Kelly Wolf beat Michael Winegarden in District 1 by seven votes — 232 to 225 respectively. Hal Smally won his re-election bid against Christine Hutchison 449 to 234. Wolf, Smalley, Sue McClure and Mako Haggerty were sworn into their positions.

Brian Smith is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion.