Commercial fishing advocates have written a letter of complaint to the Commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources, saying the Kenai River Special Management Area Board is unfairly weighted and not following State protocol.
The KRSMA Board, created by the State, oversees management for the Kenai River from river mile 82 downstream to four miles above the river’s mouth on Cook Inlet.
Rob Williams, President of the Kenai Peninsula Fishermen’s Association penned the letter, dated December 23, saying “We believe that the current leadership of your board has allowed it to be overwhelmingly represented by a single viewpoint, which has rendered it incapable of properly addressing the many usage-related habitat issues that the Kenai now faces, or the broad public interest it was created to represent.”
At the heart of the issue is Joe Connors, President of the KRSMA Board and author of the recent petition to ban set nets in urban areas. Williams says the petition is dishonest.
Williams: “The Advisory Board is supposed to represent all of the broad users of the Kenai River in the area, and when you have a chairman that is basically one of the sponsors of the initiative to ban set nets, we don’t think we can have a fair voice on that board. And on top of that, 3 of the 9 seats signed as sponsors to the initiative as well.”
Williams says that while there are no commercial fishing representatives on the KRSMA Board, three of the nine public voting seats are known sportfishing advocates, including Ricky Gease, Executive Director of the Kenai River Sportfishing Association.
Gease was appointed by Connors as the Board’s Legislative Committee Chairperson “without board consult or approval.”