June 19th, 2013

Think About It…….                                                                                                           June 19, 2013

It’s one of the most controversial Ordinances that has faced our Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly in many years. It is the Anadromous Fish Habitat Protection program lined out in Ordinance 2011-12. Controversial, because it pits folks, who favor using an “extreme land-use measure” to protect salmon, against private property owners, who resent confiscation of their private property.

That “extreme measure” would allow the Borough government to seize and control fifty feet of private property along thousands of miles of streams throughout the Borough. The idea, promoted by advocates of the private property seizer, is that by protecting habitat along those waterways the future of our salmon is better secured. After all, propagation of salmon is very important to our economy.

Borough Mayor Mike Navarre entered the fray by appointing a Task Force to come up with their best efforts in recommending changes to borough code regulating its habitat protection district. Now the Task Force has spoken with the introduction of their new Ordinance 2013-18. They want to repeal the original Ordinance, reintroduce a modified set of streams and lakes for protection and make significant changes to Borough Code 21-18 which regulates the anadromous habitat protection district.

The changes recommended by the Mayors Task Force still do not sit well with the opposition. They feel that the new Ordinance will be extremely costly, expand the already “money eating” Kenai River Center and most of all encroach on private property rights. Doing so in a way that could be illegal and certainly very negative in the way it treats property owners across the Borough.

One would assume that Borough Mayor Mike Navarre favors the new Ordinance created by his personally appointed Task Force but he has not been forthcoming with his feelings. Phone calls to his office were not returned. Navarre has previously said that any and all costs, that the new Ordinance might generate, would be at best a good guess.

Now, after almost a year of presentations, countless discussions, hours of public comments, thousands of signatures and three town hall meetings everything is coming to a head next Tuesday, June 18th.  First of all, the Assembly will hold a public hearing on a total Repeal of Ordinance 2011-12. That is a move supported by many private land owners, who stand to have their land seized and others who believe strongly in constitutionally guaranteed private property rights.

Then the Assembly will hold another public hearing on the new Task Force Ordinance 2013-18 and its many changes and deletions in an effort to satisfy concerns of the public over the past year. Support for the new Ordinance will no doubt come from folks who support protecting our salmon fisheries at all costs.

We need reasonable river protections that work with property owners not against them. And one question that Assemblymen need to ask themselves is this.  As a second-class Borough who is going to enforce the new regulations? And if enforcement is possible at what expense will a whole new Borough Department cost taxpayers?

Think About It!         John C. Davis    6-12-13



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