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Public comment period open for Kasilof River Special Use Area

March 2nd, 2016

A tale of the Haves and Have Nots, when looking at the day and night difference between the facilities for the very popular personal use dip net fisheries at the mouths of the Kenai and Kasilof Rivers.

On the one hand, the City of Kenai and the State, through user fees and grants, have invested heavily in infrastructure and management at the mouth of the Kenai – expanded parking lots and boat launches, restrooms, improved beach access and fencing to protect the sensitive dune habitat, rerouting traffic to reduce conflicts with local residents, seasonal enforcement, routine fish carcass removals, and trash dumpsters. On peak weekends in July tens of thousands of Alaskans can and do crowd the Kenai beaches to harvest salmon with dip nets. While it is not always easy to see, there is an underlying sense of order and organization in the midst of the pandemonium that is the Kenai dip net fishery.

On the other hand, the Kasilof personal use fisheries suffer from a lack of attention. Oh it gets plenty of attention from Alaskans wanting to harvest fish, but very little in terms of infrastructure. Crowds have little direction on where to park or camp, few restrooms or dumpsters, and minimal oversight. The intense human use of this area during the summer personal use fisheries has created consequences and impacts that are socially unacceptable.

Thankfully that is slowly beginning to change.

In 2010 the Department of Natural Resources, Division of Mining, Land and Water began the process that established the Kasilof River Special Use Area, which covers both the north and south sides of the mouth of the river. Guardrail fencing to protect dunes on the south beach were installed, and limited funding from the state and borough have provided temporary sanitation and waste facilities.

In 2014 DNR received capital monies to improve access and sanitation facilities to support the personal use fisheries at the mouth of the Kasilof River. The goal is to protect sensitive coastal dunes and wetlands, improve parking areas, provide access for emergency and sanitation services, and respect private property. Planning is focused currently on the north beach area, which is closer to the mouth and receives more public use.

Four revised site plan designs are now available for public comment to DNR through March 21, 2016. Remaining public meetings include Anchorage, Thursday, March 3 from 6:00 to 8:30 pm at Central Middle School, and Kasilof, Tuesday, March 8 from 6:00 to 8:30 pm at Tustumena Elementary School. Email comments to adam.smith@Alaska.gov or christianna.colles@Alaska.gov.

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