The state of Alaska has some land to sign off to the Kenai Peninsula Borough. But before the transactions are finalized, residents need to take a look at the maps and weigh in on how the land should be designated by the Borough, if at all.
The effects of legislation and negotiations in Washington about health care and spending are being felt by the medical community on the Kenai Peninsula.
Just two weeks remain until the start of this year’s Tustemena 200 and the field of forty mushing teams is nearly set. After a few off years, the Iditarod and Yukon Quest qualifying race is back on track with some new sponsors and a bigger purse.
The District has been in negotiations with the Kenai Peninsula Education Association and Support Association for over year on new employee contracts that will cover salary increases and health benefit changes for the next three years.
The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly got an update on a long-awaited expansion project on the Sterling Highway at its meeting this week. The Cooper Landing By-Pass has been in the planning stages for years, but some real first steps are scheduled to take place in 2013.
Representatives from the Kenai Peninsula Education Association and Education Support Association made one last call to action from the School Board at its meeting last week before collective bargaining resumes.
Tuesday’s meeting of the Borough Assembly failed to bring any resolution to the ongoing debate over anadromous streams protection on the Kenai Peninsula. Assembly member Kelly Wolf withdrew his ordinance to repeal provisions of the Borough code that would have extended those protections to all bodies of water listed in a state catalog of anadromous streams. Despite a postponement in implementing the rules and the establishment of a Task Force charged with fixing perceived problems with the measure, the call for its full repeal is still being made.
Following another round of public testimony, both for and against the now-infamous 2011-12 anadromous streams ordinance, Borough Mayor Mike Navarre was compelled to clear the air. Again.
The ordinance hasn’t been implemented on the east side of Cook Inlet and won’t be until the Task Force has delivered recommendations to the Assembly and those recommendations go through a public hearing process. At that time, likely several months from now, the Assembly will vote on an amended streams ordinance.
“I’ve heard a lot of people saying ‘you need to do this now, you need to do this now’…Public bodies can’t do things that way,” Navarre said. “You have to bring something before (the Assembly) and then there has to be the public hearing process that allows the public their input,” he said.
The arguments against the ordinance haven’t really changed in the six months since its passage, nor has Navarre’s explanation of the process to review and possibly amend it. Opponents say it infringes on the rights of private property owners. Navarre has said the purpose of the Task Force is to find ways to assuage those concerns. Tuesday night during his report to the Assembly he addressed the claim by some who oppose the ordinance that they weren’t adequately notified.
“There is a responsibility that the residents of the Borough have, also. A lot of people have said…they didn’t know it was happening. I researched the record today, it was introduced in March of 2011, it had three public hearings before it finally passed in June of 2011. It had three public hearings before the assembly,” he said, adding that there will be plenty more opportunities for public testimony and public hearings in the future.
Assembly Chambers were standing room only in anticipation of a vote, but Assembly Member Wolf pulled his ordinance from the agenda citing concerns that communication about the measure among the Assembly might not pass muster with open records laws.
But that wasn’t the last of it.
Assembly Member Bill Smith addressed what he called inaccuracies in both the public testimony heard that evening and the language in Wolf’s proposed ordinance.
“Basically, I believe he made a completely unwarranted and actually a…defamatory attack on a non-profit and its director and I believe that he should not make those statements again and it would be quite appropriate if he would apologize,” Smith said of Wolf’s reference to the Kenai Watershed Forum in his ordinance.
As Wolf explained in an interview last week, his issue with the Kenai Watershed Forum has to do with what he sees as that organization’s influence on Borough legal matters. In 2009 after an assessment by the Watershed Forum of the previous Borough code that protected anadromous streams, the Assembly removed a section of that code.
“It really raises some questions of transparency and integrity in that association the Watershed Forum had with the Kenai Peninsula Borough because the Watershed Forum was also receiving grant dollars from the Borough at the same time to remove culverts,” Wolf said. “It looks to be a very clouded, grey area”.
Calls for comment to the Kenai Watershed Forum were not immediately returned, but they’re not the only non-profit who does business with the Borough.
At the meeting Tuesday, Wolf explained his withdrawal of the ordinance.
“I’ve long believed in the process of this government. It may not be perfect, but I believe very clearly in the transparency and the integrity of our government process. It’s for that reason and the question of the open meetings act that I pulled (the ordinance). I do not want question or clouds surrounding an ordinance and trying to push forward just because I’m being a bull head,” Wolf said.
As it stands, the Task Force will continue its work on the existing ordinance. During a presentation earlier in the meeting, Navarre’s Chief of Staff Paul Ostrander gave an update on the Task Force’s work to this point and what comes next. He said they hope to have recommendations finalized by mid-February, then hold a series of town-hall meetings in Nikiski, Moose Pass, Cooper Landing and Kasilof, before going before the Assembly for a vote, perhaps in mid-April.
A new online tool developed by the Cook Inlet Regional Citizens Advisory Council and the Alaska Ocean Observing System went live last week, just in time to be put to use tracking developments off Kodiak Island with the grounding of the drilling rig Kulluk. The new Cook Inlet Response Tool, or CIRT, was designed specifically for tracking and planning for oil spills and other incidents around Cook Inlet
The Soldotna City Council will meet in a special session Wednesday to declare an opening for the office of Mayor, signaling the official end of Senator-elect Peter Micciche’s run in that office.
Homer's ban on disposable plastic shopping bags in Homer went into effect Tuesday and the city is gearing up to enforce it.
When the Borough Assembly gets together for its first meeting of 2013 next week, members will be back to an issue that dominated 2012: the expansion of the anadromous streams ordinance. Kelly Wolf, elected in October in part on his promise to repeal that expansion, has introduced an ordinance that would take habitat protections on the Peninsula back to what was in place in the mid-1990’s.
Alaska environmental regulators are responding to two fishing boats that sank south of Homer, possibly weighed down after heavy snow.
The Department of Environmental Conservation says a 100-foot-by-100-foot sheen was spotted around the site where the boats sank sometime between Dec. 24th and Dec. 25th in Jakolof Bay, which is about 12 miles south of Homer. The sinking was discovered by occupants of a passing vessel Christmas Day.
Steven Russell with the DEC says the boats were anchored together and lying on top each other, making one visible.
The DEC says the owner of the boats estimates the vessel Leading Lady had about 50 gallons of diesel fuel and 35 gallons of hydraulic fluids and lube oils on board, while the vessel Kupreanof had none.
Area oyster farm owners have been notified.
The Department of Fish and Game has released its 2013 sockeye forecast for Upper Cook Inlet. Following a strong sockeye run in 2012 that saw limited commercial harvest, the outlook for this year is even more promising.