Jet ski use meeting attracts nearly 70 people

By Naomi Klouda
Homer Tribune

HOMER TRIBUNE/Naomi Klouda - Lifelong Kachemak Bay resident Shannon McBride Morin gave a talk at the state park advisory board meeting outlining why jet skis and sensitive wildlife do not mix.

HOMER TRIBUNE/Naomi Klouda - Lifelong Kachemak Bay resident Shannon McBride Warren gave a talk at the state park advisory board meeting outlining why jet skis and sensitive wildlife do not mix.

Manufacturers of personal water crafts reengineered the machines for energy efficiency and noise control to a degree that has gone beyond traditional boats.
That was the message brought to the Kachemak State Park board of directors Sept. 14 at the Islands and Ocean Visitor Center. Personal Water Crafts of Alaska President Gene Gerken gave a presentation to the board in its request to allow jet skis to use the Bay for recreation. The crafts have been banned since 2000 due to the Bay’s multilayers of designated Critical Habitat Areas to protect endangered beluga whales and other marine and bird life.
The meeting itself was overflowing with attendants, though the board moved it to the center’s large auditorium to accommodate the public, most of them against lifting the PWC ban in the Bay. The board’s regularly scheduled business meeting held on its agenda a spot for a half-hour presentation by the PWC group. It was not scheduled as a debate, Board Director Paul Heuper warned those assembled.
“The bottom line about the topic of whether to allow Kachemak Bay, including lagoons and side bays is this step toward public education,” PWC advocate-Gerken said. “We feel that facts speak for themselves. If the public ignores facts, that’s when we appeal to our governing board. Kachemak Bay belongs to all Alaskans.”
Gerken concluded that the time has come to lift the ban. “It’s time to put aside biases, and talk to Attorney General John Burns et al, and let them know it is time to lift the ban.”
The next person to talk was the American Water Craft Association’s John Donaldson, who gave a presentation on behalf of the manufacturers of PWCs. He said that in the past, the number one objection to PWCs everywhere was their noise.
“That has been a challenging issue to all forms of recreation. The PWC industry has been making strides in this area. When current regulations were put in place 10 years ago, the industry was substantially different from how they are today,” he said.
Two standards apply to boats for regulating decibel levels, known as J2005 and J1970. One measures the idling sound of a pleasure boat and the other measures the decibel level of a boat from the shore. The goal for each is between 75-82 decibels. In certain states, measurements in excess of those are citeable offenses, he said.
“Boats on the water are substantially quieter today than they were 10 years ago,” he said. Manufacturers also targeted emissions, and have cut hydrocarbons and nitrous oxide by 90 percent.
Gina Poths, the secretary and co-founder of the Alaska group, said she would like to use her personal water craft in Kachemak Bay because it is one of Alaska’s most beautiful waterways.
“A lot of you decided you didn’t like us. This is the opportunity to present new facts to you …. The Critical Habitat Area is not a related topic to PWC. It’s a boat or it’s a PWC, and the only difference is that you sit on one and you sit in the other one. There are laws that take care of issues when someone does something illegal,” Poths said. The Marine Mammal Act already spells out that people must stay a specified distance from whales. They aren’t supposed to be less than three miles from a rockery, Poths said. She uses her own craft for transportation and she fishes from it.
The Kachemak Bay State Park Advisory Board’s role in such matters is only to make recommendations to the state agencies such as the Alaska Department of Natural Resources. It doesn’t have the power to lift the ban. At the end of Poth’s presentation, Chair Paul Hueper asked her why did the group want to recreate in Kachemak Bay.
“You already have access to 82 percent of Alaska’s waterways – why do you care so much about Kachemak Bay?” Hueper asked.
“It’s on principle. I love Alaska, all of Alaska. We have a boat, but it’s hard to trailer it here. Halibut are elusive out of Prince William Sound. I would like to come here to fish,” Poths answered. Visits from people such as herself would make economic sense because they buy food and rent hotels. “I should be able to take my boat any where I’d like to go. It (Kachemak Bay) belongs to the public – not to the people in Homer.” A group who had traveled from Anchorage for the talk applauded Poths’ answer.
Since the agenda included just the presentation without public testimony, the board had to figure out how to handle the substantial number of Homer residents clamoring to speak up. Chairman Hueper announced that only those representing groups could take a turn at the microphone.
Shannon McBride Morin spoke on behalf of a large coalition in Cook InletKeeper and the Kachemak Bay Conservation Society. She was born and raised in China Poot Bay and helps operate the family business at Kachemak Bay Wilderness Lodge.
“We are opposed on the grounds of safety to wildlife. Jet skies are not compatible with Critical Habitat Areas. It’s simple. It’s not complicated in a Critical habitat,” Morin said. In 1999 when the state park opened the same topic for public comment, more than 70 percent were against it.
“There are a lot of us who like the status quo. It is working – more people are out in the bay now. It is a beautiful mecca for non-motorized water sports.”
PWCs would adversely affect the Bay by undermining the wilderness that makes the area unique, disrupting and perhaps endangering fish and wildlife, whales, seals and sea otters. “They (water craft users) already have easy access to thousands of acres of waters. They have all of the upper Cook Inlet, Seward and Prince William Sound. Numerous other areas are off limit because these craft are driven in a way that conflicts with traditional uses,” Morin said.
Phil Needham, representing the Snomads’ 1,000 members on the Kenai Peninsula, said that organization supports opening the Bay to PWCs. “Any decision should be based on science and not on discrimination and bias, as in someone who doesn’t like to see people having fun on a PWC,” Needham said.
Brenda Hays introduced herself as a 38-year resident and member of several organizations like the Homer Bed and Breakfast Association, the Halibut Charter Association and Snomads.
“From what I’ve heard tonight, we are putting a stop to tourism in Homer… I feel we can compromise and reconsider this issue that has been tabled. The Homer Harbor should be considered a safe haven for all vessels, including PWCs. They have a right to seek food, shelter, fuel or medical attention or to tour our city.”
At a time when the halibut charter industry is targeted for losses, encouraging new tourism through PWC users could help the local economy, Hays said. The crafts would add to the search-and-rescue capabilities.
Cook InletKeeper Executive Director, Bob Shavelson also spoke, warning against an outdoor lobbying group that works on opening wilderness to access just on the principle without regard for sensitive habitat issues.
“The fundamental facts and science stand behind the one or two years of hearings that had already taken place in 2000, when the ban went into place,” he said. “Now it doesn’t come down to what is new in this technology so much as how these are driven.”
The Alaska Outdoor Council is involved in this effort to help lobby for the Personal Water Craft Organization of Alaska, Shavelson told the group.
“We have watched them take aim at things they don’t like and it’s habitat protection, driving an ATV through a spawning salmon stream, which was never legal. They struck this law down. They probably have more of an agenda to make sure they can open any public lands in the state and it’s on principle, to say ‘Let’s open Kachemak Bay’.”
The next step now, Poths said, is to take direction from the advisory board. “I’ll be writing a follow-up letter thanking them for their time and asking what our next options are,” she said Monday.
But they aren’t holding their breath. The Homer reception was frosty to the visiting PWC users. One of the PWC officials was told he and his wife should “leave town as soon as possible.”
“When we were done, the only question a board member asked was why is Kachemak Bay important. It was more like a personal opinion question,” Poths said. “We weren’t there for the general public, we were there to address the board. But the board wasn’t really interested. You could tell.”

Contact the writer
Posted by on Sep 21st, 2011 and filed under Headline News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

18 Responses for “Jet ski use meeting attracts nearly 70 people”

  1. travis says:

    Status quo??…Imagine someone from homer against change…stop living in the past….change and adapt…you showed who you are by telling the pwc official they should” leave town as soon as possible”…whomever said that to them is pathetic…opinions are bad unless they are yours?..The rest of you should look at these people saying stuff like that and realize they make you all look bad!! One things for sure homer people dont need help in that area!!

  2. Larry says:

    The British are coming, The British are coming!!!

    Come on… The user base for PWCs is so small. The ban is clearly a discrimination against one user group. Hopefully the pwc group does not file a lawsuit, that could be bad for homer politics and business. The pwc user group is a good bunch. The bad apples will be dealt with by the authorities.

    • Mark says:

      THANKS LARRY. FINALLY, SOMEBODY GETS IT!! This user group, is not out to ruin, hurt, or destroy anything. I find it hard to believe they are getting such a bad rap. Access to and from Homer Harbor is a key issue. We’re all just boaters here, and our boats are not noisy, or polluters. Cars go faster than we drive them, likewise with PWC’s. Since PWC’s are so expensive, most of the users are an average age of 45, with a high percentage of over 50′s. It’s the new way of touring Alaska, and this fight is not going away.

  3. Michael says:

    I thought banning the PWC to begin with was a stupid thing to do. I hope they are successful in being able to use them here in Kachemak Bay. They make less wake than most any boat on the bay and they are not that noisy. People should be able to use whatever kind of watercraft they want to go out on Kachemak Bay and its sub bays. A person using a PWC for their recreation is not getting any less enjoyment than a person who uses a kayak. They are both getting pleasure and happiness from their hobbies.

  4. Patricia says:

    This is the most one-sided biased and poorly written articles I have ever read. The author failed to write about the people who spoke in support of the ban and the amount of time, money and effort people went through to implement the ban. How much more money is the state going to put into going through this process again? I support the ban on PWC and don’t want these people from the PWC corporations coming here to “prove a point.”

  5. L J says:

    My wife and I used to have property in Homer. It is one of God’s gems of creation. We had hoped to live there one day.
    It’s too bad people are discouraged from moving to Homer because they like to recreate in God’s country and when they get there, find that many things are banned. Jet skiis, job development. . . Other things like pagan rituals, drug enlightenment groups, and gurus of the 60′s are obviously more important than conservative family values. The confining walls thrown up by the ‘ban it all’ crowd, is a way to keep good people from coming to your town.
    It’s too bad, it really is a beautiful place.

  6. Nina Faust says:

    The jet ski folks have an agenda to gain access to Kachemak Bay with their machines no matter that it is critical habitat. They said so at the meeting in Homer. Not all areas are appropriate to all types of craft. There are places I cannot ride my bike. That is ok–I can still walk there. I have access.

    Despite the improvements to noise and pollution so painstakingly described by at the meeting, there will still be problems with these craft. Because of the way these machines are designed and marketed, they will be ridden at high rates of speed, very often in an erratic and reckless fashion. A small jet ski that is only a little over 10 feet long has 160 horsepower engine. Some of the high performance jet skis are capable of 300 hp and can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 3 seconds. Sleek, streamline, and compact machines this powerful invite a thrill ride. Visitors to Kachemak Bay tell water taxi operators all the time how lucky we are that we do not have the problems that the Lower 48 has with these machines.

    The jet ski folks say that enforcement is the way to handle problems. This was thoroughly discussed over 10 years ago. There was no money for enforcement then. There is even less money now. Furthermore, our state park ranger has to do the job of 1 1/2 to 2 rangers during the peak season. Adding the additional burden of enforcing jet ski manners in Kachemak Bay is not realistic.

    But most importantly, Kachemak Bay and Fox River Flats are very valuable critical habitat areas. Concern that jet skis are incompatible with the values of this critical habitat area has not changed. This was thoroughly discussed 10 years ago. The importance of protecting wildlife like sea otters, whales, murrelets, seals, seabirds, loons, and other marine life and their habitat has not changed either.

    With most of Alaska’s waters open to jet skis right off the road system, I see no reason to revisit this issue that was so thoroughly discussed years ago. Kachemak Bay is a beautiful place where you can still experience quiet. It is a place worth protecting.

  7. Maka says:

    From these comments, only the people who have jetski’s feel the need to crap in their own food bin. What is so hard to understand that the residents in Homer, Alaska care for their resources? As you have all been given the information time and time again that the Kachemak Bay is a pristine critical habitat that you folks are intending to destroy without a care in the world for others benefits but your own. And what might your benefit be? Having fun at the expense of the community and the habitat that supports the community? Please show us your proof that jetski’s will help protect Kachemak Bay.

    Travis: You are correct. The person who told you to leave Homer because of your jetski addiction, had no right to say that.

    Larry: Don’t be ridiculous about the base being “so small” that it can’t hurt the habitat. You know nothing about the critical habitat, nor do you care, or you would already know the damage would be devastating even though only a small percentage of group players would be having fun. No one is saying “the jetski group” isn’t a good bunch. It’s imperative the “bad apples” don’t get their chance to prove what they can do.

    Michael: You said, “A person using a PWC for their recreation is not getting any less enjoyment than a person who uses a kayak. They are both getting pleasure and happiness from their hobbies.” Ask yourself if the “sacred habitat” enjoys your pleasure and happiness as much as you do … then understand a kayak (extremely quiet and uses only human fuel for power) leaves oyster beds completely undisturbed. It’s the living with nature that makes us appreciate the wonders of it. To us who have spent our lives in Homer understand the balance. And, it is not true that the jetski makes less wake than a boat. Get real.

    LJ: Shame on you for discrediting Homer sourdoughs for their peaceful practices with the environment. What about nature’s family values? Nature and humans are to share and grow together for survival. Food is more important than having fun.

    “Conservative family values” cannot be used as a comparison for lifestyle in any part of Alaska. Fishing is not a ritual, but it is a family value. Digging for oysters is not a ritual. Gardening is not a ritual. These are all things we must do to survive in the Homer area. BTW, good people established this town, and good people will still come to Homer whether you do or not.

  8. Maka says:

    Phil Needham: ““Any decision should be based on science and not on discrimination and bias, as in someone who doesn’t like to see people having fun on a PWC,” Needham said.”

    Sir, I’m sure you know a lot about having fun, but what would you know about saving the critical habitat? I’ve personally watched your big machines develop new homes in front of my face. Don’t developers get grants to destroy the habitat? It’s really all about money isn’t it?

  9. Evelyn says:

    I agree with Nina on the point that there are places that are suitable for Jet Skis and there are places that are not suitable. As far as I know, Kachemak Bays Critical Habitat designation is in place for good reason (have you ever harvested sea life from this bay? There is a lot to protect) and PWC only add destructive qualities to this ecosystem. Sure, the riders are having fun but, is that All that matters here??

  10. Larry says:

    Maka

    Your comments are so far out in left field I don’t know where to begin. Most of you comments are personal opinions with zero facts to back them up. It is clear that you wish to keep the ban in place in order to keep the bay as your own personal sanctuary. It is obvious YOU don’t know anything about the “Critical habitat” area since boats are aloud and PWCs were singled out and redefined in order ban them. The ban has NOTHING to do with the bay being classified as “Critical habitat”, boats are aloud! Just not the kind you sit or stand on! Maybe I should take my seat off sit inside then go for a ride? That is how ignorant this whole ban is. If you are concerned about what one bad apple can do then you should gather your sanctuary friends and try to ban ALL boats! Not just discrimiate against one user group. Good luck!

    The reality is when the ban is lifted. Residents may see a small group of watercraft riders for a short time each summer. Then they will leave the harbor and head for Kodiak or Kenai. The PWC group is into long distance touring, not spinning in circles out in front of a home.

    Bottom line. There is no scientific evidence that proves PWCs will harm Katchemak bay NONE! All myths have been scientifically busted by the PWC organziation with plain facts.

    • Maka says:

      Yes Larry, you are right about me on all accounts. I do want this Bay for my own personal sanctuary and survival … of course, I’m not alone in this selfish thought. There are a number of residents in Homer who seem to have the same selfish thoughts as I do, but I’m sure you already understand that.

      Your opinion about fishing boats being as bad as PWC’s is correct as well, but the resources gained by the fishermen in this community help build Homer’s resources. How many fish can you pull in with your jetski? How many people do you feed? There is a reason fishing boats are out there on Kachemak Bay. And even if you take your seat off, there’s still only room for one person. Where ya gonna put your fish? Drag ‘em along for the ride?

      You think the ban will be lifted just to satisfy a small group of peoples fun needs when you are encroaching on an entire communities food supply? Most people in this community eat much of the living sea’s abundance of food. Hmmm, so lets balance the difference to importance … FUN OR FOOD. Which would you prefer? One lasts until it is over. The other carries humanity into the future.

      So, again, I agree with you that boats and ships with motors are all bad for the environment, but they do have a useful purpose to the community. Your argument has no leg to stand on in that department.

      Scientific evidence cannot be made before the fact. End of story.

  11. TS says:

    I am on the fence on this one, but I do have to say that any bans put into place are the direct result of the PWC users to begin with. Personally I have seen way more irresponsible jetski usage than respectful usage over the years. Yes, boats are allowed (aloud?), but how many boats do you see in Kachemak Bay just spinning in circles at full speed or cutting in front of other boats? An overwhelming majority of the boaters are there to either fish, transport or commune with nature; activities which, for the most part, are compatible with critical habitat.
    Lets face it, justified or not, PWC usage has a bad reputation, and high dollar lobbyists coming into a small town trying to shove their agenda onto the local residents, all in the name of “principle”, doesn’t help that reputation any. If the majority of the local population doesn’t want them here, then these outside groups should respect that & leave well enough alone.

  12. Dave says:

    I am OPPOSED to the opening of Kachemak Bay for use by jet skis. I believe this type of activity is incompatible with critical wildlife habitat, the community values of Homer and residents of other communities around Kachemak Bay.

    Allowing the use of jet skis in Kachemak Bay will change the quality of life for residents, visitors and wildlife and NOT for the better. Their use will degrade the quality of life in and around Kachemak Bay disrupting the tranquility of coves, bays, and by displacing, stressing or injuring wildlife and damaging fragile ecosystems.

    There are plenty of places in Alaska where people can use jet skis if they choose to do so. Having places where people and wildlife can coexist without jet skis racing around is a special quality that needs to be preserved.

    I am also concerned about the safety aspects of jet skis use within the bay. Which for some is becoming an “extreme” form of recreation which increases the risk of severe injuries and even death.

    Homer and Kachemak Bay do not need to be all things to everyone and we shouldn’t be forced to be!

  13. Edgar Bailey says:

    Kachemak Bay is a designated Critical Habitat Area for many species, including Kittlitz’s and Marbled murrelets, whales, sea otters and many shorebirds and waterfowl. Kittlitz’s Murrelets are seabirds of special concern with very restricted areas in Kachemak Bay. Nesting seabirds by the thousands use Gull Island and ambient waters and are very sensitive to disturbances.
    Jet skis were banned 10 years ago for good reason, particularly because of the way these thrill craft are ridden–fast, erratically, and very often round and round, creating serious problems for wildlife and some people. Jet skis are designed and marketed for action. With ads like “Joy Ride,” “wave runner,” “radical ride,” “high speed manueverability–it shreds,” “motorcycle on water,” and “performance means speed,” what else does one need to see how these machines are operated?
    Because of how jet skis are designed and usually operated they are not compatible with a Critical HabitatArea!

  14. Jeff Wraley says:

    The problem with jet skis is they can’t be policed in kachemak bay. . They are”thrill craft” and are used often in groups at high speeds in the shallows or other areas not accessable to traditional water craft and thus impacting wildlife, and the wilderness experiance of hikers and kayakers .As far as the noise goes a high speed pass by a jet ski thats wave or wake jumping brings the prop out of the water and the resulting whine counts as noise pollution!With all the areas available to jet skiers in alaska there is no good reason for trying to force them selves onto a critical habitat area. They should be kept out.

  15. Edgar Bailey says:

    Kachemak Bay is a designated Critical Habitat Area for many species, including Kittlitz’s and Marbled murrelets, whales, sea otters and many shorebirds and waterfowl. Kittlitz’s Murrelets are seabirds of special concern with very restricted areas in Kachemak Bay. Nesting seabirds by the thousands use Gull Island and ambient waters and are very sensitive to disturbances.

    Jet skis were banned 10 years ago for good reason, particularly because of the way these thrill craft are ridden–fast, erratically, and very often round and round, creating serious problems for wildlife and some people. Jet skis are designed and marketed for action. With ads like “Joy Ride,” “wave runner,” “radical ride,” “high speed manueverability–it shreds,” “motorcycle on water,” and “performance means speed,” what else does one need to see how these machines are operated?

    Because of how jet skis are designed and usually operated they are not compatible with a Critical HabitatArea!

Comments are closed

Like us on Facebook