Set-netting is not just a job. It is how my family, along with hundreds of others here on the Kenai Peninsula, define themselves. More than 80 percent of set-net permit holders are Alaska residents, and much of the money they earn stays in the local economy. For generations, our families have returned to our fish camps to harvest a small portion of the sockeye return. Our fishing methods have changed very little since set-netting started here more than 120 years ago.
We are proud fishermen from humble backgrounds, most of us working other jobs to support our set-netting tradition. We understand the ups and downs of fishing in a wild sustainable fishery. We know the main concern is, and always should be, the health of the river.
This summer, our fishery closed down in order to preserve the king run. Robert Begich, Fish and Game sport fish area management biologist, said in a July 18 newspaper article, “It could be the lowest (king) run we’ve ever had.” However, there is a great deal of speculation, even within the department, of how accurate this data is.
Our fishery is being managed on numbers that are gathered from a sonar counter that is running a mere 40 minutes a day. When my family, along with other set-netting families, asked Fish and Game commercial fisheries biologist Pat Shields how the department is able to accurately count the kings that are returning up river, he responded, “There are issues associated with enumerating them (king salmon), and counting them, and I am not trying to tell you there’s not. I am not trying to tell you that you shouldn’t be concerned, you should.”
He encouraged us to keep asking these hard questions and warned us that there are people in power who want to see the set-netters disappear. That is what they are doing to us now.
Families in the northern district have been slowly squeezed out over the years. And now we, the set-netting families of the east side, are starting the same downward spiral. The truth is that our fishery, which should be managed for the health of the river, has become a convoluted political chess game and 400 set-net families are paying the price.
We have paid the department our many permit fees, we have paid our local taxes, we have supported local business and we will pay our crew who have given up their summer to sit idle as the fish pass by. Our pockets are being drained, our hearts are being bled, but we are not willing to go away quietly. The local papers write articles about the record number of sockeyes moving up the river or how the sport fisherman have been restricted for king conservation, but where are the articles that show our plight?
Our story is not in print, nor is it known in the community. But I can assure you that it is the foremost thought in our minds. It is the heaviest weight on our hearts and it is the story that will unite our set-netting families. And our story is that we have been shut down under the pretense of inaccurate data. We refuse to disappear. We will be here for generations to come.
But first our story must be heard.
I am going to address something that I should have done a month or more ago. I am now fairly convinced that the City of Homer is unaware of the condition of the ladies restroom adjacent to the Harbor Office on the Homer Spit, or something would have been done a long time ago.
As a business owner (a.k.a. sales tax collector) on the Homer Spit, and regular user of the public restroom by the harbor office, I am appalled at the lack of repairs done to the facility.
There are a total of six stalls in the ladies restroom, one of which has been duct-taped closed as “out of order” since May. Another has been duct-taped shut since mid June, at least.
Now, we also have only one hand dryer out of two that work, and that has been for several weeks as well.
This pubic restroom is probably the most publicly used building on the Homer Spit. This is also a building used by the coveted visitors we are trying to “show-case” our town to. All the while, we are charging the highest sales tax rate in the state. It is long past due for public works, or whoever, to provide the services our tax dollars at the very minimum, are expected to cover. Just how long does it take to repair a toilet?
Totem Ocean Trailer Express is committed to giving back to our community. Their support of Project GRAD’s Summer Institute and Middle School bridge programs helps low-income students from rural, under-served Kenai Peninsula schools learn skills needed to succeed in high school and continue successfully on to college.
In May, Project GRAD realized the benefits of its work and the generosity of its partners by congratulating 27 GRAD scholars from Nanwalek, Ninilchik, Port Graham, Razdolna and Voznesenka on their high school graduation. Of those graduates, 16 will be continuing on to post-secondary education programs, 13 with Project GRAD scholarships.
Over the years, the DanPaul Foundation has helped fund these scholarships. The foundation recognizes scholarships as an important tool that provides the means for opportunities for enrichment, growth and personal social responsibility.
Project GRAD scholars sincerely thank Totem Ocean Trailer Express and the DanPaul Foundation for their support.
Project GRAD Kenai Peninsula
The Independent Living Center would like to thank the Kachemak Bay Lion’s Club for their generous donation of time and energy to our community. They play an integral part in supporting our community and several Independent Living Center programs, including the low-vision program.
Many people have improved vision thanks to the Kachemak Bay Lion’s Club. It is wonderful to work with an organization with similar goals.
Independent Living Center
The Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies would like to thank the community of Homer for all of its awesome support, especially over this past week.
We celebrated our 30th anniversary in style last Saturday at a block party in our headquarters building in town. We had nearly 150 people stop by to eat great food prepared by Two Sister’s Bakery, listen to the energizing tunes of Burnt Down House and taste delicious wine donated by Bear Creek Winery – complete with a special 30th Anniversary custom label.
Funds for the food were provided by generous donations from Wells Fargo and an anonymous donor.
We can’t thank super volunteer Cathy Wilmeth enough for her excellent planning skills and commitment to helping us pull off a grand event. Plus, she won the pie/cobbler contest. To top it all off, we had a full house at Alice’s Champagne Palace on Thursday night for A Comedy Cocktail Party – the live Homer version of your favorite TV reruns, performed by Old Songs Productions. Their profits benefited CACS that night.
We greatly appreciate Alice’s and the cast of Old Songs Productions for supporting the nonprofits of Homer in such a fun and entertaining way.
Summer is only half-over, and there is still time to participate in programs, tours and activities. Thanks to all for being a part of the CACS experience, and here’s to 30 more great years of connecting people to the nature of Kachemak Bay.
Executive director, CACS
Homer Softball Association, in conjunction with the Parks and Recreation Commission, would like to thank the folks that braved the rain and bugs to make Parks Day a success last Saturday. From Homer Softball: Steve Rich, Philip Jones, Brian Burk, Jason Boyd, Brandon Grochow, Cody Fonkert, Jesse Cashman, Ginny Espenshade, and ex-commissioner Steve Smith! From Parks and Rec: Deb Lowney, Robert Archibald, Lars Bell and Bumbo Bremicker! We appreciate the work you guys did to get our new, larger field ready for action.
In addition, a huge thank you to Bruce Turkington and SBS for donating the lumber and roofing to make this all possible. The materials provided were an incredible help. Also thanks to Strong Construction for the use of their trailer, and Bill Bell for helping me layout our new infield. HSA looks forward to having a complete ball park with three fields and an excellent disc golf course! Homer Softball’s City Tournament will be held this weekend, come check out all the hard work.
Jessica Marx and Amy Jones
Homer Softball commissioners
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