It’s all about saving the salmon runs

By Bill Smith
“Anadromous Fish” means a fish or fish species that spends portions of its life cycle in both fresh and salt waters, entering fresh water from the sea to spawn.
Chris Story’s assertion that anadromous fish habitat protections by Alaska Fish and Game and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers means that protections are adequate is simply not in alignment with the facts: the Borough does not duplicate the regulations of these agencies, it complements them.
Fish and Game only regulates in the water up to ordinary high water, the Kenai Peninsula Borough only regulates above ordinary high water. The Corps regulates the waters — including wetlands. Where wetlands are adjacent to streams, the Corps will permit infilling and development which would be subject to Borough protections for vegetation and bank erosion.
The Borough regulations are not scheduled to take effect until Aug. 1, 2013, but land owners, including those adjacent to Caribou Lake, were notified in May of 2012.
The City of Kenai did not organize a campaign. What the City of Kenai did was write a letter notifying the owners of 191 properties in the City of Kenai of the impending passage of 2011-12 and inviting them to a meeting at Kenai City Hall. Two or three property owners came to the meeting and no one I know of in that group wrote letters of protest to the Borough.
Notwithstanding statements by a few realtors, there has been no demonstrated impact to the value of properties which have been regulated for the last 12 to 15 years, so I am skeptical of assertions about negative impacts to property values for newly regulated areas. I asked Mr. Chris Story to tell me his observations of impacts to southern peninsula real estate adjacent to streams protected since the year 2000. These streams include Deep Creek, the Ninilchik River, North and South forks of the Anchor and Fox rivers. He has not replied.
Is the Borough anadromous fish habitat protection ordinance a necessary ordinance? The east coast of America no longer has natural runs of salmon. The west cost of the U.S. has devastated the native salmon runs. There is never just one cause for decline of salmon stocks; death comes from a thousand cuts. Each life stage of salmon is important for survival, and habitat destruction by hundreds of small actions is a leading cause of decline.
The reason we need habitat protection now is that protection must be done before degradation takes place. It is too expensive, or not even possible, to put back destroyed habitat. It is much more practical to apply protection before something is degraded. It is also little to no expense to property owners to respect certain construction limits when they are known in advance. In fact, tax credits are available to owners who build in appropriately. There has been no demonstrable impact to property values due to borough stream protection regulations. Existing uses are not restricted and can continue just as they are now.
Salmon is a hugely important part of the life blood of the Kenai Peninsula Borough. Salmon fuels our bodies, our sport fishing and tourist industry and our commercial fishing industry. Salmon form a core part of our community identity and our cultural heritage. Without salmon we are not the Kenai, we are not Alaska.

Bill Smith is a Kenai Peninsula Borough Assemblyman representing the lower Kenai Peninsula.

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Posted by on Dec 12th, 2012 and filed under Point of View. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

4 Responses for “It’s all about saving the salmon runs”

  1. Chris Story says:

    Dear Reader;
    Upon learning of this ordinance and its widespread implications on the rights of private property owners, I emailed Assemblyman Smith and asked a few questions.
    1. Why were property owners not informed of the impending ordinance prior to its passage?
    2. Did you know property owners would not be informed?
    3. Why would there be no notice required when it’s required of almost any change that a citizen would make such as a lot split or vacation of a lot line; let alone a major ordinance that massively impacts the rights of private property owners?

    Assemblyman Smith’s reply included the phrase, “silly questions”.
    Notice that he has not addressed the fundamental question of why property owners were not included in the conversation regarding this ordinance restricting the use of 50 feet of their land, or at a minimum notified in writing that this ordinance was being offered to the Assembly and afford them an opportunity to speak to it.
    There I go again being silly.
    Let’s stipulate right up front that I and every property owner I’ve spoken to care about Salmon and Salmon habitat. No one is suggesting that property owners be able to make changes to the eco system in such a way that they destroy or inhibit the health of Salmon.
    One point that has been made by many property owners along the shore of the Caribou Lake is that there is not a salmon run emanating from or returning to the Caribou Lake. In addition to the fact the virtually all of the land surround the lake shore is designated on wetlands mapping as some form of wetlands bringing it under the jurisdiction of the Army Corps of Engineers. This is the kind of discussion that Caribou Lake property owners could have presented to the Assembly had they been given proper notice of the ordinance in advance of its passage.
    For Assemblyman Smith to suggest that it was good enough to notify them in writing many months after passage but prior to implementation is ludicrous.
    For Assemblyman Smith to suggest that my questions regarding the rights and notification of property owners were silly is the height of arrogance; unfortunately however this is the trend we are seeing at many levels of government.
    To place the burden of proof of a deleterious impact on the value of land on anyone who is looking to defend the rights of private property owners is a way of keeping you quiet. “Oh, you can’t prove that what we are doing is impacting the value of land; then you should keep your mouth shut.”
    Do not let go of your rights easily, today they come for the waterfront property, tomorrow they come for yours.

    • Bruce Hess says:

      Chris ,

      I suggest you that a look at the following Alaska Fish and Game website.

      Spawning Sockeye salmon have been identified in Caribou Lake. Dolly Varden have also been identified as present. At the outlet of Caribou Lake at Fox Creek both spawning Sockeye and silvers have been identified along with the presence of Dolly Varden.

      If it’s true that you care about salmon and salmon habitat why wouldn’t you be a advocate for this ordinance because caring about salmon and salmon habitat is exactly what it does.

  2. Chris Story says:

    Nice Try Bruce…but the conversation is about the rights of private property owners. To site that owners on Caribou Lake dispute the claim of Salmon returning to the lake is to prove the point that this is part of the process that should have taken place prior to passing the law; property owners deserved written notice.
    You and Assembly Member Smith served together for years on the Homer Planning and Zoning Commission. With that in mind I am surprised that you and Mr. Smith seem to be missing the point. It is about due process and private property rights. The notifications may have followed the requirements of the Borough Code, but the property owners were not individually notified that such a powerful piece of legislation was about to effect their property. It is so powerful; in fact, that the Borough now feels compelled to inform the individual property owners that they are under this new ordinance and its impact.
    I’m not a fish biologist; as a lifelong Alaskan I do understand the importance of a balance between our precious wildlife and man. The importance of our individual rights though, and the rights of private property owners is not something to be taken lightly. It is only a matter of time before it’s your ox being gored; perhaps next the P/Z commission will deem your collection of conex boxes too close a proximity to the Beluga Lake down there on Seaplane Court. I’m sure you’d like to be aware of any such discussion.
    Let’s keep this on target: Individual Property Rights.

    • Bruce Hess says:


      So your your belief is property rights should include the right to destroy salmon habitat? I think at that point you are infringing on everyone rights.

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