A map shows what Native-owned land parcels fall within the current boundaries of the Nikiski Fire Service Area. The assembly is considering excluding those parcels from the coverage area of the Nikiski Advisory Planning Commission, which currently has the same boundaries as the fire service area. (Map via Kenai Peninsula Borough)

A map shows what Native-owned land parcels fall within the current boundaries of the Nikiski Fire Service Area. The assembly is considering excluding those parcels from the coverage area of the Nikiski Advisory Planning Commission, which currently has the same boundaries as the fire service area. (Map via Kenai Peninsula Borough)

Assembly bumps vote on size of Nikiski planning group to mid-April

Assembly members last fall approved the creation of a Nikiski Advisory Planning Commission that includes communities on the west side of Cook Inlet

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly on Tuesday again delayed action on legislation that would reduce the geographic area overseen by a Nikiski planning group. The assembly will not vote on the legislation, which would reduce the coverage area of the Nikiski Advisory Planning Commission, until at least April 18.

“It was requested by assembly member (Richard) Derkevorkian, since he couldn’t be here to participate in the vote on this, that we postpone this to our next regularly scheduled meeting,” assembly member Lane Chesley said during Tuesday’s assembly meeting. Derkevorkian had an excused absence for that meeting.

Assembly members last fall approved the creation of a Nikiski Advisory Planning Commission that includes communities on the west side of Cook Inlet in its boundaries. Shortly after the group was created, however, groups from the west side said they were not consulted during the petition process and do not want to be a part of the commission.

The legislation considered Tuesday is sponsored by council members Cindy Ecklund, Brent Johnson and Mike Tupper. It was first introduced in December 2022 and has since been voted down, brought back for reconsideration, reconsidered and postponed twice.

The assembly will consider alternative maps at their next meeting that would take out of the APC boundaries Native-owned properties on the west side of Cook Inlet. The amendment will be reviewed by the Kenai Peninsula Borough Planning Commission before being taken up by assembly members.

Letters or public comments opposing the inclusion of west side communities in the Nikiski APC have come from dozens of Tyonek residents, the Tyonek Tribal Conservation District, Furie Operating Alaska LLC, Cook Inlet Region Inc., the Tyonek Native Corporation, the Native Village of Tyonek and the Salamatof Native Association, Inc., among others.

Letters or public comments in support of the larger commission boundaries have come from the Nikiski Community Council and Nikiski residents, including some who work, recreate or own a business on the west side of Cook Inlet.

Tyonek Native Corporation CEO Stephen Peskosky told assembly members Tuesday that, in addition to there being widespread opposition to the larger boundaries from west side communities, he is skeptical that an advisory planning commission could adequately manage the boundary area.

“We’re talking about 3 million acres on the other side of the inlet,” Peskosky said. “From Tyonek Native Corporation’s perspective, we’ve developed it, we’ve sampled (and) we’ve surveyed the lands. It’s expensive, it is complicated, it takes airplanes and helicopters and expertise. Unless they have an unlimited budget, I would submit this is unmanageable for the APC.”

At more than 3.5 million acres, the larger area initially approved by assembly members is more than four times the size of the borough’s other group areas combined. Even if the boundaries were reduced to exclude the west side of Cook Inlet, the commission would still have the largest acreage of any other borough commission by more than 44,000 acres.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Planning Commission has twice recommended that the assembly approve the smaller boundaries.

Tuesday’s assembly meeting can be streamed on the borough’s website at kpb.legistar.us.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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