A split Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly on Tuesday defeated a resolution stating support for privately owned boat takeouts on the lower Kasilof River after hearing hours of testimony from people on both sides of the issue.
The resolution, sponsored by Assembly President Brent Johnson, is in response to a plan by the State of Alaska to develop a drift boat takeout on a piece of land it purchased from private property owners in 2015. That’s per a Nov. 3 memo from Johnson, who wrote that the state purchased Old Kasilof Landing from Jim Truijillo that year.
Efforts to develop new takeout facilities on the lower Kasilof River have been years in the making, but have faced setbacks. The Alaska Department of Natural Resources halted the project in 2017, and last summer proposed to improve the site as a retrieval-only facility.
Unlike ordinances, assembly resolutions do not change borough code, but rather formally state the body’s position on an issue. The legislation, if passed, would have formalized the assembly’s support for privately owned boat takeout facilities on the lower Kasilof River and opposed government-owned takeout facilities.
A boat takeout operation on the lower Kasilof River run by Steve and Jeanne Maltby, Johnson wrote, already welcomes “any user” and has “an excellent safety record.” The Maltby’s operation charges $30 per takeout, the memo says. If the state opens a boat takeout at Old Kasilof Landing, Johnson wrote, the Maltby’s business and local residents will be negatively impacted.
“It’s my contention that the State should avoid competing with private enterprise and that these detriments aren’t worth the benefits that lower Kasilof River boaters will receive from the proposed project,” Johnson wrote.
Those who testified in support of the resolution during Tuesday’s said a state-owned takeout facility would cause more traffic and disturbances in the community, while those opposed said a state-owned facility would provide safer takeout options for boaters and better facilities for recreators.
Kasilof resident Carolyn Roush, who said she has lived in the area with her husband for 39 years, said that a public boat takeout facility would be disruptive to the neighborhood and said she’s concerned it would lead to conditions similar to those seen during dipnetting season.
“It’s challenging for us that live here to hear that there could be something that could be so disruptive for our neighborhood — the trash, the people,” Roush said. “What we see at the Kasilof River is horrible. If you go down there to the mouth of the river and you see what it looks like in dipnetting time, it’s disgusting.”
Fishing guide Reubin Payne, who said he has been guiding on the Kenai Peninsula for more than 30 years, called the current takeout options “dangerous” and “super inconvenient.”
“As far as having a private entity-only takeout, the State of Alaska has provided us an entry into that river … but they have not provided us an exit,” Payne said. “I feel like we’re paying a fee to get on that river and then we’re paying a private individual fee to get off the river.”
The assembly ultimately voted 6-3 in opposition to the resolution, with those in favor citing the importance of public access to the river and adequate facilities for boaters.
Assembly member Cindy Ecklund, who represents the eastern peninsula, said that she was conflicted on the resolution because she supports privately owned takeouts, but also thinks safety and access are important.
“I support privately owned boat takeouts on the lower Kasilof River, but I also support safety,” Ecklund said. “I believe if the state allows you to put your boat in on the river, the state should provide you with a spot to take your boat out of the river that’s safe.”
Assembly member Lane Chesley, who voted in support of the resolution, said he hopes that residents in the area can continue working with state leaders to find a facility site that will have less of an impact on a nearby neighborhood. He spoke specifically to concerns about residential disturbances and that the facility would be used as a boat launch.
“I see the potential for the whole neighborhood becoming a parking lot of trailers laying in the roads as people try to access the launch,” Chesley said. “There’s a likelihood that they will (launch), you know, down river and upper river.”
The full meeting can be streamed on the borough’s website at kpb.legistar.com.
Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at email@example.com.