The 2020 Upper Cook Inlet Board of Fisheries meeting will convene in Anchorage after all.
In an unexpected vote taken without much formal notice, the Board of Fisheries decided to move the 2020 regulatory meeting from the Kenai Peninsula to Anchorage. The meeting was originally going to be held in Anchorage, but a March 2018 vote moved the meeting to the Kenai-Soldotna area.
At the start of the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim finfish meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 15, Board chair Reed Moriskey mentioned that the Upper Cook Inlet meeting location would be discussed. On Friday, the board reversed their March 2018 decision with a 4-3 vote, bringing the 2020 meeting back to Anchorage.
Local peninsula officials, including Soldotna’s City Manager Stephanie Queen, were surprised by the sudden reversal.
“After the board made the decision back in March of last year to come down to the Peninsula for the 2020 meeting we’ve been planning and making preparations to host the meetings in the Kenai-Soldotna area,” Queen said in a recorded statement to the board. “We’ve been coordinating with Kenai and making plans to have those meetings at the sports center. So, we were completely caught off guard when we found out that they would be revising that decision.”
Queen submitted a recorded statement, as did other officials from Kenai and Soldotna, even though she was present at the finfish meeting earlier on Friday to comment on the proposed move.
Kenai City Manager Paul Ostrander said that he was at the meeting, talking to board members and was told that the board would not be voting on the move until later in the month. After convening for lunch and being assured by the chair that the vote would not be held that day, Ostrander and other officials returned to the peninsula.
The Board of Fisheries voted on the move by the time they were back in Soldotna, Ostrander said.
Morisky pointed to several familiar reasons for moving the meeting back to Anchorage — a central location, more fishery participants and more accommodations.
“I vote to have the meeting there — it is a centrally located area,” said John Jensen, a board member that voted to approve the move. “It’s halfway between Soldotna and the Wasilla area up above. You have to remember there’s a lot of people who live in the Anchorage area both sport and commercial.”
Board of Fisheries member and Soldotna resident Robert Ruffner voted against the move.
“To me, this is unfair. My community has been asking this meeting for over a decade,” Ruffner said. “People have gone from diapers to college and not been able to weigh in in their community. I apologize to you in the audience who have to listen to this because it’s garbage.”
• By KAT SORENSEN, Peninsula Clarion