A Homer-area boatyard and moose habitat advocates consulted with the Kenai Borough Assembly during its Tuesday night meeting about expansion efforts planned for this year.
Aaron Fleenor, who presented on behalf of Northern Enterprises Boat Yard in Homer, said that their operation, which is the largest privately owned dry dock marina in Alaska, is quickly running out of space to accommodate the size of the boats they service and the more than 40 businesses who operate there.
The boatyard, which is located northeast of the Homer Airport, has been in operation since 1981. Expansions currently underway for the company in 2021 include the extension of their existing dock to make it more efficient and efforts to acquire more land.
Fleenor said the company currently operates on 35 acres of fabric-lined gravel area which is used by more than 40 local businesses, but that they have used all their available space. In approaching the borough, Fleenor said they hope to begin a negotiation process to acquire three lots of land that separate some of the company’s discontinuous lots.
In a supplementary letter, Northern Enterprise Boat Yard owners Ken and Snooks Moore provided further details on their plans to expand and reiterated the need to move into surrounding areas.
“We badly need to acquire adjacent property to grow at this point,” they wrote. “The additional property to our yard would benefit the Kenai Peninsula borough for many decades to come.”
The assembly also heard testimony from Lynn Whitmore with Kachemak Moose Habitat, Inc., which owns parcels of land in the area. Whitmore said the group has a history of working with developers in the area to preserve habitat as much as possible.
“Right now we continue to work with conservationists, we continue to work with the developers and it’s been a successful formula for us,” Whitmore said. “We try not to point our fingers too much.”
Whitmore, who said he has met with Northern Enterprises privately to discuss their desire to expand, said that the land threatened by expansion efforts is used by local moose as a “quiet ground” as opposed to as a source of food.
In testifying before the assembly, Whitmore said he hopes to be a resource for the borough as they help Northern Enterprises with their expansion efforts.
“All we want to do is find some balance between what the moose need out there and the development that goes on and will continue to go on,” Whitmore said. “There’s going to be a net loss of habitat, we understand that, through cumulative effects and if there’s something that you guys can do to offset some of that, we’re all about the moose habitat.”
Assembly member Willy Dunne, who represents the southern peninsula, floated the idea of a land trade as a possible solution and emphasized the importance of both sides.
“I’d like to be very strategic about the lands and protecting habitat and wetlands while trying to encourage economic development, especially in the marine trades,” Dunne said.
Fleenor said they would be open to a land trade as long as Northern Enterprises Boat Yard was still given “room to grow.” Whitmore said the Kachemak Moose Habitat Inc. has had their eye on the land in question and that they would be willing to work toward whatever solutions allow both sides to come together.
Tuesday’s assembly meeting can be viewed at kpb.legistar.com.