Commercial fishing boats sit anchored near the mouth of the Kenai River on Friday, July 28, 2017 in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion, file)

Commercial fishing boats sit anchored near the mouth of the Kenai River on Friday, July 28, 2017 in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion, file)

Kenai asks the state to declare this year’s upper Cook Inlet fishery an economic disaster

Wednesday night, the Kenai City Council unanimously voted to request that Gov. Bill Walker declare an economic disaster for the upper Cook Inlet fisheries region and support a recovery plan.

Clam Gulch resident David Martin spoke in support of the resolution. He’s the president of the United Cook Inlet Drift Association.

“I appreciate the city council bringing this resolution forward and I hope it’s unanimously supported,” Martin said. “I’ve fished here 47 years and this is probably the worst season I’ve seen. We need a little economic help from the state to carry the people through.”

Council member Bob Molloy, who co-sponsored the resolution, said a potential recovery plan could take many forms.

“The state could commit resources to assist permit holders who participate in the Commercial Fishing Revolving Loan Program to avoid default, and who may be unable to meet payment terms who may not be able to pay because of the poor season,” Molloy said.

Vice Mayor Tim Navarre noted that offering relief to the fishing families here will encourage them to stay here and continue their work.

“If they are given some leeway they will stay in the fishery and work,” Navarre said. “That’s really what it’s all about. This isn’t a welfare program. There’s some real relief here and opportunity for people to benefit from it and continue with their livelihood.”

Mayor Brian Gabriel excused himself from the vote, at the advice of city attorney Scott Bloom, who said it could be a potential conflict of interest since Gabriel is a commercial set-netter and could potentially benefit from the passing of the resolution.

A copy of the adopted resolution will be sent to Gov. Walker, Sen. Peter Micciche, Rep. Gary Knopp and Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce.

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