Public input sought on proposed Skilak-area boat launch changes

The public scoping period will last from Dec. 8, 2020 to Jan. 8, 2021

A public scoping period will begin on Dec. 8 for proposed changes to Jim’s Landing Boat Launch that will include access and parking improvements.

The boat launch is located within the Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area near the eastern entrance. According to the project website, the need for improvement was identified by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

According to the site, the boat landing is busy and is occasionally used to launch recreational boats by members of the public. Specifically, the launch and retrieval site is used to access the Upper Kenai River by recreation fisherman and by scenic and fishing guides. The launch can be challenging for less experienced boaters during high-water conditions and crowded situations.

Additionally, parking areas close to the river are “generally full” during most of the fishing season and are used only by members of the public. As a result, the area can become crowded.

“These areas suffer from congestion and user frustration due to unclear circulation combined with varying levels of trailer and boat knowledge,” the site reads.

Limited parking capacity near the river has required commercial operators to use overflow parking across Sterling Highway. This means that operators must walk across the highway or cross the road with their vehicles and trailers. Risk of accidents may increase, the project site notes, due to potential changes to that section of Sterling Highway that may include increasing road speeds.

“The feasibility of a secondary parking area located along Skilak Road near Jim’s Landing Entrance will be under consideration,” the site says.

The project will also assess the launch area and associated facilities with the goal of improving public safety and user convenience. This may include upgrades to vehicle and pedestrian circulation, parking, signage and amenities.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is also preparing an environmental assessment to evaluate the changes improvements may have on the environment. The site of the boat launch contains wetland, riparian habitats and Jean Creek, which is an anadromous stream.

A public scoping period will end on Jan. 8, 2021. A virtual public meeting will be held remotely on Dec. 8 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

“Based upon substantive comments received during this scoping period, we will make needed changes to our current alternatives that will subsequently be evaluated in an environmental assessment,” an email sent Monday said.

Public comments are encouraged in order to inform the project team about issues important to the public and to raise questions about elements of the project that are unclear, among other things. Public comments can be submitted via phone at 907-646-2784 or online at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/6H7BPVL.

More information about the project can be found at https://usfws-jims.blogspot.com/.

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

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