State river boating course to include Kenai unit

The statewide boating safety course will soon include a Kenai River-specific unit.

Water Wise, the Alaska boating safety course for recreational boaters, is free for all Alaskans and fulfills most states’ safety education requirements. It covers topics from departure, boat prep and emergencies to cold-water survival, navigation and legal requirements. It takes between six and eight hours to complete and qualifies as continuing medication education for emergency medical technicians.

However, the Kenai is the most utilized river in the state, and some have asked the state to require an extra certification for safety and responsibility on the river in the past. Joe McCullough, the program coordinator for Water Wise in the Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation’s Office of Boating Safety, said the Kenai-specific course is now in the works.

The Office of Boating Safety plans to get the course nationally certified through the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, McCullough said.

“We are going to do it,” McCullough said. “We have a NASBLA approved course already. … I’m developing a module, an extra, to that NASBLA course.”

Ideally, it would not add time to the program beyond an eight-hour day, he said. However, the national standards have changed to only require a four- to six-hour day.

McCullough said he thought the Kenai unit would be an hour or two added to a four- to six-hour day, making it easier for participants to take it rather than having to come back on a separate day.

The course would be free in person, just like the Water Wise course, but McCullough mentioned another option: private companies offering it online for a $25 fee. The office is still working on developing it and will work with the private providers on the content and delivery.

“They’re willing to do it, I’m going to help them,” McCullough said. “But if people take it, they’ll be charged a fee.”

When he presented the idea for the course to the Kenai River Special Management Area board, several board members expressed support. Keith Baxter, the representative from the City of Soldotna, said adding a Kenai River safety course could reduce boating accidents on the river.

Jack Blackwell, the park superintendent with the Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation for Soldotna, suggested offering an incentive for boaters to take the class. As boating safety courses are not mandatory in the state, he suggested offering an incentive such as a free launch from one of the boat launches in the area to entice potential participants.

“Right now, we’re charging folks $20 for a launch at Eagle Rock and the Pillars, so there may be a way that we could provide some incentive,” Blackwell said. “That might encourage participation.”

McCullough asked the board to consider officially endorsing the course to make it more legitimate. As there were not enough members of the board present at the December meeting to have a quorum, the board could not vote on any official action, so the decision was postponed to a future meeting.

McCullough also asked the board members for suggestions on what they wanted included in the course.

“It’s going to happen anyways, so I want to know what you want in the course, otherwise I have to write it,” McCullough said. “I know what I want to put in it, and it’s probably a lot of what you want, but let’s get some feedback from the different entities and make it a Kenai River-specific course.”

Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabeth.earl@peninsulaclarion.com.

More in News

Bradley Walters leads the pack up Angle Hill on Wednesday, July 18, 2018, at the Salmon Run Series at Tsalteshi Trails. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Summer races kick off at Tsalteshi

The annual Salmon Run Series 5K races start on July 6 and continue every Wednesday through Aug. 3

Central Emergency Services staff wait to receive doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine on Friday, Dec. 18, 2020, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Assembly mulls bond for new CES fire station

Replacement of the current station is estimated to cost $16.5 million

Buldozers sit outside of the former Kenai Bowling Alley on Thursday, June 23, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Old Kenai bowling alley comes down

The business closed in 2015

Landslide debris surrounds part of Lowell Point Road on Friday, June 3, 2022, in Seward, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Assembly looks to mitigate future Lowell Point Road dangers

Assembly members approved legislation supporting agencies working to address the “repetitive hazards”

The Alaska Department of Health And Social Services building in Juneau has no visible signs indicating the department is splitting into two agencies as of Friday. Top officials at the department said many of the changes, both physical and in services, are likely weeks and in some cases months away. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Little sign of big change for DHSS

No commissioner at new department, other Department of Health and Social Services changes may take months

Nate Rochon cleans fish after dipnetting in the Kasilof River, on June 25, 2019, in Kasilof, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
King closures continue; Kasilof dipnet opens Saturday

The early-run Kenai River king sport fishery remains closed, and fishing for kings of any size is prohibited

An "Al Gross for Congress" sign sits near the driveway to Gross’ home in Anchorage, Alaska, on Tuesday, June 21, 2022, after he announced plans to withdraw from the U.S. House race. Gross has given little explanation in two statements for why he is ending his campaign, and a woman who answered the door at the Gross home asked a reporter to leave the property. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)
Alaska judge rules Sweeney won’t advance to special election

JUNEAU — A state court judge ruled Friday that Alaska elections officials… Continue reading

Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion 
Soldotna City Manager Stephanie Queen listens to a presentation from Alaska Communications during a meeting of the Soldotna City Council on Wednesday, March 9, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska.
ACS pilots fiber program in certain peninsula neighborhoods

The fiber to the home service will make available the fastest internet home speeds on the peninsula

Most Read