The final count for public comments regarding the Kenai and Kasilof rivers subsistence gillnets was nearing 600, including requests from federal agencies, on the eve of the public comment period closing July 17.
The comments aim to become true requests for reconsideration, or RFRs, which must be discussed by the federal board in special work sessions scheduled at a later date.
In this case, the RFRs are challenging the board’s January decision to allow for a sockeye subsistence gillnet on federal waters of the Kenai and Kasilof rivers. The Ninilchik Traditional Council submitted the proposal and will operate the gillnets dependent on the approval of an operational plan by Jeff Anderson, the field supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Kenai Field Office.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was one of three federal agencies that voted against the proposal, and Fish and Wildlife representatives have filed an RFR over the Kenai River gillnet.
As of July 13, Anderson has not yet approved the draft plans for either river, nor discussed the draft provision with the Journal.
The number of comments submitted during the official period has tallied near 600, according to the Office of Subsistence Management, which is the division of the Department of the Interior under which the Federal Subsistence Board operates. The Office of Subsistence Management will review the comments and determine whether or not they qualify as true RFRs, then present them to the board at a later date. The board can take up to several years to schedule a hearing for RFRs.
The most RFRs the Federal Subsistence Board has ever received on a single action was in 2007, when the board designated the Southeast Alaska village Saxman and several other Southeast and Southcentral communities as “nonrural,” and therefore unqualified for federal subsistence rights.
In 2012, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game filed an RFR regarding the board’s closure of the Red Sheep Creek drainage to non-federally qualified hunters.
RFRs for each are only now going to be discussed. A work meeting will take place on July 28 and July 29 to review the Red Sheep Creek and Cane Creek decisions. The board will also review the rural designation process, after which it may or may not re-evaluate the 2007 redesignation of Saxman.
The board will not take testimony over the nearly 600 RFRs it has received for the Kenai River.
Chuck Ardizzone is deputy director for he Office of Subsistence Management. According to Ardizzone, the work session will not incorporate any discussion of the Kenai River gillnet because the end of the request period is too near that of the work session to sufficiently review them.
DJ Summers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.