DNR faces dipnet conundrum

  • Thursday, July 30, 2015 9:20pm
  • Opinion

The Kenai River personal-use fishery has certainly had its share of headlines this month, as thousands of Alaskans converge on the city of Kenai to catch their share of salmon.

The city of Kenai has, by default, taken on the role of managing the crowds, an endeavor that continues to evolve from year to year.

One issue that has cropped up in recent years is the number of dipnetters trying to get away from the bulk of the crowd by accessing the river from Bridge Access Road, by the Warren Ames Bridge, which marks the boundary of the personal-use fishery.

The problem is that there exists currently very little infrastructure for people to access the river there from the shore, aside from a small gravel parking area managed by the state. That means vehicles parked along the shoulder on Bridge Access Road, and, more critically, it means more and more people traipsing across the wetlands on the Kenai River flats to get to the bank. Driving across the bridge, all you need to do is look downstream to see the flattened, compacted grass, and the web of trails that don’t disappear when the dipnet season closes.

As the Clarion reported, the Department of Natural Resources is looking into projects to mitigate the impact, such as elevated walkways to provide access, or improving the trail with some other type of permeable material.

While we agree that action needs to be taken to protect the Kenai River banks, land managers appear to be facing a Catch-22 in that any river access improvements are likely to draw even more people to the river, and necessitate even more improvements. Build it, and they will come. It might be time to consider a different solution, and close sections of the river bank to fishing, as has been done on other parts of the river that were being loved to death.

In a recent story, a number of people accessing the dipnet fishery from Bridge Access Road said they do so because its not as crowded and frenzied as the things are on the beaches. One even said that if the fishing isn’t fun, you might as well get your fish at the market.

For better or for worse, the dipnet fishery has become too popular to afford anybody a tranquil, idyllic fishing experience. We appreciate Alaskans’ desire to get away from the crowds, but we’re not sure that providing greater access to a sensitive wetland is the way to do it.

More in Opinion

Rep. Justin Ruffridge, a Soldotna Republican who co-chairs the House Education Committee, speaks during floor debate of a joint session of the Alaska State Legislature on Monday, March 18, 2024. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Rep. Justin Ruffridge: Creating a road map to our shared future

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

An array of solar panels stand in the sunlight at Whistle Hill in Soldotna, Alaska, on Sunday, April 7, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Renewable Energy Fund: Key to Alaska’s clean economy transition

AEA will continue to strive to deliver affordable, reliable, and sustainable energy to provide a brighter future for all Alaskans.

Mount Redoubt can be seen acoss Cook Inlet from North Kenai Beach on Thursday, July 2, 2022. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)
Opinion: An open letter to the HEA board of directors

Renewable energy is a viable option for Alaska

Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, R-Nikiski, speaks in opposition to an executive order that would abolish the Board of Certified Direct-Entry Midwives during a joint legislative session on Tuesday, March 12, 2024 in Juneau, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Sen. Jesse Bjorkman: Making progress, passing bills

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

Priya Helweg is the deputy regional director and executive officer for the Office of the Regional Director (ORD), Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs, Department of Health and Human Services, Region 10. (Image via hhs.gov)
Opinion: Taking action on the maternal health crisis

The United States has the highest maternal mortality rate among high-income countries

Heidi Hedberg. (Photo courtesy of the Alaska Department of Health)
Opinion: Alaska’s public assistance division is on course to serve Alaskans in need more efficiently than ever

We are now able to provide in-person service at our offices in Bethel, Juneau, Kodiak, Kenai, Homer and Wasilla

Sara Hondel (Courtesy photo)
Opinion: Alaskan advocate shines light on Alzheimer’s crisis

In the heart of the nation’s capital next week, volunteers will champion the urgent need for legislative action to support those affected by Alzheimer’s

Rep. Ben Carpenter, a Nikiski Republican, speaks during floor debate of a joint session of the Alaska State Legislature on Monday, March 18, 2024. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Rep. Ben Carpenter: Clearing red tape on occupational licensing

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

Most Read