We live in a community that prizes
its salmon runs. This past Tuesday, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly proved that with its actions on an ordinance that would have rolled back habitat protections on anadromous waters.
Since the ordinance’s introduction in 2011 and subsequent challenges, amendments and rewrites since then, the argument has been framed as a conflict between the need for healthy salmon rearing habitat and the rights of property owners to develop their property as they see fit.
The habitat protection measure, among other things, establishes a 50-foot setback from the water’s edge in which development has been restricted.
The ordinance voted down by the Assembly on Tuesday would have scaled back the habitat protections from anadromous streams across the borough to just the Kenai River and Kasilof River watersheds.
In many ways, communities across the borough are at a crossroads. Subdivisions are growing as more and more people continue to come to the Kenai Peninsula for the quality of life it offers. Certainly, part of the attraction has always been fishing on pristine waters.
Continued development will have an impact. Doing things the way they’ve been done in the past is no longer an option. We as a community need to look forward, and we need to have a plan in place that guides future development in a way that preserves what we have now.
We agree with assembly member Blaine Gilman, who said he did a fair amount of research on riparian habitat before voting to keep the current anadromous waters protections in place.
“It’s not the right reaction to just go for one water body and say ‘oh, it’s distressed and we should put regulations on it.’ It should be a preventative measure,” Gilman told the Clarion. “It’s good for the health of the streams.”
Yes, there is still room for tweaking the regulations as to what is permitted within the 50-foot setback. There are things property owners should reasonably be able to do near the water’s edge, such as posting a “Private Property” sign, that just weren’t accounted for in the ordinance.
But the message we take from the assembly’s decision is that living on a body of water where salmon rear comes with a responsibility to be a good steward of the resource.