City council passes no wake zone ordinance in Kenai harbor
KENAI — As complaints about the effects of the Kenai River’s crowded summer dipnet fishery continue to pour in, the Kenai City Council gave the city manager the ability to establish “no-wake zones” in the Kenai Harbor.
The ordinanace, passed during the council’s Wednesday meeting, was sponsored by members Bob Molloy and Brian Gabriel. It gives the city manager the discretion to regulate boat speed in the harbor citing the necessity for public safety and the protection of private property.
Molloy, harbor commission council liaison, said residents have voiced their concerns through public comment at dipnet work sessions on the issue of damaged property and public safety created by boat wakes at high tide during the peak fishery season.
“People that use our harbor were concerned with 400-600 small vessels in a two-mile stretch of river with no regulation on speed with boats zipping up and down,” he said. “Add in the big commercial vessels and it creates lots of dangerous conditions.”
Molloy said in addition to the safety factors, boat wakes during high tide damage property and creates riverbank erosion.
The ordinance addresses those concerns and will impose enforcement by posting signs within their jurisdiction, Molloy said.
“At Homer’s harbor, they have a built in rock wall and a no wake zone that people are used to,” he said. “Here we have a river mouth with no way to control your speed. We have heard the public’s message and have all seen the problems down there for ourselves.”
The now wake zones can be established as either temporary or permanent speed-controlled areas according to the ordinance.
Gabriel, a commercial fisherman who lives near the mouth of the Kenai River, said he has seen boats that use the popular fishery creating dangerous conditions on the water. He said people pay more attention to catching fish than boating safety.
“When the tide comes up to a certain level and reaches the vegetative line of the banks, the boat wakes create erosion issues,” he said. “Times where no wake zone apply would be during high tides until the tide falls back below the line.”
Gabriel said the Coast Guard will be active to regulate speeds and ensure safer boating conditions in the Kenai Harbor during from July 10-31 fishery season and, he said, the city will put signs at the boat launch and on buoys in the water that will remind boaters to slow down to five miles per hour in no-wake zones during high tide.
The city council also postponed a resolution on travel policy after spending about 45 minutes making amendments on the council and mayor’s travel policy. After several amendments were made to three sentences, council member Gabriel recommended the council postpone the resolution and finalize a policy in a work session at a later date.
The council will hold a work session on the second meeting in May.
Vice Mayor Ryan Marquis said he felt council members should have to fill out a report on their trip, and give a verbal account if a council member or mayor travel on city related business. He said having a travel policy is a necessity to show if a council member or mayor travels at the city’s expense.
“People need to know what is done on public funds,” he said.
Gabriel said while he is glad the council came up with a travel policy, he did not see the necessity of calling a special meeting to vote to approve a council member’s travel.
“It seems like we get hung up on minor details, but every issue we discuss is important,” Gabriel said. “We want to get it (as) close to right as we can at least the first time around.”