“An Act adding certain state-owned land and water to the Kenai River Special Management Area.”
Posted: March 16, 2009
Status: (H) RES : 2009-03-12
The Kenai River Special Management Area (KRSMA), is managed as a unit of the Alaska State Park system by the Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation under the direction from the Alaska Legislature (AS 41.21.500). During public meetings to revise the Kenai River Comprehensive Management Plan and subsequent review of the Department of Natural Resources' Kenai Area Plan, comments clearly suggested that the State should manage the Kenai River as a watershed system. 4,877 acres of general state lands including 11 upper Kenai River or Kenai Lake tributaries are proposed to be legislatively added to the boundary of KRSMA, to provide the protection and management called for in the management plan revision. This includes most of the public lands and waters that contribute to sustaining the Kenai River's important fish, wildlife and recreational resources.
The health of the entire Kenai River system, including its many communities, depends upon sustaining adequate water quality and quantity, and healthy riparian fish and wildlife habitat throughout the watershed. The region's economy depends on the $137 million in direct spending by non-locals visiting the Kenai River. River guides, RV Park owners, motels, B&B and restaurant operators, car and boat rental dealers, and many other local Kenai Peninsula businesses depend upon a healthy Kenai River for economic sustainability. The level and consistency of management to adequately protect the valuable resources of these lands and waters is currently not possible without KRSMA designation. Existing park staff assigned to KRSMA is adequate to cover additional management responsibilities.
The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly passed Resolution 2009-010 supporting the addition of these lands. The KP Borough Land Management Office acknowledges the selection of these lands as striking a good balance of habitat and recreation lands to compliment the Borough's municipal selections in the same area.
The Cooper Landing Community Club voted in favor of recommending these lands for additions to the KRSMA.
Where are these lands?
The largest blocks of proposed lands are on the south side of Kenai Lake along Snug Harbor Road and up to Cooper Lake, approximately 3000 acres. Of key importance are numerous tributary streams draining into the upper Kenai River and Kenai Lake. These are important contributors to the watershed's fishery and water resources. A 200-foot corridor has been retained along each side of most of the tributaries and is proposed for KRSMA addition, along with each tributary.
During the creation of the KRSMA in 1984, the State had not yet received title from the federal government to lands surrounding Upper and Lower Trail Lakes, Trail River, and adjacent lands around the upper Kenai River and Kenai Lake. The original Kenai River Comprehensive Management Plan directed the State to designate these lands for the KRSMA once they became available. The Kenai Peninsula Borough also completed its selection of Municipal Entitlement Lands from the state. These selections reduced the original size of the KRSMA selections by nearly 3000 acres. The recent plan revision re-emphasizes the intent that these important habitat and recreation lands and waters should be included in the boundaries of the Special Management Area.
The KRSMA enabling legislation has directed Parks to manage and to provide for quality recreation. Some recreational development, primarily improved access, is appropriate, but the exact sites have not been selected. Recreational demands and user conflicts already occur on several access sites within the proposed additions. Examples of such areas include the Upper Trail Lake boat launch (also known as the "Ball Diamond"), and the Kenai Lake "Snail-a-thon Beach." Conceptually, the Division could enter into cooperative management agreements with the Cooper Landing and Moose Pass communities to care for these popular sites with minimal cost to the State. Basic sanitary facilities are greatly needed at these sites along with a clear management presence to deter negative behavior by some visitors. Without the lands being legislatively added to KRSMA, no solutions can be pursued to solve some of the most immediate problems at specific sites. For most of the new land additions, facility development would not be consistent with KRSMA's legislative intent to preserve and protect the important fish and wildlife resources and habitat of the river and adjacent areas.