The ban on personal watercraft in Kachemak Bay and Fox River Flats is up for public comment until January 6, 2020. Personal watercraft have been banned from Kachemak Bay and Fox River Flats since 2001.
Public comments are all directed through one person, Rick Green, appointed by Governor Dunleavy to serve as Special Assistant to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Comminssioner Doug Vincent-Lang.
KBBI’s Kathleen Gustafson spoke to Green about the proposed repeal.
Rick Green says his longstanding interest in volunteering for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game - Green served on the Fish and Game Advisory Council for three years - is why Governor Dunleavy appointed him as Special Assistant to ADF&G Commissioner Doug Vincent-Lang.
Green says he has never had much interest in riding Jet Skis. When I ask if he is a member of the Alaska Personal Watercraft Club, Green says no
"I used to be a guide and everything from a skiff up to a 55 foot Delta's with double screws, but I've been a boat guy all my life," said Green.
Public comment regarding the repeal goes to Rick Green. This is the first time Green has been point of contact for public comment on any ADF&G issue since his appointment in December of 2018.
“I can kind of tell you how we got where we are. The Personal Watercraft Club, The Alaska Outdoor Council and some groups like that brought this to us and said, Hey, look, we can't see a reason for this to happen - and asked us to review the prohibition," said Green.
Special Assistant Green’s page on the ADF&G website says he is a lifetime member of the Alaska Outdoor Council. Green already has a position on the repeal. He says he doesn’t think the personal watercraft should be considered apart from other small watercraft like skiffs.
"The purpose is to protect and preserve habitat areas, especially crucial to
the perpetuation of fish and wildlife. And to restrict all other uses not compatible with that primary goal. We didn't find personal watercraft and the definition of them to be any more in conflict with that goal than other small crafts," Green said.
After Green collects public comments, they go to commissioner, Doug Vincent-Lang for review. If he signs the repeal it goes to the Lieutenant Governor's office for approval. ADF&G’s Kachemak Bay Fox River Flats Critical Habitat Area management plan revision group will not be given the comments for review. The proposed repeal explicitly states that the repeal will be reviewed separate from and not included as a part of the management plan.
According to Green, there aren’t any immediate plans to include restrictions on size, type of engine, restricted areas or any requirements for safety flags.
"If you're talking about a 14 foot, personal watercraft comparable to the visual of a 14 foot dinghy, I don't see a lot of difference except the personal watercraft might - the rider might be a little higher in the air and easier to see than the guy in the skiff," said Green.
The United States Coast Guard defines a personal watercraft, amongst
other criteria, as a jet-drive boat, less than 16 feet in length.
Green says there are economic benefits to consider and that ADF&G wants all Alaskan’s to have access to Kachemak Bay and Fox River Flats.
"If I was to put it in a nutshell, we put this proposal forward to increase access for Alaskans to the property that we all own equally. That's our motive is to increase access.”
Submit public comment to email@example.com. Questions about the proposed repeal should also go to that address. Those questions will be answered on the ADF&G page of the State of Alaska website.
Green says that the decision will not be based on how many people are for or against the repeal.
"No, I don't know that numbers are the main driving force. We're going to collect all the comments. I know we have some legalities that we have to go through, putting them all together and putting them in one process. But it should be pretty cut and dry, I would think, said Green.
And although Green says that numbers are not the deciding factor, he ended the conversation by encouraging an up or down vote.
"And if you're going to make comments and we certainly encourage everyone to, you just need to tell us whether you're in favor of it or opposed to it. And if you want to tell us why that's fine, but it's pretty much a toggle yes or no, I think," Green said.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game will be accepting public comment on the proposed repeal of the ban on personal watercraft until January 6, 2020.
You can read the proposal and submit comments on the State of Alaska website