The Homer City Council put into code the launching procedures for motorized personal watercraft within city limits at its meeting Monday night. It also introduced an ordinance to expand the “no wake” zone around the spit and Beluga Slough.
The council was prompted to take the actions out of concern that jet ski riders will launch their craft anywhere they can reach the waves, after the Alaska Department of Fish and Game repealed a 20-year-long personal watercraft ban in Kachemak Bay and the Fox River Flats Critical Habitat Area in January.
During the council’s Committee of the Whole meeting, Mayor Ken Castner suggested the no-wake ordinance was not needed, in this exchange with Councilmember Rachel Lord.
“I don't have any problem with closing the lagoon site. I have a problem with the no wake issue, because that's a condition that's a lesser condition than natural conditions. And I don't know how you enforce that. I mean, really, you know, the wave action on the spit is much, much more rigorous than any wake that could come in there,” the mayor said.
“I think, you know, the enforceability of this is definitely a challenge. Across the board, ‘no wake’ is different than wave action on the spit. We have a no wake zone in front of the mouth of the harbor and there's big waves crashing in that area with some frequency,” Lord said. “Having a no wake zone, a near nearshore no wake zone, I think is reasonable. I think it's good. I think it's good governance in the sense that, short of doing nothing, it's the least restrictive path towards a proactive kind of assessment of potential problems.”
Both ordinances attracted plenty of support from the public.
“The whereas clauses clearly define the reasons for this ordinance; public safety protection of habitat and wildlife, quality of life for citizens living near these areas and limited parking space are within the purview of the City of Homer's regulatory authority,” said Patricia Cue.
Robert Archibald said the wake ordinance is the first step in assuring safe watercraft operation on the city’s waterfront.
“I'd like to remind you that if you look out at the west side of the spit Bishops Beach, Mariner Park, at the rocks over there at low tide, that will present an awesome obstacle to people that don't know they're there when they're just below the water,” he said. “So when we're speaking about safety, obstacles, you might kind of think about that too. I know you've been working at this and I want to thank you for all the hard work on coming up with this language.”
Ordinance 21-26, limiting wake, was introduced on a unanimous vote, and will be sent to several of the city’s commissions for review and input. The ordinance will return to the council agenda for a public hearing and final vote in June.
Ordinance 21-23, which passed with unanimous consent, bars the launching, loading or retrieving of motorized watercraft from city owned beaches except for official business or with harbormaster approval. That limits launching to the city’s boat ramps only.