Park plan comments accepted through Jan. 22

Jan 6, 2021

Credit Alaska Division of Parks

The Alaska Division of Parks held a second round of hearings on its proposed new management plan for Kachemak Bay State Park. Called the “Intend to Adopt” version, the plan is essentially complete.
    Parks held a pair of two-hour online hearings Tuesday, a follow up to a pair held in December.
    One of the elements of the plan is the phasing out of the Tutka Bay Hatchery, which started out as a state owned-and-operated facility, but is now operated by Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association. Rob Earl of State Parks read a question submitted via text during the hearing for colleague Monica Alvarez about the removal of the hatchery.
    “Yes, the plan does have a recommendation for phasing out the Tutka Bay Lagoon Hatchery,” Alvarez said. “And there's a discussion on page 41 of the plan that kind of goes into the reasons why, and it's under the section titled ‘Disposals.’
“And so just a little background there. The Kachemak Bay State Park is a legislatively designated area. And disposals of interest of any kind are not permitted within legislatively designated areas,” Alvarez added. “I will say that our thinking on this has evolved over the years due to multiple court cases. And so case law has really informed how we sort of treat things. And we've come to understand that the hatchery itself represents the disposal of interest. And so that's very problematic for the department and as such we need to address it. And so the phase out is what's proposed to kind of eliminate that disposal of interest issue that we have.”
    Roberta Highland, the president of the Kachemak Bay State Park Conservation Society, questioned Parks on its support of Fish and Game’s decision to allow jet skis back into Kachemak Bay after being banned 20 years ago.
    “I'm just wanting to say that we really strongly support the parks to continue that prohibition of jet-skis in the state parks. And I think that would go a long ways in helping us to alleviate at least problems in the park,” Highland said.
    Highland was also critical of the level of commercial activities that are allowed.
     “I don't know about limiting some of the commercial guides and certain days and whatnot, that is something that I will be following just to see where that goes, because there's some travesties happening. Also for instance, on trapping of river otters, there's no limit,” Highland said. “It just seems like due to the fact that the state park is a state park, that we don't want to see decimation of any of the wildlife. And if that's happening then does state parks have a say in explaining, ‘we've got a real problem here and we've got to do some changes,’ or is state parks willing to say we're not gonna allow trapping in the state parks. Have you considered that?”
    Kachemak Bay State Park superintendent Jack Blackwell responded.
    “You know, state parks can implement some use restrictions. You know, it is possible to place restrictions on commercial operators in terms of hours of operation, such if we're seeing conflict with other park users, that may be something for us to consider. But I think there's still, at least in my mind, I need to better understand the concerns that we're hearing, but I've heard loud and clear that there are concerns with stakeholders about this issue,” Blackwell said. “I'll add that we're going through a public process with the revision of the management plan, and this plan will guide park management for the next 20 years.”
    Comments will continue to be taken on the new Kachemak Bay State Park Management Plan until Jan. 22.