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Thread: Kenai River Special Management Area AB - Representing the "broad public interest"???

  1. #1

    Default Kenai River Special Management Area AB - Representing the "broad public interest"???

    I think not. This letter was sent to the Commissioner of DNR last week. While it represents the concerns that the setnet industry has with the makeup of the board, this issue should concern anyone who cares about the Kenai. This level of domination by a special interest group - ANY special interest group - is not healthy.
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    At least no one's bashful about it. Check out the logo in the KRSMA brochures. Kinda funny, if you call ADFG and ask for the most recent habitat report, you get a report with the same logo on it!


    http://dnr.alaska.gov/parks/brochures/krsma.pdf

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    There are a number of groups making it known to the DNR Commissioner that the KRSMA process is flawed and may not be salvaged. It will take a DNR Commissioner that really cares about the Kenai to clean house and start fresh. We will see what happens.

    I have served on the Habitat Committee for two to three years and I can tell you that this Board will not act on habitat issues that impact in-river users, especially the guide industry. Habitat is not on the table for discussion. How to limit private anglers is on the table with all sorts of weird proposals.

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    Well, here we are 10 months later with no response from DNR to area user groups with concerns about the makeup of this board, and it is time to make appointments again. 4 seats are open. Interestingly, all 4 seats are closely tied to KRSA and the guiding community. Syndicated seats, if you will. 3 of the 4 have re-applied (one moved away), with a total of only 7 applicants.

    At the recent meeting, representatives of the Borough and the City of Kenai expressed their concern that the KRSMA bylaws were still not being followed relative to notification of open positions and the nomination process - despite objections by the same individuals A YEAR AGO. Bylaws state that the board itself should review and discuss applicants and nominate no fewer than 3 individuals for recommendation to the director for each open position. The board chairman (who is leading the charge on the setnet ban) said that he had been involved in the KRSMA board for over 15 years, and the nomination process "has never been done the same way twice". Here's your sign, Mr. Chairman... He failed to see the problem, and said that he preferred the way it was done last time, when the board was not allowed to review applicants. They were instead interviewed by himself and the local superintendent, with recommendations forwarded to the ex-executive director of KRSA who now sits as the DNR Director of Parks and makes the appointments. Funny that the ex-executive director of KRSA appointed the current Executive Director of KRSA who is also a setnet ban sponsor to a board that is supposed to represent the broad public interest of our fishing community. Oh, yeah, he also chose to appoint a guide who openly states that he feels he should not be "discriminated" against on the river, and should be treated no different than any other angler.

    It was hard not to laugh when listening to the applicants (who were still board members) describe why they felt that the board should not have input on candidates, and the decision should be made "as it always has".

    This is concerning for many reasons, such as this:

    During the last meeting, AK Parks distributed the plans for the upgraded Eagle Rock Boat launch. I think it looks great. I like taking my kids fishing there, am glad that the state owns it, and think the upgrades will only enhance my experience while helping protect the river bank - at least at that location. Likewise with a possible state launch/retrieval site on the Kasilof...

    My concern lies with the fact that the public's input on these projects is currently dominated by a group of people who are either financially motivated commercial operators within KRSMA, or who adhere to this syndicate's directives. Recently, concern was expressed over the fact that Pillars and Eagle Rock launches were running at max capacity due to boats launching/retrieving to access the Dipnet fishery. I don't think the solution to this problem is to add more parking lots, and the KRSMA had the ability to address this issue in other ways which would help control traffic not only at the launch site, but in the much more critical river ecosystem. So while part of me supports these efforts to improve/increase access on our rivers, I know that with the current group in control these improvements will not be managed responsibly.

    No offense to the individuals who commit their time to this board who try to remain objective and make the river a better place. Unfortunately, these people do not have a controlling vote or represent a majority of the at-large seats. While this board is only advisory, it is the public's chance to have input on these issues.

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    I heard that at the meeting the other night the Board discussed the candidates. The President and some Board members allowed those up for reappointment on the Board to participate in the discussions. This allowed them to push their qualifications while the applicants that were not on the Board to listen to their claims for themselves and against the other candidates. This is a gross ethical violation for a number of reasons.

    First, they should not have an uneven playing field which this created. Next, if one is going to discuss individuals then it should be done in executive session and not open to the public. The candidates are not on the Board and without any chance to refute comments they are left exposed to public reactions without any chance to defend themselves. The Director of Parks or Jack B. should have stopped the discussion immediately. All candidates for the positions should have been asked to leave before going into executive session. No action should be taken in executive session.

    Next, the Board President should not be doing any interviews at all. The positions are appointed by the Director and he should do the interviews and be open and fair in his evaluations. The idea of sending three names up for each position is to ensure that undue influence does not happen. A Board President, especially this one who has questionable ethical standards, should never participate int he interviews. The President has no special authority relative to the bylaws. In my opinion the Board should not be involved at all. The Board majority will continue to reject those who challenge their opinion. Only the DNR should be involved in the selection process.

    In summary, the KRSMA Board needs to be disbanded, the DNR needs to rethink the whole advisory selection process, and they need to start over. The KRSA and Guides have taken control of the Board and as a result it has become polluted with these types of actions.

    Parks needs to provide leadership not follow a corrupt process because the President cannot read the bylaws or knows how to change them to a better system.

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    I think it's important not to overreact. While the best solution may be to simply start over, demanding that is much different than simply asking that the bylaws be followed.

    There was only one member of the public at the recent meeting, and they left early in order to allow the board to privately discuss candidates. So while it may not have officially been an executive session, there was no public present. Yes, it is weird that the applicants filling the open seats participated, but it brought this board one step closer to following their bylaws - something that wouldn't have happened if municipal reps had not made an issue of it. And the applicants were still voting members on the board. I don't necessarily have a problem with it. At least this time board members were aware that there were other applicants and were allowed to see applications. Also there was nothing stopping applicants from showing up at the meeting and pitching themselves to the board during one or both of the public comment periods.

    Having watched this board and observed comments and discussion, I'm confident that a full discussion and vote by board members on three or four names to recommend for nomination may represent a little more diversity than the names the director himself would pick. I would prefer to see what happens, and it would be nice if the director had to openly disregard the board's wishes in order to stack it with his friends. There are some independent thinkers on this board and also representatives from local government (Cities of Kenai & Soldotna, and KPB) with voting rights, and this syndicate doesn't control which municipal representatives fill those seats.

    Ironic that the only commercial fisherman allowed on the board is a muni rep, and that the last before him was also.

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    Quote Originally Posted by smithtb View Post
    I think it's important not to overreact. While the best solution may be to simply start over, demanding that is much different than simply asking that the bylaws be followed.

    There was only one member of the public at the recent meeting, and they left early in order to allow the board to privately discuss candidates. So while it may not have officially been an executive session, there was no public present. Yes, it is weird that the applicants filling the open seats participated, but it brought this board one step closer to following their bylaws - something that wouldn't have happened if municipal reps had not made an issue of it. And the applicants were still voting members on the board. I don't necessarily have a problem with it. At least this time board members were aware that there were other applicants and were allowed to see applications. Also there was nothing stopping applicants from showing up at the meeting and pitching themselves to the board during one or both of the public comment periods.

    Having watched this board and observed comments and discussion, I'm confident that a full discussion and vote by board members on three or four names to recommend for nomination may represent a little more diversity than the names the director himself would pick. I would prefer to see what happens, and it would be nice if the director had to openly disregard the board's wishes in order to stack it with his friends. There are some independent thinkers on this board and also representatives from local government (Cities of Kenai & Soldotna, and KPB) with voting rights, and this syndicate doesn't control which municipal representatives fill those seats.

    Ironic that the only commercial fisherman allowed on the board is a muni rep, and that the last before him was also.
    First smithtb you missed the whole point. The bylaws cannot be followed if only 7 people apply. There is no way with 4 open seats to have 3 individuals for each seat without recommending all of them at some point. So the bylaws are not working.

    Second, the Board should not violate basic Robert rules of Order. If a personal issue is being discussed it should be in executive session and only the applicant can ask for an open meeting. Not up to the Board.

    Third, you have a jaded view because of the present director relationship with KRSA. However, the positions are to advise DNR and they should pick the advisory committee or have an open vote like the AC. The Board suffers from inbreeding.

    You claim that the bylaws can fix the Board. Well that means a total overhaul because the present bylaws are not working for anyone. The reason no one shows up at the meetings is because the Board has lost all credibility with the public. It refuses to discuss habitat issues and only focuses on keeping Joe Angler off the river. Pretty sad situation.

    I have served on lots of Boards and this Board is one of the worse I have seen for lack of ethical behavior. The other is the CIAA board in which commercial fisherman control the process.

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    No Nerka I did not miss your point. I'm not ignorant, I just disagree.

    At least 3 individuals for each seat. There are usually 3 seats open. The same Tom, Dick, & Harry could be nominated for each seat - the top three choices. Or in a case such as this year, four. Not complicated. Requiring a minimum of three ensures that normally enough names are nominated to fill the empty seats.

    Didn't look up the rules of order, but good luck calling anyone on a violation of those. Even the BOF does not follow rules of order.

    The reason that no one shows up to these meetings is twofold. The first is because unless you are financially motivated or a true nature enthusiast, most people would rather spend their weeknights fishing or at home with the fam. The second is because many of the remaining few with enough community spirit to be involved don't feel like engaging in the drama and personal mudslinging that is this fish fight. Ok, maybe there is three. You are right, this board has been accurately discredited as not being representative of the broad public interest, despite some of people there with exactly that in mind. Again, Kudos to the level-headed people on the board who have to suffer through the procedural chess games.

    I never said that bylaws could fix ANY board, only that I prefer this board follow them. It's a step in the right direction, albeit small.

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    Quote Originally Posted by smithtb View Post
    No Nerka I did not miss your point. I'm not ignorant, I just disagree.

    At least 3 individuals for each seat. There are usually 3 seats open. The same Tom, Dick, & Harry could be nominated for each seat - the top three choices. Or in a case such as this year, four. Not complicated. Requiring a minimum of three ensures that normally enough names are nominated to fill the empty seats.

    Didn't look up the rules of order, but good luck calling anyone on a violation of those. Even the BOF does not follow rules of order.

    The reason that no one shows up to these meetings is twofold. The first is because unless you are financially motivated or a true nature enthusiast, most people would rather spend their weeknights fishing or at home with the fam. The second is because many of the remaining few with enough community spirit to be involved don't feel like engaging in the drama and personal mudslinging that is this fish fight. Ok, maybe there is three. You are right, this board has been accurately discredited as not being representative of the broad public interest, despite some of people there with exactly that in mind. Again, Kudos to the level-headed people on the board who have to suffer through the procedural chess games.

    I never said that bylaws could fix ANY board, only that I prefer this board follow them. It's a step in the right direction, albeit small.
    I know you are new to the KRSMA process or lack thereof but in the past the Board and Directors have ruled what you suggest as three names for all four positions is not correct. So again this proves my point that the bylaws are not working.

    Also, there was a time when the KRSMA board functioned and you have only seen the dysfunction. People did come out from family gatherings and participated. They wrote a plan for the river which DNR ignored. There was support for land purchase with EVOS money, there was studies done on erosion and other aspects of the river including the river use study. All were ignored by DNR leadership and the Board started to become user oriented instead of fish oriented. So I have seen both sides and people will return if DNR starts to provide leadership and not let the likes of Joe Connor, M. Roberts, Ricky Gease, Andy S, and some others control the process. That is why I say DNR needs to throw out the present system and start over. No citizen is going to come and participate in a tweaking of the bylaws.

    In fact, organizations like the Kenai Watershed Forum will have nothing to do with the KRSMA Board without significant change in direction. It is a waste of their time. The Habitat Committee was totally ignored and both DEC and DNR refused to accept Clean Water Act violations.

    So time for a house cleaning. The mudslinging you speak of is needed to get this done. Without a public outcry there will be no change.

    For the record I did not say you were ignorant but missed the point. Two different views. On the other hand I do believe you are unaware of the history of this Board and its formation. Or how some of us fought to make the river a Special Management Area only to see it become a sewer of self interests by all user groups.

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    Fair enough Nerka, I do not know all of the history - sometimes that makes my views na´ve, and sometimes it makes them less jaded. But I know more about the history than most people, including some of those making decisions now. Important to remember when discussing these issues - many would feel that some of your or my views are unduly harsh unless they know the whole story. Unfortunately this syndicate is well-versed in telling their own fiction...

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    I think we would all agree that KRSMA needs an enema. The problem is how to do it - the public is so fed up that they've given up. My last stint was with the 50 hp increase ordeal, which was nothing more than a bunch of crooked guide politics. The agency was clearly engaged politically, and they pushed their agendas under the auspice of habitat. I vowed never to be part of anything KRSMA again. So the same players from the same syndicate just keep running the show. The way I look at it they own the failures of the Kenai River - it failed on their watch starting in 1984, and the proof is in the pudding.

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    No real big stuff from tonight's KRSMA board meeting. HEA Grant Hydro Presentation. Interesting. 2 new board members. 2 reappointments. Apparently the reappointed members had more important engagements tonight...

    The board adopted new bylaws relative to the board recruitement/application process, which everyone seemed to think were pretty fair and necessary to ensure a fair recruitment process into the future. Yes, given the shady and inconsistent processes of the past. Thank you Rick Cook and Jack Blackwell and whoever else was involved. It needed to happen.

    Apparently, budget realities have put a damper on some enhancement projects. Funding for the draft plan of the Eagle Rock improvement project was to come in 2 phases. Phase 1 was appropriated, however phase 2 is not in the new budget. Parks will have to decide what parts of the project are the most important to spend somewhere in the neighborhood of $500K on - unless the reappointed legislative liason shows up and earns his money with his political sway in the legislature. I'm sure he'll work to ensure the bigger parking lot is safe. Now I realize why the board interview questions included things like "what ideas do you have to increase funding for the KRSMA", and "how do you feel about a Sockeye Salmon stamp?". I thought they were just sugar coated questions to help syndicate reps shine, but they really need these guys. Money money money. Gotta love that KRSA logo on the Parks brochures.

    Another project in the works is the Hanson property on Funny River. It is in the research/planning stages. Apparently the FR community wants a boat launch, and they got the money from the legislature to fund research for developing this property. No surprise - there are some heavy hitters who live out there. I'd want another boat launch too if I lived out there. Far from the P.U. disastrophe. Great place.

    Not generally opposed to responsible river development. I did think it was interesting that both of the only other two adult members of the audience commented, and both were more or less concerned with the fact that the Kenai is a limited resource, and you can't necessarily just fix the demand problem for a limited resource and ecosystem by building bigger parking lots.

    I'm quoting from memory and need to go to bed. There were other people there - if I screwed up, let me know.

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    Just a note to everyone - Thursday is another KRSMA advisory board meeting. I believe they will be electing officers. Will be interesting to see if the board supports electing Mr. Connors as Prez again, given current events and his obvious conflict of interest....

    5:30 at the River Center on Funny R. Road.

    BTW they do take public comment at the beginning and end of each meeting.

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