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Kenai council gets an earful after biggest-ever dipnet season

Alaska Dispatch

According to the Peninsula Clarion, frustrated residents at a recent Kenai City Council meeting all seem to agree: Kenai River dipnetting season is becoming an unbearably messy and costly party.

One incensed resident compared it to the most notoriously profligate and mud-ridden music festival in American history. The "Alaskan Woodstock" attracts residents from all over the road system for three weeks of personal-use salmon gathering, and last year's season was the busiest yet, according to a new report (available here) that was discussed at the council meeting.

Thanks to a new $5 camping fee instituted last season, city revenues were up, but because of all the crowds, expenses were up as well. Overall, the dipnetting season was a loser for the city, to the tune of $8,909.23.

The meeting Monday was the first work session addressing the Kenai dipnetting fishery's popularity-related woes, which range from sewage and piles of fish carcasses to public safety and litter.

“It’s become a time of year for people from the Valley to come down and trash the beach,” said Megan Every, a Kenai resident. “The city needs to start putting limits on it.”

At the Monday meeting, four possible solutions of differing intensity were proposed. However, residents commenting at the meeting seemed most in favor of one option in particular: Zero tolerance.

That option would require dipnetters to take whole fish home with them, would prohibit the disposal of any salmon carcasses on the beach or in the river, and would result in six new enforcement officers to hand out citations.

“It’s not the city’s responsibility to clean up everyone else’s trash,” said Megan Smith, a local resident. “If it ends up strewn from here to wherever, it becomes a state problem, and this is a state fishery.”

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