Homer Alaska - Business

Story last updated at 6:46 PM on Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Kasilof River drift boat take-out project gets state capital money



By Brian Smith
Morris News Service - Alaska

A second round of funding secured through Alaska's capital budget will push forward development of a drift boat take-out on the Kasilof River, officials said.

The state recently secured $1.6 million for a public takeout facility to be located in the lower portions of the river to address increasing use of the drift boat-only fishery.

Currently, many boaters access the Kasilof River at the Alaska State Parks public boat launch, but there are no publicly owned exit points for the drift boaters on the lower portion of the river. The several take-out sites below the bridge are privately owned and operated.

The division previously received $2 million for the first phase of the project, which funded public feedback and property investigations.

The second round of funding, coupled with the remaining funds from the first round, will likely be enough to purchase and develop one of three sites the state is considering for the pullout, said Lucy Baranko, staffer of the Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation, which is a section of the Department of Natural Resources.

Baranko said she and others are still working off money allocated from the first budget and will soon start environmental assessments of three sites that scored highest based on public feedback.

The top three parcels are, in order, Trujillo's Landing at river mile 3.75, the Kimbrough property at river mile 4, and the Swanson property at river mile 4.5. The Trujillo and Kimbrough properties are side-by-side.

The results of the environmental study will lead to parcel purchase negotiations which could take anywhere from three months to three years, Baranko said.

"Basically a phase one (environmental study) is a pretty preliminary look at any records for buried tanks, contaminates or environmental concerns," Baranko said. "It is a pretty preliminary search and once we get that data back, if there is anything that kind of comes up with a red flag, then we would go to a phase two environmental, which would do a much more thorough investigation of the property."

The state hopes to have environmental studies completed by the end of the summer. The site could be completed and ready for use by late 2014, if not spring 2015.

"I wouldn't anticipate anything getting built next year," Baranko said. She noted the project was high on the state's priority list, but until a site can be purchased, the project will remain on hold.

Comments gathered from an October public meeting fed data to rank and score each property. Other properties considered included the Maltby, Riverside LLC, Lindle, Vasko and Harling properties.

What exactly will be included at the pullout would be determined by which site is acquired, Baranko said.

"We don't have a full scope and I'm not entirely certain what the process is going to be to determine what that process is, but this will definitely provide a foundation for what we are looking at," she said.

Previously gathered comments indicated the state should weigh the project's community impacts and public and user preferences most.

Such impacts identified include possible damages to the residential development in the area, working to mitigate dust, noise and light pollution as well as managing traffic. On the public and user preference side of the project, those surveyed said they would like the drift fishing opportunity and experience maximized, to have the pullout site accessible to emergency services and located in an aesthetically pleasing location.

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