Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 8:34 PM on Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Latest plan puts borough into five House districts



By MOLLY DISCHNER
Morris News Service - Alaska

The newest plan released by the Alaska Redistricting Board would split the Kenai Peninsula Borough into five House districts — 28, 29, 30, 35 and 36. Towns on Kachemak Bay and lower Cook Inlet, now in a district with Homer, would be split into three districts, with Seldovia and Halibut Cove becoming part of a district that includes Kodiak.

Nanwalek and Port Graham would become part of a southwest Alaska district. Homer's district would be expanded north to Kasilof and put all the Russian Old Believer communities in one district.

The maps released June 7 show Kenai and Soldotna — the area represented by Soldotna's Kurt Olson — as District 29. That district would include part of Kalifornsky Beach Road, much of the Kenai River, and the Sterling Highway between Boundary Street and Centennial Park Road. The Kenai Spur Highway also acts a border for that district, with Eddy Hill Drive falling into the urban district, but the end of Strawberry Road in the North Kenai district. The northern border on the urban district is just past Sunset Boulevard.

Outlying communities on the central peninsula are divvied up into two other districts. Nikiski, Sterling and much of the area between the cities of Kenai and Soldotna would be part of the North Kenai District, 28, that includes Cooper Landing, Hope and Seward.

Rep. Mike Chenault, the speaker of the House, currently represents Nikiski. No incumbent state representatives would be added to his district, although his constituents would change.

Chenault has said previously that he thought he could represent a district that included a wide swath of the peninsula.

"I've got a pretty big district and I've gotta drive quite a bit anyway," he said in an interview earlier this spring. Communities south of the Kenai-Soldotna urban area would be part of the Homer district, similar to what the district looked like before the 2001 redistricting process. Kasilof and the southern portion of K-Beach Road would be in that district, as would Ski Hill Road, where the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters is.

Rep. Paul Seaton represents the current Homer district, although much of the new District 30 — including Nikolaevsk, Ninilchik and Kasilof — is currently in Chenault's district.

The west side of the Cook Inlet plus Nanwalek and Port Graham on the east side would be part of District 36, which runs down the Alaska Peninsula to False Pass. The lower peninsula's three major fishing ports of Homer, Seldovia and Seward would no longer be in one district and separated into three districts. Some Native and village corporation land, as well as subsistence hunting and fishing areas, would be outside the Nanwalek and Port Graham district.

Seldovia and Halibut Cove on the south side of Kachemak Bay would be part of District 35, which also includes Whittier, Cordova and Kodiak.

Peninsula representation in the state Senate would also shift under the final draft plan, with three senators representing the borough.

A decision on which seats will be up for election in 2012 and 2014 has not been made, and will likely be decided Monday, when the board is scheduled to meet before making its final proclamation.

The board paired House Districts 29 and 30 for one Senate seat, combined District 28 with a South Anchorage district for a Senate seat and made another seat of Districts 35 and 36. Sen. Tom Wagoner currently represents much of the territory in Districts 29 and 30, although Anchor Point and Homer are currently represented by Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak.

Stevens would be the incumbent for the Senate seat made of House Districts 35 and 36, which includes the west side of the Cook Inlet, the Kachemak Peninsula, Cordova and Kodiak.

The board has until June 14 to release a final plan including detailed maps and legal documents. After that, concerned parties have 30 days to challenge it. Legal challenges could take months to sort out — in the 2001 redistricting effort, Alaska's Supreme Court made a ruling in March 2002, and an amended plan was approved by the Department of Justice in 2002. An executive session on potential litigation was part of the board's agenda on Monday.

Molly Dischner is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion.

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