- Associated Press - Thursday, December 3, 2015

KENAI, Alaska (AP) - Several organizations on the Kenai Peninsula are voicing their opposition to a state plan that includes building parking lots near the mouth of the Kasilof River.

The Department of Natural Resources Division of Mining, Land and Water proposed a development plan in October that calls for two parking lots on the north side of the river mouth to accommodate 315 vehicles. The department manages the Kasilof River Special Use Area.

The Kasilof Regional Historical Association, the Kenai Area Fishermen’s Coalition, the Kachemak Bay Birders, the United Cook Inlet Drift Association, the Conservation Fund’s Alaska chapter and several individuals have sent letters of concern over the department’s plan, The Peninsula Clarion reported (http://bit.ly/1N4CNmj).

Opponents say the parking lots would have a negative impact on wildlife and are concerned about potential consequences of drawing more dipnetters from the crowded Kenai River mouth to the Kasilof River.

“We were just shocked when that site plan came out and they had that parking area shown,” said Catherine Cassidy, a Kasilof resident and member of the Kasilof Regional Historical Association board. “It’s much more expansive than the existing disturbed uplands, and it’s inappropriate for all the reasons that are listed in all the comments. It never occurred to local people that they would try to turn the whole area into a parking lot.”

Tracy Miller, president of the Kasilof Regional Historical Society, wrote in the organization’s letter that installing spaces for 315 vehicles could result in increased demand because there are no fees at the Kasilof River. She also pointed out that the management plan for the special use area, which was formed in 2010, has not materialized.

When the Division of Mining, Land and Water formed the special use area, the agency said it would create a management plan to strengthen regulations in the area. However, the plan, which would have to be approved by the state Legislature, has yet to be released.

Republican Representative Paul Seaton of Homer has asked that the plan be delayed to allow for public comment.

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Information from: (Kenai, Alaska) Peninsula Clarion, http://www.peninsulaclarion.com

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