What’s Happening: The Alaska Department of Fish & Game recently issued a public notice to repeal the current ban on jetskis and other personal watercraft in the Kachemak Bay Critical Habitat Area. The deadline for comments has been extended to no later than 5:00 p.m. on January 21, 2020
The Substance Problem: The Alaska Legislature created the Kachemak Bay Critical Habitat Area (CHA) in 1974 “to protect and preserve habitat areas especially crucial to the perpetuation of fish and wildlife, and to restrict all other uses not compatible with that primary purpose.” In 2001, ADFG underwent a robust public process and with the support of thousands of local and statewide voices, it banned jetskis by regulation in the CHA.
Jetskis and other personal watercraft are “thrillcraft” designed for recreation. Their inherent design, maneuverability and high speeds make them very different from skiffs and boats. Where boats typically go from point A to point B, jetskis tend to congregate in small areas and shallow waters, jumping wakes and circling. ADFG staff has conducted an exhaustive review of the scientific literature surround jetski risks and impacts, and it concluded again in 2017 the ban on personal watercraft in the Kachemak Bay Critical Habitat Area is appropriate and fully-supported by science. The memo reads:
“In summary, based on our review of information available since the PWC prohibition was adopted in 2001, we feel there is no new information that would warrant rescinding the prohibition, and in fact the newer information highlights most of the concerns identified when the prohibition was adopted. A draft of this memo was circulated to affected staff in all department divisions (DWC, HAB, CF, SF) and this recommendation was widely supported.”
The Process Problem: According to a November 19, 2019, internal ADFG email, the Governor’s office had already decided to repeal the jetski ban in Kachemak Bay BEFORE it even opened the public comment period. As a result, Governor Dunleavy has called this entire public comment process into question if the result is a pre-determined outcome. A strong majority of Alaskans supported a jetski ban in 2001, and again in 2011 and 2016. Furthermore, the Governor’s office is ignoring the fact the state has spent considerable time and money over the past 3 years revising the management plan for the Kachemak Bay CHA, which would be the appropriate place to make changes to jetski use. And finally, as discussed above, the Governor is ignoring the opinions of his expert staff at the ADFG, who believe the ban should remain in place. That’s because the Governor is listening a small group of special interests with access to the Governor’s office – and not the thousands of Alaskans who have spoken out to retain the natural values of Kachemak Bay.
- The inherent design and intended use of jetskis makes them incompatible with the purpose of the Kachemak Bay Critical Habitat Area, which is “to protect and preserve habitat areas especially crucial to the perpetuation of fish and wildlife, and to restrict all other uses not compatible with that primary purpose.”
- Boats and skiffs typically travel from point A to point B. Jetskis and other personal watercraft, on the other hand, are “thrillcraft” which can reach speeds over 60 mph. Furthermore, their jet drive propulsion systems allow them to travel in very shallow water, and prevents operators from steering once the throttle is released.
- Governor Dunleavy’s actions now ignore our democratic process, and favor special interests who have access to the Governor’s office most Alaskans do not. In 2001, the State of Alaska went through a rigorous public process, and the overwhelming majority of comments favored a ban on personal watercraft in Kachemak Bay. The State revisited the issue in 2011 and 2016, and again, Alaskans spoke-out to maintain the ban. So, this is just bad government.
- Staff biologists and managers at the ADFG support the jetski ban in Kachemak Bay. They have reviewed all the scientific literature on the matter and they conclude the ban is appropriate and justified.
- The State is currently undergoing revisions to the Kachemak Bay CHA management plan, and any changes to jetski policy or rules should occur within the context of the management plan revisions.
- There are some uses that simply don’t belong together. We cannot shoot guns in City limits, or drive snow machines or ATV’s. We cannot use fireworks in the Kenai Peninsula Borough. That’s because some activities are simply too unsafe or a nuisance to other users. Over 99% of Alaskan waters are open to PWC’s, and Kachemak Bay Critical Habitat Area is one area that should be left alone.
How to Comment:
Submit comments by 5 PM January 6, 2020, to:
Rick Green, ADF&G, 333 Raspberry Rd., Anchorage, AK 99518-1565. firstname.lastname@example.org,