We Can Have Both Gravel and Fish
It's Up to Us
We have a huge opportunity to improve gravel pit extraction on the Kenai Peninsula, supporting clean water, healthy salmon habitat, and biodiversity. Please voice your support for Ordinance 2022-36 and smart gravel extraction at the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting on Tuesday, September 19, at 6:00 PM at Homer City Hall. Comment can also be made over zoom: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/88473739641?pwd=dW1sY2RYV0F4dURjV25yVW9WUGw3QT09 or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org by Monday, September 18, at 5pm.
The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly has been wrestling with improving gravel pit rules, aka Material Site Permits, for years now, and they are close to passing a solid ordinance that will protect human health and fish habitat! Pretty much every construction project on the Western Kenai Peninsula needs a fair bit of gravel, but poorly designed gravel pits can cause outsized harm to our health and environment. We can have both the gravel and healthy ecosystems we need, if we are smart about how we get our gravel. That's why we want to pass this new ordinance.
The new ordinance will allow us to ensure that new gravel pits do not disrupt groundwater flows. Groundwater is the underground network of water that supports baby salmon habitat, feeds our trees, keeps our creeks running in the summer, recharges our aquifers, keeps our bogs and fens alive, and so much more! With newly-developed groundwater mapping tools, the borough will be able to make sure that new gravel pits promote heathy groundwater systems. That is exactly what this new code sets out to do and that it why the assembly should pass it.
Groundwater systems should be protected because they:
- Provide clean, cold, nutrient-rich water to our salmon streams
- Replenish our wells and aquifers
- Reduce the severity of wildfires and flood events by keeping our ground hydrated
- Help filter harmful toxins from our wells, streams, lakes, and oceans
- Keep our peatlands wet, thereby keeping the vast amounts of carbon stored in the peat locked in the ground, slowing global climate change.
To learn more about the groundwater in the Kenai and how it’s important for people and salmon, check out this StoryMap GPS: Groundwater, People, and Salmon.
Please urge the assembly to pass the new gravel pit ordinance, Ordinance 2022-36 on Tuesday, September 19, at 6:00 PM at Homer City Hall.
Note that Mayor Micciche is proposing some last-minute amendments that would scale back protections for neighborhoods in the vicinity of gravel pits relating to dust, and visual impact. He has also removed some language supporting "juvinile salmon." For the most part, we do not support his amendments and support passing the ordinance as is.
We support the following language in the new gravel pit ordinance:
Prohibitions: “Earth material extraction within 300 linear feet from riparian wetlands and the seasonal high-water level of naturally-occurring open water bodies, such as a lake, pond, river, perennial stream, or ocean, is prohibited. This prohibition does not apply to man-made water bodies or isolated ponds of less than one acre on private property or the construction of waterbodies within the permitted area.”
The site plan must include the following: “Ground water protection measures for anadromous waters, especially with regard to juvenile salmon, as identified by shallow groundwater flow paths and critical areas of aquifer connectivity, such as recharge, where this information is available.”
Standards for material sites: “That the use will not be harmful to the public’s health, safety, and general welfare, or the health of anadromous waters particularly with regard to juvenile salmon;… That sufficient setbacks, buffer zones, and other safeguards, including measures to mitigate impacts to groundwater flow paths important for juvenile salmon, are being provided consistent with this chapter”