Alaska proposes lifting 18-year ban on watercraft in bay

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP)—The Alaska Department of Fish and Game proposed lifting an 18-year ban on personal watercraft in a southern bay area, officials said.

The measure would affect Kachemak Bay and the Fox River Flats near Homer, The Anchorage Daily News reported.

The fish and game department implemented the ban in 2001 after determining the use of personal watercraft would be detrimental to wildlife in the Kachemak Bay Critical Habitat Area.

A public comment period on the proposal is scheduled to remain open until Jan. 21.

Personal watercraft users should have the same rights as skiff operators allowed in the bay, supporters of lifting the ban said.

Opponents said the ban’s potential removal caters to a small group of hobbyists and not the majority of Alaskans.

The repeal was proposed during a statewide review of regulations, said Rick Green, special assistant to Fish and Game Commissioner Doug Vincent-Lang.

The hundreds of public comments that have already been submitted are fairly equal between those supporting and opposing the ban, Green said.

Personal watercraft operators recreate in shallower water, often go fast and quickly change direction and can be especially disruptive to wildlife like otters, seabirds and whales, environmental groups said.

Personal Watercraft Club of Alaska member Gina Poths of Anchorage said she wrote hundreds of letters over the past 20 years to fish and game commissioners, community organizations and every governor.

Her campaign has been about gaining the same access to Kachemak Bay as watercraft enthusiasts have in other areas of the state, Poths said.

“Equal access,” she said. “It’s just pure and simple.”

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