Lawsuit challenges decision to allow jet skiers in Kachemak Bay

Conservation groups filed suit in Alaska Superior Court to halt a state decision to allow Jet Ski users access to Kachemak Bay and Fox River Flats critical habitat areas.

Cook Inletkeeper and others contend that the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and Commissioner Doug Vincent-Lang violated the Alaska Constitution and Alaska Administrative Procedures Act by ignoring scientific facts and the law, including the recommendations of its own expert managers and biologists in the ADF&G Habitat Division to maintain existing protections.

They also allege that the state worked behind closed doors with Jet Ski proponents to circumvent an established public process for revising this critical habitat Area management plan.

The litigation was filed in Alaska Superior Court in Anchorage on Tuesday, May 4.

ADF&G’s Rick Green, who serves as special assistant to Vincent-Lang, said the agency had not yet seen the lawsuit and had no initial comment on lifting the ban on personal-use watercraft on these waters.  The ban was implemented in 2001, after ADF&G determined that use of Jet Skis would be detrimental to wildlife in this critical habitat area.

Jet Ski, a registered trademark of Kawasaki, is commonly used to refer to a boat steered by the rider like a motorcycle.

The Personal Watercraft Club of Alaska has been pushing for several years to have the ban lifted.

A statement from Cook Inletkeeper said that jet skis create unique risks and impacts incompatible with fish and wildlife habitat and the rights and safety of other users, which is why Jet Skis are banned or restricted in many water bodies, including the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, where Gov. Mike Dunleavy resides. The city of Homer, which would bear the burden of overseeing Jet Skis launching and use of city tidelands and waters under the new rule, has limited capacity and jurisdiction over this matter, and ADF&G has refused to provide financial resources needed to manage this entirely new user group, according to Cook Inletkeeper.

The Homer City Council voted in late April to prohibit launching of personal watercraft, commonly referred to as Jet Skis, from city-owned beaches onto Kachemak Bay.

Other parties to the lawsuit include Friends of Kachemak Bay State Park, Kachemak Bay Conservation Society ad Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition.