Howard Delo

This has been a long and snowy winter. A lot of folks are going through the ravages of cabin fever and are looking forward to the longer days and warmer temperatures of spring. A sure sign that spring is on the way is the Mat-Su Outdoorsman Show held annually at the Curtis Menard Complex in Wasilla.

The show began at noon today, March 25, and continues through Sunday, March 27. There will be lots of outdoor-oriented vendors, both inside and outside, with some of the best prices of the season along with multiple displays and seminars throughout the show. This is the first outdoor show of the season and will mark the beginning of a cure for your spring fever.

The next weekend, April 1st to April 3rd sees the next scheduled outdoor show for this area. According to information I have seen, the Great Alaska Sportsman Show will be held at the Dena‘ina Civic and Convention Center in Anchorage, starting at 10am all three days. This has been the largest outdoor show in Southcentral for years and has always provided an extensive list of topics for the seminars presented there.

Mark your calendars and get ready for an overdose of things outdoors for the coming year!

Shifting gears in a different direction, The Matanuska-Susitna Borough Fish and Wildlife Commission (MSBFWC) had a couple of items come up during their most recent meeting which were problematic for both the commission members and the public who listened in to the meeting.

The Governor recently reconstituted the Recreational Rivers Act advisory board and planning team. After a 30-year hiatus, suddenly the need to look at the Susitna Basin Recreational Rivers Management Plan has developed. While revisiting the plan is a good thing in general, it’s interesting that the need to review it has only apparently arisen in conjunction with the proposed West Susitna Access Road (WSAR) proposal, which requires crossing at least 156 rivers and streams. These waterbodies provide the bulk of salmon spawning habitat in the Mat-Su Borough.

In addition to the rec rivers management plan review, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is working on various stream flow reservations. There are, quite literally, hundreds of rivers and streams in the borough which either have or have had stream flow requirement volumes filed for to maintain some level of minimal water flow year around.

According to DNR, law requires approved reservations to be reviewed every ten years in the event some adjustment to the water flow reservation needs to be made. DNR says the law allows them to reduce the reserved volume, but they can’t increase the volume. That would require a new application for water flow protection.

I have been told that hundreds of water reservations dating back decades and having been made by government agencies as well as private folks, are still waiting to be processed. I wonder why there appears to be an effort by DNR to reevaluate approved water rights documents while hundreds of pending applications are sitting in limbo. Could it be that building the WSAR would be less burdensome if these water rights were not official?

The second item that came up at the meeting was the Matanuska Electric Association (MEA) proposed routing for a new high-power line running through the Valley. We have heard public opposition to the apparent accepted route, which would pass through about eleven miles of undeveloped (wilderness) property. The commission was told by a member of the public that ADF&G opposed the wilderness routing. Another route running in established rights-of-way (ROW) along the highway was not chosen.

The testimony we heard at the commission meeting stated that MEA was developing this wilderness preference in a very “quiet” manner, with minimal public notice and input prior to the final study public comment hearing and feedback session held on Wednesday, Jan. 19th. Apparently, many folks would like to see the route with minimal new ROW clearing and involving existing ROWs to reduce the loss of “wilderness.” Along with the new line, two new electrical substations will also be built.

I don’t know if it is too late to let MEA know your thoughts on this project. I would think, if ADF&G really has objected to this proposed route, that that would be a major hurdle in the permitting process. Perhaps a phone call to both ADF&G and MEA would be warranted to learn the status of this project.

Don’t forget the Big Lake Gun Show coming up on April 9 and 10.

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