Alaska Digest

Posted: Monday, March 06, 2006

Halibut plans hurt by inconsistent charter log books

KENAI, Alaska - Inconsistent records for saltwater charter boats are hampering efforts to map out halibut charter fishery regulation options for southeast and south-central Alaska.

A committee recently created to address regulatory options is tackling the problem.

"It's a big project," said Ricky Gease, a member of the recently formed Charter Halibut Stakeholder Committee.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council created the committee in January to refine two alternative proposals offered by the state Department of Fish and Game for charter halibut fishery regulations.

But the committee found it was unable to address the first alternative with existing data. It would regulate the charter boat fishery through a quota share program, under which charter boat fisherman with an individual fishing quota would have the right to a percentage share in a combined commercial and charter boat halibut fishery.

Officials will have to determine how the quotas would be allocated among charter boat businesses, possibly considering catch history and longevity of the business requesting quotas.

However, log book data tracking the history of charter boat fishing hasn't been consistent, and officials say that is complicating efforts to formulate a consistent and fair method for allocating quotas.

In 1998, the state required saltwater charter boats to log halibut catches, but dropped the requirement three years later. The requirement was reinstated for 2006, but the committee is struggling with trying to get long-term data that would be needed to allocate quotas.

Under the second proposed alternative, the fishery would continue to be managed using traditional tools, such as annual angler limits, limits on days fished, reduced daily limits, a limited entry program for charter boats and local area management plans.

Benzene cleanup continues at defunct Sterling gas station

KENAI, Alaska - Alaska environmental engineers are trying to recover remaining underground gasoline vapors that spilled at a long defunct Sterling gas station.

Engineers may attempt to force oxygen into the groundwater to bring vapors to the surface at the old Zip Mart station, according to an official with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.

An engineering firm hired by Zip Mart owner Whittier Properties Inc. in 2002 found heavily contaminated soil and groundwater. A foot-deep layer of regular-grade gasoline was found floating on top of ground water in two onsite monitoring wells.

A DEC investigation found that fill pipe was not properly connected to underground storage tanks at the station. Investigators found that much of the gasoline being delivered was spilling into the surrounding ground.

The ground pollution threatened drinking water wells at a nearby elementary school, churches and several private businesses, so monitoring and recovery wells were drilled.

Benzene contamination was found in a drinking water well at B&D Auto and Denny's Auto Body, a quarter mile from the closed gas station.

Estimates of the underground spill volume range between 50,000 and 120,000 gallons because of record-keeping discrepancies.

The gas station opened in the mid-1980s and was operated by Whittier Properties Inc. from 1990 until being shut down in 2000.

As of last summer, 14,791 gallons of "free-phase" gasoline had been recovered from the ground and a decision was then made to convert to vapor recovery, said Jim Frechione, manager of DEC's contaminated sites program. An estimated equivalent of 2,100 gallons of product have been extracted in vapor form, he said.

Monitoring wells tracking the southeasterly spread of underground gasoline vapors - benzene - indicate it continues to migrate slowly, according to Frechione.

The agency is planning another monitoring well and additional measures, including a process that involves injecting oxygen into the water table to bring benzene to the surface.

Last year, a vapor extraction system was installed to remove the benzene through seven product recovery wells.



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