Living Here

About the City of KenaiKenai Dock2

Kenai is centrally located on the western Kenai Peninsula in Southcentral Alaska, about 65 air miles (160 miles by road) southwest of Anchorage and 1,350 miles northwest of Seattle. Kenai is as far west as Hawaii and about the same latitude as Oslo or Stockholm.

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The original community has expanded with commercial development along the Kenai Spur Highway and residential neighborhoods throughout the developable areas of the City. The City’s center is located about 11 miles west of Soldotna and the Sterling Highway, Kenai’s overland link to Anchorage and Homer. Most persons and goods travel to and from Kenai over these two state-maintained highways. The Kenai Municipal Airport, the Kenai Peninsula’s only major airport, provides regional passenger and air cargo service with connecting service through Anchorage to other cities in Alaska and beyond.

Kenai’s scenic setting amid diverse natural resources is a pervasive part of local daily life and an important economic and recreational asset. The Kenai River is a world-famous sport fishing destination that is especially known for its king salmon and river recreation opportunities. The Kenai River estuary, wetlands, and nearby uplands provide vital habitat for diverse fish and wildlife. Cook Inlet also supports important recreational and commercial fisheries, abundant marine life, and important oil and gas resources. The nearby Kenai National Wildlife Refuge offers year-round recreational opportunities.

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Unlike the rest of the country, Alaska did not experience a sharp recession in 2009. The Kenai Peninsula Borough has one of the most diverse economies in Alaska, and this diversity has softened negative impacts to the regional economy.

Forging Ahead in Cook Inlet

When one looks out across Cook Inlet and takes in the grandeur of the volcanoes towering above its pristine waters, it is difficult to imagine anything more impressive. But there is. Something that is the backbone and engine of the Alaska economy: Oil and Gas. Alaska’s Cook Inlet was the location of its first large oil and gas find back in 1957, even before statehood.

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Since then, this important basin has produced nearly 1.4 billion barrels of oil and 10 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. The U.S. Geological Survey scientists theorize that is only 4% of the available resource and believe we have only scratched the surface of what could be discovered. So that begs the question, why? Because when oil was discovered on the North Slope in the late 70s, in amounts unimaginable at the time, all attention shifted north to drill and construct the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS), leaving Cook Inlet to languish quietly ….until now. Recently, under pressure of decreasing throughput of oil down TAPS and a dwindling gas supply in Southcentral Alaska, the state  legislature passed an incentive and tax credit package to entice ambitious explorers to come to Cook Inlet and resume the search for oil and gas. Locally we are calling it the “Renaissance” of Cook Inlet; new companies and support industries, particularly in North Kenai and Nikiski, are again bustling and employing a vibrant workforce. Already two drilling companies have obtained jackup rigs to drill offshore and both should be operating by the spring of 2013. With that development and other ongoing exploration near the Inlet, we have every reason to be hopeful that we can produce our resource to the benefit of the Kenai area and to the state of Alaska.

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Commercial Fisheries and Seafood Processing

The commercial fishing and the seafood processing industries, while cyclical, are still the foundation of Kenai’s economy and still a driving economic force. In addition to some year round and many seasonal employment opportunities, the local commercial fishing and processing industry rely upon numerous local vendors to supply and support their business year round. Seafood processing continues to contribute to the local economy.

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Companies process salmon, herring, halibut, pacific and black cod and razor clams, including locally caught seafood as well as fish caught in other areas of the state such as Bristol Bay, Prince William Sound and Kodiak. The seafood industry in Cook Inlet originally focused on production of high quantities of canned salmon. Local seafood processors now focus on predominantly high quality fresh seafood delivered across the United States during the salmon and halibut season as well as fresh frozen products that are distributed to markets worldwide after the season. The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute lists seven businesses in Kenai thatsupply seafood, and the Kenai Peninsula Borough recognized the importance of the area by designating it as seafood processing area in its 2008 Coastal Management Plan. In 2009, Kenai was ranked as one of the top 50 U.S. ports for volume of seafood deliveries.

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Visitor Industry / Tourism

The Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development estimates that about 500,000 people visit the Kenai Peninsula each summer. Tourism has been one of the fastest growing sectors in the Borough. Visitor patterns are highly seasonal with outdoor recreation and sport fishing representing the major visitor activities, and the historic Kenai Old Town is an important attraction. Alaska residents represent the largest group of visitors to the Kenai Peninsula. The Kenai River provides a major recreation destination for both residents and visitors. The charter fishing industry provides economic benefits to the City of Kenai through employment and through local spending by clients