Kenai Community Overview
Current Population: 7,110 (2011 DCCED Commissioner Certified Estimate, June 15, 2012)
Pronunciation/Other Names: (KEY-nigh); includes Kenaitze (key-NIGHT-zee)
Incorporation Type: Home Rule City
Borough Located In: Kenai Peninsula Borough
School District: Kenai Peninsula Schools
Taxes: Sales: 3% (city); 3% (borough), Property: 8.37 mills, Special: None .
Location and Climate
Kenai is located on the western coast of the Kenai Peninsula, fronting Cook Inlet. It lies on the western boundary of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, on the Kenai Spur Highway. It is approximately 65 air miles and 155 highway miles southwest of Anchorage via the Sterling Highway. The community lies at approximately 60.554440° North Latitude and -151.258330° West Longitude. (Sec. 05, T005N, R011W, Seward Meridian.) Kenai is located in the Kenai Recording District. The area encompasses 29.9 sq. miles of land and 5.6 sq. miles of water.
Winter temperatures range from 4 to 22 °F; summer temperatures vary from 46 to 65 °F. Average annual precipitation is 20 inches.
History, Culture and Demographics
Prior to Russian settlement, Kenai was a Dena’ina Athabascan Indian village. Russian fur traders first arrived in 1741. At that time, about 1,000 Dena’ina lived in the village of Shk’ituk’t, near the river. The traders called the people “Kenaitze” or “Kenai people.” In 1791, a fortified Russian trading post, Fort St. Nicholas, was constructed for fur and fish trading. It was the second permanent Russian settlement in Alaska. In 1849, the Holy Assumption Russian Orthodox Church was established by Egumen Nicholai. In 1869, the U.S. Military established a post for the Dena’ina Indians in the area, called Fort Kenay, which was abandoned in 1870 after Alaska was purchased by the U.S. A post office was established in 1899. Through the 1920s, commercial fishing was the primary activity. In 1940, homesteading enabled the area to develop. The first dirt road from Anchorage was constructed in 1951. In 1957, oil was discovered at Swanson River, 20 miles northeast of Kenai – the first major Alaska oil strike. The city was incorporated in 1960. In 1965, offshore oil discoveries in Cook Inlet fueled a period of rapid growth. Kenai has been a growing center for oil exploration, production, and services since that time.
A federally-recognized tribe is located in the community — the Kenaitze Indian Tribe. The Kenai River is a major sport fishing location for Anchorage residents and tourists. The river is world-renowned for trophy king and silver salmon. The Kenaitze (Tanaina Athabascans) live borough-wide and utilize the rich resources of Cook Inlet.
According to Census 2010, there were 3,166 housing units in the community and 2,809 were occupied. Its population was 8.9 percent American Indian or Alaska Native; 79.9 percent white; 0.7 percent black; 1.5 percent Asian; 0.3 percent Pacific Islander; 7.9 percent of the local residents had multi-racial backgrounds. Additionally, 4.5 percent of the population was of Hispanic decent.
Facilities, Utilities, Schools and Health Care
Water is supplied by three deep wells and is piped to 75% of households. A fourth well is planned. Sewage is piped and receives secondary treatment. The remaining 25% of households use individual water wells and septic systems. Natural gas from Enstar is primarily used for home heating purposes. Homer Electric Association operates the Bradley Lake Hydroelectric Project and is part owner of the Alaska Electric Generation & Transmission Cooperative. It also purchases electricity from Chugach Electric. A borough refuse transfer station is located on Redoubt Ave. The borough landfill is located in nearby Soldotna, at mile 110.4 Sterling Highway. Electricity is provided by Homer Electric Association, Incorporated. There are 5 schools located in the community, attended by 1,625 students. Local hospitals or health clinics include Dena’ina Health Clinic Central Peninsula General Hospital in Soldotna various private practitioners. The Kenai Health Center is a qualified Emergency Care Center. Specialized Care: Central Peninsula Counseling Services Central Peninsula Mental Health Assoc. / Sprucewood Lodge Forget-Me-Not Care Center Community Outreach Program. Kenai is a highway town/Sub-Regional Center it is part of the Southern EMS Region. Emergency Services have highway coastal airport and floatplane access and are within 30 minutes of a higher-level satellite health care facility. Emergency service is provided by 911 Telephone Service and paid EMS Service. Auxiliary health care is provided by Kenai Fire Dept. (907-283-7879).
The city is the center of the oil and gas industry, providing services and supplies for Cook Inlet’s oil and natural gas drilling and exploration. Tesoro Alaska’s oil refinery is located in North Kenai. Both in-state and out-of-state visitors provide a significant industry on the peninsula. Other important economic sectors include sports, subsistence, and commercial fishing, fish processing, timber and lumber, agriculture, transportation services, construction, and retail trade. In 2010, 226 area residents held commercial fishing permits. The largest employers are the borough school district, Unocal, Peak Oilfield Services, the borough, and Central Peninsula General Hospital. The Challenger Learning Center of Alaska was completed in Spring 2000. Logging of timber killed by spruce bark beetle also occurs in the area.
The 2006-2010 American Community Survey (ACS) estimated 3,3151 residents as employed. The public sector employed 16.0%1 of all workers. The local unemployment rate was 10.9%1. The percentage of workers not in labor force was 29.5%1. The ACS surveys established that average median household income (in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars) was $52,701 (MOE +/-$4,856)1. The per capita income (in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars) was $27,921 (MOE +/-$2,087)1. About 10.3%1 of all residents had incomes below the poverty level.
1 All ACS statistics are published with their repective margin of error (MOE). Some of the statistics here are calculated from the original ACS data. The MOE was unable to be carried through the calculations.
Kenai has access to the Sterling Highway. The city-owned Kenai Municipal Airport provides a 7,830 by 150′ asphalt runway, a 2,000′ by 60′ gravel strip, a float plane strip, and helicopter service. A flight service station is available. Float plane facilities are also available at Island Lake and Arness Lake. There are five additional privately-owned airstrips in the vicinity. The Kenai City Dock and boat ramp are located near the mouth of the Kenai River. There are also a number of private commercial fish processing docks. Moorage is by buoys anchored in the Kenai River.
Economic Development – Patrons of the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center
11471 Kenai Spur Hwy.
Kenai, AK 99611
Electric Utility – Homer Electric Association, Incorporated
3977 Lake Street
Homer, AK 99603
Urban Corporation – Kenai Natives Association, Incorporated
215 Fidalgo Ave. #101
Kenai, AK 99611-7776
Regional Development – Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District
14896 Kenai Spur Hwy., #103A
Real Estate Alaska
address: Kenai Peninsula, Alaska
phone number: (855) 732-6109