Stream Watch Program organizers are expanding their efforts to include the lower Kenai River. Stream Watch was founded in 1994 by the U.S. Forest Service to help protect the upper Kenai and Russian rivers, and has been exclusive those waters throughout its existence.
With the growth of the program, and the lower Kenai River’s increased need for a Stream Watch presence, now is the time to bring volunteers to the lower river, Stream Watch Coordinator Lisa Beranek said.
“It’s a really great fit to have educated and trained volunteers on the ground and providing resources for the community,” Beranek said.
Ricky Gease, executive director of the Kenai River Sport Fishing Association, said Stream Watch’s long track record of success on the upper Kenai and Russian rivers allows Stream Watch to expand their efforts easily.
“Having a volunteer group out on the river educating anglers on responsible methods of fishing has been very productive up there,” Gease said. “Bringing that same group and concept to the lower river, I believe will be as effective.”
John Peterson of Sterling has been a Stream Watch volunteer since 2008 and said that with the expansion, volunteering will be easier than it has in the past.
“It provides an opportunity for volunteers to donate their time in Soldotna, Kenai and Sterling area,” Peterson said.
Peterson said it is important for programs like Stream Watch to exist to help sustain natural resources.
Stream Watch volunteers interact with anglers on the river, helping them with issues they may come across or providing knowledge on some of the etiquette expected on the river if they have not fished the Kenai before and do not possess the same sense of place local anglers have.
“That’s really the essence of the Stream Watch program,” Beranek said, “is to have people out there that are enthusiastic about the river system and enthusiastic about protecting the river system, to have them out there to provide that example and answer questions.”
Peterson said it can be tough work volunteering on the river, especially while he is collecting discarded fishing line that is separated out and recycled.
“It’s back-breaking work, but once accomplished it’s quite noticeable,” Peterson said.
Last year, Stream Watch volunteers collected more than 400 pounds of garbage.
The next Stream Watch Ambassador Orientation is taking place June 25 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information contact Beranek at 398-4304.