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Stream Watch uses lessons learned to improve

Posted: May 21, 2012 - 8:39am

With most of the snow gone, and the fish soon to be rolling in, the Kenai Watershed Forum's Stream Watch program is preparing to start its second year on the lower portion of the Kenai River.

The Stream Watch program is broken into two groups -- stewards and ambassadors.

Stewards typically volunteer for one-day projects that help protect the area. Ambassadors usually volunteer for more than one day and are a staple of the river. The projects volunteers take on vary from one-day projects to larger projects said Lisa Beranek, Stream Watch coordinator for the lower Kenai.

"Removal of debris that's basically inhibiting fish passage, so opening up areas that, for the last couple years, haven't been accessible for fish," Beranek said as an example of possible projects. "That's a huge impact that folks can make in one day in a couple of hours."

Last year's effort on the lower Kenai River was a success, Beranek said. It was a good way for volunteers to understand the needs of the different sites under their watch.

"Centennial Park has concerns that are very different from Bing's Landing, which are different from the Kasilof River," she explained. Beranek and her 27 program volunteers get to know their sites pretty well, she said. The lower Kenai program has representatives at Bing's Landing, Moose Range Meadows on the Kenai Wildlife Refuge, Centennial Park and also the south beach of the Kasilof River.

The knowledge gained from last year's efforts will be directly applied this year. Beranek now knows what each site needs and how to craft messages to anglers so the program can be most effective.

"I think throughout the course of the season last year, we learned a lot in that regard," Beranek said. "I feel we're going into this season with a lot of information and foresight to really be effective again this summer."

One of the major issues Beranek and her team will educate anglers about this summer is the use of felt-soled waders, which were banned starting this year because of the environmental problems they can cause. She also said it is important for anglers to wash and dry their gear before changing fishing sites.

"I know a lot of times people think, 'Oh you know, visitors coming from outside the state are more likely to bring stuff in,'" Beranek said. "And that may be true, but it's even a concern here, especially as those non-native plants and animals, they might come here. If you're right behind somebody that came from somewhere else, it can end up on your boots too.

"So it's really important for people to be aware and understand why that regulation is in place -- it's really to protect the river and our natural systems here."

Beranek said the program is looking for volunteers for the summer, whether it's a one-day commitment or for the whole summer. She said the program is also looking for volunteers who have ATVs to participate in projects off the beaten path.

"Lots of mud guaranteed," she said.

The best part of the program to Beranek is being able to interact with people from many different backgrounds, she said.

"I really enjoy being on the river and talking with people that are passionate about the river," she said. "Whether they're Stream Watch volunteers or people having their first Alaska experience, or the regulars on the river. The faces you see day in and day out, I really enjoy that part of it."

Logan Tuttle can be reached at logan.tuttle@peninsualaclarion.com.

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