The city of Kenai ended its dipnet season with fishery beaches and waters cleaner than they have been in years, authorities said.
The city found less trash and fish waste on its beaches, and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation documented overall lower levels of enterococci and fecal coliform bacteria.
“We’ve never had the beaches clean like this since I’ve been here,” City Manager Rick Koch said. Koch has lived in Kenai for seven years.
Following past dipnet seasons, residents have found dirty diapers, human feces and other trash on the city’s North and South Beaches, where the fishery operates. But this year dipnetters dropped trash in the 12 dumpsters stationed along the beach, Koch said.
The dumpsters were a new addition to the city’s management plan. In past years the city placed dumpsters only along the road and in the parking lots, Koch said.
As part of its management plan, the city also required that all dipnetters dump fish waste into the Kenai River and Cook Inlet low tide line, Koch said. The city then raked the fish waste that remained with a tractor more frequently into the water, he said.
In the three years ADEC has conducted its bacterial level monitoring of the dipnet fishery, this year’s averaged bacterial levels were the lowest, said Tim Stevens, ADEC environmental program specialist for the division of water.
Stevens said Kenai’s decree to dump fish waste at the fishery’s low tide line likely helped reduce the enterococci and fecal coliform bacteria levels, though the department is still calculating its findings.
Seaguls, terns and other water fowl produce in their defecation more than 80 percent of the bacteria found at the fishery, Stevens said.
Also this dipnet season, dipnetters avoided paying more fishery fees than they have in past years, Koch said. He does not know how — maybe some park in town and walk to the fishery to avoid parking fees — but the city will consider solutions to the loophole, he said.
The city will finalize its 2013 dipnet report by the end of August, Koch said.
This article has been updated to correct a typographical error.
Dan Schwartz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.