The Kenai Watershed Forum’s Adopt-A-Stream program will cease operations this May unless new sources of funding are found.
The program has worked to educate central Kenai Peninsula students about nearby streams and their water ecology since its inception in 1994. Originally developed through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Adopt-A-Stream program has been run by the Kenai Watershed Forum since 2004 and had been receiving funding through the federal Coastal Impact Assistance Program from 2010 until December 2016.
The Coastal Impact Assistance Program, which was administered by Fish and Wildlife, distributed funds to oil and gas producing states to mitigate the impacts of Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas activities. Sixty-five percent of the funding was directed to the state and 35 percent went directly to coastal political subdvisions, one of which is the Kenai Peninsula Borough.
In the past, the borough had passed that funding directly to the Kenai Watershed Forum, which allowed the Adopt-A-Stream program to continue running, but the Coastal Impact Assistance Program had a sunset clause and expired in December of 2016. It had run out of funds by November 2016, according to program documents.
“The Coastal Impact Assistance Program has gone flat,” said Jack Sinclair, Executive Director of the Kenai Watershed Forum. “There is no money coming through to the states or borough, so we don’t have the source for those funds at this point.”
The Kenai Watershed Forum has been looking for alternative funds since March of 2016, but has not been able to secure funding to continue the Adopt-A-Stream program into the 2017-2018 school year.
Adopt-A-Stream costs the Kenai Watershed Forum about $63,000 a year, Sinclair said, and is one of their more costly programs because it runs for nine months each year.
Throughout the school year, students are brought to nearby streams where they participate in demonstrations to determine the clarity of the water and oxygen content, helping them to understand how organisms thrive in the local waterways.
Adopt-A-Stream visits between five to seven classrooms per year, engaging about 500 students from August to May. The program’s busiest time is August through October, before the streams have frozen over, but they do continue lessons throughout the winter. Over its 24-year tenure, the program has taught over 10,000 students, Sinclair said.
In February 2016, the borough passed a resolution to support the Kenai Watershed Forum’s efforts to obtain other funding, but the search has been fruitless. They are continuing their search for any sort of philanthropist or donor to help fund Adopt-A-Stream in the 2017-2018 school year.
“We have enough money to finish the school year out and we have classes all the way through May,” Sinclair said. “Then, at that point we’ll be dead in the water.”
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