A Kasilof River dunes habitat protection project was completed by volunteers on Sept. 29. The project started Oct. 29, 2009, during a community meeting. Ann Letzring suggested putting a dunes fence on the local state grant “wish list.” I voiced the suggestion to a group of residents in attendance. The idea, based on a dunes fence constructed in 2008 by the City of Kenai, was approved by the group. Kasilof Historical Association volunteered to fill out the paperwork and oversee construction of the fence.
On Feb. 25, 2010, 16 organizations (fishing groups, municipalities, environmentalists and tourism agencies) sent a letter to Gov. Sean Parnell asking him to address problems created by personal-use fisheries. Among these problems was habitat destruction on Kasilof River dunes. In response, Gov. Parnell directed the Department of Natural Resources to address the problem.
Early in the spring of 2010 two Nikiski High School students, Melinda Hampton and Dylan Holloway, proposed putting up a temporary Kasilof dunes protection fence as a Caring for the Kenai project. During a “town hall” meeting with Reps. Mike Chenalt and Kurt Olson the students gave public testimony that was effective. In the spring of 2010 the Legislature awarded a $60,000 grant to Kasilof Historical Association.
DNR suggested using used guardrail as a fence. Since Larry Marsh of Kasilof had, several years earlier, spearheaded putting up guardrail for a short habitat protection fence, the idea had merit. I asked Carl High, District Superintendent for the Department of Transportation (DOT), if used guardrail was available. Carl was more than helpful and I gathered posts and rails from Kodiak, Quartz Creek and Soldotna. Every one of the DOT people I worked with went out of their way to cooperate.
Robert Ruffner of the Kenai Watershed Forum was also a big help in the planning stages of the project. For instance, there were two ideas about where the fence should go. DNR chose a location that irritated about half the fence supporters and Robert helped bring the two sides together.
Construction started May 25, 2011 and went on for eight days that spring. The following volunteers erected the fence: Dr. Alan Boraas, Randy Boeshart (who also provided a trailer for hauling material), Rik Bucy, Catherine Cassidy (who not only helped but also took over handling paperwork), Ken Coleman, Robert Correia, Terry Cowart (an experienced foreman on oilfield crews and construction projects, he kind of assumed the role as foreman for our party, as well as supplying many tools and heavy equipment), Kyle Decker (courtesy of KWF), Mike DeBoard, Ken Federico, Ricky Gease (courtesy of Kenai River Sportfish Association), Horizon Lines (donated hauling a load of posts from Kodiak to Kenai), Erik Huebsch, Syd Karnikis, Kasilof Historical Association, Dwight Kramer, Leif Jenkinson, Jersey Subs, Judy Johnson (my wife, who helped much and often), Nathan Johnson, Tom Johnson, Tony Lopez, Bob McCard, Harry Miller, Brian Miyao (courtesy of KWF), John Otness, Joseph Robertia, Pat Shields, Cynthia Spezialy, Tony Western, Mike Wiley, and Robert Williams.
About $20,000 has been spent on insurance, signs, bolts, equipment rental and other supplies. Monies from this grant are received as needed and thus about $40,000 has not been requested.
Finally, I’d like to thank the communities of Cohoe and Kasilof for caring about Kasilof River habitat and the many beach users for respecting the fence and the grass it protects.