Watershed Forum discusses results of water quality study

Posted: Tuesday, January 15, 2002

Several years ago all of the state, federal, and local agencies that are responsible for taking care of the Kenai River agreed that there was a major gap in data regarding the water quality of the river, according to Robert Ruffner, executive director of the Kenai Water Shed Forum. "So in Y2K we got everybody together working on the same page to do some water quality sampling. We took a look at about 15 different parameters at 20 sites across the Kenai River basin, including the tributary streams that run into the Kenai," said Ruffner, who shared the results of the study last week at the Soldotna Rotary luncheon. There were two areas of water quality that the study was most concerned about, hydrocarbons associated with oil and gas, and fecal chloroform bacteria.

The samplings were taken during the third week in July and the second week of April, "The Kenai River is highest in July and the tributaries that run into it are low and in April the opposite is true the Kenai River is open but low, and the tributary streams are catching all the run off and are very full," explained Ruffner.

The study found that in general as you move down the Kenai River there is an increase in hydro carbons, oil & gas, in the summer months and no hydro carbons were detected in the spring samplings. The April samplings did reveal that fecal chloroform was high in the tributaries. The study was begun to establish a baseline of data, "It was to get a general idea of what was out there, and doesn't lead us to any conclusions. What it does tell us is where we need to focus our future efforts and to put more effort into the quality control of the data that we are collecting so that we can be sure that we are seeing something real. We are not confident with that yet," said Ruffner.

This spring all 15 entities that participated in the study will meet to decide the next steps for continuing the study. The data from the study will soon be available on the Kenai Watershed's web page at www.kenaiwatershed.org and at the Watershed office. Ruffner will also be presenting the study results at next week Soldotna and Kenai Chamber of Commerce meetings. The Kenai River Special Management Area Board has formed a water quality committee. Charles Quarre is the current chairman and may be reached at 262-2115. According to Ruffner, the city of Anchorage is currently addressing water quality issues for Lake Hood in a proactive manner, and the results of their work may offer insights to the local studies.

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