Boat wakes return to KRSMA agenda

Posted: Sunday, January 20, 2002

Kenai River Special Management Area advisory board members were brought up to speed on several projects affecting the management area in their meeting at the Kenai River Center on Thursday.

A brief report giving the results of the first part of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers boat wake study conducted on Johnson Lake and the Kenai River was presented to the board by Glenda Landua, habitat biologist at the Kenai River Center for the state Department of Fish and Game, who filled in for Lance Trasky, regional supervisor for the Habitat and Restoration Division of Fish and Game.

The study determined the sizes and power of waves produced by different combinations of hull types, load weights and horsepower. Investigators found that V-shaped hulls and boats with heavy loads created the largest waves and that increasing horsepower reduced the wake size slightly for boats with V-shaped hulls. Flat-bottomed hulls and boats with lighter loads were found to produce smaller wakes. Waves produced on the Kenai River varied in size from .22 feet to 1.07 feet, which, according to the report, is not a large range. But wave energies, which may be the true culprit in explaining boat wake-induced bank erosion, showed greater variations.

Part one of the study took about a year to complete, although the actual field research was completed during three weeks of summer 2000, Trasky said. The purpose of the study was to find out if boat wakes are causing accelerated bank erosion in the Kenai River. But to answer that question, part two of the study needs to be completed, Trasky said.

Army Corps of Engineers researchers identified several components to bank erosion that need further research to determine the relationship between boat wakes and bank erosion. The effect of maximum wave heights on riverbanks, how waves behave and affect bank sediment as they hit the banks under the water, the effect of high boat activity in the river (since waves coming from multiple sources can either cancel each other out or combine to form larger waves), and the combined effect of river currents and waves, are all topics that need further study, Trasky said.

The KRSMA boat wake committee met with the U.S. Geological Survey in December to discuss the possibility of the USGS conducting the second part of the study. Funding has yet to be worked out and no details have been finalized, but USGS is preparing a draft study proposal to present to the KRSMA board at its February meeting.

Next on the board's agenda was a progress report on the Milepost 45 to 60 Sterling Highway bypass project from Janette Cadieux, a member of the project's stockholder sounding board.

Several alternate routes have been proposed for the Cooper Landing bypass. The state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities and project planners are developing criteria to evaluate the alternatives and start narrowing the field of suggestions, Cadieux said.

Cadieux presented board members with the criteria and relayed the DOT's request that board members study the criteria and provide feedback to the DOT. The DOT plans to have a Web site operational by Feb. 18 that lists the selected criteria, Cadieux said.

One issue dealt with in the stakeholder's meeting was design speed for the new road. Since the road will be part of a national highway main route it needs to be built to national highway standards -- which means it must be designed to accommodate 60-mph travel, Cadieux said. But according to Cadieux, some stakeholders oppose that position, arguing that the highway through Cooper Landing is designed for 35 mph and people still speed on it, so having a road built for 60 mph would result in more speeding.

"It's an unresolved issue," Cadieux said. "They're going to address it more in their meeting by reiterating what the purpose of the project is."

Another issue the stakeholders faced was dealing with critical habitat areas.

"There are no alternatives that avoid going through critical areas, which nobody should be surprised about," Cadieux said.

Federal highway regulations require planners to avoid building a road through critical habitat areas if a feasible or prudent alternative is available, said Bill Shuster, KRSMA board member.

"The kicker is what do 'feasible and prudent' mean?" Shuster said.

The final order of business at the KRSMA meeting was an update on the Fisher Fuels spill cleanup efforts in Cooper Landing. Suzanne Fisler, permit coordinate for the state Division of Parks, reported that 6,065 gallons of fuel has been recovered from the estimated 9,100 gallons spilled when a tanker truck overturned Oct. 29 in a pond west of Gwin's Lodge in Cooper Landing. Fisler reported on the cleanup plan submitted by CH2M Hill, the consultants hired by Fisher Fuel to clean up the spill.

The plan calls for a tributary stream to be diverted away from the pond into the river to keep water flowing without risking further contamination. The pond water will be treated on site with active carbon or charcoal filters or be transported from the site and treated. Contaminated soil will be removed and backfilled with gravel. Sediment along the pond will continue to be tested for contamination and revegetation of the area will be completed once it is decontaminated.

The cleanup of the pond water hit a snag when the pond thawed, Fisler said. Contractors had been planning to take equipment across the ice and scoop up soiled areas. Now they plan to float aerators on the pond and evaporate the fuel out of the water. But the plans are still in flux, Fisler said.

"If drops to 50 below and they have 6 feet of ice in the pond they could do something different, but that's it at the moment," she said.

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