Programs and projects to keep the Kenai River healthy topped the agenda at the Kenai River Sportfishing Association's quarterly business meeting last month.
Five funding requests were approved at the Jan. 24 meeting. These grants will include help for existing programs and funds for new projects as well. They span all three of KRSA's funding categories: habitat preservation, fishery conservation and public education.
Support for existing grants will include KRSA's support for Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Cost Share Program will include a number of habitat-friendly projects this summer. The program protects stream bank habitats that are critical to the rearing of juvenile salmon.
Dean Hughes, of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said the Cost Share Program supports education and bank restoration. Of the two, he said he thinks the educational aspect of the program is by far the most important.
"In the past, people built rock or log cribwalls. They put jetties and bulkheads in the water. Now, with educational programs available at the Kenai River Center, people are aware of the problems related to fishing and bank erosion," Hughes said. "They are trying to do things according to nature."
Hughes said he believes that the educational programs have people talking to each other.
"Many people who are members of special interest groups say that everyone else is part of the problem. But occasionally, we get people who come forward and say, 'I'm part of the problem. Help me to find a solution.'"
Another project sponsored by Fish and Game will bring the DIDSON High Definition Imaging Sonar System to the Kenai River for testing this summer. The sonar system was originally developed for use by the Applied Physics Laboratory for the Department of Defense, to detect mines.
Debbie Burwen of the Department of Fish and Game is enthusiastic about the uses of the new system.
"It gives a great image of the fish swimming through the beam," Burwen said. "It gives us the length of the fish within a few centimeters. This helps us separate the chinook and sockeye salmon. This system shows us how accurately we detect fish, and how well we assign them to species."
KRSA's grant to the the ongoing water quality monitoring partnership was requested by the Kenai Watershed Forum. KRSA will be providing funds this year for this project and also will sign a memorandum of understanding that underscores its support for water quality issues along the Kenai River. This project is the continuation of an ongoing water monitoring program.
"It's really great that they've come on board," said Robert Ruffner of the Kenai Watershed Forum. "Most government grants require that you have a match. With this donation we can get more money from the government."
The water monitoring program began when a handful of concerned citizens became interested in monitoring the water quality of the Kenai River. No one agency had enough funding, and they put forward a grant proposal to the Department of Environmental Conservation. The Watershed Forum monitors 20 sites across the Kenai River, checking for four basic items -- hydrocarbons, nutrients, dissolved metals and fecal coliform.
"Several agencies want us to increase the quality of our work," Ruffner said. "As costs escalate, it's good to be able to depend on outside sources."
The KRSA's final two grants are the result of its new emphasis on education. One grant will be given to a Soldotna High School government student service project. Two SoHi seniors will design, build and install 15 signs at Rotary and Centennial parks. These signs will provide barriers to critical areas and carry a habitat message to park visitors.
The second grant is to be used to construct an Aquatic Mobile Education Classroom and Lab for the Department of Fish and Game Salmon Trout Restoration Education and Aquatic Management program. This lab, built in a 48-foot trailer, will make it possible to bring the message of stream ecology to tens of thousands of Alaska students.
Fritz Kraus, who will be in charge of the mobile facility, said that it will be used to teach water-sampling, fly-tying and numerous other skills to students. They are going to raise salmon eggs, and do fish-dissections as well. The unit will have cabinets, removable tables and two slide-outs.
KRSA is also anticipating a proposal for a handicapped-access fishing facility for the Morgan's Landing site. Another proposal may include a request to study the late-run kings of the Kasilof River.
"We are always looking for new ideas or opportunities to expand our efforts along the Kenai," said Brett Huber, the KRSA executive director.
"Working together, all of us -- private, public, nonprofit, agency and community alike -- we have created a model for action along the river. Its success is conditioned along our continued mutual commitment."
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