Habitat funds target Kasilof River

Posted: Friday, February 29, 2008

Anglers anxious to access annual salmon runs have caused serious erosion of the banks at the confluence of the Kasilof River and Crooked Creek, conservationists say.

Trees have become islands and fish habitat has been spoiled thanks the trampling of thousands of feet over several years, said Gary Williams, coordinator of the borough's Coastal Zone Management Program

Federal funds, however, are available for projects meant to mitigate the damage, and the borough is in line for a share of the Coastal Impact Assistance Program (CIAP) money. That program is managed by the U.S. Department of Interior. The CIAP distributes $250 million to oil-producing states.

The borough's share, $237,741 over a period of four years, is there because of its participation in the Alaska Coastal Zone Management Program and because Alaska is an oil-producing state.

At its Feb. 19 meeting, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly approved Resolution 2008-017 adding a riverbank restoration project at Crooked Creek State Recreational Area to a list of approved CIAP projects.

Last year, the borough approved CIAP projects using about 25 percent of those funds. The new resolution allocates the remaining funds, Williams told the assembly in a memo.

"The Kasilof River riverbank adjacent to the confluence of Crooked Creek and the Kasilof River is seriously eroding as a result of human foot traffic," he said. "The project is intended to restore a portion of the damaged area and provide light-penetrating (metal) walkways and stairs to enable fishers to access the river without further damaging the vegetation."

The project is estimated to cost $189,240. Plans call for $30,000 to be spent during the remaining of current fiscal year, and $53,080 spent over the following three fiscal years.

The work will repair a portion of the damaged area by installing 200 linear feet of spruce tree revetment at the water's edge and coir log and willow shrub mat in the adjacent upland to restore the trampled area, Williams told the assembly. In addition, 70 linear feet of light-penetrating walkway and stairways will be installed. The approach, he said, would protect the area being restored until it has returned to a natural state.

It isn't clear yet just when the FY 2007 work will begin. In an interview Monday, Williams said the state has seen delays in getting its program going.

The borough actually began its program a year ago, allocating some of the federal money to other Kasilof River projects, including the Crooked Creek Riverbank and Education Project, which is connected to a Kenai Watershed Forum project downstream of the Crooked Creek Hatchery; the Kasilof Personal Use Fisheries Habitat Protection Project that will place portable toilets and dumpsters at the mouth of the Kasilof River for a year, while the borough and the Department of Natural Resources work out arrangements for long-term management of the area; and to cover costs of CIAP planning and administration, Williams said.

Hal Spence can be reached at hspence@ptialaska.net.

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