Thanks in part to a $60,000 gift from ConocoPhillips, conditions along one of the longest anadromous salmon streams on the Kenai Peninsula may soon be improved.
About 4 1/2 years ago, floods knocked out the culvert road crossing over Crooked Creek in Kasilof, taking with it a wildlife viewing platform and stream stabilization structures.
Now runoff from the old road washes directly into the creek, increasing turbidity and depositing fine sands into salmon spawning beds clogging gravel, covering eggs already there and discouraging adult salmon from using the spawning beds in the future, according to Robert Ruffner, executive director of the Kenai Watershed Forum.
As an extension of the Adopt-a-Stream project at Tustumena Elementary School, the watershed forum has created the Crooked Creek Restoration and Education Project to bring several community groups together to stabilize the stream bank, create a study area for Adopt-a-Stream students, build habitat protection viewing and fishing platforms and install walkways and educational signs.
Ruffner said the gift from ConocoPhillips will be used to leverage more funds from private and government grant agencies to be used toward the project.
“What we have there where the Johnson Lake Road washed out is an eyesore,” he said. “We know we can make it more beautiful; that’s easy.”
What the watershed forum prefers, however, is meeting with all factions of the community to see what they want done there.
“We want to work with the Boy Scouts, the Kenaitze community and school kids from Tustumena Elementary to plan the project,” Ruffner said.
He said a similar donation was provided by ConocoPhillips and was leveraged by the Kenai Watershed Forum into a $200,000 project at Gray Cliffs along the North Road extension where a culvert blocking adult salmon from a spawning area was removed and will be replaced by a bridge.
“We can’t do our work without those kinds of donations,” Ruffner said.
The ConocoPhillips contribution is part of the company’s Earth Energy Partners Program, which spent more than $1.5 million for environmental projects in Alaska last year.
In addition to the fish habitat restoration projects on the Kenai Peninsula, ConocoPhillips sponsored projects in Anchorage and Fairbanks as well as on the North Slope and in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley.
Phil Hermanek can be reached at email@example.com.
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