During the flood of 2002, a lot more was lost than just the southern access point to Johnson Lake Road in Kasilof when two culverts along Crooked Creek failed. The flood also caused viewing platforms and stream stabilization structures to be lost.
However, when it comes to pursuing salmon in Alaska, time waits for no one. People in piscatorial pursuits -- sport-fishermen looking to land salmon and trout, and children interested in studying these fish -- began returning to this area the following spring and summer, but there was nothing in place to prevent bank erosion from all of this foot traffic.
Fortunately, Keith Clancy, a Skyview High School senior that learned about the creek back when he attended Tustumena Elementary School, noticed the human impact to the area and decided to take action as part of earning a Boy Scouts of America badge.
"Over a year ago, I needed to find an Eagle project. At first I looked at what other kids had done, but none of them seemed worthwhile or feasible for my time period. During this search, it came to my attention that the students of Tustumena Elementary needed a new location for their Adopt-a-Stream program.
"Where before the kids had a nice salmon habitat and a beach to do their studies, they were now left with the equivalent to a gravel bed," Clancy said in an e-mail.
"This project interested me because I myself had been part of the Adopt-a-Stream program when I was in sixth grade. I understood the importance of a good site for their tests. After accepting the project I found a new site for the kids, and then began work to install a educational platform to allow them to work there without destroying the surrounding habitat," Clancy added.
Crooked Creek and the surrounding habitat is ecologically important, according the Kenai Watershed Forum.
The area encompasses more than 61 miles of riparian habitat, and the creek itself is one of the longest anadromous streams on the Kenai Peninsula. It is also home to strong runs of chinook and coho salmon, and steelhead trout.
Children learn all of this and more through the Adopt-a-Stream program -- a partnership of local students, teachers, parents, community volunteers, and natural resource organizations and agency personnel.
"The kids go down every month and sample the water for dissolved oxygen, pH, temperature, flow, conductivity and turbidity. They also trap for juvenile salmon to see what species are in there, in what numbers, and they look for macroinvertebrates which the salmon eat," said Jan Yaeger, educational coordinator for the Kenai River Center and a Kenai Watershed Forum employee.
During their monthly creek study trips, students have also photographed public use of, and impacts to, the creek. They also researched platforms, walkways and habitat restoration techniques; designed and installed signs to educate community members and visitors about the unique ecology of the creek and how they can help protect the area, and cleaned up trash in and along creek on a regular basis.
Yaeger said Clancy took the project very seriously, and wasn't sidetracked by routine challenges.
"He worked very hard on how best to design the platform, finding a location for it and then going through the whole permitting process," she said.
Yaeger said Clancy's involvement in the project was also a good measure that the conservation message is getting through to the younger generation.
"These stream projects are wonderful activities for kids, but you always wonder if it's going to have an impact, so this was a good example of it coming back full circle," she said.
In addition to being rewarding to educators, Yaeger said Clancy's diligence and success was also a good message to children still involved in the Adopt-A-Stream program.
"They get to see that this is one of their fellow students that took the initiative and got this thing going, someone only a few years older than them," she said.
After everything was finally done, Clancy enlisted the help of fellow boy scouts and they installed the platform, which is made of a grate material that allows light to penetrate to the vegetation below, which in turn protects the stream bank from erosion. Yaeger said this is a win-win design for preventing bank erosion.
"It protects kids and fish at the same time," she said.
According to the Watershed Forum, the estimated cost of the entire project will be around $90,000, and is made possible through a partnership of organizations and individuals devoted to restoring this critical habitat while simultaneously creating a model conservation, education and fishing area for youth, local residents and visitors.
Partners include: Kenai Watershed Forum, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Conoco Phillips, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Tustumena Elementary School, Boy Scouts of America, and Mike's Welding in Sterling.
Partners are also working to further stabilize the stream bank where the road washed out, and plan to build habitat protection and handicap-accessible viewing and fishing platforms, along with additional walkways and educational signs in the near future.
For more information on this project, Crooked Creek or the Adopt-A-Stream program, visit the Kenai Watershed Forum Web site at www.kenaiwatershed.org or call 907-260-5449.
Joseph Robertia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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