Public-private groups join to monitor Kenai River water quality

Posted: Tuesday, July 18, 2000

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KENAI (AP) -- A number of public and private groups have joined to monitor the health of the fish-rich Kenai River.

The city of Soldotna and The Nature Conservancy of Alaska announced last week that they have joined the city of Kenai, the Kenai Watershed Forum and state and federal agencies to study the river's water quality.

Previous studies by the state Department of Fish and Game and Trout Unlimited were used as models for this program, said Michelle Brown, Kenai River programs manager for the Conservancy.

''The difference,'' she told the Peninsula Clarion, ''is this study will be used as a baseline for continuous future monitoring to determine the health of the river as the surrounding population grows.

''Despite what some people may think, this is not being done for regulatory purposes or to attempt to cite people for pollution,'' Brown said. ''It's to provide a baseline so we can see trends and red flags, and we'll know where problems may arise before they do.''

Water sampling will be done at 20 sites from the mouth of the river to Kenai Lake. The first samples are to be collected Tuesday.

The Soldotna wastewater treatment plant and Northern Testing Laboratories Inc. will test the samples for oils from parking lot runoff, metals from street and shop runoff, petroleum products, lead, sewage and other pollutants.

They also will test for oxygen and acidity -- factors that directly effect the health of the fish.

The Kenai Watershed Forum won an $80,000 grant from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and will use some of that money to pay for work done by Northern Testing Laboratories.

The other agencies involved are the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, the state Department of Fish and Game, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Alaska State Parks and the U.S. Forest Service.

The agencies contributed personnel and support services to allow staff to take part in the project. The value of the in-kind contributions totals more than $20,000, Brown said.

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