If development continues as is, Kenai's salmon runs will be gone

Posted: Tuesday, September 09, 2003

A recent letter reminded me of a letter I wrote to this newspaper in the 1980s. I pointed out that if development was allowed to continue unabated along the Kenai River and its tributaries, the Kenai would end up like the nearly sterile Muskingum River in Ohio.

Much development since that letter has greatly contributed to creating the conditions to eventually destroy the Kenai River as a source of salmon and trout. Riverfront lodges, homes and bed-and-breakfast establishments have been built using septic systems. Recreational subdivisions with lots too small to support septics continue to be built with almost no concern beyond the immediate profits of the developers.

Where does the waste water from these septics, and whatever the small rec lots use, eventually end up? In the Kenai River.

Nitrates and other human waste chemicals enter the river along with human fecal bacteria. Eventually the oxygen supply in the river will be reduced to the levels that will not support salmon and trout. This will not happen overnight, but one morning we'll wake up to find the river so far gone that the natural runs of salmon cannot be saved.

The solution to the problem is expensive. Halt all development along the river unless the developer has a working sewage treatment plant serving all lots. Require river lot owners to hook up to (and pay for) a new public sewer system. Will this be done before the river is destroyed? Only when I can leap across the Kenai River in a single bound. I know my weak-willed politicians. The future be dammed. It is the next election and campaign contributions that rule them.

There is still my tongue-in-cheek solution. As I said long ago, we can find a Siberian carp that can thrive in an oxygen depleted and contaminated rivers. Give it an exotic name, and stock the Kenai with it. We can then build it up as a "new" sports fish to attract visitors.

William J. Phillips


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