It's clear from recent events and an editorial ("Contaminated sites not forgotten; more work could be done," Peninsula Clarion, Oct. 18) that there can never be enough communication, information or dialogue when something as vital as the health of the Kenai River is being discussed.
The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation has worked for many years on issues affecting the Kenai River and human health. The agency is committed to getting clear information to the public and including interested people in decisions affecting the river.
Much of the public focus lately has been on contaminated sites and cleanup efforts in the area. Working with local officials, the Kenai River Special Management Advisory Board, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and others, we have accomplished a great deal toward cleaning up various contaminated sites posing threats to water quality. Some spills, such as those underground, are difficult to detect before damage is done and are extremely difficult to clean up.
Cleanup to a pristine condition is everyone's wish; however, it is unrealistic, impractical, and very expensive. With the most effective and proven technology, DEC endeavors to do the best possible job of protecting the environment from further damage, and to remediate the most critical situations. Prevention and pro-active efforts are always our best defense against contamination.
Beyond these cleanup efforts, DEC is also working to protect the river in many other ways. The de-partment has worked for some time with citizens, industry and organizations on other problems threatening the river's health, such as petroleum in the water, storm water runoff, point source discharges, silt runoff from construction activities, domestic wastewater and river bank integrity.
Now is a very good time for all of us who want to protect the Kenai River to expand our view of the river to not only the contaminated sites, but to the many other possible threats to its health as well. We need and are gathering critical information on how big these problems truly are, in order to make informed decisions. To get this information, we are leveraging our resources with other agencies through the Alaska Clean Water Actions program. Working together with groups such as the Kenai Watershed Forum, the Cook Inlet Keeper, the KRSMA board and other resource agencies, we can better recognize where problems may be developing, identify the best approach, prioritize our activities and focus our efforts and resources most effectively to ensure the total health of the Kenai watershed.
To share information on these activities, we are developing a new Web page, www.state.ak.
us/dec/kenai, to provide current information on all of DEC's programs as they relate to the Kenai River. We invite the public to visit the site regularly for updates.
We will continue to report to the public on our ongoing efforts, from cleanup and monitoring to new sampling and restoration projects, as new information is available. In addition to our Web page, we will publish a quarterly newsletter in 2003. If you would like to receive it, call (800) 510-2332 or (907) 269-6285 to give us your name and mailing address. Increasing and improving our dialogue with local residents and groups greatly enhances our efforts. In fact, the success of our programs depends on it.
The Kenai River's importance to Alaska is unquestioned. It will take all of us, working together, to protect, restore and conserve this precious resource. We look forward to continuing our work together to assure a healthy future for the Kenai River.
Jonne Slemons is program manager for the Non-Point Source Pollution Control Program at the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and the department representative to the Kenai River Special Management Area Advisory Board.
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