KENAI (AP) -- The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly has awarded a contract for riverbank restoration along one of the most popular red salmon fishing sites on the Kenai River -- about 400 feet of shoreline below the Kenai River Center in Soldotna.
The assembly authorized the contract for riverbank restoration work and construction of elevated walkways, stairways and other development that will help control erosion while enhancing public access.
Peninsula Construction Inc. submitted the winning bid of $357,582. Borough officials expect the project will be completed by Sept. 1.
A combination of federal, state, local and nonprofit funding will pay for the project.
The way fishermen make their way to the riverbank has caused much of the habitat destruction, said Rob Robson, director of the borough's Capital Projects Division. Anxious to get to the river, people simply slide down 4- to 5-foot vertical drop to the beach, and when they leave, scramble back up, slowly eroding the embankment.
''Haphazard access means each person makes his own trail,'' Robson said.
Fishing from shore, rather than the river itself, further contributes to the damage.
John Mohorcich, Kenai River Center coordinator, said the bank along the straight section has attracted anglers for years. The currents are ideal for bringing the reds close to shore.
''Red fishing is different from silver fishing,'' Mohorcich said. ''For reds, you want a good current.''
Beneath the water, the bottom is good gravel, making it ideal for anglers in waders. He would prefer that more fishermen chose that option rather than casting their lines from the shore.
The need for the work is obvious, Robson said.
''It's a heavily fished area due to the swelling of an impromptu RV park next to the airport,'' he said. ''Quite a horde of people go down there.''
The project will enhance a well-used trail and add walkways, stairs and a ramp in an attempt to funnel traffic along dedicated paths. Anglers will be encouraged to fish from elevated walkways or go into the river itself.
''The polite word is to be directed,'' Robson said, adding he hopes anglers can be educated about how to protect the vital habitat and why using the designed pathways will aid the restoration effort.
For a couple of years, he said, fishers likely will encounter an ''obnoxious orange snow fence'' that will block foot traffic, allowing damaged areas to revegetate.
More than one design for constructed pathways is being incorporated, making the construction a kind of demonstration project for testing the efficacy of each design, he said.
William Nelson and Associates of Kenai designed the project. It's been on the drawing boards for more than a year and fund-raising efforts have gone on even longer. Grants were received from the federal and state governments with a local government match. Money also was raised and provided by Kenai River Sport Fishing Inc.
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