Water is at the core of everything we do. It not only defines us as an organization but the waters of the Kenai Peninsula literally and figuratively connect us with our communities and ultimately the resources and people we work for. The Kenai Watershed Forum maintains a comprehensive water research program that revolves around a fundamental understanding – and sustainability – of water quality and water quantity on the Kenai Peninsula and beyond. From hydrocarbon research to flow monitoring to wetland ecosystem assessments, our knowledge about water and its role in our communities is critical to our mission.
“It is now universally accepted that water is an essential primary natural resource upon which nearly all social and economic activities and ecosystem functions depend.”
Kenai River Baseline Water Quality Monitoring
Good water quality is essential for a healthy environment and society. The Kenai Watershed Forum has monitored the water quality of the Kenai River watersheds twice a year (once in the spring and once in the summer) since 2000; this is not an easy task and certainly one we could not accomplish alone. Thanks to the partner list below, we now have a comprehensive and growing understanding of the water quality in our backyard, something we can be proud to pass on to the next generation of water quality sampling volunteers!
- AK Department of Environmental Conservation
- AK Department of Fish and Game
- AK Department of Natural Resources
- City of Kenai
- City of Soldotna
- Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association
- Kenai Peninsula Borough
- Kenai Peninsula Trout Unlimited
- Kenaitze Indian Tribe
- SGS North America, Inc.
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
- U.S. Forest Service
The data from this sampling effort can be accessed by contacting Environmental Scientist Ben Meyer.
Water samples collected on the lower Kenai River from 2000-2005 showed concentrations of total aromatic hydrocarbons (TAH) that exceeded state water quality standards for freshwater fish and other aquatic life during the peak fishing period in July. As a result, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) placed a 19-mile segment of the lower Kenai River on the state’s 2006 Clean Water Act (CWA) section 303(d) list of impaired waters for petroleum hydrocarbons, oils and grease. The primary source of the hydrocarbons was unburned gasoline released from older, two-stroke boat motors used to access the sport and personal use fisheries. The Kenai Watershed Forum led a group of concerned watershed stakeholders to join forces to target the source through public outreach, partnering with Kenaitze Indian Tribe creating motor buy-back program, and new regulations. TAH levels dropped significantly and now meet water quality standards, prompting DEC to remove the lower Kenai River from the CWA section 303(d) list of impaired waters in 2010; there have been no measured exceedances of state water quality standards for TAH since then.
Stream and Air Temperature Monitoring
Led by our friends at Cook Inletkeeper, the Kenai Watershed Forum has participated in stream and air temperature monitoring since 2009. Stream temperature is a critical piece in a sustainable salmon life cycle. As our population and temperatures rise on the Kenai Peninsula it is important that we monitor temperatures to ensure viable salmon habitat remains intact and that we find ways to grow in harmony with our salmon populations. Find out more about this important research and its findings here. The Kenai Watershed Forum is currently monitoring stream temperature at five sites selected from Cook Inletkeeper’s research: Beaver Creek, Crooked Creek, Funny River, Slikok Creek and Soldotna Creek.
From 2008-2010, the Kenai Watershed Forum monitored turbidity at several sites on the lower Kenai River. The objectives of this three-year study were to:
- Observe and determine key characteristics of turbidity in the lower Kenai River.
- To collect relevant data to define baseline conditions for turbidity in the lower Kenai River.
- To analyze how often, if ever, AK Department of Environmental Conservation water quality standards for turbidity were exceeded at each sampling location.
Monitoring has led to a better understanding of turbidity levels in the lower Kenai River and the establishment of baseline conditions. Based on analysis of data from this project, the Kenai Watershed Forum found evidence that state turbidity standards were exceeded on several occasions. Analysis also revealed a strong correlation between high boat traffic and elevated turbidity. The results of this study are intended to assist river managers in making informed decisions regarding human use of the river with respect to established water quality standards.
Understanding flow is critical to sustaining our water resources and the Kenai Watershed Forum has been monitoring flow on numerous salmon bearing streams on the Kenai Peninsula since 2000. We believe our ability to protect anadromous water habitat and the fish and wildlife that depend on them is only as good as our knowledge about water. To understand water we collect and analyze data, and flow data is at the top of our priority list.
Far too many streams and rivers lack quality data like flow, which makes it difficult for resource managers to make fundamental decisions regarding our understanding of fish and wildlife habitat, how habitat naturally changes through time and how our impact as humans (i.e. development) can be minimized to protect habitat. The Kenai Watershed Forum strives to collect and maintain a comprehensive understanding of our water resources in hopes of better informing our decision makers as they face more and more difficult decisions.
With funding and support from the Alaska EPSCoR program and AKSSF the Kenai Watershed Forum is currently monitoring flow at the following locations on the Kenai Peninsula: Beaver Creek, Ptarmigan Creek, Russian River and Slikok Creek.
KWF has monitored fecal coliform and Enterococci bacteria levels at Kenai public beaches since 2010. Samples were collected in order to supply the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation with important data related to fluctuations in bacteria levels throughout the summer, including during the public use of these beaches during the high-traffic Kenai River Personal Use Fishery.