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Watershed Forum talks streambank restoration project

Kenai Watershed Forum's Ben Meyer (left) and Brandon Drzazgowski (right) give a presentation at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex Wednesday
Hunter Morrison
Kenai Watershed Forum's Ben Meyer (left) and Brandon Drzazgowski (right) give a presentation at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex Wednesday

During a joint Kenai-Soldotna Chamber of Commerce luncheon meeting Wednesday, individuals from the Kenai Watershed Forum and Kachemak Heritage Land Trust discussed efforts to reduce shoreline degradation on a parcel of land along the Kenai River. The Mullen Parcel, which was formerly owned by Soldotna homesteaders, is located behind Kenai River Brewing Co. in Soldotna and has been subject to vegetation trampling as a result of angler access to the shoreline. The site has also seen a loss of root systems, as well as an accumulation of litter.

Ben Meyer is an environmental scientist with the Watershed Forum. He says the Kenai is a swift-moving river that can quickly erode streambanks without adequate vegetation cover.

“This is providing stability along the soil on the slope on smaller streams especially, and also it provides shade for all the organisms that live in the river," Meyer said. "It provides a source of food for all the bugs and leaves that are falling off into the stream. There’s a lot of reasons that you want a cover of vegetation all the way down to your stream.” 

The site’s streambank restoration efforts come in three steps, one of which includes spruce cabling. This requires laying spruce trees parallel to the streambank and overlapping them like shingles. They’re then affixed to the river bottom using cables.

The Mullen Parcel has seen the implementation of two spruce cabling projects, in 2019 and last summer. It’s recommended to add new trees to project sites every three years to prevent further erosion.

“So not only is it protecting the riverbank there, but it is also helping to rebuild it,” said Brandon Drzazgowski, an environmental scientist with the Watershed Forum.

The project also includes revegetation of native species and placement of better signs to alert people of the habitat conservation area. The site is owned by the state, which makes it challenging to block off.

One chamber luncheon attendee brought up the issue of enforcement and how the organization can keep people off the project site. Meyer suggests regular monitoring of the area and working with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and Alaska State Parks.

“In terms of enforcement, that is beyond our current role, but I think a big thing that will help with enforcement is us communicating to these agencies on a regular basis that we especially value this location and that we would like them to check up on it when they can,” Meyer said.  

The organization believes that educating the community about the site and other related projects is crucial to preserving the region’s watersheds and fish habitat.

“We’re looking for more locations that are in need of some extra love like this," Meyer said. "If you hear or see places like this, we would love to know about them so that the Kenai can continue to be a healthy place for people and fish to live.” 

For more information about the Mullen Parcel project or streambank restoration efforts, visit the Kenai Watershed Forum’s website. You can also find ways to get involved with the organization.

Hunter Morrison is a news reporter at KDLL
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