For more than 20 years, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has teamed with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to promote health fish habitat through a cost share program that helps landowners pay for rehabilitation work along the Kenai river.
Jess Johnson is a habitat biologist with Fish and Game and helps administer the annual program.
“We look at doing stuff for the fish. So, let’s say a landowner has put in rip rap along their bank. We would work with them to pull that rip rap out. And that would be a higher value because you could pull that out and actually provide natural streambanks with coir logs and willows that would grow up and provide cover and shade for those fish.”
That’s a fairly typical example of the kind of work that’s done, largely to offer natural protective measures on or near the river bank. Johnson says in some cases, the answer is doing less, not more.
“Sometimes, it’s as easy as telling people stop mowing up to the edge of the riverbank and it will heal itself. Other times, it’s a little more in depth on what needs to happen. But we talk with the landowners, give them some options and then if the landowner is still interested, we’d have you apply to our program. And the program itself, we typically fund up to half of the project reimbursement.”
That money has helped fund more than 500 projects along the Kenai River, along with others on the Chena River near Fairbanks and in the Mat-Su basin. Johnson says the program has been around long enough now that researchers can refine their tools and techniques for restoration projects by going back to see how different measures have held up over time.
“We’re talking that we would like to try and go back and look at all of these older projects and see what’s really holding, ten years or 20 years now, see what’s actually worked and what hasn’t. Definitely that’s something that’s on the horizon.”
Also on the horizon is the deadline to apply for the grant funding. Applications are due by September 30th.