Homeowners get pointers for maintaining healthy riverside habitat

May 14, 2019

A stretch of Kenai river bank near Jim's Landing prior to a rehabilitation project shows a lack of vegetation near the water and potential for erosion of the bank.
Credit Alaska Department of Fish and Game

There can be a lot to get ready for this time of year. If you live along one of the peninsula’s many rivers and streams, maybe it’s a good time to think about how to protect that area. That’s what a handful of property owners were doing Monday at the Kenai River Center.

There’s a little bit of responsibility that comes with owning land anywhere, but that’s especially true when sensitive fish habitat is involved. During two days of workshops this week, habitat biologist Jess Johnson with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is explaining and demonstrating the many ways property owners can help out in their little corner of the world. She says one of the main considerations when addressing things like bank erosion is whether you’re trying to rehabilitate an area or simply protect it.

“For example, if a person buys a brand new property or something is subdivided and you look at a property and nothing’s ever been done to the bank, that’s where you would look at protecting the bank, let the bank do what it needs to do naturally, versus, let’s say the property has been around for half a century...and maybe the land owner previous to you removed all the vegetation.”

That same stretch of riverbank near Jim's Landing after rehabilitation, featuring well-rooted vegetation near the water.
Credit Alaska Department of Fish and Game

Day one is in the classroom, learning about all the different methods for protection and rehabilitation and they’re mostly pretty low-tech, if fairly labor intensive. That’s what day two is for.




But Johnson says no matter the method, whether it’s cabling spruce trees together, planting willows or using manufactured coir mats made of coconut fiber, the goal is the same, especially for fish habitat - diverse, streamside vegetation that gives fish a good place to be fish.

“That’s the point is we like to use natural materials. Trees are natural to riverbanks; they create great fish habitat, they slow the water down, the create shelter and shade and revegetating the banks also does the same thing.


You’re not looking for a straight bank. You want some overhanging vegetation, it allows fish to kind of get in and hide from predation, it allows (for) cool water temperatures and also, an overhanging grass, a mayfly or a terrestrial insect might drop into the river and they’ve got some food, also.  Creating these natural additions, vegetation, woody debris where they can get in and hide...is really important for fish.”

The state does have some cost share programs that can cover up to fifty-percent of the cost for an eligible project.