The Kenai River is the most popular river for sport fishing in Alaska.
It’s a great thing for the hundreds of thousands of anglers who flock to the peninsula each year, and the companies that benefit from their business. But increased development along the river can also threaten salmon habitat.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service run a program to incentivize protection of those habitats on private and commercial properties. The Kenai Cost Share Project has been running since 1995.
Habitat Biologist Jess Johnson said anyone with an idea for a habitat protection project and riverfront property is invited to apply.
“As long as they’ve got a salmon-bearing stream, which most streams are salmon-bearing streams," Johnson said.
A large component of the program is education. Johnson said a lot of property owners don’t know what they can do on their own land to protect salmon habitats — like how important willow and alder can be to riverbanks.
“Because those overhanging vegetation provide shelter for juvenile salmon, it provides shade for juvenile salmon and it also provides a food source," Johnson said.
Vegetation can be a buffer for the rain runoff coming from people’s driveways or parking lots. And there’s a stabilizing element to the plants.
“Their roots also kind of help hold the soil in place," Johnson said. "Which kind of helps prevent erosion.”
Some of the funds from the program go toward public workshops. There’s a classroom component on the first day.
“And then on the second day, we actually go out, the class actually goes out and installs a bioengineering project," Johnson said.
This year, the class planted alders and installed brush layers and cabled spruce trees.
Program managers can’t fund every application, which Johnson said can be up to 50. But she said they will fund up to half of each selected project. Each agency brings about $50,000 in funding.
The agencies are accepting proposals for 2022 through September. Johnson said they evaluate projects at the end of the year.
To apply, contact Jess Johnson at 267-2403 or at DFG.DSF.StreambankRehab@alaska.gov.