Kenai Watershed Forum

Sabine Poux/KDLL

This particular pocket of Beaver Creek is not far from the road, just a short and muddy tromp away from a gravel parking lot between Kenai and Soldotna. But it’s home to several cold water inputs that could be crucially important for young salmon as they swim from the Kenai River to Cook Inlet.


Courtesy of Hannah Etengoff

To most Alaskans, it’s food. To some, a livelihood. To others, a sport. No matter how you slice it, or filet it, salmon is deeply important to Alaskans. And salmon lovers across the state, like Steve Schoonmaker, of Kasilof, are celebrating the species today.

“First of all, I’m waking up and I’m remembering what Alaska Salmon Day means," he said. "And how lucky we are in Alaska to have wild salmon.”

Wikimedia Commons

While the Kenai Peninsula is relatively lucky that the ecosystems here are fairly intact, there are still a handful of invasive species making their way into the streams, fields and gardens here. In recent years, that’s accelerated due to climate change and people intentionally or unintentionally bringing in new species.

Ryan Hagerty/USFWS

It’s pretty well established that Alaska has more rivers and streams than any other state in the United States — which is hardly surprising, since it’s the largest state. Exactly how many of those rivers and streams host anadromous fish, though, is still a mystery.

Anadromous fish are those that spend part of their life at sea and part in freshwater, like salmon. Trout Unlimited and the Kenai Watershed Forum are trying to solve a little more of that mystery this summer.

Photo: Sabine Poux

Alaska sets aside money each year for projects that contribute to healthy salmon stocks and habitats.

The Alaska Sustainable Salmon Fund is the state’s share of a federal program geared toward protecting Pacific salmon populations. The fund is also distributed between five other states and tribal partners.


The Kachemak Bay Science Conference and Kenai Peninsula Fish Habitat Symposium will be held March 15 to 18. They’re virtual this year and free to attend. To register and to find out more, visit kachemakbayscience.org, or listen to this week’s interview with conference organizers and presenters.

FWS

Alaska’s unforgiving climate once kept invasive species at bay.

Katherine Schake, of the Homer Soil and Water Conservation District, said that isn’t the case anymore.

Peter Micciche/Facebook

Every year, Alaskans flock to the Kenai and Kasilof rivers for a chance to scoop up some of the sockeye salmon that pack the estuaries on their way upriver to spawn. Many peninsula residents have mixed feelings about these fisheries, but one thing that's pretty clearly unpopular is the mess the fisheries often generate.

A photo of overflowing dumpsters at the mouth of the Kasilof River, near the personal use dipnet fishery, touched off angry debates on social media this week. The photo, taken Monday morning after a busy three-day holiday weekend loaded with beautiful weather and a healthy sockeye run to the Kasilof, shows four dumpsters packed to the brim with trash and more scattered across the pavement nearby.

Kenai Watershed Forum

 The Kenai Watershed Forum’s annual 5K race series is kicking off this week, but don’t look for it on Tsalteshi Trails—this year, it’ll be in town.

The annual run series came from a Caring for the Kenai project by Kenai runner Ali Ostrander and has grown to draw more than a hundred runners of all skills and ages every Wednesday in July and early August. The Kenai Watershed Forum runs the event as a fundraiser. It’s always been on the trails, but this year, Watershed Forum development director Tami Murray said the outhouse at the trails wasn’t going to work for sanitation purposes, so they’re trying it out in town.

Kenai Watershed Forum

Usually, June is a hopping month on the Kenai Peninsula, packed with festivals, fun runs, and summer camps. This year, most of them are limited, cancelled or postponed. But there are still a few options for parents looking to get their kids outside into the sunshine.

Solid Rock Bible Camp outside Soldotna is pressing on with its summer camps, including overnights. The camp organizers are trying to include as much of the normal camp experience as they can, but that doesn’t mean it’s entirely business as usual. Courtney Proctor, a spokesperson for the camp, said there will be some changes, like doing more things outside and keeping group games smaller.

Kenai Watershed Forum

The Kenai River Festival should be celebrating its 30th year this June but the Kenai Watershed Forum announced today that the festival will be taking a year off in light of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Branden Bornemann is the executive director of the Kenai Watershed Forum. He said staff and the board of directors made the difficult decision.

“We did not feel comfortable, we did not feel like we could successfully hold the festival and keep people safe, and that includes the many hundreds of volunteers who help us put on the festival, the vendors, all the local businesses and everyone who comes out to enjoy the festival,” Bornemann said.

Kenai Conversation: Invasive species

Nov 21, 2019

Longer, drier summers, teamed with shorter, warmer winters are giving invasive species better opportunities to gain a foothold on the Kenai Peninsula. On this week’s Kenai Conversation, we’ll learn about what species pose a threat, and why, with Katherine Schake from the Homer Soil and Water Conservation District, Borough Land Manager Marcus Mueller and Maura Schumacher, invasives specialist at the Kenai Watershed Forum.

  The Kenai City Council on Wednesday night passed a $16-point-5 million General Fund budget, which covers the basic operation of the city. Another $14 million is appropriated from the city’s various other funds, such as the airport, senior center and capital project funds for their respective operations.

Bacteria monitoring in Kenai River funded

May 2, 2019

For a time during Wednesday night’s Kenai City Council meeting, the passage of funds to pay for water quality testing in the Kenai River this summer was uncertain. Council members felt burned by press reports last year that there was an elevated level of bacteria levels on the beaches during the dipnet season, and they blamed the Kenai Watershed Forum, which is the contractor hired to collect the water samples.

Councilman Jim Glendening explained.

Kenai Conversation: Stream Watch turns 25

Jan 4, 2019

Unfortunately, the Kenai Peninsula's healthiest river systems don't stay that way on their own. A key component to keeping rivers in good shape for fish and for us has been the Stream Watch program. Since 1994, Stream Watch volunteers have donated time to not only keeping things clean, but informing visitors of the right way to enjoy a day on the river.

Clearing (under) the road for juvenile fish

Dec 11, 2018
Shaylon Cochran/KDLL

 

To an early homesteader or, especially, native Alaskans before that, there’s been a whole lot of stuff built on the Kenai the past 70 or so years. And not all of it was done with an eye toward what would be best for both humans and wildlife habitat. But we’re learning.

 

 


John Reed/USGS

 

The salmon run has gone from red to silver, but some summer projects are still being wrapped up on the Kenai River. The Kenai Watershed Forum will conduct its last sample of the season Friday, searching for bacteria and their sources in the river.

 

 


Jenny Neyman/KDLL

The Kasilof River has been open to dip-netting since June 25. Newly expanded facilities and parking area on the north shore of the river mouth means easier access for dip-netters. Easier access means more visitors. And more people can mean more trash left behind.

That’s where the Stream Watch program comes in.

“If you’d like you can grab a bag and help yourself to cleaning up the roads or a little bit of the beach and the parking lot,” said Terese Schomogyi, a summer intern with the Kenai Watershed Forum’s Stream Watch program, which organizes volunteers to do restoration, protection and education programs along sensitive sections of waterways on the Kenai Peninsula.


Unintended consequences endanger peninsula salmon

Jun 20, 2018

On the Kenai Peninsula, salmon are king. Whether they’re king salmon or one of the other species of salmonid that populate our fresh waters. And that’s why when there’s a biologic danger to their existence, people go into high gear to try and protect them.

Take invasive species for example. About 20 years ago, northern pike were illegally introduced into Kenai Peninsula lakes by persons unknown. And they thrived, just like they do elsewhere in Alaska where they naturally occur. But here on the Kenai, the pike’s success came at a cost - the lives of baby salmon.

Kenai Watershed Forum

Summer camp, river clean ups, Stream Watch and River Fest. Summer is a busy time at the Kenai Watershed Forum.

Summer camp puts science in focus

May 30, 2018
Kenai Watershed Forum

 

School may be out for summer, but that doesn’t mean science education takes a break. The Kenai Watershed Forum’s annual summer camp gets underway June 11th.

Kenai Watershed Forum

 

Submission of a state water quality report to the federal government is on hold again. The Department of Environmental Conservation’s integrated water quality and assessment is overdue by five years.