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Thread: Mary King Kenai River Habitat Reports Published... 15 years later

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    Default Mary King Kenai River Habitat Reports Published... 15 years later

    After 15 years in peer review, Mary King's Kenai River shoreline habitat assessment reports have been published. Thanks ADFG for getting this info out there. What a shame that this kind of research hasn't continued, despite that fact that our fisheries management plans require it. Apparently we are too busy building parking lots... Oh God, I'm way to cynical, but it is Friday...

    http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/FedAidPDFs/FDS15-33.pdf

    http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/FedAidPDFs/FDS15-34.pdf

    From the recommendations section of the latter (2001) report:

    "Anglers were found to significantly accelerate the bank erosion process and alter riparian habitat. Whether these effects have a cumulative, long term, negative impact on fish habitat is more challenging to answer. Biologists have documented the necessary components of fish habitat (Platts et al. 1983). Alteration of these habitats certainly raises concern (Tarbox and Bendock 1996), especially if that change occurs at a high rate. Quantifying these changes may be expensive and time-consuming but given the understanding that stream riparian areas provide the “structural and nonstructural habitat components (i.e. streambank vegetation, channel structure, and water quality) [that are] required to sustain productive fishery resources” (American Fisheries Society [AFS] policy statement #14, available at http://fisheries.org/docs/policy_statements/policy_14f.pdf[accessed 8/28/2014]), we suggest that fisheries managers should reevaluate how sport fisheries are prosecuted on the Kenai River. We should strive to provide acceptable levels of participation in these fisheries while minimizing their impacts to the riparian habitat."



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    Thanks for the report and links.

    One question for the group. There is a considerable difference between the location of summer and not-summer river banks. The summer banks have a lot of vegetation. The not-summer banks are mostly rocks. Why is vegetation only important in the summer in Alaska? In the PNW, the situation is reversed, with peak flows in winter and rocky shores in summer. Salmon thrive in both places, depending on ocean conditions. So, why are winter rock shoes in Alaska and summer rock shores in the PNW ok, but summer in Alaska needs vegetation?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tee Jay View Post
    Thanks for the report and links.

    One question for the group. There is a considerable difference between the location of summer and not-summer river banks. The summer banks have a lot of vegetation. The not-summer banks are mostly rocks. Why is vegetation only important in the summer in Alaska? In the PNW, the situation is reversed, with peak flows in winter and rocky shores in summer. Salmon thrive in both places, depending on ocean conditions. So, why are winter rock shoes in Alaska and summer rock shores in the PNW ok, but summer in Alaska needs vegetation?
    One answer for you is that most fish in PWS are pink salmon which do not rear in freshwater. Sockeye,coho, and chinook salmon have summer rearing periods.

    Next, vegetation in summer nearshore provides cover from predators and a food source and a place out of the current. In addition it modifies temperatures.

    If you have specific species and streams one may be able to comment more on your observation. Saying salmon thrive is not very useful as the productivity of a system needs better metrics.

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    Nerka:
    Thanks. There constructively are no pinks in the major coastal streams, so kiss that idea off. Coho and Chinook are the major species, or Kings and Silvers if you prefer. There is a small run of sockeye on the Sol Duc to Lake Pleasant, and no significant fishery. Sea run Cutts are also present.

    I accept you rationale, but why is it needed in Alaska and absent in the PNW, and why is the seasonal variance reversed yet both stocks thrive, depending on ocean conditions? If you need specifics, try the Hoh, Sol Duc, Calawah, Bogachiel and Qeets. We could include the Elwha, but it is in dam removal questionable stage right now, again, no pinks.

    These rivers are rather steep gradients in their upper reaches, and soft in the lower reaches, so eroding in the upper and aggregating or accreting, or whatever the right word is, in the lower reaches. The lower reaches are meandering, and sometimes braided. They are relatively short. The upper reaches are National Park or National Forest. The Hoh is glacial, the others not so much. Nealy all fishing activity is in the lower reaches.

    One potential answer in you reply involves current. Rivers at summer low flows don't have much. There are some deep holes.

    There are areas of arching trees for shade, and deep canyons for shade, but very little shore side vegetation in summer. Still wondering.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tee Jay View Post
    Thanks for the report and links.

    One question for the group. There is a considerable difference between the location of summer and not-summer river banks. The summer banks have a lot of vegetation. The not-summer banks are mostly rocks. Why is vegetation only important in the summer in Alaska? In the PNW, the situation is reversed, with peak flows in winter and rocky shores in summer. Salmon thrive in both places, depending on ocean conditions. So, why are winter rock shoes in Alaska and summer rock shores in the PNW ok, but summer in Alaska needs vegetation?
    \

    TJ - I'd like to respond, but I find your post confusing and, quite frankly, incomprehensible.

    Summer banks? Non-summer banks? Peak flows in winter and rocky shores in summer? Winter rock shoes? Summer rock shores? Summer in Alaska needs vegetation?

    What does this mean?

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    I can't speak for TJ, but I think he's eluding to the dramatic drop in water level (and even freeze out) on many Alaskan salmon streams during non-summer months. Ambient temps drop and sunshine goes away, meaning the glaciers and snow pack produce less run-off. These salmon streams usually expose non-vegetated banks and bottoms - mostly rocks/gravel/sand/mud. The vegetation is left dry several feet above water line. During the warmer and lighter summer months, the water rises again to the vegetated shoreline. It's somewhat different than the PNW, where water levels typically drop during the summer months due to high temps, absence of snow pack, water usage, and dams/reservoirs. Perhaps this is what makes Alaska's runs so good - Lots of vegetation and protection for fingerlings and smolts in the summer months, and lots of sunlight for spawn productivity in the winter. With the exception of some flood and drought anomalies, the waters seem to rise and fall like clockwork - just like the fish runs.

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    Funtastic has it. In Alaska peak flow is in summer and the vegetation ia on the river banks. In winter the flow decreases, the streamflow recedes from the banks and there is rock and sand exposed and no streamside vegetation. In the PNW peak flow is in the winter and summer sees low flow and little vegetation on the banks.

    The coastal streams I cited have no dams, and no water useage. The Hoh and Elwha are at least partly glacial. All arise in the Olympics and none are in an urban environment.

    Any help is appreciated.

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    Loved to fish the Hoh river when I was younger..

    Anyway, one point on Alaska streams is that many of the smaller systems the fish leave in winter and over-winter in larger river systems. Even in the Kenai River there are some data to suggest chinook migrate to Skilak Lake to overwinter and leave the main river.

    Next, I know in the Hoh and other rivers the fall flushing of stream silt is critical to spawning fish. The fall rains provide this and if removed or altered the system productivity goes down.

    Finally, when we discuss things like this it is hard to put subjective comments in perspective. I am not sure what the metrics are for the various PNW streams of even some of UCI streams. For example, what is the biomass being produced per unit mile of stream? I think we may find in Alaska that some of our systems are not very good from a production metric they are just big. Skilak and Tustemena Lake are good examples.

  9. #9

    Default 15 year delay?!

    Anyone know what the story is as to why the 15-year delay in publishing this report? Seems like an unreasonable of length of time that one can only speculate on as to the reasons for...

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    Quote Originally Posted by AlaskaSaurusRex View Post
    Anyone know what the story is as to why the 15-year delay in publishing this report? Seems like an unreasonable of length of time that one can only speculate on as to the reasons for...
    I heard that Mary King was asked this question at a KRSMA board meeting last fall, and that her answer was basically that somebody didn't like what the reports indicated.

    The management plans for the Kenai stipulate no net loss to habitat due to fishing activity. The publication of these reports would have put a damper on KRSA's plans to turn the Kenai into a theme park. No coincidence that several subsequent "habitat" reports brought to the BOF after the Mary King reports were buried were actually authored by KRSA. That's right. When I got involved a handful of years ago and asked ADFG for the most recent habitat assessment report of the Kenai, I was directed to a report with a KRSA logo on the cover. This whole issue represents some of KRSA's "best" work at the apex of their power. Let's hope they, nor any other special interest group is allowed this much power and influence going forward.

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    Clearly, the most logical conclusion is that its a conspiracy reaching to the highest levels of government to repress controversial science...

    Surely the most likely scenario..


    /sarcasm off...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jomama View Post
    Clearly, the most logical conclusion is that its a conspiracy reaching to the highest levels of government to repress controversial science...

    Surely the most likely scenario..


    /sarcasm off...
    Clearly you haven't spent much time looking into the history of Alaskan politics if you don't think this type of meddling by a special interest group is possible, even probable.

    Although I do appreciate the sarcasm

    Given the history of Kenai River fish politics, I would be interested to hear a more likely scenario...

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by smithtb View Post
    I heard that Mary King was asked this question at a KRSMA board meeting last fall, and that her answer was basically that somebody didn't like what the reports indicated.

    The management plans for the Kenai stipulate no net loss to habitat due to fishing activity. The publication of these reports would have put a damper on KRSA's plans to turn the Kenai into a theme park. No coincidence that several subsequent "habitat" reports brought to the BOF after the Mary King reports were buried were actually authored by KRSA. That's right. When I got involved a handful of years ago and asked ADFG for the most recent habitat assessment report of the Kenai, I was directed to a report with a KRSA logo on the cover. This whole issue represents some of KRSA's "best" work at the apex of their power. Let's hope they, nor any other special interest group is allowed this much power and influence going forward.
    Very interesting. These would have been particularly pertinent documents to have had on hand in Summer 2015 when the ballot initiative to reduce riparian buffer zones was afoot.

    Not to get too overblown on conspiracy theories, but if "somebody" didn't like the reports there would at least have to be someone within ADF&G to go along with holding back on publication.

    The only habitat report on the KRSA website I found was this one; it has more to do with assessing restoration projects.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jomama View Post
    Clearly, the most logical conclusion is that its a conspiracy reaching to the highest levels of government to repress controversial science...

    Surely the most likely scenario..


    /sarcasm off...
    Not sure I understand your sarcasm. Are you implying that during a time of political wrangling, lobbying, and BOF corruption, it was only coincidence that Mary King's ADFG report was suppressed for 15 years, all while a completely different report by a private fishing organization (KRSA) who's objective is to exploit the fishery, donned the spotlight with their own reports - logo and all?

    I think you're out-of-touch with reality, Jomama.

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by AlaskaSaurusRex View Post
    Very interesting. These would have been particularly pertinent documents to have had on hand in Summer 2015 when the ballot initiative to reduce riparian buffer zones was afoot.
    Perhaps, but remember that the Kenai has had this riparian buffer zone for quite some time.

    Quote Originally Posted by AlaskaSaurusRex View Post
    Not to get too overblown on conspiracy theories, but if "somebody" didn't like the reports there would at least have to be someone within ADF&G to go along with holding back on publication.
    You said it, not me! More than one ADFG employee has benefited from a cozy relationship with this group. Also, it does not necessarily have to achieve "conspiracy" status within ADFG to be believable. It could simply be the result of what was at the time a total lack of political will within the department to do anything to solve these problems - as the solutions would undoubtedly include restricting access and other unpopular measures, not to mention a very rough time moving through the ranks of ADFG or politics for whomever made a big deal about getting these reports published. No doubt KRSA exploited this unwillingness, and made life difficult for anyone who opposed them... Just ask Mary...

    In ADFG's defense, the results of these studies likely caused them to take some action and initiate some protections despite the reports being buried. Perhaps not enough, and that in no way absolves them from the requirements set forth in Alaska Satutes, the Sustainable Salmon Fisheries Policy, or the Kenai River management plans. Pretty clear that this stuff should be reported regularly at BOF meetings, not once every couple decades.

    Quote Originally Posted by AlaskaSaurusRex View Post
    The only habitat report on the KRSA website I found was this one; it has more to do with assessing restoration projects.
    Yah, I think that's the one... I guess you could understand my confusion when that was where I got directed when asking for the most recent habitat assessment of the Kenai River. I'm nearly certain that report used to be available through ADFG - on their website and in their lobby - in the same cozy relationship that you can still see in many KRSMA publications, which sport KRSA's logo....

    Again, not trying to dog on ADFG - and certainly not the current ADFG leadership who obviously made getting these reports published a priority, just trying to illustrate that this is not conspiracy nut stuff - KRSA has too much power and influence for a "charity".

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    Quote Originally Posted by smithtb View Post
    I would be interested to hear a more likely scenario...

    It languished on an overworked publications staff desk (if you can call one longterm employee for SF & CF.. "staff"), waited through their retirement & eventual rehire and replacement, and all while waiting for signatures for supervisors for years, and was just lost in the day2day...

    I know, a conspiracy to suppress that relatively uncontroversial piece of study, that really doesn't make any outlandish recommendations, and deals with a subject that ADF&G has limited input and authority over (land use) seems soooo much more likely...

    Of course it far more in-touch to leap right to the "it's a conspiracy theory..." /woot-woot!!! All aboard the crazy train!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jomama View Post
    It languished on an overworked publications staff desk (if you can call one longterm employee for SF & CF.. "staff"), waited through their retirement & eventual rehire and replacement, and all while waiting for signatures for supervisors for years, and was just lost in the day2day...

    I know, a conspiracy to suppress that relatively uncontroversial piece of study, that really doesn't make any outlandish recommendations, and deals with a subject that ADF&G has limited input and authority over (land use) seems soooo much more likely...

    Of course it far more in-touch to leap right to the "it's a conspiracy theory..." /woot-woot!!! All aboard the crazy train!
    Well I was not going to jump in but this post made me change my mind. I was around for the study, know Mary very well, and watched the internal fights over sport fishing habitat issues. The truth is the Department in both Commercial and Sport Fisheries did not want to deal with habitat issues. In Commercial Fisheries I was attacked by Habitat Division for pointing out the lack of a comprehensive plan for the 50/50 program and taking a reporter up the river to show the habitat damage being done. Mary's report came out at a bad time relative to Sport Fish leadership and there is no doubt it was buried. Not the first or last report to be buried by Regional or Headquarter staff. Look at the failure of the chinook sonar projects. The failure was well known before it became public. Commercial Fisheries reports have been less controversial and thus in UCI have been more data oriented and better peer reviewed because of funding requirements (EVOS money for example).

    So yes there was an effort to reduce habitat discussions and still are today. Look at how ADF&G responded to the turbidity issue in the Little Susitna and Kenai. Look at how ADF&G responded to hydrocarbons in both systems. Only when forced by outside forces will ADF&G take a lead. Another example is the Commissioners have failed to stand up for habitat. Look at what Cora did for in-stream flow reservations and the inability to speak out against the coal mine. When was the last time ADF&G really stood up for habitat by taking the lead. On the Kenai they run from habitat issues.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jomama View Post
    It languished on an overworked publications staff desk (if you can call one longterm employee for SF & CF.. "staff"), waited through their retirement & eventual rehire and replacement, and all while waiting for signatures for supervisors for years, and was just lost in the day2day...

    I know, a conspiracy to suppress that relatively uncontroversial piece of study, that really doesn't make any outlandish recommendations, and deals with a subject that ADF&G has limited input and authority over (land use) seems soooo much more likely...

    Of course it far more in-touch to leap right to the "it's a conspiracy theory..." /woot-woot!!! All aboard the crazy train!
    Good Lord, that must have been one messy desk.

    Yep, I'm cray-cray for believing that there is more to this issue than staff turnover and a messy desk. If what you are hypothesizing is true - that it got lost in the day 2 day - that is no better. THESE REPORTS ARE REQUIRED BY THE MANAGEMENT PLANS!!! NO NET LOSS!!! They should have been a priority, just like fancy new counters, bigger parking lots, AMR's, and escapement goal reviews.

    This "relatively uncontroversial piece of study" would have been bad for a certain group's goals of increasing escapements and inriver activity in an effort to monetize our river to the last drop. I can imagine that competing user groups would have had a hay-day with this report when arguing against some of the proposals aimed at providing more sportfishing opportunity inriver...

    Of course you overstated my claim. I'm not claiming some grand conspiracy on the part of ADFG, just an imperfect system (with a nasty sham of a charity right in the middle of it). In fact, I tried several posts ago to establish that I DO give ADFG credit for heeding some of the recommendation in this report, despite their unwillingness to publish it. The failure to publish these habitat reports is no more or less a conspiracy than many other things - such as the past and present failure of ADFG, DEC, or DNR to act on water quality issues in the Kenai, or failure of those same entities to come up with solutions to the overcrowding on our rivers other than bigger boats and motors and more parking lots, launches, and porta-potties. It's a lack of political willpower to address the obvious - you cannot allow unlimited access to a limited resource. It's a tough issue and I certainly don't have the solution, but we need to have the discussion.

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    Quote Originally Posted by smithtb View Post
    Yep, I'm cray-cray...
    I must be too. Here I thought politics played a role in our fish wars. Now Jomama tells me I'm crazy - especially when it comes to habitat reports that had the potential to restrain powerful organizations like KRSA. Ah, those reports just get lost. Of course. Who knew. Crazy me, what was I thinking?

    Oh, wait...are we talking about the same ADF&G who's Commissioners hang out with powerful politicians, high-rolling mucky-mucks, and rich corporate sharks at KRSA's Kenai Classic? Wait...this can't be the same ADF&G who's Commissioner was under APOC investigation and forced to amend filings, was it? Wait...ADFG is attending the same corrupt KRSA Kenai Classic that was slapped with ethic violation warnings by the State's Attorney General?

    Jomama, are you sure politics don't play a role in what comes out of ADF&G? Cause it looks like you are the one riding the crazy train of conspiracy theories.

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    I dont disagree with either of your perspectives (Nerka, Smithtb).... I just cringe and at the constant conspiratorial tone, and that its as deliberate as is inferred... Yes F&G can and does often seem weak on habitat issues... the habitat division never really bounced back. My experience is this is a little of the old guard not seeing AK as habitat limited, a little political expedience, and many just realizing/understanding that F&G authority on habitat/land-use issues is severely limited, so why focus so much on something the agency has little control over (in a time of tight budgets)... I'm sure given the tools F&G would be more conservative on land use issues, but as long as DNR (and ultimately the legislature keeps them weak) run the show, its like shouting at the tide...

    I also know that Mary proposed some pretty severe (and legally undefendable) solutions to her studies, ones not in the results, such as vacating public easements in an attempt to limit access (and by default, remove the bank trampling public)... A crude solution at best.

    My experience is not that there are a lack of laws protecting habitat (albeit a bit vague and subjective at times), but a lack of political/agency will to enforce them, and that is not due to F&G leaders, but its a reality they've likely come to accept.

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