The Department of Environmental Conservation tonight at the Kenai River Special Management Area advisory board stated that they intent to list the Kenai River as impaired under the Clean Water Act. This action is based on violation of state standards for the protection of aquatic life. DEC representatives stated that 600 gallons of fuel a day enters the river in the month of July. The primary cause of this pollution is boats.
DEC also stated that horsepower increases will not solve the fuel problem and that a reduction in boats or use patterns will be necessary.
The classification of this world class river as impaired is a statement on the inability of state agencies to control the growth on the river and resultant impacts.
The Department of Natural Resources has control over use patterns on the river through special legislation passed in the mid-80's for the protection of fish and wildlife. They have failed because special interest groups have been able to politically stop or alter regulations to protect the river. These user groups maintain they want to save the river and raise millions of dollars under the habitat banner only to stiffle real and meaningful change.
The impact on the communities of the Kenai Peninsula from this lisitng are not fully understood at this time. However, the fact that the tourism industry in Alaska sells a pristine environment as a prime reason for visiting the State it is hard to believe this will have no impact on people coming to the Kenai Peninsula. After all the peninsula is now a world famous river with the same status as polluted streams in their home towns.
It is a sad day for Alaska but it shows we are no different from any other community that has allowed itself to be used by powerful political leaders. Every year the politically powerful come to the Kenai for the Kenai River Classic and donate millions of dollars for habitat issues. Kind of hard to sell that anymore given 600 gallons of fuel flow down the river each day in July.