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Thread: Kenai River to be classified impaired.

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    Default Kenai River to be classified impaired.

    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.

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    Angry Sad day for the Kenai, for Alaskans. . .

    This is indeed a sad day for Alaskans—the great Kenai River is now impaired, polluted by hydrocarbons poured into the river by boats in pursuit of money and king salmon. And it's a shameful day for Alaska's Department of Fish & Game, Department of Natural Resources, and Department of Environmental Conservation, who have collectively failed Alaskans as the gatekeepers of the state's resources by allowing this travesty of their function to even occur.

    As DEC observed at last night's KRSMA board meeting, the solution has got to be a reduction in boats or in use patterns. As I see it, the easiest, quickest, and least disruptive way to change boat-use patterns on the Kenai is to abolish catch-and-release.

    Thousands upon thousands of gallons of fuel are expended on the Kenai by boats and anglers in endless pursuit of kings, either as trophies, just for the fun of catching them, letting them go to do it over and over and over again, or for the table.

    Current regulations allow an angler two Kenai kings annually. If we make the first two Kenai kings brought to the boat—keep them or let them go, your choice—one's two kings for the year and you're off the river, the reduction in boat-hours on the river would be immense.

    Such a solution does not decrease "opportunity," (the very air breathed by ADF&G's Sport Fish Division), it merely constricts it. The chance to catch a big king—whether for fun and thrills, for a trophy, or for the table—is still there. The commercial sportfishing industry can sell as many or even more trips and lodging because anglers would rotate through the system much more quickly, Sport Fish Division can collect revenues on as many or more license sales, and those wanting a king on the table can still kill two fish.

    We must reduce motorized boat use on the Kenai. Other options are available such as simply limiting entry, reducing the number of commercial operators, more drift-only days, or a drift-only fishery. Abolishing catch-and-release is perhaps the least disruptive.

  3. #3

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    It seems this would have made bigger news today. I can't find it in any of the state papers. I might be missing it, but you would think this is front page stuff.
    Maybe tomorrows paper?

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    Default Too soon. . .

    It just happened last night's KRSMA board meeting. . .

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    Unhappy User groups

    I was contacted by DNR a couple of weeks ago and was asked If I were going to attend the meetings. I told them that I would submit a letter to Jack Sinclair, but not attend due to work schedule.
    I am a commercial user group on the lower kenai river with Power boats, Rafts, Canoes, Kayaks, Row, drift boats rental Operator.
    My suggestion was that I was afraid Kenai sports fisherman and Kenai river guides yeilded so much power that the DNR, ADF&G, ADEC etc, was not thinking straight about the real issues. It was even suggested that some bully action has taken place. When I heard that someone tried to bully a ADEC rep from the Peninsula, I called the ADEC Juneau office and ask them to be aware that this may have happened. The said they would investigate.
    My comments in writing to Jack Sinclair, was that they have a responsibilty FIRST to the River, not US user groups.
    Marcus said it right that we have done it too ourselves thru greed and mis use of this wonderful resource.
    I am truly sorry that our river now bears this Classification.

    This is indeed a sad day for Alaskans—the great Kenai River is now impaired, polluted by hydrocarbons poured into the river by boats in pursuit of money and king salmon.


    As I drove into my yard this morning from working night shift, I passed by my 17ft river boat with the detuned 4 stroker sitting there, and said again to myself, "I am part of the problem".
    I hope the DNR, ADF&G and ADEC have grown enough teeth to take charge of the situation and will not be influenced by money interests.
    Last week one of the Kenai River Master guides stopped by my home for a short visit, we have known each other since the first day he arrived here on the Kenai. He also sits on the Guides association presidency. His comments to me where inline with mine that someone without a dog in the money fight needs to make the tough decisions. River water quality and bank protection has to be the focus point.., Not people like us that make part of our living off of it. It makes us to bias...
    Max
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    Rentals for Canoes, Kayaks, Rafts, boats serving the Kenai canoe trail system and the Kenai river for over 15 years. www.alaskacanoetrips.com

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    Angry Politicized process = polluted protection. . .

    Well and unselfishly said, AKcanoe, but not all are as responsible. I attended the KRSMA board meeting last evening but left early, about 7 PM. Have since learned that after I left, the KRSMA board unbelievably voted, with one exception, to reaffirm its support of going to 50 horsepower.

    The KRSMA board has no data that states such an increase in horsepower will reduce hydrocarbon emissions, no data that shows such increase will not worsen erosion and habitat destruction, and no data from Phase II of the wake study. Reportedly, one KRSMA board member cavalierly stated that the board might have to retract its support in six months.

    And, yes, I too heard, from a very credible source, that political bullying of DEC staff occurred at high levels in Juneau.

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    Default

    I certainly do not want to sound like I know what the solution is here, so please just take this as suggestive. I have only been in Alaska for two years now and have thoroughly enjoyed fishing the kenai river. I have yet to do it by boat, but that is just because I enjoy walking the river so much, and because I usually don't want to pay the fees the guides charge.

    I find it interesting that some of these posts mention how people who don't have ties to the money should make these decisions. I think that is either somewhat disingenuous or simply false optimism given the way our state, and country for that matter, works. Money runs it all. I respect Alaskacanoe for even stopping to consider whether or not he is part of the problem. My guess is that several guides will be more upset by this classification because it might take away from their bottom line somewhere down the road. I think we all saw this type of behavior this past summer when the kenai was shut down to sockeye fishing. It seemed that fish and game was truly concerned about the state of the fishery because the numbers were so low. Weighing the health of the fishery against the economics of it, they made the tough decision to shut it down. People were mad because it took away from their guiding, fishing opportunities, sales in Soldotna, Kenai, etc.

    If the number of days of motors on the river drops, guides will throw a fit over this, I have no doubt. This is their livelihood, and it certainly would be understandable. Not everybody will be as reflective Alaskacanoe. To make tough decisions without regard to the economics would probably be silly, and impossible. Look at the potetial magnitude of what has been happening on the north slope recently. Gas prices went up a dime or two because of what appears to be BP's stupidity and greed, and the whole country seems to have gone nuts over it. But, instead of being upset that BP almost caused a major disaster, Congress, the president, etc. seem to be more upset about the gas prices. Again, money is fueling that debate.

    As for Marcus' idea of abolishing catch and release, I simply disagree. Yes, people certainly come for the King salmon. But why should somebody like me have to keep a rainbow trout that I won't eat rather than do everything I can to help it live another day. I have always respected your opinions on this forum, and I even respect your desire to never practice catch and release, I simply don't agree with them for myself. Aside from that though, I wonder how many people actually catch more than 2 Kenai kings per year, releasing the ones they don't want. It seems that we have many tourists that come up each year and go out on a guided trip for a day, maybe two, and are often unsuccessful in catching anything, let alone that trophy king. Abolishing catch and release does not seem like it would have any impact on this. Granted, there are probably some Alaskans that spend enormous amounts of time on that river each summer chasing their trophy, but I bet this number would be negligible as compared to the number of people who get guides for just a day or two.

    Also, even you concede that anglers would rotate through the system more quickly. Given that most guides are booked solid at the height of king season, I don't see how forcing someone to take two fish will solve the problem. If a guide takes one client out for five days, or takes five clients out for one day at a time, that guides boat is still on the river five days.

    I really don't know what the solution is. Maybe one motor day on the river a week? Or just two? Who knows. I would not want to put people out of work nor would I want to see those towns who rely on the tourism revenue go under because nobody is there to fish. It is definitely a tough situation. But I guarantee money will drive the ultimate decisions. Take a look at the lower 48. Several great salmon rivers have been dammed up, real estate put on the banks, etc., all because of money driving the political force. I think Alaska is simply catching up in those regards.

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    Default Questions...

    Does the DEC break the 600 gallons of fuel by the type of motor (2 or 4 stroke) that the boaters use? Where do they take the readings and is the methods sound for determing the amount of fuel in the river at any given time. Is there any valid studies on the effect of the fuel on the wildlife in the river. The reason that I ask is groups like the DEC have an agenda and love using "junk science" to suit their needs. A dutuned motor is not running as it was designed, therefore it is more likely to add polutants to the water. The economy of the Kenai DEPENDS on the people who come to fish period. Anyone that was there when the river shut down to reds this year understands that. If the river really needs to be off limits to boaters, so be it. If I have to buy a new motor if I intend to still fish the Kenai, then I will. If the guides have to be limited, lets do it. But PLEASE if such drastic measures are needed, make sure we are doing it for the right scientific reasons and not to stroke the egos of the "enviormentalist wacko's" that love to bend public policy so they can say they are "saving" the planet.

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    Thumbs up First-hand facts. . .

    For first-hand, factual answers to your questions and speculation, try the folks below. That way, you can decide for yourself whether they're environmental wacko's or not. Let us know what you learn.

    Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation:
    http://www.dec.state.ak.us/

    Kenai Watershed Forum:
    http://www.kenaiwatershed.org/

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    Moderator Paul H's Avatar
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    The only way to truly know the effects of the hydrocarbons is to let more and more boats on, and increase the fuel emmissions to the point that there is damage to the fish, and I don't think anyone wants that to happen.

    I'd have to guess that the vast majority of that fuel is coming from old tech 2 strokes. Thus the best way to reduce pollution w/o limiting access would be a ban on old tech two strokes. Yes, some folks would have to pony up for new motors, but what's the alternative, have the entire river closed to power boats?

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    Red face Not that easy. . .

    Don't think it's that easy, Paul H. First, 2-strokes comprise a small percentage of the motors on the river, usually in the 10% range on any given day (but has occassionally been as high as 28%), and, second, what 2-strokes are present are usually fished for much shorter time periods than the 4-strokes used by the commercial sportfishing industy, which fishes hard, twelve hours a day.

    Regardless of how one tries to spin this thing, placing the blame here and there, the problem is too much boat use. Period. And boat use is increasing what with new residents and new commercial operators every year.

    And, yes, closing the river to power boats is an option. Not a pleasant one, to be sure, but an option nevertheless. No easy, painless exits from this dilemma. . .

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    Default I agree....

    Limiting power boats sounds like a good solution as long as I'm included It would be fair to limit ALL power boat trafic and only allow drift boats, and hell may freeze over...Like Marcus said, no simple solutions. I'm still trying to figure out if we really have a problem......

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    Wink What to say?

    Quote Originally Posted by SockeyOrange View Post
    I'm still trying to figure out if we really have a problem......
    The state's water quality standards, the Alaska Dept. of Environmental Conservation, the Federal Environmental Agency, and the Clean Water Act all say we do . . . have problem, that is.

    How about some solutions?


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    Default

    While the older 2 strokes are a small percentage of the boats, they are gross polluters. Aproximately 1/3 of the fuel going through an old two stroke is pumped out the exhaust raw, as well as the lubricating oil. Even if those boats make up 10% of the engines on the water, I wouldn't be the least bit suprised to see them putting out 50% of the pollution, and if they accont for 1/3 of the boats, upwards of 90% of the pollution.

    Now the over-crowding, safety and bank errosion is is solely due to boats on the river, and is going to be a lively discussion as to who, when and how restrictions will be implemented.

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    Unhappy DEC's information. . .

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul H View Post
    While the older 2 strokes are a small percentage of the boats, they are gross polluters. Aproximately 1/3 of the fuel going through an old two stroke is pumped out the exhaust raw, as well as the lubricating oil. Even if those boats make up 10% of the engines on the water, I wouldn't be the least bit suprised to see them putting out 50% of the pollution, and if they accont for 1/3 of the boats, upwards of 90% of the pollution.

    Now the over-crowding, safety and bank errosion is is solely due to boats on the river, and is going to be a lively discussion as to who, when and how restrictions will be implemented.
    Paul H: If I recall correctly, DEC said last night that while 4-strokes pollute less than do 2-strokes, 4-strokes still emit 75% or so of what a 2-stoke does. And as Nerka reported above, "DEC also stated that horsepower increases will not solve the fuel problem and that a reduction in boats or use patterns will be necessary."

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    Default Advisory Board irresponsible

    The Kenai River Special Area Management advisory board met last night and took action on the recommendation for increasing the horsepower on boats in the Kenai River. This action happened despite testimony from the State of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) that increasing horsepower from 35 to 50 hp would not address the fuel issue in the river. The standards are still expected to be violated with this action.

    First, detuned 50hp to 35hp is an unknown on fuel consumption and therefore allowing the motors to run at 50hp may not reduce fuel into the river. It is known that a straight increase in horsepower from 35 to 50 would increase fuel to the river. Even with a fully tuned 50hp 2-10% of the fuel will be discharged to the river. Boats running 12 hours a day (from primarily the guide industry) will still put lots of fuel in the river.

    Relative to 2 stroke engines, boat counts in 2006 by the Watershed Forum, under contract to DEC, indicated that only about 15% of the boats upstream of the personal use fishery are 2 strokes. Again just removing these engines from the river will not solve the problem.

    One point that was made in public testimony was that the personal use boat fishery is a major contributor to the problem in the lower river when the fish are present. In 2006, fuel standards were violated upstream (RM 7) of the personal use fishery (12.1 ppb vs. standard of 10ppb) at 3 pm. At 6:15 pm a measurement of 20.2 ppb was made at RM 1.5 (below the personal use boat fishery).

    In addition to not solving the fuel issue a number of board members expressed concern that passing this regulation now in the absence of data on erosion and safety may require them to retreat from this position in 6 months or so. In fact, Ted Wellman on the Board said that going to 50hp was like a fat man losing weight by cutting his hair. He also was the individual that made the comment about retreating from this position as data comes in. However, he along with the majority of the Board then voted for the 50hp increase.

    So at the end of a meeting in which DEC indicated that we have a river in trouble, were we have concerns about erosion and data are only a few weeks away, were we have documented social issues by a scientific conducted study, and were no data were presented on the safety issues relative to 50hp the advisory board passed the recommendation on to the Department of Natural Resources for action.

    Is the responsible public service or is this irresponsible action by the advisory board? In my opinion they acted irresponsibility. First, they acted with no information on the major issues. Second, they took an action that may in fact make the problem worse. Third, they acted as a unilateral group when in fact their authority only extends to RM 5. Rather than wait for DEC to look at the fuel issue in a comprehensive manner they acted to put DEC in the position maybe trying to solve an even greater problem. Finally, they are asking the public - both guides and non-guides, to purchase new motors when by their own admission they may retreat from in a few months as data becomes available.

    The DNR was no help in the discussion. In fact, at one point the chairman indicated that DNR had requested that the advisory board pass additional support for the 50hp recommendation at this meeting. What is DNR agenda other than a political one given the data presented?

    What is sad is that 3 State agencies, charged with protecting the river, did not speak to the horsepower issue at the meeting. The Department of Fish and Game and DNR representative sat in silence while DEC said they were neutral on the horsepower issue but when pressed by the public had to admit what was stated above. However, at the September 28th meeting of the advisory board DEC indicated that going to 50 hp was not going in the right direction. I guess calls to the Governors office worked – the position of neutrality for the agency that is charged with watching out for water quality was incomprehensible.

    Alaska salmon runs are going to be in trouble. One article people may want to read is by Tarbox Kenneth and Terry Bendock. 1996. Can Alaska Balance Economic Growth with Fish Habitat Protection? A Biologist’s Perspective. Alaska Dept of Fish and Game, Alaska Fishery Research Bulletin 3(1): 49-53

    They sum up the problem of Alaska resource protection and why it is failing. It appears at least for the Kenai they were right on the money.


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    Lightbulb Recreational user

    It seems to me that all or none is the way that this is being looked at. There is always gray.
    (1) If we have Guides spending 12+hours a day on the river. (I know I have and Im not a guide) Why not limit the time allowed to all?
    (2) If people are not maintaining their equipment why not do like Anchorage and Fairbanks do for cars and trucks and require a sticker from a certified mechanic saying that the motor is in good condition and that it has not been sticker fixed for 35 hp (I know this happens).
    I just thought I would through out some ideas because I believe shutting it down is not the solution.

  18. #18
    Moderator Alaskacanoe's Avatar
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    Default River water sampling

    Here is a link to the DEC 2003 independant water collection and survey by a private company ( Oasis).
    They were under contract to do the water sampling.
    some confusion as to the methods and where they sample will be explained in this detailed document. I was surprised at how well the samples were collected, and also other data.. very good read.
    I was told by one Avid kenai fisherman that water samples were skimmed off the top down at the Kenai dock, and in tide influenced waters and so it was the Commercial fishing fleet causing the problems.. lol.. .. I was also told that water from the Kenai bay coming upstream from the tide was cross contamination etc..lol
    anyway.. this is a great education read from the 2003 study for the Kenai.. One note, the collective accronym BTEX is something that I deal with here in the Oil and Gas industry. These are all Carcinogens and are Deadly poisons not only acute, but Chronic. Benzene, toluene, Ethylbenzene, Xylenes. Somebody set the water quality standard from hard data, not emotional bunny hugging. Noted in this State Document is that water quality in and around known Spawning areas.
    http://www.dec.state.ak.us/water/wnp...AL_14Jan04.pdf
    When you come to a fork in the trail, take it!

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    Angry

    Come on, what's the differnece between detuning an outboard and putting a 2x4 under the gas pedal in my truck? There is no difference in how the motor operates, I simply can't go any faster. Increasing the HP in no way shape or form is going to help! This is unbeleivable.

  20. #20

    Default what a shame....

    This whole circus within the state agencies and economic interests on the river would be hysterical if it wasn't so sad. We have definitively proven, beyond any doubt, that as a state we are completely incapable of handling this problem without outside intervention....how very pathetic. It gets put into the hands of the Feds in anyway then we do lose control of what happens and it appears, that is probably appropriate right now. Just as in the Pacific Northwest we will virtually annihilate and destroy the resource before anything is done about it by those who have economic or political interests associated with the river. And whoever made the comment about any supposed altruism in closing the red fishing down doesn't know the whole story as the river could well have been left open with commericial fisheries shut down....but the political powers were afraid of either side if one was shut down and the other wasn't so both were. It doesn't appear as if cajones are present here when doing what is right is in question. We all sit and argue this stupid 35 hp vs 50 hp issue when it is completely insiginificant to the real problem of the Kenai being slowly but surely destroyed. No one is arguing about erosion and pollution, we just quibble about ways to slow down the inevitable destruction....not eliminate it and stop the progressive detoriation of the whole ecosystem. Geez.....I'm starting to sound like a flower kissing Californian.

    It seems guides are frequently hosed for their useage of the river but if there has to be reduction of traffic it will have to be done by both guides and private boaters. There is no doubt, given time, and the current situation of going back and forth and measuring economic and political pressure versus real science on managing the river.......the Kenai will lose.
    And then we all lose......somehow many always want to wait until the axe has fallen before doing anything.....we have proven being proactive is not in our nature when it comes to economic interests.

    Brian

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