Mother Nature vs. power boats
With all the flooding and destruction that is happening on the Kenai right now, I was wondering if all the talk about the effects of boat wakes can even come close to what is happening on the banks of the river this very moment. Any comments?
This debate has rage for far too long. You will never convince those with differing opinions. An atom bomb going off there would not change their minds. Ignorance or blind stupidity, not sure what it could be labeled. But to me the answer is obvious. Mother Nature dictates change, and there is no rule of law going to change that. I feel no pity for the developers, including the state that have altered the landscape. There simply ain't no way no how, that you will keep a river in check. Dikes along the Matanuska have proven that out, and I would dare anyone to attribute the damage to power boat wakes. Nonsense plain and simple.
I have been asked about the recent flood and ice issue on the Kenai River and the impacts on salmon. Believe me when I say that my comments are speculation based on some knowledge but open to discussion and debate.
First, I want to comment on the issue of erosion from boat wakes vs. this natural event. This is an apple and orange discussion. Usually one looks at impacts from a temporal and spatial viewpoint. So impacts from boat wakes in July are not really comparable to bank alternation from this flood event.
Let me give an example. In winter, juvenile fish have moved to their over wintering sites like the Moose River, the large lake systems, or specific sites in the tributaries. For example, ADF&G studies of chinook indicated that a number of rearing fry move from the lower river all the way to Skilak Lake to over winter. In addition, eggs are in the gravel and may or may not be exposed depending on the scouring effect from the size of a flood. In contrast, in July juvenile salmon are rearing and migrating along the river banks, adult fish are just about to spawn and flows are higher for a longer period, and those juvenile fish are sight feeders that need to see their prey.
One thing I have learned is that human caused deviations from the norm are to be done with caution. It is arrogance for anyone to say they know how fish are produced in the Kenai River and what variables are important and which ones are not. We just do not understand this ecosystem that well. So maintaining a normal process for the river is the best way to keep the risk of salmon population failure low.
Therefore, this ice and flood event is normal in the long term history of the river. Boat wakes in July which increases sedimentation and turbidity levels above the background are not.
Relative to this flood and ice event it is interesting to watch and of course the impacts should be documented to help our understanding of river processes. For example, the banks are frozen so was the ice really effective in removing material ( I was on one section of river bank today that appears to be very stable), the removal of trees and other vegetation in the floodplain is taking place at other sites and should be documented, flows and river stage should be mapped to help define areas for examination in the spring and fall, structures that went into the river should be documented and the design or use of in-river walkways should be reexamined, aerial pictures should be taken in the spring to help define river changes, and the list can go on. However, my guess is that none of this will happen and we will all sit around saying remember what happened in 2007? No one will as we are all getting older and no documentation will exist to help us.
Nerka & Akres,
Great responses. I'm all in favor of being good stewards of the land but some times all our precautions seem small in comparison to what mother nature can do. My history might be wrong but doesn't flooding usually take place in a season other than winter? Wasn't the last one in the fall of '95? What was the effect on the spawning/rearing of salmon with the erosion that occured then?
And many more before that. Many understand the river and the ecosystem a lot more than some that have "studied" it. Many take their few hours/days/months worth of snapshot and try to apply it as an over-arching analysis. Floods have filled in the spawning beds, fishing holes and it takes years for them to re-establish. As I said before you will not change the minds of those with an agenda and preconceived notions. We should be even more deeply saddened that many of them are on the state/borough payrolls, to tell us how ignorant we are. Rivers are DYNAMIC no denying that.
Originally Posted by tcman
why did this thread move?
What I want to know is why this thread was moved from the fishing forum to the boating forum? If boat wake studies can be a thread in the fishing forum, and the proposal to increase the horsepower to 50 can be a thread in the fishing forum, 2 cycle motors vs 4 stroke motors in the fishing forum, why can't a thread about flooding/habitat destruction on the Kenai River be in the fishing forum?
first hand look
Today I paddled from the UNOCAL launch (a few miles upstream of Swiftwater Park) down to Slikok Creek (Mile 19). In this stretch, most of the boardwalks are damaged or gone. I'd guess something like 80%.
I thought I read in the paper an estimate of $1 million in damage - I am certain that this is considerably low.
The streamside vegetation was surprisingly intact, in very few places did I observe fresh soil. Lots of the alder and willow had bark stripped, but very few places did I see any ripped out of the ground. There were several areas of very heavy ice where some large trees were broken, but the roots and surrounding soil were not disturbed. The ice will need to melt a more to know for sure how much damage there is to the soils, but it looks like it came through much better than the built structures. The rootwad stabilization techniques and even the cabled spruce trees seemed to survive well.
So even though this kind of event happens every few decades it doesn't appear to be as damaging to the riverbanks as it does to the boardwalks.
On another note, there was only one piece of metal sticking out of the water in the navigation channel. We were able to drag this to the shoreline. When the ice breaks up farther downstream, I intend to continue getting a first hand look, and will report back.
Last edited by Chaos; 02-03-2007 at 18:28.