KENAI, Alaska — Excessive motor boat traffic in July made a section of the lower Kenai River too muddy, a state agency report said.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation released its findings on Thursday, concluding that about 7 miles (12 kilometers) of the river exceeds the water quality standards for turbidity — the measure of how much sediment or organic material is suspended in the water column, the Peninsula Clarion reported .
The measure was high, but not enough to damage fish and aquatic wildlife.
Some turbidity is natural, coming from upstream sediment load moving downstream, but the high motor boat traffic exacerbates it in the highest traffic areas of the river. The area of concern is one of the highest traffic areas, including two major lower-river boat launches and multiple popular king salmon and sockeye salmon fishing areas in July.
Some studies have shown that when water is excessively cloudy, it can increase predation risk for juvenile salmon and make it harder for them to spot food in the water.
“The thing about the turbidity issue is it isn’t going to get better,” said Dwight Kramer, who chaired the Kenai River Special Management Area Advisory Board’s River Use Committee for several years. “It’s only going to get worse . It’s up to the state if they want to try to nip this thing in the bud while they still can.”
The agency’s report will be up for public discussion until the end of January, at which point it will go through state and federal reviews. After that, a designation could be established that would require the state to develop a recovery plan for the river.
Division of Water spokeswoman Cindy Gilder said a recovery plan would be formed based on public comment.
“DEC works with stakeholders to develop recovery plans,” Gilder said. “This often includes hosting meetings to discuss our findings and investigate options for restoring the water. Sometimes we prepare a draft plan and then get stakeholder input.”
Information from: (Kenai, Alaska) Peninsula Clarion, http://www.peninsulaclarion.com