Alaska’s Legislature passed a capital budget late last month. The $1.4 billion list of projects is the skinniest budget in 17 years, but there are a few projects on the Kenai Peninsula. The Exon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council is funding several restoration projects on the Kenai, Kasilof and Anchor rivers through the capital budget.
The Department of Natural Resources’ State Parks Division will oversee the six projects. Kenai and Prince William Sound State Park Superintendent Jack Blackwell says the projects will improve access into the three rivers and restore fish habitat.
“The projects will include habitat restoration work using bioengineering techniques such as root wads and spruce tree layering,” Blackwell explained. “Then protection work will also include elevated light penetrating walkways that will provide access along the rivers while protecting important habitat.”
About 1,200 feet of elevated walkways will be installed along riverbanks at five of the sites. Each will have several sets of stairs for multiple points of access into the rivers.
Near the mouth of Anchor River, anglers access a popular fishing hole by walking through tall grass. The makeshift trails damage vital vegetation along the river, a similar issue for many popular fishing spots on the Kenai and Kasilof. A 200-foot walkway will be installed near the mouth of the Anchor River to prevent further damage to vegetation.
Blackwell says each walkway installed on the three rivers will allow the vegetation below them to grow, preventing future erosion.
“It allows light to penetrate to the vegetation on the ground and allow vegetation to grow. It’s kind of a combined effort of protecting the vegetation, allowing it to continue to grow in this important habitat area, while providing access for people,” he said.
The Anchor Point project will include 600 feet of riverbank restoration as well. The Kasilof will also see improved access and some bank restoration near Crooked Creek.
On the Kenai River, the division is looking to install 700 feet of walkways at a popular fishing spot between Kenai and Soldotna and near the mouth of the river. It also plans to restore nearly 17 acres of riverbank near Funny River.
The Exon Valdez Trustee Council also plans to spend $1.5 million to buy about 2,000 acres of land from the Seldovia Native Association in Kachemak Bay. The deal includes Gull Island, the China Poot Bay Spit and the Barrier Islands. Gull Island will be incorporated in the Maritime National Wildlife Refuge and will be managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Alaska Department of Natural Resources will manage the China Poot Spit and Barrier Islands. The deal is intended to protect wildlife habitat.