Protecting the Health of the Kenai River
In 2008 the Kenai River was designated as a Category 5, or “impaired,” water body by the State of Alaska in accordance with the federal Clean Water Act. The Kenai River Working Group (KRWG) was formed to address the issue of water pollution. Tasked with finding agreement amongst diverse user groups, the KRWG united surrounding communities in an effort to protect the health of the river. The KRWG recognized that the Group needed to recommend a solution that would be acceptable to all user groups. The result was a joint resolution of the communities surrounding the river urging the state to adopt a regulation change banning 2-stroke motors from being used on the Kenai River, thereby reducing hydrocarbon discharge. A key part of the project was the Kenai River Motor Buy Back Program, which offered cash incentives to replace older outboards with models that would meet EPA standards. About 200 outboards were replaced in a single year. In July 26, 2010, the status of the Kenai River was changed to a Category 2, or “water that attains its designated uses.”
The Wildlife Conservation Community Program (WCCP) is a community-based cooperative effort involving municipal, state and federal agencies, businesses, non-profits and the citizens of Kenai to foster better stewardship of wildlife resources and create safer neighborhoods for people and a population of brown bears that have been habituated to residential areas. This was accomplished through a community driven effort by private landowners, city government and program partners to install and maintain bear-resistant garbage containers and reduce the availability of other human-caused “bear attractants” to help to minimize this major source of brown bear mortality. Newsprint versions of “Living in Harmony with Bears” were mailed to every resident within the municipal boundaries. Volunteers from non-profit agencies as well as state and local enforcement agencies went door to door handing out information on the WCCP, answering questions and assuring that residents understood that equipment was being made available. The result was safer neighborhoods for people and bears; less agency time spent dealing with bears in neighborhoods; and better stewardship of public trust wildlife resources.
Caring for the Kenai
Caring for the Kenai (CFK) is an environmental awareness contest that is an on-going and unique partnership between industry, government, educators, students, and nonprofit organizations. High school students generate new and inventive ideas to address environmental challenges. CFK poses the question “What can I do, invent, create or improve to better care for the environment of the Kenai Peninsula or improve the area’s preparedness for natural disaster?” Over 500 participants research, experiment, and conduct interviews to learn as much as possible about an environmental issue they wish to solve. Working with community and business leaders, government agencies, and policy makers, CFK students learn about the practical application of their ideas and gain real world experience implementing their projects. Parents learn about CFK when students discuss and work on their projects at home. Local media assist in getting the message out to the public. Industry, government, educators, regulators, and private citizens collaborate to promote both educational and environmental innovations. In 2011, Caring for the Kenai will be introduced as a national program, available to students in every school district across the United States.