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Water: Nonpoint Source Success Stories

Alaska: Section 319 Success Stories, Vol. III

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Restoration Work on the Kenai:
Section 319 Funds Are Key to Youth Restoration Corps's Success


Kelly Wolf, YRC Director
PO Box 2416, Kenai, AK 99611
Primary Sources of Pollution:

streambank degradation from recreational fishing
Primary NPS Pollutants:

Project Activities:

streambank restoration (soil bags, root wads, coir logs, sod layers, dormant willow cuttings)

restored more than 7,700 feet of riverbanks


Alaska's rivers and streams are increasingly being affected by recreational use. People from around the world come to fish in some of Alaska's fabled waters and often return home with incredible stories and pictures. But all of that fishing is starting to exact a price. One of Alaska's most famous rivers, the Kenai, has been particularly hard hit, resulting in the closure of 22 miles of the river to bank fishing because of concerns regarding the natural habitat. People trampling its banks have caused severe damage that threatens the riverine habitat and causes erosion. Many efforts are under way to prevent further damage and restore the banks where damage has already occurred.

One of the most successful efforts has been the work of the Youth Restoration Corps (YRC), a nonprofit organization established in 1997 to promote environmental stewardship in youth while restoring riparian habitat along anadromous (salmon) streams on public lands. YRC has received 319 funding for its activities since its inception.

Restoration on the Russian River

In 1997 YRC established its first program on the Russian River, a tributary of the Kenai. The youth restored 2,219 linear feet of riparian habitat, using soil bags, root wads, coir logs, sod layers, and dormant willow cuttings. YRC has continued its restoration work on the Kenai and its tributary Russian River every year, and to date has worked on more than 7,700 feet of some of the most heavily impacted riverbanks in Alaska. As a result, a river once in decline is now a river in recovery.

The Sanctuary Project is one of many efforts to restore eroded streambanks like this one at the mouth of the Russian River.

Fostering environmental stewardship and partnerships

In addition to helping restore Alaska's streams, YRC has also passed along its environmental stewardship ethic to young people. Each summer, kids aged 16 to 19 from local communities participate in this work and education program. They receive invaluable education on watersheds, healthy habitat, and the inhabitants that depend on a healthy ecosystem. YRC's motto is "We are building partners to build environmental ambassadors for the next generation."

YRC has also played a critical role in bringing together stakeholders from across the spectrum. Many other agencies and groups have partnered with YRC, including the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, Fish and Game and Natural Resources; the National Guard; the Forest Service; the US Army; the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and others. Local governments, as well as local, national, and international private businesses and organizations, have also partnered with YRC.

YRC's work has been well publicized each year by a professionally produced educational video on youths' participation in the program and successful completion of each project, which has been aired several times on statewide and national television. YRC has received many state and national awards and recognition for its work.

Although YRC has garnered many matching funds and in-kind matches from other organizations and businesses, 319 funds have been key to its success. The 319 funds have totaled less than $100,000, but other funds and in-kind match and value of the project work have been contributed at the rate of 5 to 1.

Casey and Ivy (right) work on an undercut bank as Dean Davidson, Assistant Director, and Vera Group instruct youth on proper use of erosion mat.

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Road and Stream Crossing Project in Tongass National Forest:
New Data Help Identify Needed Fish Habitat Restoration


Linda Flanders, ADF&G

Larry Meshew
Tongass National Forest

Chris Meade
EPA Region 10

Primary Sources of Pollution:

inadequate culverts

forest roads
Primary NPS Pollutants:

Project Activities:

comprehensive evaluation of stream crossings/fish passage

database on inadequate culverts

leveraged funding for remediation

The Tongass Road and Stream Crossing Project is a 3-year cooperative effort by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) to identify and correct fish passage problems in the Tongass National Forest in southeast Alaska. ADF&G's participation was partially funded through section 319 grants. The project evaluated fish passage and sources of sediment from nonpoint source pollution along 60 percent of the miles of permanent (system) roads on the Tongass National Forest; the remaining 40 percent of the permanent roads, as well as all of the temporary roads, will have the road condition survey completed in 2001.

The project involved inspecting all stream crossings and sources of sediment along the 2,153 miles of roads. There were 273 anadromous fish stream culverts and 662 resident fish stream culverts evaluated for passage. Adequate fish passage requires that the weakest-swimming fish present in a watershed can pass both ways through a culvert at all flow levels. Although some culverts are complete barriers to both adults and juveniles, many restrict movement of juvenile fish only during periods of high stream flow.

Velocity is the most common cause of fish passage restriction in culverts. If a culvert is installed at too steep a gradient or the culvert width is significantly narrower than the streambed width, the water velocity is increased within the culvert. Very slight changes in the slope of a culvert and the roughness of the substrate in the culvert can significantly change velocity and the ability of fish to pass through the culvert during all of the times of year when they normally move upstream or downstream. Other frequent causes of fish passage problems are perching of the culvert outlet above the water surface, blockage by excessive substrate or woody debris within the culvert, and structural damage to the culvert. In most cases, multiple factors interact to restrict fish passage.

Project results

Preliminary results indicate that 66 percent of the culverts across salmon streams in the Tongass National Forest are inadequate for fish passage. Eighty-five percent of the culverts across trout streams might also be inadequate.

The resulting database will be used to maintain historical information on roads, identify existing and potential risks to fish habitat and passage, and prioritize and estimate the costs of needed road maintenance and fish habitat restoration. The Forest Service has been using the data from this collaborative project to identify needed fish habitat restoration work. The data have already helped them obtain an additional $500,000 in annual road maintenance funds for the Tongass for the past 2 years.

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