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Water: Nonpoint Source Success Stories

Alaska (Section 319I - 1994)

Alaska nonpoint source management activities and projects are focused on forest practices, oil and gas development, mining, agriculture, urban development, and groundwater. Alaska also emphasizes source controls such as public information and education and statewide water quality monitoring and reporting.

Water Watch Develops Environmental Stewardship Partners

Put together two state agencies working on complementary programs. Add the knowledge that water quality protection needs a strong contingent of trained citizen volunteers. Sprinkle in some section 319 monies. The result: Alaska Water Watch. The interagency alliance began informally 1991 when the Department of Fish and Game--working on watershed education in the schools--joined with the Department of Environmental Conservation--which was promoting citizen water quality monitoring. The Department of Natural Resources also signed up and a $73,000 section 319 grant provided seed money for the now formalized statewide umbrella organization.

Alaska Water Watch is an interagency public participation and education network that promotes comprehensive stewardship of Alaska's aquatic resources. Citizen volunteers carry out the program's objectives of water quality monitoring, pollution prevention, and water quality restoration activities. The Water Watch partnership combines resources to initiate and support public involvement and education projects, has developed a statewide corps of trained citizen volunteers, and develops and promotes standard data collection methods. In addition, it integrates various levels of stewardship activities into school curricula, youth programs, and adult organizations; maintains an aquatic resource database for citizen-generated data; and shares information through a computer network.

Section 319 funds a program coordinator who manages Water Watch, conducts monitoring training and quality assurance sessions, and brings Water Watch programs to new communities. Projects generally have four interconnected themes--monitoring, education, pollution prevention, and maintenance and restoration--that are incorporated into each project and activity.

Water Watch's role in the project to restore water quality and fish habitat in Duck Creek is an excellent example of how the partnership promotes volunteerism and hands-on aquatic stewardship. Duck Creek is a small, 3-mile-long stream that runs through the heart of the high-density business and residential areas in Juneau. In its 1992 report to EPA, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation listed Duck Creek as impaired. Historically, Duck Creek had runs of nearly 10,000 chum salmon and, in 1966, about 500 coho salmon. Recently, however, the pink and chum salmon have nearly vanished and the coho have averaged less than 20 fish a season. Where once trout were - abundant, today the stream is closed to fishing.

Duck Creek was subjected to a variety of severe impacts as the population of Juneau increased and the area developed after World War II. The stream channel was altered and moved, riparian vegetation was removed, stream crossings were installed with little attention to grade, ponds were created by gravel excavation, and the stream was used as an urban garbage dump. Duck Creek also received heavy loads of sediment from construction, road building and maintenance, and surface runoff; the stream has also served as an open sewer for broken or faulty septic systems.

Under the auspices of Water Watch, a community clean-up effort was begun. Miller House, a residence for troubled youth, has incorporated stewardship of Duck Creek as part of its in-house school program. The high school-aged residents collect water quality samples, pick up garbage in the stream and riparian area, and undertake community outreach activities.

Students began collecting water quality data in 1991. The data is used by the Duck Creek Advisory Group, a - coalition of organizations that is planning and undertaking restoration activities. In 1992, students promoted and participated in the Juneau Clean Streams event and produced a brochure highlighting the condition of the creek and the need for good environmental stewards.

Water quality monitoring is only the first of a four phase restoration project in Duck Creek. An FY 1994 - section 319 grant for $125,000 will fund additional activities to restore the Duck Creek watershed. Water Watch will continue as an important part of the effort to restore and maintain water and habitat quality in Duck Creek.

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