The Scheffler Creek streambank restoration project

Scheffler Creek flows though the Lagoon and empties into the Bay just south of the harbor. Several locations along the stream bank were eroding due to overuse. With much community support, RBCA repaired two sections of eroding streambank and installed two creek viewing decks and interpretive signs so that pedestrians can view the creek and salmon without causing damage to the riparian zone. As the transplanted vegetation grows taller the shade will help to keep stream temperatures low and the roots will stabilize the streambank and prevent erosion.
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This diagram describes the process for streambank stabilization (taken from Streambank Revegetation and Protection, A guide for Alaska).

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This project took
a lot of planning to:
get City and Kenai River Center permits
get engineered plans for the decks
negotiate with private land owners
develop a rehabilitation plan
harvest transplants and store them properly
develop funding proposals
seek non-federal partners
network with local partners and volunteers
have educational signs designed
get bids for the deck manufacturing
work out deck installation issues

One of these decks is now ready for use although there is some groundwork to be finished in the spring. This deck is located along the paved waterfront trail just a few hundred feet from the Fourth Avenue and Van Buren Street intersection. The second deck is on private property just upstream from this intersection. Both decks will be fully completed in the spring (and will meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements).
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RBCA appreciates our local partners for this project: The Chamber of Commerce, the Seward Community Foundation, and Seward Wildlife Cruises, LCC provided funding. The City provided materials, heavy equipment and manpower assistance. The ASLC AmeriCorps crew, NPS, and several other energetic citizens volunteered to help with full day streambank restoration work. The US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) and the Ak Dept. of Fish & Game provided lots of technical advice and assistance. The FWS also provided 50% of the funding. Griswold Graphics provided the educational sign design, click here and here to view these impressive signs.

RBCA helps with fish passage culvert replacement
About 7 years ago the Kenai Watershed Forum (KWF) surveyed several Seward area creeks to add them to the Anadromous Waters Catalog (the State’s official list of salmon bearing water bodies) and to look for culverts that prevent fish passage. There are over 120 culverts on the Peninsula that prevent adequate fish passage and 17 of these are in the Seward area. These culverts prevent both spawning and juvenile salmon from swimming through them and can close off miles of otherwise good fish habitat.
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In 2009, RBCA helped to oversee the installation of three local culverts; two on Old Exit Glacier Road and one on Dairy Hill Lane.

Recently the KWF secured funding from Federal, Borough and private sources to replace a fish-blocking culvert on Timber Lane, in the Questa Woods subdivision. RBCA was asked to handle all the logistics involved with design, private property approval, obtaining permits, bidding and construction.
 
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On July 10, 2012, years of work came to fruition and a 72 inch arched metal culvert was installed adjacent to the old 24 inch culvert. Leaving the old culvert in place made the construction work easier and it allowed reduced impacts to the creek (a small groundwater -fed tributary to Salmon Creek). Metco employed a few special techniques to install several inches of clean gravel and rock inside the new culvert so that it closely mimics a natural river channel. Within one day small salmon fry were seen swimming into the new culvert. Success!


Our next focus will be to replace a 4 foot diameter “overflow” culvert that has been passing most of Japanese Creek under Dieckgraeff Rd, just prior to the solid waste transfer station. Due to extreme gravel deposits just above the main, 12 foot diameter culvert, most of this creek has jumped into a new channel and flows through this under-sized culvert. No fish can make it to the large wetland area just west of the transfer station.

Stewart property, floodplain lands purchase is final
After clearing a few last hurdles, this land sale is now final (October 2012) and 150 acres of river bottom lands are now owned by the Kenai Peninsula Borough. This is a culmination of over 10 years of work by several agencies and organizations to use mitigation funds to protect Seward-area salmon habitat.

This purchase will fulfill several goals; it will prevent development within the floodplain, conserve vital wetlands, and protect habitat as required by the mitigation funds that will cover a large percentage of the funding. This purchase will also allow the Seward Bear Creek Flood Service Area the ability to harvest accumulated gravel from strategic pick points to help minimize flooding.

The US Army Corps of Engineers requires compensatory mitigation for losses of aquatic resources that result from work authorized by Corps permits. Over the past 13 years five federally funded projects effectively displaced 23 acres of salmon habitat in the Seward area. This resulted in $281,344 being placed in a conservation fund.

Since 2006 RBCA has functioned as a local advisor in the effort to find land owners willing to lease or sell their riparian lands to protect salmon habitat.

Due to a few setbacks, a proposal was made to use these funds to buy habitat lands outside of the Seward area. Having attended Flood Service Area Board meetings, RBCA’s Watershed Coordinator was aware that the Steward Land Trust properties represented a willing seller of suitable habitat lands. RBCA contacted all the parties involved with these mitigation funds and in a single round of emails, the funds found new hope for use in the Seward area.

Over the years several agencies and organizations advanced the success of this project. These included the US Army Corps of Engineers, US Fish & Wildlife Service, Seward Bear Creek Flood Service Area, Kachemak Heritage Land Trust, Resurrection Bay Conservation Alliance, The Conservation Fund, and the Kenai Peninsula Borough. The KPB Lands Department expended significant energy to make this transaction happen and they deserve special credit. RBCA thanks all participants for their perseverance and efforts through this lengthy, but important process.


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This map shows the private lots that were part of this purchase. The lots with black borders were purchased with the mitigation funds and the lots with yellow borders were purchased with Flood Board funds.

Storm drain stenciling reminds residents and visitors where surface runoff ends up
In 2010, RBCA began a storm drain stenciling program and for two years we networked with the several youth groups to get most of our storm drains stenciled. These stencils advise people to “Dump No Waste, Drains to Resurrection Bay” or “Only Rain Down the Drain”.

By using the public household hazardous waste disposal system and not dumping products such as paint, used motor oil, anti-freeze, etc., on the ground, driveway, or street, we will keep our bay healthy and help our salmon thrive.

This work was funded the NPS-Ocean Alaska Science and Learning Center (OASLC) and the National Parks Foundation. Other project partners include City of Seward Public Works Department and Teen & Youth Center, the Alaska Department of Transportation, the Boy Scouts, the Alaska SeaLife Center, AmeriCorps, and Kenai Fjords National Park.
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Recently RBCA has decided that Seward would be best served by using more permanent storm drain markers. Once funding is secured we’ll network with local youth groups and get these new markers placed near all our storm drains.

Surveying local streams for addition to the state’s Anadromous Waters Catalog
After working on various watershed programs in the Seward area for 6 years, RBCA identified several small-order streams that are very likely to support salmon species but are not listed in the State’s Anadromous Waters Catalog. Listing in the Catalog provides streams an additional layer of protection. We have also identified two streams that are not mapped accurately in the Catalog and where development is occurring; causing negative impacts. The US Fish and Wildlife Service recently awarded RBCA a grant to thoroughly survey these creeks, and to provide salmon-related educational opportunities for local and traveling youth groups.

RBCA has also discussed the fact that most of the Seward area Catalog is twenty to thirty years old with the Alaska Dept. of Fish & Game (ADF&G) Sport Fish Biologist. ADF&G has surveyed several specific streams over the years and hopes to repeat work soon. ADF&G has requested our assistance in completing salmon spawning surveys in the fall of 2014.

By teaching youth about the methods use to catch and identify juvenile salmon they will get firsthand knowledge on the salmon life cycle as well a habitat issues.
Some youth educational programs were conducted in August of 2012. Due to the September floods, the remaining anadromous surveys had to be postponed until the summer and fall of 2013.
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RBCA’s weed work summary
RBCA has been working with numerous partner organizations to control Invasive Plant (IP) infestations in the Seward area for five years. Our focus is addressing infestations that would have significant impacts to fish and wildlife habitat if not controlled.

To insure that we are working on the infestations of highest concern, RBCA has teamed with a very effective group called the Kenai Peninsula Cooperative Weed Management Area (add KP-CWMA website link here). For maps and photos of the Seward area IP infestations and RBCA’s projects click
here to view a PowerPoint presentation.

Seward Highway white sweetclover
In August of 2008, RBCA was alerted of a major white sweetclover (WSC) infestation along the Seward Highway.
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Plants introduced during a highway project two years earlier were approaching maturity and about to release thousands of seeds. RBCA conducted several volunteer weed pulls, filling eight large trailer loads that were hauled to the dump burn pile. Hundreds of plants were harvested and thousands of seeds were prevented from being distributed along our roads and along adjacent streams. In 2009, we filled several garbage bags or under a hundred plants. During 2010 and 2011, we pulled only 15 to 20 individual WSC plants from along the highway. An infestation that could have exploded was fully controlled.

Resurrection River islet white sweet clover
White sweetclover (WSC), although beneficial elsewhere, is a very aggressive weed in Alaska with one of the highest invasiveness rankings (per the Alaska Natural Heritage Program). WSC has been documented in taking over extensive open gravel areas in several of Alaska’s braided river systems. We found a small islet in the Resurrection River (adjacent to the Windsong Lodge) that was heavily infested. It had likely been introduced there by asphalt batch plant equipment several years prior. The two-acre islet was 80% covered with thick bushy WSC plants, which were already starting to spread off of the islet. For three seasons RBCA and the Homer Soil and Water Conservation District (HSWCD) Youth Weed Team hand-pulled every WSC plant found. In each of these years, thousands of plants were harvested. On the fourth year, the plant numbers had dropped to about 1,000 plants. In 2012, we harvested several hundred plants. This infestation, in the middle of a pristine salmon river, has been brought under control and another invasive plant explosion was prevented.
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Middle School bird vetch
While Seward has several small patches of another aggressive species, bird vetch, an infestation at the Middle School is threatening to grow out of control. This infestation covers the entire length of the western and northern edge of the schoolyard, and is spreading onto adjacent properties. Hand-pulling can stop seed production, but does not kill the plant. For five years RBCA, the HSWCD, and the Alaska Association of Conservation Districts harvested all of these plants to slow its spread.

The only way to fully control it is to either spray it with herbicides, dig up all the soil and dispose of it, or cover it with a sun-blocking fabric for at least two years. RBCA is opposed to using toxic chemicals in our environment. Even trace amounts of toxins can cause negative impacts to wildlife and humans. Plus, two of Seward’s domestic water wells are located within a hundred yards of this infestation. Digging up all of the soil within the five- acre infestation would
not be cost efficient. We have learned from other projects that covering the plants with a light-blocking fabric is subject to complaints about the visual impacts.

But we haven’t given up hope! A new Seward Schoolyard Habitat program, initiated by the US Fish & Wildlife Service and RBCA, will look at alternative plans for bird vetch control. One option would be to cover small, rotating sections of the infestation annually. While the whole infestation would not be controlled all at once, we could treat manageable sections without large unsightly tarped areas and still prevent it from exploding.

Exit Glacier Road hawkbit
RBCA has also spent considerable time on hawkbit (also called fall dandelion) along the first two miles of the Exit Glacier (Herman Leirer) Rd. It can form extremely dense mats that choke out all other plants. We do not want this plant to begin spreading up and down the Resurrection River.
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In 2010, we found a dense half-acre patch on private property at mile 1.7. After consulting with specialists it was determined that covering this area to deprive the hawkbit of sunlight would be the best method of control. The property owner did not want to look at black tarps for two years, so we imported weed-free topsoil and replanted the entire half-acre area. After one year only a few hawkbit plants were found at this site.

We also used the assistance of several traveling youth/educational groups to help control some of the other smaller patches. While hand-digging this plant does limit growth, we have found that there are still lots of seeds in the soil and the plants quickly reemerge. It may be more effective to repeat the tarping process at the other infestation patches. This was done with funding from the US Fish & Wildlife Service.

Conclusion
In the past 5 years RBCA has worked to control several other Seward area infestations. Most of these are illustrated in the above-referenced PowerPoint slide show. Unfortunately there are still IP species that are completely out of control in town and along area roads. These include oxeye daisy, butter & eggs, creeping and tall buttercup, and of course dandelion. Please be aware that these are indeed invasive plants, often mistaken for Alaska wildflowers. Although we can’t hope to ever eradicate these plants, we can help our ecosystem by pulling them from our lawns, gardens, and roadsides, and not encourage their spread.

To learn more about Alaska’s invasive plants and to view distribution maps (AK-EPIC) visit the Alaska Natural Heritage Program
website at. RBCA’s primary IP partners include the Alaska Association of Conservation District (AACD) and the US Fish & Wildlife Service. Other project partners include the, US Forest Service, Kenai Fjords National Park, Homer SWCD, Kenai SWCD, Kenai Watershed Forum, Alaska Department of Transportation, City of Seward, Alaska SeaLife Center, the UAF Seward Marine Center.