Conservation organization monitoring Russian River
Posted 8:00 a.m. Tuesday
Updated 8:03 a.m. Tuesday
KENAI, Alaska — A conservation organization is working to gather more information on the Kenai Peninsula's Russian River in an effort to show the impact of changing stream temperatures on fish populations.
Homer-based Cook Inletkeeper recently installed a temperature monitoring station on the river where thousands of anglers gather each year in search of the sockeye salmon that return to spawn there, The Peninsula Clarion reported (http://bit.ly/2gQYsZX).
Sue Mauger, the group's science director, said knowing the temperature of the water will help researchers determine how snow has affected streams.
"We know that snow levels are variable from year to year, and it will help us sort of understand what that changing snowpack is doing to our river temperature," Mauger said. "Especially for a loved and well-fished river."
Last year, there was little snow in the lowlands but above-average snowpack in the mountains. The snow conditions resulted in elevated stream levels throughout the season, which made it more difficult for anglers fishing for salmon.
Agencies that have participated in the development of the project include the U.S. Forest Service and the Kenai Watershed Forum, which helped pick out the spot for the temperature sensor. The river's monitoring station is located between the Lower Russian Lake and Russian River Falls.
The Russian River project is part of a larger effort to document stream temperatures of 48 non-glacial salmon stream systems across the Cook Inlet basin.
The temperatures of stream systems between 2008 and 2012 have been consistently warmer than in the past. Salmon in waters exceeding 13 degrees Celsius experience thermal stress, according to a report written by Mauger and several colleagues.
The temperature data from the Russian River is available for the public to view on the Cook Inletkeeper website as well as temperature information for the Anchor River on the southern Kenai Peninsula and the Deshka River in the Mat-Su Valley.
Cook Inletkeeper has been involved in the temperature project since 2008 and tried to pick streams that are popular among anglers, Mauger said.
"I really think it's important to have real-time data to look at," she said. "We learn a lot when we have pieces of information at the same time."