Programs & Projects
Cook Inletkeeper is a community-based nonprofit organization formed in 1995 that combines hands-on scientific research and monitoring with strategic advocacy, organizing and education to give citizens the tools they need to protect water quality and salmon habitat throughout the Cook Inlet watershed. As Alaska experiences the disproportionate effects of rapid climate change, Inletkeeper is collecting data that shows alarming warming rates in local salmon streams, and using that information to educate and mobilize a diverse constituency toward a vision that includes clean water, healthy fish and wildlife habitat, lasting jobs and renewable energy.
Every 5 years, Inletkeeper revises its strategic plan, which then guides its work through a variety of programs and projects implemented through annual work plans. Inletkeeper’s primary programs and projects include:
Clean Water Program
Goal: Grow support for clean water and strong local economies.
Inletkeeper knows the best way to engage and activate people is to connect them to the things they love. Whether it’s their families or their favorite bay or salmon stream, Alaskans respond most strongly to threats and opportunities around the people and places they cherish. That’s why we work hard to connect Alaskans to their water resources in order to grow support for clean water and strong local economies.
Nowhere is this opportunity more pronounced than in Alaska’s harbors and boat launch facilities, which serve as gateways for hundreds of thousands of Alaskans and tourists each year to enjoy the splendor of our state’s rich and vibrant marine and freshwater systems. Through its Clean Boating & Harbors Project, Inletkeeper distributes clean boating packets – containing absorbent sausages for bilges, fact sheets, educational tidebooks, stickers and related information on clean boating – to help boat owners reduce pollution. To compliment these efforts, Inletkeeper is spearheading a novel “Clean Harbors Certification Project,” where participating harbors can save money and reduce pollution by implementing a range of best management practices and pollution prevention tools.
While clean boating tools and messages resonate with a variety of user groups, safe drinking water connects everyone to their water resources, regardless of politics or socioeconomic background. Nearly 30% of Alaskans rely on private water supplies, yet few know the federal Safe Drinking Water Act provides few protections for non-public water supplies. In response, Inletkeeper’s Safe Drinking Water Project provides local residents who rely on private wells, springs or surface waters with access to discounted drinking water testing services – for contaminants ranging from lead and arsenic to bacteria and nitrates. Inletkeeper holds pre-testing workshops to educate people about possible threats to their drinking water, teaches them how to correctly collect samples, then helps them interpret the results and take corrective actions if necessary.
Finally, Inletkeeper connects Alaskans directly to their water resources through its Citizens Environmental Monitoring Project. Since 1996, Inletkeeper has trained hundreds of citizens to collect reliable water quality data on local Cook Inlet streams. In recent years, Inletkeeper has supplemented this effort with bacteria testing on local beaches, and macroinvertebrate testing in local salmon streams. Together, these efforts not only generate vital data for proper water resource management but equally important, they foster the stewardship needed to activate Alaskans to protect their local surface waters and wetlands.
Clean Energy Program
Goal: Promote the shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
Inletkeeper recognizes climate change as the most pressing threat posed to our natural systems and the people and communities they support. Through its Clean Energy Project, Inletkeeper works to transition away from the contributing sources of climate change - coal, oil and gas - and to foster the development of geothermal, wind and tidal projects, in an effort to pave the way toward a renewable energy future that produces long term jobs and clean, affordable energy around Cook Inlet.
Healthy Habitat Program
Goal: Protect healthy habitats in a changing climate.
Despite the fact climate change poses serious threats to Alaska’s marine ecosystems, polling shows most Alaskans not only reject man’s role in climate change, they reject the notion of climate change altogether. In response, Inletkeeper is leveraging threats to two Alaskan icons – beluga whales and wild salmon – to help Alaskans understand the real and tangible threats posed by ensuing climate change.
No other resource connects Alaskans like wild, healthy salmon, and as a result, Inletkeeper’s Salmon Stream & Climate Change Project represents some of Inletkeeper’s most important work. Through temperature dataloggers placed in 48 watersheds around Cook Inlet, Inletkeeper has discovered the vast majority of streams exceed safe temperatures for cold water fish, making them more vulnerable to pollution, predation and disease. Through this effort, Inletkeeper generates the original science needed to guide more responsible management decisions based on a precautionary approach, and helps educate and activate Alaskans on the thorny and still divisive issues surrounding climate change and fish habitat protection.
In addition to salmon, Cook Inlet is also famous for its genetically distinct and geographically isolated stock of beluga whales. The white whale’s population has plummeted precipitously since the 1980’s, and today, fewer than 400 whales remain. In response, Inletkeeper’s Cook Inlet Beluga Whale Project focuses on protecting vital whale habitat, and now – with the successful listing of the whale under the Endangered Species Act and the designation of over 3000 square miles of Cook Inlet as critical beluga whale habitat – Inletkeeper will focus on how climate change, pollution and other factors may be inhibiting the whale’s recovery.
To ensure a well-rounded approach to habitat protection, Inletkeeper relies on its Watershed Watch Project, which includes a toll-free number for citizens to report pollution and habitat destruction (1-888-MY INLET) and allows Inletkeeper to challenge short-sighted projects that pose undue risks to water quality and sensitive coastal habitats. As corporate pressure continues to produce rollbacks to some of our most important conservation laws, this project provides a vital backstop for the most egregious assaults on our collective environment.
Inletkeeper Capacity Program
Goal: Build a healthy organization with the capacity to achieve its vision.
Inletkeeper knows that in order to affect meaningful change in an increasingly complex world, it must foster an internal organizational capacity that allows its staff, Board and membership to grow into more effective stewards and advocates. In response, Inletkeeper employs the latest technologies and nonprofit management strategies to ensure it stretches every dollar to achieve maximum results. These efforts include staff and Board trainings, member and donor relations, financial accountability and healthy business practices.