Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Protecting Alaska's Cook Inlet watershed and the life it sustains since 1995.
Sign up for email updates
You are here: Home Issues Salmon Stream Habitat

Salmon Stream Habitat

In 2011 the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly voted 7-2 to pass ordinance 2011-12, which established 50 foot habitat setbacks on stream banks for all fish-bearing streams in the Kenai Borough. This salmon stream setback ordinance protects the habitat needed to insure strong wild Alaska salmon runs for current and future generations.


In June 2013, thousands of Alaskans spoke out for basic habitat protections around our salmon streams.  In response, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly voted to retain 50 foot habitat buffers on the lakes, streams and rivers that support our wild salmon. Despite loud opposition from so-called property rights interests - including the National Association of Realtors - science and common sense prevailed, as the Assembly heard testimony, and received emails and petitions from over 6000 Alaskans who support healthy salmon habitat.


What's Happening Now?

Assemblymen Dale Bagley and Wayne Ogle have introduced Ordinance 2015-14, which would remove basic habitat protections from salmon-bearing lakes and streams in the Kenai Borough except for those in the Kenai and Kasilof watersheds (see map of proposed habitat rollbacks).  There will be a final public hearing Tuesday, July 7, 2015, at 6 PM at the Kenai Borough Chambers in Soldotna and we need your voice!


Tell the Kenai Borough Assembly to Protect our Salmon Streams

Riparian ZoneMost people understand the banks of streams and lakes provide important habitat for salmon.  Many people also recognize these natural areas protect private property by stabilizing banks and reducing the risks of flood damage.  But did you know that natural stream banks on private property also can increase property value?

The destruction of natural stream banks has helped accelerate the demise of wild salmon from Europe to New England to the Pacific Northwest.  In Alaska, we continued to repeat the mistakes made elsewhere.

In 2011, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly voted 7-2 to pass an important ordinance (2011-12), which established 50 foot protected areas adjacent to all salmon streams and lakes in the Kenai Peninsula Borough.  This ordinance recognized the need to protect the headwater streams where our salmon spawn and rear.  Unfortunately, a loud and vocal minority pushed back, and forced another vote on salmon habitat protections in June 2013.  There, thousands of Alaskans spoke out, and the Kenai Borough Assembly voted yet again to protect salmon habitat.

The Assembly recognized the vital need to protect the delicate fabric of salmon habitat throughout the region that support our economy, our communities and our families. These setbacks prohibit major construction, excavation, and extensive clearing of vegetation within 50 feet of streams, but allow vegetation control, the removal of dead trees, building boardwalks, docks and fish cleaning stations. In other words, the ordinance strikes a reasonable balance between private property rights and the public interest.

Unfortunately, this issue has arisen yet again, driven by ideological interests from the National Association of Realtors and others that ignore the basic science around salmon habitat protection.  On July 7th, the Kenai Assembly will vote on Ordinance 2015-14, which marks a sweeping rollback for salmon habitat across vast parts of the Kenai Borough. 

Stand up for Wild Salmon Habitat and a Healthy Economy: Tell the Kenai Borough Assembly to maintain basic salmon habitat protections.

Two ways to you can make a difference:

  1. Testify at the Kenai Borough Assembly on Tuesday July 7, 2015, at 6:00 P.M. in the Borough Assembly Chambers (George A. Navarre Admin Building, 144 North Binkley), Soldotna, Alaska.
  2. If you can't testify in person, TAKE ACTION NOW!


Points to consider:

  • The Kenai Peninsula Borough has an important stake in the health and sustainability of our salmon fisheries, and it should make every effort to protect local salmon runs and the lifestyles and economies that rely on them;
  • Protecting all salmon streams in the Kenai Borough makes economic sense for riparian land owners as well as all residents in the Borough; studies from across the nation show natural areas near lakes and streams actually increase property values;
  • Sport and commercial salmon fishing generate over a billion dollars of economic input into the Kenai Peninsula Borough every year and habitat protections are an investment in protecting this vital resource;
  • In his book “King of Fish: The Thousand-Year Run of Salmon,” Professor David Montgomery recounts how the phenomena known as the “death by a thousand cuts” has led to the demise of once-proud salmon fisheries from Europe to New England to the Pacific Northwest; and
  • The importance of stream and lake bank vegetation to fish and wildlife values cannot be overestimated, nor can the importance of wild Alaska salmon runs to our local economy.
  • The Assembly and a special task force spent a year on habitat buffers in 2013. There haven't been problems. Let's keep habitat buffers in place.