Assembly President Brent Johnson presides over a meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Assembly President Brent Johnson presides over a meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association looks to put weir at Delight Creek

The borough assembly passed legislation supporting the association’s application for grant funds.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly is supporting efforts by the Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association to more accurately count salmon in Delight Creek. The association, which has a stated mission of protecting salmon stocks and their habitats, wants to put a weir at Delight Creek, south of Kenai Fjords National Park.

That weir would count adult salmon more accurately than the aerial survey method currently used. To make the project possible, the association applied for a grant offered through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly voted to support during its Nov. 9 meeting.

The Saltonstall-Kennedy Grant Competition, to which the Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association applied for funding, makes available roughly $10 million in funding each year for projects that lead to the promotion, development and marketing of fisheries in the United States, according to NOAA.

The Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association estimates that it will cost about $55,000 to install and operate a weir at Delight Creek and to then analyze the resulting data. Between 1997 and 2014, the department conducted physical weir counts on Delight Creek, but switched to aerial surveys in 2015 after funding was cut.

A weir resembles a fence that is put in flowing water to direct the movement of fish, according to a 2004 article published by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game called “Working at a Fish Weir.”

In a Nov. 9 memo to the assembly, Assembly President Brent Johnson and assembly member Lane Chesley explained why it is important to accurately count Delight Lake’s sockeye salmon. Those salmon, they said, are important for Cook Inlet’s seine fleet and for sport fishers.

“Accurately counting salmon entering Delight Lake (ensures) the best understanding of the number of salmon that reach the lake for propagating future returns and allowing for maximizing harvests,” Chesley and Johnson wrote in the memo.

The assembly approved the legislation, which states their support for the Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association’s application for grant funds. Johnson sits on the association board, but was ruled not to have a conflict of interest because he would not benefit financially from the resolution.

Additionally, they wrote, weir counts are more accurate than aerial surveys. For example, an aerial survey in 2014 counted about 3,000 fish, while the weir operated the same year counted just over 22,000.

NOAA’s grant application period closes on Nov. 29, according to the administration’s website about the grant. Successful applicants are scheduled to be announced in May of 2022.

More information about the grant program can be found on NOAA’s website at fisheries.noaa.gov/grant/saltonstall-kennedy-grant-competition.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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