Environmental impact of Jims’ Landing improvements assessed

The boat launch is located in the Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area, near Milepost 58 of the Sterling Highway.

A schematic of one of the options for the Jims’ Landing boat launch project scope. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

A schematic of one of the options for the Jims’ Landing boat launch project scope. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

The negative environmental impact of making improvements to Jims’ Landing in the Skilak area will mostly be seen in the loss of habitat that will result from expanding the site’s existing footprint, but would be insignificant if property management practices are followed. That’s according to the project’s Draft Environment Assessment, which was released earlier this week.

The boat launch is located in the Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area, near Milepost 58 of the Sterling Highway. The project aims to improve boat ramp conditions and pedestrian and vehicle safety, as well as provide more parking capacity for vehicles with and without trailers. The project would also provide an off-site parking area on the south side of the Sterling Highway.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that about 42,000 people use the boat ramp each year primarily for boat landing and launching as well as take-out. The ramp is the last take-out before the Kenai River canyon above Skilak Lake.

In also addressing the facilities associated with the ramp, the environmental assessment survey notes that during the fishing season the area becomes “chaotic” due to the area being at maximum capacity. Because the ramp’s parking area is limited, commercial operators have to use overflow parking on the other side of the highway. That becomes dangerous when those operators then have to walk across the highway to get back to Skilak Lake Road.

Other alternatives included no action, meaning the site would stay as-is, or completing minor improvements that have the least impact on vegetation and wetlands but does not improve parking capacity or traffic congestion at the ramp, which is what the project is meant to do. The preferred alternative, “Alternative C,” would expand and improve the boat ramp and parking and provide off-site parking while minimizing impacts to the surrounding environment.

Among the impacts to wildlife and fish species under Alternative C would be increased disturbance to wildlife human activities, changes in wildlife activity patterns as a result of those disturbances, a loss of up to 3.2 acres of habitat through the expansion of the existing footprint of Jims’ Landing. The installation of root wads for bank stabilization would also benefit fish by providing habitat. The assessment also says there would be no impacts to threatened or endangered species, a loss of up to 3.3 acres of vegetation — including 53 trees — and increased localized noise disturbance in the off-site parking area.

Ultimately, the assessment concludes that while the environment stands to be negatively impacted by expanding existing infrastructure and facilities, those impacts would be insignificant if proper mitigation measures are followed.

“The Preferred Alternative would meet the purpose and need of the project by enhancing recreation experience for sport fishing and scenic floats and wildlife viewing by providing safer boat ramp conditions for launches and retrievals, and alleviating congestion in parking and staging areas by providing greater capacity for trailers and staging areas,” the assessment says. “The project would also protect natural resources of Jims’ Landing by implementing [best management practices] and other measures to avoid, minimize and mitigate impacts to wetland and riparian habitats.”

The Draft Environmental Assessment will be available from May 5 to June 19 and can be found at fws.gov/refuge/kenai. Public comments will be accepted during the same time period.

A virtual public review and comment meeting will be held on May 19 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. or until questions and comments have ended. That meeting will be held via Zoom and can be accessed with meeting ID 844 0255 5712 and meeting password 083127. Written comments can be submitted to PND Engineers, Inc. at 1506 W 36th Ave., Anchorage, AK, 99503 or via email at jimslanding@pndengineers.com.

More information on the Jims’ Landing Boat Launch Access and Parking Improvements can be found at usfws-jims.blogspot.com.

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

More in News

Ron Gillham, who represents District 30 in the Alaska House of Representatives, is seen here in this undated photo. (Courtesy Ron Gillham)
Gillham files intent to run in 2022 primary

Gillham did not indicate the office he plans to run for.

A man fishes on the Kenai River on July 16, 2018, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Peninsula Clarion/file)
New bait restrictions on Kenai and Kasilof king fishing

On the Kenai River, bait will be prohibited from the mouth upstream to the outlet of Skilak Lake.

Peter Segall / Juneau Empire
Gov. Mike Dunleavy held a press conference at the Alaska State Capitol on Thursday to say he was ready to call lawmakers into yet another special session if they didn’t rectify by Friday issues with the budget passed earlier this week.
Dunleavy calls on lawmakers to solve budget conflict

Another special session could be coming.

Bryan Quimby/Gannett Glacier Fire Crew
Part of the hose line has been laid around the perimeter of the 102-acre Loon Lake Fire to help firefighters extinguish any hot spots that are found, photographed on Thursday.
Loon Lake Fire 70% contained

The 102-acre fire was first reported on Saturday evening and is the result of lightning.

Nurse Tracy Silta draws a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the walk-in clinic at the intersection of the Kenai Spur and Sterling Highways in Soldotna, Alaska on Wednesday, June 9, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
No new COVID cases reported on Kenai Peninsula

In the Kenai Peninsula Borough, 42% of people 12 and up were fully vaccinated.

A boat is lifted out of the water at Northern Enterprises Boat Yard on Kachemak Drive. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Northern Enterprise Boat Yard in Homer expands business

The largest privately owned dry dock marina in Alaska is expanding its docks and boat-lifting capabilities

The Kenai Peninsula Food Bank is photographed on March 26, 2020. (Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai Peninsula Food Bank reopens at 50% indoor capacity

The last time they were able to have indoor seating was Saint Patrick’s Day of 2020.

An aerial photo of the 102-acre Loon Lake Fire footprint taken at approximately 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, June 15, 2021. Swan Lake is in the background to the right. (Kale Casey/Alaska DNR-Division of Forestry)
Loon Lake Fire 30% contained

The fire covered about 102 acres as of Wednesday.

(Peninsula Clarion file)
Anchor Point Food Pantry looking for new home

The pantry has seen a sharp increase in patrons during the COVID-19 pandemic

Most Read