Commercial Jet Boat Tours in the Chilkat Valley Bald Eagle Preserve
High-powered commercial jet boats have been allowed entry into important salmon habitat, causing riverbank erosion, damaging juvenile salmon rearing areas, and increasing turbidity and sedimentation. Large boat wakes likely cause egg and fry mortality.
Video and Pictures of Bank Erosioninside the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve.
Lynn Canal Conservation (LCC) filed a complaint with the Department of Parks and Outdoor Recreation (DPOR), providing photographic evidence that River Adventures Jet Boat Tours violated its permit on 27 occasions in July and August of 2012, by failing to observe the no wake restriction in the Sheep Canyon Lake access channel inside the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve. LCC requested DPOR impose penalties on the tour company, remove the access channel from the tour route, stabilize the bank channels with willow cuttings to restore the integrity of the stream bank, assess the entire tour route for erosion, and re-evaluate allowing commercial jet boats to run over occupied salmon habitat in the Kelsall Delta area in May and September.
Director of DPOR Ben Ellis announced on November, 30th 2012 that no punitive action will be taken against River Adventures. Ranger Preston Kroes was assigned the task of investigating the complaint and did not find evidence in support of citing River Adventures. Listen to KHNS coverage of the investigation results.
Rivers Without Borders, Trout Unlimited, Alaska Audubon, and the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, are supporting monitoring, enforcement, and further agency study and assessment of impacts to this important state and national resource that supports one of the world’s largest seasonal gathering of bald eagles due to the abundance of late run salmon in the Chilkat.
“DPOR needs to fulfill its responsibility to manage and oversee commercial use in the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve,” according to Scott Carey, LCC president. “ADF&G requested monitoring and enforcement in the Sheep Canyon Lake area years ago due to previously documented violations and evidence of wake-induced erosion in high value rearing habitat. Without consequences, there is no incentive for the operator to abide by permit stipulations.”
ADF&G studies show the Sheep Canyon Lake access channel to be a high-value rearing area. Bank erosion was measured from 2002 through 2004, and determined to be 95 to 98% attributed to boat wakes. “The No Wake Zone was created to protect fish rearing habitat from erosion, while allowing River Adventures to use the channel,” according to Eric Holle, LCC vice president. “River Adventures continues to violate that stipulation. We’re asking that the channel be removed from the tour route and the bank be stabilized.”
“It’s important for Parks to examine other parts of the tour route for bank damage, and to re-assess allowing large jet boats to run over occupied spawning habitat in the highly productive Kelsall Delta area,” according to Rivers Without Borders Associate Nancy Berland. “Other studies have shown that much smaller boats can cause salmon egg mortality. Erosion of near-shore rearing areas and egg mortality are entirely at odds with the Preserve legislative mandate to protect salmon in perpetuity. State agencies need to do a better job of ensuring that resources that are so vital to our community and region are not damaged.”