Cordova’s Million Dollar Eyak Lake
The Copper River Watershed Project continues to focus attention and the funds of four agencies to restore fish habitat in Eyak Lake. Eyak Lake is home to ten fish species, including sockeye, coho, and pink salmon, cutthroat trout, and Dolly Varden.
In 1981 Eyak Lake was recommended to be designated an “Area Meriting Special Attention” by the Alaska Coastal Policy Council because of the lake’s diverse wildlife, scenic beauty, and economic value to the fishing town of Cordova, AK.
ADF&G biologists have estimated Eyak Lake provides an annual ex-vessel value for commercial harvests between $955,435 to $1,572,784 (1999 – 2003 ADF&G Finfish Reports) … making Eyak Lake truly a MILLION DOLLAR lake.
In 2009 the Copper River Watershed Project was awarded over a million dollar grant from NOAA, through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for economic stimulus, making this the million-dollar grant to restore our million-dollar lake. Other funding sources include: USFWS, NFWF, and the Alaska Coastal Management Program.
Fish are a critical public resource in the Copper River watershed. Eighty percent of area households harvest fish, game and berries for subsistence use. Fifty percent of Cordova’s economy relies on commercial fishing. Sustaining salmon spawning habitat is essential in a region where fish have enormous economic and cultural value.
Fine sediment in streams can choke fish to death; smother incubating eggs and also abrade and clog fish gills. These problems exist in places in the Copper River drainage where heavy vehicle use and foot traffic have eroded the bank vegetation that holds soil in place, contributing to heavy siltation into salmon streams and rivers.
Goals for Eyak Lake Restoration
The major goals of the recent restoration efforts were to:
- restore water circulation,
- reduce turbidity and hydrocarbons in Eyak Lake, and
- educate the community about the importance of Eyak Lake habitat to the culture, history and economy of Cordova.
Long-term goals include continuing to:
- prioritize future restoration projects,
- educate the community and youth on water quality and the importance of protecting spawning, rearing, and overwintering habitats for salmon,
- implement new technologies that will better filter storm water runoff, and
- work with the City of Cordova and the Eyak Lake Planning Team on protecting Eyak Lake’s diverse aquatic habitat for Cordova’s future.
RECENT RESTORATION PROJECTS
Power Creek Road Spit Removal
Constructed in the 1960s; the spit was built to offer wave protection to a float plane dock, however this area is no longer used for this purpose.
Excavated fill from the spit. A silt blanket was used in the October 2009 construction. The shoreline was revegetated.
Improved lake circulation adjacent to the sockeye spawning beds and rearing habitat for cutthroats, coho juveniles, and sockeye fry.
Nirvana Park Oil & Grit Separator
Stormwater emptied directly into Eyak Lake from the stormwater lines that drain Lake Avenue and the surrounding neighborhoods. This water brings with it high loads of sediment and hydrocarbons that can make life difficult for young salmon.
Installed a Stormceptor Oil & Grit Separator to collect and separate out sediment and hydrocarbons before they enter the Eyak lake.
Worked with the City or Cordova and AK DOT to address snow storage practices to help keep unnecessary sand, salt and chemicals from entering the lake.
Improved salmon rearing sites by flushing sediment buildup, reduced turbidity and decreased hydrocarbon input into Eyak Lake.
past Restoration Projects:
Eyak Lake restoration work is not new to the Copper River Watershed Project. Since 2003, five major projects were completed with aim to restore the health of this valuable watershed. In addition, an Eyak Lake Planning Team was formed to focus action steps for future restoration.
- Shoreline revegetation in 2003& 2006
- Removal of Ketchum Air in 2008
- Culvert Installation on Power Creek Road in 2008