The National Fish Habitat Partnership (www.fishhabitat.org) unveiled its 10 “Waters to Watch” list for 2013, and the Mat-Su’s Big Lake was included!
Why did Big Lake make the list?
Big Lake is a recreational hotspot for fishing and water sports in the growing community of Big Lake, just west of Wasilla in the Mat-Su Borough. The lake itself, with 26 miles of shoreline and two major streams in its basin, provide extremely valuable spawning and rearing habitat for sockeye and coho salmon as well as resident populations of Dolly Varden, rainbow trout, and other native fishes. Threats to salmon in the Big Lake drainage include habitat loss through shoreline development around the lake, hydrocarbon pollution from boats, undersized and perched culverts on tributary streams and wetlands, stormwater runoff from roadways, paved driveways, parking areas and roofs, and invasive northern pike (not native to Southcentral Alaska). The Big Lake community is working on a Community Impact Assessment Project with the Mat-Su Borough to address responsible growth, including habitat concerns.
In 2010 Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation listed Big Lake as an impaired waterbody due to concentrations of hydrocarbons above water quality standards. The state, local community, and Mat-Su Salmon Habitat Partnership members have implemented education and outreach programs to promote safe fuel handling. Click here to read about how a local girl scout took her clean fuel message all the way to Washington, D.C.! Learn more about Big Lake water quality here.
It is hoped that the designation of Big Lake as a National Water to Watch in 2013, will serve to build community awareness about the importance of water quality on salmon habitat and future salmon populations, celebrates the actions of private landowners working to enhance and restore the habitat on their lands, and highlights the many partners’ working toward development model that sets a priority on preserving water quality and the integrity of fish habitat while allowing for growth to continue.
The Mat-Su Salmon Partnership has, and continues to support projects within the Big Lake drainage. Ongoing projects include education and outreach programs to promote safe fuel handling, investigations of the influence of road crossings on the movement of juvenile coho salmon to rearing and overwintering habitats, land conservation, impacts from urban development on physical habitat and water quality, data collection and application for instream flow reservations for fish, and shoreline and streambank restoration.