Alaska's Kenai River removed from polluted waterways list

State officials, anglers and conservationists are crediting tighter rules on boat engines for a major decrease in pollution in the Kenai, the state's most popular sportfishing river.

On Monday, the state announced that it has removed the river from the list of Alaska's polluted waterways.

The Kenai — a massive producer of salmon and a magnet for Southcentral fishermen and tourists — joined the list of polluted waterways four years ago after tests showed high levels of petroleum compounds in the river.

Roughly 600 gallons of fuel per day were leaking from motorboats into the river on some days in July, the testing had shown.

The cumulative impact was like dumping a 55-gallon drum of fuel off the Soldotna bridge every four hours, said Robert Ruffner of the Kenai Watershed Forum, which has measured water quality in the river for more than a decade and has been working as a contractor to the state on Kenai water-quality testing.

"They'd be carting you away in handcuffs if you did that," he said.

Due to the contamination, in 2008 the state banned most two-stroke boat engines along a large swath of the lower Kenai. That's despite criticism from some fishermen who didn't believe two-strokes were the culprit.

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