A panoramic view of Kachemak Bay during the shorebird migration in May shows the northwest side of the bay. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently designated the bay as a Habitat Focus Area, which could mean more federal funding.-Photo by Michael Armstrong, Homer News

A panoramic view of Kachemak Bay during the shorebird migration in May shows the northwest side of the bay. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently designated the bay as a Habitat Focus Area, which could mean more federal funding.-Photo by Michael Armstrong, Homer News

NOAA gives bay special designation

Scientific research in Kachemak Bay could get more federal funding thanks to its recent designation as a Habitat Focus Area by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Part of NOAA’s habitat blueprint initiative to identify ecologically rich areas that merit research and other attention, Kachemak Bay is the first region in Alaska to be identified as a Habitat Focus Area and only the eighth in the nation, said Julie Speegle, a NOAA Fisheries spokesperson.

Kachemak Bay already is a state of Alaska critical habitat area and a NOAA National Estuarine Research Reserve under the federal Coastal Zone Management Act. By designating Kachemak Bay a Habitat Focus Area, NOAA also will work more collaboratively with partners like the state of Alaska, NOAA said in a Nov. 19 press release. 

One such collaboration, the Kachemak Bay Research Reserve, looks to be on firmer ground as the state moves forward to designating an agency partner with NOAA in the research reserve. While a Memorandum of Agreement needs to be signed, the University of Alaska Anchorage has agreed to be the new state fiscal agent with NOAA, said acting KBRR director Jessica Ryan-Shepherd.

“They’re looking at it as a real opportunity for the university to branch out from the terrestrial research they do to the near aquatic,” Ryan-Shepherd said of UAA becoming a new partner.

Ryan-Shepherd also praised designating Kachemak Bay a Habitat Focus Area and the expanded collaboration with NOAA

“They have a mission that’s very similar to ours,” she said of NOAA. “We’re extremely excited and fortunate to be heading in this direction. We look very much forward to collaborating with them.”

Under its funding agreement for the KBRR, the state needs to match 30 percent of total research reserve funding, or about $175,000. Currently, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is KBRR’s state fiscal agent. Earlier this year, Fish and Game officials had said KBRR would be moved out of Fish and Game to another agency. The research reserve’s funding had been threatened during the last legislative session when the House Subcommittee on Fish and Game zeroed out a $175,000 appropriation to KBRR, but that funding was restored in the final budget.

The Habitat Focus Area designation means that NOAA will concentrate resources from its offices on clearly defined habitat objectives in Kachemak Bay, NOAA said in its release. 

Not only is Kachemak Bay an ecologically rich area, it also has a lot of scientific data collected, Speegle said.

“We already have research and education programs right there. We’re already working with partners,” she said. “It seemed like the perfect area to designate as a Habitat Focus Area.”

In another state collaboration, NOAA runs the Kasitsna Bay Laboratory near Seldovia with the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. The NOAA ships Fairweather and Rainier also have done research expeditions in Kachemak Bay, including mapping of the seafloor and coastline. More federal dollars could mean putting some of that information together.

“We haven’t been able to synthesize that data and learn from it,” she said. 

A team of staff from NOAA’s National Ocean Services, National Weather Service and National Marine Fisheries Service and from the state of Alaska selected Kachemak Bay from seven state candidate areas.

“In the end, Kachemak Bay was the top choice, the unanimous choice of everyone on that panel,” Speegle said.

The transition from Fish and Game to UAA for the research reserve will happen over the next six months, hopefully by July 1, Ryan-Shepherd said. UAA has already designated funds from within its budget. 

KBRR will continue some ties with Fish and Game through the State Wildlife Grant Program. That program is a federal pass-through for funds received through the national wildlife grant program. KBRR has received some of the State Wildlife Grant Program funding for research on salmon in the Anchor River and the harmful species program. That funding source will continue, and Fish and Game will pass some of it on to KBBR.

“While we’re moving on to a different partner, they’re going to continue to fund those research activities that meet their mission,” Ryan-Shepherd said of Fish and Game.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.

More in News

Clem Tillion of Halibut Cove poses for a photo on Jan. 9, 2020, in Homer, Alaska. The veteran Alaska legislator was passing through Homer while waiting to take the M/V Tustumena ferry to Kodiak. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Clem Tillion, PFD founder and former legislator, dies at 96

Tillion died Wedneday, Oct. 13, at Halibut Cove home.

Thunder Mountain High School on April 18.  Earlier this fall, vandalism including stolen soap dispensers and toilets clogged with foreign objects such as paper towel rolls were a problem at schools nationwide and in Juneau. But, principals say the local situation is improving. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
After brief surge, vandalism subsiding at local high schools

Principals say internet trends, stress likely behind incidents.

In this Jan. 8, 2020, photo Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, heads to a briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington. An Alaska man faces federal charges after authorities allege he threatened to hire an assassin to kill Murkowski, according to court documents unsealed Wed., Oct. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite,File)
Delta Junction man faces charges over threatening Murkowski’s life

Authorities allege he threatened to hire an assassin to kill the senator.

Donna Aderhold recites the Homer City Council oath of office and is sworn in for duty at the city council meeting on Oct. 11. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
New council members sworn into duty Monday

Newly-elected Homer City Council members Shelly Erickson and Jason Davis and re-elected… Continue reading

Runners participate in boys varsity race at the Ted McKenney XC Invitational on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021, at Tsalteshi Trails just outside of Soldotna, Alaska. The trails recently reported incidents of vandalism and theft. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Vandalism and theft reported at Tsalteshi Trails

One trail user reported stolen skis recently and multiple signs have been defaced.

At left Bonita Banks, RN, Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) nurse at Homer Medical Center, and at right, Annie Garay, RN, Community Health Educator, pose for a photo at South Peninsula Hospital on Sept. 27, 2021, at Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Derotha Ferraro/South Peninsula Hospital)
New hospital community health educator starts

Garay, a Homer raised nurse, came home to ride out COVID-19, wound up doing pandemic nursing.

The logo for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is displayed inside the George A. Navarre Borough Admin Building on Thursday, July 22, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Montessori school goes to universal indoor masking

As of Tuesday, eight KPBSD schools were operating with universal indoor masking for staff and students.

Commercial fishing and other boats are moored in the Homer Harbor in this file photo. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Seawatch: Crabbers look at cuts to quotas

Tanner, opilio crab quotas cut on top of cancellation of fall king crab fishery.

Gavel (Courtesy photo)
Judge sides with psychiatrists who alleged wrongful firing

Two psychiatrists said they were wrongfully fired when Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy took office.

Most Read