As one of the original Homer community members who worked to have Kachemak Bay selected as the first National Estuarine Research Reserve in the state of Alaska, I strongly urge the Legislature to reinstate the $175,000 in funding that was deleted from the budget for the Kachemak Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR). The rigorous selection and approval process to create this preserve is a feather in Alaska’s cap.
This reserve is the largest in the national system of reserves, a designation that is given only to very special places. Beyond that, the state of Alaska, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, entered a partnership to support this NERR financially because of its importance as a significant estuary system and the valuable research that would be done to help understand how to best manage this important area and its connection to the larger Cook Inlet system.
The Kachemak Bay NERR has become an important part of Homer’s economy, tourism infrastructure and educational system. Research grants are a big part of the NERR budget. These grants bring in money to the Homer community which is spent locally. The research being done is contributing to a greater understanding of how the currents work in the bay, provides incredibly detailed coastal photographs that provide a way to visually understand erosion problems, helpful to residents and planners in making better land-use decisions near coastal bluffs. New research is mapping the upper bay’s salmon nurseries in the system of very small streams and wetlands where salmon fry grow to maturity. This new knowledge comes with NERR research and would not be available without the work of the research reserve.
The research reserve’s Discovery Labs provide local school children with hands on science learning not available in the schools. These labs have allowed kids to explore science by doing — learning about tidal creatures, birds, invasive plants and much more. The labs rely on partnerships with other local nonprofits, like the Pratt Museum and Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies. These labs are exactly the type of collaboration the community envisioned when the committee set up guidelines for the NERR.
The Kachemak Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve is not a superfluous government agency. It is a working Research Reserve, contributing to our knowledge base for scientific management of our resources, providing information for governmental agencies to make better management decisions, and teaching children, the community, and visitors about this important ecological system upon which we all depend for our fisheries, our recreation, and subsistence. This valuable partnership within the National Research Reserve system should be fully funded.
Nina Faust is a longtime Homer resident.