Story last updated at 3:02 p.m. Thursday, October 3, 2002

Estuaries day coming
Estuaries are protected coastal sites where fresh water mixes with salt water. Throughout the world, these valuable environments serve as nursery grounds for fish and shellfish, improve water quality by filtering pollutants, act as buffers to protect shorelines from erosion and flooding, and provide essential food and habitat for birds, fish and other wildlife. The Kachemak Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve is one of 25 reserves administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in partnership with the coastal states. Managed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Alaska's only estuarine research reserve currently encompasses more than 365,000 acres of public lands and waters surrounding and within Kachemak Bay.

The Kachemak Bay estuary -- which includes five different estuarine habitats ranging from lagoons to marshes to mudflats -- receives fresh water via rivers, streams, glaciers and groundwater. Unlike estuaries farther south, however, Kachemak Bay is more marine during the winter when surrounding watersheds freeze and relatively little fresh water enters the basin. Our nearly pristine and highly productive estuary provides both seasonal and year-round habitat for an incredible abundance and diversity of life -- more than 1,500 species of plants and animals have been documented here.

In celebration of National Estuaries Day, Oct. 5, the Kachemak Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve is hosting free and fun-filled events for the family at Bishop's Beach in Homer on Saturday. An "Art by the Sea" sand-sculpting contest for kids, adults and families will take place from 9:30 to 11:15 a.m. The first-ever "Kachemak Bay Quiz Bowl" contest will begin at 11:45 a.m., and Homer biologist Carmen Field will lead an "Estuary Food Hike," a rubber-boot exploration of Beluga Slough and Bishop's Beach, from 3 to 4 p.m. Everyone is invited to join in the "Celebrate the Bay" community lunch picnic potluck at 1:30 p.m. in the park pavilion. The Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies will sponsor a "Beach Bag Bash" contest to collect litter at Bishop's Beach from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. The CACS will also host a "Marine Debris Art Contest" and present Coastwalk awards at 1 pm. Come join the fun.

Today and Friday, you can also enjoy a guided tour of our nation's estuaries through "Estuary Live," an interactive field trip over the Internet. To learn more about estuaries and to participate in Estuary Live, visit www.estuarylive.org. See http://www.ocrm.nos.noaa.gov/nerr for more information on the National Estuarine Research Reserve System.

To learn more about the Kachemak Bay Research Reserve, visit its newly launched Web site at http://www. habitat.adfg.state.ak.us/geninfo/kbrr/index.html. For more information on this year's National Estuaries Day events in Homer, contact me by phone at 235-4799, or by e-mail at carmen_field@fishgame.state.ak.us.

Carmen Field

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