Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2018AK141B

Water quality and off-highway vehicle stream crossings in the Nelchina Recreation Area

Institute: Alaska
Year Established: 2018 Start Date: 2018-03-01 End Date: 2019-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $10,692 Total Non-Federal Funds: $22,559

Principal Investigators: Roman Dial, Kristina Ryland

Abstract: Nearly one in four Americans participate in off-highway vehicle use every year, which presents a unique problem to public lands. The number of potential riders using the trails each year can affect soil erosion, water quality, rider safety, and habitat fragmentation. A 320-km2 area of the Nelchina Recreational Area centered near Eureka Lodge in southcentral Alaska has been selected for this study, because of its abundance of streams and recreational trails. Trail-based soil erosion that occurs near stream crossings represents a non-point source of pollution to streams, which can harm aquatic life, disrupt salmonid spawning habitat, increase water-treatment costs, and decrease water usefulness for recreation. GIS data, which includes past aerial imagery, current satellite imagery, and drone footage, will be used to quantify the changes in trail density to evaluate soil erosion rates. The documentation of macroinvertebrate abundance in streams, as well as water quality sampling, flow rates and temperature, will be used for water quality determination. These factors, in addition to user satisfaction ratings, will help determine the impact off-highway vehicle stream crossings in the Nelchina Recreational Area on nearby watersheds. This water quality research will be useful for recreational trail management to ensure the sustainability of the growing off-highway vehicle population in southcentral Alaska.