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Alaska BEACH Grant Program

The Alaska Beach Program

The DEC beach monitoring program is part of a nationwide effort to decrease the incidence of water-borne illness at public beaches under the federal Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act, funded by an EPA BEACH grant to DEC. Since 2002, the DEC beach monitoring program has been collecting water quality samples at coastal recreation beaches throughout the state. Beaches were selected based on risk factors identified in community surveys. The program provides grants to local communities, tribal governments, and watershed councils to sample beach water for organisms (fecal coliforms and enterococci bacteria) that indicate the presence of fecal contamination. By notifying the public in the event that a sample exceeds the allowable levels, the program helps to prevent illnesses that could result from exposure to contaminated beach water.

Communities that have participated in the BEACH program include Anchor Point, Anchorage, Dillingham, Douglas Island, Haines, Homer, Juneau, Kasilof, Kenai, Ketchikan, King Salmon, Naknek, Nome, Petersburg, and Wrangell.

2018 Ketchikan Beaches

The Alaska BEACH program which monitors fecal bacteria contamination for beaches along the Ketchikan coastline has concluded for the 2018 recreation season. Marine water samples were collected from mid-May through mid-September to evaluate potential health risks indicated by fecal coliform and enterococci bacteria, and to notify the public when levels exceeded state standards. Marine water sampling is planned for the 2019 recreation season starting in May 2019. The 2018 Ketchikan Beach Monitoring report is being prepared and will be posted here when final.

Press Releases


2018 Kenai River Beaches

The Alaska Beach program is conducting beach monitoring at the North and South Kenai River beaches, the Warren Ames Bridge, and upstream and downstream of the gull colony in Kenai, Alaska, to determine the extent of fecal waste contamination. Marine water samples will be collected weekly between mid-June and mid-August so that present fecal contamination data may be compared to data collected during summer seasons starting in 2010 and continuing through 2014. The earlier data demonstrated that Kenai public use beaches regularly exceed water quality standards for fecal waste during the July personal use fishery (PUF). Seagulls are the source of the majority of the fecal pollution on the Kenai River beaches. Gulls are attracted to the North and South Kenai River beaches by unnaturally large quantities of fish waste from the fishery. The Kenai River beach monitoring project has an additional goal of increasing public awareness of potential sources and health risks associated with beach bacterial contamination. Updated information is added below as it becomes available.

Press Releases


2017 Ketchikan Beaches

The Alaska BEACH program was initiated along the Ketchikan coastline to monitor fecal waste contamination during the 2017 recreation season. Marine water samples were collected from July through September to evaluate potential health risks indicated by fecal coliform and enterococci bacteria, and to notify the public when levels exceeded state standards. For more detailed information, click on the 2017 Ketchikan BEACH Monitoring report and press release links below .

Press Releases


Identifying Alaskan Beaches

Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation's Beach Grant Program defines a beach as "any shoreline where recreational activities may bring a person into complete or partial body contact with marine water." NOTE: This definition may include sections of a shoreline that do not appear to look like a sandy beach.

A Recreational Beach Survey was performed in 2003 to gather information from coastal communities about the recreational use of beaches in their area. The 60 responses that were received identified 203 recreational-use beaches as areas that were used for recreational purposes. These beaches were located in 53 coastal Alaskan communities. The survey indicated that some beaches may be more likely to have a higher levels of bacteria contamination than others. These high priority, or Tier 1, beaches, are the focus of the Alaska BEACH Program.

A three tiered monitoring structure for general testing of recreational waters was developed because Alaska does not have an extensive road system and easy access to microbiological laboratories. Tier 1 beaches include shorelines in more populated areas of the state, which are on an established road system and are within practical distance of an Alaska-certified microbiological laboratory. Practical distances are required because the microbiological samples need to travel from the recreation use beach to the laboratory for processing within a 6-hour sample holding time.

2018 Sampling

Grant funds were awarded to the communities of Kenai and Ketchikan. Sampling is being conducted by the watershed council and tribal entities in cooperation with the local land representatives.

How Do I Get Involved?

If you are interested in participating in the Alaska's Beach Monitoring Program, please contact staff listed below to complete a beach survey. Your responses will help us rank your beaches based on the probability of fecal contamination, and human exposure to that pollution during recreation.

Past BEACH Press Releases

Past BEACH Reports