Chena River Watershed Quality Monitoring

Background Information

Three waterbodies in the Chena Watershed are considered high priority waterbodies through the Alaska Clean Water Actions (ACWA) ranking process because of concerns with water quality. The Chena River, Chena Slough and Noyes Sloughs were listed as impaired (polluted) from petroleum hydrocarbons, oil and grease and for sediment in the early 1990s. Noyes Slough was also listed as polluted from residues (debris). These waters provide important habitat to Chinook salmon, chum salmon, and arctic grayling. Urban run-off is considered the primary source of pollution. Efforts to improve water quality in the Chena Watershed include:

Green Infrastructure (GI) Activities in the Chena Watershed

"Green infrastructure" is used in communities throughout the United States. The concept uses approaches to land development (or redevelopment) that work with nature to manage stormwater as close to its source as possible. These strategies use careful site design and decentralized stormwater management to reduce the environmental footprint of new growth.

DEC provided Clean Water Act funds to the Alaska Department of Natural Resources to issue sub-grants to the City of Fairbanks, the Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC), the Fairbanks Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), and GW Scientific. This partnership:

Ongoing and future activities:

  • mapping to identify high priority areas that might benefit from green infrastructure
  • conducting a business community workshop
  • soliciting feedback from homeowners who implemented green building techniques

Some benefits from increased green infrastructure

  • reduce polluted run-off to rivers and streams
  • increase rainwater and snowmelt infiltration into the ground
  • reduce pressure on the city's storm-water system
  • prevent erosion

Sediment in the Chena River, Chena Slough & Noyes Slough

All three waterbodies are considered to be polluted from excessive sediment derived from stormwater sources. An excess amount of sediment can smother the habitat aquatic life needs to survive. The Tanana Valley Watershed Association (TVWA) was awarded an ACWA grant from DEC in FY 2012 to collect data to evaluate the current water quality conditions with respect to sediment and what actions can help improve conditions in the watershed.

Petroleum Hydrocarbons, Oil and Grease in the Chena River, Chena Slough & Noyes Slough

Data from DEC's 2005, 2007, and 2009 sampling efforts showed that the Chena River and Chena Slough are meeting water quality standards for petroleum hydrocarbons, oil and grease. In 2010, the Chena River and Chena Slough were removed from the impaired waters list for petroleum hydrocarbons, oil and grease. Due to the persistent occurrence of sheens observed on Noyes Slough, it is still considered impaired. In 2011 DEC completed a total maximum daily load (TMDL) document for petroleum hydrocarbons, oil and sheens to address the sheens in the slough. The TMDL includes strategies for reducing the presence of sheens in Noyes Slough.

Debris in Noyes Slough

In 2008 DEC completed a TMDL document for residues (debris) in Noyes Slough. Debris in the slough includes appliances, scrap building material, concrete and asphalt, shopping carts, litter and tires. The TMDL document addresses efforts to reduce human-caused debris that gets to the slough from urban run-off and dumping.


Chandra McGee
610 University Drive
Fairbanks, AK 99709
Phone: (907) 451-2140