Alaska BEACH Grant Program

The Alaska Beach Program

In 2002, in response to the authorization of The BEACH Act by Congress, Alaska's BEACH Program was established. Alaska's BEACH Program provides support for communities to begin monitoring marine water quality at high-priority beaches. 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 Nome, Dillingham, Haines, Homer, Juneau, Kasilof, Kenai, Naknek, Wrangell and Petersburg.

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.

2016-2017 Sampling

Grants were awarded to the communities of Petersburg (Sandy Beach Park) and Nome (Middle and East Beaches). Sampling is being completed by watershed councils and tribal entities in cooperation with the local land representatives.

How Do I Get Involved?

If you are interested in being a part of Alaska's Beach Monitoring Program, the first step is to fill out the beach survey, which can be found at Recreational Beach Sanitary Survey. Your responses will help us rank your beaches based on the probability of fecal contamination and human exposure to that pollution during recreation on the beach.