Buildings are perched above eroding bluffs on North Kenai Beach in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022. The City of Kenai is receiving federal funds to address coastal erosion along sections of the bluff through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021. (Photo by Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Buildings are perched above eroding bluffs on North Kenai Beach in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022. The City of Kenai is receiving federal funds to address coastal erosion along sections of the bluff through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021. (Photo by Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

‘A long time coming’

Infrastructure act provides millions for Kenai bluff stabilization

Sen. Lisa Murkowski announced Wednesday that $28 million in federal funding will be granted to the Kenai bluff stabilization project as a result of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

The project was one of four in Alaska that received additional federal funding through the infrastructure package, according to a press release from Murkowski’s office.

In addition to Kenai bluff stabilization, $250 million will be granted to the Port of Nome, $185 million will go toward the Lowell Creek flood diversion project in Seward, and $88 million will be put toward the Moose Creek Dam project in North Pole. Moreover, last week the Department of the Interior allocated $25 million to increase access for Denali Park Road.

“This announcement — made possible by our bipartisan infrastructure bill — is worthy of celebration,” Murkowski said in the press release. “These projects are real-life, boots-on-the-ground examples of the priorities we addressed through this historic law.”

In a joint press release, Alaska delegates Sen. Dan Sullivan and Rep. Don Young similarly lauded the federal infrastructure funding.

“Alaskans know just how critical these projects are for economic growth, global competitiveness, and national security. I am proud to have helped move the infrastructure bill in the House, and I thank our federal partners for recognizing the great need for safe, reliable infrastructure in our state,” Young said in the release.

Sullivan, who said Alaska was “a resource-rich, but infrastructure-poor state,” said the projects made “significant progress” toward the goal of helping Alaska realize its economic potential.

The infrastructure bill was passed by the U.S. Senate in August. The legislation provided a total of $550 billion in infrastructural investments over five years. Murkowski — along with nine other senators — drafted, negotiated and finalized the bill. Murkowski, Sullivan and Young all voted to pass the legislation.

Bluff stabilization has been on the city’s radar for years because of its high recession rate. According to previous Clarion reporting, the bluff is currently losing about 3 feet per year.

Kenai Mayor Brian Gabriel said Wednesday that the news of federal funding, as well as proposed state funds for the project, was an accumulation of good news.

“All of a sudden, a lot of really good things (are) happening,” he said.

The bluff stabilization project is designed as a cost-share model, with the City of Kenai funding 35% of the project and the federal government covering the other 65%.

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy included $6.5 million for the project in his fiscal year 2022 budget that is pending final approval by the state Legislature, which started its second regular session on Tuesday.

Gabriel said that $6.5 million from the state would be used for part of the 35% local match, and the $28 million from the federal government is projected to cover the other 65%. The whole project, he said, is estimated to cost between $30 million and $35 million.

“I’ve always been pretty optimistic about this project, especially over the last several years, because it has moved forward,” Gabriel said. “Obviously we have a vested interest to get this done sooner than later.”

Kenai City Manager Paul Ostrander said the federal dollars will propel the project forward in a concrete way.

“This is the funding that the city has been looking for for over 30 years,” he said. “The federal component was the key component that we’ve been trying to secure for decades.”

Ostrander said city employees were excited to get the news on Wednesday.

“The general excitement here at the city when we got notice this morning was impressive,” he said. “I mean, it’d been a long time coming.”

Reach reporter Camille Botello at camille.botello@peninsulaclarion.com.

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