The Kenai Peninsula Borough wants to become more proactive when it comes to mitigating disasters along Lowell Point Road.
Assembly members approved last week legislation supporting agencies working to address the “repetitive hazards” caused by Bear Mountain. The resolution comes about a month and a half after a landslide along the road severed access between the communities of Seward and Lowell Point.
The City of Seward, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy and Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce all issued disaster declarations for the area in the wake of the slide, which the Kenai Peninsula Borough has now estimated contained about 60,000 cubic yards of debris.
The same resolution authorizes borough administration to explore projects that would mitigate the dangers along Lowell Point Road in collaboration with other agencies and to explore alternate means of education for Lowell Point residents.
Kenai Peninsula Borough Emergency Manager Brenda Ahlberg wrote in a June 9 memo to assembly members that a post-landslide evaluation was prepared for the City of Seward by the Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys to help determine the stability of Bear Mountain.
That survey, Ahlberg wrote, found that there is the potential for more large-scale sloughing from Bear Mountain that could cause landslides “similar to or greater than the May 7 event.” The same report recommended the monitoring of the mountain’s slopes.
“Due (to) the size and complexity of the problem and in order to provide safe, reliable transportation for Lowell Point residents, future mitigation efforts should involve the collective collaboration of local, state and federal partners,” Ahlberg wrote.
A unified command structure, which included the Kenai Peninsula Borough, the City of Seward and the State of Alaska Department of Homeland Security, was created in late May to support response efforts. Any mitigation work, Ahlberg said, should include exploring alternative transportation means in the area, like a boat ramp or dock.
While crews worked to clear slide debris from Lowell Point Road, many residents were left without a way to travel between the two communities. Free water taxi service between Seward and Lowell Point was made available for necessary travel, such as for residents or for people working in the community. That service, initially provided for free by Miller’s Landing Alaskan Fishing and Kayaking Outfitters, later expanded to include Aurora Charters as well as a shuttle service, and was subsidized in part by the Kenai Peninsula Borough.
The resolution, which assembly members unanimously approved during their June 21 meeting, cites a desire to ensure “safe (and) reliable” transportation to Lowell Point, access to state and federal parks and protection of Seward’s city infrastructure. It also acknowledges a history of sloughing from Bear Mountain that has posed dangers to people and vehicles.
“Providing safe, reliable transportation to the community of Lowell Point, the City of Seward infrastructure, state parks, Kenai Fjords National Park and the Chugach National Forest should be done in collaboration with local, state and federal resources due to the size and complexity of mitigating the Road dangers,” the resolution says.
Lowell Point Road will be closed intermittently on Wednesday, June 29. Drivers should expect delays of up to 20 minutes with flaggers present while crews work, the city said. Metco Alaska will work Thursday to conduct final excavation and cleanup work and next week to place barriers in the slide area, the city said.
Updates about the status of the road, as well as additional closure information, is being shared by the City of Seward on the city’s Facebook page.
Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at firstname.lastname@example.org.