A newly installed culvert moves water at the intersection of Patrick Drive and Bjerke Street on Monday, July 24, 2023, near Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

A newly installed culvert moves water at the intersection of Patrick Drive and Bjerke Street on Monday, July 24, 2023, near Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Assembly OKs money for K-Beach flood study

The area is prone to severe flooding and located adjacent to wetlands

The Kenai Peninsula Borough will use $175,000 to conduct a professional study of high water issues in the northwest area of Kalifornsky Beach Road following assembly approval of the move on Tuesday.

The study is intended to give borough staff a better understanding of the hydrology of the area, which is prone to severe flooding and located adjacent to wetlands. Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Peter Micciche has previously said that development in the neighborhood has acted as a sort of dam to water that traditionally runs into Cook Inlet, but that the flow dynamics are complex.

Tuesday’s vote comes as residents in the area grapple with the impacts of high water in the area, where previous catastrophic flooding has prompted local, state and even federal intervention. After breakup this spring and heavy rain earlier this summer, residents in the area experienced flooded septics, standing water in their homes and washed out roads, among other things.

At the request of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Planning Commission, assembly members on Tuesday amended the legislation to clarify that $25,000 of the total amount approved will be used to purchase water monitoring equipment that will be used to supplement the study with data and better inform long-term water solutions in the area.

At the request of Micciche, the legislation was introduced and passed on the same night.

“What we’re trying to do is first evaluate the effectiveness of what we’ve done so far (and) make sure we’re doing the right thing,” Micciche said. “We want to help people and not hurt them.”

As a second-class borough, the Kenai Peninsula Borough is limited in how it can respond to the type of severe flooding people experience in that area of Kalifornsky Beach Road. Flood control, Micciche said Tuesday, is not within the scope of the borough’s authority, however, proper drainage along borough rights of way is.

“We want to do the best we can to help and understand the situation today and into the future,” Micciche said Tuesday. “I just want you to understand, we know where our lane ends. We’re working within our lane. We’re not spending money frivolously; we just want to understand the situation so we know if and where we can help those neighborhoods in the future.”

The assembly in April approved the use of up to $300,000 from the borough Road Service Area Operating Fund to pay for drainage improvements along Eastway Drive. That project was underway earlier this month and involved Soldotna’s River City Construction LLC doing drainage, ditching, embankment construction and clearing work in the area.

The borough has also taken legal action against resident David Yragui, whose unpermitted ditching activities, the borough says, are exacerbating flooding conditions for residents in the area.

Micciche said borough staff will be attending a meeting organized by Yragui that will be held Thursday, Aug. 17 at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex, where flood-affected residents will meet to talk about high water issues.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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