People run from a landslide just outside the downtown area of Seward, Alaska, May 7, 2022. (Josh Gray via AP)

People run from a landslide just outside the downtown area of Seward, Alaska, May 7, 2022. (Josh Gray via AP)

Blasting work to begin on Seward landslide

The Kenai Peninsula Borough will facilitate a town hall for Lowell Point residents Friday

Blasting work will begin this week on a large landslide that occurred over the weekend in Seward. The May 7 slide, which was initially estimated to be about 300 feet wide and 200 feet long, occurred on Lowell Point Road and cut off access between Lowell Point and downtown Seward.

Five crew members with Alaska Blasting Services arrived in Seward on Wednesday and began manually sloughing the slide area, the city said. The crew went up the mountainside and are manually loosening large rocks and boulders while Metco Alaska works to prevent trees in the slide debris from falling into the bay.

“The collaboration between the two contractors has been carefully coordinated and the crews are in constant radio contact amongst themselves, as well as with the safety crews on the ground and on the watch boat positioned in the bay,” a Wednesday release from the city said.

The City of Seward formally declared a state of emergency in response to the landslide and is asking residents and visitors to stay clear of the area, which is “critical infrastructure” for the city. A shelter opened over the weekend at Seward High School for anyone displaced by the slide. Miller’s Landing Alaska Fishing & Kayaking Outfitters is offering water taxi services between Lowell Point and Seward.

The slide area was still considered to be “tenuous” early Tuesday, the city said, but Metco Alaska’s plan is to stabilize the slide from the top down by building a switchback ramp that can provide access to the top of the slide. That work requires a trench to be created between the contractors and the mountainside to catch falling debris, the city said.

Miller’s Landing announced via Facebook on Sunday that they would begin offering free water taxi rides for friends and locals on Lowell Point who need to get into Seward for work, school or other essential trips. The outfit also offers nine other water taxi times for those traveling between Lowell Point and Seward. Because of shifting wind patters, the city said Wednesday evening, the water taxi was relocated to the North Harbor Launch Ramp, between X and Z floats.

City officials visited the slide via boat Tuesday morning and saw continued shedding of debris from the top of the slide area, a city release said. A state geologist identified “a large crack in the landscape” between the current slide and the location of a previous slide in 2020. That area is “of greatest concern.”

The city on Sunday said officials are working with Metco Alaska to discuss the removal of slide debris but that work could not begin until the slide was stabilized. Remediation work officially began Monday, with Metco Alaska making “intentional efforts” to remove trees from the slide before they could fall into Resurrection Bay.

The City of Seward reported Monday that some trees had fallen into the bay and encouraged area boaters to exercise caution. The U.S. Coast Guard and the Seward Harbormaster are collaborating to provide updates.

Access to and from Caines Head State Recreation Area and Lowell Point State Recreation Site will be limited to water taxis “for an undetermined amount of time,” Alaska State Parks said Wednesday. Anyone who has booked the recreation area’s Tonsina, Derby Cove or Callisto Canyon cabins and contact the Alaska Department of Natural Resources’ public information center in Anchorage or Fairbanks to cancel reservations and receive a full refund.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management will hold a town hall meeting on Friday for the Lowell Point community at 7 p.m. at the Lowell Point Fire Hall. OEM plans to provide updates on the slide response and to answer questions from community members.

“Since it is not yet known when Lowell Point Road will reopen, please continue to plan ahead for food, water, heating oil, and other needs to ensure you have adequate supplies for the next 7-14 days,” Kenai Peninsula Borough Emergency Manager Brenda Ahlberg wrote in a Wednesday notice about the meeting.

Lowell Point residents are encouraged to contact the Office of Emergency Management at 907-224-INFO (4636) with any issues or concerns. Updates on the landslide are being shared by the City of Seward on the city’s Facebook page and by the Kenai Peninsula Borough through its KPB Alerts system.

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

A landslide blocks Lowell Point Road in Seward, Alaska on Sunday, May 8, 2022. (City of Seward)

A landslide blocks Lowell Point Road in Seward, Alaska on Sunday, May 8, 2022. (City of Seward)

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