Water flows over Big Eddy Road in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Water flows over Big Eddy Road in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Borough declares state of emergency for flood response

The disaster declaration opens access to emergency funds

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Peter Micciche declared a state of emergency on Thursday in response to flooding impacts on parts of the borough around Kalifornsky Beach Road, along the Kenai River, and on the eastern Kenai Peninsula.

According to a press release from the borough mayor’s office, the disaster declaration opens access to emergency funds and expansion of authorities “necessary to respond to the high water conditions being experienced within the Kenai Peninsula Borough.” The release says damage has been done to residential structures and public infrastructure on the western Kenai Peninsula.

At a candidate forum hosted by the Peninsula Clarion, KDLL 91.9 FM and KBBI 890 AM, Micciche said that those funds totalled $100,000. Further, he said he was reaching out to the governor to see if the state would support the move with its own state of emergency, which might allow for “personal support” to residents seeing damage to their homes.

“I was resistant to declare an emergency when it was simply K-Beach area,” he said. “But it’s seeming almost biblical these days, what we’re facing in my short term as mayor.”

Flooding was experienced by residents of the central Kenai Peninsula this week, as glacial dam outbursts led to flooding of the Kenai River with crests up to 15 feet. Impacted areas include the Kenai Keys subdivision near Sterling, the Big Eddy subdivision in Soldotna, and the area around Salmon Run Drive in Funny River.

A flood warning was issued for the Kenai Keys on Monday, and will remain in effect until noon Sunday. A flood advisory was issued for areas of Soldotna downstream from the bridge on Tuesday, which was, as of Thursday night, scheduled until noon on Friday.

A No Wake Zone was also implemented by the Department of Natural Resources for the areas of the Kenai River near the Kenai Keys on Wednesday, which was also scheduled to remain in effect until Friday. The borough urged all residents to limit the wakes of motorized boats in flooded areas to protect personal property and riverbanks.

Flooding has also been impacting residents of Kalifornsky Beach Road, where a culvert is failing and residents have reported sewage backing up into basements, the need for constantly running water pumps, and the feeling of being “trapped” in their properties.

Micciche said he hopes that the state of emergency declaration will allow the borough to support residents and prep agencies before even more severe flooding occurs, something he said seems likely to happen this fall. He said that last year, the worst flooding came at the end of October, and people are seeing significant impact from flooding only halfway through September.

“I’m worried about that,” he said.

Micciche said precipitation levels in the borough are the highest they’ve been since 1988, and that groundwater systems are “overcharged,” leading the borough to expect more issues on the horizon.

“My utmost priority as the mayor of the KPB is the life, health, and safety of our residents. I will take any steps necessary within my authority and through our Emergency Management Team to respond and help mitigate damage to private and public property and the infrastructure we all count on daily,” Micciche said in the release. “A disaster declaration also approved by the governor would help us in our efforts to continue to provide the resources needed to effectively respond and to return life to normalcy as soon as possible in affected areas.”

For updates on protective measures being taken by the Kenai Peninsula Borough, visit facebook.com/KPBAlerts. For updated hazardous weather warnings and forecasts, visit weather.gov/afc.

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com.

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