Property owners in Gray Cliff and Moose Point northeast of Nikiski may still get a road extension, even if Apache Corporation won’t be the one to do it.
Apache Corporation had announced intentions to extend the Kenai Spur Highway past its current terminus in the Captain Cook State Recreation Area, but since the company announced in March that it would withdraw from Alaska, the future of the road project remained unclear. However, the Kenai Peninsula Borough may pick up the work after Apache offered to donate the engineering and environmental work it had already done.
Gray Cliff and Moose Point, more than 13,000 acres in total, were sold off as subdivisions in the 1980s. However, other than a dirt four-wheeler track extending from the end of the Kenai Spur Highway in the Captain Cook State Recreation Area or driving along the beach, there is no way to reach the area. Few of the lots have been developed.
The borough originally intended to extend the road itself and applied for federal funding to do so. The federal government appropriated $6 million for the borough to use to extend the road in 1998, but after completing about $1 million worth of preliminary environmental work, the borough administration decided it would be too expensive to pursue it further.
Apache Corporation considered developing a drill pad about seven miles north of the end of the Kenai Spur Highway in 2014. At that time, it began working on gathering environmental data and doing engineering work on a possible road extension.
Apache did not do any groundwork on the road, said Castlen Kennedy, a spokesperson for the company, in an email.
“We completed design and engineering work for the Kenai Spur Highway extension, and we would like to see the Kenai Peninsula Borough benefit from those efforts,” Kennedy wrote in an emailed statement from the company. “We are currently evaluating the possibility of donating the results of this preliminary work to the Borough, but a final decision has not yet been made.“
Many private individuals own property out that road. Jim Harpring of Funny River has owned an approximately 26-acre parcel in Gray Cliff since 1982, always intending to develop it. However, he said he hasn’t been to see it in 18 years because the road access is so bad and the beach isn’t always useable.
If the borough were able to extend the road, Harpring said he’d like to move forward with developing his land. He testified to the borough assembly on April 5 that he appreciated their work on the road.
“I can’t develop that property because of the access issue,” Harpring said. “We have the opportunity to at least develop something out there even if the road only goes out four to five miles. I would request that this group do everything possible to develop that road to allow the property owners out there some way of using that property.”
The borough still owns a long tract of land alongside the existing ATV trail, so no land purchases would be necessary.
One of the reasons the donation would help would be to apply it toward the required match funds. To use the remaining federal appropriations, the borough has to provide a 20 percent match. However, if the Apache donation — which is worth approximately $1.17 million — can be applied toward the match funding, it would save the borough a considerable amount.
Borough Mayor Mike Navarre said at the assembly meeting that the borough administration hopes it can use the donation to match the federal funds that the borough has had on the books.
The borough assembly has to approve the acceptance of the donation. The borough administration is still working on negotiating a Memorandum of Understanding with the company, so Navarre asked that the assembly postpone the discussion until the April 19 meeting, when the negotiations could be finished.
The assembly agreed and postponed the discussion until its next meeting, which will take place in Seward.