Borough seeks governor, state’s help in addressing Seward watershed issues

The communities of Seward, Bear Creek and Lowell Point are at risk.

A resolution requesting that Gov. Mike Dunleavy support funding for watershed issues in the Seward area will be introduced at Tuesday’s Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting.

The communities of Seward, Bear Creek and Lowell Point are at risk from flooding, coastal storm surge, ground failure, sedimentation transport and coastal and riverine erosion, and have experienced major coastal storm surge and river flood events seven times in the last 18 years, the resolution said. Several of these events have caused damages to the Seward Highway, Seward Airport, Lowell Point Road, Nash Road and the Alaska Railroad, according to the resolution. If mitigation efforts aren’t addressed, additional storm events could cause further damage to infrastructure and property.

The resolution calls on the governor to support state funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to address watershed issues in Seward, to support approval of a service area-wide sediment management plan for the removal of stream bed material in Seward watersheds and to support the development of a statewide sediment management grant program to provide for the removal of stream bed material, protecting critical infrastructure.

The state approval of sediment management plans for the removal stream bed material “will protect public and private property and infrastructure from future flood damages,” the resolution said.

A statewide grant for approved sediment management plans will reduce expenses to state, borough and local governments when it comes to emergency response and restoration efforts, the resolution said.

The funding being requested at the state level would provide for long-term planning for watershed issues in Seward, Bear Creek, and Lowell Point, an Oct. 7 memo from Stephanie Presley of the Seward Bear Creek Flood Service Area to the assembly said.

Long-term planning would include supporting projects identified in cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the establishment of a state-wide grant program for sediment management plans and action to waive material fees when performed for flood mitigation.

“Long term plans and solutions to protect neighborhoods and critical infrastructure such as the Seward Airport and Seward Highway can be developed in partnership with the USACE, state and local stakeholders if funding is made available,” the memo said.

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