A coalition of experts and more than 60 Kalifornsky Beach Road residents gathered at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex Tuesday to determine what is the next step in combating the level of the rising water table.
By the end of the two-hour community forum, facilitated by Randy Daly, interested residents were asked to petition Alaska Commissioner for the Department of Health and Social Services William Streur requesting the official formation of a task force dedicated to solving the area’s destructive flooding.
Sen. Peter Micciche R-Soldotna and Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management Director Scott Walden also attended the meeting.
Anchorage-based Hydrologist Jim Munter, who was contacted by Dave Yragui, a K-Beach resident, in the fall of 2013 to research the situation, said a task force was a necessary step in moving forward. He said ideally it will include the stakeholders; residents, business owners, experts and borough members.
“Yes, we don’t have a lot of money here,” Munter said. “But before that we have a bigger problem, which is everyone deciding what to do.”
Janie Dusel of the AWR Engineering firm based in Anchorage, which specializes in water resources engineering and storm water solutions, came to speak about long-term possibilities.
“I wish I could tell you I looked at the situation and found the perfect solution,” Dusel said. “All of you want an answer so you don’t have to be here next year and the next year.”
Munter and Dusel both told the audience that currently there is not enough information to work on anything significantly productive. The task force could organize and prioritize research in topography studies, culverts construction and figuring out what funding is required for projects that will effectively divert or remove the ground water causing homes and properties to flood.
Dusel said if people start now, a solution could be implemented as early as one year from now.
After introducing the concept of a task force, Dusel and Munter spent time addressing community questions and concerns. Some audience members were not sure what was causing the flooding.
Munter explained it only takes a few years of above average precipitation for the water table to rise.
He said there are sumps and ditches that can be installed on susceptible land, but the problem is removing the water that is collected and or not diverting it onto neighboring properties.
Dusel said that the issue of determining who is responsible for building culverts will be a complicated because process because the borough can only build in the areas it has jurisdiction over, which is not consistent across K-Beach.
As Micciche left the meeting he said he would do what he can to help get state or federal funding once it is determined how much the ensuing projects will cost.
President Barack Obama declared the 2013 fall flooding in the K-Beach are a federal disaster in January.
There will be a borough-hosted meeting to discuss the flooding at 6 p.m., Aug. 19, at the Donald E. Gilman River Center in Soldotna. Residents can still sign the petition at both of the HiSpeed Gear! in Kenai and Soldotna.
Kelly Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org