Kenai City Council will approve accelerated funding for the bluff erosion project.
At their meeting Wednesday night, the council approved a resolution that allows the city to pursue the funding through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The council approved funding the design phase of the project, which has been in the works for more than 30 years.
“The fact is if we didn’t do this, we’d probably get another decade older waiting for the design to happen, in which case the funds we have would diminish, if we even have them any longer,” council member Henry Knackstedt said. “The cost of the project goes up. The cost of the design, we’ve got a grant for that. (It) makes so much sense to move ahead.”
The next step is for the city to draft a letter to the Alaska district of the Army Corps, saying that Kenai will fully fund the design phase, followed by a trip to Washington, D.C., in February.
Once the design phase is complete, construction can begin. Ostrander estimates construction will cost anywhere from $24 to $40 million. The city will cover 35 percent of the final cost, with $6 million already secured from a $4 million state grant and $2 million in voter-approved bonds. The rest of the project would be funded by the Army Corps of Engineers. The city could apply for other grants or use more bonds to cover the other portions of their share of the bill.
The funds applied to the design phase, though, can be credited towards the ultimate cost share.
“So, basically, we are spending money now and it will be credited so we spend less when we get to construction,” Ostrander said.
The objective of the project, which has been in the works for more than 30 years, is to stall the 3-feet-per-year erosion on a 1-mile stretch of land starting from North Beach, past the senior center and ending where the original canneries were.
In addition to protecting current properties in Old Town Kenai, the city hopes bluff stabilization will increase investment opportunities in the historic district.