Clarion file photo In this June 23, 2013 file photo the tide, wind and waves eat at the bottom of Kenai Bluff during high tide Sunday evening below Toyon Way in Kenai.

Clarion file photo In this June 23, 2013 file photo the tide, wind and waves eat at the bottom of Kenai Bluff during high tide Sunday evening below Toyon Way in Kenai.

Kenai bluff erosion study cost almost doubles

The cost of an upcoming Army Corps of Engineers study necessary to proceed with Kenai’s bluff stabilization project has increased from a May 2015 estimate of $650,000 to a present $1.17 million. The Army Corps and the city of Kenai are splitting the study cost in half. Kenai had previously paid its $252,000 share of the initial cost, and on Wednesday the Kenai City Council unanimously agreed to pay the $333,000 increase with money from a $4 million state grant dedicated to the bluff erosion project.

The Army Corps final feasibility study is one of the last pre-construction steps in a project to shield around 5,000 feet of bluff face near Old Town Kenai from the erosion that presently consumes around 3 feet of bluff-top per year. Although the study was delayed for lack of federal funding from 2011 to 2015, Dave Martinson, the Army Corps of Engineers manager of the Kenai Bluff Stabilization Project, said it is now underway.

Martinson said the study’s estimated cost has risen “because of several factors” including the increased costs of the study’s component elements — particularly real estate and economic analysis — and a wider-than-normal scope.

Martinson said typical Army Corps studies evaluate potential projects on the sole criteria of national economic benefit using a cost-benefit analysis. The study would create a ratio of project cost to economic benefit, considered on a national scale. If the ratio equals more than one — that is, the benefits are greater than the cost — the project can be approved.

Martinson said the Kenai Bluff Stabilization project would not be approved under such an analysis. As an alternative, the upcoming study will be done under a newer administrative structure that allows other considerations to influence the decision.

“What we can do is look at three other accounts,” Martinson said. “One of them is ‘other social’ or cultural. Another one is environmental, and the last one would be regional — regional economic development, as opposed to national. So the nation might not see a benefit, but the region could… We have to do additional analysis to look at those factors.”

This type of evaluation will also allow the Corps to include benefits to private property in its cost-benefit analysis, while the traditional evaluation would only consider public property.

The solution to the bluff erosion problem proposed in previous Army Corps studies is to regrade and vegetate the bluff-top while shielding its base with large stones. In addition to analyzing this solution, the final feasibility study will examine costs and benefits of alternative projects.

Martinson said one alternative to be examined will be leaving the bluff untouched while relocating the buildings and infrastructure on top of it. Another will be moving the entire mouth of the Kenai River to the southwest.

These alternatives were discussed along with other elements of the study at a project charette — a two-day planning session held with Army Corps and Kenai officials at the Kenai City Hall on May 4 and 5, 2015. Martinson said much of the cost increase was due to new requirements brought out at the charrette. One more expensive element is the required real estate study.

“The amount required for the real estate effort definitely increased,” Martinson said, in part because of “the magnitude of the amount of homes we’d have to do that for.”

Army Corps Alaska District Public Affairs Chief Tom Findtner wrote in an email that the final feasibility study will require real estate appraisals of 63 properties, a greater number than first anticipated. Martinson said a requirement unaccounted for in previous estimates — for the appraisals to be reviewed and certified by an a Corps employee in a different district — also added to the cost.

Other elements of the study, listed in the Kenai City Council’s most recent ordinance approving the agreement, include biological assessments of Steller sea lions and beluga whales in the Kenai River, and documentation required by the National Environmental Protection Act.

The Army Corps and Kenai formally entered the cost-share agreement in May 2015, although Kenai first approved signing its part of a similar agreement in September 2011, when the City Council passed a ordinance to pay $253,844 of the study cost — estimated at that time to total $640,989.

Army Corps Alaska District Public Affairs Chief Tom Findtner wrote in an email that the completed final feasibility study is expected to be approved by the Corps in July 2017.

Reach Ben Boettger at

More in News

The waters of Cook Inlet lap against Nikishka Beach in Nikiski, Alaska, where several local fish sites are located, on Friday, March 24, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Unprecedented closures threaten setnet way of life

Setnetters have been vocal about their opposition to the way their fishery is managed

Legislative fiscal analysts Alexei Painter, right, and Conor Bell explain the state’s financial outlook during the next decade to the Senate Finance Committee on Friday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Legislators eye oil and sales taxes due to fiscal woes

Bills to collect more from North Slope producers, enact new sales taxes get hearings next week.

Expert skateboarder Di’Orr Greenwood, an artist born and raised in the Navajo Nation in Arizona and whose work is featured on the new U.S. stamps, rides her skateboard next to her artworks in the Venice Beach neighborhood in Los Angeles Monday, March 20, 2023. On Friday, March 24, the U.S. Postal Service is debuting the “Art of the Skateboard,” four stamps that will be the first to pay tribute to skateboarding. The stamps underscore how prevalent skateboarding has become, especially in Indian Country, where the demand for designated skate spots has only grown in recent years. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Indigenous artists help skateboarding earn stamp of approval

The postal agency ceremoniously unveiled the “Art of the Skateboard” stamps in a Phoenix skate park

Bruce Jaffa, of Jaffa Construction, speaks to a group of students at Seward High School’s Career Day on Thursday, March 23, 2023, at Seward High School in Seward, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Seward students talk careers at fair

More than 50 businesses were represented

Alaska state Sen. Bert Stedman, center, a co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee, listens to a presentation on the major North Slope oil project known as the Willow project on Thursday, March 23, 2023, in Juneau, Alaska. The committee heard an update on the project from the state Department of Natural Resources and the state Department of Revenue. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)
Official: Willow oil project holds promise, faces obstacles

State tax officials on Thursday provided lawmakers an analysis of potential revenue impacts and benefits from the project

Jerry Burnett, chair of the Board of Game, speaks during their Southcentral meeting on Friday, March 17, 2023, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Board of Game decides on local proposals

Trapping setbacks, archery hunts and duck restrictions were up for consideration

Audre Hickey testifies in opposition to an ordinance that would implement a citywide lewdness prohibition in Soldotna during a city council meeting on Wednesday, March 22, 2023, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna council kills citywide lewdness ordinance

The decision followed lengthy public comment

Samantha Springer, left, and Michelle Walker stand in the lobby of the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center on Wednesday, March 22, 2023, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Springer named new head of Kenai chamber

Springer, who was raised in Anchorage, said she’s lived on the Kenai Peninsula since 2021

Forever Dance performers rehearse “Storytellers” on Wednesday, March 22, 2023, at the Renee C. Henderson Auditorium in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Storytellers’ weave tales with their feet

Dance and literature intersect in latest Forever Dance showcase

Most Read