Kenai bluff stabilization project moves forward

A project seeking to stabilize Kenai’s bluff has seen development in the last month. On Nov. 16, a director’s report was finalized by the Alaska branch of the Army Corp of Engineers, a project partner with the City of Kenai. The report is a feasibility study.

“It looks to see if it makes sense and if the project is feasible,” Kenai City Manager Paul Ostrander said.

The objective of the project 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. The idea is to install a mile-long rock berm, using anchor rocks that would halt the erosion of the ground beneath Old Town Kenai.

This is the first of three milestones in a project the city has been tackling for more than 30 years. The most recent efforts to get the project completed began in 2011.

“It’s been a long effort,” Ostrander said.

Ostrander grew up in the area and said he’s seen the area erode over time.

“There are several buildings that used to be there that are now long gone,” he said.

Besides protecting current properties and buildings in Old Town Kenai, Ostrander said one reason the city is looking to stabilize the bluff is to increase investment opportunities in the historic district, which Ostrander said have been limited in the last few decades.

Now that the feasibility report has been finalized, efforts on the next milestone, the design phase, can begin.

The design phase can be tricky, Ostrander said, because federal funding is needed for the $1 million cost. The city has secured a $350,000 match for the grant they hope the federal government awards them in the next year.

“Getting funding for these projects is highly competitive,” Ostrander said. “We want to position ourselves to get funding as quickly as possible.”

Once the design phase is complete, the construction phase can begin, which Ostrander said has a price tag of approximately $24-40 million.

The Clarion previously reported that the city would cover a 35 percent share of the 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 bull.

Ostrander said the project timeline is dependent on funding approval from the federal government, but if things go smoothly it could be one to two years before the city can halt the erosion.

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