This satellite image from the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s parcel viewer shows an area of Old Town Kenai, on the blufftop overlooking the Kenai River mouth, where erosion has eaten away previously-existing land. (File photo)

This satellite image from the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s parcel viewer shows an area of Old Town Kenai, on the blufftop overlooking the Kenai River mouth, where erosion has eaten away previously-existing land. (File photo)

Kenai looks into accelerated funding for bluff project

Kenai is looking to set a path to move forward with the long-awaited bluff erosion project.

City Manager Paul Ostrander told the city council Wednesday that work on the project has been “pretty active over the last three weeks,” as Ostrander pursues accelerated funding for the project with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Ostrander said the city will draft a letter to the Alaska district of the Army Corps saying that the city of Kenai will fully fund the design phase of the bluff erosion project.

“However, if the project goes through to construction, the design phase contribution that we made would be credited toward our ultimate cost share of 35 percent,” Ostrander said. “So, basically, we are spending money now and it will be credited so we spend less when we get to construction.”

With this plan, Ostrander said Kenai’s bluff erosion process would take a good step forward following the Army Corps feasibility study, which was finalized in November.

“There’s a lot of these feasibility reports done around the country and they’ll sit on the shelf for years, never getting the federal funding necessary to get to the design phase,” Ostrander said. “If we can get approval to actually work through the design phase, it gets us in front of all these other projects and positions us for federal funding for the construction part of it, so I think this is the right move.”

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.

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.

Ostrander said following the letter stating the city’s intent, approval for the accelerated funding will require more communication with the Army Corp and a trip to Washington, D.C.

“This letter is the first step in that, and it’s the path that we need to go down to get it to happen,” Ostrander said. “I can tell you it probably won’t be quick, because nothing with the Corp is quick … but it’s positive progress, I think, and it’s clearly an identified path that makes the most sense for the city.”

Reach Kat Sorensen at ksorensen@peninsulaclarion.com.

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