The City of Kenai will celebrate the culmination of nearly 60 years of work on Monday, when city officials and the U.S. Department of the Army convene at the Kenai Senior Center to sign a partnership agreement for the Kenai Bluff Stabilization Project.
Kenai City Council members during their Wednesday night meeting gave Kenai City Manager Terry Eubank permission to enter into a partnership agreement with the U.S. Department of the Army for project administration and construction. The execution of that agreement allows the project to go out for bid and for construction to begin.
Eubank wrote in a Sept. 13 memo to council members that construction is expected to occur in 2024 and 2025.
The Kenai Bluff Stabilization Project, which aims to stabilize about 5,000 feet of bluff on the north shore of the Kenai River from the mouth of the river to about Pacific Star Seafoods near the city dock, has been a city priority since at least 1963. When completed, a rock berm will have been constructed at the toe of the bluff, which is eroding at a rate of 3 feet per year.
The City of Kenai received design documents that were 95% complete in February and got permission from the city council to purchase the last piece of land needed for the project.
Per the City of Kenai, bluff stabilization has been the city’s top capital priority for the last 30 years. The project has taken significant steps forward over the last two years as the city locked in new sources of funding for the project, which is expected to cost around $41.6 million.
U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski secured $28 million for the project through the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Gov. Mike Dunleavy approved in the State of Alaska’s 2023 capital budget $6.5 million for the project. The City of Kenai has received $3.2 million in other state grants for the project.
Eubank said Wednesday that the total amount of bluff erosion project funding that will come from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act increased from $28 million to about $37.5 under the federal Water Resources Development Act of 2022.
That legislation reduced the proportion of the total project costs the city is expected to pay from 35% to 10%, and increased the proportion the federal government is expected to pay from 65% to 90%. The Army Corps of Engineers used funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to cover that cost increase.
“I am very sincere when I say this — this has been a tremendous amount of work by a lot of people over the years and way too many to name without leaving people out,” Eubank said Wednesday.
Council member Victoria Askin said she used to take notes for the Kenai Planning and Zoning Commission in 1999 and 2000 and Kenai Bluff Erosion was a “big subject.”
“This is quite the milestone,” Askin said.
Kenai Vice Mayor James Baisden asked Eubank during Wednesday’s council meeting whether it’s possible for the final project cost to be larger than what is described in the resolution.
Eubank said that it’s possible, however, the cost estimate given includes a 20% contingency fund as well as money to be used in the case of inflation. He further said the city has leftover grant funds that could be used to offset any future price hikes.
Monday’s signing event will be held at the Kenai Senior Center on Monday, Sept. 25 at 5:30 p.m.
Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at firstname.lastname@example.org.