People load into water taxis at the Seward Harbor on Sunday, May 22, 2022 in Seward, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management)

Lowell Point barge services move 110-plus cars to Seward

The services were covered by the Kenai Peninsula Borough and ended Monday

Vehicle barge services between Seward and Lowell Point ended Monday as work continued on a massive landslide that cut off road travel between the two communities earlier this month.

The May 7 slide, which was initially estimated to be about 300 feet wide and 200 feet long, occurred on Lowell Point Road. Workers from Metco and Alaska Blasting Services are responding to the slide.

Water taxi services for essential travel between Seward and Lowell Point expanded Sunday, when the Alaska Department of Transportation began providing water taxi services through Aurora Charters.

Those services are in addition to regular water taxi services that have been provided by Miller’s Landing, for whom more than $9,000 was raised through community fundraising efforts.

Both taxis require reservations and are offered free of charge to people who live and work in Lowell Point. People trying to get to Lowell Point for nonessential travel need to pay for rides through a service provider, as visitor and tourism transport are not eligible for free transportation.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough has also worked to help people move their vehicles from Lowell Point to Seward through barge services that ended Monday. The borough worked with Harris Sand & Gravel to move the cars, fees for which were waived after Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce said the transport costs would be covered by the borough. Vehicles owned by Lowell Point residents were given priority.

“Due to the expected number of vehicles needing transport, the process is expected to take many days to accomplish as the barge will need to work with the tide schedules for each transport which will limit the number of trips per day,” OEM said in a May 14 update.

As of Sunday, Harris Sand & Gravel had moved 117 vehicles between Seward and Lowell Point, with that number expected to hit 130 by the end of the day on Monday.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy issued a disaster declaration for the landslide May 13, which made the project eligible for Alaska’s Public Assistance program, which helps communities repair utilities, public buildings and other infrastructure damaged by the event. Communities can also have eligible response costs reimbursed through the program.

The borough announced May 14 that the State of Alaska Department of Homeland Security, the Kenai Peninsula Borough and the City of Seward created a “Unified Command” structure to support response efforts. Among other things, the group said it would share resources, increase regular communication and navigate permitting requirements.

The group announced May 18 that the road is expected to safely reopen to traffic June 1, but other hazards could affect the date. People planning to travel to Lowell Point after June 1 are encouraged to confirm their ability to access Lowell Point before arriving in Seward, the group said.

As of Saturday, Aurora Charters was offering six departure times from Seward and six departure times from Lowell Point each day between 6 a.m. and 7:40 p.m. Miller’s Landing was offering eight departure times from Lowell Point and eight departure times from Seward between 5:45 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Lowell Point residents are encouraged to contact the Office of Emergency Management at 907-224-4636 with any issues or concerns. Updates on the landslide are being shared by the City of Seward on the city’s Facebook page and by the Kenai Peninsula Borough through its KPB Alerts system.

Updates are also being shared on OEM’s blog at kpboem.blogspot.com.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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