Employees of Metco Alaska work to remove debris from the Lowell Point Road May 23, 2022, following the May 7 Bear Mountain landslide that blocked the road and access to and from the community of Lowell Point. (Photo and caption courtesy of the Kenai Peninsula Borough)

Employees of Metco Alaska work to remove debris from the Lowell Point Road May 23, 2022, following the May 7 Bear Mountain landslide that blocked the road and access to and from the community of Lowell Point. (Photo and caption courtesy of the Kenai Peninsula Borough)

Lowell Point Road to reopen Friday

Intermittent blasting work will continue next week

Lowell Point Road is expected to open to two-lane traffic Friday, May 27 at 12 p.m., a cohort of agencies announced Tuesday morning, though work at the site is expected to be ongoing “for the foreseeable future.” The announcement comes a little over two weeks after a massive landslide completely covered the road, severing access between the community of Lowell Point and Seward.

A unified command structure was created last Sunday to support response efforts and includes the Kenai Peninsula Borough, the City of Seward and the State of Alaska Department of Homeland Security.

Motorists traveling on Lowell Point Road when it reopens, the group said, should expect a “slight rise” in the road as they cross the debris field below Bear Mountain.

“Large boulders have been placed along the road on the sea side and there are other barriers on the slope side of the road, to mitigate any safety issues,” the group said. “In addition, there is a large ditch below the slide area which is expected to catch any additional debris that falls.”

The Tuesday release also said that Lowell Point Road will continue to be considered a hazardous road. Bear Mountain is still considered unstable, the release said, “and will continue to be unstable for the foreseeable future.” Further landslides could be caused by weather events or earthquakes, so work at the site is expected to be “ongoing for the foreseeable future,” the release said.

“We want to remind everyone that Lowell Point is open for business again and there are no restrictions about staying there,” the release said. “Like residents, visitors should be aware that current road conditions are hazardous and there is a possibility of road closures or delays due to environmental conditions such as rain or earthquakes or mitigation work like blasting.”

From Friday at 12 p.m. to May 31 at 8 a.m., Lowell Point Road will be open for 24 hours per day, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management said in an update. Between 8 a.m. on May 31 and June 2, the road will be closed from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. while more blasting work is done.

While Lowell Point Road is open to traffic free water taxi and shuttle service will not be available to those working in Lowell Point Road. 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.

A resolution adopted by the Seward City Council that declared a state of emergency in response to the event says that the slide was estimated to be more than 200 feet tall and 300 feet wide. It was estimated to contain more than 40,000 cubic yards of debris. Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy and Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce also issued disaster declarations for the area.

Water taxis offered through Miller’s Landing and Aurora Charters 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 move 126 vehicles and heavy equipment from Lowell Point to Seward through barge services that ended Monday for vehicles and Tuesday for equipment. The borough worked with Harris Sand & Gravel to move the cars, fees for which were waived after Pierce said the transport costs would be covered by the borough. Vehicles owned by Lowell Point residents were given priority.

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.

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.

A landslide blocks Lowell Point Road in Seward, Alaska, on Sunday, May 8, 2022. (Photo courtesy City of Seward)

A landslide blocks Lowell Point Road in Seward, Alaska, on Sunday, May 8, 2022. (Photo courtesy City of Seward)

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