Sherrie and Dan Dahlen had their home of 19 years paid off before the water table rose underneath Bore Tide Drive and created enough pressure to crack through their concrete basement.
“I had eight inches of water in my basement,” Sherrie Dahlen said. “It bubbled up through the floor.”
Their home is one of 30 known to be directly affected by the flooding in the Kalifornski Beach area, which began about two months ago. The groundwater flood is not a traditional one; the water has not overtopped the banks of a lake, river or creek. Instead the water comes up from the ground as the water table rises due to a series of weather events during the last three years and moves across the area to the northwest.
“My house is now worthless,” Dahlen said, of her home that needs new drywall, carpet and a septic system.
Flood insurance does not cover damage from groundwater.
Their own efforts to stem the flow into their house include digging out the complete perimeter of their foundation to seal the concrete and building a French drain that guides water into a stand pipe to be pumped out and into a roadside ditch.
The Dahlens have spent $15,000 so far and expect the bill to double after building a new above-ground septic system and fixing whatever damage has been done to their well.
The couple, along with many residents living in the K-Beach area, want the Kenai Peninsula Borough to do something to alleviate the flooding now. However, that help is not likely to come and, for the most part, residents and homeowners are on their own.
The Dahlens and others now face the issues of flooded septic tanks and possible contamination of their drinking water wells, along with repairs and continued flooding issues.
“I don’t know that there is anything that anyone can do at this point,” said borough Mayor Mike Navarre.
Navarre said that the borough has worked to move water through the subdivision with a series of culverts installed under driveways and roads to connect ditches and send the water on its way to Cook Inlet.
“We can try to help move water and we have,” Navarre said.
Among the issues known to be holding water back from its natural course to Cook Inlet are the roads in the neighborhood. Navarre pointed out that the developer built the roads, not the borough.
Navarre’s chief of staff, Paul Ostrander, said the water began to recede some on Monday, based on monitoring stakes placed throughout the flooded area.
“It’s a massive amount of water in that area,” said Pat Malone, Road Service Area director.
Malone said the roads effectively dam the water in place. As of Oct. 16 the borough has installed between 10 and 20 culverts in the area, at a cost of $9,800, to begin moving that water, Malone said.
Also under way is a surveyor study of the area’s topography to see if there is a natural route to move the water to Cook Inlet without causing more damage.
With some ditches, basements and crawlspaces still full of water and some people reportedly abandoning homes they deem totaled, Malone said the bulk of work that his road department can do to deal with the flooding is done for the year.
Navarre on Tuesday reported to the Borough Assembly that his response authority was limited to protecting borough infrastructure and monitoring the flood for health related issues. Thursday he reiterated that the borough has focused on road culverts because it’s within the scope of authority of a second-class borough.
There are maps going back 10 to 20 years and the changes in the area from development have a cumulative impact on water flow, Navarre said.
The original developer of the subdivision, Dave Yragui, has been dealing with a slow rising flood at his ranch. Tuesday, he asked the borough to put a canal in on 7th street to alleviate the problem.
Navarre said that the borough cannot dig a canal without permits from the state.
Navarre told the assembly that the flooding was the result of big snows last year and higher than average rainfall this year. Both follow a 10-year drought, he said. They are contributing factors that have resulted in a recharge of the groundwater in the area. This type of flooding is not unique to the area; it happens all over Southcentral Alaska. Groundwater is elevated everywhere, he said.
Monday, hydrologist from the U.S. Geological Survey, the Alaska Department of Natural Resources and the borough are expected to go out and look at source areas for the water. Navarre said the scientist will try to determine if the flooding is a short-term or long-term event. Whatever their determination, any solutions created to deal with the water problems will have to be designed, engineered and permitted.
“We can’t do it immediately,” Navarre said.
Reach Greg Skinner at firstname.lastname@example.org.