Residents from 120 flood-impacted homes crowded into the Kenai Borough Assembly Chambers Wednesday to listen to state and borough personnel explain that nothing immediate can be done to alleviate flooding and that there is no guarantee that the state will declare the Kalifornsky Beach area a disaster.
One person after another lined up to say that the borough should divert the water through whatever means possible and do it fast before the freeze-up worsens the damage to their homes, septic systems and drinking water wells.
“There is no quick fix here,” Borough Mayor Mike Navarre said, “We don’t do water diversion.”
Kerry Siefert, from the Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said that the groundwater flooding that occurred prior to heavy rain event on Oct. 27 and 28 doesn’t count as a disaster, however the flooding afterward might.
Siefert went on to say that there was no guarantee that Gov. Sean Parnell would declare a state disaster and release money to help begin paying for recovery and repairs for private property owners or the borough.
Siefert told those gathered that there was no timeline for when a disaster may be declared, but did say that a preliminary report with a fact sheet would be generated by Friday and go to the state disaster cabinet by early next week. That will be followed by a recommendation made to Parnell.
Gov. Parnell has seen what’s going on and is familiar with the situation, said George Coyle, disaster team leader with the state disaster office. Coyle encouraged all who think they might qualify for disaster aid to fill out a damage report with the borough, just in case.
“He can’t make a decision until he gets the information from us,” Siefert said.
One man interrupted to declare that none would be in the room if “it weren’t a disaster.” Applause followed.
Borough Emergency Management Director Scott Walden said borough infrastructure preliminarily suffered $500,000 in damages and that the flooding caused and estimated $2 million in damages to the 120 homes reported to date with an average of $18,000 in damages each. Before the Oct. 28 rain event less than 30 homes reported damage, he said.
“Do something now,” K-Beach area developer and resident Dave Yragui said near the end of the night. He asked if the borough would just watch the forest burn if it were on fire.
Walden continued the borough mantra that the flooding will be a long-term situation.
“I wish we could provide more,” Walden said.
Trying to warn people from rushing into actions such as ditching and trenching that they perceive to be a solution for their individual property, Alaska Department of Natural Resources hydrologist Melissa Hill said the reality is the amount of water in the flooded 6,000 acres is just too large for any immediate solution.
“There is just too much water to move,” Hill said. “Try to think this through before making it worse.”
Scharllott Thomas-Creavy said homeowners in her neighborhood are pumping water into each other’s properties day and night in effort to try and solve their own problems.
Drawing a distinction of a days gone bye when less people lived on the Peninsula, Thomas-Creavy said that following the Good Friday earthquake of 1964 people helped each other out.
One bit of solid news came from borough assessor Tom Anderson who said his department considered the flooding a disaster, which qualifies property to be reassessed for reduced taxes. Property owners have 60 days to apply and the damage must reach at least $10,000, he said.
Reach Greg Skinner at firstname.lastname@example.org.