A discussion about high groundwater issues flooded the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting Tuesday night.
Public comment about non-agenda topics sparked a conversation about the affects of the October 2013 flooding on Kalifornsky Beach Road.
Three K-Beach area residents attended the meeting asking for action to alleviate problems that are still ongoing from the event.
David Yragui said he built Buoy Street about 10 years ago to borough specifications. He said the water is still backed up on the street. And the groundwater in the area is full with no way to get out. He said he hired a hydrologist and was permitted to do some ditching, which drained “massive quantities” of water.
“But as it stands right now, Buoy Street still isn’t fixed,” he said.
Toby Burke, who has lived on Buoy Street for eight years, said the street has had drainage issues as long as he has lived there. He said crews have done “Band-Aid” fixes throughout the years, but in October, he and his family were almost flooded out.
“We’re just looking for basic, functioning roads that are up to standard and that includes the ditches along each side,” he said.
Yragui said his hydrologist suggested a cannel at the end of Buoy Street and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has OK’d the project. But more permissions are required.
Assembly member Charlie Pierce asked Borough Mayor Mike Navarre if he had a plan.
“Absolutely,” Navarre said.
Navarre said as a second-class borough, officials are limited to what actions they can take to protect infrastructure and roads.
However, he said crews shot elevation to determine where water was going. The borough also brought in a hydrologist as well as the person who originally mapped the area wetlands. They discovered water was in unexpected places and in other places where water should be there wasn’t any.
The fall flood occurred for a variety of reasons including high snow load and high precipitation throughout a few years. The roads in the area weren’t designed for a major flood event, Navarre said.
He said crews have put additional culverts in Buoy Street and that water is being monitored to see where it goes at the end of the street. However, he said Buoy Street was constructed with ditches to dissipate water down, not to drain water to other places.
Karluk Avenue also got additional drainage put in and drains and culverts were put in Eastway Road, he said.
Patrick Drive is the low point off of Eastway Road, Navarre said.
“So we’re trying to figure out if there is a way, if the water is moving in that direction, that we can get it moved down Patrick (Drive) or get it into some natural drainages or if in fact there are places where we can build additional drainages,” Navarre said.
If the water is moved to the shoreline side of K-Beach, Navarre said officials need to determine what happens to the water from there.
“Giving Mr. Yragui permits to go out and start digging is a bad idea,” he said. Navarre said he has talked with both Yragui and his hydrologist previously about the proposed canal.
The borough is working with the Alaska Department of Natural Resources to come up with an “overall best solution” to the issue, Navarre said.
“I can appreciate the challenges that you’re up against,” Pierce said. He asked the administration to expeditiously come up with some answers for those for K-Beach residents.
He said the borough should take advantage of the dry weather to work in the area.
“I know sometimes quick decisions are maybe the wrong ones and maybe you make a few wrong ones out there … but I would like to see this resolved for the folks that live in that area,” Pierce said.
Navarre said some bad decisions probably have been made in the K-Beach area, but a lot of good ones were made and a lot of borough resources have gone toward the issue.
“We are going to try to do as much as we can within the scope of our responsibility of this ... to make sure that we prevent to the best of our ability the type of incident that we had last year, but there are no simple solutions,” Navarre said. “We are not going to rush into a bad and expensive decision that pushes the problem someplace else.”
High water table issues aren’t specific to K-Beach. While the area was largely affected, residents from Nikiski to Homer have experienced problems as well with high groundwater.
Kaylee Osowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org