Kenai Watershed Forum officials said Beaver Loop Road is expected to be open to two-lane traffic July 26, six weeks after the original target date for the culvert replacement project.
Robert Ruffner, executive director for the watershed, who is overseeing the project, said several setbacks have pushed back the timeline. The creek that flows under Beaver Loop Road had to be diverted and groundwater seeping into the excavation area proved problematic, he said. The replacement of the concrete foundation to support the 100-foot long culvert has been the most time consuming job, he said.
“Concrete as the foundation is not typical, but it was necessary in this case because we had flooding occur around the culvert and that washed-in material was not suitable to support the base of the culvert,” Ruffner said. “We had the contractor remove all that material and replace it with a concrete foundation.”
Construction to install the new culvert a quarter mile from the Kenai Spur Highway intersection closed Beaver Loop during the last week of May. The road was originally planned to reopen June 11. Contractor Pete Endries from Endries Company requested a three-week extension on the project and planned for the road to be open in time for the start of the Kenai River dipnet season, which started July 10.
In a press release sent July 7, Ruffner announced that deadline would also not be reached. After talking with Endries about a completion date, Ruffner said the expectation for the road to be open is July 26. Alaska Department of Transportation spokesperson Jill Reese said the watershed extended its work permit to Aug 9.
KWF Development Director Josselyn O’Conner said she is confident the roadway will be open July 26. The road will be gravel before Endries Company repaves the surface. Crews worked last Saturday to meet their final deadline, she said.
Ruffner said part of the plan was to replace all the utilities over and under the creek. A phone line was accidently cut early in the project, but the sewer and water services were not, he said.
This is the first time Endries Company has worked on a watershed project, Ruffner said. Endries was awarded the job for $455,072 in a public bidding process, which received four submitted bids, one deemed non-responsive, he said.
The project became more of a challenge than expected and nobody is satisfied with missed deadlines, he said.
Project engineer Bill Nelson with Nelson Engineering said all the concrete has been poured and it will give the culvert a firm base. The curvature of the culvert made the concrete difficult to compact at the base and another construction technique was used which changed how much time was spent to prepare the bed before the culvert was set, he said.
“It could have been done a different way, but we allowed them to proceed without having to prepare a large support area,” he said. “It’s the contractor’s choice when they do that work.”
On Tuesday an inspector was on the job site observing the backfill procedure to ensure the structure is placed properly, Nelson said. A crew of four started to backfill the 15-foot-deep hole. He said with a 100-foot right-of-way there are space limitations for how many people can be working in a confined area.
For the culvert to be put in place, the stream needed to be diverted and all the water coming through the ground has made for a time-consuming process, he said.
Nelson said when Beaver Loop Road was first built, the old culvert currently in place was just rolled into the hole and filled. The bottom of the culvert is up a few inches above the level of the stream, which limited small fish from reaching habitat.
The new culvert in place is 2 feet below the level of the stream, which will allow ample water to flow through. The hole is being filled with clean soil to put around the culvert and soil not suitable for backfill is being removed. Inside the culvert gravel is laid down to recreate a natural streambed, he said.
Multiple agencies have come out to look at the progress and are pleased with how much effort has gone into maintaining quality water, Nelson said.
“Young fish will be able to navigate through the culvert that reopens their habitat lost for many years,” Nelson said. “It has been a difficult project but certainly worth doing right.”
Once the culvert is complete and backfill is stable, the old culvert will be removed and the stream will be diverted through the 100-foot culvert. The goal is to prepare backfill to a certain level then the stream can be turned back into it.
Despite the delay, Nelson said the project has not gone over budget. He said while he understands Beaver Loop residents’ frustrations with how long it has taken, he said the job will be done right and better in the long run.
“It is necessary to do the work properly,” he said. “The main thing is it will protect water quality and the construction meets holding standards.”
Reach Dan Balmer at email@example.com.