About 10 months after the declared Kalifornsky Beach Road flood disaster, affected property owners gathered Tuesday at the Donald E. Gilman River Center to listen to officials from involved agencies about the event.
State and Kenai Peninsula Borough staff who have been involved in the issue presented to the audience and held a discussion period in an effort to answer questions that primarily centered on drainage and concerns about future flooding.
With residents concerned about future severe flooding, officials said if another flood event occurs, the area will be better prepared, due to the work that has been done.
“In the event that we have this happen again, and, according to the hydrologist, it is going to happen again in the future, the same process will apply,” said Scott Walden, Borough Office of Emergency Management director. “If it’s groundwater, we’ll have everything ready.”
The roadwork that has been done with culvert installation, ditching and restoration, will likely help in a future event, Walden said.
The borough was also able to drain water into Karluk Basin, and with cooperation from the Department of Transportation and Public Affairs, the borough drilled a hole under K-Beach Road, which allowed for water to be pumped from the basin, Walden said.
With that pipe already in place, during a future flood, the borough will be able to start pumping more quickly, Walden said.
“We hope that we don’t have to see how it works, but it’s there in case this happens,” Walden said. “And hopefully it will do exactly what we hope it will and move that water a little bit for you.”
Department of Natural Resources Division of Mining Land and Water Chief of the Water Resources Section David Schade said agencies are working to be proactive and on mitigation, other possible solutions and permitting.
Walden said the borough was able to protect infrastructure, but couldn’t pump water or install culverts on private property.
“We could help kind of look out for you,” he said. “If you were getting a downstream effects of water that wasn’t going to where it was supposed to and coming to your place, we tried our best to make sure that that wasn’t dumped directly on you.”
Schade said property owners have the right to reasonably protect their land and homes. He said pumping water out of crawlspaces and building a small dyke around structures is OK.
“We’re going to be perfectly fine with that as long as you’re not unreasonably turning and moving a lot of water to your neighbor,” Schade said.
Road Service Area Director Pat Malone discussed Buoy Street, which he said is a “special case.” The topography makes it challenging to drain. The slope on the road is about one-tenth of the recommended grade to make water flow. The ditch will be modified to increase capacity, but a difference will only be noticeable in a flood event, he said.
“I can assure the RSA will address the next flood event, but you’re still going to see water out there because it’s not practical to get rid of it and we’re not really capable of doing it just because of the topography,” Malone said.
Borough Mayor Mike Navarre said creating a flood service area has been discussed, but many points would have to be addressed including boundaries, mission, funding and timing.
Schade said he is looking into task force establishment as requested by a citizen petition to the Commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources Joe Balash.
Melissa Hill, hydrologist with the Division of Mining, Land and Water gave a history lesson on the geography and hydrology of the area and how that played into the flooding.
In researching the area, officials found a map published in 1958, which identified four different types of land classifications. Area four, which is about 20 square miles, is defined as swamp. The mapmaker noted the area is mostly unsuited for general land use due to poor surface drainage, Hill said.
The map was created prior to the construction of K-Beach Road, which shows the wetland existed before that development.
In comparing photos from 1982 and Feb. 2014, Hill said seepage of ground water through the bluff into the Cook Inlet is visible in both.
Following a site visit, it was determined that no dams or similar structures were impounding the water and making the flooding worse, she said.
The department believes the flooding, which involved groundwater and surface water, is the part of a regional event. Any decisions or drainage attempts made without scientific data will likely cost more and are less likely to be successful, she said.
“We’ve seen a higher precipitation rate in parts of Southcental (Alaska), but we just don’t have that hard data there,” Hill said. … “We’re missing two important components that we need — precipitation and then the subsurface data. That makes it tough because we can’t tell you the frequency of when it could happen again nor exact causation.”
Kaylee Osowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.