Learning from this disaster

Water, water everywhere.

That’s certainly what it’s felt like over the past couple of months on the central Kenai Peninsula, where numerous events, from heavy rain to the release of a glacier dammed lake, have created flooding situations in the area.

Hardest hit has been the Kalifornsky Beach area, where apparent changes in groundwater levels have combined with several inches of rain to create a perfect storm, damaging wells and septic systems and flooding homes.

On Tuesday, the borough administration declared a disaster for the area, opening the door for potential aid from the state. Already, state personnel have assisted in trying to determine the cause of the flooding, and the borough is working with state agencies to look for ways to divert water from the flooded area.

Heavy rains also contributed to flooding issues in Kenai this week, where water overwhelmed a culvert on South Spruce Street.

In Kenai, the damage is relatively minor, and replacing the culvert should address the issue. Likewise, property owners along the Kenai River are generally prepared for most minor seasonal flooding, and take steps to limit damage when the water rises.

That’s not the case for the Kalifornsky Beach area, where the flooding has damaged homes and inundated roads. The local disaster declaration is under review by state officials, and if approved, some state assistance may become available to homeowners to help offset some of the costs incurred.

We encourage the governor’s cabinet to approve the disaster declaration in a timely manner, so that those affected have the opportunity to begin to rebuild their homes and their lives.

But we also encourage Peninsula residents, lawmakers and administrators to learn what we can from this flooding, particularly to steps that can be taken to mitigate such disasters in the future. Certainly, a flood literally bubbling up from the ground is unexpected and not something that can be planned for.

But heavy rains are a regular occurrence, and it seems that all too often, we complain that roads were built with inadequate drainage or culverts were installed incorrectly only after they are washed out or fail. Flooding is never entirely preventable, but proper preparation, though it may cost more, can mitigate some of the worst effects.

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