Seldovia dump site ignites bit of a stink

Posted: Thursday, January 09, 2003

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly approved spending $632,000 Tuesday night to buy land from the University of Alaska for a new solid waste disposal facility in Seldovia.

The proposed site, however, is about a mile closer to the city of Seldovia than the current dump, and one resident who testified at the assembly meeting expressed concern that burning activities during some weather conditions might send foul-smelling air wafting into the town -- a town heavily dependent on the tourist trade each summer.

David Chartier, who lives close to the existing dump, said he occasionally deals with smells from garbage-burning activities. He also said he is concerned about water runoff from the new dump. The proposed land purchase, about 124 acres in all, includes some wetlands and borders Seldovia Bay, though the acreage to be set aside for the waste site does not touch the bay itself.

"Personally, I can't see how water will stay out of the wetlands," he said.

He proposed the borough move slowly on the project.

Lanie Hughes, environmental coordinator for the borough, said burning will occur at the new site, but an attendant on site would be there to ensure only garbage approved for burning is ignited. However, the public is largely responsible for putting only burnable items in the burn box, she said.

Hughes also said protections for the environment, such as preventing polluted water from leaching into ground water and ending up in the bay, would be part of the design and operation of the dump.

"In the design of a landfill, you want to make sure you minimize any environmental impacts," Hughes said.

Some concern was expressed by assembly members about the cost of the land purchase. An initial appraisal done by the borough assessor pegged the price at about half the purchase price. But the borough and the university agreed to put the appraisal out for bid, and each agreed on Derry & Associates of Homer to perform the job. The company did a much more extensive look at other land purchases in the general area and arrived at the $628,000 price tag.

"I'm comfortable with the price," Mayor Dale Bagley said in response to questions from the assembly.

Sue Hecks, former mayor of Seldovia, and Dan Hecks, a current Seldovia City Council member, urged the assembly to approve the purchase, saying the city needs the new dump.

The borough currently leases the 15-acre existing dump from the Seldovia Native Association and has since 1979. For 20 years, the annual lease rate was just $7,900. But in 1999, the cost rose to $26,000. The current lease, which expires June 30, 2004, is costing the borough $51,000 a year.

While borough officials say the new site is appropriate for a dump, there is no guarantee the borough will be able to build a waste disposal facility on the land. The permitting process for solid waste sites is a public process and open to challenge from individuals and groups, Hughes said. That means there is at least the possibility the borough could purchase the land but be prevented from constructing a dump. Hughes said that is unlikely, but nevertheless a possibility.

Borough officials told the assembly that the land could be turned into a subdivision, a way for the borough to recoup its investment should a dump not be allowed.

In other business, the assembly:

Approved Ordinance 2002-19-24 accepting and appropriating $80,000 in federal funds to a coastline mapping and modeling project that would determine shoreline change trends from Anchor Point to Kachemak Bay.

Approved Ordinance 2002-19-27 accepting and appropriating $1.25 million in state and federal funds for preliminary engineering for the proposed Kenai Spur Road extension.

Approved Ordinance 2002-40 confirming the assessment roll for the Tote Road and Echo Lake Road Subdivision Utility Special Assessment District. Assessments of $2,181.97 per lot will cover the costs associated with construction of a natural gas mainline that has been built to the subdivision.

Approved a resolution establishing the borough's legislative priorities and listing capital projects it wants the state to help fund. That list will be sent to state lawmakers and the governor.

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