Damages from ice jams need to be recorded now

Voices of the Peninsula

Posted: Monday, February 05, 2007

Recently the Kenai River gave the central Kenai Peninsula a reminder of who’s really in charge around here.

Although the river is a good neighbor, providing us with a multitude of ecological, economic, aesthetic and recreational benefits, every once in a while it does “get its big britches on” and decide to rearrange the furniture — both natural and man-made. When that happens, it’s best to just get out of the way until the river settles down again.

Although we don’t anticipate a second event this winter like the one we’ve just been through, we know better than to think we can predict with certainty what the river will do.

Many people who own property on the lower Kenai River are understandably eager to start the process of salvage and repair to property that was damaged by ice and floodwaters. However, the full extent of the damage cannot be determined until after spring breakup, when ice has cleared the river channel and thawed from riverbanks.

Depending on weather patterns and the type of breakup spring brings, it is possible that we may see more damage to riverside property.

The Kenai River Center is working to help landowners begin restoring their waterfront property. Agency staff is in the process of developing a streamlined permit application specifically for this flood event and have created a new section of the Kenai River Center Web site (www.borough. kenai.ak.us/KenaiRiverCenter) to answer the questions heard most often from property owners.

Because it will be some time before the ice thaws enough to give us a complete picture of the damage, and because this is a large-scale event, there will be no instant remedies. However, there are some steps that property owners can take immediately:

· Document the damage to your property. Take photos of current conditions and continue to take pictures as conditions change.

· Collect pictures that show what your property looked like before this flood event. Look at the angle from which they were taken and, if possible, take new photographs from the same angle.

· Property items near the riverbank may still be vulnerable to damage as conditions change. If you can safely move items to higher ground without disturbing soil or your riverbank, do so.

· If you already have submitted a permit application for work you want to do during the 2007 construction season, consider whether your project will have to be changed to fit new conditions on your riverbank. If so, you will need to submit a 2007 Flood Damage form, available soon on the Kenai River Center Web site.

· If you have begun but not submitted a permit application for a project area that was impacted by the flood event, consider waiting until you can examine your bank carefully and determine how conditions, and thus your project needs, may have changed.

Although it’s impressive to see what the river can do when it really gets moving, it can be painful for those whose property is damaged. Life by the river is not without its price tag.

By being thoughtful about the steps we take to recover from this event, we hopefully can reduce the effects on waterfront property the next time the Kenai decides to shake things up a little.

Jan Yaeger is the education coordinator at the Kenai River Center in Soldotna.

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