River pollution resolution OK’d

Posted: Monday, March 12, 2007

Two Kenai City Council members have been appointed to work with the city of Soldotna and the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly on a plan to curb hydrocarbon pollution in the Kenai River.

Joe Moore and Rick Ross were appointed by Mayor Pat Porter, who also received authority from the council to sign a joint resolution of the three local governing groups to work to remove and keep the river from the federal impaired water body list.

The joint resolution calls for recommending state and federal agencies take action; working together on regulatory actions within their own jurisdictions; and developing a Board of Fisheries request to consider fishing rules designed to curtail pollution.

The actions stem from an Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation report showing hydrocarbons — from gasoline-powered outboard engines — exceeded state water quality standards in July in many of the past 15 years.

The DEC asked the federal Environmental Protection Agency to designate the Kenai River as Category 5 Impaired because of the high levels of hydrocarbons.

Moore earlier introduced a city ordinance that would limit the use of the city’s boat ramp to boats with four-cycle or direct-injection two-cycle engines, considered to be less polluting than two-cycle engines that are not direct-injection.

In other business, city attorney Cary Graves said the city manager has signed a purchase agreement for the sale of city land to Wal-Mart for a combination grocery and retail store to be built behind the Kenai Chrysler Center.

City Manager Rick Koch was absent from the council meeting.

Wal-Mart already agreed to the purchase of 38 acres for $3,580,000. The contract has now been sent to Wal-Mart for signature.

Under terms of the contract, Wal-Mart agrees to build a store of not less than 170,000 square feet within four years of the close of the sale.

Larry Semmens, acting city manager, told the council Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse Inc. has expressed concerns over soils in the area where it plans to build a 100,000 square foot retail store along Marathon Road.

Semmens said Koch suggested the city conduct an independent soil study in the area. Koch said earlier the issue involved uncompacted sandy soil beneath the ground.

The council heard a presentation from Steve Agni, representing Kenai Landing, which would like relief from the city from a requirement that Kenai Landing hook up to city water and sewer lines, should the services ever be extended to that area of the city.

Agni said Kenai Landing is planning to build residential condominiums on the site and would like to install its own Class A water system using a private well.

Graves said state regulators require a statement from the city saying the city does not oppose the relinquishment.

Semmens suggested the council direct the city manager to work with Kenai Landing to achieve that goal.

In a letter to the council, Koch said he had been contacted by the state seeking to close out the Kenai River Bridge Access Road Pathway Project due to lack of funding.

Koch responded to the request from the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, saying the city had no desire to close out the project.

Council member Ross said he thought the city traded Birch Island as part of the deal with the state to get the pathway project completed.

Council member Barry Eldridge said the pathway “is the final link in the Unity Trail,” and should be completed.

Mayor Porter said she would assure the original trade arrangement information would be provided to Koch so he can pursue completion of the project.

Phil Hermanek can be reached at phillip.hermanek@peninsulaclarion.com.

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