Bluff work starts

Army engineers to outline studies at council tonight

Posted: Wednesday, March 15, 2006

What mammals, fish and birds use the area near the Kenai bluffs?

The mouth of the Kenai River has long been important to people inhabiting the lands above. Are any archeological sites or possibly burial areas hiding below?

An Army Corps of Engineers official working on the Kenai bluff erosion project will visit the Kenai City Council meeting tonight to outline these issues and other concerns that will be studied as the city prepares to go ahead with bluff stabilization efforts.

Project formulator Patrick Fitzgerald, from the Corps’ office in Anchorage, is slated to tell the council about studies that need to be completed prior to work beginning.

The studies include determining the environmental impact of the work on mammals that use the mud areas below the bluffs, fish swimming in the waters where the river meets Cook Inlet and birds that are present along the shore and the bluffs, according to Fitzgerald.

Studies also will look at potential impact on cultural resources in the area of the bluffs.

“There certainly are historic buildings on the ground above, in Kenai,” Fitzgerald said.

Archeological sites also may be in the ground that have not already been determined, he said.

“Our investigation could check into issues such as burials areas,” he said.

Consultants also will look into the flow of groundwater along the bluff.

“Basically the bluff is two layers,” Fitzgerald said.

“The lower 30, 35 feet is real silty, like clay. The upper layer is sandy. Rainfall and snow melt percolates down through the sandy layer and then travels along the silt layer. We need to address the groundwater issue — not just wave and wind erosion,” he said.

The consultants also will analyze inlet wave effects and look at designs of bluff stabilization alternatives.

The studies are expected to begin this summer.

Fitzgerald said he and the contractor were to meet with Kenai city officials this morning to walk the bluff.

The city council, which meets at 7 p.m., also is expected to consider a $451,600 contract for improvements to be made to the city’s boat launch ramp.

Additionally the council is to consider a request for financial help from the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska to pay for utility bills for the next six months.

The center’s director said a business plan is being developed to keep the facility operating in the future, but the center is facing short-term cash-flow difficulties now.

Estimated costs of natural gas and electricity are $4,000 a month or $24,000 for the six-month period.

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