At a special meeting Thursday afternoon, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly unanimously approved a 30-day extension to a disaster declaration covering flood-threatened Old Mill Subdivision near Seward.
On June 7, Borough Mayor John Williams issued the original declaration for property along Grouse Creek, Lost Creek, Sometime Creek, Salmon Creek above its confluence with Clear Creek, and Clear Creek, which have sustained severe losses since May 20 of this year and continue to face the threat of further flooding.
A build-up of gravel and debris in the stream beds from the October 2006 flood event and other hydrological activity is blamed for the flooding this year, and it is considered likely that spring rains will bring still more flooding.
The June 7 declaration activated the borough’s emergency response plans for the borough’s Eastern Zone. The borough began providing basic resources to monitor conditions, is warning neighborhoods and downstream parties as warranted, and is coordinating emergency and health or environmental responses as necessary.
On Wednesday the mayor amended his declaration, noting that the disaster was “creating severe health and safety issues” for residents of the subdivision where well and septic systems have been inundated and raw sewage is visible on the surface and in groundwater.
Another amendment asked for assistance from the state because of the extensive and escalating nature of this disaster. Specifically, the borough has requested regulatory, permitting and technical assistance and has asked state officials to waive certain requirements and fees, which would allow the borough and affected property owners to take immediate steps to protect the health and safety of the public and protect property that could suffer severe damage.
Further, the borough has asked the state to provide individual assistance to property owners.
The declaration was to be in effect only until Thursday unless extended by the assembly. At the special meeting late Thursday afternoon, the assembly approved a 30-day extension to the declaration, noting that seven days was insufficient time for the borough to properly respond given the variety of state permitting and other requirements necessary before removing gravel from streambeds.
Crews in Seward are now awaiting state action and hoping for an expedited review that would allow quick action in the streambeds, said Assembly President Ron Long.
“They’re sitting on dead ready,” he said.
Hal Spence can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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