At least five times since 1986 the Seward-Bear Creek area has been hit with a major flood, costing millions of dollars in property damage and disrupting lives.
The most recent event was last fall, a flood that led President George W. Bush to declare a disaster area for the region and other parts of the Kenai Peninsula.
In response to a petition from residents, an ordinance was introduced July 8 to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly that would establish a flood service area in a 110-square mile rectangular region surrounding upper Resurrection Bay from Tonsina Point in the south and extending north to include the city of Seward and enclosing Resurrection Peaks, Bear Lake and Salmon Creek.
To take effect, the Seward-Bear Creek Flood Service Area envisioned in Ordinance 2003-30 would require majority approval from the area's voters. Support appears strong.
A borough-sponsored community meeting in November 2002 during a period of heavy flooding brought together private citizens and representatives of public agencies to discuss ways to counter continuing flooding problems.
According to assembly member Ron Long of Seward, a consensus emerged favoring investigating formation of a watershed district of service area.
A petition followed soon after, and borough clerk Linda Murphy certified the results in March as having sufficient signatures to establish the service area to provide for flood protection, response and recovery services.
The service area would have a seven-member elected board. A mill levy of .5 mills has been proposed, but the assembly would have the final say on where the tax rate would be set. A half-mill property tax would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $50 a year.
In a memo to the assembly, Long pointed out that because the proposed service area would include the city of Seward, the city would have to act separately to approve inclusion. That could be done by ordinance or by a vote of Seward residents.
If the ordinance wins assembly approval Aug. 5, a ballot proposition would be added to the fall ballot asking voters the following:
"Shall the Kenai Peninsula Borough be authorized to exercise powers to provide flood planning, protection, response and recovery services in the Kenai Peninsula Borough Seward-Bear Creek Flood Service Area within the service area boundaries defined by Ordinance 2003-30?"
The total 2002 taxable value of real and personal property within the proposed service area was $229,787,400, according to an April 24 report to the assembly from borough Mayor Dale Bagley.
On that basis, a half-mill property tax would have generated roughly $115,000 that year.
The service area's existence would depend heavily on approval by Seward voters, because Seward would provide roughly 90 percent, or $102,000, of the total tax-generated revenue stream.
According to the borough assessor's office, the value of real and personal taxable property inside the city was $201.5 million in 2002.
Jeff Sinz, borough finance director, confirmed those figures.
In his April report, Bagley said the service area, if established, would likely apply for various grants and establish partnerships with other agencies to maximize resources.
Bagley said the area has been prone to flooding. He provided a short history of events to the assembly in April.
The 2002 Salmon Creek floods led to a presidential disaster declaration. In 1995, the Resurrection River overflowed, causing an estimated $3 million in damage. In 1993, area streams flooded damaging three homes and one business. Four years earlier, stream flooding caused $1 million in damage, and in 1986 severe damage resulted from flooding streams, he said.
It is hoped that the service area will lead to projects on rivers and streams that would help prevent or mitigate future flood damage.
Bagley told the assembly the service area would require the approval of voters in the incorporated and unincorporated areas.
"If it fails with either group of voters, the service area will not be created," he said.
According to the 2000 census, approximately 6,670 people reside in the service area.
A public hearing on Ordinance 2003-30 will be held at the Aug. 5 meeting.
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