East peninsula seeks flood service area

Posted: Monday, September 29, 2003

Periodic floods have caused millions of dollars in damage in the Seward and Bear Creek areas, most recently last fall when storms drowned much of the Kenai Peninsula with torrential downpours.

Seeking some way to mitigate future flooding events, residents of the eastern peninsula communities petitioned the Kenai Peninsula Borough to create the Seward-Bear Creek Flood Service Area. Com-munity members agreed there is a need to examine the entire watershed as a whole and develop a coordinated plan to reduce the risk from future floods.

In response, the borough assembly adopted Ordinance 2003-30, establishing the service area contingent on approval of Proposition 3 by service area voters in the Oct. 7 municipal election.

The service area would cover a 110-square-mile rectangular region surrounding upper Resur-rection 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.

An elected service area board would be comprised of four members from Seward and three from outside Seward city limits. If the proposition passes, borough Mayor Dale Bagley would appoint the first board with seats being filled by voters in the 2004 municipal election.

According to the borough, the board would develop, implement and update a plan for flood protection services and decide the level of such services.

Creation of the service area depends heavily on the idea winning independent approval from residents of both the Bear Creek Precinct and the city of Seward. Should it fail in either area, the service area would not be created.

The assembly would set the actual mill rate each year at budget time, but a half-mill tax levy is anticipated, meaning property owners would pay $50 on each $100,000 in real and personal property value. Seward would provide the bulk of the tax revenue.

According to the 2000 census, approximately 6,670 people reside in the service area. However, real property within Seward would provide roughly 90 percent of the estimated $102,000 annual tax revenue stream, based on the expected half-mill tax levy.

In an April report to the assembly, Bagley said the service area, if established, likely would 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 the service area will lead to projects on rivers and streams that would help prevent or mitigate future flood damage.

A yes vote on Proposition 3 would establish the service area and authorize exercise of flood control powers.

A no vote would mean a service area would not be created, and no board appointed.

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