Chugiak’s Loretta French Park is a gem. It covers 130 acres of rolling green grass set beneath peaks dusted with the first flakes of winter. With fall’s russet and gold leaves just beginning to show, the quiet park appears to be a haven for bird watchers, joggers, dog walkers, even horseback riders. Maria Rentz lives nearby, on a mountain road winding up from the park
“That park is beautiful, and highly used and highly valued. So I think putting a landfill in next to the park is, just in concept right there, taking away from the asset that we just spent millions of dollars on.”
Rentz is on Chugiak’s Community Council, and heads Stop the Dump, a group of Chugiak folks who are fighting a plan that would allow Eklutna, Inc, to fill a gully on land the Alaska Native Corporation owns adjacent to the park with concrete, plastic, foam or other non-recyclables from demolition projects. That’s something Rentz and the Chugiak Community Council vehemently oppose.
“It’s of no benefit at all. I don’t think it will bring in any local jobs in here. It’s not scheduled to be a manned facility. You know, they’re idea of monitoring is cameras.”
And the noise. Even though a sign posted at the entrance says “No Dumping of Any Kind”, belly dump trucks rumble through the park entrance before they veer off onto private land.
We are in the park, looking out over a steep slope that declines onto forested land Eklutna owns on one side of the parks entrance road. The land at the foot of the slope is uneven and thinly wooded, then flattens out some distance away. Rentz says this is where the monofil will be situated, close to homes, a pre- school and a church community center. Then there are environmental concerns.
“It’s not going to be lined. And if you actually walk in there, you see streams perking up out of the ground. There’s groundwater, you know, at the surface. I don’t know how far we are above the aquifer. It fluctuates here a lot. I don’t think it is safe, and that is one of the concerns. “
Eklutna has partnered with an Anchorage company, Central Recycling, to fill in 17 acres of its land next to the park with demolition debris. Under a master plan filed with the Anchorage planning and zoning department, Eklutna could be allowed to haul in debris to the monofil for the next 30 years.
Eklutna CEO Curtis McQueen says the Dena ‘ina people value water, and that Eklutna has instructed its engineers, Dowl HKM, to collect more data on impacts to the water table. McQueen will not say more until after the public hearing. Dowl planner Michelle Ritter also declined further comment.
The city planning department’s Erica McConnell says Eklutna’s master plan covers 68 acres of land that the corporation wants to develop. The monofil itself requires a conditional use permit. She says the October 7 public hearing is a continuation of an earlier public hearing on the matter.
“The planning and zoning commission will finish the public hearing on the conditional use for the monofil, and then deliberate on both the master plan and the conditional use. If they do approve the conditional use it would be contingent on the Assembly approving the master plan.”
There has been no determination on the master plan yet. If the commission gives the plan the go-ahead, Eklutna still needs approval from the Anchorage Assembly before any dumping can begin, because the Native land is within Municipality of Anchorage city limits.
Central Recycling owner Shane Durand did not return calls for comment on this story. Durand has another business, Central Monofil, which has applied for, but not received, Matanuska Susitna Borough permission for a similar monofil project hear Palnmer. The Borough planning commission has denied the request based on three dozen concerns, ranging from inability to contain shredded material to the unsightliness of the fill area. Central Monofil was also fined for dumping without a permit near Palmer.
Rentz says that Title 21, Anchorage’s go-to for zoning issues, does not guide the planning commission on the monofil issue. And she points to the city’s centralized waste stream management program which began in the 1980s
“And now to again start allowing for these little monofils here and there, is de-centralizing it, and it is not in the best interest of the greater good of the municipality to do that. “
The city’s Hiland Road landfill already has an area dedicated to inert demolition materials. The dump fee is $58 a ton. Rentz says a compromise on fees could help bring the opposing parties together. The public hearing on the monofil issue is scheduled for Monday, October 7 at 6:30 pm at the city assembly chambers.