The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly extended an emergency declaration order at its meeting Tuesday night. The move allows for continued efforts for flood relief around the Peninsula.
While the declaration covers the entire Borough, from Seward to Tyonek, the Assembly was focused on what’s happening around Kalifornsky Beach Road in Kenai.
Melissa Hill, a hydrologist for the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, told the Assembly that the water system in that area is complicated. Any long term solutions need to be carefully considered because of the volume of water that might be manipulated. She urged caution when digging around to try and divert water, because removing the top layer of soil could make groundwater rise even faster.
“There does seem to be some anecdotal evidence that people in some places may be moving that and the water level is rising,” Hill said.
Lots of ideas have been thrown out to try and find an immediate solution to the problem, including digging a giant trench that would take water directly to Cook Inlet.
“The concern is that if somebody did something that grandiose…you could have issues with salt water intrusion and that could cause a whole other set of issues,” Hill said.
As the water has continued to pool up, the Borough has done work to improve the water’s path to Cook Inlet.
“We drilled under [K-Beach] at Karluk with the permission of the Department of Transportation and pumped the basin out at Karluk. We ran some pipe to the beach and pumped about three million gallons out of there,” Borough Mayor Mike Navarre said.
That move was designed to buy some time and breathing room, but Navarre says more will need to be done to prepare for probably-inevitable spring flooding.
Hydrologist Melissa Hill says the state is interested in studying the area more, to get a better understanding of how and where water moves to help plan other improvements in the future.