The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Robert Reisner
For The Seward Phoenix LOG 

Gravel in steambeds is clogging up the works

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Hello again, my fellow citizens. In this article we’ll cover the Seward Bear Creek Flood Service Area (SBCFSA), gravel quantities, extraction and transportation of mitigated gravel and a bit of background.

Our SBCFSA was created in 2001 from our previously named Seward Flood Board at the behest of the State of Alaska requirements. Over the years they’ve filed studies, made reports, applied for levee/dyke maintenance permits and created a very comprehensive and cost effective Flood Hazard Mitigation Plan.

For every year since 2006, SBCFSA has applied for a permit for streambed mitigation with absolutely no approval, and for all of this for following state and federal requests.

Most recently we had our 2010 Seward Summit, local and SBCFSA language was submitted to the Kenai Peninsula Borough (KPB) that was designed toward practicable streambed mitigation. Someone in the borough changed the language a bit and sent it off without the people it concerned’s approval to Rep. Paul Seaton. The language changed even further. So much further that streambed mitigation was slightly mentioned as the third item in House Bill 89. In no other part of the bill was streambed mitigation even mentioned.

H.B. 89 was “A Percent of Profit on the Sales of Gravel,” for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). And this is what we get for following the state’s rules. Normal.

This year our SBCFSA was able to repair the Box Canyon levee (two days before the window set by Alaska Fish & Game) and they got the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) required base flood elevation signs... Whoopie. Two out of 12 ain’t bad for a bunch of us locals with little money, against the state and federals in this day and age.

Of course, we didn’t get approval on our streambed mitigation permit, but we’ll keep tryin’.

I would also like to clear up misconceptions of two things. First, our SBCFSA is to apply permitting dam, levee and dyke maintenance and streambed mitigation. It is to award contracts for such work and to be a public assistance center concerning flood issues.

The second point is, out new Levee Road. I’ve heard a lot of talk on this and so far most ain’t got it right. The Levee Road project was started 15 years ago by our current city mayor, Willard Dunham. Whether you like it or not, it does have it’s pros and cons. However, in the matter of protection of human life, I can find no stronger cause of case. Period.

There’s been some pretty lively public and board comments, our borough representative learned something and we lost our beloved administrative assistant. No. She didn’t pass. Christina retired. Most of us through one of those stacks of paper would topple over in an avalanche and bury her. But no. Alas, she lives! She got out alive. Happy retirement Christina and thank you for your years of thankless service. We should do something to recognize here dedicated below-the-radar public service. She at least retained her sense of humor.

We may now greet Stephanie, our new SBCFSA administrative assistant. She is a very bright individual with great skills for this position. I like the cut of her jib. She’s cool.

So how much gravel is out there? Over 1.44 million cubic yards of excessive glacier supplied gravel is in the streams that lie within the SBCFSA’s domain. And over 85,000 cubic yards are annually deposited. Floods and heave rains move this gravel and fill our lowest elevations, i.e .: our streambeds.

Our streambeds became plugged and or diverted in several areas after our October 2006 flood event — aka The Great Seward Yard Swap. In 2007 basements and crawl spaces began to flood from water from below. By 2009 the flooded basements and crawl spaced became a year-round event. Citizens began to lose land due to streambed movement. In 2010 wells began to be impacted from rising ground water. Septic systems were close behind.

Now in 2011 those problems and more are the norm for several hundred of us. There is so much gravel that the stream water settles into our underground water table in the fall, leaving a lot of freezing salmon eggs in the cold winter air. Big Brother came down to check on the Bruno Bridge area and left. Probably for the best.

All of this gravel has produced a myriad of issues — increased maintenance to our public infrastructure, loss and damage to homes and private/business properties, totally wiped out most of our local estuary habitat, raised several health issues, adversely affected our economy, and degraded the quality of life for man and wildlife.

We are now at a point that it is too late to apply for a permit or funding for responsible streambed mitigation going through the regulated channels. A local bond will need to be passed and the state taken to court for usurping the language in the constitution of the state of Alaska. Any attorneys out there who want a helluva case?

With all the various governmental agencies and special interest groups involved there is no way one agency can work with many others. DNR wants dump trucks on the Seward Highway from May 15 through July 15 to transport gravel to Mile 14. Best guess to cover that and the extractions cost, plus the DNR “blackmail” fee comes to $12.50 per cubic yard. That extra heavy truck traffic should scare the Department of Transportation (DOT), but they’re silent. DNR also says to “just pile the gravel along the stream banks.” This violates AF&G rules. and all of them and others actively working against our short- and long-term interests. We got a problem, people.

You see even if your live on high ground, such as Harbor View, Lost Lake or Bear Lake subdivisions, you still won’t have the Seward Highway, Bear Creek Road, Nash Road, Salmon Creek Road or electricity in our next big flood. Everyone is affected, either directly or indirectly.

So come on down. The only agency looking out for you in these matters is the SBCFSA. They meet the first and third Monday of each month at 7 p.m. at SeaView Plaza, Room 122. Meetings usually last 30 minutes to an hour, depending on water levels. There is plenty of seating. They have coffee and Matt might even share his cookies. Bill, Bob, Randy, Mac, Tena and Matt will be there with the supporting cast — Stephanie, Dan, Sue and our regulars. Thank you, Glen.

The future meetings may become more of an uprising and battle plan than a standard meeting. There are two areas for public comments on the agenda, which is better than most meetings of this caliber.

So if you have well or septic issues from increased ground water, flooded basements or crawl spaces, or had the government show up and tell you “tuff nuts,” show up! Get into these meetings! U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is not going to maintain that Lowell Creek Dam forever. Jefferson Street beware!

And remember, “Alaska is to be a citizens-owned state.” (As stated in the 1956 Alaska Constitutional Convention notes as written at the behest of Constitutional Convention President, and the first and third governor of the great state of Alaska, the honorable Mr. William “Bill” Egan. Rest in peace. And later made part of the state constitution.)

Robert Reisner lives in the Clear Creek area.

 

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