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

 
 

By Robert Reisner
For The Seward Phoenix LOG 

Streambed work continues

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Greetings my fellow citizens,

In this column I will cover a near complete picture of the widespread effects of our gravel loaded streambed issues. We’ll also touch upon the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) November 2011 PAS study as well as what the last two studies they require for us to receive our funded mitigation project. And we’ll look into several upcoming projects for this year, and we’re going to better understand the numerous levees in our area.

Just about 12 years ago a family on the Lost Creek Watershed noticed water in their basement. Being in an older home with poured concrete walls they excavated around the walls, prepped, primed and waterproofed the walls and back filled. The water came back later that season, it was coming up from under the slab. This year (after 12 years of continual flooded basement) they will be filling in their basement and raising their driveway.

Last year a property owner near the Salmon Creek Trailer Park thought he had a break in his water supply. He dug a hole, located the break…and the underground water table. Needless to say his idea of pumping the water was an effort in futility.

Back in 2007 pumps could be found removing water from crawl spaces under homes in the Old Exit Glacier Road Subdivision and around and behind SBS. They pump every season, all season 24/7, they should thank DNR for their increase in electric usage.

Last fall citizens living around Salmon Creek were told to boil their water, testing was offered, septic systems were flooded, notices went up. Some notices were up for several months.

Many citizens living along the Salmon Creek watershed are constructing levees without the all-powerful permit, the gravel in our streambeds have forced the issue. These levees are constructed at the owners’ expense to protect his property.

The wildlife have been adversely affected by this streambed load as well. The main diet of many salmon species is simply not in numbers that used to be. Many never make to their spawning grounds. With several streams, gravel and rock deposits have been pushed downstream by the water slowly filling the streambed. When the streambed is full the water shifts to the next easiest path, currently what until recently was historical dry ground. Since 2007 many salmon are found on frozen forest floors along Salmon Creek.

This has left the bear dismayed, not finding his desired meal in his favorite fishing hole, he roams. Locating the next easiest meal, usually your trash. If you live out there and are roughing it, exiting your outhouse coming upon the bear’s face may cause you to return to your previous position. Last year our Seward Phoenix LOG ran a story noticing the increase of bear activity in town, they couldn’t understand why.

You no longer see moose along the Resurrection River or along Mount Benson anymore. The gravel has buried their vegetation. Nowadays we’ll see them in the areas forests, subdivisions, even in a shop. This would certainly bring a stop to whatever project you are in the middle of.

Eagles, our national symbol and protected by federal law, able to do whatever it wishes to. Even with their eyesight they can’t find the fish! But they’ve discovered a wonderful addition to their culinary diet, corn fed duck…our prized holiday meal. Thanks.

Until 2007 many spruce and other trees had a healthy existence, however the trees died. If you notice the trees along the Seward Highway opposite City Express and around them. Water has overtaken their root systems due to the massive load of debris in our streambeds. Not long ago these spruce trees were healthy and beautiful. Now dead.

From the rising of the underground water table, many issues have now appeared. Septic systems and wells are impacted, as are basements and crawl spaces. Citizens are now spending more money for property protection when at a time gas and property taxes are way up. This makes the property owner even more stressed annually with his/her finances. Several have given up, abandoning their homes and property due to the 60 plus years of studies and no proper mitigation on the Salmon Creek Watershed.

With the 1.45 m.c.y. of gravel and rock lying in our streambed within the SBCFSA domain, KPB should expect a lowered tax base and increased expenses in maintenance of public infrastructure. When one fully understands this complex problem you may expect a lawsuit to be leveled at several KPB and state, and what could be the charge? Depraved Indifference to Human Life, which is a pretty serious charge. However when you do investigate it, this charge stands clear.

Now there is something that we citizens can do. Go on out to a stream, take a shovel and a bucket. Shovel the shoreside gravel into your bucket and take it home and use it. No equipment, no permit needed. Last year a local individual did get a bucket of gravel out of Salmon Creek, put it in his truck and drove to Anchorage to the DNR office. He went up the elevator and entered with his bucket of gravel, asked the receptionist if anyone of the four different people in the office were available. The receptionist said that they were not available at that time. Would he like to leave a message. Our local citizen informed her that the contents in his bucket was from Salmon Creek in the Seward area — and dumped the gravel on the floor, and with his bucket, he left! He was home for supper. That’s one way to send a message!

Another way to positively send a message might be for a group to show up at a predetermined location and time and with shovels and buckets remove the gravel. Granted this is more symbolic than productive on gravel removal. However if done several times it may attract some attention. Channel 2 News might pick it up, and if they do and ask you why you’re doing this you can say: the streambed load of gravel on this stream has forced the issue. We’ll let one of our local gurus cover the details, we’ll sit back and listen. If this was done properly it would make our case for public record, which may be invaluable in the near future.

Thus far in our local streambed mitigation it appears that our government would rather to await another 500-year flood event than come to our rescue. After this if they’re ever asked about this issue they can truthfully say that they saved us. These are the same governmental agencies and lawmakers that prevented this streambed mitigate issue now for half a century and longer.

So far we have those two stream gauge studies on Salmon and Spruce creeks to complete to be eligible for a funded streambed mitigation project. This should get us through the state requirements, what lays ahead of us at the federal level has yet been fully involved. However, it is the big show of Big Brother, a three ring circus show. Starring the ringleader, acrobatics, whistlers, jugglers, co-starring contortionist freaks, oddities, and the weird and wild. It sounds a lot like the show we’ve seen with the state of Alaska, only bigger. A lot bigger. It’s the big time.

There was a time however that Uncle Sam did do us a kindness (at a nearly 50/50 split). Finished in 1940 the Lowell Creek Dam and Diversion Tunnel, Seward’s oldest and most famous of all flood protection projects. Few have seen the dam and Lowel Creek up the pass between Bear Mountain and Mount Marathon, but everyone knows about the waterfall at the end of the tunnel. This little gem has provided some very exciting moments from time to time. And a lot of gravel, rock and sometimes trees! The dam itself diverts Lowell Creek into the diversion tunnel running through a small portion of Bear Mountain. Lowell Creek used to flow down Jefferson Street on out to Resurrection Bay. The land mass that Seward is built upon is Lowell Creek’s alluvial fan, many centuries old. The dam and tunnel provide flood protection for the city of Seward!

Next we’ll look to Jap Creek Levee. This levee protects both Seward Schools, the Forest Acres Subdivision and other nearby homes. This area is all constructed atop of the Jap Creek Alluvial fan.

Now for the Spruce Creek levee and berm. This one protects the City of Seward Waste Treatment Facility as well as the access to Lowell Point. The Fourth of July Creek levee protects the City of Seward’s water supply, rock quarry and its industrial park which contains Alaska Logistics, Polar Seafoods, and Seward Ship’s and Dry Dock not to mention the Spring Creek Correctional Center.

Other local levees include the Kwechack levees which protest Bear Lake Subdivision, Bear Creek Road, the fish weir, and Woodrow Subdivision as well as the Stoney Creek Subdivision and parts of Questa Woods Subdivision and Camelot by the Sea Subdivision.

Box Canyon Levee is another critical important flood protection. This levee protects Old Exit Glacier Road Subdivision, many homes and business on the Herman Leirer Road (aka New Exit Glacier Road) as well as homes and businesses along the Seward Highway from the Pit Bar down through Nash Road and Resurrection River.

Another levee on upper Salmon Creek was constructed by the State of Alaska in 2007 but never completed until Sept. 21, 2011. This was completed due to Salmon Creek running wild and causing erosion on the nearby Alaska Railroad. This was an emergency that caused our SBCFSA chair to call a local contractor to finish what the state failed to do. Two hours after work was started it was halted by a Kenai Peninsula Borough emergency officer because no emergency permit was released nor submitted. When our SBCFSA chair inquired to the length of time required to obtain an emergency permit he was told by the KPB official, five days! Well there’s the background and now you may understand that this levee protects the Seward Highway, the Alaska Railroad and many homes and businesses.

The Lost Creek levee protects the Seward Highway between Timberline Road and Bear Creek Road and homes and businesses as well.

There are several along the Resurrection River that protect our Waste Management Area, our local gun sighting area, and a lot of businesses and private property.

These are just a few of them in our Resurrection Bay watershed and all are under the very watchful and diligent SBCFSA board members and staff. You see, the SBCFSA is protecting our public infrastructure, private and business properties, ruing to re-establish lost estuary habitats, raise the quality of life for all and that’s what I mean when I wrote you earlier and said, “They’re looking out for you.”

Five years ago I attended my first SBCFSA public meeting. Since then I’ve read up on the studies, done some permitting projects, walked every stream from mouth to source, investigated ACE, DNR, AKF&G, AK DOT, our 1956 Alaska Constitution Congress minutes and attended many more SBCFSA meetings than all other local citizens. The more I learn, the more I understand where we came from, where we’re at and where we will go. This streambed mitigation is critical to our community’s current health and future.

Also are there not two citizens within the city of Seward who are civic-minded enough to step forward and fill the two SBCFSA vacant seats?! I would, but I (and 1,950 of us) live outside of the city limits.

Our SBCFSA meets every first and third Monday of each month in Room #122 in the SeaView Plaza Building at 7 p.m. Meetings can last for one hour, they are open to the public and their agenda has two sections for public comments and board responses. There’s plenty of seats, coffee, cookies, water and information. Meet our borough representative the SBCFSA members and staff and (the plaid moose did appear) a City of Seward representative and several citizens.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls the Seward Bear Creek Flood Service Area staff and members are looking out for you!

 

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