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

By Robert Reisner
Clear Creek 

Gravel, culvert and rip rap would fix airport problems


Wolfgang Kurtz | The Seward Phoenix LOG

Flood waters and debris cover the Seward Airport's main runway this week.

The following is not endorsed by the SBCFSA, City of Seward, KPB, DOT, RBCA or the State of Alaska.

Greetings my fellow citizens. It’s been some time since Bob Reeve fixed up his 51 Fairchild and flew to Seward at Dr. Williams notice that his wife Tillie gave birth to a boy. That night the Valdez Miner newspaper reported, “A future airplane pilot arrived in Alaska today. He is the newborn son of pilot and Mrs. Bob Reeve... which incidentally, was the reason for the hasty trip of pilot Reeve to Seward today... Mr. Reeve and the child were reported to be getting along nicely.”

I always got a kick out of that last part. That was February of ‘37 and our Seward airstrip was frozen dirt with chuck holes, ruts and one nasty crosswind.

In 1951 we got our runways paved. We celebrated with a moose meat barbecue amid several C-47 aircraft. The happiest of the crowd were the workers who actually did the work. They had discovered a dozen or more artesian springs that gave them fits throughout the project.

That took care of the surface, but not those pesky crosswinds.

Then on March 26, 1964 the City of Seward received word that they had been chosen as an All American City of 1963. A great party, with a brass band was planned. We were at the top of our game. Seven piers, railway, fuel tanks, a good harbor and a strong fishing fleet, great economic platform. Community pride had never been higher... a smile on everyone’s face.

The very next day 11 people lost their lives here in what has been called the Good Friday Earthquake of 1964.

We got slapped, and slapped hard! Every structure along our waterfront was either damaged, wiped out or on fire. We lost 90 percent of our economic base. The community’s needs were dire. A look of shock and awe was on everyone’s face.

Since then we’ve been on recovery, including our Seward Airport.

In the aftermath state surveyors discovered that our Seward Airport (along with everywhere else) had dropped a bit in elevation. Since then Alaska Department of Transportation has become pretty familiar with maintenance needs due to our frequent flood events at our Seward Airport.

Since late June, so am I.

After putting my boots to the ground – studying maps, aerial photographs, debris maintenance plans, the 2008 Seward Airport Master Plan and a bewildering stack of state and federal rules and regulations pertaining to this issue – and I’ve got to hand it to DOT, their literally throwing the kitchen sink at this – but it strikes me that they’re addressing the effects and not the cause. Unless you address the cause you’ll never fix the problem and the cause is, once again, gravel. This time in the lower channels of our Resurrection River.

When you drive on the northbound lane of the Seward Highway over the Three Bridges, glance downstream at the second bridge. You’ll see islands of gravel and the Japp Creek confluence, and you’ll notice that this channel makes a right turn out to the bay. Just beyond the Japp Creek confluence is a braided stream that provides the water and gravel for the channel that runs along our runway 12-30 at our Seward Airport.

In order to lessen the flood risk at our Seward Airport we may wish to consider filling the braided stream with gravel that is removed from the lower channels of the Resurrection River, armoring the streambank in that general area with rip rap.

The installation of a large diameter culvert down the length of the channel of water that flows alongside our runway, packing cobbled rock around it and over it.

After this, gravel would provide the necessary fill to level the project area. Rip rap should also be installed at the outlet to protect from tidal surge.

This would come with a bewildering stack of red tape and a great deal of environmental impact studies. As for the environmental impact, much can, and will be, said but the one common denominator is this – Mother Nature is very much alive down here, and she is a dominating and forgiving mistress. And she will adapt, providing her needs are properly dealt with.

The benefit would be there for generations to come, and it should work very well with the Alaska Railroad Corporation Expansion Plan, and our operations out at our Seward Airport, water park and sometimes boat launch.


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