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

By Wolfgang Kurtz
LOG Editor 

City paving, sewage projects delayed


Lowell Point residents told the Seward City Council that they don’t want any dredging work performed at the city’s wastewater treatment lagoon located in the small community. Terry Arnold and Sue Lang started Monday’s meetings by stating their opposition and Lang said dredging during the upcoming tourist season could drive already booked customers away.

“It’s beautiful outside and it’s getting warm. As you can imagine we are a little bit scared out there of the stink that may be coming. The pond was not dredged over the fall and winter as we had hoped. We understand that the RFP hasn’t even been issued yet,” Arnold said. “It’s sort of hard to follow. Normally you would see this on an agenda as unfinished business. An issue of this importance.”

Sue Lang who owns a seasonal rental cottage which is booked for 95 nights over her upcoming 100-night season said she has noticed a rising odor. She also manages the Silver Derby Campground and another cabin on Lowell Point. “Last summer we had guests who didn’t ask for refunds, they just left. Never to return,” Lang explained.

Lang wasn’t in a hurry to see dredging during her busy season. “Please be a good neighbor. Please don’t do anything this summer that will disrupt our business. None of us want to have to deal with the business aspects of refunds and the possible that visitors will never return,” she said.

Despite their concerns over summer activity, the two public commentators were insistent on knowing what progress was being made in mitigating the situation in the meantime. City of Seward Public Works Director W.C. Casey took the podium during the city manager’s report, and said mitigation and dredging were two different issues with different solutions.

Casey emphasized that Lowell Point and Spring Creek wastewater treatment facilities have become quite a challenge with the sludge disposal issue as a major stumbling block. He also described leaking valves and fittings in the aeration system as contributing to the lack of oxygen in the Lowell Point Lagoon which made the facility much less efficient and smellier to boot.

However, the blower system piping can’t be dug up and fixed without draining the lagoon. After discovering the leaky air delivery system, Casey says that the blowers themselves are working fine and he is looking at the in-pond aeration system to provide more oxygen to the microorganisms that consume the stinky stuff.

Public Works is also looking into sonic bombardment technology from a Canadian company that can assist with dissolving solids in the lagoon and Casey said that the Municipality of Anchorage has spare boom type high power aerators sitting in storage which are available. He also noted that the existing aerators sit too high off of the bottom of the lagoon, a design defect that could be fixed after draining and dredging the pond. According to Casey, better air circulation in the wastewater could temporarily alleviate the worst of the odor problem.

However the city faces a chicken and egg situation with dredging as $490,000 in loan funds must be spent inside of two months or be lost. However, the funds can’t be spent until a plan which includes disposal of the sludge is complete. Discussions have been progressing with the Kenai Peninsula Borough over dumping the gunk at the Central Peninsula Landfill.

Raising the stakes is a recent rate increase at the borough facility which will add around $200,000 to disposal costs if the dredged materials aren’t shipped by July 1. The city is struggling to come up with disposal financing to cover dredging, transportation and dumping at the current rates. The overall plan can’t be signed off on to make loan monies available until all the pieces are in place.

“Honestly this sounds like a full-time job and we have this Public Works project manager position funded for four months already,” noted Councilor Christy Terry. Councilor Marianna Keil inquired as to the process for hiring the vacant position. In reply, Seward City Manager James Hunt made assurances that administration will work up a job description over the next couple of weeks.

City of Seward Mayor Jean Bardarson expressed dismay over hearing that a federal earmark that was due to be spent on local road paving projects had fallen through the cracks and was now lost. During her recent visit to Washington D.C., Bardarson discovered that unused highway funds had been swept up. However, Casey said that there were assurances from the Alaska Department of Transportation that the “clock had been stopped” on those funds and that ADOT was proceeding with the project.

Between two federal earmarks there was almost $5 million in the budget for city road construction and paving priorities outlined in a January resolution of the city council. However, Casey said that he hasn’t had much luck getting ahold of ADOT during the busy legislative session and suggested that they might be too busy counting their money. Regret was expressed over the decision by former City Manager Phil Oates’ move to let the management of the money go to ADOT three years ago.

However, Casey noted that the scope of the projects was extensive and ADOT had the scale to efficiently administer them. If they would just get to it. He said that, with the number of steps left which include surveying, planning and permitting, paving by September doesn’t seem feasible.

Also at Monday’s meeting, council learned that after 28 years in the Seward Police Department, Lieutenant Louis “Butch” Tiner will be retiring to support the family business and try his hand at commercial fishing. Sergeant Doreen Valadez of the patrol division was announced as Tiner’s successor in the position and will be taking the new job at the end of April. Tiner was promoted to lieutenant in 2002 where he has served as operations manager for the patrol division, the Seward Community Jail and the dispatch center.


Reader Comments

end0road writes:

I can remember having at the time living on third avenue in Seward the last dredging of the wastewater treatment lagoon in Lowell Point in 1994. Trucks rolled out third avenue to dump the sludge just off Betty Cato drive leading to SCCC. I remember the trucks moved at night with nasty fluids running from the trucks spilling on most all the elevation rises of the road. One can only hope this will be taken into consideration on the next dredging and not spill as before.


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