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Mayor vows to solve K-Beach flooding, as residents say they’ve had enough

Flooding on Patrick Drive, off K-Beach Road.
Riley Board
Flooding on Patrick Drive, off K-Beach Road.

An area off Kalifornsky Beach Road is partially underwater after experiencing extra heavy snow during the winter. But the issue isn’t new this year, and residents say they’re tired of mismanagement and the impacts of flooding near their homes.

About 1,300 acres south of K-Beach road just outside of Kenai have been affected by the flooding, the remnants of heavy rain from the fall and snow in the winter, according to a May 12 press release from the office of Borough Mayor Peter Micciche. But the issue has plagued the neighborhood for years, due to its location in a low swampland and a lack of drainage across K-Beach road out to Cook Inlet.

The flooding dominated the public comment period during last Tuesday’s borough assembly meeting. Kalifornsky resident Laura Burke said the issue is a violation of the borough’s obligation to its residents.

“Since 2013, the lamentable lack of fully functioning roadside ditches has been clearly evident, and a very sore topic among residents of the greater Kalifornsky area in particular,” she said. “Fully functioning roadside ditches are the exception, not the norm.”

Burke said residents of this area pay for borough services through taxes, but don’t receive adequate infrastructure or maintenance in return.

Other residents commented on unusable property, untraversable roads, and badly maintained ditches. One compared K-Beach road to a dam, holding water on the east side of the roadway.

Another K-Beach homeowner, Nissa Fowler, said the flooding has damaged her septic system and required her to vacate her home.

“My well is corrupt. So are my neighbors’,” she said. “My septic might not be functional for a very long time. We have families in our neighborhood who need to flush their toilets sometimes — foreseeably, that won’t happen until the water is gone.”

Fowler also mentioned a lack of disclosures to new residents about the history of flooding in the area.

During the assembly meeting, Micciche emphasized his commitment to solving the issue.

“Words are not enough, we need action, and action is what you’re gonna get, and the assembly has supported action that we took,” he said. “We agree that water must find a way out to the Inlet.”

Micciche said crews have already been out, checking out the area to devise solutions. And he said he’s currently working with staff to monitor the water flows in the area during this flooding event, then work on a drainage project as soon as conditions allow.

“This project will work backwards from the Cook Inlet to the upper reaches of the impacted area. We’re working with state agencies to create a long-term solution,” he said. “We’re assembling the DOT, Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Army Corps of Engineers to deliver a larger project to provide adequate drainage across K-Beach Road to Cook Inlet, a long-term problem that requires a comprehensive, long-term solution.”

Micciche’s press release also warns residents, in the meantime, not to take matters into their own hands by creating dams or moving water, because it could negatively affect their neighbors.

Riley Board is a Report For America participant and senior reporter at KDLL covering rural communities on the central Kenai Peninsula.
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