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City of Kenai signs bluff stabilization agreement

Riley Board

The City of Kenai has entered into an official agreement with the Army Corp of Engineers to stabilize its eroding bluff. City officials say the project has been a long time coming, but the signing is a clear step forward.

At a signing ceremony Monday, politicians and local officials celebrated a big moment in a long-sought project to stabilize the bluff that separates the city from the Kenai River. The event happened at the Kenai Senior Center, a vulnerable building located right on that bluff.

City Manager Terry Eubank said the stabilization project has been a vision for the city for more than 30 years, and he’s seen concerns about erosion from as early as 1964. It’s been the city’s biggest capital priority for decades.

“So to be the person that was able to sign the agreement with the Army Corp of Engineers and bring that project to the point where we go to the market and find a contractor to do it, it’s pretty humbling,” Eubank said. “Because I do know the work that a lot of other folks did ahead of me.”

He said big previous hurdles included getting the Corp to commit to the project, and getting the public on board for a $42 million effort.

Eubank thanked Sen. Lisa Murkowski for securing $28 million in federal money, and Gov. Mike Dunleavy and the state legislature for a $6.5 million grant. Dunleavy attended the signing Monday. Eubank also thanked Sen. Dan Sullivan for passing legislation that saved the city millions when it came to its cost share percentage.

“I think we were creative along the way to keep the project going and do a lot of things, and we were able to secure the funding, and now we’re to the point where we actually have an official agreement,” he said.

The project design involves creating a 5,000 foot stone berm along the receding north bank of the river, which should allow the bluff to stabilize over time.

“There are gonna be impacts, and people are gonna need to be patient, but in the end we’ll have a secured wall that will protect property here along the mouth of the river,” Eubank said.

He said the project should go out for bid to a contractor in November, be awarded in 2024 and begin construction in 2024 or 2025.

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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