The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly voted to cover the $250,000 used by the borough to mitigate floods in Seward earlier this month.
Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce issued an emergency disaster declaration Oct. 2 when heavy rainfall from the day before caused flooding on the eastern peninsula, creating a large load of sediment that damaged borough-maintained roads. Among the damaged areas were Dieckgraeff Road, a gravel road that is the only pathway to the borough’s solid waste transport facility in the Seward-Bear Creek area, as well as two subdivisions.
In a video on the KPB Alerts Facebook page the weekend of the flood, Bud Sexton from the Office of Emergency Management described the damage while construction vehicles whirred behind him, clearing excess sediment and building up eroding berms.
“And you can see, there’s a lot of work being done,” Sexton said in the video. “We have several pieces of equipment. There has been a lot of deterioration in the levee systems since yesterday. Huge changes overnight. We got very close to actually having a levee breach last night.”
Borough Emergency Manager Dan Nelson said much of the costs incurred by the department had to do with the heavy machinery brought in to clear the area.
“In order to maintain safety, we go ahead and use heavy equipment such as dozers, excavators, that move sediment and remove it from the stream bed,” he said. “This allows water to pass and also builds up berms that protect subdivisions. So a bulk of our expense is due to heavy equipment rentals.”
Nelson said flooding isn’t uncommon in the Seward area but this event was particularly severe.
“The flood event this October was different from what we would call some of our typical high-water or flood events,” he said. “The difference is that there was an extremely large amount of sediment and water that came down from the rainfall. We got about 10.5 inches of rainfall over about a seven day period with some definite peaks in there.”
“How this differed is just the absolute volume that came down in such a short amount of time was unusual,” Nelson added. “And what we think happened is there were some landslides up in the mountains over the last few years. And that rain event managed to push all that loose debris and sediment down into the streams.”
The Seward-Bear Creek Flood Service Area started preparing a few days before the floods, readying residents for a potential evacuation. The funds appropriated at the assembly meeting last night will go to the Office of Emergency Management, however, not the service area.
Nelson said it is possible that the state or Federal Emergency Management Agency will reimburse the costs incurred by the service area for its preemptive action.