The Kenai bluff stabilization project is another step closer to construction, after decades of effort by the city to stop Kenai River bluff property from inexorably crumbling into the water.
At its Aug. 18 meeting, the council gave City Manager Paul Ostrander the go-ahead to sign a PED — preconstruction engineering and design — agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Ostrander said the agreement is the culmination of about three years of work.
“This is really a significant milestone and this allows the actual design of the project to begin,” Ostrander said.
The design phase can begin once the PED agreement is signed, anticipated to be done by Sept. 1. Councilman Tim Navarre requested updates as the design phase progresses to keep the public up to date.
“That way you’re bringing us along at the same time and I think that’s important so we can answer the questions out there because we are going to go to the public and ask them for some additional dollars to complete this project,” Navarre said.
The rough plan is to armor about 5,000 feet of eroding bluff, from a creek at the mouth of the Kenai River to just past the Kenai Senior Center. Large rocks would be placed to prevent flood tides from washing away the toe of the bluff, which causes material on top to slough down. The bluff face above the rock would be allowed to erode into a more stable slope, which hopefully will encourage vegetation growth.
The city’s share of the cost of the project is 35 percent but federal dollars will only be spent once the project moves to construction. For now, the city will pay the entirety of the estimated $1 million cost for the design phase. That’s why it’s so important to have all the Is dotted and Ts crossed with the Corps, Ostrander says.
“There is risk that if this thing went completely sideways, we never went to construction then that money would essentially be wasted, but it is the state grant funds that we’re still using that we received I think back in 2012,” Ostrander said.
The city got $4 million in grants from the state that can only be used on the bluff project. So far, only $600,000 of the state funds have been spent.