Assembly Makes Disaster Funds Available

Shaylon Cochran


     The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly met in special session Friday afternoon to start the ball rolling on continued relief efforts from flood damage across the Borough.  The Assembly passed a resolution extending Mayor Mike Navarre’s disaster declaration and an ordinance appropriating funding to go to infrastructure repairs.
     Friday’s brief meeting was necessary to ensure funding remains available in the near term for relief efforts and repairs around the Borough.  The initial disaster declaration issued by the Mayor was only good for a week.  This extension will last for sixty days.  The initial expenditures will come from the Road Service budget and the general fund.
     “At this point, Road Service Area is anticipating…about $650,000,” Navarre said, adding that number will likely go up.
     “We don’t know what that (final) number is going to be, but at the end of this process we’ll keep reporting on that and report back to the Assembly on an on-going basis and come back with additional appropriations as necessary to do the recovery work,” he said.
     The ordinance passed immediately makes five-hundred-thousand dollars available from the general fund.  Navarre explained to the Assembly that spending from the Road Service budget might delay planned projects.  He said they’re anticipating significantly more money will be necessary in addition to the $500,000 approved Friday.
     Assembly members Bill Smith, Mako Haggerty and Sue McClure participated in the meeting via telephone.  McClure, who represents Seward, says despite the damage already incurred, response crews in that area have been able to stay somewhat ahead of the curve.
     “This has been a very well coordinated effort and…we’ve been doing as much as we can,” McClure said.  ”I was told yesterday that we avoided by about 15 minutes two major disasters just by being proactive,” she said.
     McClure was with Senator Lisa Murkowski Thursday, surveying damage around the Seward area.  She said that experience opened a lot of eyes to the extent of the damage there.
     Navarre said events like this offer an opportunity for the Borough to look at possible changes needed to infrastructure.  Mel Krogseng of Soldotna had some ideas on that topic for the Assembly.  She and her husband Bob live on Big Eddy Road, which, near the river, has been under several feet of water for nearly a week.  She wants the Borough to revisit some of its road and drainage designs in that area, which she says have caused problems for years.
     “When the river flooded in (the 70′s), Big Eddy Road was reconstructed; at that time culverts were taken out that had been there previously,” Krogseng said.  ”What we now have is a dam.”
     She said US Army Corps of Engineer surveys in the 1990′s revealed that the river in front of their property at Mile One is ten feet higher than the downstream leg of the river that runs around a small peninsula on their property.  That is forcing the excess water to pool in their yard.  That pool is about three feet deep, she said.
     Navarre says he anticipates a federal disaster declaration will be made.  In that case, much of the money spent now by the Borough on infrastructure repairs will be reimbursed.