By Brian Smith
Morris News Service – Alaska
Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre last week released a draft packet of the borough’s top state capital project funding priorities it will send with local legislators to Juneau.
At the top of that wish list includes major funding for Seward flood mitigation, a Central Peninsula Landfill leachate thermal evaporation unit and artificial turf fields at Homer and Soldotna high schools.
Navarre and Chief of Staff Paul Ostrander again ranked the borough’s
capital project priorities into tiers as they did last year.
Second tier priorities include wildfire mitigation, replacing the heating and cooling systems at the borough and school district buildings, an equipment maintenance building for the Central Peninsula Landfill and Tall Tree bridge replacement and road improvement. The lone third tier item is funding additional hazardous tree removal.
The booklet of capital funding priorities, which also includes legislative priorities for the borough and Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, will need to be approved by the borough assembly before it is submitted to state lawmakers and the governor’s office for consideration.
Ostrander said the borough assembly would likely consider a resolution approving the priorities at its Jan. 8 meeting.
If approved, the borough would request $5 million to establish a capital fund for the funding of flood mitigation projects in the Seward Bear Creek Flood Service Area. Those projects could include bank stabilization, channel shaping, property acquisition to reroute rivers, construction and repair of water diversion structures and the construction of additional culverts, according to the borough.
Recent flooding in Seward cost an estimated $2 million to public infrastructure with an additional $351,000 in damage caused on private residences and “untallied costs to businesses and secondary homes.”
Currently, the borough regularly funds flood mitigation in that area mainly through allocation of emergency funds. The borough, in its booklet, wrote that creating the fund would be more financially responsible as it would allow the accrual of interest, add flexibility in what projects they can apply for and respond to changing environmental conditions.
“It is taking a proactive approach to a problem that everyone knows exists,” Ostrander said. “We can respond to emergencies, but response activities are much more expensive that proactive mitigation activities. It is just that there has never been a funding source available for us to be proactive.”
The borough is also requesting $3,472,619 to install a thermal evaporation unit to manage the leachate — rainwater runoff saturated through garbage — at the Central Peninsula Landfill, which handles 98 percent of the municipal solid waste generated in the borough.
“We need to manage leachate,” Ostrander said. “We generate hundreds of thousands of gallons of this stuff every year at the landfill, so you need to do something with it.”
Previously the borough has been using several techniques to manage leachate including reinjection into the landfill to absorb some of it, storing some of the remaining fluids onsite and then disposing it through the City of Kenai’s wastewater treatment facility, Ostrander said.
“Something has changed with the leachate make up that is making it so they are unable to accept it now,” Ostrander said.
The borough previously spent $150,000 on a leachate management study that generated five options to deal with the liquids. The other options, in order, included pre-treatment and shipment to the City of Kenai’s waste water treatment plant, pre-treatment and then discharge into an engineered wetland, full treatment and discharge into the Kenai River or hauling it to the waste water utility in Anchorage.
The borough wrote that the thermal evaporation technique would be the best option as it would keep the leachate out of the marine environment.
“As it accumulates we can send it to this unit, it heats it up and allows it to evaporate,” Ostrander said.
Artificial turf fields at Homer and Soldotna high schools are estimated at $4.2 million and would allow them to be used longer during the school year. The borough noted that both schools received state funding to upgrade running tracks at those two schools last year and Kenai Central High School received funding for a new track and artificial turf last year. The borough requested $5.1 million last year for those upgrades.
Among the other capital projects borough administration requested are:
• $1 million to fund wildfire mitigation by removing standing or fallen dead trees near critical facilities and neighborhoods and to provide the public with firewood.
Ostrander said the project idea was generated from the “incredible” feedback the borough received on similar projects that generated firewood. The program was popular, he said, because of how cold the last few winters were combined with the high cost of energy.
“They need to be mitigated, so we need to go in and clear this stuff out so we lower the danger to the neighboring subdivision, but at the same time we can limb and stack these big chunks of wood so that folks can come in and cut firewood,” he said.
• $5.9 million to replace the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system at the George A. Navarre borough building and the School District Administration building. This item was included in last year’s request for $4.5 million, but not funded.
• $1.68 million for an equipment maintenance building at the Central Peninsula Landfill. This item was also included in last year’s request at $1.5 million, but not funded.
• $2.5 million to widen the Tall Tree bridge over Stariski Creek to two lanes and bring the adjoining road up to borough standards for inclusion in the roads maintenance program.
• $2 million for removal of hazardous trees on private property, outside or near utility easements and right-of-way corridors.
Brian Smith is the city editor for the Peninsula Clarion.