City briefed on Spit conditions amid ongoing harbor expansion

City staff received a baseline conditions report and passed an ordinance appropriating funding match

The Homer City Council on Monday received an extensive updated overview report from Ronny McPherson and KC Kent of HDR on the baseline marine and physical conditions of the Spit and existing harbor status of the ongoing Homer Harbor expansion project. The study was conducted as work in kind for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The basic baseline conditions discussed in the presentation included features of water level, winds, topography and bathymetry, water circulation and storm surge, waves and sediment transport and how these various features impact the structure of the Homer Spit and in particular, the current harbor.

The hourlong event hosted at Homer City Hall was attended by all council members, Port Director Bryan Hawkins and several members of the community.

Following the presentation, McPherson and Kent concluded the presentation with next steps for the project. One of the upcoming next components for the project is a study on bottom structure/ geophysical characteristics of the harbor.

Council member Donna Aderhold asked of the researchers who owns the data now and if it would be possible to use the information for other projects such as evaluating erosion on the Spit road. McPherson responded that the city and the Corps equally own the data.

“You are in a partnership with the Corps where you both contributed funding to it, so my understanding is that this data belongs to both of you. I think, of course, this data can be used for other things. All of the data will be handed over to the city and the Corps,” McPherson said.

At the conclusion of the presentation there were a few comments and questions from attendees, including one asking what the current status of the general timeline for the project is for 2024. Mayor Ken Castner responded to say that he didn’t know if there was one pulled together at this time in terms of where the city is heading in studies.

During the regular council meeting that took place post-work session, the topic came up again with comments from Castner and council member Rachel Lord that due to a federal funding pause from the U.S. Army Corps the city can’t be sure where the project is truly headed after the spring.

On Tuesday, Lord provided additional updates to where the city stands with funding for the harbor expansion.

“We passed the ordinance appropriating the city’s portion of the additional funding match, $288,000. We adopted that unanimously. So, that money will come from the port reserve budget. We also unanimously adopted a resolution to officially ask the Legislature to allocate a matching amount in the capital budget,” Lord said.

Lord also described the process the board is going through to update the Gantt charts for the project, or project visualization tool.

“One of the things I mentioned at some during our regular meeting that Storm (Hansen) and I, as project champions, will work with the city staff to develop some outreach material and better communication about where we stand in the time frame of the project as a whole. We know we’re on federal funding pause, but we can address what an updated timeline might look like,” Lord said.