With repairs to the Anchor River State Recreation Area parking lot and tractor launch scheduled to begin this spring, Anchor Point residents and local business owners are considering how the damage that occurred last fall and in past years due to massive erosion will impact the town’s future.
In September 2017 a combination of high tide cycles and heavy storms washed away 200 lineal feet of the Anchor River State Recreation Area parking lot.
This erosion was in addition to the 100 lineal feet of damage that occurred in the spring of 2016. The 100 lineal feet was also further eroded during the 2017 storms. Todd Bareman, owner of Anchor River Enterprises, leases the land the parking lot is located on from the state of Alaska and operates his tractor launch during the peak season months of May through August. The damage that the lot sustained cost Bareman 12 prime parking spaces facing Cook Inlet, along with the area on which he sets Anchor River Enterprises’ office buildings.
Rys Miranda, chief of State Parks Design and Construction, is the chief engineer who originally designed the Anchor Point beach parking lot, which was completed in the fall of 2011, and is responsible
for coordinating the current necessary repairs. The repairs are being funded by a grant awarded by the state in the amount of $84,000, according to Miranda. However, this grant is dedicated toward repairing only the original 100 feet of the damaged section of the parking lot, rather than the full 300 feet.
“The 100-foot section is the worst section out there right now,” Miranda said.
Over the past several months, Bareman has acted as a lead spokesperson regarding the erosion damage and vital repairs needed to keep his business in operation and ensure tourists return to Anchor Point for the annual fishing season.
Bareman, along with other representatives from Anchor Point, met with Miranda and State Park Superintendent Jack Blackwell on Jan. 10 and proposed that the state allow the $84,000 grant to be used to repair the full amount of damage. The grant money, along with donated funds and materials, would allow repairs to the full 300 feet to be completed this season. Bareman explained that instead of purchasing armor rock at a premium to reinforce the entire eroded section of the parking lot facing Cook Inlet, donated drill pipe and surplus materials purchased at a discounted price from local businesses could be used for the repairs.
Additionally, the Anchor Point Chamber of Commerce raises money specifically for parking lot maintenance and erosion control through the annual King Salmon Calcutta Tournament held each May. These funds could also be applied toward the repairs.
However, because the grant was specified for repairing 100 feet of the parking lot, it cannot now be used to repair the entire 300 feet of erosion damage, according to Miranda. To deviate from the grant’s original purpose would potentially prevent the park officials from being able to obtain another grant in the future.
Miranda is currently designing the repairs on the parking lot that are scheduled to begin in May, as well as working on obtaining the necessary permits for the project. The project is expected to open for contract bids the week of April 8, and is currently slated to be finished no later than June 30.
Upon hearing the state’s plan to use the grant as originally specified, Bareman and other local business owners became deeply concerned that the full 300 feet of damage will not be repaired this year. Residents feel that repairing only 100 feet of the parking lot will be a bandage fix, as erosion on either side of that middle section will continue to occur and eventually render the parking lot unusable.
“We are trying to argue the point that if they would let us do (the repairs) with some of the donation materials, (the grant funds, and the chamber donations), we could fix the whole 300 feet,” Bareman said. “I know that the donations we get for the parking lot … every year only add up to about $3,000, and we can’t even start a project unless we’re able to get into this grant money. We’re not changing (the way this grant money was supposed to be used), we’re using it wiser, because the problem has changed since that grant money was requested, and there’s no other money out there.”
Many businesses in Anchor Point rely on the income that tourists bring in when they visit for the fishing season. The beach parking lot is a key factor in this. Charters based locally as well as in areas spanning from Happy Valley to Soldotna utilize Anchor River Enterprises to launch their boats.
According to Bareman, there is no alternative location in Anchor Point to launch boats or charters. If the beach parking lot sustains further damage and becomes unusable, Anchor Point will suffer severe economic consequences, as charters and fishermen will have to launch from other locations instead, and visitors will be less than likely to return to Anchor Point, he said.
“If we lost that parking lot, or half of that parking lot, it would slow us down so much that… I would lose too many customers to be able to operate there,” Bareman said. “If (there is nowhere) to park and I’m limited on how fast I can put boats in the water or pull them out, it would get to a point where I’m unable to function … So then everybody would have to launch out of Deep Creek or Homer.”
Bill Scott, president of the chamber and owner of Natures Ventures, emphasized the importance of the fishing and tourist industry to Anchor Point’s economy.
“That launch is actually a key part of Anchor Point, bringing in visitors to go fishing and use the local businesses,” Scott said. “Anchor Point is often overlooked because we’re not incorporated. We’re small potatoes compared to Homer or Soldotna. But we have a good thing going here and the tractor launch is very important to that. We need that parking lot fixed, otherwise it will cause more damage financially to our town and local businesses.”
Because the initial repairs to the 100 lineal feet of the parking lot will be done during the first part of the 2018 tourist season, Bareman and Blackwell expect that the damage will be an inconvenience to visitors this summer, but it currently will not prevent the Anchor Point tractor launch from operating.
“Right now it’s an inconvenience, and it could go further than that … with nothing there to hold (the parking lot) back,” Bareman said. “Because it’s such a big deal for this town, and they’ve spent a lot of money blacktopping that parking lot, I don’t want to lose any more. I want to be able to function down there, and once we start losing people because they can’t park down there, it’s hard to get those people to come back.”
According to Blackwell, there is no additional funding available from the state at this time to repair the full extent of the damage to the parking lot. However, the state has applied for federal assistance.
In November 2017, Governor Bill Walker requested a major disaster declaration in response to the September storms that caused the additional erosion in Anchor Point (as well as erosion damage in Ninilchik, Deep Creek, and Seward). In response to this request, President Donald Trump declared on Dec. 20, 2017 that a major disaster exists in the state of Alaska.
This declaration made Hazard Mitigation Grant Program assistance requested by the governor available statewide. The full preliminary damage assessment report can be found online at https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1516892182577-7130076e5c4537f3a877b3a849123970/FEMA4351DRAK.pdf.
The state has not yet received an answer as to whether they will be granted federal funds to repair the remaining erosion damage.
“We are asking the public to be patient,” Blackwell said.