Seeking fast relief from even faster approaching surface water flooding, a group of K-Beach residents met at the Soldotna Sports Complex Thursday night to try to find a way to stay dry.
The waters are coming quickly toward Brandy Washburn’s house at the end of Karluk Avenue, about a third of a mile off K-Beach Road.
“I’m right next to someone who’s overflooded. They’ve got lots of animals and their septic’s overflowing, the animals don’t have a dry space to be on. And everything’s flowing my way,” Washburn said.
She was one of more than 40 residents who attended Thursday night’s meeting looking for a quick solution to the problem they’re all facing. The elevated groundwater and consistent rains have few places to go. Right now, it’s going into a lot of basements, crawlspaces and septic systems.
“It’ll be interesting to see if we can get the whole community together. I think we can because so many people are being impacted by the flooding,” said Dave Yragui, a resident of the area leading the charge to find some solutions.
He brought in an independent consultant from Anchorage, hydrologist Jim Munter, who gave a presentation outlining the basic challenges facing these residents and some possible solutions.
“I was trying to figure out how to characterize this and did some quick calculations in my head and pretty well came up with the idea that this is a 100 million gallon problem. That’s probably how much extra water there is, and that’s probably too small (a number),” Munter said.
When the Borough met with many of these same residents last week to address their concerns about a high water table and the surface water flooding it was causing, the message was pretty clear: the last two years have seen much higher than normal amounts of snow and rain and the 6,000 acre wetlands simply don’t drain efficiently enough to keep people’s homes dry. Munter confirmed that. Another week has passed and more rain has fallen. Now leechfields and septic systems are backing up, just as the wet season of the year hits its stride. As Munter framed it, the problem needs a two-pronged approach: Do something now for some quick relief in order to buy some time to find a more long-term and permanent solution.
“There’s so much water, this ditch that we’re talking about (along 7th street), even that’s not going to solve all the problems. It can’t be big enough, wide enough and deep enough unless you want to turn it into a canoeing stream. So part of the solution is to drain the water to the west,” Munter said.
The problem is the same now as it was last week. All that water slowly makes its way north and west to Cook Inlet, but before it gets there, it passes through these neighborhoods, and its progress is slowed not only by the nearly-level contours of the land, but also by roads.
There are only three main outlets for the water, one to the north and two to the west, but they’re just not big enough to handle the load. Dave Yragui’s goal for the meeting was to establish a committee, the K-Beach Community Drainage Improvement Committee, to come up with a plan for a long term solution.
Borough Mayor Mike Navarre was also at the meeting. He says the Borough is already doing what it can along its own roads and is working with the state to find a path for the water under K-Beach Road. Draining a 10-square mile wetlands, though, is not a feasible solution.
“What we’re talking about is in these high groundwater years, making sure we have drainages in place to deal with the situation when it comes around every 10 or 20 years. Groundwater levels are up all over south central Alaska, including here and it’s created some problems and we’re trying to find some solutions,” Navarre said.
Brandy Washburn says she’s hopeful those solutions are found soon.
“Everyone around me…is flooded. And I haven’t and gone and gotten a pump and all because if I pump my place, it’s an effect. It keeps going, and I can’t do that to other people.”
Yragui said they would start Friday trying pump out areas where water has collected already to try and get some immediate relief.