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'Green' Drainage Plan is a Hit With Habitat Groups

City of Homer
Homer's unique geography creates a lot of drainage.

New city proposal would tie together problem areas to preserve wetland and reduce erosion.

Plans to deal with groundwater runoff in Homer have come and gone over the years, with little in the way of a comprehensive solution to addressing the city’s unique drainage issues. Public Works Director Jan Keiser presented a proposal for such a plan to the city council last Monday night.

“Many of these reports identified specific recommendations of things that should be done to mitigate the adverse impact of water on stability and coastal erosion. But there hasn't been a lot of implementation of those recommendations,” Keiser said.

In her discussion of the problem, Keiser pointed out that a lot of the erosion at sea level is coming from groundwater, not wave action.

“You've seen this if you walked along Bishop's Beach or Kachemak Drive, the kind of bluff erosion that is triggered by groundwater, not necessarily wave action. And you can see the drainage channels flowing down to the bay, and you can see the bluff erosion that's created by them. With each channel that flows down into the bay, there is a corresponding channel of erosion down by the bluff,” Keiser said.

Keiser’s proposal for the runoff that goes into the inner bay could include a small-scale hydro-electric generator.

“It's what we call the checkerboard, or the Kachemak Drive sponge. It uses existing wetlands to store storm water and groundwater. And treat it from industrial commercial lands. And then convey it in a managed way out to Kachemak Bay. This would alleviate some of the bluff erosion that you're seeing on Kachemak Drive on the east side of Kachemak Drive. It will also protect the water quality of Kachemak Bay. And it also provides the opportunity for a small, Micro Hydro facility,” Keiser said.

Keiser’s plans got strong support from the city council and citizens, but especially from non-governmental organizations working on habitat. Penelope Haas said the Kachemak Bay Conservation Society has seen many of the same issues Keiser has identified.

“Kachemak Bay Conservation Society was a part of a long-term, over a year-long project, called the Petland project, which some of you may have heard of. And that Petland project involved over 250 local Homer folks, over a thousand hours of volunteer hours, over 12 Partnerships with you know, folks from Bunnell, to Kachemak Bay National Estuary research reserve. And one of the things that this project did, was kind of, we wound up seeing a lot of the same things that Jan was seeing as we started to learn about petlands and think about Petland,” Haas said.

Haas said the peatlands survey found very thick layers of the organic soil, perfect for soaking up runoff.

“The peat that we, we took probes of is, you know, between 12 and 25 feet. That is deep, that is a big sponge. It's gonna hold a lot of water and acquiring those lands you're gonna get a lot of bang for your buck. So we very much approve of this use of the city's energy and we hope you guys will keep pushing forward and we're going to be pushing behind you, as well as all the community members,” Haas said.

Kyra Wagoner of the Homer Soil and Water Conservation District also praised the city’s efforts and pledged her office’s support.

“But I do want to express some extreme gratitude to the city for even taking Wetlands into consideration. At my office at Homer Soil and Water we get a lot of calls about when people's foundations are shifting underneath their houses and things like that. And so, it's pretty easy to feel powerless against such a movement. So, to see the city taking on some large strategic plans for managing water, at this time, is extremely inspiring. And I hope we can help in any way we can,” Wagoner said.

KBBI will have more on the topic of drainage management next week, when Public Works Director Jan Keiser will be the guest on the Coffee Table.

Jay Barrett, KBBI's new News Director should be a familiar voice to our listeners. He's been contributing to Kenai Peninsula news for the last three years out of KDLL Kenai, and was the voice of The Alaska Fisheries Report from KMXT for 12 years. Jay worked for KBBI about 20 years ago as the Central Peninsula Reporter at KDLL.