Story last updated at 1:37 p.m. Thursday, May 9, 2002

Seawall concerns may not halt construction
by R.J. Kelly
Managing Editor

The clock is expected to start ticking again this week on the process that a group of Ocean Drive Loop residents hope will lead to construction of a protective seawall this summer.

Action on the $1 million project stalled last month after several environmental and wildlife agencies sought more information on the potential impact the wall might have on wildlife habitat and erosion patterns in Kachemak Bay.

But following a meeting of local, state and federal officials in Anchorage on April 30, Ryan Winn, the Army Corps of Engineers project manager, said Tuesday an abbreviated public comment is expected to reopen for 15 days, possibly beginning as early as Friday.

A nearly complete 30-day process was halted April 3 by the Army and the state Division of Governmental Coordination. Homer Public Works director Carey Meyer stopped the clock after representatives of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Environmental Protection Agency and others raised questions.

"All the questions that the agencies had have been answered," Meyer said last Friday. "Whether we answered them sufficiently ... we don't know yet."

While representatives of several agencies say they are still evaluating the revised plans and expect to file formal comments soon, it appears that no significant roadblock has surfaced.

During an April 12 meeting in Homer and a beachside tour of the eroding bluff, officials raised concerns that the proposed 2,000-foot fiberglass sheet wall would not be far enough out of the high-tide zone.

"We had moved the wall up the beach during the design process ... and we think we can scrunch it a little bit closer," Meyer said Friday. "We'll do everything we can to keep it out of the tidal zone. If we could get it completely out of the tidal zone we wouldn't need a permit."

Before construction can start, the Army Corps must issue a permit to comply with the federal Clean Water Act. Approval also hinges on a state review that the work is consistent with state coastal zone management guidelines, which is likely to take a couple of weeks longer than the Army Corps process, but Winn said he may issue a provisional permit, pending certification by the Division of Governmental Coordination.

Once a permit is granted, Meyer expects construction to start around mid-July, with completion about 45 days later.

Most of the cost of project is expected to be repaid by property owners over a long-term loan bonded by the city.