Story last updated at 4:28 p.m. Thursday, June 20, 2002

Seawall monitoring OK with city officials
by R.J. Kelly
Managing Editor

City officials have agreed to demands from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for a five-year plan to monitor the potential effects of a 2,000-foot seawall designed to keep the bluff from collapsing under Ocean Drive Loop homes.

Although final procedures by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to issue a permit for the project were still under way Wednesday the agreement appears to overcome the last stumbling block holding up construction of the fiberglass-sheet wall.

"We are requesting that the special condition that was developed by EPA be included in the permit," city public works director Carey Meyer said Tuesday.

"The city will support the (U.S. Geological Survey) in their efforts to do a five year study of sediment transport and erosion issues out there on the Spit," Meyer said.

The federal Fish and Wildlife Service is also seeking long-term monitoring of the project to make sure it does not damage wildlife habitat in the shoreline area.

Once the study is complete, a committee will then evaluate the project to see if any corrective action needs to be taken, Meyer said.

Phillip North, an aquatic ecologist with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Kenai, was among several environmental officials who have raised concerns that construction of the proposed wall might shift the normal movement of sediment that naturally builds beaches and the nearby Homer Spit.

North has said the wall along the Ocean Drive Loop beach might result in increased erosion on the Spit. Regional EPA administrators were ready to formally object to construction if the monitoring condition was not included in the permit.

California-based scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey are expected to begin a previously planned and unrelated study of Kachemak Bay, and North said he is hoping they will take a look at the seawall site while they are here.

Although not directly related, USGS marine geological Peter Ruggiero will make a public presentation on "Understanding and Predicting Large-scale Coastal Change" at noon today at the Kachemak Bay Research Reserve offices on Kachemak Drive.

On Friday, Meyer plans to update Ocean Drive Loop residents about the status of the seawall project at a 6 p.m. public meeting in City Hall. By that time, he is hoping to at least have a preliminary letter from the Army Corps of Engineers saying the permit will be issued.

Once the permit is issued, Meyer said materials will be quickly ordered, with construction expected in August and September.

Property owners will eventually repay the city for most of the cost of the $1 million project out of long-term assessments on their taxes. The city also owns a piece of vacant property on the bluff site, but it has yet to be determined how much of the cost the city will bear.