Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 2:41 PM on Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Bridge fix in progress

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer


Photo by McKibben Jackinsky, Homer News

Tracks placed recently by Buzz Moore cover holes in a bridge spanning Stariski Creek.

Progress has been made toward a quick fix on a deteriorating bridge north of Anchor Point with plans for long-term repairs in the near future, following an Aug. 24 meeting between Tall Tree Road residents and representatives from the Kenai Peninsula Borough.

Buzz Moore, who built the existing bridge about 15 years ago, met with Borough Mayor David Carey following the meeting to discuss Moore's plan for making the bridge passable. A day or two later, Moore followed through by placing tracks from a piece of heavy equipment across the surface of the bridge and covering holes that have worn through the bridge's decking.

"Each track is four feet wide and 40 feet long," said Moore. "You can drive a Cadillac right across it."

In July, Ben Maxon, chief of the Anchor Point Fire and Emergency Medical Service Area, decided not to send equipment across the bridge until repairs couple be made. Petro Marine also decided not to send fuel trucks over the bridge until assurance was given of the bridge's stability.

At the Aug. 24 meeting, Borough Mayor David Carey, his chief of staff Sue Wilcox, assembly members Bill Smith of Homer and Brent Johnson of Kasilof, who represents the Tall Tree area, personnel from the borough's legal and road maintenance departments, and representatives from the Kenai Watershed Forum and Homer Soil and Water Conservation met at the Anchor Point fire hall with an estimated 40 residents and business owners from Tall Tree Road. The meeting provided an opportunity for Carey to hear the concerns of those using the bridge, present steps he has taken to see that the bridge is repaired and for a joint problem-solving discussion.

At the beginning of the meeting, Carey invited Bruce Oskolkoff of Ninilchik Native Association to provide background on the development of the Tall Tree area. The road and bridge have provided access to NNAI land holdings and projects over the years

Buzz Moore built the existing bridge across Stariski Creek, a salmon-spawning stream, to accommodate increased traffic in the area. Logging, oil exploration, gravel hauling and other commercial activities added to the residential traffic in the area. Borough maintenance of Tall Tree Road stops about a quarter mile before the bridge. The remainder of the road and the bridge remains unclaimed by either the state or borough, with locals providing maintenance year round as needed.

Carey and Smith introduced Ordinance 2011-19-15 at the KPB assembly Aug. 16. If passed by the assembly at its Sept. 6 meeting, it will appropriate $50,000 in funding to the Kenai Watershed Forum for improvements to the bridge. In a memo accompanying the ordinance, Carey noted that the bridge was within the borough's Road Service Area, but not within a dedicated right of way nor located within a borough-maintained road.

"It is in the best interest of borough residents for the borough through its Road Service Area to provide funding to help alleviate the safety hazard," said Carey.

The funding would be available upon passage of the ordinance.

"I have had numerous discussions with Robert Ruffner (director of the Kenai Watershed Forum) and he expects that with the borough funding of $50,000 and assistance from the Ninilchik Native Association, we will be able to get a permanent fix on the bridge before Nov. 6," said Carey.

Ruffner said the forum already has hired McLane Engineering of Kenai to inspect the underside of the bridge, determine if it is strong enough to handle traffic and provide options for bridge repairs. The construction done by Moore when he built the bridge included a steel I-beam sandwiched between two 24-inch pipes on each side of the bridge. That is covered with wooden runners, a fabric water-resistant barrier and wood decking.

Oskolkoff has made contact with a number of commercial enterprises that have used or are using the bridge, asking them to contribute toward the repair effort.

"The indication is that we probably have a number of contributors," said Oskolkoff. "It is such a huge safety concern that it demands a fair amount of attention from us and anybody that can help in whatever way they can, whether money, resources or materials."

Carey maintains the state owns the road and bridge beyond the point where borough maintenance ends. His "long, long-term fix" is to coordinate with the state to bring the road up to borough standard so the borough can take over maintenance.

Carey said he spoke with Gov. Sean Parnell's chief of staff earlier this week.

"He is 'unclear' regarding who owns the bridge," said Carey. "I updated him on the progress so far. ... I also spoke to him regarding the long-term need to bring the road up to borough standards and then we could take over maintenance of the road."

Ruffner said "One way or another, we're committed to getting a fix before the snow sticks on the ground.

Speaking for himself as well as his neighbors, Moore said he appreciated efforts to repair the bridge and provide for safe passage.

"I want to be sure the mayor knows that there are a lot of us that appreciate what he did," said Moore.

Residents and business owners in the Tall Tree area were encouraged by Carey and Wilcox to attend the Sept. 6 borough assembly meeting. It will be held at the George A. Navarre Kenai Peninsula Borough Administrative Building, 144 N. Binkley St., Soldotna, beginning at 7 p.m.

Calls to Parnell's office were not returned by press time.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernwes.com.