Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 1:57 PM on Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Proposed water trail gets federal attention

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer

It isn't exactly walking on water, but the Kachemak Bay Water Trail is a project novel enough to be one of two Alaska trails catching the attention of the National Park Service, Dave Brann of the city of Homer Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission reported to the Homer City Council at its Monday meeting.

An all-season trail system at Denali State Park and the water trail in Kachemak Bay are among 100 projects — two from every state — to be highlighted in a U.S. Department of Interior report to be released next week. The report is part of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors initiative.

"So, we're on the federal radar and I'm really excited about the possibilities that it can be an economic boon to the area, to businesses here, and provide a wonderful recreational opportunity by identifying places people can camp, paddle and those kinds of things," Brann told the council.

The course of the 125-mile watery trail wraps around the bay, with tentative put-in and camping spots. It is a collaborative effort between the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission, the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center, Kachemak Bay Conservation Society, the Seldovia Ferry, Cook Inletkeeper, Homer Wooden Boat Society and Alaska State Parks.

The trail also was recently selected by the National Park Service as the recipient of an award for technical planning assistance. The award offers help identifying potential funding sources, working with and expanding the network of partners and stakeholders, conducting community outreach searching for additional support for the trail, and evaluating water trail resources.

In other business, the council unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the city manager to draft and submit an application for a revenue bond sale, as well as take steps necessary to prepare for the sale to finance construction of six capital projects within the Homer Harbor. The resolution is the work of a committee that included council members Barbara Howard, David Lewis and Beth Wythe; Port and Harbor Advisory Commission members Bob Hartley and Bob Howard; and Harbormaster Bryan Hawkins.

The committee was formed by resolution for the purpose of "developing a port and harbor improvement revenue bonding plan" and providing review and oversight throughout the implementation and completion of any approved plan. It began meeting in August and was charged with providing a recommendation to the council by Nov. 1.

According to a report given by Wythe, the committee met with Deven Mitchell, executive director of the Alaska Municipal Bond Bank, to gain an understanding of the bond sale process, was briefed on the city's finance director on the state of the Port and Harbor Enterprise Fund, and reviewed the enterprise fund's ability to generate revenue needed to meet bond debt.

The committee also reviewed all harbor projects, including some not on the city's capital improvement project list. It narrowed the list to include:

• Reconstructing the load and launch ramp facility, $3.5 million;

• Replacing ramp 3 gangway, the steepest ramp in the harbor, $1.7 million;

• Upgrading the system that provides shore power and water to the large-vessel floats, by adding additional power pedestals and a year-round fresh water supply, $530,000;

• Replacing the oldest and most badly damaged floats in the harbor, $3.5 million;

• Constructing a rock revetment to improve erosion control at the Harbor entrance, $600,000;

• Replacing the existing Port and Harbor building, $2.9 million.

Taking into account funding already secured for engineering and design, and what the city's share would be, the committee estimated the bond sale would be for about $5 million.

Prior to the council's vote on the resolution, Pete Wedin, also a member of the Port and Harbor Commission, expressed views that the resolution was being fast-tracked.

"I will suggest things are going fairly rapidly in my view," said Wedin. "There's no question the projects need to be funded, but the public needs to be given a chance for a little more input."

Wythe pointed out that the resolution was "strictly a recommendation from the committee how to move forward. ... There was no intention of disenfranchising the commission."

In response to Wedin's question about whether the resolution would commit the city to any specific course of action, Wythe said it would not and that, should the decision be made to proceed, council approval would be needed at numerous steps along the way. Council member Kevin Hogan encouraged input from the commission and made a motion to postpone action on the resolution until the council's next meeting.

"These guys spend their time in the harbor and know what's going on," said Hogan.

The motion failed, however, with Wythe, Howard, Francie Roberts and Bryan Zak voting against it and Lewis and Hogan supporting it.

Before voting on the resolution, Howard said, "This is simply to begin the process. The next question would be what does the (bond sale) application look like. I'm saying please do not be afraid of this first step. We're simply applying." The resolution passed with all six council members voting in favor of it.

Dale Banks, owner of Loopy Lupine Recycled Products and representing a recently formed community composting program, gave a presentation on composting. The state permit for the Homer Landfill is set to expire in 2013, at which time household waste will be transferred to the Central Peninsula Landfill in Soldotna. Banks advocated for a study to determine the feasibility of increased composting, which could reduce the need to transfer waste.

With Resolution 11-100 on the council's agenda, Banks' presentation was well-timed. The resolution requests the Kenai Peninsula Borough to perform a feasibility study for a community composting operation at the transfer facility. The council gave the resolution its unanimous consent.

In other action, the city council approved for introduction Ordinance 11-43, regarding the number of water meters required per lot. A public hearing and second reading of the ordinance is scheduled for Nov. 28.

The next meeting of the Homer City Council will be Nov. 28, with the Committee of the Whole meeting at 5 p.m. and the regular meeting at 6 p.m.

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