Story last updated at 1:21 p.m. Thursday, November 28, 2002

Seawall repairs ongoing
by Carey James
Staff Writer

While the new seawall on Ocean Drive Loop got off to a rocky start, those overseeing the project are hopeful a new timber face and some repairs will be all the fiberglass shield needs to stop erosion along the bluff.

The 1,800-foot wall ran into trouble in late October when a high tide joined forces with strong winds, bringing unusually big breakers up against the partially finished wall. The next week, extreme flooding caused water to pool behind the wall, pushing a 50-foot section outward and cracking off chunks of the wall.

City Public Works Director Carey Meyer said the likelihood of such weather anomalies tag-teaming the wall again are slim, but the wall has been fitted with a new timber face to stop erosion on the fiberglass surface. In addition, water drainage issues have been addressed.

Anchorage engineer Arvind Phukan, who designed the wall, has picked up the tab for the timber face. Meyer said he does not know what the extra protection cost.

"The timber face is going to keep the structural part of the wall from deteriorating, and it should guarantee that the wall isn't going to fall due to the abrasive forces of the beach," said Meyer, who said the consensus was that the abrasion to the wall was from sand and mud along the tideline, not logs or rocks being thrown at the wall.

As for the damage that occurred from the floodwaters, Meyer said, the costs of those repairs will be split between the panel manufacturer, the engineer and the city.

"That repair is going to be handled in the same way that other flood damage to city facilities is being dealt with," Meyer said.

While some land-owners in the area expressed confidence in the wall, despite its earlier issues, others asked for a meeting with the city to answer questions.

Don McNamara, who owns several lots along the bluff, said he still has questions and concerns about the design and installation of the wall.

"More time spent on quality control would be a good thing," he said. "But my mother told me, if you don't have anything good to say, don't say anything at all."

Others say they are less concerned with the wall's future performance.

"I think it's well designed to hold up against the assault from the ocean," said Marilyn Hueper, who owns the Alaska Waterfront Inn with her husband, Paul.

Paul Hueper added that the wall wasn't designed to hold up against a surge of water from the back side, like occurred during the floods.

Hueper said landowners and others involved in the project may have been a bit naOve initially, thinking they would be able to foresee all the unique aspects of the seawall project.

At a recent city council meeting, council members were eager to separate the city from the wall because of potential liability if the wall were to fail. But Meyer said if the wall fails, the engineer is liable for his design, and carries insurance that would compensate homeowners for the roughly $1 million cost.

The city's role in the wall construction has been twofold. It has acted as a kind of project manager and has also assisted with financing and assessing property as it would with a limited improvement district. But unlike other limited improvement districts, the costs of the wall construction are completely absorbed by the landowners.

However, the city did become the owners of two small parcels of land when the former property owners defaulted on their taxes. As a result, the city must pay around $120,000 of the wall's cost, which is the share for which the former property owners would have been responsible.

Meyer said repairs to the flood-damaged section of the wall will be done in the next few weeks.

Meyer said he is hoping to schedule a meeting with land-owners in early December to answer questions.

Carey James can be reached at,/i>