Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Borough completes temporary repairs to storm-damaged infrastructure


December 17, 2020

By Ceri Godinez

The Haines Borough finished temporary repairs to public infrastructure on Friday, Dec. 11 and is transitioning to long-term repair planning, according to public facilities director Ed Coffland.

Coffland said the first step is identifying the projects. “Some of the major ones are Young Road and Cathedral View and up on top of Piedad,” he said. He said a big part of redesigning the roads will involve making sure the drainage structures are large enough to accommodate runoff from heavy rains.

“This isn’t the first time the stormwater collection system has been overtaxed and we’ve had washouts. It seems to happen every fifteen to twenty years,” Coffland said. “We should be designing whatever we rebuild so that it’s a little more realistic for weather trends.”

Warmer, wetter winters are an increasing trend in Southeast Alaska, according to National Weather Service scientists.

Coffland said he hopes to include hydrological analysis in the road repair process, which will take into consideration where stormwater is likely to collect, and what the peak water flow and duration might be at a given site during a period of heavy rainfall.

Another potential project involves improvements to inflow for the sewer treatment plant to keep stormwater out. At present, during periods of rain, water leaks into the sewer system.

“We had at least ten times the amount of flow that we would normally take into the treatment plant during the storm (earlier this month),” Coffland said.

The system had more water in it than the facility could treat, so some of it had to be diverted directly into the ocean. “It was relatively clean sewage, mostly groundwater, but we don’t want to do that,” he said.

Alaska engineering firm proHNS is doing pro bono work for the borough, identifying projects and coming up with initial designs, but bringing these projects to completion will take time and money, Coffland said.

He said the borough is in communication with the state regarding potential funding sources. On Dec. 5, Gov. Mike Dunleavy signed a disaster declaration for Southeast Alaska making state assistance available for public infrastructure repairs and initiating the process for requesting federal assistance.

The Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management has staff on the ground in Haines working with the community to collect damage assessment information, including repair costs and emergency response costs, according to public information officer Jeremy Zidek.

Zidek said he doesn’t have a specific timeline for the damage assessment phase. It takes time and involves collecting information from communities across Southeast. Once the data is collected, it will be submitted to FEMA and used to determine whether federal assistance will become available for public facilities.

Coffland said another potential funding source could be U.S. Federal Highway Administration funding channeled to the borough through the Chilkoot Indian Association.

Coffland said he hopes to have at least some of the long-term repair projects ready for construction come springtime.


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