KODIAK — For almost 60 years, snowy days like Monday have meant a line of snow-filled dump trucks spilling their load into Near Island Channel.
Thanks to orders from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, that winter scene is coming to an end — and the city of Kodiak is footing the bill.
On Thursday night, the Kodiak City Council voted unanimously to spend more than $67,000 to search for a lot suitable for a snow dump. This dump, not the Pacific Ocean, will be the ultimate resting place for snow scraped from city streets.
All snow melts, of course, and the meltwater will eventually reach the ocean, but the goal is to keep everything scraped up with the snow — oil, road salt and trash — from ending up in the ocean, too, said William Ashton of the DEC.
“Sheen and trash — that’s a violation of the water quality standards,” he said.
In November, an anonymous Kodiak resident filed a formal complaint with the DEC about the city’s 20-year-old snow-dumping pier. That complaint prodded the state, which in turn prodded the city to do something about an issue it knew was coming.
“This had been on our radar,” said city public works director Mark Kozak.
In 2006, the state of Alaska commissioned a study of “nearshore marine waters” that found snow dumping to be a big contributor to ocean pollution.
Dumping on land means garbage and oil are filtered out by soil before runoff reaches the ocean.
In Kodiak, however, dumping on land means a bigger problem: Where can the dump go?
“Maybe there’s some pieces of ground here that we hadn’t really thought about before,” Kozak said, “and that’s an important part of this whole experience.”
The city’s $67,000 contract covers that “important part,” and the job of finding a snow dump site has fallen to engineering firm DOWL HKM. Aaron Christie is the project’s manager.
“Once you find the right site, usually most of the heavy lifting is done by that point,” Christie said.
Finding the right site means picking a place big enough for a winter’s worth of snow and sloped just enough so it will drain correctly and keep the surrounding area from turning into a swamp when the snow thaws.
DOWL HKM has designed snow dumps in Anchorage and Juneau, where it looked at 51 locations before picking two. Kodiak’s challenges will involve finding enough flat land, and then making sure that land can drain properly.
“We’re going to end up storing snow on land, but with our community situation, where that land is is the most difficult aspect,” Kozak said.
After the Daily Mirror first reported on the snow dump in December, several private landowners approached Kozak about checking their lots for suitability as a snow dump.
The nearest city-owned property may be on Near Island, and while that’s close by Anchorage or Juneau standards, it’s much further from downtown than the snow-dumping pier.
That means city workers will have to spend more time dumping snow and less time removing it from city streets. Downtown, where snow removal must be done before about 7 a.m., the slower pace of removal may mean additional days of work before streets are cleared from a major storm.
Snow from residential neighborhoods and midtown is already being dumped on land near Kodiak Municipal Airport and the city’s wastewater treatment plant on Spruce Cape.
While those locations will do for midtown, Kozak is having his truck drivers tally their trips and their work time so he can accurately measure how much the new dumping process will slow them down.
For now, downtown streets are still being cleared with the snow pier. Current timelines call for a snow dump to be identified within the year and opened in time for the winter of 2013-2014. Unless the city finds a convenient dumping location, that means when the time comes, downtown businesses can expect to wait a bit longer to have their curbsides cleared.
“I just don’t see any place real close that’s going to be effective,” Kozak said.
Contact Mirror editor James Brooks at editor(at)kodiakdailymirror.com.
Monday’s blizzard more than doubled Kodiak’s meager snowfall total for January. According to measurements taken at Kodiak State Airport, 5 inches of snow had fallen by 5 p.m. More snow was expected to fall late into the evening before turning to rain as temperatures increased overnight.
Before Monday, only 3.6 inches of snow had fallen in January, far below normal. The storm brings Kodiak to above-normal for the month but still below normal for a typical Kodiak winter.
By this point in the season, Kodiak should have seen almost three feet of snow; instead, it has barely two.
Information from: Kodiak (Alaska) Daily Mirror, http://www.kodiakdailymirror.com