Managing the Wet Heart of Homer

Conservation in our Heart

Author:
Penelope Haas
Date:
April 27, 2021

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The wetlands in the heart of Homer are zoned for industrial commercial development.

The owner of the Northern Enterprises Boatyard has spoken to the Borough Mayor about the possibility of a direct, non-competitive sale of 25 acres of wetland, presumably to fill and expand the boatyard (see attached map below) There are an additional 50 acres of undeveloped wetlands (yellow in attached map) that the boatyard has a stake in south of the land in question (red in attached map) that may also be part of expansion plans.

Both the boatyard and Moose Habitat, Inc. will be presenting to the Borough Assembly on April 6, 2021 at 6:00 p.m. with two very different points of view about how to evaluate and value the wetlands in the "wet heart of Homer." Listen in to the presentations and comment here.

A land sale is not a quick process. The land will still need to be classified by borough land managers before any sale occurs.  We will continue to update you on opportunities for comment as the process unfolds, but here is some food for thought at this stage -

• The City of Homer has zoned the “wet heart of Homer” for commercial development. We believe that this is a mistake.

• Take a look at this awesome collection of maps of the area from Homer Soil and Water Conservation District to see wetland designations, surface water flows, etc.

• The City of Homer has a Stormwater Management Plan: Green Infrastructure Projectand an ongoing drainage management plan update that are strong arguments for changing the zoning in this area.

• There is potential for flooding of properties and the road downstream, as more and more wetlands are filled. There are significant liabilities associated with mismanagement of water.

Peatlands lock in enormous amounts of carbon - that carbon is released into the atmosphere when it is filled and dried out. The Army Corps of Engineers, who authorizes fill of wetlands, as well as the borough and City of Homer, should evaluate the fill of peat differently from the fill of other wetlands. Note, the borough land is not peat, but purchase of it by the Homer Boatyard could potentially allow the boat yard to expand into the 50 acres of undeveloped wetlands adjacent.

• This area is habitat that is critical to moose survival on big snow years. Loss of this habitat will have significant impacts to the Homer moose populations.

• All of the borough-owned land in question is classified as “discharge slope wetlands” and the undeveloped land owned by the boatyard that is adjacent is classified as “drainage way wetlands.”

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