Major project underway near burn pile

The deteriorating culverts and cement pads opposite Fleming Spit Lagoon will be replaced as part of a $4.8 million renovation project that is scheduled to be completed by next spring. Photo by Dick Shellhorn/for The Cordova Times

A $4.8 million-dollar project that will impact 0.82 miles of highway and surrounding area near the Cordova burn pile on Orca Road is underway.

Late in September, Harris Sand and Gravel off-loaded a barge of equipment and materials near the site of the Alaska Department of Transportation project, which centers on replacing deep culverts connecting an intertidal lagoon above the road to Orca Inlet.

Project details describe the scope of the work.

New asphalt will replace the existing road asphalt, which was installed in 2003 and is at the end of its life cycle. New armor rock will be placed along the coast side of the embankment to prevent erosion, replacing the concrete block mat that has started to deteriorate and cause damage to the sidewalk and culverts. Plus, a new sidewalk and a staircase for public access to the ocean will be installed.

A major change will be replacing the existing 48-inch culverts connecting to Fleming Spit Lagoon with an 11-foot arched structural plate pipe.

Utility improvements include new electric and telecom conduit that will be installed in the embankment, new sanitary sewer lines and manholes, new water lines and a fire hydrant, and service extended for the future PWCS Building, which will eventually be located above the road in the area of the existing parking lot.

The armor rock, culvert, and water utility work will be completed in the fall and winter of 2020 to meet all environmental requirements.

A temporary crushed asphalt surface will be left in place during winter shutdown, with the rest of the project completed in early spring 2021.

On September 25, 2020, equipment is unloaded from a Harris Sand and Gravel barge just beyond the burn pile for a major renovation project in that area. Photo by Dick Shellhorn/for The Cordova Times

Funding for the project, at an overall contracted price of $4,788,570, came from federal, state, city of Cordova and Copper River Watershed Project sources.

The Prince William Sound Science Center is paying to have a sewer main installed to the center’s new property; the city of Cordova is paying for a hydrant to be installed by the existing bathrooms, and Copper River Watershed Project has a grant to improve access to the beach side.

“The project is certainly needed,” city planner Leif Stavig said. “Not only is the road in rough shape, the culverts have really deteriorated. I didn’t realize they have such a short life span.  And the concrete pads evidently were a new idea at the time of installation, but also just haven’t lasted well.”

Added beach access provided by the Copper River Watershed Project grant will enhance many educational activities in the area performed through collaboration with city parks and recreation and the schools. Plus, the new culvert will improve salmon passage to the nearby lagoon, which is utilized by CRWP for salmon cycle education.

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Dick Shellhorn is a lifelong Cordovan. He has been writing sports stories for the Cordova Times for over 50 years. In his Cordova Chronicles features, he writes about the history and characters of this Alaska town. Alaska Press Club awarded Shellhorn first place for Best Humor column in 2016, and third place in 2017 and 2019. He also received second place for Best Editorial Commentary in 2019. Shellhorn has written two books about Alaska adventures: Time and Tide and Balls and Stripes.