AD Main Menu

Floodgates lifted on temporary lake near Fairbanks after rain eases

Dermot Cole

FAIRBANKS—The Army Corps of Engineers opened the floodgates on the Chena River on Monday morning, starting to drain a temporary lake that grew to more than 4,000 acres during the five days the 30-ton steel gates restricted the flow in the river.

The water ranged from 15 feet deep near the floodgates to about 1 to 3 feet deep four miles down the floodway, said Tim Feavel, project manager for the Corps of Engineers.

On Wednesday afternoon, the corps lowered the gates for the 21st time since the quarter-billion-dollar federal project began keep floodwaters off the streets of Fairbanks nearly 35 years ago.

The Chena River continued to flow at higher levels than normal Monday, with about 7,000 cubic feet per second moving beneath the floodgates, which are about 35 river miles upriver from Fairbanks. The edge of the temporary lake remained about 3.5 miles from the Tanana River, the southern outlet for the floodway.

In downtown Fairbanks, the Chena has remained at 9 feet since last Wednesday, when the Corps began restricting the river flow. The National Weather Service said a flood advisory for the Chena River near North Pole was to end at 5:15 p.m. Monday.

The forecast said the river is expected to drop Monday night but remain at about 6 feet for much of the rest of the week. Feavel said it could take at least a week for the temporary lake to be drained.

The forecast for the rest of the week is for cloudy conditions and scattered showers, not the heavy rains over the past two weeks that brought record amounts of rainfall to parts of the Interior and pushed many rivers and streams to flood stage.