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Photos: Matanuska River property buyout

Dale Peterson shows where the Matanuska River has carved a half-circle out of shoreline near Maud Road on Tuesday, August 5, 2014, not far from the Old Glenn Highway between Butte and Palmer.
Erik Hill / Alaska Dispatch News
Bruce Derstine has been cited by Mat-Su Borough officials for several projects on his property designed to keep floodwaters away from his home and, in this case, stem erosion of more of his property by the Matanuska River.
Erik Hill / Alaska Dispatch News
Pat Huddleson has been an organizer for residents living along the Matanuska River from mile 13 to mile 15 who have dealt with flooding and erosion issues through the years. Many of them are considering a Federal Emergency Management Agency-funded buyout offer. While their home sits several hundred wooded yards from the river, flooding is an annual concern. Huddleson and her husband Dan in the last 10 years have built a new home between the river and the Old Glenn Highway, and started a business along the highway offering vehicle and trailer restoration and spray-on linings. They do not think the buyout will allow them to re-locate to equivalent roadside property elsewhere for their business.
Erik Hill / Alaska Dispatch News
Sandbags remain in place outside the home of Dale Peterson as a precaution against the next threat of flooding from the Matanuska River.
Erik Hill / Alaska Dispatch News
Bruce Derstine strolls past bags of gravel positioned to hold back Matanuska River floodwaters on Tuesday, August 5, 2014, at his home between Butte and Palmer. Derstine has been cited by Mat-Su Borough officials for several projects on his property designed to keep floodwaters away from his house. Flooding last winter filled the drainage ditch in the foreground with silt.
Erik Hill / Alaska Dispatch News
Dan Huddleson, left, and his wife Pat have a home they built less than 10 years ago that they now have to consider selling in a Federal Emergency Management Agency-funded buyout. The Matanuska River flows beyond the trees to the left several hundred yards away. While erosion is an ongoing problem but not yet an immediate danger, the last major flood brought water up to their home, which stayed dry.
Erik Hill / Alaska Dispatch News
Dale Peterson figures he probably has to move from his log home if officials are unwilling to renew efforts to hold back the Matanuska River. Sandbags remain in place around his home and in reserve in a shed pending the next threat of flooding.
Erik Hill / Alaska Dispatch News
Pat Huddleson now keeps many of her pantry items in boxes for easy removal in case of evacuation due to Matanuska River flooding.
Erik Hill / Alaska Dispatch News
Bruce Derstine has been cited by Mat-Su Borough officials for several projects on his property designed to keep floodwaters away from his home.
Erik Hill / Alaska Dispatch News
The Matanuska River continues to eat away at shoreline on Tuesday, August 5, 2014, between Butte and Palmer.
Erik Hill / Alaska Dispatch News
Huge bags of gravel line one side of a ditch to protect a building owned by Dan and Pat Huddleson from flooding on Tuesday, August 5, 2014, near their home between Butte and Palmer.
Erik Hill / Alaska Dispatch News
Bruce Derstine has been cited by Mat-Su Borough officials for this levee and other projects on his property designed to keep floodwaters away from his home.
Erik Hill / Alaska Dispatch News

BUTTE -- Residents along the Matanuska River fought the bank-eating glacial waterway for decades, but now some property owners are ready to let the water take their land for good.

At least 15 of 20 landowners living from Mile 13 to Mile 15 of the Old Glenn Highway told the Matanuska-Susitna Borough last month they’re open to a voluntary federal buyout.

But they're not happy life on the river got to this point. 

Rather, many say they're giving up out of frustration with the borough’s failure to do anything to protect their property from future flooding and erosion.

“I don’t understand why would people would allow land to be devoured,” said Pat Huddleson, the unofficial leader of local property owners. “You don’t get land back.”

The river, a braided channel that periodically meanders across its broad plain, banked sharply to the east in the mid-1980s, toward Butte and away from Palmer. About a dozen homes on the Matanuska along the Old Glenn flooded or fell in the river. Near-record floods in September 2012 swamped riverfront properties and flooded the Old Glenn.  

Farther north, a half-dozen homes in Sutton fell into the river or remain threatened, including one with about 5 feet of land to spare. 

One problem in the Butte is a riverfront revetment -- residents call it a dike -- built in the mid-1980s by the state but never maintained, Huddleson said. “Nobody’s touched that dike since the day it was built.”

READ MORE: Government-weary Matanuska River landowners warm to federal buyout