Alaska News

Local disaster declared in Talkeetna after erosion threatens flood-control structure

PALMER — The Matanuska-Susitna Borough declared a local emergency Tuesday for Talkeetna due to ongoing erosion along the Susitna River that’s now threatening the far west side of the community, including a popular walking trail.

On the Kenai Peninsula, flooding was also occurring this week due to glacier dam releases at two lakes.

In Talkeetna, early September’s heavy rain added to the already high volume of the Susitna, Chulitna and Talkeetna rivers that join near the community to damage a rock revetment installed to protect the riverbank more than 40 years ago, borough officials say. The damage has created what officials described as an “impending threat to public safety, infrastructure, and property.”

So far, the river has completely washed away the Denali View River Trail along the Susitna and threatens a cluster of cabins located off A Street, said borough spokesman Stefan Hinman.

“It’s not a flooding event, it’s an erosion event,” he said. “It’s anyone’s guess what happens if it continues taking that land.”

The Susitna, which flows west of Talkeetna’s main street, has eroded up to 80 feet of land along a 325-foot section of shore, much of it during high water in early September, according to borough manager Mike Brown. Water levels peaked Thursday, but officials are still waiting for lower levels before starting work to repair the damaged structure, Brown said. A borough contractor hauled in 900 tons of rock last weekend to begin work, he said. Officials say they also plan to bring in additional rock.

The emergency declaration, described by Hinman as “precautionary,” allows borough officials to receive state and federal funding as they install a temporary fix to the bank.


Brown said the borough plans to work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to develop a more permanent solution once the short-term repairs are finished.

Because laying new rock will be easiest in a lower river water level, officials said Tuesday they were waiting as long as they could before starting work on the temporary fix. But just how long they can hold off depends on the river, Brown said.

”There’s going to continue to be erosion until some temporary repairs are rendered,” he said. “Depending on the rate of erosion we have to go sooner than we want to.”

Some residents along the Kenai River this week were also experiencing flooding after glacial dam bursts occurred at Skilak and Snow lakes.

The National Weather Service issued a flood advisory until Thursday for areas of Soldotna. A flood warning was in place until Sunday for areas of the river below Skilak Lake.

Homes near Kenai Keys Road in Sterling, Salmon Run Drive in Funny River and the Big Eddy area near Soldotna were experiencing flooding Tuesday, said Brenda Ahlberg, the Kenai Peninsula Borough emergency manager. Those neighborhoods are prone to flooding and most homeowners were sheltering in place as they wait for the water to recede, she said.

The Kenai River is expected to crest below Skilak Lake on Wednesday but could take until Sunday to recede, Ahlberg said. The river level was already high because of recent heavy rainfall.

Motorized boaters were urged to stay off the water until the water levels drop because the waves can slap against homes and add to the damage and erosion, she said.

Amy Bushatz

Amy Bushatz is a veteran journalist based in the Mat-Su covering Valley news for the ADN.

Tess Williams

Tess Williams is a reporter focusing on breaking news and public safety. Before joining the ADN in 2019, she was a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald in North Dakota. Contact her at