Alaska News

Flooding forces another closure of Dalton Highway

FAIRBANKS — Flooding has once again forced the closure of the Dalton Highway after it was briefly opened following the clearing of unprecedented levels of overflow.

The highway will remain closed though Monday as crews tackle further complications from a storm that has created low visibility and prevented crews from keeping up with the overflow on the road and snow drifts, Alaska Department of Transportation spokeswoman Meadow Bailey said. A 35-mile section between mileposts 378 and 413 was closed.

Trucks use the highway to take supplies to North Slope oil fields, but the blockage essentially put a halt to those deliveries.

Unprecedented levels of overflow from the Sagavanirktok River began flooding the highway last week. That made a portion of the highway impassible and truck drivers trying to drive to and from Prudhoe Bay had to wait as long as three days before proceeding, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner newspaper reported.

The closed stretch was reopened Thursday evening.

Bailey said crews were able to keep the highway somewhat passable through most of Friday. But serious delays began again Saturday as more water and ice reached the road.

"It's still a serious thing, and they're still trying to battle it," Bailey said.

The transportation department has dealt with overflow from the Sagavanirktok River before, but never on a level near last week's flooding, according to Bailey. Department hydrologists are assessing the problem, but have not yet identified the cause, she said.

The department plans to make changes to the stretch of highway starting this summer and continuing through next year.

In work set to take place this summer, a portion of the road will be raised by 7 feet at an estimated cost of $27 million. Next year, plans call for another portion of the road to be raised at an estimated cost of up to $50 million.