Emergency work starts on Talkeetna’s eroded waterfront as Susitna River creeps closer to town

PALMER — Work to temporarily shore up the bank of the Susitna River in Talkeetna has begun after dramatic erosion threatened the far west side of the town.

Heavy rain and high water at the confluence of the Susitna, Talkeetna and Chulitna rivers in early September ate away the shoreline, damaging a rocky revetment designed to protect private property and a popular walking trail.

Crews began moving 3,000 tons of large rock into the water against the bank Tuesday, a job that could conclude by Friday under a $500,000 contract with Wester Construction, according to Matanuska-Susitna Borough Manager Mike Brown.

The temporary repairs come almost three weeks after the river hit its peak and prompted borough officials to stage an emergency supply of 900 tons of smaller rock, known as riprap, at the river in preparation for continued erosion. They delayed work as water conditions began to improve and the river receded several feet, making the task easier and more effective, said Tom Adams, the borough’s public works director.

“It was a little bit of a gamble,” Adams said. “We now have much better conditions to be placing rock in the water.”

The water has dropped 5 to 6 feet since early September, Brown said. All told, about 85 feet of riverbank along a 325-foot section of shore has vanished, completely eliminating the rock revetment installed more than 40 years ago as well as most of the borough’s easement along the waterfront, which had been used for the Denali View River Trail.

On Sept. 12, the borough assembly declared a disaster for the area lasting through October. The move allows officials to access state and federal emergency response funding.

Officials said they plan to work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on a future permanent fix, which could include a new revetment.

Amy Bushatz

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