Skip to main Content

Photos: Matanuska River property buyout

  • Author:
  • Updated: May 31, 2016
  • Published August 12, 2014

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

Local news matters.

Support independent, local journalism in Alaska.