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Inside the Gates: US Army works with community to monitor Jarvis Creek in Delta Junction

Aufeis is seen on Jarvis Creek near Delta Junction, Alaska. The phenomenon is caused by water...
Aufeis is seen on Jarvis Creek near Delta Junction, Alaska. The phenomenon is caused by water flowing through the winter and creating an ice dam.(John Dougherty/KTVF)
Published: Apr. 29, 2021 at 2:17 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The U.S. Army Alaska has been working with Salcha-Delta Soil and Water Conservation District to monitor the Jarvis Creek near Delta Junction. Each year the creek experiences aufeis, translated from the German as “ice on top,” which causes it to spill its banks and create a new watershed. Aufeis, is a sheet-like mass of layered ice that forms from successive flows of ground water during freezing temperatures. This form of ice is also called overflow, icings, or the Russian term, naled.

“The issue is aufeis in the Jarvis River, and that is not off as in light switch off, it’s a German word,” said Jeff Durham, the program director of the Conservation District. “It is really ice that builds up during the winter time and it builds a dam and it can actually divert water into other drainages.”

Jarvis Creek experiences aufeis each winter and both the Army and the community of Delta are interested in studying it’s effects.

Jarvis Creek starts at the Jarvis Glacier and flows towards Delta. All winter long aufeis builds until the creek spills its banks and flows through trees, fields and across roads.

“The question then becomes, you’ve got culverts, you’ve got driveways, you’ve got training facilities, power lines, how do those impact where the water goes once it leaves the Jarvis?” said Durham.

The military is also interested in the Jarvis, said Fort Wainwright Environmental Planning Branch Chief Matt Sprau, “We take a look at it mainly because we want to track it and see what it is doing because the downstream effects, it flows into the battle area complex.”

To combat the water flowing over the training area the military has built culverts and ditches. Sprau also said they schedule their training around when the flooding will occur.

When the water flows out of Jarvis Creek it creates a new watershed. Normally the creek ends up flowing into the Delta and Tanana Rivers, but the water that flows out of the Jarvis ends up flowing into the Clearwater River.

“It can actually divert water into other drainages, so the question that we’re sort of answering and looking at here is what impacts do the aufeis, the ice building that occurs during the winter, have on break-up and flooding on the community,” Durham said.

Sprau said that measuring the aufeis is a “Mutually beneficial partnership, we have like goals and missions and in this instance we are able to join efforts to meet our combined goals and work with the community and engage in that manner.”

Durham said that the community is thankful to be able to work with the military, “The Army could be doing this by themselves, but they chose to reach out to the community and that is through the soil and water conservation district.”

They will continue monitoring the creek through the rest of breakup.

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