Mat-Su Borough puts plan in place to address Talkeetna erosion

Work is expected to begin late September, early October
Work is expected to begin late September, early October
Published: Sep. 14, 2023 at 10:21 PM AKDT
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TALKEETNA, Alaska (KTUU) - The Matanuska-Susitna Borough has begun putting a plan in place to address significant erosion occurring along the banks of the Susitna River. At a special assembly meeting held Tuesday, Public Works Director Tom Adams spoke to borough assembly members about a course of action, saying that the borough knows what to do but is still deciding when work will begin.

“There’s a little bit of gambling going on,” Adams said in the meeting. “The more the river recedes the better opportunity we have to do a more effective job.”

Currently, the borough has pre-staged nearly 900 tons of material at the end of Main Street but according to Adams that only accounts for 30% of what is needed to rebuild the lost revetment.

Flooding due to heavy rain in the area damaged the embankment, exposing the soft earth to the confluence of the Susitna, Chulitna, and Talkeenta rivers. As of Tuesday, nearly 325 feet of the revetment has been lost to the water and land has continued to erode.

On Tuesday, borough Mayor Edna DeVries and manager Mike Brown signed a disaster declaration for the area.

Trisha Costello, who owns the Talkeetna Roadhouse, says the river has been a concern for the community for a long time, and that it should have been addressed years ago.

“The length of time that it takes for this process through the [Army] Corps of Engineers and whatever role the borough might have — you know, the river is obviously not on that time frame,” Costello said. “IT’s going to do what it wants to do and it just did.”

Costello, along with many other residents, acknowledged that nature is hard to predict and that the potential for flooding is a risk assumed when living in a riverfront community.

It’s a sentiment shared by Matt Kaso, who operates Talkeetna River Guides and Denali View Raft Adventures. He had to shut down operations for five days when the river was actively flooding a few weeks ago.

“I think you could always go back in hindsight and say that things could have been done better,” Kaso said. “But at the end of the day, it’s nature doing what it’s, you know, what it was intended to do.”

Mike Wood, who lives along the Susitna River and is a 20-year resident of Chase — a community north of Talkeetna — said changes in the Chulitna River have occurred a lot in the last 10 to 20 years. He’s glad the borough is taking steps to address the erosion but is concerned building another revetment will be a temporary fix.

“The big picture is how these three rivers interact together,” Wood said. “Because the forces of nature are so much greater than what we can throw at it.”

The borough has said that it anticipates starting work on the eroded banks in the coming weeks, likely toward the end of September or the beginning of October. Until then, it is impossible to know how much more land the river will take, as the town begins to quiet down after the summer tourism season.