Creek overflow floods trailer park in Chugiak

Published: Jan. 21, 2020 at 7:47 PM AKST
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A frozen creek that's shifted course is causing flooding problems for a trailer park in Chugiak. Residents there say water problems began when South-Central Alaska recently sunk into a weeks-long deep-freeze.

The creek generally flows from the hillside, skirts the property, and diverts under the road through a culvert.

Now, the creek is flowing down the roadway, flooding driveways and running beneath the park's row of manufactured homes.

Left with frozen cars, slippery ice, and without a fix, tenants of Forest Park are frustrated. KTUU's vehicle became stuck while there to review the severity of the situation, as did a tow truck called to assist along with an uninvolved tenant's SUV. All vehicles stuck in the roadway while we were on site were eventually freed.

Neighbors Thao Vue and Kayla Long say the property manager has been difficult to reach, and when they have gotten through, he has declined to take action.

Forest Park LLC is owned by Ritz Consulting, which is owned by Paul and Valerie Ritz, according to the State of Alaska online business and corporation records, and Ritz's name is listed as the manager on communication notices to tenants.

Reached by phone, Paul Ritz told KTUU he was not the property owner and hesitated to state or confirm what his specific role is to the property.

The road through the trailer park is private property, which means road service crews for the Chugiak/Birchwood/Eagle River Rural Road Service Area, more commonly known as CBERRSA, generally aren't able to come in and help.

Doing so would be the use of public resources (money, equipment, labor) to solve a problem on private land.

Mark Littlefield, superintendent for municipal road maintenance in the Chugiak area, told KTUU his crew did help clear out a freeze at Forest Park once before, about four years ago, at the direction of City Hall.

Back then, Littlefield said, Ritz was told that he needed to install a larger culvert and a thawing wire to prevent a similar freeze event.

Ritz acknowledged the culvert is small but questioned whether the earthen corridor it's buried in is large enough to accommodate something bigger.

He also told KTUU that the creek flow is generally manageable, but has changed recently, first nearly dry for months, then flowing abundantly. During his interview with 2 Investigates, Ritz said he wondered if recent earthquakes had altered the water levels and also whether road maintenance to thaw nearby roads had increased the volume of water.

Municipal Manager Bill Falsey told KTUU in a late afternoon interview Tuesday that the city was monitoring the situation, but also that it would not intervene unless the situation becomes dangerous to residents.

Falsey said city staff told Ritz as recently as Tuesday that it would take a half day's work with a contractor to thaw the culvert and grate the road surface, at the cost of about a few thousand dollars. The city has also given him the names of contractors who could do the work.

When Ritz spoke with KTUU earlier in the day, he indicated he felt the city should offer assistance and that he was powerless to control a mapped creek. The situation, he said, was a natural event inconsistent with the creek's history, and that waiting out this weather-driven rogue creek course to return to normal, rather than performing a fix that might require ongoing winter maintenance, was the more prudent course of action.

Meanwhile, tenants like Vue are moving their cars every few hours to prevent overflow from locking their tires in ice. They're also splashing hot water onto their tires to reduce ice accumulation throughout the day and night.