MAT-SU — As work continues to repair damage from flooding, Sen. Lisa Murkowski toured damage in the region, and the Mat-Su Borough has announced at least one bridge won’t reopen this year.
The borough ended its official disaster declaration on Saturday, signaling that the flood response is officially in the recovery stage.
Borough Public Works Director Shaune O’Neill said that until the Shirley Towne Drive bridge is fixed — which almost certainly won’t be until spring — residents can access their property through the Deneki Meadows bridge on Michelle Drive, which is set to open soon to vehicle traffic.
“We’ll have to find the money to rebuild the Shirley Towne Bridge because I’m pretty certain it was compromised,” she said.
A state engineer will be out soon to assess the damage.
Deneki Meadows was under construction — using state money courtesy of Sen. Charlie Huggins — when the floods hit. It’s only open for foot traffic so far.
“Probably Thursday now it will be open to vehicle traffic to get back in there,” O’Neill said. “Once that’s done we can fix Kenny Blvd., which has a river running through it as far as I can tell.”
As of Monday, she said, Yoder Road near Talkeetna, where flooding battered a dike before going around it and washing out a big portion of the road — was back in service.
Meanwhile, the state of Alaska is opening disaster assistance centers in effected areas. Three are planned and are open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
• At the Butte fire station on the Old Glenn Highway Oct. 4 and 5
• At the Upper Susitna Senior Center Oct. 8 and 9.
• At the Willow Community Center Oct. 9 and 10
• At the Cottonwood fire station in Wasilla, Oct. 11 and 12
And, starting Oct. 3 people who can’t make it to any of the centers can call in their application for aid to (855) 445-7131.
The borough continues to post updates to its Facebook page, including videos on how to disinfect wells and how to document losses and apply for state aid. Also, agencies continue to direct affected homeowners to flood.alaska.gov.
Murkowski said she didn’t manage to make it up to Talkeetna but did spend time touring Butte. She said she expects when she gets back to Washington, D.C., she’ll be working on some kind of funding for the flooding.
“Alaska is one of many states that has experienced disasters this year,” she said. And, she noted, flooding here isn’t even the first disaster here this year. Last month low salmon runs also spawned a declaration of a fishing disaster.
“It would be my expectation that we would see a disaster relief bill that is presented during the lame duck when we get back in the 13th of November,” Murkowski said.
She agreed with borough officials that documentation will be key when it comes time to take care of Alaska’s needs in that bill.
“It will be important to try to understand what the extent of the damage is,” she said.
As for long-term solutions, she said she had already talked to people in the borough about what might have gone wrong with the infrastructure built along the river, weaknesses in the area’s armor.
“I think events like this remind us that we’re wise to be thinking longer term and just because we’ll see the cleanup from this storm event the issue is still with us that you’ve got a river that will not recognize certain bounds when you have storm events,” Murkowski said.
She didn’t say which solution she favored, but said Alaskans and Mat-Su officials should be smart when picking long-term solutions.
Murkowski also commended the Alaska Railroad for fixing a 500-foot section of washed out tracks just days after the track bed was damaged Sept. 21.
“They worked around the clock and, I think, did a very exemplary job in getting the trains back on the track and keeping the flow of commerce moving,” she said.
Contact reporter Andrew Wellner at firstname.lastname@example.org or 352-2270.