WILLOW — The Mat-Su Borough continues to make progress on improving access for residents near the flooded portion of Willow Creek at Deneki Bridge.
Borough contractors began work on digging a trench in the ice on Wednesday after borough manager John Moosey signed a letter of entry at the Tuesday Mat-Su Borough Assembly meeting. Crews will continue to work on the road on Saturday to begin reclaiming the roadway from under ice that developed during the flooding that began more than three weeks ago.
Despite repeated requests from Moosey and Mayor Vern Halter, the state disaster policy panel did not find reason to issue a statewide declaration of disaster for the Willow Creek flood. Residents of Willow and state officials gathered at the Willow Community Center last week for a town hall meeting about the flooding. Out of seven sitting assembly members, five were in attendance as well as Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Mike Sutton and Director of Gov. Dunleavy’s Mat-Su Office Todd Smoldon.
“Willow is no stranger to adversity and natural disasters and it’s been pretty impressive to see our community and the borough stand up once again to deal with these issues,” said Smoldon. “I know the mayor. I explained this at the special assembly meeting and state declarations of disaster or emergency are much different than borough recommendations.”
Sutton discussed the request for individual assistance and public assistance by the borough to the state, saying it did not meet the threat to life safety to declare a state disaster.
“Obviously the state is here to support all of our local jurisdictions, communities and citizens immediately with any life safety issues that are going on. When there’s life in peril or safety we’re doing all that we can to bring those resources to bear,” said Sutton.
After flooding broke out on Dec. 21, residents were trapped in their homes until help could arrive. The borough’s volunteer water rescue team worked two weeks with only two days off to shuttle residents and their animals across the river to safety or for supplies. While many residents were pleased with the borough response, many had critiques at the town hall. Since Moosey signed the letter of entry and work began to get the water back into the river, crews are continuing to leave the ice stacked as to not provide future problems for the rest of the winter.
“Ice was stacked in piles to allow water to flow around it if needed during the spring thaw. This will reduce the risk of flooding later this spring,” reads a press release from the borough.
The ice road around Deneki Road continues to be accessible for vehicles even as small as sedans. Crews will continue to work to remove the ice from the roadway next week, and residents should expect heavy equipment along the roadway.