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Ice jam that caused Tanana River flooding breaks

Posted: Monday, May 05, 2003

SALCHA (AP) An ice jam on the Tanana River that caused flooding in Salcha broke Saturday to the relief of residents.

By Sunday afternoon, flood waters had drained from 60 percent of the affected area, a roughly one-mile wide and eight-mile long swath of land near the river, Tim Biggane, director of emergency services for the borough, told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

The flooding affected about 100 homes, with damage ranging from three-feet of water pouring into a home to several washed-out driveways.

The resident have a lot of work ahead of them,'' Biggane said. He said the state Department of Transportation will repair work on area roads Monday.

At a town meeting Saturday, Salcha residents told local, state and federal officials they wanted the ice jam blasted. But the experts told the residents they doubt blowing up the ice would help, and could possibly make matters worse.

Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Rhonda Boyles told the residents a long-term solution was being worked on.

None of us want to go through this again,'' the mayor told more than 70 people at the Salcha senior center.

Boyles; Mike Barton, commissioner of the state Department of Transportation; David Liebersbach, director of the state Division of Emergency Services; Col. Steven Perrenot, commander for the Army Corp. of Engineers in Alaska; and their subordinates attended the town meeting.

One resident, Keith Elkins, said that if the whole ice jam can't be blown out, officials ought to blow out part of the ice and create channels for the water to flow through.

Trying explosives has been hit or miss in our experience,'' said Dave Mierzejewski, Corps. of Engineers hydrologist and one of the experts called to the meeting.

Isn't it better than doing nothing?'' Elkins asked.

It could make it worse,'' Mierzejewski said.

The flooding began Tuesday. The state Division of Emergency Services provided equipment, including 24 handheld radios and six 4x4 all-terrain vehicles, and assistance with government agency coordination.

The borough department of emergency services also responded, and the Borough Assembly made an emergency $50,000 appropriation for flood relief efforts.

Gov. Frank Murkowski is considering declaring the area a disaster, which would pave the way for more financial aid for residents.



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