Dipnetters allowed back on Copper River Highway

Posted: Sunday, June 24, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Dipnetters eager to fill their freezers with Copper River red salmon once again have access to popular fishing spots along the Copper River Highway.

The state Department of Transportation reopened the gravel road Friday between O'Brien and Haley creeks after a landslide Sunday swept part of the road into the river.

Crews spent five days rebuilding the treacherous one-lane road that parallels the Copper River.

''We're still going to have the potential for rocks falling off a fresh slide but it's at a level that's much more stable,'' said Jim Little, director of maintenance and operations for DOT's northern region in Fairbanks.

''We'll have a crew checking on it all weekend, for any kind of loose debris and to make sure it's in stable condition,'' he said. ''We basically re-established the roadway.''

A massive landslide on Sunday buried a 250-foot section of road under a pile of dirt, trees and rocks and swept a large chunk of the road into the river.

The landslide trapped almost 300 dipnetters who were parked on the Haley Creek side of the slide for 36 hours before DOT was able to build a temporary road to evacuate the 80 to 90 vehicles carrying the stranded dipnetters.

No one was injured in the incident, which occurred at around 2:30 a.m.

The Copper River dipnet fishery attracts thousands of dipnetters each year who scoop red and king salmon out of the river's gray, glacial waters. Thanks to a strong early run of salmon, the fishery opened ahead of schedule on June 4 and has remained open continuously since then, though it is scheduled to close for 36 hours starting Sunday at midnight.



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