More federal money on way to help Galena fight inroads by Yukon River

Posted: Tuesday, September 12, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- More federal money may be on the way to Galena to help the community fight erosion caused by powerful Yukon River currents.

An appropriation bill passed by the U.S. Senate last week contains $3 million to protect the riverbank at Galena, a village of about 600 people 275 miles west of Fairbanks.

Galena sits on silt-laden flatlands just north of the Yukon River. It has been plagued by erosion for decades, City Manager Marvin Yoder said.

Twice in the past, the federal government has hauled rocks from a quarry 15 miles east of town and dropped them along the riverbank.

The first project protected the east end of a runway, which served a U.S. Air Force forward base at Galena. The second project extended that protection upriver.

Now, however, the river is threatening to creep behind the riprap.

''The Corps of Engineers did their periodic inspection, and in talking to them, we realized we were going to lose what had already been done,'' Yoder said. So the city sought help from several federal agencies and Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee.

''What we're looking at is another project upriver from the end of the last project,'' Yoder said.

Galena today is, in a sense, two towns.

Only about 20 percent of Galena's residents live in the old town, which lies south of the runway. The Air Force has all but closed the base, but keeps it in a state of readiness with a contractor who employs about 30 people, Yoder said.

The newer part of town is about a mile and a half to the east -- upriver of the runway.

The new community was built on land set aside for local governments under terms of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act in 1971.

Galena subdivided its land and sold several hundred lots. The local village corporation also subdivided some land farther upriver.

A road and utility lines link both sections of town. Those improvements, along with several houses, eventually would be washed away if nothing is done, Yoder said.

The state already has had to move the road, he said.

''We're starting to see a noticeable difference where the fuel barge comes in,'' Yoder said. The barge landing is upriver of the existing riprap.

The Yukon was relatively calm for a few years, but ran higher this summer, Yoder said.

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