Ice caused millions of dollars of damage to private and public docks that weren't removed last year and it could happen again.
As Alaskans prepare for another winter, memories of last year’s ice floods and the damage to private and public property remain fresh. According to Janet Yaeger, education coordinator for the Kenai Watershed Forum at the Kenai River Center, it could happen again. “Just because last year was an unusual event, it doesn’t mean that it can’t happen again. Last year’s event was caused by the Skilak Glacier Dam Lake that released, but we also have the Snow River Glacier Dam Lake that is presently pretty full and the word we are hearing is that it could release this fall, so we need to be prepared for it,” said Yaeger.
Yaeger says that a lot of repair permits were issued this summer for docks and walkways, “I like to say that it was a really good summer if you were an aluminum welder who never needed to sleep. We had a tremendous number of people come through the River Center for permits who were busy repairing and replacing docks and walkways that were damaged and we’re getting the word out that those are what we call seasonally removable permits which mean that for the winter season they need to be pulled back from the water, and the reason for that is exactly what we saw happen last year which caused a lot of damage,” she said. Permits from DNR State Parks and DNR Office of Habitat Management & Permitting generally require docks, walkways, etc. to be removed by October 31 and remain out of the water until April 15.
“It is impossible to predict accurately how high is ‘high enough’ to move items to keep them safe from potential flood and ice events. The Kenai River Center staff encourages people to move things as far up and away from their riverbank as they can. Some structures that are relatively permanent may have sections that can be removed. For instance, older walkways that are supported by driven pipe may have grate-walk sections that can be detached and relocated above probable flood levels. Although this involves a bit of work, it's far easier and less expensive than repairing or replacing structures damaged by ice and floods. Some folks have found creative ways to make seasonal removal easier. For instance, some property owners have towed their floating docks to a boat ramp and loaded them onto a trailer for winter storage - sometimes with walkways materials piled on top. Much easier than hauling them up a steep bank,” added Yaeger.
Snow Glacier-Dammed Lake generally releases every 2-3 years and last released in late October, 2005. Although flooding is possible anywhere along the Kenai River system downstream of where the Snow River enters, most of the water level rise is generally seen in Kenai Lake and the upper Kenai River. Larry Rundquist from the Alaska Pacific River Forecast Center will be the featured speaker at the Kenai River Center Winter Speaker Series on Nov. 13, 2007. Larry will be talking about glacier-dammed lakes and their cycles of filling and flooding, with special focus on the Skilak and Snow Glacier-Dammed Lakes. For more information call the Kenai River Center at 260-4882.
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