• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
2m 20s

Mat-Su Borough seeks fed money to buy flood-prone homes

By Alexis Fernandez Photojournalist: John Thain - 8:48 PM July 9, 2014

For decades, residents in the Butte area have been dealing with ongoing flooding. The Matanuska River has been unforgiving, chewing at its banks and at times, taking homes with it.

Amir Lena has called Butte home for seven years. He lives along the Matanuska River, where he runs a family business.

“I love it here, to live and to build a future, like I started. I want to be at the end of my life here,” Lena said.

But over the past few years, his view of the river has been changing.

“There was like 30 feet of road here between the dike and the trees and now it’s gone,” he said.

His home is just one of several between Mile 13 and 15 of the Old Glenn Highway being slowly washed away.

More than 20 years ago, the state built a 3,000-foot dike along the east side of the Matanuska River to help protect against flooding and erosion. Now, only two-thirds of the dike remains and it’s still washing away.

So far, the river has swallowed about 750 feet of land.

Lena believes something could’ve been done to prevent this from happening.

“When I moved here they told me they’re going to maintain it, they told us … Borough maintains the dike and the state, where they are? Nowhere,” he said.

But Dennis Brodigan, director of emergency services with the Mat-Su Borough, says there’s not much he can do.

“We can’t get into the water, can’t do anything in the water, both because of the volume number one. Number two, because of the legality of it. We don’t have the right to come and do anything with this water,” he said.

Brodigan says only the state has authority — and all it can do is put a Band-Aid on the problem.

“It’s a terrible situation to be in,” he said.

He says some neighborhoods have formed erosion service areas. Homeowners can tax themselves in order to build their own dikes instead of waiting for assistance. Butte decided to opt out.

Brodigan says it’s too dangerous to continue having homes near the river. That’s why borough officials are in the process of applying for a grant through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help buy out nearly 30 homes in areas prone to flooding.

“The endgame solution is not to keep throwing money at it year after year, losing the battle to Mother Nature, but to just get the people out of the area,” he said.

Although that reality could be years away, residents like Lena are already preparing to move before nature decides for them.

“We’re going to move if we have to,” he said.

The borough is expecting to complete their application by next spring and hopes to have a have an answer from FEMA by summer.

Latest Stories

  • News

    Suicide awareness discussion follows cluster of suicides in Hooper Bay

    by Daniella Rivera on Oct 12, 23:10

    It’s not an easy thing to talk about, but prevention advocates say if Alaskans don’t discuss suicide, the already high rate will continue to climb. Alaska has the second highest suicide rate per capita in the nation. Recently, there were four in Hooper Bay in just 16 days. And the problem isn’t just in rural […]

  • News

    Fire official: 2 firefighters killed, 2 hurt in Kansas City

    by Associated Press on Oct 12, 20:55

    KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A Kansas City Fire Department official says two firefighters were killed and two were injured when a burning building collapsed. Fire Department Battalion Chief James Garrett tells the Kansas City Star crews were dispatched to a building on the northeast side of town around 7:30 p.m. Monday. He says firefighters found the […]

  • News

    New robot camera can ‘see’ under water

    by Lauren Maxwell on Oct 12, 20:00

    Alaska State Troopers are excited about a new tool that can help them with rescue and recovery underwater. Troopers and Village Public Safety Officers are training with a submersible robotic camera that uses sonar to find objects or bodies underwater. Troopers said it would come in handy in places where divers aren’t available to search […]

  • News

    City considers new housing options for homeless

    by Lauren Maxwell on Oct 12, 19:37

    Anchorage is hosting the annual conference of the Alaska Coalition on Housing and Homelessness this week. Mayor Ethan Berkowitz spoke Monday morning, telling the crowd that ending homelessness in Anchorage is a top priority for his administration. Nancy Burke, Anchorage’s Homelessness Coordinator, said the city favors a “housing first” model, which she said could take […]

  • News

    EY2015: ‘Not in our Smokehouse’ theme hits home for youth keynote speaker

    by Heather Hintze on Oct 12, 18:59

    Hundreds of Alaska Natives from around the state are gathered in Anchorage for the 2015 Elders and Youth Conference. This year’s theme is “Not in Our Smokehouse,” a call to action to shed negativity and focus on a brighter future for Alaska’s youth. Youth keynote speaker, 18-year-old Lacayah Engebretson, reminisced about growing up in fish […]

  • News

    Tolley sworn in as new Anchorage police chief

    by Shannon Ballard on Oct 12, 18:40

    The Anchorage Police Department is officially under new leadership. On Monday, Christopher Tolley stepped into Mark Mew’s shoes as chief of police. A short and simple change of chiefs ceremony was held outside the police station. Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz spoke first, saying, “We have great achievements behind us, and greater ahead of us.” He recognized […]

  • News

    State: About 285 same-sex couples wed in Alaska in past year

    by Associated Press on Oct 12, 15:40

    The state health department says nearly 285 same-sex couples have married in Alaska in the year since a federal judge struck down the state’s ban on gay marriage as unconstitutional. Monday marks the one-year anniversary of the decision striking down a voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage. Except for a brief period last October, couples have […]

  • News

    New Kuparuk drill site produces first oil; ‘shot in the arm’ for trans-Alaska pipeline

    by Sierra Starks on Oct 12, 13:30

    ConocoPhillips Alaska has announced what it’s calling significant news in relation to the trans-Alaska pipeline. One of its Kuparuk drill sites, 2S, began producing oil “under budget and ahead of schedule,” according to a release from the company. “First oil from a new project is really critical and important to the economic health of the […]