Last updated at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 24


Disaster mitigation work began on Tuesday for a stretch of the Matanuska River facing a severe, ongoing erosion problem.


Truckloads of rock came between the rushing river’s eroding bank and the busy Old Glenn Highway. When Gov. Bill Walker issued a disaster declaration on Monday night, the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT) immediately initiated its plan to build an 1,100-foot trench where the river has moved closest to the road.


“We are going to put some rock in, basically to protect our facilities, the bike path and the road, but we are also trying to protect the power lines that are right here along the road,” said DOT Commissioner Marc Luiken.


The starting price tag for the project is $1 million and will be paid for by the state.


“Ultimately what we are doing is creating a new bank for the river,” Luiken said.


While DOT officials call the trench a long-term fix, Matanuska-Susitna Borough manager John Moosey said the borough has been saving up for a more permanent plan to keep Butte residents far from risk.


“What we’ve been concentrating on is gathering the money we’ve had and we’ve applied for federal funding to try to buy out some of these homeowners, to get them completely out of harm’s way as opposed to every other year coming back and having this kind of situation,” Moosey explained.


The borough manger said he should know in a matter of weeks if the federal funding needed to buy out the properties will be approved. The borough has been denied twice in the past, according to Moosey.


The river, sometimes referred to as the “Mighty Matanuska,” can’t easily be controlled, but both state and borough efforts are attempting to stand in its way.


Update: Officials made the decision to extend the size of the trench to 1,100 feet, an increase from the 525 feet announced Tuesday.


KTVA 11’s Shannon Ballard can be reached via email or on Facebook and Twitter.