Another section of the Copper River Highway washed out east of Cordova.

Luke Borer sent KTVA a picture showing several hundred feet of the road washed away near mile 44.6. 

Further west, the Copper River Highway has been closed at 36-mile since 2011 when erosion took out a bridge.

A spokesperson for the Department of Transportation’s northern region said the 44-mile area of the road is one the agency has been keeping an eye on.

As heavy rain hit the area this week, the erosion got worse and eventually took out the road.

There are several tour operators who use the road to take visitors to Childs Glacier and the Million Dollar Bridge.

Jack Stevenson was transporting a group of four people to the glacier when the road started to go.

“We were driving along, watching for the alders to make sure everything as good and all of a sudden there were no alders and it was eaten in about five-feet. We went as fast as we could across it,” Stevenson laughed. “And the next day the whole road disappeared. It’s back in the trees right now.”

Tour companies use a boat to ferry people across the portion of the previously washout highway, then drive the rest of the way in a van or four-wheeler. Stevenson said it’s too expensive to use a boat for the entire trip to the glacier. He hopes to find a way around the washout so he can continue the tours.

“We’re trying to decide if we should sell all of our equipment. If the Eyak don’t let us access their land to build a small road to bypass that area we’re done,” Stevenson said.

The Native Village of Eyak is currently applying for federal funds to repair the 36-mile bridge. The goal is to replace the bridge so they can bring heavy machinery back to fix part of the Million Dollar Bridge that was damaged by icebergs.

DOT estimates it would cost up to $100 million to replace the 36-mile bridge.

“The Copper River has a lot of subsistence significance to the tribe and if the bridge were to fail or go down in the river, that would affect the Copper River red and king runs, navigation through there and the water quality flowing down,” Executive Director Kerin Kramer said in a June 2018 interview.

DOT has estimated the cost of fixing the 36-mile bridge at $50-$100 million. The spokesperson said they won’t be able to bring in equipment to fix the 44-mile washout until the bridge it repaired but the agency is looking at all of its options right now.

KTVA Chief Meteorologist Melissa Frey says a flood advisory is in effect for the Cordova area through 5 p.m. Wednesday. The area has seen several inches of rain this week, causing many streams, rivers and lakes to run high. Water is already over the banks of Eyak Lake. 

Further north, water is running high on the MacLaren River where it crosses the Denali Highway. The Alaska River Forecast Center says people hunting and recreating in the area need to be prepared for high water and gravel bars to potentially wash out.

Stay tuned to the KTVA weather team this week for updates on any flooding concerns and for the local weather forecast.

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