Municipal workers are draining millions of gallons of water from Campbell Lake so they can work on a sewer pipe that became unmoored during the Nov. 30 earthquake.

Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility spokeswoman Sandy Baker said the pipe is normally buried three feet below the lake bed.

The sewer pipe used to be buried below the lake bed

"To our best guess, when the earthquake happened, there was some ground [liquefaction]," Baker said. "It loosened up the anchors and it disturbed the top of the dirt that was on top of it, helping hold it down, and so it began to float up."

Baker said the pipe is not leaking and has been temporarily stabilized, but it needs to be buried back underground. To do that, the lake must be drained.

Workers released the gates to drain the lake into Cook Inlet

On Sunday, workers removed the giant metal covers from the culverts that keep water in the artificial lake. Baker said they expected the lake to drain quickly into Cook Inlet — and, in the beginning, it did.

"Initially, you've got a lot of head-water pressure, so it was just gushing out," Baker said. "And now it's just kind of meandering along."


Draining Campbell Lake

On Thursday, the utility brought in more pumps in an effort to speed up the process. Baker said the work has to happen quickly because permits from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game specify it must be wrapped up by mid-May.

Megan Marie, habitat biologist with Fish and Game, said the lake is used by adult salmon which swim up from Cook Inlet and on into Campbell Creek. She said typically fish return in late May, so it's essential the lake be refilled by that time.

Baker said crews are hopeful they can get the water levels where they need to be in the next few days.

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