The Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly has approved a plan to move forward with removing an ice jam from the Deneki Bridge near Willow.

The ice piled up and caused Willow Creek to flood nearby homes and Deneki Road on Dec. 22. The borough has had crews working in the area for two weeks, removing ice and creating a channel for the flood waters.

On Monday, crews opened a one-lane bypass for four-wheel drive vehicles.

Borough Public Works Director Terry Dolan said only large trucks should make the trip because small sedans and vans could likely get stuck in the ice or the open water crossing.

“We have residents that need access to their property and two weeks into this there’s a lot of frustration among residents and we know it.  We’re doing our best to get this started with the bypass and get them good, clean access,” Dolan said.

The borough’s next step toward recovery is to get the water flowing back into Willow Creek. Dolan said crews will use an excavator to remove ice below the bridge and work their way up.

At the Assembly’s Tuesday night meeting, Dolan gave a short presentation and told members the project would cost about $40,000 and the ice would be stacked on the banks. He said an estimate for hauling the ice away would cost about more than $100,000.

The borough declared the flooding a disaster.

Dolan said the work is a big undertaking because it has to be done on private property and state land.

He said one resident refused to give access to his property unless the borough paid for damages caused by the flooding. Crews found a work-around by removing a portion of the guardrail.

Borough Manager John Moosey said obtaining a permit to operate on Department of Natural Resources land requires the borough to indemnify the state from any damages caused by the project.

Assembly members had several questions for borough legal staff about what that indemnification would mean in the long term.

Assembly member Jesse Sumner was concerned residents could file a lawsuit over the permit being issued and the borough would be held accountable.

Mayor Vern Halter described the situation as one of those “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

Assembly member Dan Mayfield said it was crucial for the borough to take measures to “serve our citizens and make sure their property is protected.”

Dolan said there’s no guarantee there won’t be another ice jam on the creek but said crews have the best technology that’s used around the state for projects like this.

There were no objections to the borough manager signing the permit for the work on state land.

The assembly also voted to extend the disaster declaration to Jan. 21.

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