MAT-SU—Monday afternoon the Borough Assembly unanimously adopted the Matanuska River Management Plan, the first collaborative plan for living along the unpredictable Matanuska River. The glacially-fed shifting river has caused significant property loss over the years.
This plan is the first to involve riverside stakeholders. Members of the planning team include: City of Palmer, Circle View & Stampede Estates Flood & Water Erosion Control Service Area, homeowners associations, community councils, Alaska Fish & Game, U.S. Army Corps, NRCS, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Alaska Dept. of Transportation, Chickaloon Traditional Village, U.S. Geological Survey, among others. The Borough led the effort in the year-long process.
Previously many studies on river erosion were done by different agencies. This plan develops a framework for stakeholders and agencies to work together on land management issues in the river corridor. The plan is a long-term preventive strategy for river management. Borough Planner Frankie Barker presented the plan to the Assembly last Tuesday. A vote on the plan was postponed until today (Monday) to consider amendments by the public. “The idea is if we do some of these action steps we will have less emergencies and less property loss,” Barker said.
The Circle View & Stampede Estates Flood & Water Erosion Control Service Area requested that the planning department develop this plan to expand public awareness and erosion mitigation efforts throughout the corridor. The neighborhood group contributes tax dollars toward the maintenance of its own erosion protection structures.
The $100,000 plan offers a variety of options that can be pursued to improve erosion management and protection. One of the action steps is to identify high-risk erosion areas and make that information available to the public. Education, structural protections, and non-structural protections, such as buyouts, are laid out in detail.
As the Borough population grows, pressure mounts to develop riverfront properties. Many residents in risky areas today did not know about river erosion when they purchased. Over the years the Matanuska River has frequently migrated from one side of its channel to another. One way to reduce future damage and loss is to retain riverside property in public ownership, the plan states.
Several amendments were approved to the plan, which highlight the value of erosion protection structures to reduce damage from flooding for low-lying areas such as the Butte.
Other aspects to the plan are to develop public access for recreation, to protect fish and wildlife habitat, and to inform private property owners about their protection options.
Assembly Member Ron Arvin described the plan as advice not regulation. He suggested that the plan be given to people who are considering building along the Matanuska River. “If you want to build along the river it’s your prerogative, but this is what we know about the river,” Arvin said.
The final plan will be posted online next week.