By Patty Sullivan
Some 15 residents whose properties are at severe risk for erosion from the Matanuska River will be receiving federal and state funding for buyout. Today, (March 8), the Matanuska-Susitna Borough received official notice that its grant application for $4.46 million in the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program with FEMA, Federal Emergency Management Agency, will be awarded in late March.
The grant is awarded with 75% federal funds and 25% state funds.
“The state match is not always granted in other states, we’re fortunate the state of Alaska pays the cost share,” said Taunnie Boothby, Mat-Su Borough Floodplain Administrator and Project Manager of the grant.
The email notice today informed the Borough “The grant will fund the acquisition of land and structures for 10 homes that are at severe risk for flooding and erosion damage along the Matanuska River” in Butte from mile 13 to mile 17 along the Old Glenn Highway.
The total Butte project cost is $3.368 million. The federal share is $2.526 million. The State will fund $842,000.
Another five properties from mile 63.5 to mile 65 of the Glenn Highway near Sutton also along the Matanuska River will be acquired and any buildings demolished for a project total cost of $1,095,250. The Borough learned of this pending award last year. It is a companion project with the same grant.
In 2014, all the designated property owners signed voluntary participation letters, she said. When purchased, the properties go into a restricted status of open space in perpetuity preventing any new buildings from going up. The Borough will then own the properties. Only those who wish to participate will be affected.
Boothby said the decades of erosion and destruction of private and public property by the meandering glacier-fed river laid the foundation in the grant application. The Borough started the application in 2014. Not long after, in 2015, surging river water flooded private property in Sutton, pushing families from a few homes. On Aug. 22, 2016, the Borough declared disaster and sought disaster assistance from the State when a Matanuska River channel aimed itself at riverbank in Butte. Gov. Bill Walker declared a State disaster and directed State resources to assist in protecting the State highway, then some 100+ feet from the river. The State Dept. of Transportation managed the construction of an armor-rock-filled trench to take the brunt of the water. Here is a 2016 press release https://www.matsugov.us/news/borough-and-governor-declare-disaster
Boothby said the official award to the Borough is expected in late March. More specifics will be learned then.
Fed by the Matanuska Glacier, 60 miles north of Palmer, the Matanuska River flows for some 75 miles before it reaches the salt water of Knik Arm. Its riverbed loads with gravel and silt, the rock debris loading has historically diverted braided channels of the river from one side of the wide riverbed to the other. Read a USGS 2011 study on the Matanuska River “Geomorphology and Bank Erosion of the Matanuska River, Southcentral Alaska” at this link: https://pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2011/5214/