Matanuska River Claims A Home Plus 3 Other Structures

The Matanuska River has taken a toll on personal property in the Sutton area in recent days. One 16-by-20 foot home has fallen into the river, and three other outbuildings have also toppled into the water, so far. Matanuska Susitna Borouogh Assemblyman, Jim Sykes, who represents the area, says the problem is caused by water from the river seeking a new path, due to gravel piling up in its normal channel.

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“I’m standing on the river where the house just recently washed away, looking downstream, and there is a pretty good ripping current going along right here near the shore. And what I see downstream is water washing into the trees, and creating it looks like an island, and just working its way inward.”

The Matanuska River swells with glacial runoff. Photo: Ellen Lockyer/KSKA.
The Matanuska River swells with glacial runoff. Photo: Ellen Lockyer/KSKA.

The affected area is about six miles north of Sutton, where the Glenn Highway runs close to the river’s northern bank. Sykes says the water level is not overly high, but glacial melt is adding to the river’s strength. The gravel piling up on the south side of the river has pushed the water to the north side, and that is threatening homes close to the north banks.

Casey Cook, the Borough’s Emergency Services manager, says six families are on alert that they may have to move quickly.

“So they need to have a plan, and they need to have all their important pictures and documents and those types of things that they don’t want to worry about loosing. So they can be made ready to go or waiting in the car so they can leave is the water gets higher or continues to erode down.”

Cook says there are no injuries from the erosion. He says the people who may be evacuating have made plans for places to stay, and the Borough does not have to open an emergency shelter.

Sykes says the braided Matanuska River has caused erosion of its banks in the past. He say the Borough does not have sufficient funds or the ability to do a prevention project that is likely to succeed.