Butte Residents Clean Up After The Flood

State homeland security officials estimate that the cost of recent flooding in Alaska has topped 13 million dollars. That includes damage to state and Borough infrastructure from Seward to Nenana, but does not include ruined individually -owned property. In the Matanuska Susitna Borough, many residents are still coming to grips with how much the flood will cost them. KSKA’s Ellen Lockyer brings us this update on the flood’s aftermath

 High water continues to plague the Matanuska Susitna Borough as at least two local creeks crested over the past weekend. Only two roads remain closed in the Borough at this time, out of the one hundred roads either disrupted or closed during what is now termed “the flood of 2012”

 “… that every insurance company has the ability to write a flood policy whether you are in a flood zone or not”….

 Mat- Su Borough officials and state homeland security personnel faced flood victims recently in the area near Palmer locally known as the Butte.

The meeting was planned as an informational session to guide those affected by the flood through necessary paperwork to receive assistance. But frustrations among some owners of flood damaged property surfaced quickly.

 “…Can we do it? We got some dumptrucks. We can fill that sucker up tomorrow.”…

 Butte homeowners criticized Borough officials for not moving fast enough to warn people of impending floodwaters. Casey Cook, the Borough’s deputy emergency services director, told the crowd that the documentation will help in the Borough and state’s damage assessment, and will speed up getting affected residents money to rebuild. But people complained about the one hundred dollar price of a Borough flood plain development permit

 “You know, people have been flooded and they’ve been affected and they have questions. And so they have every right to be frustrated and confused and asking those questions that they’re asking. And we expect that. And so I think the biggest concern for this area, the Butte area, is any future mitigation to maybe stop this or slow this from happening again. And so I think that is the biggest one right now that I’ve seen is, how do we stop this from happening again. “

 The high water seemed to have a mind of it’s own. In one location on the Old Glenn highway, a house and a nearby trailer are tottering over the eroded edge of the Matanuska River. Those structures are a total loss…. the owner did not want to talk to the media about it. But just a mile or so down the road, water avoided a house where Robert Armour and his wife Jo live with friendly dogs, cats and horses

 “Oh, the horses were in better shape than most of the people were. He built that especially elevated. He brought in more gravel and built it up, so the horses are higher than most of the house.”

The rambling old style ranch home is about a stone’s throw from the Knik River. It was built by a man who owned a sawmill

 “So, anyway, he built the house and did it in ’53 and it’s been here ever since and they’ve never had water in the house. “

 The Armor’s live on a sliver of land between the Highway and the River. A creek runs into the river just east of their property, slicing in between the Armour’s and a nearby neighbor’s property. The neighbors evacuated when both the Knik and the creek reached flood stage in September. But Armour and his wife never budged

 “No. No, the water just came up a little bit over the edge of the bank, and we’re still up.. from the bank we’re probably five feet above the bank. Well the house was built that way. They put the ground, they raised the ground up enough that they didn’t have to worry about it. There’re a few places farther down that flooded, but they built down right on the river, and it’s not stepped up, like it is here.”

Other area homeowners were not so fortunate. They experienced firemen knocking on their doors at midnight, warning them to evacuate. Armour has suggested to the Borough that dredging the river could be one way to mitigate floods.

 “And than when we had the meeting at the elementary school, I made the comment, that they used to dig gravel out of the Matanuska [river], and then the Army Corps of Engineers shut them off. They need to get out there where that island is out there and start digging a channel out there and do it in the summer time when there is no water, and dig it out about 200 feet, ten feet deep, and they wouldn’t have lost these houses. “

 The Borough’s Casey Cook says that river dredging was done years ago, and the Borough is considering it.

 “It’s at the state level now to figure out if that’s going to be a possible avenue to go down and find out about. “

 But dredging could hurt salmon fry, and some officials are wary of that solution.Armour says the Borough did a good job in responding to the flood disaster. He says he has flood insurance, as required for property in a flood plain, but that rates for the federally managed insurance plan are very high. He says it may be a better idea for individual states to manage flood insurance. I’m Ellen Lockyer