State to tackle highway flood damage

The State Department of Transportation opened bids Friday for a project that will help protect the Glenn Highway from Matanuska River flooding.

Matanuska river flooding its banks in 2015 (Photo by Ellen Lockyer)
Matanuska river flooding its banks in 2015 (Photo by Ellen Lockyer)

DOT plans to shore up the shoulder of the highway at mile 64 to protect it from erosion due to the river’s action.

Last summer, the Matanuska, fed by glacial melt, ate away at the North bank in the Sutton area, taking away some private property and threatening the Glenn Highway.

Representative Jim Colver, of Palmer, was able to get DOT to perform emergency work to protect the Glenn Highway by installing large rocks in the most threatened area last summer. But now, DOT has pursued a permanent fix

“They designed over the winter another half mile stretch of protection and then another spot at mile 63 where the river is real close to eating the road away,” Colver said. “And the DOT put out a project and the bids were opened on Friday, and the low bid will do the job for $2.6 million.”

This project will continue work along the shoulder at mile 64 and mile 63 where the riverbank is eroding near the guardrail. The contractor will place 43,000 tons, large “rip rap” rock to protect the shoulder along the highway at mile 64.

Colver says the funds cannot be used outside the right of way of the Glenn Highway.

Jim Sykes, Mat Su Assemblyman for District 1, said in an email, that “the huge amount of money for riprap at mile 64 could be better used, as for a dike and channel at mile 65 to move more water to the south side to protect both people and the highway for a two mile stretch…. These funds (2.5M) will protect only 1/4 mile of road do nothing for residents living between the road and the river.”

Representative Colver said the channeling is the Borough’s responsibility:

“Unfortunately, the Borough has not moved forward on that,” said Colver. “They haven’t done anything towards that channelization. So that is within the Borough’s court. What I can do as far as a legislator is work with DOT to protect the highway and use federal highway funds.”

Sykes says DOT and federal officials need to be educated to spend their money in better ways. He says the channel maintenance would also provide gravel for upcoming highway upgrades.