by Phillip Manning ~ January 13th, 2014
The Talkeetna Chamber of Commerce is attempting to revitalize a nine-year-old Borough plan for the riverfront. Under the plan, which was approved by the Borough Assembly in 2004, the Mat-Su Borough would lease riverfront land from the Alaska Railroad with the intent to develop campsites and establish a concessionaire to maintain the property.
The plan has never been implemented, because no agreement has been made between the Borough and the Railroad. According to Chamber of Commerce President Beth Valentine, the Railroad is ready to look into leasing the property, but first needs a lease application from the Borough.
At a meeting on Thursday afternoon, the Chamber committee that is looking into the riverfront plan also discussed the issue of the dike on the Talkeetna River near the railroad bridge. Israel Mahay emphasized that repairing the dike, which was damaged during the fall 2012 flood, should be at the top of the priorities list. Mahay says that the river has shifted course, and that it is only a matter of time before the next flood. Community Council member Robert Gerlach says that the last update from the Mat-Su Borough on the status of FEMA funding for the dike came approximately two months ago. He says that funding to repair the dike has not come yet due in part to paperwork errors by Borough staff when applying for federal aid, as well as an issue of whether or not the dike is classified as a flood control measure. Gerlach, a pilot, agrees that the river has shifted, and says that it is now flowing directly toward the north end of the dike.
Don Dyer, Economic Development Director for the Borough, says that he intends to get the ball rolling again, and that community groups should ask that the dike be added to the state Capital Improvement Projects list. As for the lease, Dyer says that the Borough would have to find a way to secure funding to lease the riverfront property from the Railroad, and that he will look into the issue and report back to the Chamber.