Talkeetna dike repair design on schedule, but improvement would require other funds

This month, Mat-Su Borough Emergency Manager Casey Cook provided an update to the Talkeetna Community Council board of directors on the federally funded repairs to the Talkeetna dike.

After years of applications and appeals, the Federal Emergency Management Agency approved funds to repair damage to the dike caused by the fall 2012 flood. Cook confirmed information from borough engineer Jamie Taylor that the repair design is on schedule for completion in December. After completion, the design goes back to FEMA for final approval. Cook says plans are being made for work next year, including contacting the Alaska Railroad to use the train to transport the necessary armor rock. If an agreement is reached with the railroad, Cook believes it would reduce the need for trucking materials for the work through Downtown Talkeetna.

While the approval of funds to repair the Talkeetna dike is significant, and required a great deal of effort, the work will not enhance the structure beyond its original intent to guide the channel of the Susitna River away from Downtown. FEMA funds may only be used to restore assets to their pre-flood state.

In order to make improvements to the dike, money would have to be found elsewhere. Casey Cook and the Mat-Su Borough have contacted the Army Corps of Engineers, which in turn toured the existing dike. The Corps of Engineers built the original structure, and controls a pool of money that can be used to fund projects like one to improve the Talkeetna dike and dredge the area of the Talkeetna River directly upstream from the railroad bridge. According to Casey Cook, the federal portion of those projects can be up to nine million dollars.

Any improvement under the Army Corps of Engineers Project 205 fund would not come without local cost, however. The fund is required to have a sixty-five to thirty-five percent cost split, with the federal government paying the larger portion. Still, that means hundreds of thousands, or potentially millions, of dollars that would have to come from elsewhere. Talkeetna’s special flood service area has some cash on hand, and was recently expanded to include East Talkeetna, but it’s possible that much more than is currently in savings would be needed to fund significant flood mitigation work.

Exploration into the Army Corps of Engineers funds is still in its early phases, but Casey Cook says it’s feasible that design work could begin next summer.

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