Galena flood victims struggle with red tape as they attempt to rebuild

FAIRBANKS — A tangle of red tape has stalled rebuilding efforts for some homeowners after flooding devastated the interior community of Galena in May.


More than 50 homes have been repaired or rebuilt, and work is progressing on infrastructure, public buildings, power and water lines, KUAC reported. But many homes remain unfixed in the community of 500 about 270 miles west of Fairbanks.

Jen Hildebrand’s old home was already in bad shape before it became immersed in a flood-formed lake for weeks. Her new, three-bedroom replacement house is now under construction after being designed by the Fairbanks-based Cold Climate Housing Research Center.

To get to this point, Hildebrand had to work through a web of bureaucracy and programs to finance the job, she said.

Her neighbor, Frieda Beasley, had a frustrating summer battling with her insurance company and government agencies. Beasley said income and flood insurance disqualified her and her husband from getting a government payout. The couple is using a bank loan and insurance money to rebuild, but complications have delayed the work until next summer, so for now they are staying in a relative’s home.

Karl Edwards with the state’s recovery efforts says some people have fallen through the cracks, but he adds that others have experienced success.

“We have got some people back into their homes; we do have some homes completed,” Edwards said. “We have about a week left of large teams here in Galena working, so they’re trying to wrap up as much as they can before they leave.”

Edwards said the hope is to get shells on houses at least so people can work inside through winter.

According to Edwards, multiple volunteer crews from faith-based organizations have helped people rebuild. The state, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Salvation Army and other organizations also have provided temporary housing, food and clothing.

Jake Pograbinsky is helping a friend put together a log cabin without any government assistance. The men used machinery cobbled back together after the flood.

“Everything we used was drowned out,” Pograbinsky said.

“This is why we’re both staggering with exhaustion,” he said.

Pograbinsky said he’ll turn his attention to fixing up his own home next summer.


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