Possible dam collapse threatens Kake

Posted: Tuesday, July 25, 2000

KAKE - High water from this week's heavy rains have officials warily eyeing Kake's aging wooden dam and worrying about homes and a salmon hatchery below it.

A rush of water apparently released by a logjam came down Gunnuck Creek late Monday morning and nearly flooded the hatchery and the 25 million chum salmon eggs workers have been collecting, Mayor Lonnie Anderson said.

``If the dam goes, our fish hatchery would probably be damaged or at least lose the year's take,'' Anderson said. ``That's almost a $10 million project. It's really the lifeblood of the community.''

A flood from a dam collapse could also threaten about five homes and a bridge, Anderson said. Residents have been warned to be ready to leave on 20 minutes notice.

The face of the dam, which provides water for the Southeast Alaska city, is leaking from a hole caused by a swift-moving log sometime in the past day or so, Anderson said.

``A log has roared down like a torpedo and punched a 4-foot hole in the dam,'' Anderson said. On a recent flight up the creek, Anderson said he spotted a dozen landslides containing other trees that could cause jams or slam into the face of the dam.

The dam, built in the 1950s, has had other structural damage for some time, said Charles Cobb, the dam safety engineer for the Department of Natural Resources. He said the dam is generally out of compliance with state safety regulations and hasn't had a full safety inspection since 1986.

Cobb recommending homes in the flood zone be evacuated during high water.

``It's not a big dam, as far as dams go,'' Cobb said. ``But it doesn't take much water over your head to be a problem.''

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