Dyea cleanup continues

Posted: Wednesday, July 31, 2002

The city of Skagway plans to remove thousands of cubic yards of material from West Creek in nearby Dyea after a landslide and flood there last week.

The Skagway City Council on Thursday will consider making a $250,000 emergency appropriation from the town's reserves to begin removing boulders and other material from West Creek as soon as possible, Skagway City Manager Bob Ward said.

Dyea is 10 miles north of Skagway and has about 20 year-round residents.

"Sixty thousand (cubic) yards of material have to be removed to get the riverbed back to normal levels," he said. "Failure to do so will result in flooding at the drop of a hat because the riverbed is higher than other areas. It's highly prone to causing additional damage to property owners."

Dyea residents were evacuated July 23 after a 700-foot-high moraine on the side of the West Creek Glacier gave way and fell into a lake below. The material caused West Creek levels to rise and sent a flood of water into Dyea.

According to estimates from the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, between 536 million and 766 million cubic yards of material slid from the side of the West Creek Glacier during the event. A huge crater now is visible in the area.

"That's what raised the (West Creek) riverbed 18 feet," Ward said. "It makes it 6 to 8 feet higher than the surrounding area. There's water flowing out in both directions."

The West Creek bridge is open to some traffic, but the West Creek Road remains closed, Ward said. Most residents in Dyea have access to their homes, although cleanup continues, he said.

Bruce Noble, superintendent of Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, said the Dyea campground and the Chilkoot Trail are open.

"There's still a little bit of mud in the campground but we have people using it with no real problems," he said. "I hiked through (part of) the trail this weekend. There are a couple of damp spots, but it's fine."

Ward said the city plans to submit a disaster declaration request to the state, but he is still compiling information about flood damages from property owners. A declaration could bring financial assistance for the city and residents.

Once a request is received, the state Division of Emergency Services would send someone to Dyea to assess damage and make a recommendation to the state's Disaster Policy Cabinet, according to Kerre Fisher, an information officer for the division. The panel's recommendation would be forwarded to Gov. Tony Knowles, who would make the decision on declaring a disaster, she said.

Joanna Markell can be reached at joannam@juneauempire.com.

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