Jun 07, 2018

Alaska Subdivision Considers Retention Wall As Erosion Solution

Erosion from the Mendenhall River threatens 28 homes in the Juneau, Alaska subdivision with erosion and flooding

Alaska town faces erosion threat as glaciers melt
Alaska town faces erosion threat as glaciers melt

A subdivision in Juneau, Alaska, has rejected a plan by the Federal Emergency Watershed Program to partially fund a retention wall along the Mendenhall River, which has received significant flooding and erosion control issues in recent years. The potential project would protect 28 homes along the river from creeping erosion, but some residents do not want to alter the natural landscape and think the federal funding should go towards wildfire and flood relief elsewhere, according to Alaska Public Radio.

The proposed project would require each homeowner to pay up to $80,000 of the expense, with federal funds covering the majority of the project. With the neighborhood divided in opinion, the Juneau Assembly opted not to force the issue and drop the project, leaving many residents to move and escape the encroaching erosion.

According to Eran Hood, a professor of environmental science at University of Alaska Southeast, the rapid erosion stems from the melting Mendenhall Glacier, which fuels the river. Hood viewed the glacier and the surrounding Suicide Basin Glacier from an aerial view and discovered that a group of icebergs deeped an existing basin and continued to feed into the river at a rapid pace.

“That’s why this area is flooding now, is because this basin is essentially a bathtub that can be filled  up with millions of gallons of water,” Hood said.