Chena River flood control prevents $50 million in damage, diverts several feet of water

The Moose Creek Dam was used to regulate high water levels from snow melt in the Chena River....
The Moose Creek Dam was used to regulate high water levels from snow melt in the Chena River. (Sara Tewksbury/KTVF)(KTVF)
Published: May. 16, 2020 at 4:59 PM AKDT
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Officials with the Chena River Lakes Flood Control Project said that if they had not used the gates in the Moose Creek Dam earlier this week, the Chena River could have been up to seven feet higher than it currently is.

Julie Anderson with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said on May 11, they put the gates of the Moose Creek Dam in the river to regulate the flow.

In the beginning of May, rapid snowmelt from the mountains caused the river levels to rise.

Anderson says if they did not regulate the river flow during this flood event, they estimated the river levels in downtown Fairbanks would have been 6 to 7 feet higher and could have caused $50 million dollars in damage to businesses and homes.

Anderson says they use the dam to regulate about every three years. She says regulating this flood event is exactly what the flood control project was intended for, diverting water from the Chena River to the Tanana River.

"The Tanana River essentially has ten times the capacity of the Chena River. This water, if it had reached the Tanana which it didn't, would have only raised the Tanana River a couple of inches -- but of course it keeps feet of water out of downtown Fairbanks, and that's the real significance and benefit of it,” said Anderson.

Anderson says they also operated in April of this year due to ice jams.

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