Jan 02, 2019

Juneau, Alaska, Residents Tackle Riverbank Erosion

After a federal plan fell through, residents are targeting riverbank erosion

Erosion control in Juneau, Alaska
The riverbank erosion has worsened in recent years, in part due to glacial flooding from the Mendenhall Glacier.

Homeowners in Juneau, Alaska, have teamed up to install riprap along properties facing riverbank erosion. The town had planned to use city and federal funds to secure the shoreline for 26 homes, but the Juneau Assembly rejected the plan, in part because a $78,000 financial commitment was required by each homeowner, as reported by the Associated Press.

Now, at least eight Mendenhall Valley homeowners who live on Meander Way are seeking erosion control solutions, including the installation of riprap, which features netting and rocks. The riverbank erosion has worsened in recent years, in part due to glacial flooding from the Mendenhall Glacier. These floods began in 2011, as a large depression in the Mendenhall Glacier known as Suicide Basin filled with rain and meltwater and released the water into Mendenhall Lake and Mendenhall River. It is happened every year since then, sometimes coming multiple times in a year, according to The Juneau Empire. Some residents are willing to pay up to $50,000 to protect the shoreline near their home.

“The mood is, we’ve got to get it done,” said Nico Bus, a resident who recently had riprap installed for $25,000. “Whoever feels the urgency is trying to go through the loops. The big question is, what will the estimate be from the contractor to do the work?”

According to The Juneau Empire, city officials were working with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in 2017 and the first half of 2018 to combine federal and city funds with money from the homeowners on Meander Way to commission a project, which would have secured the shoreline of 26 homes. 

This plan was never played out as the homeowners weren’t happy the city made a choice for them that would cost them to pay tens of thousands of dollars, The Juneau Empire reported. 

While the federal erosion control plan failed to pass the Juneau Assembly by a 6-3 vote, assembly members hope to work together with residents to solve the problem. The early stages of this plan would have meant the 26 households would have to pay approximately $78,000. 

“Now, people do it on their own, the feeling is that most people could do it for less than what the city and federal government would charge,” Bus said.

Bus told The Juneau Empire said neighbors are becoming more compelled to to through state permitting processes to stabilize their banks.