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Alaska riverbank erosion sends smokehouses into water

May 24, 2019

AKIAK, Alaska (AP) — An Alaska community has lost buildings due to erosion along the banks of its river, officials said.

Residents of Akiak awoke Monday to find that smokehouses built along the Kuskokwim River had fallen into the water along with stretches of the riverbank in southwest Alaska, KYUK-AM reported Wednesday.

The community 42 miles (66 kilometers) northeast of Bethel lost between 75 and 100 feet (23 and 30 meters) of the riverbank, according to Akiak City Administrator David Gilila.

“That’s just in one day; that’s just in a matter of hours,” Gilila said.

Akiak has experienced erosion problems before, but now faces damage to about a mile (1.6 kilometers) of riverbank.

“There’s no comparison to it,” Gilila said. “Before, it was just certain spots. Today, it’s the whole bank from the upper end of Akiak to the lower end of it.”

There are now houses facing possible destruction due to the failing riverbank. One home is within 15 feet (5 meters) of the water, Gilila said.

“We got about three houses in imminent danger, and the rest of them will be coming along pretty quickly,” Gilila said. “If we don’t stop the erosion we’re going to have to move two, three, four houses.”

Residents plan to brace the riverbank using metal poles and a tarp. The city has also contacted the state about emergency funds and technical expertise.

“Hopefully they’ll come and advise us on how to stabilize the erosion down there,” Gilila said.

Akiak could become an island, he said, but the cost of relocating the entire community leaves them no choice other than to stay.

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Information from: KYUK-AM, http://www.kyuk.org

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