Contractors prepare for Moose Creek water expansion, residents concerned about property impact

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska. (KTVF) As part of remediation efforts due to contamination in the ground water of Moose Creek from Eielson Air Force Base, a new water line is being installed in the affected area. Residents, however, are upset with the impact the construction is having on their properties.

Pipes lined up as part of the Moose Creek Water Expansion project. (Sara Tewksbury/KTVF)

Along the roads of the Moose Creek community, brush and trees are being cleared to make way for the pipes to bring potable water from the City of North Pole.

Neal Gregory, Moose Creek resident of 30 years, says three spruce trees on his property will be removed, which he says provide privacy and scenery. “My wife sits at that window and watches the squirrels, she calls them her squirrels and the birds in the tree, we watch those all the time,” said Gregory.

"If I had someone in front of my house, and suddenly I had trees for the entire time I've lived there, and then someone came and cut them down, I'd be upset as well. But the reality is we are only putting the pipes in the road right of way, which is the road, and there may still be trees in that because the road is not fully developed. If there's a utility easement, that's one of the things of a utility easement, that if the trees are in there, they can come down," said Bill Butler, director of city services for the City of North Pole.

He says they will try to restore the site. “We can't put the trees back in because you can't have a permanent thing in a right of way over those pipes, but we will try to reseed and make it a grassy site, but no we can't restore the trees. If in fact the contractor did go outside of the road right of way, and outside of an easement and did damage personal property then they are responsible for restoring that," said Butler.

Butler says the Moose Creek water expansion will be good for the community bringing them clean drinking water.

Moose Creek residents are upset because they say there has been little communication on when and how their property will be impacted.

"They have come through Moose Creek and ripped up the property and lives of everybody they've come in contact with, this is a very small beautiful little community, we have absolutely no communication from the people in charge,” said Terry Huisman, Moose Creek resident of 36 years.

Moose Creek resident Cheryl Shupe said she was surprised when she saw trees on her property taken down.

“There’s been pink and blue ribbons along the roadway indicating clearing for weeks and weeks now. I left for work last week and noticed this pink and blue ribbon, brand new ribbon, had to have been put up the day before, so I knew on my way to work I was going to need to make some phone calls. I rolled around the corner at about 3:15 [p.m.] to this, so there was no time for phone calls. There was no communication about what was coming, we were aware of our utility easement when we bought the property, I understand they need to dig and they need to lay pipes,” said Shupe.

Residents say ribbons tied to trees and stumps are the only notification they have of what trees will be removed and where the line is going.

"The easement utility statute or whatever they call it is seriously flawed, there's no protection for us property owners, none, no protections, no consideration, um yeah, we're just kind of left here to deal with it," said Shupe.

Jordann Conlon, the Moose Creek Water Expansion project manager with HC Contractors says they are trying their best to communicate with the public, but have had to change their communication efforts due to COVID-19.

“We aren’t doing it our typical way, typically we would go door to door, and hand out flyers but with the memorandums and everything for COVID-19, we don’t want to put people at risk,” said Conlon.

She says they have sent out email flyers and placed a stack of flyers at the Moose Creek gas station. More information on the project can also be found by calling the project information line at 450-2848 or by going to the project website.

"We are a contractor, we were hired to do the job, and my guys are just out there doing their job and trying to do it well. We're trying to be as respectful as we can to people on their property and we'll work with everyone the best we can," said Conlon.

Butler says homes are expected to be connected to the water line in 2021.

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