Exploring Chena Flood Control Project 50 Years After Fairbanks Flood

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Tuesday marks the 50th anniversary of one of the worst floods in Interior Alaska.
Julia Laude took a visit to the Chena River Lakes Control Project, which was created as a result of the 1967 Fairbanks Flood.

"Back in 1967 we had a massive flood that flooded 95 percent of Fairbanks. That was really the last straw. People finally said, 'We're tired of this.'"

The last straw resulting in the approval of the Flood Control Act of 1968 and the construction of the Chena River Lakes Flood Control Project in 1973.

This project, at the Moose Creek Dam on the Chena River, features an eight-mile long earth dam, a levee on the Tanana River and a 3,000-acre silk blanket flood-way with 30 foot walls.

According to Project Manager of the Chena River Lakes Flood Control Project, Tim Feavel, another major flood was subdued, thanks to Moose Creek Dam.

"That's only happened one time in the 37 years of operating history here and that was in 1992, and that '92 flood event would not have been as large as 1967's event, but the estimates are that we would have put four and a half feet right through downtown Fairbanks from that '92 event."

Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the National Weather Service, Ed Plumb, says with a price tag of 250 million dollars, the flood control project was a great investment.

"The flood control project has paid for itself now. We have not had an event like the 1967 event but all the smaller floods since then, when the projects been activated and controlled the flow of the Chena into Fairbanks. It's has now paid for itself. The cost of the project has paid for any damage that would have occurred during one of these floods since 1967."

It's estimated that the dam can handle 160,000 cubic-feet per-second during a flood, whether it's from summer rain or melting snow.