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Flood Waters Threaten Upper Kalskag Power Plant

The Kuskokwim River ice cleared in front of Aniak on May 1, 2020.
Dave Cannon

An ice jam just below Upper Kalskag is sending rapidly rising water towards the village’s power plant.

The National Weather Service is flying aerial surveys of the Kuskokwim River during the day, and hosting nightly river condition teleconferences.

During the May 2 conference call, Dwayne Hoffman, Native Village of Upper Kalskag Transportation Manager, said that the water had crept close to the gate to the power plant. He estimated that the water would have to rise another 2 or 3 feet before the power plant shut down.


“We’re monitoring as much as we can throughout the night,” Hoffman said. 


The water is also rising closer to the Upper Kalskag runway. Hoffman said that residents living at one end are already seeing water near their houses, and are monitoring levels. Meanwhile, the ice jam just below Napaimute remains solid. The Borowski cabin is underwater, according to NWS River Watch reports. The Alaska Air National Guard rescued John and Seraphine Borowski on April 30 as the river’s rising waters overtook their home.

Further downstream, the ice has moved out of Aniak. Residents are reporting that the water levels have dropped a few feet, but are still higher than during previous breakups. Celine Van Breukelen, a senior service hydrologist with the NWS, flew over the Kuskokwim River on May 2. She noticed water flooding the tundra around Aniak.  


“I am very concerned about the flood threat for Aniak,” Van Breukelen said.


Should the ice jam below Napaimute release quickly, it could send more high water down to Aniak and spark flooding.


The ice in front of McGrath has cleared and is heading down the Kuskokwim River. Sleetmute reported high water levels on May 2 after the level dropped at least 3 feet over the evening of May 1. The NWS plans to head out on May 3 to check river breakup conditions along the Kuskokwim River.

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