Home North pole ice DVIDS – News – Winter Recreation Thrives with Far North Flood Control Project

DVIDS – News – Winter Recreation Thrives with Far North Flood Control Project


As the cold wind blew and snow began to blanket the landscape, the water flowing through the Moose Creek Dam became stagnant. The freezing of the Chena River Lakes Flood Control Project was a clear sign that winter’s icy grip had set in and would last for months.

During this season, the team that operates and maintains the subarctic facility transitions to their winter responsibilities at the North Pole, Alaska.

Brad Olson, Asset Management Specialist for the US Army Corps of Engineers – Alaska District, drove around the project in a truck and pointed out some of the project trails.

“We mainly remove snow at this time of year,” he said. “In the meantime, we are still planning the work that we will do as soon as the thaw comes.

Although the project is not operating for flood risk management while the river is frozen, staff are still preparing for the upcoming flood season, carrying out maintenance and making improvements on nearly 20,000 acres. of public land. An upcoming activity includes the installation of a new lamp post near the lake park to help recreators have visibility during the winter months when daylight only lasts three hours.

The site is located in one of two water-filled gravel pits created during the construction of the Moose Creek Dam, which was completed in 1979. Known as the Chena Lake Recreation Area, both sites are used by outdoor enthusiasts all year round.

“People come here to watch the Northern Lights,” said Julie Anderson, Alaska District Chief of Operations. “We want to balance the safety of adding the new light without preventing park visitors from continuing to view the Northern Lights. We added another light a few years ago and wonder how we ever lived without it. »

The increased lighting helps improve safety on dark winter days in high traffic areas of the park.

Chena Lakes also serves as a popular place for community members and visitors to set a line.

“Right now there are a lot of people using the lake for ice fishing,” Olson said.

An avid fisherman himself, he described the location as a great place to try his luck catching rainbow trout, coho salmon and arctic char stocked by the United States Department of Game and Fish. ‘Alaska.

With a permit from this agency, people can build ice shacks on the lakes or rent them from the Fairbanks North Star Borough, which partners with USACE to manage the recreation area.

Moose, snowshoe hare, lynx, foxes, wolves and other animals are often seen around the project lands. This prime habitat attracts photographers, wildlife watchers, and even trappers and hunters to the area.

Park goers can also watch a number of sled dog races throughout the snowy months at the facility. To obtain permission to hold these events, organizers must receive a Special Use Permit from USACE in advance.

Meanwhile, back at the USACE project office, staff enthusiastically pointed out the new road-grading vehicle they use to remove an average of 62 inches of snow each year.

“We have less than 100 hours on it!” said Ryan Lucke, engineering equipment operator for the Alaska District.

During the winter, he is often seen on the machine clearing snow from the roads, paths and driveways on the project grounds.

“We’re not just cleaning up the main road,” Olson said. “We also keep the trails accessible for walking, biking and cross-country skiing.”

They are also clearing the top of the dam for 1 1/2 miles from the entrance to the project to allow dog walkers and fat tire cyclists better use of the path during the winter months.

Standing above the dam control works, Anderson described how families often sled down the 50-foot-tall structure when the weather is warmer and the sun is shining.

“Sometimes we find (thank you) notes left for the team in the snow,” she said. “While our top priority is to protect the community from flooding, it’s good to know that local citizens appreciate and appreciate the recreational opportunities available here.”

These posts express their appreciation for the park and the team loves to read them, often taking photos to share with others in the office.

From November 1 to March 31, the project lands are open for snowmaking. However, the sides and top of the dam are prohibited for such activity. Still, it is not uncommon to see snowmobile trails pass under the control of the structure. This can be risky as the ice may be thinner directly below the concrete dam.

“People will run their machines down to the river,” Anderson said. “They are braver than me.”

During this time, the district’s two full-time park rangers patrol for snowmobilers who ignore posted warnings and choose to drive over the dam.

“Snowmobiles can interfere with the structural integrity of the dam, which can increase the risk of failure,” Anderson said.
People caught breaking the law face heavy fines as well as potential additional consequences.

In addition to searching for snowmobile violators, park rangers stay on the lookout for vandals, poachers, squatters’ cabins, abandoned vehicles, land encroachments and off-road violations. To accomplish this work, they use a variety of vehicles equipped for harsh weather and rough terrain. The project has snowmobiles, trucks and a small unit support vehicle. The SUSV is a tracked amphibious vehicle that is especially useful in preventing weather-related injuries to park rangers when it is particularly cold outside.

“In the winter, we mostly patrol by snowmobile, but when the temperatures drop below 30 degrees, we use the SUSV,” said senior ranger Justin Kerwin. “This decreases the risk of our park rangers sustaining an injury from exposure to the cold. The wind chill of a snowmobile at this temperature can drop below negative 80 degrees, so we prefer a cabin machine when it’s is available.

District patrols and winter maintenance are carried out in conjunction with staff from the North Star Borough of Fairbank. In winter, the borough team is made up of a site manager, a janitor and two forest rangers. In the summer they also have seasonal rangers to ensure staff are available 24/7.

“The borough has been a great partner for many years,” Anderson said. “Recently, their team has been working to make improvements to the recreation areas of the project.”

These improvements include making lakes accessible to people with disabilities and paving gravel roads with a grant from the US Department of Transportation.

“Disability accessibility will be nice for veterans, wounded warriors and other people with disabilities who want to access recreation areas,” Olson said.

The changes will complement the district’s upcoming dam safety modification project, as evidenced by the sight of construction contractors setting up temporary offices and installing new power lines on the property.

With the first phase of work due to begin in the spring, this massive undertaking will reinforce part of the earth dam to increase the infiltration path into the Tanana River during floods. Ultimately, this effort will address the risks associated with aging infrastructure and extend the life of the dam for many years to come.

“The changes are a lot like dredging,” Anderson said. “You will see a lot of activity, but it will look the same once the work is finished. The real difference will be structural.

Through close coordination between the USACE, the borough, and the project contractor, every effort will be made to keep the public informed of temporary impacts on recreation during the construction process.

To learn more about Chena River Lakes Flood Control Project recreation opportunities, please visit: https://www.poa.usace.army.mil/Locations/Chena-River-Lakes-Flood-Control -Project/Activities-and-Recreation/

Date taken: 24.02.2022
Date posted: 24.02.2022 12:38
Story ID: 415225

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