Rising water causes flood advisory, takes dock down Kenai River

Rising water in the Kenai River caused a small dock to break loose from the Russian River Ferry service and led to the issuance of a flood advisory on Thursday.

Water in the Kenai River near Cooper Landing was measured at 13.3 feet high at 4 p.m. on Thursday, according to a hydrograph of the river’s water levels on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, website. That height is considered minor flood stage.

A flood advisory is in place for the river from Kenai Lake to Skilak Lake until 6:45 p.m. on Friday, according to the National Weather Service.

Ted Moran, a senior hydrologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, said his concern is for low-lying areas on the river’s edge near Skilak Lake.

“You can get your feet wet,” Moran said.

Water has been rising in the river since a natural glacial dam at Snow Glacier Dammed River released over the weekend, as it does about every other year in the fall.

The dam release allows water to drain into the Snow River, which is connected to the Kenai River.

The flood advisory means roads and trails are at risk for flooding, but homeowners near the river are not in danger, Moran said.

The river would have to rise to about 14.5 feet before people would notice water nearing their homes, he said.

“If we see things have changed, then we go ahead and issue a new statement,” Moran said.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Community and Fiscal Projects Manager Brenda Ahlberg said people should use the same caution they did when the river was under a flood watch earlier this week. Homeowners should pull belongings away from the river banks and those fishing on the river should be cautious of floating debris, she said.

Rising water levels also caused a small landing dock for a ferry to break free and float down the Kenai River, effectively shutting down the Russian River Ferry service for the rest of the season.

Matt Conner, chief of visitor services for the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, said he got a call Thursday morning from Russian River Ferry employees that the dock had floated away after one of their morning trips across the river with fishermen. Employees were already aware that rising water levels would be a problem for the dock, Conner said.

“They’ve been raising the dock out of the water to alleviate that need,” he said. “As they were standing there looking at the dock… the dock then washed away.”

No one was standing on the dock when it broke free, and no one has been reported injured, Conner said. Employees were able to get all but two of the anglers who had gone across the river earlier that morning safely back in the ferry.

The remaining two were retrieved by vehicles and taken back to the parking lot side of the river, Conner said. The Russian River Ferry is operated through a contract with Alaska Recreational Management Inc., and usually only runs through Labor Day each year, Conner said. An ARM employee followed the dock along the river in a raft and found it lodged on an island.

The dock has been tied up to a tree to prevent further progress down the river, Conner said.

“When the water levels go down and it’s safer, then we’ll go down and get it,” he said.

Reach Megan Pacer at megan.pacer@peninsulaclarion.com

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