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Title: Yukon and Kuskokwim River basins, Alaska : interim water resources study
Authors: United States. Army. Corps of Engineers. Alaska District.
Keywords: Water resources
Yukon River
Kuskokwim river
Inland navigation
Issue Date: Apr-1987
Publisher: United States. Army. Corps of Engineers. Alaska District.
Engineer Research and Development Center (U.S.)
Description: Technical Report
Summary: This report presents the results of a 3-year study of water resource problems that affect the basins of the two great Interior Alaska waterways, the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers. The study concentrates on navigation problems, but also considers recurrent flooding, erosion, and water contamination that encumber life in the region's villages. The report is a review of conditions in the region and how they have changed since a major Corps document published in 1959, Interim Report No. 7. Yukon and Kuskowim River Basins. The study finds that although the Yukon-Kuskokwim region has valuable natural resources, including some of strategic value to the United States, current economic factors make it unlikely that large amounts will be moved by water in the near term. However, this picture may change in years to come, as world petroleum and mineral markets often fluctuate dramatically. The region's few inhabitants receive most of their consumable commodities, other than fuel, by federally subsidized air mail. They import bulk fuels and construction materials by water. (The exception is the modern city of Fairbanks, which receives commodities by rail and truck.) The most significant navigation problems on the two-river system are caused by a series of shallow-water crossings on the Kuskokwim. The most troublesome is Lisky's Crossing, which has prevented winter fuel from reaching McGrath and other upriver communities. One nonstructural solution and three structural solutions for improvement are examined. The nonstructural alternative is to install data acquisition and transmission systems on the river to facilitate navigation. The three structural solutions include (1.) channel blocks, (2.) dredging a wide channel, and (3.) dredging a narrow channel and providing LORAN-C navigation. None of these structural projects demonstrate current economic feasibility by Federal criteria. A non-Federal alternative is also presented. The study advises that more stream gages be placed and their data made available for use, especially on the Kuskokwim River. This great river, which drains an area larger than the State of Pennsylvania, has only one active stream gage. Virtually all of the data necessary to establish physical criteria and design and associated economic analyses for a civil works project must be derived from this single gage. Its limited data is inadequate to support flood prediction and navigation needs for the entire system. Additional baseline data is considered critical not only to future studies but also to contemporary river freight operations. At a minimum, gage stations should be established at McGrath and Bethel. This nonstructural solution is economically feasible, demonstrating a benefit/cost ratio greater than 1.0. No other measures to improve navigation are suggested at this time, although several were examined. On the Yukon, no significant navigation problems are evident other than the short ice free season. Barge operators experience occasional difficulty navigating the Toksook River on Nelson Island, near the village of Nightmute, because of some protruding rocks. Since only one barge a year serves Nightmute, a Federal expenditure to remove the rocks cannot be justified. A canal to join the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers, proposed in the 1959 report, was reconsidered, but the volume of waterborne commerce predicted for the foreseeable future is not sufficient to render such a project feasible. The study outlines problems of the region's communities in two other areas : flooding and erosion, and water supply. Partly in response to this study, the Corps is evaluating coastal erosion problems of the entire State in a separate study. Al though this report discusses water supply and water contamination problems of the region, the Corps has authority to assist with these problems only in emergencies.
Appears in Collections:USACE Collection

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