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Galena won’t receive federal funds for rebuilding in flood-prone area

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Posted: Tuesday, September 17, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 12:22 pm, Wed Sep 18, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — Public facility repairs in Galena’s Old Town area won’t get federal funding because of concerns about future Yukon River floods

The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced this month that it won’t fund infrastructure reconstruction in the part of Galena that borders the Yukon River, according to a FEMA document released earlier this month explaining the policy.

“The decision, supported by our State of Alaska partner,  will help ensure that FEMA funds are directed to helping Galena grow stronger and safer for the future,” the document said.

Galena’s Old Town contains homes and buildings including the town’s post office, the Yukon Inn bar and restaurant and the office for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The neighborhood, which is traditionally the most susceptible to flooding, is sandwiched between the Yukon River and a dike built around Galena’s former Air Force station.

This year’s flooding saw major damage to both Old Town and New Town, the larger neighborhood built on supposedly safer ground after a major flood in 1971. This year’s flood  came within inches of spilling into the former Air Force station that now contains the civilian airport and the Galena Interior Learning Academy boarding school. As of this week 33 Old Town residents and 120 New Town residents have applied to FEMA for assistance, said FEMA spokesman Victor Inge.

FEMA’s decision applies only to infrastructure and does not block Old Town residence from receiving assistance to rebuild their homes. But it means public facilities including the post office, the Louden Tribal Council Community Hall and a backup power generator, will need to move to higher ground if they’re to get FEMA funding, said FEMA spokesman Victor Inge. The decision also blocks any future Old Town project done by FEMA-sponsored volunteers like the Disciples of Christ and the United Methodist Volunteers in Mission from working on new projects in Old Town.

Galena City Manager Greg Moyer said Monday it hasn’t yet been determined what will happen with Old Town’s community buildings. He doesn’t expect the neighborhood to entirely devolve because of FEMA’s decision.

“It’s part of our heritage and there are people who want to live by the river,”  he said. “But there’s choices that people are going to have to make.”

According to FEMA, the area is classified as an “A” flood zone, which means it has a 1 percent annual chance of flooding and a 26 percent chance of flooding during the lifetime of a 30-year mortgage.

Contact staff writer Sam Friedman at 459-7545. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMcrime.

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