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Galena Resumes Flood-damage Rebuilding in Earnest After Long Winter Break

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KUAC file photo
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Residents of Galena are busy repairing and rebuilding some of the 200 homes that were damaged or destroyed by Yukon River floodwaters during last year’s breakup. Some of the residents are having their homes elevated above flood level as a precaution against future flooding.

It’s only early May, but the construction season is already well under way in Galena. And local Tribal Council administrator March Runner says it’s about to get even busier, as residents who’d holed-up in Fairbanks and elsewhere for the winter return to pick up where they left off last fall, when they ran out of time as the snow flew.

“Some people were not able to return to Galena, and they’re coming back and they’re looking at their homes,” Runner said. “And some people weren’t able to get supplies in in time to work on their homes last year, or to complete their homes, and that’s the work they’ll be doing this summer.”

Runner says residents are taking advantage of this spring’s mild weather and an infusion of federal and state funding to resume the task of rebuilding Galena. This time last year, break-up flooding was about to hit the town, carrying chunks of ice as big as a truck, crushing any structure in its path.

“There is a lot of work to be done,” she said.

Runner says there are two programs under way in Galena to help residents get back into their own homes. Both are mainly funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA.

“In one program, FEMA is assisting a certain group of people with FEMA volunteers to come in and work on these homes to build and/or repair, she said. “And then there’s another program where we have Samaritan’s Purse coming in and they are helping rebuild and repair some homes.”

Samaritan’s Purse is a faith-based disaster-relief program. Volunteers with that group and another affiliated with the United Methodist Church are helping Galena rebuild.

Runner says one of the two programs will pay for raising some of renovated homes by at least two feet above 135 feet of elevation to protect them from all but the worst flooding.

A spokesman for the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management says the program to raise the elevation of the homes is being funded with $1.3 million from FEMA and about $430,000 from the state.