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Army Corps considering future of century-old canal project in St. Michael

Aerial photo taken over a waterway near St. Michael, Alaska. Photo from NOAA, used with permission (2021).

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wants public input on whether it should deauthorize a historical canal project in the community of St. Michael.

On Dec. 7, the Corps released a disposition study for the St. Michael Canal Project, which was completed in 1910. At that time, a channel 100 feet wide and six feet deep was dredged from St. Michael Bay to the Yukon River.

According to federal agency, the canal was created to allow safe passage for the numerous steamboats traveling along the Yukon River over a century ago. But as transportation methods advanced, the need for supplying Interior communities through the Port of St. Michael and the canal project diminished.

Since the canal has mostly returned to its natural form, the Corps has two main options – it can either request that Congress deauthorize the St. Michael Canal project, or it can allow the canal to continue as, “an unmaintained and inactive water resources project.”

According to the Corps, there is no proposed economic development at this site currently, nor are there any expected environmental impacts from leaving the canal as is. The agency has recommended deauthorizing the canal project so that potential future economic benefits to St. Michael would not be “encumbered” by this federally authorized project from over one-hundred years ago.

The Corps’ report on this project is available online for public comment until next Friday, Jan. 7.
If de-authorization of the St. Michael canal project is recommended, then Congress will still need to take final action.

Comments may be submitted to the address below or via email to: David.P.Williams@usace.army.mil or Erin.H.Stockdale@usace.army.mil.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Alaska District
Post Office Box 6898
Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska 99506-0898

Image at top: Aerial photo taken over a waterway near St. Michael, Alaska. Photo from NOAA, used with permission (2021).

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