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

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: or

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).

1 Comment

  1. Mark Thompson on December 28, 2021 at 5:57 pm

    Only the mouth of the canal was dredged to near to the “Y” where Big Canal and Little Canal join/divide on the east end. Bids were solicited to “cut off” two large horseshoe bends in Big Canal in order to facilitate the travel of the bigger steamboats through the canal during that portion of the season when weather created too much hazard to venture around the north side. The only bidder for the project submitted bids which Congress considered too high back in 1910. This is all a matter of public record available in the Library of Congress (also in the Archives at UAF).