Employees with the U.S. Forest Service in Petersburg spent part of the day Friday working to restore water flowing into Man Made Hole, a small pond off a picnic area on Mitkof Highway south of Petersburg. The inlet stream was blocked during the heavy rains of a January storm that caused much bigger problems elsewhere in the region.
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About a dozen Forest Service employees chip through the frozen sand and gravel at the inlet stream that feeds fresh water into Man Made Hole, about 20 miles south of Petersburg.
District Ranger Jason Anderson is working with the group. He explained that a rain-swollen creek last month moved sand and gravel into the side channel that feeds the pond. “As the volume from that last storm event picked up, it starts to scour the bed and pick up a lot of rock and sand and in some places significant sized cobble, you know bowling ball sized rock,” Anderson said. “And as it picks up that load it looks to deposit it in places where the change in energy, or the change in flow, allows those heavy materials to settle out and a 90 degree bend like they’ve created to feed this pond is a perfect spot for that.”
Anderson said that sand and gravel eventually built up and blocked the inlet stream. “Well once it filled up the actual side channel then the water started depositing it further up onto the banks and then ran out further into the pond dropping more rock and kind of creating a whole new sort of delta out there past the channel. Once the flows dropped off course all that addition rock became sort of a linear dam to feeding that pond. So we’re just trying to open up a small channel. See what we can accomplish with hand tools and manual labor and if we need to later we’ll try to see if we can come up with some funding to do some heavy equipment work and really open it up.”
About 100 yards separating the main creek from the pond, which is frozen over and continues to drain from the outlet stream. Without new fresh water feeding into the pond, any fish in Man Made Hole could be left high and dry.
Anderson said he’s only heard of a little other damage on nearby forest land from the January rains. “Yeah that we’ve seen. There was some other small slumps here and there. I think Three Lakes Loop Road had a small slump that a member of the public told me about. We’ve had our crews looking at it. It’s plugging up a ditch but it didn’t wash out the road or even block the road. So we’ll get someone on that one pretty soon. Make sure it doesn’t do any additional road damage as the rains come back. But so far this is the most noticable thing that’s popped up.”
Last month saw daily rain records set in Petersburg, during windy, warm and wet weather that caused a little flooding locally and several landslides on Prince of Wales Island.