Matanuska-Susitna Borough

First Borough atlas on wetlands adds tool to

Mat-Su | Patty Sullivan | Sunday, January 14, 2007

PALMER—The Matanuska-Susitna Borough has produced a "Big Lake Watershed Atlas" covering about ninety square miles of watershed. The 138-page document is the first Borough atlas of wetlands.

The atlas provides an important planning tool within one of the Borough's fastest growing areas. The Borough itself was the 28th fastest growing community in the nation in 2005 with a population now at about 80,000. This document could help protect wetlands and improve planning for land use.

The Big Lake Watershed is bisected by the Parks Highway. It includes most of Wasilla, Houston and Meadow Lakes. Big Lake is an immensely popular lake for recreation. Big Lake is the endpoint for most of the streams and waterbodies that drain southwest from the Wasilla and Meadow Lakes areas.

Assembly Member Cindy Bettine represents the Big Lake area. Last fall, several residents in downtown Big Lake were flooded, likely by the interruption of the natural drainage of a local creek. The wetlands became so pronounced that the Chisana Woods subdivision was inundated with water. Jolly Creek may have possibly been re-routed over the years with the arrival of homes and roads. A study will get underway this year to determine the cause.

"As more land is developed in the quickly-growing Mat Su community, the watershed document becomes an important tool to avoid the flooding that has caused residential property damage. The fix for developing in a drainage area is costly to all residents and doesn't happen over night," Bettine said.

Bettine emphasized how inter-related the waterbodies and drainages are in the Big Lake Watershed.

"When someone develops in Memory Lakes off Shrock Road, north of Wasilla, those waters travel the meandering 20 miles or so to Big Lake. That's also true for Lucille Creek, which drains Lake Lucille, and for Meadow Creek, which drains the Meadow Lakes area," Bettine said. "Development in any part of the watershed could potentially affect Big Lake depending on what washes downstream and on what drainages are altered."

The atlas contains 134 photographs overlaid with wetlands, culverts, roads, and parcel boundaries. Each of the map pages is a square mile. The atlas lays out where wetlands and waterbodies are in relation to existing parcels and undeveloped lots.

The atlas was part of the Big Lake Watershed Planning and Assessment Project, a two year grant-funded project intended to increase watershed planning efforts in the Big Lake and Meadow Lakes area.

Map pages are based on 2004 imagery, Borough datasets, and maps from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's National Wetlands Inventory. They are not for permitting or regulatory purposes, but can help Borough staff and residents identify areas that may need further review.

Printing for the atlas cost $10,000 and was funded as part of a larger grant for the overall project from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 10. Limited copies of the atlas are available to the public.

For a copy, please contact Midge Blake in the Planning and Land Use Department at 745-9556.
For questions contact Lynn Fuller at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.