Story last updated at 2:16 p.m. Friday, July 5, 2002

Glacier inches forward
Juneau Empire
While most might be looking at receding glaciers with worry, in Yakutat, it's the other way around.

The Hubbard Glacier, a massive, jagged sheet of ice 76 miles long, is closing the gap between its tip and Gilbert Point. When it gets there, it will turn the 30-mile-long Russell Fiord into a lake and could possibly affect local fisheries and the community of 800 some 225 miles northwest of Juneau.

Officials have yet to predict when the glacier might make its move, but after the closure occurs, the ice could break off or the lake level could slowly rise and spill into the Situk River, a valuable sport, commercial and subsistence river.

"This is a natural event. It's Mother Nature and we need to let it run its course and see what happens," said Tricia O'Connor, Yakutat District Ranger for the U.S. Forest Service.

This isn't the first time the glacier blocked the fjord. In 1986, Russell Lake rose 84 feet.

The closure is a concern because much of the community depends on the Situk River's steelhead, Dolly Varden and five species of salmon to make a living.

-- Juneau Empire