A geotechnical team has been in Haines collecting field data about the stability of the Beach Road landslide area, with a findings report expected by the end of the month.

Alaska Department of Transportation (DOT) technical engineer Travis Eckhoff, who is overseeing the work, said the team’s week-long visit, which ended Tuesday, was successful.

“They were able to access the slide area and surrounding slopes despite difficult conditions. The team identified numerous rock outcroppings in the recon area and were able to complete geologic structure measurements. They also completed four test pits along the temporary access road to characterize the slide debris and underlying material,” Eckhoff said.

He said next steps include analyzing the data, incorporating the information into models of the landslide event, and publishing a report to inform borough decisions.

On Dec. 2, a landslide on Beach Road ended two lives, destroyed several houses and separated the neighborhood from the rest of town. State geologists have said the area could be at heightened risk of another landslide due to a crack observed in the bedrock near the site of the original slide, but more information is needed to accurately assess the risk. Based on this information, the Haines Borough has kept the area immediately to the south of the slide path under mandatory evacuation since early December.

The geotechnical assessment, based on data collected this past week, is a first step in potentially reopening the area and reconnecting houses at the end of the road to utilities. The assessment was funded by the state.

“We’re hoping that we can get some direction (based on the information in the findings report) because we’re all in limbo,” Haines Borough Emergency Operations Center (EOC) incident commander Carolann Wooton said. “In the meantime, we continue to monitor the area and will try to keep folks informed.”

While the borough waits for the report, the majority of Beach Road residents remain displaced, unable to return to homes cut off from utilities, and in some cases, in a mandatory evacuation zone. Residents have been able to access houses via a temporary ATV road put in by Roger Schnabel with assembly approval. Recent wet, heavy snowfall has made ATV access challenging, according to Beach Road resident Todd Winkel.

Winkel said he hasn’t received any updates from the borough regarding the geotechnical team’s observations while in town. He said he hopes the borough will provide consistent updates moving forward. Winkel is one of several Beach Road residents who has urged the borough to take swift action to restore road access, reconnect homes to utilities and lift the mandatory evaluation order, instead of waiting for the findings report.

Eckhoff said the geotechnical assessment’s findings will also influence the state’s decision to fund another assessment later in the year, after snow has melted.