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Assembly to get first draft of AJ Mine water study Monday

Posted: February 26, 2012 - 1:11am

The first draft of the water study prompted by consideration of reopening the AJ Mine will be presented to the Assembly.

The Assembly will get its first look at it, and chance to ask questions, on Monday at its Committee of the Whole meeting. City Engineering Director Rorie Watt emphasized the version to be presented Monday is a draft, and the Assembly’s role on Monday is to ask preliminary questions as they take in the report. Watt has scheduled a public meeting for 7 p.m. on March 7 in Assembly Chambers for a more thorough conversation about the document. Watt also recommends the Assembly take up further discussion about it during its April 9 COW meeting.

The draft report, which was released Friday afternoon, is 80 pages long and reports on an overview of the water system, conditions and vulnerability of the watershed, water resources and permits that would be required for mining in Alaska, system improvements — a look at four places for upgrading the water system, development scenarios and the impact on water.

Regarding the vulnerability of Gold Creek and Last Chance Basin, the Juneau Watershed Partnership worked with the engineering department to evaluate and research many aspects of risk.

“The major threats to watershed health identified in the assessment were landslides/avalanches, the diversion of water through the mine’s drainage tunnels, mineralized sediments from historic mining activity, and the presence of two underground fuel tanks at the well field and commercial facilities and activities,” the report states.

It in its report, JWP outlined five recommendations which also include a need for more study as presented:

• Further study on the Gold Creek tunnel drainage system is needed to better understand how future mining developments might affect water quality and quantity in the Gold Creek system.

• Based on historic U.S. Geological Survey flow measurement and previous “fish kill” events, Gold Creek can have dramatic fluctuations of flow. A permanent stream-gaging station should be reestablished on Gold Creek to obtain a continuous record of flow, periodic discharge, and other information in order for city and Alaska Electric Light & Power land managers to understand the relationship between seasonal flow and discharge in Gold Creek.

• Invasive and noxious weed survey and a long-term management plan for invasive weeds in the watershed should be conducted to help protect native plant populations.

• Restoring the tidally influenced, confined reach of the watershed could improve rearing and overwintering habitat for juvenile salmon and a large-scale restoration project could also improve the aesthetic values of the creek in the lower watershed.

• Additional development in the watershed must be planned and developed to protect and maintain water quality in Gold Creek for the municipal water system and for fish and other habitat values.

JWP’s review of the watershed and risks is 12 pages long.

Copies of the draft report can be found at bit.ly/mxtKT1 or by stopping by the department office on the third floor of Marine View Building. Public comment should be either mailed to the department via the comment form attached to the documentation, or emailed to rorie_watt@ci.juneau.ak.us by March 28.

In other business, the COW will receive information on an avalanche study and work on revision of commercial passenger vehicle regulation and ordinance changes.

• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at sarah.day@juneauempire.com.

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