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Assembly to get more info on water study

Posted: April 9, 2012 - 12:02am

The City and Borough of Juneau Assembly will get more information tonight on the AJ Mine Related Water Study and receive the written public comment submitted.

The Assembly meets as the Committee of the Whole at 6 p.m. in Assembly Chambers.

The sole item up for discussion is the study. City Engineering Director Rorie Watt presented the committee with the study on Feb. 27, and later held a public hearing to get feedback on the 80-page report. He received eight written comments, one representing Alaska Electric Light & Power and one representing SEACC (Southeast Alaska Conservation Council).

Larri Spengler, Thane resident, wrote in individually (she often represents the Thane Neighborhood Association), suggesting the water alternatives include no-mine options and ways to buffer the water system.

She also thought that in the “pros and cons” of the options, some of the “cons” needed to be clarified — including what exactly “human failure” means.

Roman Motyka, professor of Geophysics at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, also wrote in.

Motyka attended the public hearing, and was struck by Watt’s comments on the security of the Salmon Creek Dam. Motyka felt the current issues with the dam should be highlighted in the report.

“Certainly, it would be important to know the long-term status of the dam before any major capital expenditures are made, e.g., on a filtration plant,” he wrote. “Will AEL&P have to continue to draw down water levels with time for safety reasons? And there is the question of dam stability during a major earthquake.”

He also outlined more details of what should be included in the study regarding the dam.

AEL&P’s primary concern with the report is future scenarios that potentially divert water from the hydro system.

“As described in the study, AEL&P has interests in both the Gold Creek and Salmon Creek watersheds in that we have hydropower projects in both locations,” wrote Scott Willis, vice president of generation. “The Gold Creek hydro project provides a relatively small amount of Juneau’s electrical energy, but at times it is an important part of the electrical system. Scenarios which diminish the water available for the Gold Creek hydro project could result in higher diesel use in our standby generation system. Where possible, consideration should be given to returning any diverted flows to Gold Creek upstream of the AEL&P intake so as not to reduce generation from the Gold Creek hydro project.”

Joyce Levine wrote based on the information in the study she believes they shouldn’t open a mine there and the city should make efforts to stabilize the existing mine structures.

“After attending a couple of the meetings for the AJ Mine Related Water Study, it continues to concern me of the possibility of the threat to Juneau’s water supply should the AJ Mine reopen,” Levine wrote. “After listening to the possibilities of other water resources that are available in Juneau, there is clearly no other source that is as plentiful and as clean as the Gold Creek Water Supply for Juneau. Salmon Creek is not the same quality of water as Gold Creek and with the turbidity, presents other problems.”

She said the photos of mine structures deteriorating and falling apart are also a concern, and the city should consider reinforcing them to prevent a collapse or malfunction.

Levine said it may be time for the city to find another pure water source, and that any mining consideration at the AJ should stop until a secondary source is established.

The COW will take the information on Monday and could forward a recommendation for action to its acting body, have Watt seek more information, or other steps. The committee typically does not take public testimony.

For a full agenda and related documents, visit bit.ly/Hqy2Hp.

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

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