Lab beginning to grow in Auke Lake forest

Federal researchers expected to work with university students, staff
Aaron Konrad, left, and Marty Baker of Schmolck Mechanical Contractors set the height of a floor drain as they work on the new Pacific Northwest Research Station's Juneau Forestry Sciences Laboratory near the UAS campus on Tuesday.

Site preparation and foundation work for the new U.S. Forest Service laboratory is nearly completed, after a long winter delay.

Ground was broken for the Pacific Northwest Research Station’s Juneau Forestry Laboratory last summer, but then weather forced a construction period between mid-December and mid-March, said Paul Brewster, who runs the facility.

“Things are progressing quite rapidly, since the restart in mid-March things have been proceeding quite well,” he said.

The forest scientists working in Juneau have long sought the new facility, but both they and the University of Alaska Southeast wanted to be close together.

The site they found on Forest Service land on Auke Lake will locate the federal scientists close by their university counterparts, he said

The new 11,000-square-foot building between the central campus and student residences will house staff that have been working for years in borrowed quarters at Juneau’s old National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration building.

Now, the seven scientists, half-dozen professional support staff, two administrative staff and administrator Brewster will be in the forested campus location by early next year.

Brewster said contractor Dawson Construction hopes to begin raising walls soon and have the building closed in before the winter weather arrives.

“Dawson wants to complete all of the exterior parts of the building, landscaping and paving by the latter part of summer or early fall,” Brewster said.

Brewster called the site of the new building “fairly challenging,” with slopes, nearby trees and a buffer of trees that partially screens a few of the buildings from the lake and nearby homes.

“We were very careful to minimize the footprint of the site,” Brewster said.

The Forest Service was able to call upon some of its own forest pathologists to determine which trees could be kept and which might be at risk of falling and would have to go, he said.

“They held up through the winter, there wasn’t any wind throw,” he said.

The $8.5 million building, including labs and offices, will also feature a ground-source heat pump system for which wells under the parking lot have already been drilled, he said.

That will help minimize costs for the Forest Service for the long term, he said.

Brewster said the project remains on schedule for completion next year.

“Things are really cranking along now,” he said.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or at



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