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Lemon Creek gravel mining upsets residents

Posted: December 3, 2012 - 12:01am

Owners of the River’s Edge Condominiums turned out to air their concerns over the renewal of a permit to extract gravel from nearby Lemon Creek.

For the past six years Secon, a subsidiary of Colaska Inc. has held a permit to remove gravel from a privately-owned section of Lemon Creek. A new permit would allow the company to extract up to 35,000 cubic yards of gravel from Lemon Creek each year for the next six years.

The grading and paving company contracts an excavator to extract the material from the center of gravel bars that Lemon Creek moves and recreates each flooding season.

The gravel is washed down from further up the river in Hidden Valley, filling in the streambed downstream by inches a year. The concern is that the channelized river could eventually flood without regular gravel removal.

“If it is not mined it will fill in,” Michael Short engineer manager for Secon said at the Monday meeting. Gravel can be either mined at the current location or in Hidden Valley, he said. “Or else it will flood.”

Secon operates in the winter and early spring. The ground must be frozen to get the heavy machinery safely to the extraction site. The upshot with this is the company must break through the layer of frost and ice to get to the loose gravel beneath.

Half a dozen nearby residents testified to the planning commission on Monday that the work causes vibrations akin to a small earthquake.

“Especially when they are trying to break through the ice,” River’s Edge Condominiums resident Sally Caldwell said.

The vibration, they said, has caused their units to shift and cracks to open in the walls and tiling.

Commissioners did not decide on the permit at Monday’s meeting. The commission is scheduled to take up the permit again at is Dec. 11 meeting.

• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at russell.stigall@juneauempire.com.

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