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Planning ponders Lemon Creek gravel extraction

Posted: December 17, 2012 - 1:02am

A local gravel contractor and a group of condominium owners await City and Borough of Juneau Planning Commission deliberations on a Lemon Creek gravel extraction permit.

Unit owners at River’s Edge Condominiums say Secon’s gravel extraction in Lemon Creek has damaged their homes and interrupted their lives.

“It was like a three-day earthquake,” River’s Edge condo owner Michael Dow said. “Everybody in the A building is complaining of the same damage. It’s not just coincidence.”

Dow said the brunt of the shaking took place as Secon broke through a deep frost layer to get to unfrozen gravel below.

Commissioner Nathan Bishop asked if the damage happened during mining. Dow said he could see the damage taking place each day.

“I vacuumed dust off the windowsill each day as the crack opened up,” Dow said.

Secon has extracted gravel from Lemon Creek for the last six years. The asphalt and gravel company is a subsidiary of Coalaska Inc. It came before the Planning Commission to request a permit to extract up to 35,000 cubic yards of gravel from the streambed a year for the next five years.

“We were trying to be a good neighbor,” said Michael Short, engineer manager for Secon.

Short said Secon’s contractors will not extract gravel when frost is deeper than two feet.

“It’s too costly and too much noise,” Short said. “As soon as we get to extreme frost we’re not going in there.”

Secon mines in the winter so its contracted excavators can operate on frozen ground. It is also constrained by the migration and impacts on salmon.

Secon is bound by a window of time designated by the Department of Fish and Game and Wildlife necessary to protect spawning adult salmon and young salmon.

Commissioner Ben Haight asked Short about methods of recording seismic jarring. Short said there are such devices and ideally the devices would be affixed to the affected condos.

The commission is scheduled to hear Secon’s permit again on at 7 p.m., Dec. 17 in the Assembly chambers.

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

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