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Assembly delays Auke Lake ordinance revisions

Posted: May 6, 2013 - 8:33pm  |  Updated: May 7, 2013 - 12:10am

The Borough Assembly Committee of the Whole gathered Monday night and rejected recommended revisions to the Auke Lake Management Plan. The revisions sought further solutions to policing and regulating the activity on the lake which lead to the injury and subsequent death of a 16-year-old girl late last year in a tubing accident involving jet skis.

Although staff’s detailed research came through corroboration between the Department of Natural Resources, State Troopers, the U.S. Coast Guard and several others sources over the past months to evaluate the effectiveness of current regulations, the Assembly ultimately decided against the revisions.

“It seems to me like there are far more questions than answers,” said Assembly Chair Mary Becker. “I don’t personally feel that it’s ready to go.”

The revisions suggested limiting boat length and engine horsepower while prohibiting any towing of vessels or objects on the lake. In limiting horsepower, policing and enforcing current laws would become easier.

“Horespower is directly related to accident rates. Wake and speed limits are impossible to enforce,” said George Schaaf, Superintendent of Parks and Recreation.

The plan also sought to increase enforcement of the regulations around the lake through educational programs and through the installation of standard regulatory buoys with improved signage. By also encouraging boaters to complete a safety course, the plan hoped to lessen boating accidents on the lake while educating boaters on standard lake ordinances.

Assembly members lauded the Parks and Recreation Department’s efforts, but many questions remained unanswered. Among them, Assembly members wanted to see more factual data.

Assemblymen Jesse Kiehl asked if a boat’s length serves as a proxy to determine safety. Assemblymen Carlton Smith wanted to see more consistent data over a longer period of time, saying he couldn’t sponsor the revisions “without data over at least a two year period.”

Mayor Sanford wanted more information on how many vessels are out there at any given time. Other assemblymembers echoed the need for further studies of the plan, which was implemented by the Assembly in 2007.

Assemblymember Randy Wanamaker raised a question unaddressed in the plans revisions.

“What is going to be the status of aircraft that have a right to use the lake now?” Wanamaker said.

“The recommendations and the plans that we produced are our best effort,” Schaaf said, stating that the resources aren’t available to compile such immense data. However, two more years of research would render too many opportunities for future accidents.

“I think it can be a dangerous place now and we need to take some steps to lessen the problems,” Assemblymen Karen Crane said of the lakes current management. The Assembly collectively agreed to seek out clearer and improved signage around the lake, leaving open the possibility to explore further options in the future.

“I think that we should consider the new ordinance when the data exists,” Smith said.

Contact reporter Kenneth Rosen at 523-2250 or at kenneth.rosen@juneauempire.com.

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