Flooded construction site a reminder of Juneau's mining history

Last week's flooding of the Walter Soboleff Cultural Center excavation site in downtown Juneau is a reminder of the city's mining history. Downtown Juneau sits at sea level and much of the area is built on wooden pilings and mine tailings. The waterfront was actually at Front Street before the AJ Mine was operating at full capacity. This is a photograph of Juneau's waterfront circa 1930s. AJ Mine is in the foreground.

Work on the Walter Soboleff Cultural Center in downtown Juneau will resume Monday, Dawson Construction Project Superintendent Len Andrews said.

Work was halted Thursday after a high tide flooded the excavation site. Andrews said engineers and crew on the project were expecting the flooding, they just weren’t sure when.

“I was actually relieved that we didn’t have to deal with the tides until now,” Andrews said. “The building was designed knowing that the water is there. Even when we don’t have high tidewater, we have groundwater coming in from the hill above.”

A storm surge on Friday didn’t help the situation. The National Weather Service says Juneau got just over an inch of rain that day.

Andrews said the crew now knows that it will take a tide just over 18 feet to flood the site. The next tide that high will come Oct. 5.

“We’ll be installing a larger electric water pump so we can get the water out faster and go back to work faster,” Andrews said. “When the water comes, it really doesn’t do any harm. All it’s done is chased us out of the hole a few times.”

Downtown Juneau sits at sea level and much of the area is built on wooden pilings and mine tailings. The waterfront was actually at Front Street before the AJ Mine was operating at full capacity.

Andrews said once the initial sacrificial slab is laid into the site, workers will lay down foam and a waterproof membrane. Andrews said the slab should stop much of the water that comes with a high tide until the 11-foot high concrete walls will go up. Once the walls are waterproofed, Andrews said the tide would no longer be an issue.

• Contact reporter Jennifer Canfield at 523-2279 or at jennifer.n.canfield@juneauempire.com.

Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/canfieldjenn.

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