On Tuesday, March 20, the Planning Commission will consider Totem Creek's plan for a golf course near the end of North Douglas Highway. If Totem Creek obtains the permit, it will expect the assembly to sell it about 400 acres of city land at a bargain rate, so it can build a private golf course.
Golf is a fine game, but I've never played it and probably never will. To me, the golf course means taking forest (good for hunting, hiking and supplying clean water) and turning it into a lawn for people to knock little balls around. The golf course also means dump trucks cruising past my house and houses of every other North Douglas resident during construction. Naturally, I am less than enthusiastic about the project.
If you don't live on North Douglas, consider that the golf course will intersect with tributaries to Peterson Creek, which runs near the end of North Douglas Highway. Peterson Creek and its tributaries provide cohos for the local sport fishery. A lot of creeks along the Juneau road system don't have the salmon runs they used to, which makes Peterson Creek even more important. Also, the golf course is going to replace deer and bear habitat, in an area used by both hunters and hikers. Remember that this is our city land which Totem Creek wants. Is this how you want the city to use the area?
How could a golf course hurt the salmon streams? Erosion from the clearing and construction can silt up the tributaries, and the silt can run down into Peterson Creek. Assuming that the construction is well-managed, the golf course plan calls for very minimal buffer strips along the Peterson Creek tributaries, which are catalogued as salmon streams by the Department of Fish and Game. Totem Creek has indicated willingness to provide 66-foot buffers to each side of the streams. In contrast, the city staff recommends a minimum of 100-foot buffer strips. Fertilizer and pesticide runoff from the hundred-plus acres of lawn can wipe out the juvenile salmon. To give Totem Creek credit, they have stated that they do not plan to use pesticides, and that they will be very careful with fertilizer use. But they have refused to actually commit to a "no pesticide" policy. So far, they have talked they talk very well, but it's talk, but there is no way to hold them to their advertising later.
Finally, this golf course is an example of "suburban sprawl" moving faster than infrastructure. The city is not extending water and sewer lines out to the end of North Douglas Highway. So Totem Creek apparently is going to operate its busy golf course with a big septic tank. The amount of barely-treated sewage going into the Gastineau Channel is already pretty depressing, without adding to that problem.
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