My Turn: Auke Lake doesn't need a ban

Friends of Auke Lake's proposal smacks of NIMBYism, elitism

Posted: Sunday, May 06, 2007

Recently, the city's Lands Committee voted to ban motorized watercraft from Auke Lake on Sundays and Mondays until October. On Monday, the proposal will go before the Juneau Assembly.

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The move is ostensibly for studying hydrocarbon levels. But as we know, once something's been established it's hard to get it reversed. We also know very few nice days occur for water activities during our painfully short summers.

How did things get to this point?

The campaign to close Auke Lake was instigated by a very small minority called Friends of Auke Lake. The group's long-term goal is to ban motorized watercraft from Auke Lake. Members claim the lake's ecology is being endangered and write of the need to restore the lake.

This is nonsense.

The group's proposal to the city should never have progressed this far, because it contains no strong foundation. It smacks of NIMBYism. For example, two floatplanes owned by Friends of Auke Lake members are excluded from the ban plan.

I consider myself a very good friend of Auke Lake, a feeling born from living on its edge and observing it for 34 years. Most neighbors agree the lake isn't our personal playground; it belongs to everyone. Auke Lake is a hardy lake, and people use it, for the most part, responsibly. It's not in a state of growing degradation that necessitates restoring. The sky isn't falling.

A word about noise: When we moved to Auke Lake, we knew some noise is a natural part of living here, whether from a few days of water skiers, occasional weekend parties or airplanes roaring to take off at 6 a.m. on a weekend. Over time, user activity has increased slightly. Nevertheless, neighbors formed the Auke Lake Neighborhood Association for mitigating any potential problems. They created a gentlemen's agreement that included creating a no-wake zone in answer to those concerned about nesting sites and noise close to shore. This approach worked quite well.

Nevertheless, Friends of Auke Lake maintains it needs two days when it can use kayaks or canoes without listening to or being bothered by motorized users. The group has already been granted half of the 160 acre-lake for its exclusive use and has other places to paddle. This is the only freshwater lake skiers and boaters can access, and it's the only place to motor safely.

A word about pollution: Neither of the two studies regarding hydrocarbons cited by Friends of Auke Lake is definitive in their conclusions. Only minute traces of hydrocarbons were detected and couldn't be accounted for. The hydrocarbons could have come from motorized users, forest and road runoff, or from residential users. In addition, a national mitigation program has mandated motorized small craft to revert to fuel injected four-stroke engines by 2008, further cutting hydrocarbons and creating much quieter machines.

A word about wildlife: At the time we built here, neighbors told us beaver colonies had been trapped out. Eagles, mergansers and other wildlife were scarce. As I write, I'm looking out over a lake just barely free of ice. Earlier I saw mallards running on my lawn to escape a marauding otter. He's probably the one who hides under our overturned boat. He brings his buddies, too, looking to scout a meal of buffleheads, mallards and mergansers, which have finally returned after a long absence.

Beavers returned to the lake a few years ago, too.

I also enjoy more sightings of deer and black bear. Eagles are plentiful, adding to many predators on the lake such as hawks, owls and martins. Swans, cranes, herons and Canadian geese return yearly, and spawning salmon flock to Lake Creek. All of this increased wildlife activity has occurred during motorized activity on the lake.

I have visited lakeside homes other than Friends of Auke Lake members' and discovered the majority don't agree with the group's stand. Nor are Chapel by the Lake and the University of Alaska Southeast on board with Friends of Auke Lake.

The Assembly shouldn't be either. I hope any decisions they make Monday are inclusive and show tolerance for all. Fair, balanced and common sense use of Auke Lake is possible without a ban of any kind. Mother Earth can tolerate balance. Lake studies can take place during the workweek.

• Karleen Grummett is a Juneau resident.

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