Motorized boats to stay on lake

Auke Lake hearing stirs debate among residents

Posted: Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Following three hours of public testimony Monday, the Juneau Assembly voted against restricting motorized boat use Sundays and Mondays on Auke Lake.

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"I don't think it is appropriate for us to be restricting current use of a lake absent of scientific evidence (that water quality is negatively impacted)," said Assembly Member Jeff Bush.

"Unlike snowmachines, which is different, this particular user group has one place (to go)," he said.

Assemblyman Bob Doll disagreed with the vote.

"Two days a week is not asking too much," he said.

The public hearing Monday drew roughly 75 residents who spoke on the proposal submitted last spring by a citizens group, Friends of Auke Lake, to establish an operations code for motorized use at the lake. Previously, only a "gentleman's agreement" restricted users from certain portions of the lake.

Initially, the group had urged the city to prohibit motorized use Sunday and Monday, but that was amended by the Assembly during discussion.

However, the ordinance that passed limits vessel size to 16 feet or less, prohibits refueling on the lake, and also establishes fines for violators, ranging from $25 for getting caught with a glass container to $300 for not having a parks and recreations permit. It also established hours of use in summer from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m.

Supporters of the proposal raised concerns that hydrocarbons emitted by noisy personal watercraft and boats are toxic to the lake, which is also a popular kayaking and canoeing spot.

Assembly Member Sara Chambers said she would like to see further scientific studies about environmental impacts before the Assembly limits use.

"What I am hearing is at this point, this really isn't an environmental issue. It is a noise issue," she said.

The Muskegger

Visit Brittany Retherford's blog in which she delves a bit deeper into Southeast's natural resources.

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Water quality studies have been commissioned and will continue during summer.

Phil Mundy, director of the Auke Bay Laboratory, the state's largest fisheries research facility, said that the most current samples taken in 2006 do not demonstrate that hydrocarbons had reached levels high enough to compromise the fish hatchery.

A letter submitted during the meeting by the National Marine Fisheries Service, however, indicated that hydrocarbons in the lake were approaching levels that could affect fish embryos.

"This is pretty blunt," said Assembly Member Jonathan Anderson.

The public hearing sounded surprisingly similar to one held last week to discuss the future of snowmobiles at Eaglecrest Ski Area - only this time, motorized users are the ones staunchly defending their established turf.

Chris Prussing said in her testimony that the city should not be afraid to recognize that motorized and non-motorized uses can often conflict.

"Some activities are just incompatible," she said.

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