Wetlands board seeks Berners Bay working group

Posted: Thursday, July 29, 2004

Juneau's Wetlands Review Board issued four key recommendations related to the proposed Kensington mine, including creation of a Berners Bay Working Group, at a special meeting Wednesday evening.

The recommendations were given to Peter Freese, the city's planning supervisor, who will incorporate them in his upcoming report to the Juneau Planning Commission on the gold project.

Coeur Alaska's mine 45 miles northwest of downtown Juneau cannot be built unless the city issues an allowable-use permit. The permit conditions are based on requirements in the city's coastal management plan. The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing and vote on the proposal on Aug. 31.

The Wetlands Review Board recommended:

• Construction of the mine's marine terminals should not occur in Slate Creek Cove during the spring concentrations of forage fish in that area.

• A strong monitoring and reporting system for environmental impacts to water bodies in the Slate Lakes basin and Slate Creek Cove should be put in place, with emphasis on existing fish populations.

• Species in Slate Creek Cove should be monitored for vessel impacts, and measures should be taken to reduce any impacts, including limits on vessel speed, routes and timing.

• Coeur Alaska should sponsor a Berners Bay Working Group to coordinate activities and promote good communication among agencies, Coeur and the public.

Board member Andrew Campbell said he thinks construction of a dock at Slate Creek Cove could be "a big impact" on aquatic life in Berners Bay. The dock would be a terminal for a commuter ferry for the mine. The draft environmental report on the project by the U.S. Forest Service "doesn't really land anywhere on what those impacts will be," Campbell said.

The Forest Service's final report is expected in November.

On Wednesday, the board rejected two proposals: to require Coeur Alaska to mitigate for loss of fish populations during its use of Lower Slate Lake to dump mine tailings; and to require the company to keep Upper Slate Lake intact.

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