What's up with that?

The Empire ponders Juneau's puzzles, unravels its mysteries and contemplates its conundrums.

Posted: Thursday, August 01, 2002

Q: There are two creeks - one on Douglas Island named "Kowee" and the other near the end of the road 30 miles north of downtown named "Cowee." They are obviously two different creeks, but what's up with these two names being so similar?

A: According to the "Dictionary of Alaska Place Names," Kowee Creek on Douglas was named for Chief Kowee ... "of the Auk Tlingit Indians, who reportedly had his summer home at the mouth of the creek and who is credited with having guided Joe Juneau and Dick Harris to their gold find at Silver Bow Basin in 1880. Early miners spelled the name "Kowee" or "Kow-eeh," but after the U.S. Geological Service mapped the area in 1903, the name was (mistakenly) published as "Cowee Creek." The creek on the mainland then got stuck with this close, but incorrect spelling.

Editor's note: There are many names in Alaska that have similar spelling. For an interesting trip into this confusing subject, look up "Auk," "Auke" and "Aak'w."

Speaking of Auke ...

Q: Auke Lake is so beautiful. What can you tell me about it? Is it natural or manmade? How large and deep is it? What kind of fish are in it? What water sources feed it?

A: According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Auke Lake is 166 acres with a depth of 100 feet. It appears to be manmade due to the highway on the west side that looks like it could be a dam, but is indeed natural. It is primarily fed by Lake Creek with the overflow carried away via Auke Creek into the bay. Native populations of Dolly Varden, cutthroat trout and four species of salmon are present in fishable numbers.

Q: I was driving on the old highway at the Pioneers' Home driveway entrance when I noticed a bunch of yellow curled-up attachments on the power lines overhead. What's up with these. What do they do? I've never seen anything like them before!"

A: David Stone, our source of information regarding AEL&P activities, said the electric company is very concerned about the safety of birds (primarily eagles) and has developed a Raptor Protection Program. AEL&P uses these yellow markers to help eagles and myriad other birds notice an obstacle up ahead and avoid hitting the electric lines. They also have installed metal triangles on cross arms and metal spikes on electrical transformers to discourage birds from perching on the equipment.

Q: The cruise ships that are in town every day look really neat. Is there anyway we (locals) could get on a ship for a tour? I'd be willing to pay.

A: "Years ago, the ships were pretty much open to the public. Passengers and tourists could come and go," said Kirby Day from Princess Cruise Lines. "Later, we had 'visitors' day' ever so often, we offered tours to fifth-grade students and other special events for civic organizations. As of Sept. 11, however, all that changed. We are now under very tight security including metal detectors. This has all been set into motion by the U.S. Coast Guard. We still honor the student tours, but everything else has pretty much been stopped - paid or otherwise. Hopefully someday we can reopen the ships."

Q: Why is there one of the city's oil response barges on the roadside of the transient float when the only time that it can get out is on low tide since it has to go under a set of foot brides to reach the channel. So oil spills must only happen at low tide during certain times of the month?

A: "The barges belong to Seapro based in Ketchikan and have smaller jet-drive powered boats that can be unloaded and respond to a call when needed," according to Chuck Wescott, city harbormaster. Wescott said the barges were recently docked inside the area mentioned for maintenance but have since been moved to the National Guard dock where they are stationed now - on call.

Q: I have heard that more electrical service will be installed at the Auke Bay public floats, but have not seen any activity on that. What's up? Are they going to put electric in or not?

A: Back to Chuck Wescott, harbormaster: "The contract for additional electric service has been awarded to Alaska Electric. The plan is to add as many 50- and 30-amp service outlets as money allows, which should take us over halfway to having service available at the dock. All of this work should be completed by the end of September and ready for the winter," he added.

To get the crack What's Up With That research team to work for you, send questions or comments to whatsup@juneauempire.com, or call Andrew or Mel at 586-3740.

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