Use of Jet Skis on Auke Lake to get more study

Committee to look at hours, restrictions before reporting to Assembly

Posted: Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The wakes left by personal watercraft on Auke Lake are still rippling through city government.

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The Assembly Lands Committee considered a draft ordinance for motorized watercraft on Auke Lake on Monday night, eventually deciding further review is needed before the ordinance moves on to the Assembly.

"We are going to try and collect data that we will then use to make a more informed decision," said Assembly and Lands Committee member David Stone.

The draft ordinance addressed the hours of operation, prohibited areas, imposed restrictions on wakes and idling, prohibited refueling on or near the lake, limited vessel size and set rules for right-of-way.

Under the proposal, motorized use of the lake would be limited to 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday between June 1 and Aug. 31. During the same dates on Fridays and Saturdays, it was suggested the hours of operation go from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Between Sept. 1 and May 31 the hours would be shorten by one hour in the evening.

The draft also suggests restricting boats to 16 feet in length on the lake. Fueling would be prohibited on the lake, in the Glacier Highway Auke Lake wayside, and within 50 feet of the lake shoreline.

"We're coming toward a common approach, where no one is really happy but it looks like there will be acceptance when it comes to the decision by the lands committee," Stone said.

Supporters of personal watercraft on Auke Lake say the area is the safest place to ride these vehicles and go water-skiing in Juneau. They think it would hurt the city if another recreation area is off-limits for youth.

George Reifenstein, who lives near Auke Lake and attended the meeting, said the ordinance does not address some of the key issues of people concerned about personal-watercraft use on the lake.

"It left a lot of things very loose and I'm sure neither side is exactly happy with where it is," he said. "But there was a lot that didn't get put in front of the Assembly. A lot of the hard issues were evaded by how the ordinance was written."

Reifenstein said the ordinance failed to address safety concerns and phasing out engines that are known to have high fuel-emission levels.

Stone said the committee asked staff to take a closer look at some issues, such as potential costs of enforcement, setting up a firm no-wake boundary, and water sampling for hydrocarbons.

"I think what we're going to see is an ordinance as well as what the costs will be," Stone said.

He said another draft of the ordinance will come before the Lands Committee, possibly at its Aug. 28 meeting, before it moves on to the Assembly.

Stone said the community deserves to have a plan set in place that considers the homeowners, lake users and the environment.

"Clearly this is the most accessible, pretty, clear water lake where we live," he said.

• Eric Morrison can be reached at

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