Twin Lakes drained for work

Posted: Sunday, September 24, 2000

Corroded slide gates connecting Twin Lakes and Gastineau Channel will be replaced in the next few months. In the meantime, the lakes will not be available for trout fishing.

"We picked up the ramp to the fish float this morning," said engineer Rorie Watt last Wednesday. Watt is the chief capital improvement projects project manager for the city.

The project to refurbish the lakes is a cooperative effort between the Juneau Parks and Recreation Department and the city Engineering Department. The budget is $33,000 and major work should be complete by Dec. 15, Watt said.

The old gates have been allowing saltwater to leak into the human-made freshwater lakes. While the slide gates are replaced, water levels will drop by about 8 feet in the north lake and 10 feet in the south, said Kim Kiefer of Juneau Parks and Recreation. Crews will take advantage of the lower levels to work on the problem with encroachment by an invasive weed called water milfoil, improve beach slopes and clean culverts.

Twin Lakes are a pair of artificial bodies of fresh water. They were developed from tidal mud flats and marsh in the mid-1970s when Egan Drive was created, as a concession to residents for all the disruption the highway construction had caused, Watt said. South Twin covers about 45 acres when full; North, about 30 acres.

Because of ongoing problems with plant life and leakage, "there has been some discussion abut turning North Twin Lake back into a marsh," Watt said.

In addition to fishing, walking, roller-blading, baby-stroller-pushing, picnicking and just sitting in the sun in the summer, Twin Lakes are popular during colder months for ice skating. One weekend in February 1998, the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council and local skating enthusiast John Ingalls organized a theme ice skating party in the Flemish tradition, complete with coal warming fire, ice hockey with a piece of coal as a puck, hot waffles and skating in the evening with lights and music.

Watt himself has been playing pickup games of ice hockey there for the last couple of years, he said.

"The city's position is that Parks and Rec does not promote skating there. However, it's our intention to get the gate valves back in place, so they can be used for normal recreation," Watt said.

Whether there will be skating depends on rainfall, he said, "but it's my guess the lakes will fill up."

Work on South Twin, which is "leaking badly," should be complete by Dec. 15. Watt expects work on North Twin to be completed in spring 2001.

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