I was dismayed by the support expressed for the proposed golf course during the candidate forum Monday night. Only Dixie Hood expressed financial concerns and Jim Powell gave support to the city's continuing effort to consider environmental impacts. The others endorsed the golf course with no acknowledgment of the numerous remaining concerns that have been expressed by Juneau citizens.
I was hopeful about the so-called "environmentally sensitive" golf course until I studied the environmental conditions of the site and learned what was at stake.
The golf course will require clearcutting critical fish and wildlife habitat. The area is an alluvial fan which means that streams migrate back and forth across the slope depositing gravel. Stream channels can literally change overnight during heavy rains (i.e. move into golf fairways). Alluvial fans also grow the largest spruce trees in Southeast Alaska because the soil is well-drained. So it is no wonder that researchers have found three landmark tree sites within the are to be impacted by the golf course. These giant trees have been protected by the surrounding forest for over 500 years. Clearcutting the forest around them will funnel the wind and expose the ancient trees to wind disturbance.
Many people believe Juneau could not have picked a worse site for the golf course. If the golf course gets built, it will be a monument to underhanded, however legal, city politics. The city assembly voted to rezone Peterson Creek for a golf course with minimal public notice and involvement. Even scientific members of Juneau's Wetlands Advisory Council didn't know about the zoning change until after it happened.
It is also disturbing that the city is allowing the planning process to proceed without considering the impacts of housing, although everyone knows that housing is what makes most golf courses financially viable.
The question posed to city assembly candidates last night should have been: Do you favor destroying one of two remaining pristine salmon streams in Juneau to build a golf course? Do you favor the destruction of the largest, most ancient trees remaining in Juneau to build a golf course?