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Golf course delayed

Posted: Wednesday, October 24, 2001

The golf course slated for North Douglas has hit another snag in its efforts to get a city permit, and the developers are crying foul.

Totem Creek Inc., the nonprofit organization that won a city request for proposals to develop a golf course above Peterson Creek on Douglas Island, has been told to redesign the course because of a recommendation by the state Department of Fish and Game.

The department recently located 21 additional intermittent streams and fish habitat areas on the 200-acre site proposed for the course.

Catherine Pohl, assistant area habitat biologist for Fish and Game, said the department knew about the newly mapped streams in 1998 but could not accurately map them until September of this year.

She said if the conditions of the state's permit for the site are not met, construction can't proceed. Those conditions include buffer zones around streams and tributaries.

John Barnett, president of Totem Creek, said it is a calculated attempt to block construction of the course.

"We just think the whole process is being abused. ... They chose the months with the most rainfall to do this study, when most people wouldn't be golfing anyway in September," Barnett said. "It's a moving target and no one's playing by the rules. ... We should have had our permit four years ago."

The controversial golf course has been in the works since the early 1980s. Totem Creek, funded in part by the Juneau Golf Club, has been trying for four years to obtain a city conditional use permit to develop the property.

Carl Schrader, biologist for Fish and Game, said the discovery of the streams is part of an ongoing effort by the agency to ensure Totem Creek is complying with the more than 30 conditions attached to its state permit to build.

He said the department also is responsible for advising the city and keeping it up to date on the status of the area and Totem Creek's compliance.

He said the latest mapping of the site happened this fall because until now the department did not have staffing or funds to complete the process. Because of a recent grant, the department was able to map the site.

Pohl said Fish and Game thought Totem would do a habitat assessment study before now. The department would have had to assist with the study, but it didn't take place. She also said it's possible the department may still discover underground springs that feed the streams.

"We have to make sure that when they are laying out the course design they are not setting the fairways on these streams and tributaries," Schrader said.

"We have to make sure they have setbacks so that fertilizer and pesticides used to maintain the fairways don't wash into the streams and that habitats are buffered and protected. ... We have to make sure the water quality stays really clean," he said.

But Totem Creek's Vice President Peter Metcalfe said it is an example of "too much, too late." He said Totem Creek voluntarily added 66-foot buffers in its plans to existing streams and tributaries and met the standards for controlling runoff from pesticides and fertilizers.

He also said Totem Creek has studied the effects of the course on nearby fish and wildlife and incorporated improvements into its plans.

Metcalfe said the nonprofit group is in the process of redesigning the course, and may present a final design to the Juneau Planning Commission in November.

"The beauty of a golf course is the ability to design it around obstacles," Metcalfe said. "This won't stop us. We are determined to do something good for the community. And dealing with this opposition has made me more stubbornly determined."

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Melanie Plenda can be reached at mplenda@juneauempire.com.



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