Planners OK Goldbelt plan to blast rock

Commission delays quarry work for road to protect wild goats

Posted: Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Goats horned in on the city of Juneau's plan to allow quarry blasting for a Kensington Mine-related road this winter and early spring.

On Tuesday night the Juneau Planning Commission approved 5-1 Goldbelt Inc.'s proposal to quarry rock for a three-mile road to Cascade Point - the proposed launching point for a ferry to carry mine workers to the gold mine.

The commission, however, agreed to put a seasonal restriction on the quarry to protect the area's mountain goats. That likely means that road building won't enter full-swing until May. A similar restriction already is in place for road building.

Blasting rock between January and April could disturb pregnant nannies while their energy reserves are at their lowest, according to state biologists. Goldbelt, Juneau's urban Native corporation, originally claimed that the quarry wouldn't harm goats because they didn't overwinter in the area. But an Alaska Department of Fish and Game study showed that goats spend more time near the quarry than city officials originally understood, said city planning officer Tim Maguire.

In fact, in 1980, a radio-collared goat was monitored at the quarry for the entire January-April period, said Neil Barten, Fish and Game area wildlife management biologist.

The road to Cascade Point has already been approved by the U.S Forest Service and the Army Corps of Engineers, and the state has budgeted $1 million for the project. But state and federal authorities haven't yet approved the ferry terminal or the proposed Kensington Mine. Planning Commission member Marshall Kendziorek complained that no one has looked at the cumulative effects of the road, the ferry terminal, the quarry and the mine.

"Those four pieces to me seem to be inextricably linked," he said.

"This permit is for the rock quarry itself," Maguire responded. Goldbelt's David Goade noted that the quarry has no residential neighbors. "We're the only affected owner."

The quarry is tucked out of sight from Glacier Highway though it can be seen from the water inside Echo Cove. During the estimated four-month road construction project, the quarry is expected to double in size to 3 acres and may operate at all hours.

No large trucks would need to use Glacier Highway during quarry operations because of the ease of access to the road site.

The quarry's closest neighbors are the Echo Cove boat ramp, 1,000 feet away, and the Echo Cove Bible Camp, almost two miles to the northwest.

Goldbelt's consultants estimated that 30,000 cubic yards of rock would be removed and used for fill and surface material.

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