Water study to be released piecemeal, Watt says

CBJ Engineering Director Rorie Watt talks about his water system study at the Juneau Chamber of Commerce Thursday. (Photo by Casey Kelly/KTOO)

City and Borough of Juneau Engineering Director Rorie Watt plans to start releasing parts of a study on the city’s water supply early next year.

In August, the Juneau Assembly appropriated 250-thousand dollars for the study – part of the city’s exploration of re-opening the AJ Mine. The city owns two-thirds of the old mine, located in Last Chance Basin – Juneau’s main source of drinking water.

Yesterday (Thursday), Watt told the Juneau Chamber of Commerce that he plans to release the study piecemeal, to avoid throwing too much gasoline on an already explosive issue.

“To some people it may look like we’re moving very slowly, and too slowly,” Watt says. “But that’s intentional, quite frankly. I’m trying to do a very deliberate process, and I think that’s what the community needs.”

Watt says the study will have four parts. The first will focus on the history of Juneau’s water system. Part two will cover current risks. Possible expansion of the system will be discussed in part three. And part four will talk about future risks, including the AJ Mine.

Watt says the analysis will attempt to answer two big questions: Is the threat posed to Juneau’s water system a fatal flaw for re-opening the AJ Mine? And how does the city maintain its standard of living and promote economic development in the face of threats to the system?

“It’s not a simple question of, can you have jobs, can you have clean drinking water?” he says.

Watt hopes to release the first two parts of the water study in January or February. He says the rest will be rolled out slowly after that, but he did not say when the whole report would be available.

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