Juneau Assembly dives back into the AJ Mine issue tonight (Monday).
Members have had more than a month to review a draft study of the city’s water system, compiled by Engineering Director Rorie Watt. At tonight’s Committee of the Whole meeting, Watt says he’ll be seeking direction on what to do next.
“The Assembly has asked for this investigation,” Watt says. “And we’ll find out if they feel like it answers their questions, or if they need more information about water, or if they want to continue to consider mine development, or if they want to debate the topic. I’m not going to predict what they’re ready to do.”
Over the past year, the Assembly has been considering whether to pursue re-opening the old AJ Mine near downtown. The city owns part of the ore body, located in Last Chance Basin – Juneau’s main water supply.
A mine advisory task force last year urged the Assembly to request the water study. The draft report gives an overview of city’s water system, and identifies several scenarios and management concepts, with and without a gold mine operating nearby. The scenarios range from no action to leasing the AJ property to a mining company.
Watt has been gathering public input on the draft study. He says most people have had questions about the city’s water system, though a few categorically oppose mine development. Some of the written comments are included in the latest version of the study.
Watt says ultimately the Assembly will need to decide if the drinking water issue is a fatal flaw to any proposal to re-open the mine.
“That’s, at a policy level, what they need to decide,” says Watt. “And then once they are comfortable in having enough information to make that decision, we’ll see what happens.”
The Assembly last year appropriated $250,000 dollars for the water study. So far, Watt says $68,000 has been spent – about $33,000 to consultants Juneau Watershed Partnership, TetraTech and Carson Dorn. The rest has been spent on CBJ Engineering staff time.
Watt says he hasn’t made any major changes to the draft report, since bringing it to the Assembly at the end of February. At members’ request, he did add a better explanation of water flow rates to a technical section of the report.
Tonight’s Committee of the Whole meeting starts at 6 p.m. in Assembly chambers.