Drinking Water Supply Plan protects CBJ water system

A map of the City of Juneau's water system.

A map of the City of Juneau's water system. (Map by the City/Borough of Juneau)

A drinking water supply plan for Juneau will come up for a public hearing before the Assembly later this summer.

The Assembly Committee of the Whole Monday night adopted the draft plan and approved a resolution calling for a “roadmap” to ensure safe water.

The drinking water supply plan was the top priority of the AJ Mine Advisory Committee last year, whether or not the old AJ Mine ever re-opens.

CBJ Engineering Director Rorie Watt has been working with the Assembly on a water plan for several months. It includes policies to guide water supply system and management.

The first policy — to maintain excellent quality and quality of drinking water system — is the key to the entire plan and the recommendation that grew out of months of advisory committee discussions and public meetings.

“It is one of our highest priorities of services that we provide to the public,” Watt told the Assembly committee. “I don’t think that we can flinch on the quality and quantity of the water that we supply.”

The CBJ water supply comes from five deep wells in the Last Chance Basin well field. Salmon Creek is the second, though interruptible source, and will require major maintenance in coming years.

Watt said Salmon Creek provides the best opportunity for expanding Juneau’s water system, as long as a filtration plant is built.

Two of the draft water plan policies acknowledged that CBJ may lease its mine property to an operator at some point, which could impact the city’s water system.

Just noting future mine development triggers concern among residents who oppose it. Assembly member Karen Crane said she’d heard from a number of people worried a water plan would lead to a mine.

“On the record we need to say that certainly was a recommendation of the advisory committee, but this is not permitting of the mine,” she said.

The Committee of the Whole voted to delete one reference to a future mine, and rewrote another to require a mine operator to divert drainage tunnels away from the well fields.

CBJ owns two-thirds of the former AJ mining property and Alaska Electric Light and Power owns the rest. It has not been mined since the 1940s, and efforts to redevelop the mine in the 1980s and 1990s proved to be very controversial.

The plan and resolution outlining the city’s position on the drinking water system is expected to come up for a public hearing at a regular Assembly meeting in July.

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