The Juneau Assembly has given its tentative blessing to a Municipal Drinking Walter Supply Plan.
Meeting as a Committee of the whole Monday evening, the panel moved a resolution onto the regular Assembly, so the plan can be scheduled for a public hearing.
The plan grew out of the AJ Mine Advisory Committee’s work in 2011, when it considered the feasibility of re-opening the old gold mine near downtown. A study of Juneau’s water system and a drinking water supply plan were the Committee’s top priorities, whether or not the old AJ Mine were to reopen.
The plan will guide the capital city’s water system and management for years to come. It’s been before the Assembly on several occasions and each time CBJ Engineering Director Rorie Watt advises members to “read the report of the (AJ Mine) Advisory Committee and read the water study, and really understand them well.”
Watt told members it’s important they be able to discuss the water system policy with the public, “but in discussing the policy level, they want to talk about the details, and you need to understand what those plans and studies got into.”
Juneau’s water comes from five deep wells in Last Chance Basin. Salmon Creek is the second source, but interruptible, due to seasonal turbidity.
The 100-year-old dam is owned by Alaska Electric Light and Power. The company recently completed a structural stability review. The report indicates the dam is safe to operate.
Assembly member Jesse Kiehl asked Watt if he considers Salmon Creek an expansion or redundant source of water.
“I think a little bit of both. I think it’s good to have redundancy in our water system if we can afford it and if it gives us policy flexibility in how we manage our water system,” Watt said. “And I think with decreasing well capacity, replacing supply in general is also not a bad thing.”
Juneau voters in October approved the use of $1.53 million in sales tax revenue for water filtration at Salmon Creek. The money is to be allocated over fiscal years 2016 and 2017.
Watt says there are five actions that would trigger a decision to construct a filtration plant at Salmon Creek, including growth in Juneau, increased demand for city water from cruise ships, regulatory requirements, declining well field production and turbidity in Salmon Creek.