Auke Lake draft plan would restrict jet skis

Auke Lake from Auke Lake Trail head.

Jet skis, water skis and wake boards would not be allowed on Juneau’s Auke Lake, under a proposal to limit watercraft to 10 horsepower on the small lake.

The draft Auke Lake Management Plan also recommends towing restrictions.

The proposal was released Tuesday night  to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee, or PRAC.

After a Juneau teenager died from injuries in an accident on the lake last summer, the city began a review of ordinances regulating lake uses. Testimony from a series of public meetings, written comments, and other research form the basis of the draft plan, which was written by city parks and recreation department staff.

Director Brent Fischer said the U.S. Interior Department’s Water and Land Recreation Opportunity Spectrum, or WALROS, also was used to determine the carrying capacity – the number of vessels that can reasonably and safely use the lake.  Only 70 acres of the 165-acre Auke Lake are considered useable.

“The existing 16-foot length limit for motorized vessels should be replaced with a 10-horsepower limit,” Fischer said. “Due to the relatively small size of Auke Lake and its limited carrying capacity, the use of multiple high speed vessels is just not appropriate. Speed limits and wake restrictions are virtually impossible to enforce.  A horsepower limit provides a practical means of controlling vessel speeds. This will result in few user conflicts and allow more vessels to safely use the lake.”

The 10-horsepower restriction would not apply to aircraft taxiing on the lake.

The proposal also calls for the city to replace current buoys that delineate restricted areas with markers that comply with state regulations.  New maps and signs would go up, clearly explaining lake use, and regulations would be enforced by a CBJ park  ranger. The draft plan also maintains the existing no-wake zone and operating area, and a ban on refueling.

Fischer acknowledged the difficulty of including all Auke Lake user groups in the management plan.

“It is true that Auke Lake is one of only navigable lakes on the Juneau road system. However, the lack of other options does not change how it should be managed,” Fischer said. “Auke Lake cannot be all things to all users and must be actively managed to best achieve the management objectives developed by the community at large.”  

Only a handful of people came to the meeting and some didn’t stay once they heard that public comments would not be taken.

Commercial fisherman Aaron Woodrow had hoped to testify Tuesday night.  Before the meeting, he said he was teaching his 10-year-old daughter to waterski on the lake the day of the accident that killed Savannah Cayce. He was flagged down by a jet ski to help.

Woodrow said education is key to preventing accidents on the lake.

“There needs to be some guidelines of how to safely tow someone around the lake.  Myself and my friends have always followed some guidelines of towing around the perimeter, you know in straight lines. You don’t go zigzagging around because it’s not that big of a lake,” Woodrow said. “It’s just education.”

Lake shore resident Dave Hannah claims he has not missed a meeting about Auke Lake in the last decade.  He panned the draft management plan as “rife with error.”

“I think they misconstrued the characteristics of the lake.  They’ve misconstrued the attitude of the public. They’ve misconstrued the attitude of a lot of the residents of the lake.  I think they’ve misconstrued the ability of the lake to support the uses that are there,” he said.

Public comments on the draft management plan will be taken at a Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee meeting on January 29th.    Written comments can be made now to parks_rec@ci.juneau.ak.us.

PRAC members will use the comments as they determine changes they would like to see in the draft plan.  The PRAC will forward their recommendations to the CBJ Assembly next month.

Parks and Rec director Fischer said the goal is to have any new regulations in place before the ice melts on Auke Lake.

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