Assembly to review Auke Lake Management Plan tonight

The ice has cleared from Auke Lake and boating season is soon to start.

The ice has cleared from Auke Lake and boating season is soon to start. (Photo by Heather Bryant/KTOO)

The Juneau Assembly tonight (Monday) will hear details of the Auke Lake Management Plan, long after the ice has gone out and spring boating season is about to begin.

CBJ Parks and Recreation staff released the proposal in January.  The Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee adopted it soon after; Parks and Rec wanted to have it before the Assembly in February.

The management recommendations are the result of months of study and public hearings, prompted by an accident on the lake last July that resulted in the death of a Juneau teenager.  But Assembly Committee of the Whole meetings this winter  have been focused on the perennial problem of affordable housing.

Parks & Recreation Director Brent Fischer admits the delay is frustrating. He’d hoped any management changes for the lake would be in place this month.

The Committee of the Whole is the first stop in the Assembly process.  Members tonight could adopt all, some, or none of the recommendations, or decide to rewrite them.

“Then they have to be brought forth from the Committee of the Whole up to the Assembly for introduction, and then they have to then go through public testimony the following month and then are enacted 30 days after they’re adopted.  I mean we’re looking at probably July for ordinance change if they do that,” Fischer says.

Fischer hopes the committee will adopt the management proposal, which would replace current vessel size regulations with a 10-horse power limit.  That eliminates jet skis, water skiing and wake boarding. No towing would be allowed.

At the time of the accident, sixteen-year-old Savannah Cayce was riding in an inner tube being towed by a jet ski that collided with another jet ski.

The draft plan says existing motorized-use levels on the lake far exceed its carrying capacity. That Auke Lake is the only navigable lake on Juneau’s road system – a frequent argument from watercraft users – does not change the fact that it is too small for high-horse power activities, according to the report.

Parks and Recreation staff will lay out the recommendations tonight, which is strictly a work session.

Parks Superintendent George Schaff has done much of the work on the plan. He will outline the process, the public meetings and comments:

“The management plan is our best effort at developing a plan to manage the lake that reflects our professional judgment, the research we did and the people we spoke with in looking at how other communities manage their lakes.”

The proposed carrying capacity is based on the U.S. Interior Department’s Water and Land Recreation Opportunity Spectrum, or WALROS.

For now, Auke Lake will be managed under current ordinances.  The parks department can only set new buoys described in the plan, which must be done to comply with state law.

Tonight’s meeting is at 6 o’clock in Assembly chambers. It was to be focused only on Auke Lake, but a new parking ordinance and the city attorney hiring process have now been added to the agenda.

No public testimony is taken at Committee of the Whole meetings.

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