Assembly nixes boat size limits on Auke Lake

Auke Lake boating season usually begins with the first warm weather in May. For the second year, the CBJ Parks and Recreation will collect data on lake activities. (Photo by Alaskan Librarian/Flickr CC)

Auke Lake boating season begins with the first warm weather in May. For the second year, CBJ Parks and Recreation will collect data on lake activities. (Photo by Alaskan Librarian/Flickr CC)

Size restrictions on motor boats using Auke Lake have been lifted.

The Juneau Assembly Monday night eliminated a 16-foot limit on boats that has been in place since the 1990s. At the same time, members voted to prohibit the flushing or rinsing of boat engines in the fresh water lake.

Like so many Assembly votes, the panel voted five to four on the ordinance to amend Auke Lake regulations – and voted against a recommendation of its own Lands Committee.

The committee last month opposed doing away with the boat size limit, but agreed with the engine flushing ban.

Assembly members voting to relax boat size restrictions were Jerry Nankervis, Randy Wanamaker, Carlton Smith, Mary Becker, and Mayor Merrill Sanford. Both Smith and Becker are on the Lands Committee. Jesse Kiehl and Loren Jones are also on that committee, but on Monday they stuck to their original vote to retain the size limit. They were joined by Karen Crane and Kate Troll.

Auke Lake is owned by the state of Alaska and managed by the city. Following a fatal accident two years ago, the Assembly asked the Parks and Recreation Department to re-evaluate the management plan.

The Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee last year recommended a new plan that would replace vessel size regulations with a 10-horse power limit, and restrict towing. The Assembly refused to consider the proposal, asking instead for more information on lake activities.

CBJ Parks Superintendent George Schaaf told the Assembly that last summer’s  data showed jet skis violated regulations more often than bigger boats.

“We broke it down by personal watercraft as defined by the National Personal Watercraft Association, so jet skis, and then anything other than a jet ski that was a powered vessel,” Schaaf said. “And the personal watercraft were responsible for more observed violations last summer than the other vessels were.”

The study will continue through the upcoming summer, according to Parks and Recreation Director Brent Fischer. That will give the department two boating seasons of data.

“We’re going to continue collecting what type of vessels, numbers, days of high population, just general usage, whether it’s a summer day, rainy day; any violations of the ordinance, whether it has to do with no wake zones, or no vessel zones or anything like that,” Fischer said.

He said once the data is analyzed, the information will be presented to the Assembly, and members will be asked to review the proposed management plan again.

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