Knik Construction is Apparently Digging in the Water Table at Their Gravel Pit in Dillingham

Aug 23, 2013

An aerial view of the water in the large gravel pit being dug in Dillingham.
Credit Russel Nelson

The operator of a large and growing gravel pit in Dillingham has apparently admitted that they have broken into the water table.

For several weeks now residents near the large gravel pit along the Aleknagik Lake Road in Dillingham have been raising concerns about the scope of work in the pit. Those concerns prompted a meeting on Wednesday between Dillingham Mayor Alice Ruby and Steven Jansen. He’s the President of Knik Construction, which owns and is operating the pit. For the past couple of weeks a large amount of water has been observed in the bottom of the pit leading to speculation that Knik Construction has broken into the water table. Mayor Ruby says that was confirmed by Jansen during Wednesday’s meeting.

“Yes they are and they actually said it’s their intent to bail and that it was part of the original mining plan.”

It appears that it’s not illegal to dig below the water table but the practice is often discouraged. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s own best practices manual notes that in general, it is recommended that mines maintain a minimum of 4 feet of vertical separation distance between extraction operations and the seasonal high water table, and that they restrict activities that could significantly change the natural groundwater gradient.

Now that the operator of the gravel pit has apparently broken into the water table they are continuing to dig. Mayor Ruby says the Knik Construction President outlined the reclamation plan during Wednesday’s meeting.

“Their intent is that when they are finished mining in that pit they will reclaim the outer edge and there will be a lake in the bottom of the pit.”

The City of Dillingham does not have any regulations on the books that govern the activity of gravel pits within the city limits and Ruby confirms that the City was not aware that once the Knik Pit is closed it will become a lake. The process of developing regulations to govern gravel pits in Dillingham has not yet formally started but the City’s Planning Commission recently approved a resolution recommending that the city develop mining standards.