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Knik Construction Admits to Breaching the Water Table at a Gravel Pit in Dillingham

Russel Nelson

Knik Construction is operating a gravel pit in Dillingham to supply gravel for a large project at the Dillingham airport. The company confirms that the local water table has been breached as work continues in the pit. In recent weeks a large amount of water has been observed in the Knik Construction owned gravel pit along the Aleknagik Lake Road, leading to speculation that the water table in the area has been breached. The company declined to answer question on tape but via email the local superintendent, Troy Gray, confirmed that the water table has been breached but added that the company has been monitoring the water table elevation all year as well as turbidity since breaching. However, Gray claims the large amount of standing water in the pit is due to the rains the region has received this month. The prospect of the local water table being breached has resulted in concerns about possible impacts to the local water supply around the gravel pit. Gray confirms that Knik Construction has implemented a water monitoring program to see if they are impacting the water. He notes that so far the results have shown no impact from construction. The company has 3 wells on the property that Gray says are drilled to similar depths as the adjacent properties wells. Gray asserts the wells are being tested on a weekly basis and he claims that should identify a problem long before it would impact area residents. In the email Gray wrote,

“The nearest well to our construction activities is a Knik camp well and it has had no changes since starting our property development. It is still coming out clear and drinkable.”

It appears that it’s legal for Knik Construction to dig for gravel in the local water table but the practice is often discouraged. The best practices manual distributed by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation notes that in general, its recommended that mines maintain a minimum of 4 feet between gravel mining and the seasonal high water table. Gravel mines are not regulated by the City of Dillingham and it appears that Knik Construction has all of the necessary operating permits from DEC and the Alaska Department of Natural Resources. Last Tuesday the Dillingham Planning Commission approved a resolution recommending adoption of necessary changes to the City Code to address the development of material sites in Dillingham. The Planning Commission notes that the development of such sites can impact viewsheds and raise issues of noise, dust, potential harm to local wells and nearby streams. Currently Knik Construction plans to continue work in the gravel pit along Aleknagik Lake Road 24-hours a day for about 3-more weeks.