Saltwater fills dig site of Juneau cultural center

JUNEAU, Alaska — Water from high tides is holding up a major Juneau construction project.

Saltwater seeped up and flooded an excavation site Thursday for the Sealaska Heritage Institute’s new Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultural center, the Juneau Empire reported Friday.

Officials made sure the construction site at the Walter Soboleff Center on Front and Seward streets in downtown Juneau wasn’t flooded by a broken water line, and they confirmed it was from the high tide.

“The flooding is probably going to happen again the next couple of days,” said City and Borough of Juneau Engineering Director Rorie Watt.

Front Street was Juneau’s original shoreline. Waste rock, which is also known as shot rock, from the AJ Mine was used to fill the area and extend the shoreline.

Water can still push through the shot rock because it is, as Watt described, “pretty cobble-y and filled with space.”

“For the Sealaska project, the water is just finding a path of least resistance,” he added.

Construction crews attempted to pump water out of the 15-foot hole.

Watt said another high tide expected Friday probably will put water into the excavation again.

The high tide reached 18.7 feet Thursday afternoon, about the same predicted for Friday, according to tide data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Ground was broken in July on the center, named for Walter Soboleff, the Tlingit spiritual leader who died in 2011 at age 102.

The center’s features are expected to include art demonstration, exhibit and performance space, a research facility, library and collections storage.

Public and private funds have been raised for the $20 million project. Sealaska Heritage Institute still must raise about $4 million.

The target is to complete construction by December 2014.

Sealaska Heritage Institute is the nonprofit cultural and educational arm of Juneau-based Sealaska Corp., a regional Native corporation.

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