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Fox Spring

Fox Spring is a state-owned, state-maintained facility that is privately funded through a Memorandum of Agreement with the nonprofit corporation, Friends of Fox Spring, which is a member of the North Star Community Foundation. The Fox Spring facility is a well located at 2331 Elliott Highway in Fox, Alaska that provides free potable water to about 2000 local residents year-round. The well was purchased by the state in 1966, but recent budget concerns prompted the state to announce its intention to cease funding maintenance of Fox Spring. In response, the Friends of Fox Spring was organized to fundraise and solicit donations to reimburse the state for maintenance expenses, preserving public access to the free water source.

The continuation of maintenance operations at Fox Spring depends on the donations received by the Friends of Fox Spring. If you would like to donate, please visit the Friends of Fox Spring website or follow the Friends of Fox Spring on Facebook. For questions or comments about maintenance and operation of Fox Spring, contact the DOT&PF facilities maintenance shop at (907) 451-2308.

Update: 10/9/18

Fox Spring is now open to the public. The spring was closed on September 10, 2018 for repairs to the holding tank and to make necessary improvements to the wayside, including replacement of a culvert under the footpath leading to the building and watering point. We sincerely appreciate all the Fox Spring users’ patience while these necessary repairs and improvements were made. Thanks to the Friends of Fox Spring for their support and help in communicating with the public about the closure.

Update: 10/5/18

Work continues on the wayside and the repairs and installation of the holding tank are now complete. When we make major changes to the water system, it is routine and required to have the water checked by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. We will open Fox Spring as soon as we receive the all-clear, which we expect will be soon. We appreciate your patience during this closure and the support you have shown the Friends of Fox Spring.

Update: 9/21/18

The current closure of Fox Spring is now expected to last until approximately October 5. The repairs on the holding tank were successful and the tank was reinstalled. This work is expected to be complete early next week. As mentioned below, this closure was coordinated with improvements to the Fox Spring wayside that were included in the Elliott Highway MP 0-12 construction project. Currently, as part of that project, the contractor is replacing the culvert under the walkway. Replacing the culvert requires us to shut down the walkway and all access to the building, which is why the spring has to be closed while that work is performed. We expect that work to wrap up by approximately October 5, and to have Fox Spring open and in better shape for the community’s enjoyment this winter. Thank you all for your patience while we complete this important work.

Update: 9/5/18

Fox Spring will be closed starting Monday, September 10 for holding tank repairs. The closure is expected to last about a month. This closure is needed to repair a leak in the tank, which has been causing pipes to occasionally freeze in the winter. We hope these repairs will keep the well running all winter and prevent future freeze-ups.

The tank repairs will be coordinated with some of the improvement work scheduled as part of the Elliott Highway MP 0-12 project. Those improvements include replacing a culvert near the well and repaving the pull-out. As much as possible, we will work with the contractor to schedule that work at the same time as the tank repair, in order to minimize the closures and impact to the public.

We know that the long closure will be difficult, and we appreciate everyone’s patience while we make these important repairs. Repairing the current holding tank requires the tank to be removed, which may require taking apart some of the building around the tank. When the tank was originally installed, the building was built around it in such a way that it is very difficult to remove while keeping the structure totally intact. We won’t know the full extent of the work that needs to be done until we start next week. We hope the process goes smoothly and we will keep this website updated when new information is available.

Thank you all for your support. Please visit the Friends of Fox Spring website for more information about the non-profit that funds these repairs.

Update: 6/14/2018

The latest water quality report has been released and can be viewed here PDF document.

Update: 6/13/2018

The Elliott Highway MP 0-12 Rehabilitation project is expected to start this month and it will bring a few changes to the Fox Spring Wayside. Work planned for Fox Spring may begin in 2018 or 2019, depending on the contractor’s schedule and progress during the 2018 construction season.

Here’s what you can expect from the Fox Spring Wayside improvements:

  • Replacement and upgrade of the culvert under the pedestrian walkway
  • Streambank reconstruction and revegetation
  • Reconstruction of the pull-out surface with grading and paving work
  • Lighting upgrades and new guardrail
  • Widened pedestrian walkway

This work will require up to four closures of the wayside. All closures will require a minimum one-week advance notice. The closure notices will be posted at the Fox Spring Wayside and will also be communicated through the Friends of Fox Spring and on social media. One closure will last up to ten days for culvert replacement activities. The other three potential closures will last two days each for electrical work, grading, and paving. The work being completed over the next two years does not include any upgrades to the structure at Fox Spring.

For questions on the Elliott Highway MP 0-12 project, please contact Sean Berg, DOT&PF project engineer, at 451-1679 or sean.berg@alaska.gov.

Update: 3/30/2018

Fox Spring closed on Tuesday, April 3, 2018 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. for routine testing.

Update: 7/17/2017

The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (ADOT&PF) and the Friends of Fox Spring signed a memorandum of agreement that outlines maintenance and funding responsibilities for Fox Well, located on the Elliott Highway.

As of July 1, 2017, ADOT&PF will continue to operate and maintain Fox Well, but the cost associated with these activities will be funded by the Friends of Fox Spring.

In 2015, due to budget constraints, ADOT&PF began exploring options to transfer or sell the property. Last fall, a group of community members who wanted to see the well remain open formed the Fox Spring Task Force Group, with the help of Fairbanks Soil and Water Conservation District. The Fox Spring Task Force Group reorganized in March as Friends of Fox Spring under the North Star Community Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, with the intent of creating a partnership with ADOT&PF.

As of July 1 the Friends of Fox Spring raised over $31,000. Annual maintenance of the well is estimated between $20,000-$50,000 depending on conditions at the site. Friends of Fox Spring will continue with their fundraising efforts to cover costs associated with operating Fox Well.

For more information about the Friends of Fox Spring, call (907) 378-6744 or visit www.nscfundalaska.org link exits this site.

The MOA can be viewed here.

Update: 6/12/2017

The Department of Transportation & Public Facilities (DOT&PF) is currently working towards a Memorandum of Understanding with the Friends of Fox Spring to cover costs associated with operating the Fox Well.

At this time, there is no funding for the well beyond July 1, 2017.

For more information about the Friends of Fox Spring, please call (907) 378-6744 or visit www.nscfundalaska.org link exits this site.

Update: 10/3/2016

The public comment period for the proposed sale of Fox Spring is now closed. Comments received during this latest comment period, as well as all comments received during this public process, are available on our website. Over the next two months, the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT&PF) will evaluate comments and address the community concerns as best it can, considering budget constraints. DOT&PF will also continue the land transfer process to the adjoining property owner. The property owner has stated publicly that a public easement can be included with the land transfer to the well site, which will allow the site to be publicly accessed in the future. The Fox Spring Task Force (FSTF), facilitated by Fairbanks Soil and Water Conservation District, approached the department and expressed interest in management of the site. DOT&PF will continue working with both the adjoining property owner and FSTF to help partner in keeping the well open. During this period of transition, DOT&PF will continue to manage the site as budget allows.

Update: 8/15/2016

This summer, the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities proposed selling Fox Spring to adjoining property owner, Pewter, LLC. Originally, public comments were to be accepted through August 10.

Last month, Fairbanks Soil and Water Conservation District expressed interest in the spring and requested more time so the group can explore water flow and management options. Public comments will now be accepted through September 30.

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner story about extending the public comment period can be viewed here.

Update: 7/6/2016

The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT&PF) is proposing to sell the parcel containing Fox Spring to the adjoining property owner, Pewter, LLC. Following 17 AAC 10.100-105, the adjoining property owner is defined as the owner of the parcel from which the Fox Spring land originated. The department has determined that Fox Spring is outside the roadway slope limits and is not needed for the roadway’s maintenance or operation.

The purchase price will be the parcel’s actual fair market value, as determined by an independent appraisal.

The notice of the proposed sale can be viewed here PDF document.

The department will be accepting public comments on the proposed sale. Comments can be made online at https://adotpf.mysidewalk.com. Comments also may be emailed to evan.rainey@alaska.gov, or mailed or delivered to the following address:

Department of Transportation and Public Facilities
Right of Way Section
Attn: Evan Rainey
2301 Peger Road, M.S. 2553,
Fairbanks, Alaska 99709-5399
Comments are being received through Aug. 10.

Update 2/17/2016

Last summer, the DOT&PF began proceedings to transfer ownership of Fox Spring in an effort to meet reduced budgets. On Feb. 16, the Fairbanks North Star Borough officially notified the department that it is not interested in assuming maintenance of Fox Spring.

The process to transition ownership of Fox Spring, located on the Elliott Highway, near Fairbanks, is clearly defined. The steps are:

  1. The DOT&PF Right-of-Way office provided notice of the department’s intent to transfer maintenance of Fox Spring.
    • This notice was posted June 14, 2015, on the State of Alaska Online Public Notices website at http://bit.ly/1BjPNVf, in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner and at the Fox Spring facility.
  2. Once all parties were notified, a 30-day public comment period followed.
  3. The department then contacted public agencies to give them the opportunity to take over the property at no cost.
    • In September 2015, the department reached out to Fairbanks North Star Borough, the Bureau of Land Management and the Department of Natural Resources.
    • As of this week, all of these agencies have declined taking over Fox Spring.

At this point, the next step is to offer first right of refusal to adjoining property owners in a prioritized order, to purchase the property at fair market value, based on an appraisal. DOT&PF will move forward with this step throughout the next few weeks. If adjoining property owners refuse to purchase the property, the spring will then be put up for an open market sale.

DOT&PF understands the importance of this spring to the community, but can no longer afford to maintain it. There have never been any operating funds for Fox Spring. To keep the facility open, DOT&PF has repeatedly diverted funding intended for other buildings and roads.

Fox Spring Background

The Fox Spring Public Drinking Water System (PWSID 310277) is located on the north side of the Fairbanks North Star Borough. The Department of Transportation & Public Facilities (DOT&PF) received a Warranty Deed after purchasing the two acre parcel in 1966, as part of the Elliott Highway expansion. It was a free flowing natural fresh water spring that local residents enjoyed. However since 1980, when the spring dried up, DOT&PF has repeatedly applied resources and has artificially kept the water flowing. It began as a natural phenomenon and has evolved into a complex and highly regulated Public Water System today. Exceptional engineering controls are in place to keep the water flowing in our arctic winter conditions and comply with the Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) rigid public drinking water regulations. DOT&PF has maintained Fox Spring since 1980.

There is not now, nor has there ever been any operating funds allocated in any fiscal year budget to operate this facility. DOT&PF Maintenance & Operations (M&O) has repeatedly diverted funding intended for other buildings and roads to keep the facility open. The water system costs the state about $50,000 annually to maintain. Costs include certifying and maintaining an employee’s DEC operator certification, electrical power, necessary repairs, winter steaming & ice chipping, vandalism repair, and litter pickup.

Projected operational costs are prohibitively high because the well is going dry. Capital improvements will be required. Reviewing the aquifer’s water table level since DOT&PF acquired the site reveals a clear trend. The “natural spring” water level in the 1980s has dropped over 25 feet. The well is 29 feet deep, and nearly dry. The apparent solution is to drill a new well to >50 feet deep (a DEC requirement) and upgrade systems appropriately. There is no confidence that a deeper well will provide the same quality water. Other local wells have a completely different and less appealing water quality. A deeper well may tap a different water source.  Any change in quality will likely require water treatment.

In consideration of the state’s current fiscal crisis and on going budget cuts the department is mandated to reduce its operating budget. There is no funding for continued operations or to address restoration efforts for the imminent failure.

Fox Spring Public Meeting | July 6, 2015 from AlaskaDOTPF on Vimeo.

Tweets from the July 2015 public meeting can be viewed on Storify.