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Assembly COW clarifies, approves 2011 goals

Possible Greens Creek Mine expansion plans aired

Posted: February 15, 2011 - 11:38am

The Borough Assembly’s 2010-2011 goals are almost solidified, and some are already nearing completion.

The Assembly Committee of the Whole approved sending the list forward with a few minor changes.

“I would like to move this for the next Assembly agenda so we can get this accomplished before the end of the year,” said Assemblyman Merrill Sanford.

Changing the city noise ordinance and bringing employee collective bargaining practices into harmony with state and federal practices are goals that are almost ready to be presented to the Assembly — even before the goals, which were first reviewed by the committee in November, have been formally adopted by the Assembly.

The committee listed its collection of less-popular “sub-goals,” which were previously considered “future agenda items,” as “future items of interest.”

Assemblyman Jonathan Anderson said items on that list aren’t necessarily supported by a majority of the Assembly and may never even make it to the agenda.

“I’m comfortable having this as a document we work from,” Anderson said. “Everything will still have to come to us for a decision.”

Mayor Bruce Botelho had wanted clarification on some goal areas. Assemblyman Bob Doll said some areas are vague — like support for funding a new state office building — because that project is in the back of their minds but they’re not actively working on it.

“When somebody comes up with a good idea we’ll leap on it,” he said. “I don’t know that we want to give it any more definition now.”

Assemblywoman Mary Becker wanted to see the goal for promoting better child care availability and affordability assigned to a different group. It is assigned to the Social Services Advisory Board (SSAB). She felt it wasn’t that committee’s place to promote specific ideas when it is also in charge of approving funding.

Becker suggested studying whether the Juneau Economic Development Council or United Way are entities that could fill that role.

Botelho said he was uncomfortable having a non-Juneau entity do that work for the city.

Assemblywoman Ruth Danner said the SSAB is thrilled about taking on that goal, as well as efforts to aid the homeless.

“The Assembly is promoting affordable childcare,” Danner said. “The Social Services Advisory Board’s involvement, truly what they’re interested in, is acting at the level we don’t have the time for.”

She said the board expressed frustration that entities come directly to the Assembly with their proposals when the board is the branch of the city they should approach. Danner said SSAB could help entities fine-tune their proposals for better success, and also look at combining proposals to bring to the Assembly. Danner felt these two areas would be a good fit.

Sanford suggested they leave assignments as-is, and if the SSAB has time constraints it could be addressed later.

In other business, Greens Creek Mine environmental manager Jennifer Saran gave a presentation on a possible expansion.

The mine is in the process of expanding its tailings facility. Saran said the mine was built with a 10-year life expectancy back in 1989. Due to the way they operate, she said they’re now looking at an additional 30-50 year lifespan. However, they need to expand.

Saran said by 2014 the facility will be full, and so they are getting a head start on the process. She said they are asking for approval to develop another 2,000 acres (they currently occupy 350 acres, 45 percent of which is road). Saran said they still plan to develop incrementally as they have done in the past and still plan on using the same processes as in the past.

“If this proposal gets approved tomorrow, we’re not going to go out the following day and develop 2,000 acres,” she said. “... If for whatever reason that 30-50 years is optimistic or the market changes, we will only develop the area we need in the immediate future.”

The mine last went through this process in 2003 for a minor expansion. Saran is hoping the process will go smoothly given their track record and that they’re not going to be doing anything different.

The mine in 2010 produced 2,200 tons of ore per day with 67,000 tons of zinc, 22,000 tons of lead, 7.2 million ounces of silver and 69,000 ounces of gold.

The first draft of the Environmental Impact Statement is expected to be released this summer for public comment and review.

• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at sarah.day@juneauempire.com.

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