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State seeking cleanup of submerged dozer

Posted: September 3, 2013 - 7:41pm  |  Updated: September 3, 2013 - 11:02pm

JUNEAU — The state is asking the parties connected to a bulldozer that submerged in a remote lake in south-central Alaska in May, killing the driver, for help in cleaning up the site.

So-called “”potential responsible party” letters were sent to the general contractor, Alaska Diversified Services, permit holder, Ben Stevenson at Stephan Lake Lodge, and the estate of the bulldozer driver killed in the incident, Donald Kiehl, said Shannon DeWandel, project manager for the state Department of Environmental Conservation. An attorney for Kiehl’s estate declined comment. Messages were left for Alaska Diversified Services and Stevenson.

The accident happened as crews were moving equipment and machinery to help establish a camp for studies associated with the proposed Susitna-Watana dam. The bulldozer apparently hit a thin spot on the ice on the lake and sank.

“The letters are basically to say we’re trying to determine who would be the responsible party and if any of our potential responsible parties stepped up and undertook to remedy the situation, that would be great and no further action would be taken by the state,” DeWandel said Tuesday. The letters are to let the parties know “this is something that we’re going to have to pursue. Obviously, you can’t just leave a dozer in a lake.”

If no one steps up, the Department of Law will likely get involved, she said. If the state has to do the work, it will sue for recovery, she said.

Concerns were raised earlier this year about the time it’s taken to deal with the situation. A Talkeetna Community Council member who flew over the site in July reported seeing an “oily sheen” rising above the bulldozer, across the lake and into a cove.

DeWandel said she’s aware of the concerns but has not been able to seen any photographs showing a sheen. She is planning to make a site visit to the area.

She said the state has pursuing the matter since the accident happened.

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