Alaska Digest

Posted: Friday, February 06, 2004

Forest Service OKs Greens Creek expansion

JUNEAU - The U.S. Forest Service Alaska Region has approved the expansion of the Greens Creek Mine tailings disposal facility, clearing the way for the company to begin construction once it receives city approval.

The Alaska Region affirmed the Tongass National Forest supervisor's decision Wednesday, denying an appeal filed by the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council.

Operators of Greens Creek, an underground polymetallic mine on Admiralty Island that employs about 260 people, proposed to expand the tailings disposal area to accommodate more ore reserves. Tailings are what's left of the material removed from the mine after the metal has been extracted.

The tailings site covers 23.2 acres and is permitted to expand to 29 acres. Operators say that space will last two more years. The Forest Service decision allows expansion to 61.3 acres, allowing enough room for 22 years' worth of tailings if the mine continues at its current pace.

Greens Creek environmental manager Bill Oelklaus said the company now must draft changes to its general plan of operations to the Forest Service. The mine already has most of its permits in place. The final step before construction is to obtain summary approval from the city to amend its large mine permit.

He said the mine plans to expand the tailings facility this summer.

SEACC had expressed concern about acid drainage and heavy metals leaching into the soil. The environmental impact statement decision requires the mine to add carbon to the tailings to counteract drainage and minimize impacts on water quality. Kat Hall of SEACC said the carbon addition is not sufficient.

UAS to host second Winter Soiree

JUNEAU - University of Alaska Southeast will host its second annual Winter Soiree from 7 p.m. to midnight Saturday, Feb. 7, at the Egan Classroom Wing and Library.

Tickets are $35 and available at Hearthside Books and the UAS bookstore. Semi-formal dress is required and you must be 21 or over to attend.

The event has taken the place of Tuxedo Junction as the university's top scholarship fund-raiser. Last year's event raised $15,830 from ticket sales, silent auction, raffle and from money donated to the casino.

The soiree will include music by Thunder Mountain Big Band, DJ Science a.k.a. Jeff Hermann and Psychedelic Psax, comedy from comic "Mad" Chad Taylor, Monte Carlo-style entertainment, a silent auction and a no-host beer and wine bar. They have also added a dessert-piano bar to the hors d'oeuvres buffet.

"We call it Monte Carlo-style entertainment because there's no pretense that you'll be taking any money home with you," said UAS spokesman Kevin Myers in a press releae. "You'll make a donation to the scholarship and in return you get chips to use in the casino room. There are roulette, blackjack and poker tables. It's a lot of fun, and hte money goes to help students."

"Mad" Chad Taylor has performed on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno." His act includes juggling chainsaws, lighting body parts on fire and catching an anvil with his head.

"It's amazing how many people want to watch you do something stupid," he said in the release.

Legislature declares Feb. 6 to be Reagan day

JUNEAU - In celebration of the 93rd birthday of Ronald Reagan, the United States' 40th President, the state House of Representatives passed a resolution Monday declaring Feb. 6, 2004, as Ronald Reagan Day in Alaska.

The measure, proposed by Fairbanks Republican Rep. Nick Stepovich, passed on an almost unanimous vote, with one Democrat, Anchorage Rep. Sharon Cissna, voting no.

House Democrats argued that declaring Feb. 6 Ronald Reagan Day could detract from another corresponding holiday based on former Alaskan territorial Gov. and U.S. Senator Ernest Gruening.

"I want the intention of this body to be that by honoring the former president we in no sense and in no way mean to take attention away from the fact that Feb. 6, in this state, is Ernest Gruening Day," said Anchorage Democratic Rep. Les Gara.

Stepovich said the resolution transcends party lines.

"This talks about a great man - a former U.S. president, a senior, an elder," Stepovich said. "This is not to diminish Sen. Ernest Gruening's Day. His day will be there every Feb. 6. This is just a resolution. This will bring Ronald Reagan's birthday to light tomorrow and tomorrow only."

Gas pipeline provisions likely to remain in bill

FAIRBANKS - Provisions to help an Alaska natural gas pipeline project should remain part of a national energy bill, even while efforts are under way to pare down the bill, said Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

The Republican senator said Wednesday that she "is not so concerned about the gas line provisions," because they have bipartisan support.

Sen. Pete Domenici, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said Monday that the cost of the energy bill will have to be reduced. The rewrite could threaten not just the gas line provisions but also a provision that would spend up to $1 billion on energy-producing projects in Alaska over the next two decades.

Some of the gas line proposals would have little financial effect on the federal government. They would limit judicial reviews, set a schedule for environmental studies and establish a central pipeline permitting office. Murkowski spokesman Chuck Kleeschulte said an $18 billion federal guarantee for the gas line's construction loan, also found in the energy bill, isn't assigned a cost value.



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