AEL&P sentenced for destroying nest

Posted: Thursday, July 17, 2008

Alaska Electric Light & Power Co. was sentenced on Wednesday for blowing up the same eagle's nest twice while building the Lake Dorothy hydroelectric project.

Juneau's electric utility pleaded guilty in federal court in Anchorage to violating the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, which says it is illegal to destroy eagles' nests.

"We've certainly stepped up our environmental compliance at the Lake Dorothy project," said AEL&P spokesman Scott Willis. "We regret that the eagle nest was destroyed."

The plea agreement states that the utility will serve 18 months of probation. That means it has to protect birds during that time, update a Juneau area raptor study from 2001, and teach its employees about their responsibility to protect eagles.

AEL&P was "warned repeatedly that it was required to protect the tree but failed to take adequate protections," according to a statement from the U.S. district attorney in Alaska, Nelson Cohen.

AEL&P also knew it was supposed to have an environmental monitor on scene during blasting, but he wasn't there either time the eagles' tree was damaged.

The first blast happened in September 2006, nine months after the U.S. Department of Interior denied the utility's request to move the nest. It damaged part of the nest.

The second blast, detonated by a second contractor, was four months after that and destroyed the nest completely.

The first contractor, Glacier State Contractors Inc., a Juneau-based corporation owned by James Mason, is no longer working with AEL&P, according to Willis.

The second, Southeast Road Builders Inc., a Haines-based company registered to Gregg Richmond, is still working for the utility, according to Willis.

"The buck stops with us," Willis said. "That's our project, so we're responsible for the way the contractor does the work out there."

The utility must pay a $50,000 fine, another $50,000 for raptor rehabilitation in Southeast Alaska, and $25,000 to the U.S. Forest Service in restitution for a cabin that was also damaged in blasting.

Willis said the fines would not be passed on to rate payers.

• Contact Kate Golden at 523-2276 or kate.golden@juneauempire.com.



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