Alaska Digest

Posted: Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Spouses preparing for troops' return

JUNEAU - In anticipation of soldiers from the Juneau-based Army National Guard unit coming home from service in Iraq early next year, about 70 spouses attended special training last weekend in Anchorage to help make the return easier.

Jan Myers, state family program director for the National Guard in Anchorage, said the spouses learned what to expect of their mates and how to look for signs of post-traumatic stress.

About 130 members of the Juneau-based 3rd Battalion of the Alaska Army National Guard were deployed in Iraq early this year. Myers said they are expected to return in January or February. She said family members are still waiting to hear precisely when they will come back. "We're waiting anxiously."

Ayers named Oceana Pacific vice president

JUNEAU - Oceana, an international ocean advocacy group, announced the promotion of Juneau resident Jim Ayers to vice president for the Pacific region on Monday.

His promotion occurred at the annual Oceana Board of Directors meeting held recently in Washington, D.C.

Ayers will help lead the nonprofit organization's regional activities from the Arctic to California. As vice president, Ayers also will join Oceana's executive committee, which is involved in the overall management and strategic planning of Oceana's international programs.

Since joining Oceana in January 2002, Ayers has established a regional team that focuses on Pacific Ocean ecosystems. Its most notable achievements include the largest bottom-trawl closures in the United States, totaling more than half-a-million square miles from the Aleutian Islands to Baja California.

Ayers also serves as head coach of the two-time state champion Juneau-Douglas High School baseball team. He also worked as chief of staff for former Gov. Tony Knowles and is a former director of the Alaska Marine Highway System. Ayers studied economics at Purdue University and holds a Master of Science from the University of Oregon. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1969 to 1971.

Company lays out Beluga mine timeline

ANCHORAGE - PacRim Coal LP has laid out an aggressive timeline for developing a long-planned surface coal mine in the Beluga coal fields west of Anchorage.

The company hopes to begin mine development in 2007.

It hopes to start planning an environmental impact statement process in early 2006, according to Bob Stiles, manager of the project.

Stiles said the planned schedule is aggressive. He told the Resource Development Council in Anchorage earlier this month that coal shipments could begin in 2009 or 2010.

Construction would involve about 500 workers. The mine would employ about 350 people in production, Stiles said.

Interest in development of Beluga coal has been heightened recently by Agrium Corp.'s announcement that it is studying installation of a coal gasification facility at its fertilizer plant in Nikiski, near Kenai. The Beluga mine, about 50 miles west of Anchorage, could supply coal to the Agrium plant.

PacRim Coal has five coal leases that cover about 20,000 acres of state land. The company estimates it controls 1 billion tons of coal reserves.

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