Northwest Digest

Posted: Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Mine's complaints ruled legitimate

FAIRBANKS - A complaint by the operator of Pogo Gold Mine over a contract with a Fairbanks utility has enough merit to warrant an investigation, the Regulatory Commission of Alaska has ruled.

The commission last week agreed to consider Teck-Pogo Inc.'s complaint accusing the Golden Valley Electric Association of breaching state law, a contract between the mine and the utility, and the utility's tariff.

The RCA order also appointed a hearing examiner and added Pogo's complaint to a docket that already included the review of the contract between the two companies.

Utility president Steve Haagenson said the ruling was basically just to compile the papers into one docket, and called the order "standard procedure," according to GVEA spokeswoman Dianne Porter.

But Grace Salazar, head of the consumer protection division of the RCA, called the ruling a "big deal."

The complaint involves a contract between the two companies regarding the sale of electricity from GVEA to the gold mine 35 miles northeast of Delta Junction.

In January, the two parties created a special contract requiring the utility to provide up to 13 megawatts of power to the mine during its operational life and binding Pogo to an annual minimum payment.

Snowy owls making rare appearance

BELLEVUE, Wash. - Snowy owls are being spotted in Western Washington and apparently are making one of their rare migrations south.

Paul Talbott, owner of the general contracting company TCI Inc., watched a snowy owl for several hours one day this past week while it sat on a second-story ledge just feet from his downtown Bellevue office.

"It's a gorgeous bird," Talbot said Wednesday. "He just sat there all day long. His head kept turning about 360 degrees. He'd shake the water off his head when it rained."

Although the bird disrupted his work routine, Talbot said it was worth it.

"Like my business manager said, 'That's the best Christmas present I could have had,'" he said. "There was a steady flow of people who wanted to see it. How could I refuse?"

Snowy owls are 20 to 27 inches long, weigh 2.5 to 4.3 pounds and have a wingspan of 54 to 65 inches. They spend their winters in the Arctic, eating mainly lemmings and voles, said Gretchen Albrecht, a raptor keeper at the Woodland Park Zoo.

It's uncommon for snowy owls to migrate this far south in the winter, but every few years, Albrecht said, the lemming population in northern Alaska dips and the raptors head south in search of food.

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