MAT-SU— After adding several amendments that offer protections to nearby residents, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly approved a new 25-year lease for a road across Borough land that links Wishbone Hill Coal Mine to the Glenn Highway.
The vote was 6 to 1, with the area’s representative Assembly Member Lynne Woods voting for it after many amendments, but expressing her anguish with the vote.
“I can honestly say a day hasn’t went by…excuse me… in the last 2.5 months that I haven’t talked about coal. And many of these people are my friends. I’ve known them since they were little kids. They’re neighbors. They’re new people I’ve met. They’re supporters of coal. They’re those who don’t think that that’s the wisest for way for our community to grow. They say Show me a rich coal town, you know. And way back when I first met a couple members of the community Dave Germer and Jim Helling. I worked with Dave on the initial project. And I have to say having an alternative route for the coal to go was a big issue for me So ..I won’t be a hypocrite and say I won’t support this route. If they’re going to mine for coal I truly feel this is a good route for them to come out and get on the Glenn Highway. I’m not pleased with what the potential mining might do. I know exactly what those people are trying to protect and I just hope it works out good for everyone.”
Assembly Member Ron Arvin said it will work out well.
Assembly Member Ron Arvin:
“It is my judgment that we will look back, I will look back at a date future and know that this was a good decision, for the jobs, the community, the company, for the betterment of this Borough. I believe that to be the case. If I didn’t believe it would be better, if I didn’t believe that it could be done correctly, if I didn’t believe that it could be done without affecting the environment, I wouldn’t do it. I wouldn’t. And
I feel your emotion. Because I’ve talked to a lot of people too.”
Usibelli will determine whether it will mine coal at Wishbone Hill within the next 12 to 18 months. If so, the mining operation could run for 16 years. Some 500,000 tons per year would be hauled from the Sutton/Buffalo Mine area of Wishbone Hill Mine to Port Mackenzie, where it could be exported by ship to Japan.
The Assembly passed several amendments, building upon each other’s amendments in order to minimize neighborhood discomfort.
The new mining operation at Wishbone Hill would have positive effects, according to a June 11, 2010 socioeconomic impact study by the Institute of Social and Economic Research, ISER, paid for by the Borough.
The study says that during the 15-year operation phase, 93 new direct jobs would result in a total of 145 direct, indirect, and induced jobs. As a result of these new jobs, a total of $7.8 million of annual personal income would be generated. The direct mining jobs would have high wages – ranging from $70,000 to $90,000 per year. Mine development would generate 93 additional households, 270 additional residents, and 78 additional students. Total additional annual property tax revenues – from new homes and from taxes on mine property -- to the Borough for education and area-wide functions would be $440,227, while total additional annual Borough expenditures for education and area-wide functions would be $318,326. The State of Alaska would receive annual royalties of $1.25 million, which would exceed projected State spending on education. Additional Port MacKenzie fees would equal $818,440 per year, mostly for wharfage. Two realtors gave scenarios on how property values might be affected. One indicated that values would remain the same or increase; the other thought that values would increase.
The full study is attached here. ISERsocioeconomicstudy