Engineering firm hired to assess damage to Parks Highway

Posted: Sunday, April 09, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- An Outside engineering firm has been hired to examine damage to the Parks Highway and determine if cracks were caused by a mining company.

Cracks have surfaced in a 300- to 500-foot section of the highway. A five-month study by the Division of Mining, Land & Water placed the blame on Yellow Eagle Mining Co.

The mine closed up its Ester-based operation in October after low gold prices dogged the industry throughout the summer. Yellow Eagle's mining season grew further complicated after equipment operators hit the local water table. Five nearby residential wells dried up and two more experienced water quality problems.

Water flooded a nearby pit and eroded the mine's high wall, which abuts the highway's right-of-way.

David McCaleb, a pre-construction engineer with the Department of Transportation, said the agency has budgeted $150,000 for the analysis by Landslide Technology of Portland, Ore. The review should begin next week, he said.

John Miller, president of Yellow Eagle, said the company is willing to pay for damages caused by the mine. However, that could be complicated by the company's financial problems. Miller said Thursday he still has not secured enough capital to restart the operation. The company has more than $1 million in outstanding debt.

DOT has sent a letter to the property's owner of record, Walt Wigger, who leased the claim to Yellow Eagle. Wigger said Thursday that he's been put on notice that the state may hold him liable.

Wigger said he doesn't see any need to bring in an Outside firm.

He said DOT has had problems with that section of road because it was built on permafrost. Wigger believes the pavement surface is absorbing heat, which melts the permafrost and causes the road to sink.

If the mine is responsible, liability should not extend to him, Wigger said. It is his understanding the company's project is insured and expenses should be covered through that policy, he said.



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