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Abandoned Mine Fund Supported

July 26, 2006

By Josh Mrozinski, Wyoming County Press Examiner

WYOMING COUNTY - County Commissioners voted unanimously yesterday to support the Abandoned Mine Land Fund.

The U.S. Senate is debating a bill that would reauthorize the federal funding, giving the state about $65 million to restore abandoned mines through 2026.

During the meeting, the commissioners also approved a contract with a Scranton-based engineering firm to work on building a bridge over Tunkhannock Creek in East Lemon.

The commissioners were urged to support the federal land mine program by Josh First, Harrisburg-based Appalachian Land and Conservation Services Co. president.

"So far we have had 31 counties pass resolutions to reauthorize the fund," First said.

Luzerne is one of the counties that have passed a supporting resolution, First said after the meeting.

Lackawanna County Commissioners have yet to give their support.

First said Wyoming County has had fewer problems with abandoned mines than other counties, and the problems that have been addressed have been minor.

But he still said the federal program would benefit Wyoming County.

Rusty Bennett, 45, of Forkston and vice president of the Mehoopany Creek Watershed Association, said the federal funding would allow the organization to expand its program, during which lime is placed in creeks, including the Stony Brook.

The creek runs at the foot of the Dutch Mountain, which is located in Forkston Twp. and has an abandoned mine.

Mike Hewitt, who during the meeting presented data about the county's mines, said that acidic run-off flows from the mine at 200 to 300 gallons a minute.

Mr. Hewitt is the watershed outreach coordinator for the Shavertown-based Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation.

Commissioner Tony Litwin asked whether strip mining was used at the mountain.

"These are all underground mines," Hewitt said.

He added that the four holes were made into the mountain side to reach the coal.

Commissioner Judy Kraft Mead, who made the motion to create a resolution in support of the fund, asked whether the federal program has been used to pay the pension of unionized mine workers.

First answered yes.

After the commissioners voted on resolution, they approved a $325,099 contract with the Scranton-based engineering firm, CECO Associates, Inc.

The firm will lead work on the federally funded project to replace bridge No. 7, which travels over Tunkhannock Creek in East Lemon.

Following the meeting, Litwin said CECO Associates, Inc. has told the commissioners that the plan is to solicit bids will late summer and begin construction in the following spring.

Towards the end of commissioners meeting, County Solicitor John Hovan donated a print of a painting by a deceased area art teacher to the Tunkhannock Borough Council and the County's Domestic Relations Office.

The artist, Terry Hamilton, was also the daughter of Dr. Walter B. Tewksbury, who won five medals for track in the 1906 Olympics.

On Tuesday the council was represented by its president, Ruby Sands. Florence Mociun, domestic relations office director, accepted the prints for the county agency.

The prints were made by the Tunkhannock business, Lizza Studios.

"I wish to donate this in the memory of Terry," Hovan said.

Also during the meeting, the commissioners were told that on Aug. 16 training on the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) is being held for county employees.

HIPPA was enacted by the U.S. Congress in 1996 and sets guidelines on the privacy of personal health.

©The New Age Examiner 2006
Appalachian's president, Josh First, was actively engaged in getting this legislation passed for two-and-a-half years.  For more than a year he served as the coordinator of the Abandoned Mine Lands Campaign, and then spent more time drumming up grass roots support for the legislation as a member of the coalition and as a contractor for the Pennsylvania Environmental Council.  "I am proud to have worked closely with such a fine group from the environmental and coal field communities," said First.  "This is a win-win for both the environment and for coal operators, who will now get the support they need to aggressively re-mine abandoned mine lands and simultaneously reclaim them and beautify them."
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