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Tailings cleanup to be scaled back due to funding issues
"Because of the limited funding we are starting out with, they [Portage] chose to look at efficiencies in how to run the project," DOE Moab Federal Project Director Don Metzler told the Grand County Council this week. "There's no real easy way to do this, and they chose the nine months on, three months with no production to move forward."
Production will be halted during December, January and February, Biagini said. Grand County Council member Audrey Graham expressed concerns about the how changing the approximately 85 jobs at the site to seasonal employment could have on the community.
Biagini said that if Portage receives more funding, the company could change the contract to reflect additional shipments of tailings to the permanent disposal site near Mbt Shoes Canada Outlet
Crescent Junction. He also said that Portage would do what they could Vans Shoes For Girls
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Department of Energy officials said this week.
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"There are other [job] opportunities within the other corporations we are working with. But some of the workforce will get laid off and recalled after the three months," Biagini said. "But we have changed very little staff on the project. It's an honor for us to walk into a situation like this that has been done so well, and hopefully, we can keep it going in the right direction."
The council voted to send a letter to Energy Secretary Steven Chu, asking the DOE to allocate approximately $5 to $8 million in extra funding to the UMTRA project to avoid the three month shutdown each year. The letter addresses the possible effects of workforce turnover and instability that may be caused by the seasonality of the positions. The letter also states, "Now that so much of the pile has been opened, it would be irresponsible to leave it that way ten years past the statutory deadline."
"We knew the nine months was the balance because the longer the shutdown period, the harder it is to maintain the work force," Biagini said. "We really intend to run the four trains a week schedule."
Last fall, Portage Inc. received the $121.2 million five year contract, giving the company approximately $24 million per year to operate the cleanup effort. The contract with Portage also requires the removal of 3.1 million tons of tailings over the five year period, DOE officials have said.
to find off season work for their workforce.
Biagini said he and Portage discussed various options for using the available funding as efficiently as possible. Other possible strategies included operating partial three day shifts throughout the year or working five days a week for six months. Although the six month plan provides the lowest economic impact, Biagini said, Portage went with the nine month plan to avoid the increased risk of losing workforce and allowing the tailings pile to remain open and untouched during the six months off.
"Overall, the RFP [request for proposals] that was put out by the DOE limited us to shipping 650,000 tons per year. When working with the infrastructure of the UP [Union Pacific Railroad], the UP gives you the best prices when you are shipping full sized trains, which is 36 cars," said Jeff Biagini, the new onsite Moab Remedial Action Contract Manager. "That drove a fair amount of the cost decisions."
"This might be the most economical way for Portage to do this but the winter is the worst time possible for there to be yet more slow down and seasonality to our jobs and whole community," Graham said. "We [the Moab Tailings Project Steering Committee] are all very concerned about this, so we came up with the idea to ask for more funding."
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