The front page of the Juneau Empire on Dec. 30, 2005. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

The front page of the Juneau Empire on Dec. 30, 2005. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Empire Archives: Juneau’s history for the week of Dec. 31

Three decades of capital city coverage.

Empire Archives is a series printed every Saturday featuring a short compilation of headline stories in the Juneau Empire from archived editions in 1985, 1995 and 2005.

This week in 1985, an economic decline caused by declining state oil revenue and continued government belt-tightening was deemed the top local story of the year by the Juneau Empire staff. Juneau’s unprecedented growth of recent previous years ran out of steam as the city found itself with too much retail space, too much hotel space, and too many houses and condominiums on the market. Also, Juneau’s main industry, state government, began cutting back as state revenue plummeted. Federal cuts included the transfer of the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Planetree to Ketchikan, along with trimming local payrolls. Numerous longtime businesses closed down including Foss Alaska Lines, Southeast Alaska’s biggest freight carrier for 17 years, and the decade-old Lemon Creek grocery story Mark ‘N Pak. Other top stories included a local election resulting in a new mayor, criminal cases including two people killed in a traffic accident and the state’s largest-ever embezzlement case, and the state’s decision to tear down a building to make way for 34 parking spaces on Telephone Hill.

Original Story: “The top stories of an unsettling year,” by Betsy Longenbaugh. 12/31/1985.

This week in 1995, it was a year for the big newsmakers to halt their course — be it due to the EPA, a big rock or a Washington judge. Echo Bay Alaska Inc. ground to a stop plans to store tailings from the Alaska-Juneau gold mine in waters behind a dam in Sheep Creek Valley, after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued an unfavorable report on the proposal at the end of 1994. Echo Bay also ended an eight-year partnership by selling its 50% share of the Kensington gold mine to Coeur Alaska Inc. Other top stories included the death of local Roman Catholic Bishop Michael Kenny who spent 16 years in Southeast Alaska, the 805-foot Star Princess grounding on rocks in Lynn Canal resulting in six canceled sailings of the vessel due to hull damage, and commercial king salmon fishing shut down as negotiations over the U.S.-Canada Pacific Salmon Treaty became more contentious than ever.

Original Story: “1995: A year that will be remembered for…,” by Lori Thomson. 12/26/1995.

This week in 2005, Two of Juneau’s biggest projects — a second high school and the Kensington gold mine — moved beyond the realm of debate in 2005 and into the domain of action. After years of wrangling and planning on both fronts, ground was broken for a new school in the Mendenhall Valley, and developers of the Kensington Mine won all of the needed permits and launched construction. But the battle over whether to build a road connecting Alaska’s capital to the rest of the state’s road system raged on. The National Park Service dealt a major blow to the proposed $281 million road from Juneau to Skagway with a ruling that would end the route north 18 miles short of its original mark. The change led critics to dub the project the “road to nowhere,” but also cut the estimated cost. In a parallel battle with a similar nickname, the Gravina Island bridge project near Ketchikan – dubbed the “bridge to nowhere” — caught national attention and lampooning by conservative and liberal critics alike. Meanwhile, housing costs continued to squeeze Juneau residents, an attempt by Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho to develop a design for a new Capitol through a design contest crashed and burned, and weird weather including landslide-triggering record rainfall struck the city.

Original Story: “Breaking ground in 2005,” by Juneau Empire staff. 12/30/2005.

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