Alaska Digest

Posted: Friday, January 02, 2004

Bartlett still waiting for first baby of 2004

JUNEAU - As of press time Thursday evening, no baby had been born in 2004 at Bartlett Regional Hospital, a hospital nursing supervisor said.

In 2003, Ewa Orlikowska and Jack Piccolo's daughter - the first child born in Juneau last year - arrived 30 minutes before the end of New Year's Day. Marianna Asunta Piccolo weighed 7 pounds, 9 ounces.

Alyeska wins approval for modernization

ANCHORAGE - Federal and state regulators on Wednesday gave conditional approval to a sweeping makeover of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, a project that could save oil companies money but that critics say could also weaken spill protections.

The operator of the 800-mile pipeline, which daily carries 1 million barrels of oil, wants to modernize the line chiefly by automating several of its pump stations.

The project, likely costing hundreds of millions of dollars, could save the pipeline owners even greater sums over coming decades, but it could also mean job cutbacks at Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., the oil company consortium that runs the pipe.

Alyeska executives have not specified exactly how much the automation project will cost, or how many of the company's 900 employees would be affected.

On Wednesday, pipeline regulators with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the state Department of Environmental Conservation gave approval for the pipeline overhaul if Alyeska meets conditions.

One is to study spill risk and find out where released oil would go before Alyeska relocates any employees or equipment.

Regulators ordered new spill drills and exercises and said more helicopter support might be needed at one pump station to better respond to problems along the pipeline. They said new pumps need to be housed in buildings, rather than left exposed, to provide additional containment for spilled oil.

Wind rips container off trailer, sends it flying

ANCHORAGE - Winds roared through the Portage Pass area and ripped a 53-foot container from its trailer as an Anchorage trucker was headed for Whittier.

The container was empty, but even so, it weighs 10,000 pounds, said trucker Larry Coleman.

The gust Monday flung the oblong container nearly 100 feet into the air before it touched ground and then kept rolling it down an embankment until the container ended up partially in Portage Lake, Coleman told the Anchorage Daily News.

Coleman, who drives for Alaska West Express, was eastbound on the Portage Glacier Highway headed for Whittier. He had gotten through the short tunnel and was about halfway to the Bear Valley staging area when a violent gust out of the valley caused his Peterbilt tractor and trailer to jackknife.

Eagles return to Kenai Peninsula landfill

KENAI - Bald eagles have returned en masse to the borough landfill in Soldotna, attracting human crowds in the process.

The gathering is part of the eagles' seasonal pattern of movement.

The tree line surrounding the landfill is dotted with hundreds of the birds of prey. Some people casually admire the eagles while dropping off their refuse. Others come with binoculars or cameras and are there specifically to see the birds.

Todd Eskelin, a biological technician at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, said the eagles are looking for a free meal.

Fairbanks soldier copes with loss of limb in Iraq

FAIRBANKS - When doctors told Allan Doyle he might lose his lower leg and foot after it was crushed in an accident in Iraq last spring, the Army corporal and Fairbanks native told them to do it and get it over with.

"It's a lot better to have a totally functioning prosthetic than to have a foot that doesn't necessarily function normal," Doyle said.

He knew what it was like living with a half-operational limb.

His uncle, Larry Parrish, went through more than 20 surgeries to repair an injury he suffered while working for the Air Force in 1988. Parrish finally told doctors to take his leg.

When Doyle, 31, asked his uncle how to get over the trauma, Parrish's advice was, "Put your best foot forward and say, 'I'm going to do it today. I'm going to do it."'

Now the two sport prosthetics that start just below their knee.

Three months after the surgery, Doyle was climbing a tree at his grandparent's house in Pennsylvania with his 7-year-old daughter, Rhiya.

Many people found out firsthand how Doyle was coping with a prosthetic lower leg at a welcome home ceremony Tuesday.

Besides veterans, Boy Scouts, active-duty military members and civic leaders, the crowd of about 70 people was littered with familiar faces from Doyle's past.

For Doyle, who was awarded a Bronze Star on July 31, it was a little bit overwhelming.

"It was easier at Walter Reed (Army Medical Center) when a lot of people came into the room because they went and saw everybody and you weren't singled out," he said.

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