Alaska Digest

Posted: Monday, January 05, 2004

State planning fix for Million Dollar Bridge

ANCHORAGE - Cordova residents are scratching their heads over a state plan to repair the Million Dollar Bridge, heavily damaged in the 1964 earthquake years after it had become obsolete.

State transportation officials say the $17 million repair project will lessen the cost when the bridge is ultimately toppled by the Copper River.

But skeptics wonder whether it is a prelude to extending a road upriver toward Chitina and the Interior highway system. Local residents have been split on the issue for years.

"I'm not really sure what's the purpose of fixing that, unless there's a plan to put a road in," said Mark Hoover, with the Native Village of Eyak.

Gov. Frank Murkowski, who campaigned on a pledge of building roads to promote economic development, doesn't have a Cordova road on his project list, said a transportation spokesman.

"But that doesn't mean that it couldn't be," said John MacKinnon, deputy commissioner. "Anytime you mention roads, he says he'd love to see one there."

A span of the Million Dollar Bridge slipped its foundation during the Good Friday earthquake of 1964. It was never repaired since the railroad for which it was built had closed 26 years earlier.

Temporary fixes over the years allowed vehicles to cross the bridge, but the road ended just a few miles beyond it in alder thickets.

Flooding in September 1995 prompted officials to reconsider fixing the structure, said Shannon McCarthy, a spokeswoman for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities in Fairbanks.

Mail pilot crashes in fog, rescued by villagers

FAIRBANKS - A Bush pilot delivering mail was injured when his plane crashed in thick fog near the village of Koyukuk on the Yukon River.

Peter Ivanchuk, 49, broke both of his ankles and was rescued by village residents who set out on snowmachines when they heard the plane crash Friday.

Ivanchuk was following the river to get his bearings, but miscalculated his altitude in whiteout conditions and clipped river ice with his wing when he banked left, he said.

The crash happened about three miles southeast of town. About a dozen searchers arrived at the crash site 20 minutes later, said Tom Kriska, who organized the search.

Ivanchuk was extricated and taken to the village clinic before being flown to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital during a brief break in the fog.

Retiring Burger King owner seeks debt relief

ANCHORAGE - The company that owns most of the Burger King restaurants in Alaska is going through federal Bankruptcy Court on its way to new ownership.

Larry Baker, retiring founder and owner of Restaurants Northwest Inc., said filing for Chapter 11 protection from creditors will let him sell assets the new owners don't want in an orderly fashion.

The bankruptcy protection filing was a surprise to employees, said former controller Jim Hinkle, who was shocked to learn he was unemployed over the past week. He said he plans to apply for his job back when a new owner takes over - in the next several weeks, he hopes.

Bankruptcy Court protection would not have been necessary if creditors had not already started suing Restaurants Northwest for not paying its bills, said Baker's attorney, Michael Mills.

Among them, the city of Wasilla has sued for back sales taxes, totaling $17,600 by last February, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

Drug informant wants evidence dismissed

FAIRBANKS - A Fairbanks confidential drug informant wants evidence that led to drug charges against him thrown out.

Randy Ray Cavanaugh, 43, hopes that Magistrate Joseph Miller will dismiss evidence that he had methamphetamine and several thousand dollars when a team of federal drug agents showed up at his hotel room.

Cavanaugh is charged with federal crimes of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance and possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute.

The June encounter between agents and Cavanaugh at the hotel was part of an investigation that also led to charges being filed in the same case against William Anthony Landrus, 40, Dennis William Benford, 36, and Chari Lynn Kulgavchuk, 39.

All four defendants are scheduled to go to trial in February.

Ultralight pilot honored for series of firsts

ANCHORAGE - Michael Jacober, one of the state's top ultralight pilots and an advocate for the experimental aircraft before his death, was inducted into the Experimental Aircraft Association Ultralight Hall of Fame.

Jacober, who was killed in a June 5 crash on the Knik Arm mud flats along with a student pilot, was nominated before his death.

Family members said the honor is a long-deserved recognition for the pilot who accomplished much during his 25 years of flying in Alaska.

"Mike was always an open channel of boundless energy, moving others into the joy of flight ... becoming a strong force of light in the ultralight aviation community," said his widow, Ginny Jacober.

Jacober, 53, earned national recognition in 1993 by flying into the base camp on Mount McKinley and spending seven days soaring on the heat currents.

During one flight he flew over the 20,320 summit of the mountain, which is North America's tallest peak. Jacober also flew over Mount Foraker.

Jacober was known as one of the best ultralight pilots in Alaska and well respected by ultralight pilots nationwide.

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