Northwest Digest

Posted: Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Homicide suspected in death of Fairbanks man

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FAIRBANKS - The death of a 23-year-old Fairbanks man is being investigated as a possible homicide, Alaska State Troopers said.

Brandon L. Steward died Sunday night at the Lakeview Terrace trailer court. His body was found outside near mailboxes at the trailer court, Sgt. Dave Willson said Tuesday.

Following a 17-hour investigation at the scene, troopers were tracking down leads but had no specific suspects, Willson said.

Authorities declined to reveal the cause of death, but said Steward's body had been sent to Anchorage for an autopsy by the state medical examiner.

Exxon appealing order to pay for spill

SAN FRANCISCO - Exxon Mobil Corp. is asking a federal appeals court to reconsider its December decision demanding the oil giant pay $2.5 billion to compensate thousands of fishermen and other Alaskans for the 1989 Valdez tanker oil spill.

The disaster, the worst oil spill in U.S. history, soiled 1,500 miles of Alaskan coastline.

An Anchorage jury had ordered the company to pay $5 billion in punitive damages, which are meant to punish a company for misconduct. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in the third time it heard one of the nation's longest running cases, cut the award in half, saying $2.5 billion was enough punishment.

Late Friday, the company asked the San Francisco-based appeals court to rehear the case with the same three judges or to empanel a 15-judge panel to hear it.

Irving, Texas-based Exxon maintains it should have to pay no more than $25 million because, among other things, it has spent more than $3 billion to settle federal and state lawsuits and to clean the Prince William Sound area.

The court has no deadline to answer Exxon's request.

The case is Baker v. Exxon Mobil Corp., 04-35182.

Kodiak tanner crab quota reduced

KODIAK - The Kodiak tanner crab season opened this week with crab vessels heading out to catch a lower quota in fewer areas than last year.

Guideline harvest levels are set at 100,000 pounds for the Kodiak District's northeast section and 700,000 pounds in the eastside section. The two sections opened Monday.

Last year's quota was 2.1 million pounds, said Nick Sagalkin, shellfish management biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

The district's southeast and southwest sections were open last year. But they are closed this year because of high numbers of undersized crabs.

"The more sections that are open, it gives (fishermen) more flexibility on where to fish and spreads the fleet out," Sagalkin said.

The Kodiak tanner crab fishery ends when fishermen reach the quota or on March 31.

Sagalkin expects the fishery to go relatively quickly.

"I think weather will be a factor this year," he said. "We have had cold weather and higher winds that could slow the fishing down."

Sagalkin expects quotas in the next few seasons to shrink because of a declining tanner population.

"But there is a very strong young year class that should recruit to the fishery in about three years, widespread throughout the Kodiak District," he said.

Suit seeks to enforce ban on booze sales

TOPPENISH, Wash. - A Yakama tribal member has filed suit to get the federal government to enforce terms of an 1855 treaty banning alcohol from the 1.2-million-acre central Washington reservation.

In the suit filed last week in U.S. District Court in Yakima, Marlene White also alleges the government is not enforcing federal liquor laws that prohibit alcohol sales on reservations without tribal permission.

"There has been no enforcement," White said. "When we first started the alcohol ban in reference to our treaty, we were successful in getting rid of the state liquor stores, but since then nothing has been done."

White's lawsuit seeks a court order banning alcohol six years after the tribe voted to limit reservation sales.

Tribal attorney Jack Fiander said many tribes have been successful in regulating and taxing alcohol on their reservations based on federal laws. Most lacked the legal power the Yakamas have in their 1855 treaty, Fiander said.

Depending on how a judge rules, the outcome could affect as few as four businesses under federal law, or more than 40 under treaty rules, Fiander said.

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