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Alaska Digest

Posted: Thursday, January 18, 2007

Coast guard tows floating fish processor

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ANCHORAGE - A fish processing vessel that lost its propulsion was being towed Wednesday by a Coast Guard cutter to Dutch Harbor, officials said.

Fire on board the Seattle-based Stellar Sea started at 10:20 p.m. Tuesday and was extinguished in about an hour, Coast Guard officials said. No one was injured.

The fire left the 316-foot processing boat, which carries a crew of 142, without power or propulsion about 90 miles north of Dutch Harbor, an Aleutian Island port 800 miles southwest of Anchorage.

The Coast Guard dispatched the cutter Mellon to assist the vessel. The cutter took the Stellar Sea under tow until a commercial tug boat could finish the job, said Chief Petty Officer Barry Lane.

The first civilian tug dispatched from Dutch Harbor had a problem with its propulsion system and turned back, Lane said. The Mellon will continue towing the processor until a second tug arrives, Lane said.

With relatively calm 7-foot seas, weather was not a problem, Lane said.

"There's no foreseeable danger to any of the crew members at this time," he said.

The boat was headed from Seattle to tiny St. Paul Island, 275 miles north of the Aleutian chain.

The cause of the fire has not been determined.

Tugboat to run this winter in Cook Inlet

KENAI - Oil tankers navigating the treacherous bottleneck of ice in Cook Inlet can receive assistance this winter from a new tugboat brought in by oil refiner Tesoro Alaska Co.

Early last year, a ship the company was leasing was pulled from its mooring by an ice floe and set adrift. The company contracted the tug, named the Protector, as a safety precaution.

"It's certainly going to add another layer of protection to our marine operations," said Tesoro spokesman Kip Knudson.

Knudson said the tug is under contract solely for this winter. He did not know how much Tesoro is paying for it.

U.S. Coast Guard officers and oil industry watchdog groups say a tug posted in the region could help avert a catastrophic shipwreck or oil spill.

Industry watchers called for a tug and an expansion of other safety measures after the incident in February when the tanker 600-foot Seabulk Pride drifted onto a beach about half a mile to the north. The tanker had 32 people aboard and nearly 5 million gallons of petroleum. The vessel suffered minor cracks and no oil spilled into the inlet.

The 5,500-horsepower tractor tug, operated by Crowley Maritime Corp., is coming up from Seattle and is due in Cook Inlet this week, said Coast Guard Capt. Mark DeVries.

Mat-Su assembly votes on prison site

WASILLA - The Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly has unanimously voted for Point MacKenzie as the site of the state's largest prison.

Those in favor of the prison site have said the medium-security facility will bring 400 to 600 new jobs and improve the nearly stagnant local economy.

The prison is expected to cost about $330 million and would house up to 2,200 male prisoners.

"This area will flourish and grow, all because of the prison. Some of this growth will happen quickly and some will be much slower. This is all a reimbursement for the port and the funds that have already been spent there," said Vicki Trytten, a Point MacKenzie farmer.

Critics say the Point MacKenzie site is the most costly in the state to develop and may restrict use by both humans and animals of the nearby Goose Bay State Game Refuge.

Several Point MacKenzie residents and people with recreational cabins there asked the Assembly to look elsewhere for a site.

Project contractors still need to determine whether suitable water and soil exist at the site, more than 30 miles from the intersection of the Parks and Glenn highways.



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