State Briefs

Posted: Sunday, January 26, 2003

Weather could cause avalanches

JUNEAU - Dry snow falling on top of an icy crust could lead to avalanches, experts warned.

Bill Glude of the Southeast Alaska Avalanche Center said Juneau's recent rain, following by wind and low temperatures, created a slippery, crusty layer on the top of whatever snow survived the downpour. The new, dry snow is unable to "bond" with what it lands on top of. Add wind, which piles up new snow, and conditions are ripe for snowslides.

"The winds will be drifting snow and loading the snow heavily and wind-drifted snow tends to be very sensitive to disturbances," Glude said Friday.

The avalanche center does not issue official warnings, but tries to alert locals to the possibility of danger, he said. The center offers courses in backcountry safety, including recognizing the dangers of sliding slabs of snow.

High winds and up to 18 inches of snow had been forecast for this weekend, with warming temperatures to follow. But by Saturday afternoon, the weather service had canceled the storm warning, saying it expected less than an inch of snow to fall Saturday night and less than 2 inches today. About 2 1/2 inches fell Friday and through Saturday afternoon at Juneau Airport.

Eaglecrest Ski Area received only 3 to 5 inches of snow at the top of the mountain Friday and Saturday by late afternoon, officials there said.

"We still need a significant amount of snow to open," said ski area manager Paul Swanson.

Students wanted for conservation, civics course

JUNEAU - The National Wildlife Federation in Alaska is seeking high school students to attend a "civics and conservation summit" March 25-28 in Juneau.

Before arriving, students will research an environment-related bill introduced in the state Legislature. While in Juneau, students will learn how to read bills, develop position papers and express their views to lawmakers and the media.

Students outside of Juneau are asked to pay $200 to attend. Juneau students are asked to pay $75. Some scholarships are available. All students will stay in a youth hostel downtown during the event, organizers said.

There are 15 to 20 openings. For applications and information call Polly Carr at (907) 258-4825 or send an e-mail to AYEA@nwf.org. The deadline to apply is Feb. 7.

NMFS says killer-whale petition may have merit

ANCHORAGE - The National Marine Fisheries Service will review a petition to designate a Prince William Sound killer whale group as depleted under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

The agency received the petition from the National Wildlife Federation on Nov. 13 and agency officials have determined it may have merit.

The petition listed genetic, behavioral, ecological and management reasons for designating the AT-1 group of killer whales separate from the general group of transient killer whales in the eastern North Pacific.

The AT-1 group is considered part of a larger population of 346 transient killer whales in the eastern North Pacific. Prince William Sound and Kenai Fjords also are home to about 362 resident killer whales.

No new calves have been sighted among the AT-1 group since 1984.

If the fisheries service finds that the stock is separate and depleted, the agency will consider development of a conservation plan.

U.S. boats entered Russian waters

JUNEAU - The Coast Guard directed four U.S. fishing vessels into port after the agency detected them fishing in Russian waters Wednesday and Thursday.

Fishing across maritime boundary line is a violation of federal law.

The four vessels are the Arctic Wind, Pacific Star, Ocean Olympic of Seattle and Adventure of Petersburg.

"To our knowledge this is the first time U.S. vessels have been observed to have been fishing in Russian waters," said Coast Guard spokesman Darrell Wilson in Anchorage.

The 378-foot Coast Guard cutter Midgett and Coast Guard C-130 aircraft from Kodiak have been patrolling the maritime boundary line during the opilio crab fisheries.

At the request of the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Coast Guard directed the vessels to cease operations, retrieve their fishing gear and proceed to port. All vessels complied.

Once in port, U.S. federal and state authorities will continue their investigations, the Coast Guard said. Russian authorities were notified of the developments by the State Department.



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