State Briefs

Posted: Wednesday, January 30, 2002

Anchorage to take subsistence vote in April 2 ballot

ANCHORAGE - Anchorage voters will weigh in on the subsistence debate with a nonbinding ballot question on the city's April 2 municipal ballot.

The Assembly voted 6-4 Tuesday to include a question asking voters whether they want the state Legislature to put a constitutional amendment on subsistence before voters in the November general election.

Federal law gives rural Alaskans a subsistence hunting and fishing priority while the state guarantees all Alaskans equal access to the state's resources. The Legislature has been deadlocked on proposals to change the constitution to comply with federal law.

Assembly member Allan Tesche, who voted in favor of the ballot question, said the subsistence issue is important to all Alaskans and the Assembly has a right to have its say. Assemblyman Dan Sullivan, who voted against it, said he couldn't think of a single legislator who would change his vote on the issue.

Controllers didn't try to stop wrong-way jet to Taiwan

ANCHORAGE - Air traffic controllers say they didn't try to stop the wrong-way takeoff of a China Airlines jet last Friday because they feared it was going too fast to stop.

The Airbus 340, carrying about 250 people, took off in the wrong direction and from a taxiway instead of a runway at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. The jet managed to take off, barely averting disaster. The jet's wheels scraped a snow berm as it lifted off at the end of the taxiway.

The flight landed safely in Taipei later Friday. China Airlines has grounded the three-person crew while it investigates the incident, according to Hamilton Liu, China Air's station manager at Anchorage.

The controller communicating with the China Airlines pilot cleared the aircraft for takeoff on the airport's 11,000-foot-long north-south runway, said Joette Storm, spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration. The pilot read back the instructions in English, the universal language for air-traffic control.

The controller turned away for a instant, Storm said. "When he turned to look outside again, the plane was on its way down the taxiway."

Given the plane's considerable speed on the 6,000-foot-long taxiway, controllers determined "it would be better to allow them to proceed," she said.

Unocal discovers pipeline leak at Swanson River field

ANCHORAGE - An underground pipe containing a mixture of warm water, oil and natural gas sprung a leak Tuesday in the Swanson River field in Nikiski.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation says up to 2,604 gallons of the mixture spilled from a 3-inch pipeline leading from a well to a holding tank. About 92 percent of the fluid was water, Unocal said.

The spill could have sprayed from a pinhole or gushed from a severed line. The initial estimate is based on the worst-case scenario, so the spill's size may turn out to be much smaller once Unocal digs around the pipe to expose it today, Unocal spokeswoman Roxanne Sinz said.

A Unocal employee patrolling the area saw nothing unusual at 7:15 a.m., but spotted an estimated 20-by-5-foot patch of stained snow above the line an hour later, DEC officials said. The spill occurred on a gravel pad and posed no threat to foliage or streams, Sinz said.

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