Alaska Digest

Posted: Sunday, February 12, 2006

Avalanche closes Seward Hwy. again

ANCHORAGE - A busy Alaska highway was closed again Saturday when a massive avalanche buried the roadway 30 feet deep in places.

The avalanche plunged down a sheer rock wall onto the Seward Highway 21 miles north of the coastal town of Seward shortly after 10 a.m., Alaska State Troopers said. A 20-mile stretch of the highway will remain closed overnight, troopers said.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or fatalities from the slider, which covered a 300-yard area from the roadway to Kenai Lake.

"No one is reported missing and there are no signs of any vehicles going into it," said Capt. Tom Bowman. "We do not believe anyone is in there."

The avalanche was by far the largest of three snow slides along the highway in recent days. Saturday's avalanche occurred less than a day after the highway was reopened following poor weather conditions and avalanches at mileposts 33 and 84 that forced its closure on Thursday.

Today, crews and avalanche experts will shoot or drop explosives on the unstable areas to try to bring down some of the snow, Bowman said.

The highway is not expected to open in the area until this afternoon at the earliest, trooper spokesman Greg Wilkinson said. It is impassible in the meantime.

High court upholds axing of senior bonus

JUNEAU - The Alaska Supreme Court has upheld the governor's right to veto the longevity bonus, a state system of cash payments to Alaska senior citizens.

A group of senior citizens sued the state after Gov. Frank Murkowski in 2004 axed the annual appropriation to the program that paid eligible residents as much as $250 a month.

Fairbanks Superior Court Charles Pengilly in September 2004 ruled that even though the program was still contained in state statute, it did not legally entitle seniors to the bonus.

The veto was part of the normal legislative process, Pengilly said.

The high court affirmed the lower court ruling this week.

Alaska Attorney General David Marquez said the significance of the ruling was "its affirmation of the role that both the legislative and executive branches play in proposing and approving our state budget."

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