Alaska Digest

Posted: Friday, February 13, 2004

Coast Guard Auxiliary holds winter conference

JUNEAU - The 17th District U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary will hold its annual winter statewide conference today through Sunday in Juneau at the Baranof Hotel. Nearly 100 auxiliarists from throughout Alaska are expected to attend.

This year's conference focuses on readiness and adding and honing skills to prepare auxiliarists to take on more responsibility for recreational boating safety while supporting other Coast Guard forces in homeland defense.

The Coast Guard Auxiliary became the largest volunteer force assigned to the Department of Homeland Security, when the Coast Guard officially became part of the department on March 1, 2003.

Workshops on surface operations, public education and vessel examination programs taught by peers and active duty personnel are offered. Auxiliarists also may tour the U.S. Coast Guard Station in Juneau.

Energy bill keeps gas line incentives

ANCHORAGE - The U.S. Senate's energy bill retains financial incentives for an Alaska gas pipeline, but the bill's authors have deleted a provision by Sen. Lisa Murkowski that would have guaranteed at least $500 million to the Denali Commission for energy projects.

"It is wonderful news that most everyone continues to support passage of all of the provisions that we won last fall to encourage construction of an Alaska natural gas transportation system to get our gas to market," Murkowski, R-Alaska, said.

The Denali Commission energy program, which could have amounted to $1 billion over 20 years, is still in the bill, but without guaranteed funding. Instead, its advocates would have to fight for the money in each year's appropriations bill.

The entire energy bill is still mired in the Senate, however.

Senators have been unable to agree on a mix of tax breaks, subsidies, research programs and other incentives.

The chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, Pete Domenici, R-N.M., this week presented the Senate's Republican leaders with a drastically slimmed-down bill. It would cost $13 billion, compared to the $31 billion bill the Senate considered last year.

The Alaska gas line incentives that survived the cut are loan guarantees of up to 80 percent of the project's cost, favorable tax treatment and a streamlined permit process.

Domenici, however, shaved $500 million from the energy bill by cutting the guaranteed funding for Murkowski's Denali Commission energy program.

As it stands now, the bill would only "authorize" the Denali energy money, leaving it up to future appropriations committees to decide whether to actually fund projects.

Retailer opening brings underwear to Palmer

PALMER - Yes, Palmer will have underwear.

Beginning March 3, when the new Fred Meyer opens its doors, the city of 5,475 will be getting its second corporate supermarket. And while the arrival of sushi is cause for celebration for some, so, too, is the return of panties and briefs.

A town that straddles the Glenn Highway, Palmer hasn't had underwear for sale since the mid-1980s. That's not to suggest that locals are not wearing underwear. Instead, they have to drive 20 miles roundtrip to Wasilla, or 80 miles roundtrip to Anchorage to buy their drawers.

Those days are about to end.

"Yes, we will have underwear," store manager John Mayer said to hoots and applause Wednesday at a Palmer Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

Mayer said he had to work on carrying undergarments at the new Fred Meyer, a Portland, Ore., division of The Kroger Co., one of the nation's largest grocery retailers.

The new store also creates 106 jobs in town. Mayer said 84 of the positions are full time.

Not everyone is excited about the store's arrival, however. Some people complained about the height of the company sign. Plans were for 20 feet. But Mayer said the company agreed to lower it.

Some also worried that the store would not stock local produce in a town that was founded by farmers in the 1930s. Mayer said it will.

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