Alaska Digest

Posted: Monday, February 23, 2004

Budget cut may end DUI driver monitoring

ANCHORAGE - Thousands of drunken drivers would go without monitoring that now gets them to alcohol classes or treatment under a budget cut proposed by Gov. Frank Murkowski.

Without anyone checking, many just would not go, say treatment providers and advocates. They are alarmed and rallying against the proposal.

"If no one is holding their feet to the fire, they are going to keep drinking and driving," warned Dr. Mike Herndon, medical director of Providence Breakthrough, an outpatient treatment program.

The governor, faced with a budget gap of hundreds of millions of dollars in the coming year, has proposed eliminating all funding, $908,000, for adult defendants in the Alcohol Safety Action Program. Money to monitor juvenile offenders would remain.

ASAP handles about 8,500 adult misdemeanor offenders a year, program coordinator Ron Taylor said.

For instance, almost 5,300 people ended up in the program last year because of driving while intoxicated. More than 1,100 were people drinking or using drugs when they committed domestic violence assault.

Teen charged with calling in bomb threat

ANCHORAGE - Alaska State Troopers aided by a $1,000 reward offer have arrested a 16-year-old girl on charges that she made a bomb threat at a Palmer high school.

Hours after the bomb threat was made Monday morning at Colony High School, school officials announced the reward and started receiving tips.

"It was instant," said principal Cyd Duffin. "We had several people come forward immediately with information. ... Every story matched up."

School staff got more than five tips. On Wednesday, Alaska State Troopers arrested the student. Troopers also interviewed two other students who were involved.

The bomb threat proved to be a false alarm, school officials said Friday. But they took the threat seriously when the call came in before 10 a.m. Monday, with about 1,000 students in classes. Administrators said they called troopers, decided it was not necessary to evacuate, then ordered the building locked down as they swept the interior and outdoors for any signs of trouble.

Testimony collected on False Pass interceptions

ANCHORAGE - Fishermen near the tip of the Alaska Peninsula will find out this week whether the Board of Fisheries will loosen restrictions on their take.

Fishermen in Area M, including what's generally referred to as the False Pass fishery, lost substantial fishing time the last time the Fish Board discussed their area, in 2001, and they want some of it back.

It's a question of survival for Area M fishermen, said David Osterback of Sand Point. Between law salmon prices and high fuel and insurance costs, half the fleet cannot afford to fish, he testified.

Permit values have plummeted 10- and 15-fold. Fishermen are going bankrupt, he said.

"It isn't going to be long before a lot more of us aren't going to be in this business," Osterback told board members Wednesday. "I can't get out of fishing now, even if I want to get out. I wanted to sell my boat and permit; there's nobody to buy it. But I have debt, so I have to go out."

He and other Area M permit holders, including some from Anchorage, are asking the board for more fishing time, a bigger area to fish or deeper nets - anything would help, they say. Fishermen are hoping a new quality initiative, which is bringing some of the highest prices in the state for a short period in early June, will help persuade the board to relinquish.

Area M surrounds the tip of the Alaska Peninsula about 1,100 miles southwest of Anchorage and includes Cold Bay, King Cove and Sand Point.

Moose protection groups wants to move animals

ANCHORAGE - The new group seeking to save moose from vehicles is proposing to transplant 250 animals this year from Anchorage to rural areas.

"What we're in right now is absolute genocide, with everyone in Mat-Su and Anchorage and the Kenai playing Russian roulette at night with their vehicles," said Gary Olson, the group's organizer and chairman. "Regardless of your perspective, it's unacceptable."

Alaskans have been crashing cars and trucks into moose about five or six times per day since the start of the year. Collisions with moose can mean expensive repairs, human injuries and death.

On Jan. 5, John J. High of Trapper Creek died after his Subaru Legacy smashed into a moose with hardly enough time to tap the brakes. He was driving home from work.

At least 16 people have been hospitalized or hurt, while hundreds have limped their cars home with dented fenders and shattered glass.

In Anchorage, where deep snow has driven an estimated 1,000 moose into neighborhoods, parks and streets, more than 120 moose have been killed since summer.

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