State and local briefly

Posted: Friday, February 25, 2000

New Southeast airline plans for April takeoff

KETCHIKAN - A new airline is scheduled to get off the ground in this Southeast Alaska city in April.

Officials with Pacific Airways said they plan to begin floatplane service between Ketchikan and Prince of Wales and Annette Islands.

President Mike Rhoads said Pacific Airways will offer scheduled flights to Metlakatla, Craig and Thorne Bay and charter service to other outlying villages and lodges. The carrier may serve still more communities if it proves economically viable, Rhoads said.

Pacific Airways will be using DeHavilland Beaver floatplanes to make the runs, and the new company will employ 10 to 12 people, he said.

Pacific Airways is the second company to enter the Ketchikan market in the two months since the area's largest commuter airline, Taquan Air, announced it was closing.

Haines-based LAB began scheduled flights between Ketchikan and Klawock earlier this month.

Senate OKs women-only health clubs

JUNEAU - A bill allowing women-only health clubs passed the Senate on Thursday.

Senate President Drue Pearce sponsored the measure after the Alaska State Commission on Human Rights told two Anchorage health clubs that their women-only policies violated the state's discrimination laws.

``There are a lot of women who absolutely refuse to go to health clubs because they're absolutely intimidated,'' said Pearce, an Anchorage Republican.

The bill would allow physical fitness facilities to admit only men or only women, to protect members' privacy interests.

It's an exception to state law that forbids the operator of a public accommodation from denying access based on ``sex, physical or mental disability, marital status, changes in marital status, pregnancy, parenthood, race, religion, color, or national origin.''

Paula Haley, the human rights commission's executive director, said the commissioners oppose the bill on principle. A commission hearing on the Anchorage clubs is scheduled for this spring.

The measure passed the Senate 17-3 and now will move to the House.

Sen. Kim Elton, a Juneau Democrat, called the bill a step backward from anti-discrimination law.

Elton was also troubled by the vague definition of physical fitness facility, saying it could be broadly interpreted to include golf courses and similar facilities.

``They're addressing a discrete situation with a broad-band approach,'' Elton said. ```That gives me a little heartburn.''

Interests differ on Americanizing large boats

ANCHORAGE - - Fishing companies, foreign embassies and the state of Alaska are sounding off about some proposed federal rules that would ``Americanize'' large fishing vessels operating off U.S. coastlines.

The rules were required by the American Fisheries Act, pushed by Sen. Ted Stevens, an Alaska Republican, in 1998. The act said fishing vessels more than 100 feet long and operating in U.S. waters must be at least 75 percent owned and controlled by U.S. citizens.

Many of the nation's biggest fishing boats work off Alaska catching pollock, the nation's richest fishery, worth some $700 million per year.

Most of the major processing plants that buy Bering Sea pollock and other bottomfish from fishing boats are owned by Japanese companies.

These companies have told the federal Maritime Administration that the 75 percent ownership and control rule must not be used to cut off loans and advances the processors traditionally have given boat owners to cover their seasonal operating expenses or upgrade their vessels.

The debate is whether such loans constitute impermissible control over a fishing vessel.

Some foreign-owned processors and vessel owners contend that they are exempt from the act because of 1950s free trade treaties between the United States, Japan and South Korea.

But Don Giles, chief executive of Icicle Seafoods Inc., a Seattle seafood processing company with no foreign ownership, urged the Maritime Administration to hold a firm line on the U.S. citizenship requirement.

Other treaties, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, suggest the United States generally doesn't cede its control over fishing and other maritime activities along its shores, Giles said.

The Maritime Administration wants to publish the final rules for the U.S. citizenship requirement by April 1, to take effect Oct. 1, 2001.

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