Alaska Digest

Staff and Wire reports

Posted: Thursday, March 02, 2006

State announces summer ferry fares

JUNEAU -The Alaska Marine Highway System announced discounted summer fares for travel between selected Alaskan ports on Wednesday.

In Southeast Alaska, travel to and from Juneau and Pelican and Juneau and Bartlett Cove will be offered at a 30 percent discount for both one-way and round-trip travel from May 1 to Aug. 16.

In Prince William Sound, travel between Cordova and Valdez and between Cordova and Whittier will also be offered at a 30 percent discount all summer.

"Last summer these ferry trips were very popular with Alaskans who had visiting family and friends," said Capt. John Falvey, general manager of the ferry system. "The beauty of these trips makes them a bargain at any price, but we are trying to make them affordable for everyone."

The summer discounts apply to adult and child passenger fares, accompanied vehicles, bicycles and kayaks. Discounted trips between Pelican and Juneau, and Cordova and Valdez, will be in effect May 1 through Sept. 30. Ticket prices for the Bartlett Cove trips will be effective May 1 through the August 16 sailing.

Reservations may be made starting March 1 at, in person at any Alaska Marine Highway terminal, or by calling (800) 642-0066.

Wrangell-based trooper facing more charges

WRANGELL - An Alaska State Trooper who was arrested in February on a domestic violence assault charge is facing further charges.

Wrangell-based Clinton Songer, 29, is accused of confronting the victim while she walked home from work, then punching her in the face.

Songer is charged with assault, unlawful contact and violation of prior conditions of release.

He had been released on his own recognizance following charges of criminal trespass and fourth-degree assault on Feb. 5. Troopers said Songer was on preapproved leave at the time of the alleged assault, but declined to elaborate.

He was in custody on $2,500 bail, but the court has agreed to release him to the third party custody of his parents.

His next court appearance is set for May 22.

Songer has been relieved of his gun, badge and police authority, as dictated by trooper policy in a domestic violence allegation.

Congress OKs Native shareholder revisions

FAIRBANKS - A bill that would change the rules on Native shareholders now goes to President George Bush for his signature.

The bill, which was introduced by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, makes it easier for Alaska Native corporations to enroll new shareholders.

The House passed the bill Tuesday. It was previously approved in the Senate.

The bill will revise the way in which Alaska Native corporations can issue new stock to descendants of original stockholders. The corporations were formed in 1971 to accept land and money from Congress as settlement of aboriginal land claims.

Corporations can only issue new stock to people born since 1971 if a majority of all shareholders approve at an annual meeting. But Murkowski said since many shareholders are unable to travel from villages to the annual meetings in regional towns or cities, getting approval to issue stock from a majority of all shareholders is difficult.

The bill changes the law so new stock can be issued if approved by a majority of votes cast at a general membership meeting. Shareholders who don't attend meetings could still be represented if they give their proxies to people who do attend.

Limited search started at avalanche site

ANCHORAGE - An avalanche expert launched a limited search Wednesday for a snowboarder buried by an avalanche at Hatcher Pass, Alaska State Troopers said.

Jill Fredston of the Alaska Mountain Safety Center, two search and rescue dogs and their handlers began an initial search where Brendan Smart, 24, of Anchorage was trapped in Tuesday's slide.

Fredston was expected to later determine how to proceed, said troopers spokesman Greg Wilkinson.

Earlier Wednesday, explosives were used to try to bring down any unstable snow, but no additional slides were created, Wilkinson said. Extreme avalanche conditions prevented an immediate search Tuesday at the site, 50 miles north of sAnchorage.

The avalanche Tuesday was 200 feet wide and descended 1,600 feet.

The snow collected at the bottom of a narrow gully and is estimated at more than 20 feet.

Anchorage teenager killed in shooting

ANCHORAGE - An Anchorage teenager was killed after being shot in the head while he and a group of friends smoked marijuana and passed several guns around, police said.

Cody Gonzalez, 14, died instantly Tuesday from a gunshot from a semiautomatic handgun. His friend, 19-year-old Antonio Cerda, was charged with second-degree murder.

Cerda was being held in the Anchorage jail in lieu of $150,000 cash bond. He was expected to be arraigned Wednesday.

"It's a very tragic situation," said police Sgt. Slawomir Markiewicz. "He had a gun, was stoned and pointed it at someone's head. It certainly shows extreme indifference to the value of human life."

Police say Cerda, Gonzalez and several other teenagers were smoking marijuana about 4:45 p.m. in a home in the Penland Mobile Home Park. They were passing around several guns when Cerda put a handgun to Gonzalez's head and pulled the trigger, Markiewicz said.

"Obviously he didn't believe it was loaded," he said. "It came as a total surprise to him.

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