Staff and Wire reports

Posted: Tuesday, March 08, 2005

ADF&G board names commissioner finalists

JUNEAU - The Alaska Board of Fisheries and Board of Game forwarded three final candidates to Gov. Frank Murkowski to fill the position of commissioner for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

The boards jointly named McKie Campbell, a former deputy commissioner for the department; acting Commissioner Wayne Regelin and state commercial fisheries director Doug Mecum.

The boards met jointly Sunday in Anchorage to compile the list of names, selected from a list that had recently swelled to eight candidates.

The boards did not assign a preferential order to the list of finalists.

In accordance with state law, Murkowski will appoint the next commissioner from the list of qualified candidates generated by the boards. The Alaska Legislature must then confirm the appointment.

Kevin Duffy resigned as commissioner to take a job in the seafood processing industry in late 2004.

Coast Guard pulls two teens off island

JUNEAU - The U.S. Coast Guard reported pulling two stranded teens Sunday night from an island near the end of Fritz Cove Road.

Neither Brandon Melvin, 19, nor Tony Delgado, 19, required medical attention, according to the report. The two became stranded on Suedla Island, just north of Spuhn Island, as the incoming tide prevented them from using the 14-foot skiff they had taken there.

The two also were exposed to the elements after the cold win blew down their tent, the report stated.

The Juneau station sent a crew aboard a 25-foot rescue boat before 9 p.m. to recover the teens and bring them to shore, the Coast Guard reported.

Washington delegation tours North Slope

ANCHORAGE - Five U.S. senators who traveled to the North Slope to generate support for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge say they're impressed by technological advances in oil development.

And the senators, who are all Republicans, said development can coexist with caribou and other wildlife important for subsistence hunters.

Supporters of drilling are expected to try again this year to open the refuge's coastal plain to oil and gas explorers.

Sen. Pete Domenici of New Mexico, chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, said a federal budget resolution containing an assumption of revenue from ANWR oil and gas leasing should reach the Senate floor in two weeks.

The senators, along with Interior Secretary Gale Norton, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman and White House environmental policy director James L. Connaughton, flew into Anchorage on Sunday on an Air National Guard jet.

Sen. Bob Bennett of Utah said he'd read that oil development chases away wildlife, yet he saw plenty of caribou and a fox on his trip to the Slope.

"The caribou that we saw didn't seem to be particularly dislocated," he said.

Eleanor Huffines, Alaska director for The Wilderness Society, questioned why the senators came in winter when "the refuge is asleep." In recent years, her group has helped take Congress people to the Slope in summer when the snowy tundra explodes with green life.

Alaska group to fight Social Security plan

ANCHORAGE - An Anchorage offshoot of a national group that uses the Internet to advance progressive policies is preparing to battle the Bush administration over Social Security.

The Anchorage chapter of Democracy for America, a descendant of the cyber-savvy presidential campaign of Howard Dean, wants to change the president's plans to privatize Social Security.

About 12 people attended the group's first session, an informational gathering last week. Former Alaska Attorney General John Havelock urged his fellow participants to take heart.

"Smaller groups than this one have changed the world," Havelock said.

The president's plans to privatize Social Security would either increase the national debt by more than $4 trillion or require a massive reduction in benefits that would cripple Social Security, said Rita Hatch, a columnist for Senior Voice.

Aurora rocket crashes near Fairbanks

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - A rocket launched for aurora research Sunday from Poker Flat Research Range malfunctioned and crashed north of Fairbanks.

Wreckage from the rocket was spotted in the rocket range's impact zone in the White Mountains. Range manager Greg Walker would not give a specific location for the wreckage. Under normal conditions, the payload would have flown for 40 minutes, peaked above the Arctic Ocean coastline and fallen on the polar ice cap, Walker said.

The 70-foot, 2-inch four-stage Black Brant XII rocket reached an altitude of about 18 miles high and flew for five minutes before crashing.

"It was short of the Yukon River," he said.

The rocket, part of the project dubbed "Cascades," launched at 1:37 a.m. Sunday from the rocket range 30 miles north of Fairbanks.

Amy Hartley, spokeswoman for the Geophysical Institute of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, said the rocket's first two stages appeared to function properly but normal ignition of the third stage did not occur. Poker Flat is operated by the Geophysical Institute under contract to NASA.

Walker said range staff launched a search by air and by ground with snowmobiles.

Searchers in a fixed-wing aircraft spotted the rocket within 50 feet of its predicted location based on final global positioning system transmissions as the payload fell.

"It was right where it was supposed to be," Walker said. Range staff hope to use a helicopter to retrieve the rocket debris Monday.

The debris will be retrieved and analyzed as part of an investigation of went wrong with the flight.

The rocket contained no guidance system. Walker compared it to launching an arrow from a bow.

It also carried no flight termination system, meaning it was not blown up when technicians detected the engine problem.

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