Alaska Digest

Staff and Wire reports

Posted: Thursday, March 10, 2005

State approves pesticide spraying

JUNEAU - The state announced Wednesday it has approved a permit allowing Klukwan Inc., a Haines-based Native corporation, to spray herbicides on about 2,000 acres of forest land on Long Island.

Some tribal representatives, residents of nearby Hydaburg and dive fishermen said Wednesday they were disappointed by the decision. They are worried about potential impacts to eagles, public health and spawning streams.

Klukwan Inc. intends to spray the chemicals glyphosate and imazapyr, both federally regulated chemicals, to eliminate salmonberry and red alder competing with second growth timber on its private lands.

Klukwan Inc. intends to spray the chemicals by helicopter about 20 feet above the vegetation, using a 100-foot buffer zone around water bodies, according to the state.

The state received 380 comments on the proposal and held three public meetings.

"They really are not addressing the strong opposition to the use of pesticides," said Aurah Landau, with the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council.

Some residents asked the state to require Klukwan to provide public notice of spraying, but state officials said in their written response there are no public notice requirements for private property.

The proposed time period for spraying is from late July to the end of August.

Fire shuts down part of fertilizer plant

KENAI - An ammonia building in Agrium's North Kenai fertilizer plant was shut down this week after a fire broke out.

No one was injured in the blaze Tuesday, said Lisa Parker, a company spokeswoman.

The fire broke out in Plant Four, the ammonia plant. Ammonia is a liquid form of fertilizer.

The fire also caused the shutdown of Plant Five, where urea is processed. That building is expected to be restarted within days, but it's unknown when the ammonia plant will be up and running again, according to Parker.

"It will take time to figure out the extent of the damage," she said.

The Nikiski Fire Department responded to the fire.

Parker said the cause is still under investigation.

But Steve Donnelly, an operator at Agrium, said the fire was caused by a ruptured catalyst tube in the reformer.

Mark Schams, another Agrium operator, said that until 2000, the plant conducted a major overhaul at least every three years.

It has been almost five years since the last overhaul, Donnelly said. He did not believe the length of time between the last turnaround contributed to the fire.

Agrium announced last year that it will close the facility because it cannot secure a cheap supply of natural gas. Natural gas is a key ingredient in the production of urea, a solid form of fertilizer.

The plant's closure will leave 230 people without jobs.

Man charged after rampage on flight

ANCHORAGE - A Colorado man is accused of going on a destructive rampage on a United Airlines flight from Denver to Anchorage, the FBI said Wednesday.

Brian Anthony Casias, 35, of Commerce City, Colo., has been charged with interfering with the flight crew on Flight 711. He is being held in the Anchorage City Jail and is scheduled to appear before a federal magistrate on Thursday.

Casias was heard swearing as he boarded the flight in Denver on Tuesday. The plane's captain advised Casias he would not be served alcoholic beverages during the flight. But once he was on the plane, Casias asked a flight attendant for a drink. The flight attendant refused the request, the FBI said.

Casias is accused of throwing his tray of food down and spitting repeatedly on the floor of the plane.

"Casias then ripped the phone off the back of the seat and began hitting the tray table in front of him, and ultimately broke two tray tables off the back of the two passenger seats and threw the tray tables on the floor," the FBI said.

Casias also is accused of standing in the lavatory and urinating on the floor. While in the lavatory, the FBI said, Casias broke the handicapped bar off the wall and broke a changing table.

He is also accused of swearing repeatedly despite requests from the plane's captain and flight attendants that he stop and of smoking several cigarettes on the plane.

A member of the flight crew remained at the door to the cockpit of the plane because of the disruption, the FBI said.

Casias was arrested by airport police and the FBI when the plane landed in Anchorage.

Man pleads no contest to murder of girl

FAIRBANKS - A man accused of killing a 13-year-old Fairbanks girl has pleaded no contest to first-degree murder.

Demetrio Hernandez, 42, was accused of killing the girl last March while he had sex with her. In exchange for pleading guilty to the murder charge, the prosecution will drop three sexual abuse of a minor charges.

According to court documents, Hernandez said he had a consensual sexual relationship with Brandi Martinez. Documents stated that the girl called Hernandez at work and invited him to her house on March 10, 2004.

The two began having sex in her bedroom, but were startled by a noise and moved into the bathroom to avoid being caught and continued to have sex - the girl's shoulders pinned to the floor and her chin tucked to her chest, documents said.

At some point, documents state that Hernandez noticed the girl gasp for air, start foaming at the mouth, turn blue and go into convulsions. He attempted to revive her.

Asphyxiation was ruled the cause of the girl's death.

Brandi's father, Jose Galindo, found the girl's body the following morning.

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