Northwest Digest

Posted: Sunday, March 11, 2007

Vehicles crash on ice-slicked roads

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JUNEAU - Icy and snowy roads contributed to an accident-prone week, including a school bus crash without injuries on Thursday, a six-car pileup with one minor injury Friday, and at least 13 other minor crashes between Friday night and Saturday morning.

The pileup happened at 3 p.m. on Egan Drive near Vanderbilt Hill Road. An unidentified car tried to dart between two other outbound vehicles, causing a crash that totaled a Subaru and caused $1,500 of damage to a Ford Explorer. Two separate collisions then followed. The passenger of one vehicle was taken by a private party to Bartlett Regional Hospital for evaluation of minor injuries, police said.

The school bus accident a day earlier caused no injuries, though 21 high school students were on board. The bus hit a guard rail at 7:15 a.m. in the inbound lanes of Egan Drive, south of the Lemon Creek Bridge. It had swerved to avoid crashing into a 1996 Mazda driven by a 17-year-old boy who lost control.

The boy, who was cited for careless driving, said he lost control when a vehicle slowed down in front of him and he tried to brake. His vehicle lost traction on the icy street and swerved in front of the bus.

The other crashes did not cause injuries. They happened at various spots on Egan Drive and Glacier Highway.

Police: Man attempts to set fire to house

JUNEAU - A 26-year-old man was accused of breaking into a house on Fritz Cove Road on Thursday and trying to burn it down.

Juneau police said they arrived after a neighbor said the man asked her to take care of his cat because the house was "going to be on fire." Police found a man inside the house, which was filled with the smell of gasoline.

Charles Clasby was arrested on charges of burglary, attempted arson and criminal mischief.

Juneau firefighters controlled the fire hazard, but there was about $100,000 in damage.

Hayes trial delayed until September

FAIRBANKS - The trial for an Alaska Board of Regents member accused of fraud and money laundering will be postponed, officials said.

A grand jury has indicted Regent Jim Hayes and his wife, Chris, on fraud and money laundering charges related to alleged misuse of $450,000 from a series of federal grants. The federal government said the Hayeses spent the money on themselves and on a church where Hayes is pastor.

The trail was to have started April 9, but has been pushed back to Sept. 17. Defense attorneys asked for the delay, which was not opposed by the U.S. Attorney's office, because of what they called complexities in the case.

Jim Hayes, a former Fairbanks mayor, and Murilda "Chris" Hayes were indicted on multiple charges of theft, fraud and money laundering associated with their alleged misuse of funds given to LOVE Social Services, of which Chris Hayes is executive director. Jim Hayes was indicted on 23 counts, Chris Hayes on 92 counts.

LOVE Social Services received nearly $3 million through a total of five federal grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Justice, from 2000 to 2005.

The government alleges the Hayeses diverted a large portion of that money for personal use and to help build the new home of the Lily of the Valley Church of God in Christ.

Timber payments to be extended in Oregon

WASHINGTON - Payments to rural counties hurt by cutbacks in federal logging would continue for a year under a deal reached this week, Oregon lawmakers said.

Four Oregon House members - Republican Greg Walden and Democrats Earl Blumenauer, Peter DeFazio and Darlene Hooley - said Thursday they had secured the one-year extension as part of an emergency spending bill for the Iraq war.

Details were still being worked out, but lawmakers said the measure called for spending $400 million to help 700 counties in 39 states hurt by logging cutbacks. Most of the money goes to six Western states - Oregon, California, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Alaska - although Mississippi, Arkansas and other rural states also receive significant payments.

Democratic leaders - including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi - signed off on the deal, lawmakers said.

"The good news is that we have made great forward progress in forcing the federal government to keep its promise to rural communities," Walden said in a statement. "The bad news is that the president has already threatened to veto the emergency supplemental over other issues, so there is still much work left to be done for this to become law."

The law authorizing the timber payments expired last year. Efforts to reauthorize it have been frustrated by budget constraints and concerns that Oregon gets too much money under the current formula.

A vote on the measure is expected later this month. The White House said Thursday that Bush would veto the House measure, which is part of a bill requiring the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq in 2008.

Wolf delisting draws a crowd at hearing

SPOKANE, Wash. - Advocates for hunting of gray wolves squared off against people who support continued protection of the animals under the Endangered Species Act during a public meeting.

Well over 100 people packed a small hotel meeting room on Thursday, and extra security was hired for the public hearing because of the emotional nature of the argument, said Tom Buckley, spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The government has proposed delisting the gray wolves from protection under the Endangered Species Act in the northern Rocky Mountains and turning management of the animals over to the states, which would allow hunting to keep numbers low.

George Soetje of Sagle, Idaho, said the estimated 1,250 wolves in a vast part of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, cannot be considered a problem, and wolves should not be hunted.

"Twelve hundred fifty is nothing," Soetje, wearing a jacket with a wolf on the back, said.

Wolf supporters said hunting the animals would drive them back toward extinction. But advocates for ranchers said wolves are already preying on herds and are increasingly bold in encounters with humans.

Chris Norden of Lewiston, Idaho, opposed delisting. He said there should be 500 breeding animals, far more than there are now.

But Barbara Opdahl, whose family runs OOO Outfitters Inc., in the Clearwater National Forest, said elk populations have been decimated since wolves were reintroduced

"We have had a wolf stalk one of our grandsons last summer," she said. "The current population of wolves far exceeds the needed number for recovery."

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