Alaska Digest

Posted: Monday, March 13, 2006

Wife asks for called-off search to continue

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Juneau - The U.S. Coast Guard suspended its search Sunday for two men missing on a fishing boat since Friday off the southern tip of Admiralty Island, although the wife of one of the men, a Juneau fisherman, is pleading for the search to continue.

Jennifer Ne-bert said only one of the three survival suits on board were found, and she believes the others weren't because her husband and the other man on board used them to escape the vessel.

"It makes absolutely no sense (otherwise) that only one was found," Nebert said.

Rick Nebert's 34-foot gillnetter, the Slayer, called in a mayday just before 7 a.m. Friday, U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Richard Reichenbach said. Nebert, 42, of Juneau, was fishing in high winds with 18-year-old deckhand Matthew Young of Sitka, the Coast Guard reported.

Sunday night, Petty Officer Sara Francis said the Coast Guard made the decision at 7:50 p.m. Sunday night to call off the search with no signs of a vessel and no bodies. The single survival suit was found early Friday.

"It always difficult to suspend a search, but it's unlikely we will find anything," Francis said.

Jennifer Nebert said she rode in a Coast Guard helicopter Saturday landing in places to look through the debris. Her husband was experienced in fishing in icy waters, and she believes he and Young may have made it to shore. There are plenty of cabins in remote areas off shore where no one has looked, she said.

She also questioned why the Coast Guard didn't get the Alaska State Troopers involved. Unfortunately, she doesn't have the money to continue the search on her own, she said. "I'm a stay-at-home mom."

No one injured in valley shooting

Juneau - The Juneau Police Department received a report at 7:47 a.m. Sunday that an unknown gunman fired at a Mendenhall Valley home.

According to police, multiple shots were fired and one of the rounds ended up in the living room of a neighbor's house.

No injuries were reported and the case is still under investigation, a police press release said.

Police would not provide more detailed information Sunday.

Official: predator control crimps budget

FAIRBANKS - Alaska's big-game boss told members of the Board of Game that predator control programs are eating up big chunks of the Department of Fish and Game's wildlife budget and have forced wildlife biologists to focus on predators at the expense of other animals.

"We have to have very good information to sustain these projects," Matt Robus, director of the Division of Wildlife Conservation, said Friday. "In order to get a program in effect and sustain it and defend it, we need to know what the predator-prey relationship is and what it's doing. We need to know how the control program is affecting bears and wolves. We need to know what happens after the program ends."

All of those things require studies, which in turn require money. In some cases, he told the seven-member board, the state has been borrowing money from other studies to pay for predator control work. One example is Interior moose surveys.

"Instead of flying a moose survey every two years, we're flying them every three or four years," he said. "We've pulled back on sheep and goat surveys.

"Our information for some populations isn't as up-to-date as we'd like it. We're doing less survey and inventory work than we feel we need to."

Robus' comments came on the first day of a 10-day meeting at the Princess Hotel in Fairbanks, where the Game Board is meeting to consider 167 proposals for changes to Interior hunting and trapping regulations. Predator control tops the agenda.

Suit aims to stall oil and gas development

ANCHORAGE - Environmental groups are suing the Interior Department in an effort to block expanded oil and gas exploration in the northeast corner of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

The 18-page lawsuit was filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Juneau. It builds on a preliminary lawsuit the coalition of environmental groups filed a year ago.

The new lawsuit concerns the government's decision in January to allow drillers to lease previously closed acreage on the shoulder of Teshekpuk Lake, a magnet for thousands of migratory geese. The site also is considered one of the reserve's most promising areas for oil and gas discoveries.

The plaintiffs contend the Bureau of Land Management, an Interior agency, violated the Endangered Species Act and other federal laws in failing to properly analyze the potential impacts of oil and gas activity in the wildlife-rich area.

The groups suing are the National Audubon Society, Alaska Wilderness League, Center for Biological Diversity, Natural Resources Defense Council, Northern Alaska Environmental Center, Sierra Club and The Wilderness Society.

Defendants include outgoing Interior Secretary Gale Norton, who resigned Friday.

Priest abuse case to get 2nd look in court

FAIRBANKS - A Nome judge who threw out a civil lawsuit filed by woman claiming she was sexually abused by a Jesuit priest has agreed to reconsider the dismissal.

Superior Court Judge Ben Esch said he would re-examine the dismissal within three weeks after accepting a 30-page reconsideration request filed by the defendant's lawyer, Anchorage attorney Ken Roosa.

On Feb. 22, Esch dismissed the lawsuit filed against the Fairbanks Catholic diocese and another Catholic organization, saying the statute of limitations had expired - a ruling that could affect more than 100 claims of sexual abuse against minors in Alaska.

The lawsuit alleged that the Catholic Bishop of Northern Alaska and the Society of Jesus were negligent in supervising the Rev. James Poole, who allegedly molested the woman, identified only as Jane Doe 2.

Esch in December dismissed Poole from the lawsuit for the same reason. He has asked both the diocese and the Society of Jesus to respond within 15 days.

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