Northwest Digest

Posted: Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Planners to discuss trail improvements

JUNEAU - The city of Juneau and the University of Alaska Southeast are planning to improve the trail on the east side of Auke Lake.

The improvements would provide Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility to the campus and surrounding neighborhood.

Planners are seeking community comments about the kinds of experiences people want to have on the trail; where scenic outlooks should be located; and what an Auke Creek bridge should look like.

The meeting is from 7 to 9 tonight in the Egan Classroom Wing, room 222.

FEMA money OK'd for Jan. storm relief

KAKTOVIK - Federal disaster aid for this remote Beaufort Sea community - isolated for days by a severe January storm - was approved Monday by the White House.

The funding is available on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and repair or replacement of facilities damaged by the Jan. 7-12 storm in the North Slope Borough. Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for statewide hazard-mitigation efforts.

William Lokey was named coordinating officer for federal recovery operations in the area by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The agency said other kinds of assistance may be provided later if damage assessments show they are needed, and other areas also may be found eligible.

The Alaska Air National Guard delivered technicians and equipment to the community of 300 people after Kaktovik went four days with power. The cause of the power outage was not known, but it appeared to have occurred when power lines slapped together and arced during the storm.

The storm brought temperatures to 20 degrees below zero with wind chill of minus-60.

Families with children and elders huddled in a village heavy-equipment maintenance building. A single-lane road was plowed the 2 to 3 miles from the airport to the village. Snow drifts on the runway prevented emergency landings for days, before crews were able to clear the runway and erect portable lighting.

Volunteers sought for pilot study of owls

KETCHIKAN - Owls' nocturnal habits make them tough to study, so volunteers are being sought to help with a three-year federal pilot study of owls in Southeast Alaska.

Participation is not too demanding: volunteers are asked to drive to a specific area one evening a month, listen for owl calls for about four minutes and then log what they heard.

In the training packet for volunteers is a computer CD with photographs of owls that live in Southeast and samples of their calls. Familiarity with the calls is important for volunteers.

"It's easier to hear owls than see them," Irene Morris of the Juneau Raptor Center, who is one of the project leaders. Hearing an owl call counts as a "sighting."

The data collected in Alaska - combined with similar information from Canada - will help scientists get a sense of the abundance and distribution of forest owls. It will be the first study of the region's owls in about a decade.

"It's pretty exciting," Morris said. "Eventually we'll have a good idea of what's going on with the owls."

She said she has enlisted volunteers to survey Juneau, Sitka, Wrangell, Kasaan, Craig, Whale Pass and Klawock. She needs six or seven volunteers in Ketchikan to conduct once-a-month roadside monitoring.

Maps of likely owl habitat have been prepared, she said, but volunteers can choose their own routes if they hear about owl sightings in other areas, she said.

BLM puts stop to plans for heli-mushing camp

FAIRBANKS - Opposition from people concerned about helicopter traffic and noise stopped plans for a heli-mushing camp this summer on the Nenana Glacier near Denali National Park and Preserve.

Era Aviation had already started booking trips for the new tour when the Bureau of Land Management informed the company it would not issue a permit to operate dog sled tours on the Nenana Glacier this summer.

"We came to the conclusion there were too many adverse effects that would result from noise. That was the main factor," said Will Runnoe, bureau chief for visitor services with BLM in Glennallen.

Era planned to run heli-mushing tour similar to one it operates on the Norris Glacier in Juneau that has become one of the company's hottest-selling trips. Era had already booked about 70 people for the Denali tour. The company anticipated shuttling as many as 3,000 tourists to and from the glacier this summer for sled dog rides. The glacier is located about 150 miles southeast of Fairbanks.

Era was hoping to begin tours in mid-May. Many of the company's booking agents such as Princess Tours and Holland America had already included the tour in their literature for this summer's tourist season, said Era flight-seeing manager Tim Cudney.

"It's very disappointing," Cudney said.

But he said he respects the concerns of Denali residents who complained about the helicopter company's plans.

Tribes welcome and thank visitor for canoe

PORT ANGELES, Wash. - When Gerald "Woody" Woodside brought a handmade canoe to the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribal Center, he might have expected a word of thanks.

But tribal members who had assembled for a meeting there celebrated his surprise gift in traditional ways - singing and dancing for an hour and presenting him with gifts in return.

Woodside was a stranger from Port Gamble when he showed up at the center Saturday with a 21-foot cedar-and-fiberglass canoe atop his truck. The interior is built of cedar strips and the outside is shiny black fiberglass with bright orange trim.

He wanted to donate the canoe to youth of the Lower Elwha Klallam, calling the gift simply "a good thing to do."

"I kind of surprised them with it," he told the Peninsula Daily News.

On hand were 80 people who were planning this summer's Tribal Journey, in which people from coastal tribes will travel by canoe from parts of Canada and Washington to a gathering in Port Angeles.

Fourteen men lifted the canoe from the truck and brought it into the center's gym, where they circled the basketball court, then set the craft down on tumbling mats at midcourt.

There it was blessed by elder Johnson Charles, the Lower Elwha Klallam's spiritual adviser. Singers from several tribes took turns chanting songs of celebration and thanks. When they finished, the whole group joined in the "Journey Song."

"This is a vessel that takes us to different places," said Ray Fryberg, a Tulalip tribes member, "different places in the land, different places in our lives."

"How many people can the canoe hold?" asked Michael Evans, skipper of the Snohomish tribe's canoe, the Blue Heron. "An infinite number, but only four or five at a time. So fill it full of people again and again. Fill it full of young people."

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