State and local briefly

Posted: Thursday, March 16, 2000

Northern whalers prepare for bowheads

BARROW - Whaling crews in Barrow and other communities in northern Alaska are getting ready for the spring bowhead whaling season.

Maggie Ahmaogak, executive director of the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission, says whaling captains are busy preparing and putting new skins on their boats and will start breaking trail through the ice by April 15. By late next month they will be setting up camps on the sea ice.

Barrow has a quota of 22 bowheads for the year; Point Hope has 10; Gambell and Savoonga have eight each; Wainwright has seven; Nuiqsut and Kivalina have four each; Kaktovik has three; Little Diomede and Wales have two each.

Ahmaogak says the quotas cover both the spring and fall whaling seasons. Any unused quotas can be transferred among the villages as needed.

Historic Iditarod Trail wins grant

KENAI - Alaska's Iditarod Trail has won a $20,000 grant as part of a nationwide Millennium Trails program.

The $20,000 can be used by trail groups to fund programs, studies and planning and to improve trail infrastructure and maintenance. The program is a collective effort by the White House Millennium Council, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, and is funded by American Express.

``These grants are given in recognition of the contribution these trails will make to our nation's cultural and natural heritage,'' said David Burwell, president of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

``This trail was being used before Christopher Columbus arrived,'' said Iditarod National Millennium Trail Chairman Nyla Marsilio of Kasilof. ``That puts its importance in context. It's enough to give you goose bumps.''

Tribal hall may allow alcohol sales

FAIRBANKS - The Tanana Chiefs Conference must consider lifting the ban on alcohol sales at the Chief Peter John Tribal Hall to operate the building profitably, TCC President Steve Ginnis told convention delegates Wednesday.

The hall lost $250,000 in its first year of operation because of a decision at last year's convention to ban alcohol.

``Alcohol abuse has been a terrible plague on our people,'' Ginnis said.

Yet, Ginnis said, banning alcohol makes the tribal hall unable to compete with other local halls in attracting the wedding receptions, holiday parties and other functions that could help balance the books.

``I say we must strike a balance that will allow TCC to remain competitive in the hospitality market,'' he said.

By a 20-19 vote last year, delegates approved a resolution to ban alcohol in all TCC buildings and functions. Proponents of the ban say that an organization devoted to improving Native health should not profit from a substance that has caused so much harm to Native communities.

Ginnis said a decision about alcohol must be a business decision, not a political decision.

``While it serves as a wonderful home for TCC's annual convention and other Native gatherings throughout the year, it must pay its way as a rental facility to mostly non-Native groups,'' Ginnis said.

Earthquake shakes up Anchorage

PALMER - An earthquake rattled Anchorage Wednesday night.

The Alaska Tsunami Warning Center says the magnitude 5.2 quake occurred at 11:49 p.m. and was centered about 15 miles north of Anchorage.

The quake was felt sharply in Anchorage and Palmer, but there were no reports of damage or injuries.

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