Alaska Digest

Staff and Wire reports

Posted: Friday, March 17, 2006

Damage reported from record cold

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JUNEAU - Record low temperatures on Thursday morning caused some water pipes to rupture in Juneau.

The University of Alaska Southeast had a water pipe burst over a computer classroom in the Whitehead Building early Thursday morning, damaging roofing panels, carpet and two older computers, spokesman Kevin Myers said. He estimated the damage at $200.

"They were literally in the works of changing the computers over this week, so the ones that were lost were going to be switched out anyway," Myers said.

He said the university was fortunate that those computers were the ones damaged because the pipe broke in an area where much of the school's computer technology is housed.

"We would have been talking possibly tens of thousands of dollars," he said.

The Greatland Hotel near the Douglas Bridge also had some water pipes break Thursday morning.

National Weather Service meteorologist Chris Maier said it was minus 2 degrees Fahrenheit at the Juneau International Airport Thursday morning, a new record low. He said it was minus 9 degrees at the weather station at the back of Mendenhall Loop Road and minus 11 degrees at Montana Creek.

"Any time we get down below zero there's definitely a concern for pipes that are exposed to outdoor temperatures, outdoor air, when it gets that cold," Maier said.

He said early Friday morning was expected to be near minus 10 degrees in the back of Mendenhall Valley and in the single digits downtown. Maier sad some clouds are expected Saturday, and possibly some snow by Sunday.

State closes Aleutian trawling

JUNEAU - The state took emergency action Thursday to close a large swath of Alaska waters in the Aleutian Island chain to protect deep-sea coral gardens from bottom trawling.

The decision came a day after Alaska opened its Pacific cod fishery in an area that included deep-sea coral gardens. The coral gardens were slated for closure later this year under federal and state regulations.

On Wednesday, the international conservation group Oceana petitioned for an emergency closure in the six coral hot spots designated as future no-trawl zones.

Citing the potential ill effects of a time lag in enacting the regulations, Oceana's regional vice president, Jim Ayers, said, "One pass of a bottom trawl can destroy this valuable habitat that can take hundreds of years to form."

The federal and state rulemaking process could be delayed as late as August, Ayers said.

Most of the coral gardens slated for closure are in state rather than federal waters, said Forrest Bowers, an Alaska Department of Fish and Game groundfish biologist based in Kodiak.

"When the (Fisheries) board created the new Pacific cod fishery, they didn't take into account the coral garden closures, even though it (appears to have been) their intent to adopt them," Bowers said.

He said he wasn't sure how many square miles of water would be affected by the emergency closure.

The closure was effective at 3 p.m. Thursday.

United Way revenues up by 36 percent

JUNEAU - The United Way of Southeast Alaska's 2005 private campaign yielded $279,875 in gifts, pledges, and in-kind contributions, they announced this month.

The nonprofit's 2005 results represent a 36 percent increase over its 2004 private campaign total of $205,850, they reported.

"The United Way campaign benefits our nonprofit community financially and programmatically," said Kathleen Vilandre of Wells Fargo Bank, a 2005 campaign volunteer chair. "Instead of spending time and effort trying to attract donations, they can focus on programs and services for the community."

In addition, United Way of Southeast Alaska was awarded $90,000 as the second installment of a five-year capacity-building grant from the Rasmuson Foundation. Totaling all contributions and grant funds, United Way's total revenues for Southeast Alaska in 2005 came to $557,995.

Air Force cancels Galena contract

FAIRBANKS - State officials say they were surprised by the decision by the Air Force to stop helping plow snow from the runway at Galena after March 31.

The military Base Realignment and Closure Commission voted in August to close the Galena Forward Operating Location. But the commission also requested that the Air Force move slowly given the expected severe impact on the community's employment and utilities.

Under the law approved by Congress last fall, the commission's closure orders must be completed within six years.

"We were expecting the transition from the Air Force to be a lot longer," said Shannon McCarthy, spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities in Fairbanks.

The Air Force has told the state that the current snowplowing contract will end March 31 and won't be renewed next year, McCarthy said.

The state will continue to maintain the runway for light aircraft, McCarthy said.

Two die of smoke inhalation in cabin fire

NEW STUYAHOK - Two men killed in a cabin fire in New Stuyahok died of smoke inhalation, Alaska State Troopers said Wednesday.

The men were tentatively identified as Samuel Kivolk, 41, and Andrew Gust, 23. The fire broke out after midnight Monday in the cabin in the southwestern Alaska village.

Positive identification of the remains will require dental records, said trooper spokesman Greg Wilkinson. But he said people in the village are confident who died in the fire.

A fire marshal's investigation showed that the fire was caused when a liquid-fuel lantern was accidentally knocked over. It was not immediately known how the lantern got knocked over. Kivolk and others were playing cards and drinking in the 14-by-18-foot cabin earlier in the night, Wilkinson said.

The deaths have been ruled accidental.

Board delays decision on predator control

FAIRBANKS - The Alaska Board of Game put predator control on the back burner at its meeting in Fairbanks.

The board, meeting for a seventh straight day on Wednesday, voted to delay any action on predator control until the Department of Fish and Game can put together the biological information needed to defend the program in court.

The board voted unanimously to table a proposal that would have made permanent a regulation it adopted during an emergency meeting two months ago to reactivate the state's predator control efforts.

The board will do the same with similar proposals for the four other areas predator control is being conducted, as well as any other proposals regarding predator control that come up during the meeting.

"The bottom line is we're not going to add anything unless (the Department of Fish and Game) has the funding for it and the supportive data for it," said board member Ted Spraker of Soldotna. "As broke as the department is, I'm not sure what we're going to do."

Officials with the Department of Fish and Game have repeatedly told the Game Board it isn't financially or biologically ready to institute any new predator control programs.

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