Posted: Sunday, March 19, 2006

Crash investigation in hands of DA

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JUNEAU - Police have turned over their findings in the investigation of a fatal accident more than six months ago on Brotherhood Bridge to the district attorney's office, but did not say if any charges were recommended.

"This is one of those cases where no one has been charged with anything," police Lt. Jerry Nankervis said Friday, explaining that there were few details he could release.

The Aug. 31, 2005, accident took the life of 25-year-old Jody Watson, a 25-year-old University of Alaska Southeast student who was inbound on Glacier Highway in a 1997 Dodge Neon. A 1993 Plymouth van, driven by a 22-year-old man, crossed the center line, colliding with the Neon. Watson was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the van and a passenger, an 18-year-old woman, survived.

Police have not released the names of the man and women from the van.

Community rumors following the accident placied blame, and people left remembrances on the bridge in Watson's honor.

Nankervis said the district attorney's office has asked police not to discuss its findings or recommendation.

If the district attorney's office looks to file criminal charges against either of the people from the van, it could take the case to the grand jury to seek an indictment. Nankervis said the department forwarded its recommendations on March 8. Through last week, no indictments had been issued from the accident.

"There's been clamoring in the community that we haven't done anything," Nankervis said. "This was the result of a six month investigation."

Crab rules disliked by all candidates

KODIAK - The five declared candidates for governor found common ground in their dislike of groundfish rationalization, new rules meant to make the industry more efficient, safer and provide economic stability.

The rules guarantee a certain percentage of the catch based on past performance. With that guarantee, boats can take the entire season to bring in their share instead of a first-come free-for-all grab at the beginning of seasons.

"Rationalization has not proven rational," state Rep. Ethan Berkowitz, Democratic House leader, said during a debate Thursday at Comfish, a fishing industry trade show in Kodiak.

Fairbanks Republican John Binkley said rationalization has many negative connotations, but all Alaskans should have the opportunity to share in one of its primary resources, its fisheries.

Democrat Eric Croft of Anchorage said boat crewmen need more representation in the political process.

Other issues discussed during the debate ranged from candidates' positions on processing quota shares to management of hatcheries.

The candidates maintained quota shares are anticompetitive.

"I don't think processors qualify for quota shares," independent Andrew Halcro told the audience of about 300 people.

Berkowitz cited the need for more Alaska control of resources.

"We need to see more processors who are Alaskans," Berkowitz said. "How long are we going to remain a colony?"

On management of hatcheries, Republican Sarah Palin of Wasilla said her decisions will be based on facts and what the science shows from hatchery management.

She also said she is opposed to farm fishing "or anything that could contaminate the fisheries."

Legally blind musher finishes Iditarod

NOME - Rachael Scdoris and her Iditarod sled dog team were navigating a treacherous cliff, crisscrossed with switchbacks, when her sled slammed into a thick spruce tree.

"It was the worst run I've ever done," said the legally blind musher, who finished the 1,100-mile race early Saturday in Nome.

Scdoris managed to recover from the fiasco in the Alaska Range and crossed the Iditarod finish line in the post-midnight chill of the old gold rush town, becoming the first legally blind musher to bring a sled dog team more than 1,100 miles from Anchorage to Nome.

Scdoris's uncorrectable visual impairment limits her to seeing blurry shapes of objects more than a few feet away and makes her acutely sensitive to bright lights. She is color blind and has 20-200 vision.

The 21-year-old from Bend, Ore., scratched last year in her first Iditarod attempt when her dogs caught a virus.

"Everything this year was just better," said Scdoris in the finish chute in Nome. "I learned a lot last year. I was more organized and more confident going into this year. I knew I could do it."

Nome's main street was largely quiet as Scdoris and trail guide Tim Osmar, of Ninilchik, arrived almost side-by-side at 1:42 a.m. Osmar arrived 56th and Scdoris was 57th in a field of 72 teams, not counting 11 who scratched from the race. They completed the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in 12 days, 11 hours and 42 minutes. Leading teams this year finished in nine to 10 days.

Military construction on the upswing

ANCHORAGE - The four major military installations in Alaska are in a construction boom.

Construction spending at the sites more than doubled last year, according to annual economic data released this month.

The construction contracts jumped from $226.7 million in fiscal year 2004 to $596.4 million last year at forts Richardson and Wainwright and Air Force bases Elmendorf and Eielson.

Much of the activity is due to the military's massive transformation over the last few years, which has resulted in two large Army combat units being stationed in Fairbanks and Anchorage along with new aircraft and equipment.

Millions of dollars have flowed into the state to build everything from barracks and shooting ranges to flight simulators and aircraft hangars.

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