Northwest Digest

Posted: Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Coast Guard cutter sets channel buoys

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JUNEAU - The crew of the Petersburg-based buoy tender Elderberry set navigational buoys Tuesday in Gastineau Channel, marking the onset of spring and the recreational boating season.

The seasonal buoys mark potential hazards and aid boaters in navigation. They will be removed at the end of the summer boating season.

Avalanche danger raised to 'extreme'

JUNEAU - The Southeast Alaska Avalanche Center raised the danger level to "extreme" Tuesday evening in anticipation of a large storm expected to arrive at midnight.

The center reported a large avalanche on Snowslide Gulch up Gold Creek Monday night. Staff said that indicated the potential for large slides.

The first rapid load and thaw on the dry and sensitive snowpack is likely to trigger a major avalanche cycle, the center reported.

Comment period for forest plan extended

KETCHIKAN - The comment period for people to weigh in on the Tongass National Forest's management plan update was extended to April 30, the forest's supervisor, Forrest Cole, announced Tuesday.

Severe weather throughout Southeast Alaska forced district rangers to reschedule some of the public meetings and hearings. It had also delayed some of the tribal consultations.

The initial deadline to submit comments was April 12.

The plan, which serves as a blueprint for how the forest is managed, was orderd updated by the 9th Circuit Court because the 1997 plan grossly overestimated the amount of logging that could be done.

Cole noted that this extension of the comment period will also give everyone additional time to review and comment on the small old growth reserve changes that were posted on the service Web site in mid-March.

"We have worked hard to have an open and transparent process for this amendment of the forest plan. Public comment is one of the key strengths of our process," Cole said.

A set of new alternative plans was required by the court's decision. Cole said that he has not selected a "preferred alternative" from among those analyzed.

For more information, visit the Forest Service's Web site at or contact Project Coordinator Lee Kramer at 586-8811, ext. 225, or via e-mail at

Navy says it will not disclose sonar use

HONOLULU - The Navy said Tuesday it won't tell a federal court specifics about its use of sonar over the past four years because disclosing such information would jeopardize national security.

A U.S. District Court judge in Los Angeles had asked the Navy to submit data for when and where sailors have used sonar since 2003. Judge Florence-Marie Cooper issued the order for the information in response to a request from the Natural Resources Defense Council, which is suing the Navy to ensure sailors use sonar in a way that doesn't harm whales and other marine mammals.

Cooper, who is also presiding over that suit, instructed the Navy to list the latitude and longitude of where it used mid-frequency active sonar, how long it used the sonar, and the times and dates of each instance.

Navy officials are worried such detail could give potential enemies critical tactical information about how sailors employ sonar to track and target submarines. Citing state secrets privilege, which allows government officials to keep information secret on national security grounds, the Navy said it wouldn't release the data.

Motorists stuck on highway rescued

FAIRBANKS - An Alaska State Trooper in Cantwell rescued two motorists after their pickup truck got stuck on the Denali Highway, which is not maintained in the winter.

Donetta Thurman, 20, and James Newborn, 16, turned onto the highway Sunday after realizing they went the wrong way out of Anchorage on their way to a shopping mall in Canada, Trooper Kris Hovila said.

They made it about 15 miles down the highway from Cantwell before getting stuck in deep snow. Only the first few miles of the 134-mile highway between Cantwell and Paxson is plowed in the winter.

The pair refused an offer from a passing snowmobile driver for a return trip to Cantwell, trooper spokeswoman Megan Peters said.

"They were dead set on heading to the Edmonton Mall in Alberta for spring break," Peters said.

The snowmobile driver then contacted Hovila, who drove a snowmachine to the stranded pair. He took Thurman and Newborn back to Cantwell one at a time.

The trooper said neither was dressed for the cold weather, but there was enough fuel in the pickup for them to keep it running until help arrived. They weren't injured.

Thurman and Newborn had never been out of Anchorage before, so it's not surprising they made it to Cantwell before realizing they were going the wrong way, Hovila said.

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