Northwest Digest

Posted: Thursday, March 22, 2007

Palin cools support of port authority

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FAIRBANKS - Gov. Sarah Palin has backed away from the broad statement of support she gave the Alaska Gasline Port Authority in a 2005 advertising campaign.

Palin appeared in an advertisement with former Alaska Govs. Jay Hammond and Walter Hickel to proclaim the port authority's plan as "the best and only proposal that provides maximum benefits to the state."

The full-page newspaper advertisement was funded by the port authority and published in conjunction with advertisements on radio and television as part of a campaign that began in late April 2005.

The ad carrying the statement now recanted by Palin appeared in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner on May 6, 2005. It carried the signatures of Palin, Hammond, Hickel and former state Sen. Rick Halford, who at the time was the port authority's lobbyist.

Palin's support of the port authority was based only on the information available at the time from all the proposals that had been circulating, she said in a statement issued by her office earlier this month.

"Because of the secretive nature of the Murkowski/producer process, at the time of the ads, the port authority proposal was the only one with terms available to the public. Thankfully, conditions have changed so radically since then, I no longer agree with the statement," Palin said in an e-mail sent to the News-Miner by spokeswoman Meghan Stapleton and attributed to the governor. "COULD the port authority end up with the best plan? Possibly - we need the competitive process to determine that."

Death spurs closure of homes for elderly

ANCHORAGE - The death of an 83-year-old man has prompted state officials to close three assisted living homes in Anchorage.

The shutdown came this week after police found James Waska dead and no staff members on hand, according to authorities.

The three homes are owned by Mila Jennings, according to state records. All three have had their licenses suspended until the state completes its investigation, said Jerri Van Sandt with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.

A worker at the home where Waska died said the caretaker abandoned the clients nearly a full day before the body was discovered. The caretaker has not been seen or heard from since, according to the worker.

Annual tundra swan migration under way

USK, Wash. - Thousands of large and graceful tundra swans are making their often-unnoticed migration through the Inland Northwest this month.

At Calispell Lake, near Usk, large flocks of swans arrived Sunday and are expected to remain about two weeks.

Their arrival often coincides with the end of winter, and they remain at the remote lake typically until the end of March or early April, when they fly off toward the Arctic.

John Stuart, an Audubon Society member, estimated 4,000 birds were on the lake Sunday and Monday. Cold weather in January left northeast Washington's lakes with thick ice, which is starting to break up along shorelines and shallows.

"I think this year they are going to stick around a little longer because things are just a little later," Stuart said.

There are two migrating populations of tundra swans in North America, one in the west and the other in the east. Both are on the move now to nesting grounds in the Arctic. The western population relies on Inland Northwest waterways for foraging.

The birds can fly 50 mph and should arrive at marshy breeding grounds on the tundra of western Alaska by midspring.

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