State and local briefly

Posted: Thursday, March 23, 2000

Supplemental funding bill needs talks

JUNEAU - A spending bill to pay for programs that are running out of money and for unexpected state expenses will be going into a conference committee.

Measures go to such a committee when the House and Senate can't agree on a bill's contents.

Sen. Sean Parnell, an Anchorage Republican and co-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, recommended a no vote, and 14 of the 20 senators agreed with him Tuesday.

Parnell said funding for two programs that the House paid for - power cost equalization and the cost of busing kids to school - needed more work.

Three members of the Senate and House will be appointed to work out a compromise version of the supplemental spending plan.

Mystery oil spill at Dutch Harbor

ANCHORAGE - The Coast Guard was looking Wednesday for the source of a mysterious oil sheen found near crab boats moored in Dutch Harbor.

The spill, which appeared to be waste oil, was estimated at 150 gallons, Lt. Cmdr. Steve McCleary said from the Coast Guard's Dutch Harbor office.

Coast Guard investigators believe the spill was caused by a vessel that left the area, McCleary said. About 80 crab boats were moored at a cluster of docks near the spill site, McCleary said.

Investigators collected samples from three of four boats that left the immediate area between Monday afternoon and Tuesday afternoon. The Coast Guard was looking for the fourth boat, McCleary said.

The samples will be sent to the Coast Guard's Marine Safety laboratory in Connecticut to determine if any have the same ``chemical fingerprints'' as the spilled oil, McCleary said.

A local contractor cleaned up the spill Wednesday.

Fuel dropped on Gulkana Glacier

FAIRBANKS - A helicopter pilot jettisoned two external fuel tanks onto the Gulkana Glacier after his aircraft abruptly lost power, officials at Fort Wainwright said Wednesday.

About 100 gallons of fuel was spilled on the glacier south of Delta Junction. One of the tanks broke open and the other didn't, said Maj. Bryan Hilferty, spokesman for Fort Wainwright.

A cleanup team was flown to the site. The team dug up contaminated snow and placed it in 55-gallon drums for removal. ``All the contaminated snow has been dug up and recovered,'' Hilferty said.

Investigators don't know why the helicopter temporarily lost power Monday.

Hilferty said the fuel tanks were jettisoned as a safety measure. No one aboard the helicopter, including seven members of a climb team, was injured.

Kodiak satellite launch delayed

ANCHORAGE - Alaska's first attempt to put a satellite into orbit has been postponed from September until summer 2001, the executive director of the state's space agency said Wednesday.

The problem doesn't lie with the state's $40 million commercial spaceport on the remote eastern shore of Kodiak Island. The site, including a 170-foot, weatherproof launch tower, is almost compete, said Pat Ladner, executive director of the Alaska Aerospace Development Corp.

The scheduled launch was delayed because of technical problems with the NASA satellite that will ride 261 miles high aboard a 62-foot Lockheed Martin Athena 1 rocket. The laser-equipped satellite is the centerpiece of the mission, which involves studying Earth's vegetation ``canopy.''

``We'd be ready by September. We're in good shape,'' Ladner said. But the mission was postponed to iron out technicalities with satellite. Most likely, the rocket will blast off in June or July 2001, he said.

The launch promises to be a major event for Alaska. Already, the Kodiak site has hosted the suborbital launch of two military rockets that simulated enemy missile attacks on the Lower 48. The NASA mission will mark the first time something launched from Alaska achieves full orbit.

Police investigate woman's death

ANCHORAGE - Anchorage police are investigating the death of a woman found off Arctic Valley Road on Wednesday as a homicide.

A motorist spotted the woman's body at about 10:30 a.m. about 25 feet from the road near the Fort Richardson gate.

Police said they had not confirmed the woman's identity and wouldn't release any details of their investigation.

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