Alaska Digest

Posted: Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Engineer receives Forest Service award

PETERSBURG - A Petersburg resident has been named U.S. Forest Service Engineer of the Year.

Bob Gubernick, engineering geologist and lead fish passage engineer for the Tongass National Forest, will receive his award next month during a ceremony in Washington D.C.

Gubernick has worked for the Tongass for 20 years, focusing on issues such as water and road interaction, aquatic species studies and canopy penetrating radar.

"It is wonderful to know that you can work hard and do innovative work even in a remote forest like the Tongass," he said. "There are a number of people that I work with who have contributed to the success of my program of work and I also look at this as a group award for those involved in the Tongass fish passage program."

Gubernick worked to develop the fish passage protocols upon which the Alaska Region bases its fish pipe replacement program. Other forests are developing similar programs based on this protocol, Forest Service officials said.

Gubernick is a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., and earned a bachelor's degree in geology from Utah State University.

"Bob is well known within the Alaska Forest Service organization and among other Alaska agencies as a top technical specialist who is willing to work anywhere under remote, adverse conditions on complicated and unique projects that require innovation, perseverance and vision to accomplish targets," said Larry Dunham, forest engineer for the Tongass National Forest. "His reputation in Alaska speaks for itself."

Anchorage prison chaplain arrested

ANCHORAGE - A prison chaplain was arrested Tuesday on charges of sexual assault and official misconduct, according to Alaska State Troopers.

The charges against Ezell Williams, 49, stem from the time he was a prison chaplain at the Anchorage Correctional Complex. An investigation was begun after an inmate complained that Williams was blackmailing prisoners. He was released from his job last June.

The investigation showed that Williams, who had been a prison chaplain since the spring of 2002, told several female prisoners that he could improve their visitation schedules if they submitted to various sexual demands, troopers said. Most of the cases involved photography and touching of the inmates.

Williams was arrested without incident at his home and transported to Anchorage Correctional Complex. His bail was set at $30,000.

Peninsula beekeepers abuzz with activity

KENAI - Kenai Peninsula beekeepers are buzzing with activity as they prepare for the upcoming beekeeping season.

"We're in the process of ordering bees, getting equipment ready, and new people are getting hives built," said Soldotna resident Rosy Thompson, a beekeeping veteran for more than 20 years.

Although for many people just the thought of a single stinging insect is enough to make their skin crawl, beekeepers find bees to be gentle creatures. Nothing makes these insect enthusiasts' hearts swell with excitement like seeing their bees building the white combs that allow their colonies to flourish.

"It's really rewarding," Thompson said.

She's been trying to determine exactly what this year's demand for the insects will be.

"A lot of people are ordering bees this year. We'll place the order by the end of the month, then the bees will come in from California around mid-April," she said.

The bees come in a 4-pound package, which averages out to roughly 1,000 to 1,500 bees per pound.

Thompson said ordering bees annually is not necessarily a common practice for beekeepers in the Lower 48, but in Alaska it's pretty much the norm.

"The winters here are just too long and cold for them to survive," she said.

Consequently, most beekeepers opt to order new bees every spring to ensure a strong and healthy hive for the upcoming year.

This may seem like an inconvenience, but Thompson said there are actually several perks to ordering a new colony every spring.

"We don't have the diseases or pesticide problems like almost everywhere in the states. There's no DDT or anything else in the honey. It's cleaner, more pure and better for you," she said.

Methodists calm after gay-pastor decision

SEATTLE - Methodist congregations in Washington state are calm - but deeply divided - as they ponder a church jury's decision to acquit an Ellensburg pastor of a charge that she violated church law by living openly in a lesbian relationship.

Pastors at United Methodist churches in Yakima, Toppenish, Aberdeen and Tacoma told The Associated Press that their congregations seemed to react favorably, although they knew some people were upset by Saturday's verdict in favor of the Rev. Karen Dammann.

"I was pleased people showed up on Sunday. We still had church, we still are family," said the Rev. Bonnie Chandler-Warren of Wesley United Methodist Church in Yakima.

"There are people I'm aware who have gay or lesbian children who were overjoyed, absolutely thrilled, and there were people who were hurting, confused, feeling their church has let them down," she said in a telephone interview Tuesday.

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