Alaska Digest

Wire reports

Posted: Friday, March 24, 2006

Burglar awakens valley residents

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JUNEAU -A woman living on Kiowa Drive in the Mendenhall Valley woke up around 5:17 a.m. Thursday to a male subject in her bedroom, police say.

Her boyfriend awoke when the woman screamed, and he then chased the intruder out of the house and down the street, according to the Juneau Police Department.

Police could not locate the suspect at the scene or in the area. Further investigation revealed that the suspect had entered through a secure door and was burglarizing the residence while the occupants slept, according to police.

Officers have investigated a number of burglaries in the Mendenhall Valley since February. The department said the reported burglaries have occurred mostly during the day, with recent burglaries happening in the early mornings and evenings.

Police encourage residents to report any suspicious activity and be good witnesses.

Man assaulted in downtown hotel room

JUNEAU - An alleged assault was reported to the Juneau Police Department at about 10:05 a.m. Thursday when the victim received treatment for a fractured cheek in the emergency room at Bartlett Regional Hospital.

The 37-year-old Juneau resident did not want police to investigate and was not forthcoming with information, according to officers.

Further investigation revealed the victim was assaulted by two or more men in a downtown hotel room. The assailants took an unspecified, according to police.

A possible suspect was identified and three search warrants were obtained to search his person, vehicle and residence. The subject was released after the search. Items seized during the searches were sent to the State Crime Lab for analysis, according to police.

Environmentalists sue over lawsuit

JUNEAU - Seven environmental groups, including three based in Southeast Alaska, filed a lawsuit Thursday to stop one of the Tongass National Forest's most controversial timber sales, the 16 million-board-foot Emerald Bay sale 40 miles north of Ketchikan.

The Forest Service began planning the Emerald Bay sale about a dozen years ago and some environmental groups, joined by residents of Wrangell, Meyers Chuck and Ketchikan, have been fighting to prevent it for at least a decade. Their administrative appeals to block the sale were rejected.

"If there is logging in Emerald Bay, it will effectively kill my chance to guide hunts there," said Mark Galla, a Wrangell hunting guide, in a prepared statement.

The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, the Tongass Conservation Society and the Sitka Conservation Society are among the groups involved the lawsuit.

The timber sale would involve clear-cutting of 600 acres on the Cleveland Peninsula, as well as building six miles of new road.

The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council is also questioning the Forest Service's decision to proceed with the timber sale while the agency revises its forest plan under a 2005 court order.

Tongass spokesman Dennis Neill said the court order didn't require the forest to stop timber sales.

Neill said the timber sale would provide employment and "wood fiber that people need. We've dealt with the wildlife issues. We think it's a good project," he said.

State budget to hit House on Monday

JUNEAU - The House Finance Committee on Thursday finished putting together an operating budget for next year that pleased nobody, but will nonetheless head to the House floor Monday.

Before adding money back in, the House Finance Committee budget trimmed $115 million, or about 4.5 percent, from Gov. Frank Murkowski's $2.6 billion general fund spending plan.

Over the past few days, the committee added some money back in through amendments. That amount was still being calculated by the Legislative Finance Division Thursday evening, but division Director David Teal estimated about $8 million was added back.

Budget hawks on the committee say the product is too big. That's partly due to the size of the governor's original request, they say.

"We got delivered an overweight budget here," said Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Fairbanks.

The windfall revenue coming to the state because of high oil prices means the Legislature will end up passing a budget that will create problems for the state in the future if the price of oil goes down, said Rep. Mike Hawker, R-Girdwood.

"This budget is at a level that can't be sustained in the long run," Hawker said.

Governor to get oil spill overview

JUNEAU - Gov. Frank Murkowski will travel to the North Slope today to meet with state, federal and oil industry officials for an overview on this month's spill in Prudhoe Bay.

For five days or more, a transit line operated by BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. located upstream of the 800-mile long main pipeline leaked up to 267,000 gallons of crude from a small hole onto the tundra.

BP officials say the leak was due to corrosion in the transit line.

Murkowski said Thursday he will speak with federal, state and oil industry officials about corrosion risks throughout the aging Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, particularly as heavy oil production is increasing.

"We're going to delve into the issue of what's the potential risk for any big future, I guess, exposure to corrosion and other potential situations associated with aging," Murkowski said.

Trooper rescued after plane crash

ANCHORAGE - When rescuers came upon pilot Justin Rodgers, he was sitting with his thighs tucked beneath the burned-out frame of his Super Cub and using the wreckage for warmth.

Rodgers' plane had crashed more than five hours earlier in a valley near the Kilbuck Mountains, 90 miles north of Dillingham.

"It was like he was sitting on a dining room chair, just sitting there with his head leaning on the engine block," said Tech. Sgt. Robert Schnell, one of the guardsmen who landed in a helicopter Tuesday and helped evacuate Rodgers to Anchorage.

It appeared that Rodgers, who seemed to have broken his legs and had a dislocated shoulder, facial cuts and other injuries, managed to crawl away from the burning wreckage of his plane, then crawled back once the flames burned out in the wind, authorities said Wednesday.

With the temperature near zero, the 33-year-old state wildlife trooper from Dillingham was becoming hypothermic, and so he soaked whatever warmth he could from the heated metal.

Rodgers was in stable condition Thursday at Providence Alaska Medical Center, said spokeswoman Adriana Rosas-Walsh.

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