State Briefs

Posted: Friday, April 04, 2003

Goshawks chase hikers near college

ANCHORAGE - Alaska Pacific University officials are asking people to stay away from a stretch of woods claimed by two aggressive Northern goshawks.

The birds are staking the campus turf, swooping down on passing joggers.

The university wants people to stay away until nesting season ends later in the summer.

At least two trail users have reported attacks since last weekend, and APU staffers sent out a warning on campus e-mail.

Goshawks are forest-dwelling hawks with short rounded wings and long tails that give them stunning acceleration and maneuverability to chase down prey such as snowshoe hares and birds in dense woods.

These two birds almost certainly have eggs in a nest nearby and are behaving naturally, said state Department of Fish and Game biologist Rick Sinnott. They will continue to be aggressive until the chicks hatch and learn to fly in midsummer.

The pair has apparently nested near the same wooded hill where another female goshawk used to harass humans until the bird was put down by a veterinarian in 1999.

Between 1997 and 1999, the two-pound raptor raked a dozen people with its talons. Though APU officials asked people to stay away, the bird was found in June 1999 on the ground with a broken wing that appeared to have been shattered by a stick. Three chicks less than three weeks old were later removed from the nest and raised by local falconers.

Man pleads in guilty Anchorage killing

ANCHORAGE - An Anchorage man accused of killing another man during a drug deal last October has pleaded guilty after reaching a deal with federal prosecutors.

Miguel Orellana, 18, pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court to discharging a firearm in connection with trafficking drugs. He also admitted to possession of marijuana with intent to sell and possession of a firearm while using marijuana.

In a hearing before U.S. District Judge James K. Singleton, Orellana admitted he shot Dustin Lloyd, also 18, during a fight over a marijuana deal.

The shooting occurred on the seventh floor of a downtown parking garage. Lloyd died from the bullet wound.

Under the plea agreement, Orellana will serve 11 1/2 years in federal prison and have five years of probation after his release.

Legislators want lab in seafood plant

KENAI - Some state legislators want to house the state's food safety laboratory, now in Palmer, in an Anchorage seafood processing plant.

The senators say the state could save money by using part of the Alaska Seafood International complex. The plant was built with state money but is only partly occupied by the struggling business.

Gov. Frank Murkowski has asked the Legislature to approve a $14.3 million bond for a new lab to replace the existing Seafood and Food Safety Laboratory, which has been operating at its Palmer location for more than 35 years but is slated to go in a new Anchorage facility.

Sen. Tom Wagoner, a Kenai Republican, and seven other members of the Senate, including Democrats Kim Elton of Juneau and Senate Minority Leader Johnny Ellis of Anchorage, say moving the lab to the ASI building could save at least part of the $14.3 million.

Alaska Seafood International leases some space in the 250,000-square-foot Anchorage building from the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority.

The lab does a variety of work for the state. Workers test water for shellfish growing areas, check shellfish for paralytic poisoning and other dangers, sample finfish for parasites, and conduct an ongoing project sampling commercially caught salmon for persistent organic pollutants.

The lab also tests dairy products, works with the commercial food industry checking product shelf life, and tests cattle and horses for diseases such as tuberculosis.

Flags lowered in memory of judge

ANCHORAGE - State flags were lowered today in memory of Kenai Superior Court Judge Jonathan Link. Flags will remain at half-staff throughout the weekend.

Link, 59, died March 25 after a short illness.

Link was an administrative judge for the Kenai Peninsula. He was appointed to the state Superior Court position in 1990 by Gov. Steve Cowper. He had been in private law practice in Fairbanks since 1974.

Geophysical Institute finds errant rocket

FAIRBANKS - An errant rocket that malfunctioned during a recent launch has been found, according to officials with the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute.

A helicopter located the downed rocket Thursday in rugged terrain about 7 miles from the Poker Flat Research Range, said institute Director Roger Smith. The range is operated by the institute under contract with NASA.

Plans were under way to retrieve the rocket today, Smith said.

The rocket was the second of four launched from the range shortly after 3 a.m. March 27. They were part of an aurora experiment headed by Clemson University researcher Miguel Larsen, who is studying electrical currents and heat within the upper atmosphere using two pairs of rockets.

Two of the rockets carried instruments. The other two - including the one that malfunctioned - carried canisters of trimethyl aluminum, a chemical that burns on contact with air, resulting in a visible trail. Photographs of those trails are used to trace movement within the atmosphere.

"There are two stages (on the rocket) and they think what may have happened is that the first stage did not separate cleanly from the second stage," Larsen told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. "The two were still connected or attached when the second stage fired."

That significantly reduced the thrust of the rocket, he said.

Smith said rocket failures are taken under consideration during safety assessments for each launch.

"The path under the flight goes along a safe area in case that does happen," he said. "The reason we do that is the rockets that we use are known not to be 100 percent successful."

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