Northwest Digest

Staff and Wire reports

Posted: Friday, April 08, 2005

Southeast Alaska chinook quota rises

JUNEAU - Southeast Alaska commercial and sport fishermen will get to hook and net 33,000 more chinook salmon than they did last year.

The total allowable catch for all gear types this year is 416,400 fish.

"A few more kings (chinook) is extremely valuable to our fleet," said Dale Kelley, executive director of the Alaska Trollers Association.

"We are really fortunate to see high abundance. It's a bit of a payoff after Alaska's efforts on conservation," Kelley said. "Everybody is going to get expanded opportunity this year."

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game credits the higher quota to strong returns of chinook stocks to rivers along the west coast and fewer mackerel feasting on young salmon on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

For the past few years, "we've had favorable conditions," both offshore and in the near-shore marine environment, said Scott McPherson, a fisheries scientist with the department.

The salmon allowable catch has been fairly high since 2002, McPherson said. "Prior to that we had three very poor years, with much lower quotas," he said.

Gov. vetoes money for pipeline negotiations

JUNEAU - Gov. Frank Murkowski signed into law Thursday the "fast-track" supplemental bill for fiscal year 2005, which provides early funding for schools and necessary or unexpected costs to the state government.

But the governor also vetoed from the legislation $24 million in funding for natural gas pipeline negotiations and analysis and Arctic National Wildlife Refuge advocacy, including $7 million in proposed spending from the earnings reserve account, or the permanent fund.

Much of this funding would have been appropriated to the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee, which would have controlled the release of the funds.

"The separation of powers doctrine within our state constitution is clear. My responsibility to carry out gas pipeline negotiations must also include authority over the necessary funding. This method of appropriation is also contrary to the intent of the Stranded Gas Act," Murkowski said.

In addition to the separation of powers issue, the Legislature proposed spending from the earnings reserve account rather than the general fund.

The governor will submit another request to the Legislature for pipeline negotiation funding.

The fast-track supplemental bill makes $854 million available for K-12 education for fiscal year 2006, which is associated with foundation formula legislation pending in the Alaska Legislature.

Also known as Senate Bill 98, it spends $7 million from the general fund for disaster relief funding, $6 million for infrastructure upgrades to the Alaska Land Mobile radio project, $36 million for Medicaid costs and $6.45 million in small city energy assistance.

Sitka Coast Guard member dies of injuries

VICTORIA, British Columbia - A member of the U.S. Coast Guard who was found in the city's downtown in a pool of blood died at Victoria General Hospital.

The branch's public affairs officer in Juneau said James Asnin, a seaman apprentice from Sitka, died about 1 p.m. Wednesday. He suffered a fractured skull and internal injuries late Sunday or early Monday.

Asnin, 23, was on shore leave while returning home from three weeks of training in Everett, Wash., with the Coast Guard cutter Acushnet, based in Ketchikan.

"We learned (of the death) through the hospital and family members - mother, father and brother - who were around him throughout this ordeal in Victoria," said Chief Petty Officer Roger Wetherall.

Victoria police were unsure what happened, but said earlier in the week that alcohol was a factor in the incident. Asnin was found in a parking lot but it was unknown whether he was assaulted or fell over the railing.

Asnin was the third U.S. serviceman in the last six months to die or be seriously hurt from an apparent fall into that parking lot, which is several yards below street level.

Victoria police had no comment on Asnin's death, but the Coast Guard said a criminal investigation by the police is under way.

Weekend events mark end of the ski season

JUNEAU - Eaglecrest Ski Area finishes its season this weekend with two skiing events.

The Bill Tugman Memorial Obstacle Race is Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The race course includes such quirky obstacles as a pole forest and a laundry chute. It is intended as a fun tribute to former ski school instructor Bill Tugman, who was killed in a 1987 boating accident.

On Sunday, the area's final day of the season, skiers and snowboarders can participate in the annual Slush Cup. Participants attempt to skim across the surface of a pool of slushy water.

The Douglas Island ski area on Thursday reported 23 inches of snow at the base and 143 inches at the top.

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