Northwest Digest

Posted: Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Army releases name of soldier killed

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ANCHORAGE - A Fort Richardson paratrooper killed in Iraq on Monday was from Albuquerque, N.M.

The Army on Tuesday identified the soldier killed as Spc. Clifford A. Spohn.

The 21-year-old infantryman joined the Army in October 2004 and was assigned to Fort Richardson in Anchorage in May 2005.

Spohn died when his unit was hit with indirect fire while working at an Iraqi police station in Karmah, Iraq, the Army said.

Three other paratroopers were injured in the incident. Two were listed as seriously injured and taken to Fallajah Surgical Hospital. The third paratrooper was treated and returned to duty.

Body found near day care identified

FAIRBANKS - A man whose body was found by children outside a Fairbanks child-care center has been identified as a 23-year-old Fairbanks resident who was reported missing by his family in Bethel last month.

Alaska State Troopers said foul play is not suspected in the death of Jonathan Peter.

His body had been at the site it was found for at least a week, troopers said.

"A family member had reported him missing in early March, and at that point they said he had not been seen in three weeks," said trooper spokeswoman Megan Peters. "At this time it is ruled an exposure death. Troopers didn't find anything to suggest a homicide. There was no sign he was robbed or beaten."

The state medical examiner's office chose not to conduct an autopsy, Peters said.

Peter's body was found outside a fence behind Play N' Learn West on Friday afternoon. One of the children in the day-care center saw the body and notified a day-care worker.

Recent warm weather melted enough snow to reveal the body, according to Peters. Troopers did not find any fresh tracks around the body, she said.

Scientists ask why seabirds are dying

SEATTLE - Something is killing seabirds.

For the third winter running, seabirds not usually seen in such near-shore waters have been washing up, apparently starved to death, on beaches in California, Oregon and Washington.

And for the third year, scientists say the reasons aren't clear.

"Birds around the world are really good indicators of ecosystem health," said Bob Emmett a research fisheries biologists for the National Marine Fisheries Service in Newport, Ore. "If the birds aren't doing well, then the salmon won't do well, and the marine mammals won't do well."

Researchers for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found 175 dead auklets, and 68 dead puffins in a three-day survey late last month at a 10-mile stretch of the Clatsop Spit at the mouth of the south shore of the Columbia River, said Roy Lowe, project leader for the Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex. Auklets and puffins also have been found dead on the beaches in Washington's Long Beach in unusually high numbers, Lowe said.

The birds were found to have no body fat and empty digestive systems, Lowe said.

But exactly what's going on in the ocean is not known, said Julia Parrish, an associate professor of aquatic and fisheries science at the University of Washington. She said she isn't sure whether it's a result of a fundamental change in the coastal ecosystem, or a smaller-scale shift in the food supply.

"On the one hand the birds are literally screaming at us: 'Something is changed. Something is different. We are not surviving well.' And yet there is no obvious smoking gun," Parrish said. "We seem to be in a period in which the marine environment of the Pacific Northwest is becoming very variable, like a machine that is a little out of kilter."

Agencies promise salmon-dam plan

GRANTS PASS, Ore. - Federal agencies say they remain committed to producing a good plan for helping threatened and endangered salmon survive their migrations over Columbia Basin hydroelectric dams after an appeals court strongly rejected the latest effort as "sleight of hand."

A statement from four agencies said Tuesday they hoped collaboration would produce a plan that will protect the fish and "have broad regional support as well."

"Meanwhile, our investments and actions for salmon are producing tangible results," the agencies said. "We can report strong survival again in 2006 for juvenile spring chinook as they migrate through reservoirs and past dams."

The statement was signed by regional directors of NOAA Fisheries, which is in charge of restoring dwindling salmon populations; the Bonneville Power Administration, which sells the power produced by the dams; the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operate the dams; and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Under federal court order, the agencies are due to offer a new strategy late next month.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on Monday upheld orders by U.S. District Judge James Redden requiring the dams to sacrifice power production to help juvenile salmon migrating to the ocean.

It also kept open the possibility that Redden could order four dams on the lower Snake River in eastern Washington breached to restore salmon.

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