Alaska Digest

Posted: Monday, April 16, 2007

Pipe breaks, floods Federal Building

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JUNEAU - A broken pipe in the Federal Building caused flooding in the sixth, fifth and fourth floors over the weekend, according to Capital City Fire and Rescue Captain Lynn Ridle.

Firefighters were called out at 1:15 a.m. Saturday for a fire alarm. They were met by a security officer who said water was flowing on several floors.

"There was water coming down the ceiling," Ridle said.

The burst caused flooding in the U.S. Coast Guard's legal office, electronics support unit and the U.S. Forest Service office, Coast Guard Chief Diane Mowry said. It will require a cleanup, she said.

Information about the extent of the damage and the total number of agencies and employees affected was unavailable Sunday.

Death toll rises for Alaska-based troops

ANCHORAGE - Troops from Fort Richardson fighting in Iraq had one of their deadliest days this week when three paratroopers were killed, bringing the total since the brigade was deployed last October to 31 soldiers.

Five members of the post's 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division died just this week.

In all, 78 military men and women who were either stationed at Alaska bases or Alaskans posted to bases outside the state have died in Iraq since the war began in 2003, according to the Anchorage Daily News.

The war's toll on Fort Richardson's 4th Brigade soldiers has been especially harsh.

Fort Wainwright's 172nd Stryker brigade lost 26 soldiers during its tour last year, which was extended to 15 months. The 4th Brigade has lost 31 paratroopers in its first six months of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Eight 4th Brigade paratroopers died in two attacks on a single day in January, and three also died on Dec. 10, 2006.

Wineries say state law hindering growth

JUNEAU - When people think of winemaking, France and California come to mind _ not Alaska.

A growing number of Alaska wineries would like to change that, but say a state law making it illegal to ship their bottles inside or out of the state is getting in their way.

Alaska has 11 licensed wineries, which typically use a grape concentrate with Alaska berries. Many say they are experiencing strong sales.

From salmonberry wine to honey-based meads, Alaska's wineries produced nearly 5,000 gallons of wine in 2006, according to the state Tax Division.

And while most of the market is generated by tourists, wineries say they have a steady following of local fans and connoisseurs.

The wineries say their market base could grow if they could tap into online sales.

"It goes along with the move toward healthier living," said Steven Thomsen of Alaska Wilderness Wines in Kodiak. "Our products are all wild and essentially pretty healthy. And if you're looking for antioxidants, these northern berries are full of them."

Currently, Alaska wine may only be shipped to licensed distributors. But oddly enough, Alaskans can order bottles from out of state distributors for shipment to the state.

Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Kodiak, has introduced legislation that would change the law to allow wineries to ship not just to distributors, but to the average customer within and across state lines.

The bill has passed the House and is working its way through the Senate. A similar bill died last year, but LeDoux said this year's proposal seems to be moving without opposition.

Thomsen said passing the bill would be a good companion to a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said wines could be shipped across state lines.

Thomsen started his winery in the late 1990s, when he and his wife began searching for a small business they could retire into. Wine making topped the list, and Alaska Wilderness Winery became the first licensed winery in the state.

Alaska Wilderness Winery makes mostly berry-based wines, although the company also makes mead from Oregon honey.

Other wine makers operate in Homer, Anchorage, Haines and Wasilla.

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