Alaska Digest

Posted: Monday, April 19, 2004

Wallace, 'Toe' win top honors in APC contest

JUNEAU - Juneau Empire photographer Brian Wallace and local cartoonist Tony Newman, better known as "Toe," each won first-place honors for their work in 2003 when Alaska Press Club contest results were announced Saturday night in Anchorage.

Wallace won top prize for spot news photography among large-circulation newspapers for his photo of the aftermath of a rollover auto accident near Twin Lakes in January 2003.

Newman, whose cartoons appear on Sunday's Empire opinion pages and Thursdays in "This Week," won best editorial cartoon honors for "Santa and Senator Stevens," which ran on Dec. 21, 2003. He has won top honors in the category for three of the past four years.

The Empire sports department won six awards.

Sports editor Charles Bingham won second place for sports columns; second place for sports event coverage of the May Day Mud Run; and second place for sports news reporting on the selection of Juneau-Douglas High School athletes Joe Ayers and Zach Kohan in the Major League Baseball draft.

Sports reporter Andrew Krueger won third place for sports features for a historical article about Douglas High School basketball, third place for page layout and third place for headline writing.

"This Week" won third place for best section. In 2003, the entertainment guide was produced by Korry Keeker, Mike Plett, Lori Thomson and Julia O'Malley.

Empire photographer Michael Penn won third place in scenic photos for a December shot of Eaglecrest skiers under a rising crescent moon.

The large-circulation newspaper award categories, which include the Empire, were dominated by the Anchorage Daily News, which won 17 of the 26 first-place awards in the division.

Of the 97 total awards handed out in the large- and all-circulation newspaper divisions, the Daily News won 58. The Empire was second with 10 awards, followed by the Anchorage Press with seven.

The Anchorage Chronicle won best weekly newspaper honors.

In radio categories, KTOO-FM reporter Anne Sutton won two first-place awards - for government and crime/courts reporting. KTOO's Deepa Ranganathan won a first-place award for business reporting, and KTOO's Katie Bausler won second-place honors in comprehensive coverage for her coverage of Alaska salmon marketing.

In television, KTOO-TV's Bill McAllister won first place in government reporting for "Alaska Week," and third place in single-story reporting for a piece on ANWR. The 5 p.m. news on Anchorage's KTVA-TV, seen locally on cable channel 14, was voted best newscast.

Biologists can't explain dip in Anchorage geese

ANCHORAGE - Anchorage's urban goose boom has fizzled and local scientists are not sure why.

The local population of lesser Canada geese has plummeted about 70 percent over the past eight years, from almost 5,000 in 1996 to an estimated 1,450 last July.

The city's overabundance of geese led to control measures but scientists with the Anchorage Waterfowl Working Group say they cannot explain what happened.

"What we did was take eggs and move young birds," said Karen Laing, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who helped coordinate local goose management. "But geese can be very long-lived. So for a population to decrease in a short period, that means adults are going somewhere else or dying. We've never been able to document whether that is happening."

"I wouldn't say it's because of what we did," said state Fish and Game Department biologist Rick Sinnott. "I definitely think we put a cap on reproduction, and our influence probably helped the predators."

The expansion of grassy yards, school fields, parks and golf courses, plus plenty of ponds and creeks, made the city into a goose heaven.

The population grew at 12 percent to 15 percent per year through the 1980s and early 1990s

Audit finds Bush water program wasteful

ANCHORAGE - Lax oversight in a $35 million rural water and sewer construction program has led to an atmosphere of wasteful spending, questionable purchasing and sloppy bookkeeping, according to a new legislative audit.

In one case, engineers in the state's Village Safe Water program allowed an onsite construction manager to pay himself $206,000 for eight months of work and to hire his wife as project bookkeeper.

Other managers signed paychecks and purchased supplies with no review by engineers in the program, which is part of the Department of Environmental Conservation.

The audit report examined nearly two dozen of the agency's 35 rural construction jobs in 2002. It recommends that Gov. Frank Murkowski move the state's portion of the combined state and federal $80 million rural sanitation program into the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.

DEC Commissioner Ernesta Ballard acknowledged that the audit illustrated some shortcomings, but called most of the report's recommendations "groundless" because it focused on one or two unusual situations/

Judge rules in church dispute in Fairbanks

FAIRBANKS - A Fairbanks Superior Court judge referred to a religious rules book in making a decision over a property dispute between an area church and the regional Methodist authority.

Judge Richard Savell said it was necessary to apply the "delicate constitutional balance between religious affairs and secular law" in ruling that the St. Paul Church belongs to the Alaska Missionary Conference of the United Methodist Church.

St. Paul Church was ousted from the United Methodist Church by the Alaska Missionary Conference in May 2002 in a dispute over denomination rules and regulations.

After the split, the Alaska Missionary Conference filed a lawsuit seeking ownership of the Farmers Loop church, which includes a parsonage. The properties are valued at $400,000 to $500,000.

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