Alaska Digest

Posted: Sunday, April 23, 2006

UAF breaks ground on fisheries building

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JUNEAU - The University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences broke ground last week on a new Lena Point facility.

The fisheries division of the UAF school has operated in Juneau for more than 20 years next to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Auke Bay Laboratory. The new building will be located to the building NOAA has under construction at Lena Point.

"We are looking forward to continuing our tradition of cooperative research and collaboration with the scientists and managers of NOAA at our new facility, said Bill Smoker, director of the UAF fisheries division.

The UAF building will be paid for with $21 million approved by the Legislature. The three-story building will measure about 28,000 square feet and will have research space for 16 labs, two classrooms, a teaching lab and large saltwater tanks for studying live sea creatures.

UAF offers the only graduate-level degrees in fisheries in Alaska. According to the university, it has awarded more than 150, with many of its graduates going on to work for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Weapons plot leads to arrest of 6 students

ANCHORAGE - Six boys in a small Alaska town were arrested Saturday on suspicion of plotting to bring guns and knives to school and kill fellow students and faculty.

The seventh-graders wanted to seek revenge for being picked on by other students as well as disliking staff and students, said North Pole Police Chief Paul Lindhag. The town of 1,600 people is about 14 miles southeast of Fairbanks in Alaska's interior.

The students had planned to disable North Pole Middle School's power and telephone systems, allotting time to kill their victims and escape out of town, Lindhag said. He would not elaborate on the case, or what kind of documented evidence led to the students arrested.

"These are the ones who had major roles in this," Lindhag said. "All our information came through our interviews and stuff like that. There were many hours of interviews, including with witnesses and those who were arrested."

Authorities said the students could face charges of first-degree conspiracy to commit murder.

State to appeal rulings in Waterman murder

ANCHORAGE - Alaska prosecutors filed their official notice Friday with the Alaska Court of Appeals to appeal rulings by a Juneau judge that dismissed first-degree murder charges against now 17-year-old Rachelle Waterman in the November 2004 slaying of her mother, Lauri Waterman.

The Juneau trial ended in a mistrial Feb. 14 after jurors told Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins they would be unable to reach a verdict on any of the charges. The Craig girl also was charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, second-degree murder, kidnapping, first-degree burglary, first-degree vehicle theft, tampering with physical evidence. She was 16 the weekend her mother was killed in a remote area of Prince of Wales Island while she was representing Craig High School in the state volleyball tournament.

Two men from the island, Jason Arrant and Brian Radel, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the case and testified for the prosecution at Waterman's trial.

Collins ruled three weeks later that the defendant's statements before her arrest should be suppressed, based on trial testimony. She also found those statements were key to the indictment against the girl, who was tried as an adult.

"Before the trial, the court rule Waterman's statement was admissible," said Deputy Alaska Attorney General Susan Parkes. She said the state was not given a chance to argue against suppression of the statements in a possible second trial.

With state prosecutors saying in March they intended to appeal, Collins did not release Waterman, but reduced her bail, allowing her to post $5,000 to get out of the Lemon Creek Correctional Center.

Restitution ordered in ID theft case

JUNEAU - A woman sentenced earlier this year to two years in prison in an identity-theft case was ordered last week to pay $2,500 to her victim.

Susan M. Marthaller agreed last year to plead guilty to first-degree criminal impersonation, second-degree theft and fraudulent use of an access device. On Feb. 15, Juneau Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins sentenced her to four, two and two years on the crimes, suspending half of each sentence, ordering them served at the same time. In addition to two years in prison, the sentence calls for 10 years on probation.

Last week Collins set restitution to be paid to Mia Costello, who spoke at Marthaller's sentencing hearing, describing her efforts she made to convince authorities she was a crime victim as well as the time it took to clear her name.

Costello told the court in February that the restitution would not be able to compensate her for the time she had to take away from nurturing her newborn son.

Alaska sanitation linked to illness

BETHEL - Babies in villages without running water and flush toilets are hospitalized more often for pneumonia than their city counterparts.

According to the results of a new Alaska study completed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, 24 percent of the babies in Alaska villages without plumbing services suffer lung infections their first year of life.

That was one of the findings released April 4-6 at the YKHC Tribal Unity Gathering in Bethel. The study could prove significant as Congress debates funding for Village Safe Water.

Chief Epidemiologist Tom Hennessy said the link between water services and diseases has been studied in the United States and throughout the world for centuries. But this is the first study of Alaska's sanitation-health link.

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