Alaska Digest

Posted: Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Noise complaint yields felony drug bust

JUNEAU - Police arrested a 21-year-old Juneau man on a felony drug charge after responding to a noise complaint Monday night in the Mendenhall Valley.

Sean R. Merritt, one of the people contacted by police, had a warrant issued for his arrest, charging him with failure to appear in court on a misdemeanor larceny charge, police reported.

In Juneau District Court Tuesday, Magistrate John W. Sivertsen Jr. reminded Merritt that police had found him in possession of methamphetamine during a search. Police lodged him at the Lemon Creek Correctional Center.

Merritt was charged with fourth-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance. Sivertsen set his bail at $2,500 on the felony drug charge and $250 on the misdemeanor.

Coast Guard investigates possible ferry oil spill

ANCHORAGE - Coast Guard investigators ordered a state ferry to remain tied up in Valdez over the weekend as they investigated an anonymous tip that it might be illegally discharging oil into Prince William Sound.

The 296-foot Tustumena was allowed to sail Monday afternoon.

A preliminary investigation found oil-spill prevention equipment had been deliberately bypassed. It could take several weeks to determine whether any oil spilled, who was responsible for altering the equipment and what penalties might be assessed.

"This is still very much under investigation," said Coast Guard Cmdr. Mark Swanson of the Marine Safety Detachment in Valdez.

Large vessels must filter oil out of water that collects in the bottom of the ship. For the Tustumena, water is considered clean enough to discharge if oil content is less than 15 parts per million.

The Tustumena's filter has an internal sensor to monitor oil content, ferry officials said. It also has a second, external meter as a backup.

Someone deliberately bypassed the external meter while the vessel was in a Seward shipyard this spring, Swanson said. The meter was removed, and pipe was added to span the missing equipment. Water that came out of the filter went directly overboard.

"For two weeks, they really didn't know whether (their discharge) was clean or not clean," Swanson said.

The filter had just been overhauled and seemed to have been working correctly, he said.

"There's every chance that everything going overboard was clean. But we don't know that," Swanson said.

His office got an anonymous tip about the meter Friday. Two investigators met the ship in Cordova, then rode with it back to Valdez, where it was ordered to stay in port.

JWAC to host talk on Israel security barrier

JUNEAU - The Juneau World Affairs Council will host "Israel's Security Barrier: A Response to Terrorism or an Obstacle to Peace," from 6 to 8 p.m. today at the Dimond Courthouse. A 5:30 p.m. reception will precede the speakers.

Bob Horenstein, community relations director for the Jewish Federation of Portland, will present a Jewish perspective on the issue. Amin Odeh of Voices of Palestine in Seattle will give a Palestinian approach. Both speakers will give presentations, followed by audience questions and closing statements. Members of the audience are welcomed to join the speakers for dinner at the Fiddlehead.

Horenstein has been an opinion-editorial columnist for the Portland Jewish Review since August 1994. He's taught at Portland Community College and Clark Community College since 2002.

Odeh, a refugee from Aida camp near Bethlehem in the Occupied West Bank of Palestine, lived with his family at that camp after they lost their homes in 1947 to Israeli settlers. After completing high school he went to a technical college in Jerusalem. Between 1987 and 1993, he was arrested several times by the Israeli Army for resisting occupation. He moved to the United States in 1990. After the second Intifada started in Palestine, he and other local Palestinians helped start Voices of Palestine.

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