Alaska Digest

Posted: Sunday, May 07, 2006

Arena football team sought for Alaska

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ANCHORAGE - A local business plans to bring arena football to Anchorage by next spring.

Anchorage should be a good market for a team to play in the Arena Football2 League, said Dave Weatherholt, the president and founder of Alaska Professional Sports.

Alaska has only one professional sports team - the Alaska Aces hockey team. The plan is to have the team play at Sullivan Arena, team officials said.

The AF2 is one level below the Arena Football League and worlds away from the National Football League. It is in its seventh season and has 23 teams.

Teams range from Albany, N.Y., to Esterso, Fla., to Spokane, Wash. The AF2 season runs from mid-April to July.

Alaska's team will play in the West Coast Conference, Weatherholt said, against teams in Spokane, Bakersfield, Calif., Fresno, Calif., Stockton, Calif., and Everett, Wash.

Alaska is difficult for pro sport franchises, Weatherholt said, because of the travel expenses and a small fan base. But AF2 president Jerry Kurz said he's confident that professional football will draw Alaskans.

Senate funds restart of Healy coal plant

HOMER - The state Senate approved spending $12.5 million to help restart the Healy Clean Coal plant in hopes of salvaging the $300 million project.

The money would go to the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, a state agency that took control of the Healy plant after an unsuccessful test run in 1998 and 1999. AIDEA is negotiating with Homer Electric Association to run the plant and provide a new power source for the Kenai Peninsula, which now depends largely on natural gas-fired electricity.

HEA said it has been studying the plant for six months and is convinced the original equipment can do the job economically, especially given the higher prices for natural gas.

Homer Electric says the plant, which can generate just over 50 megawatts of power, would diversify its power sources. HEA now uses 65 to 80 megawatts, mostly gas-fired power purchased from Anchorage's Chugach Electric Association. Those contracts are due to expire in seven years.

Troopers fine seaweed pickers in Seward

ANCHORAGE - Alaska State Troopers fined seaweed pickers in Seward this season after several years of warnings, noting scientists who said some sections of tidal zone have been wiped clean.

The spawning herring population could be damaged by lack of seaweed, as could shrimp, crab, and other aquatic animals that eat the seaweed and make it their homes, scientists said.

"It would be like going into the forest and knocking down all the trees, then wondering why there weren't any animals in that patch of forest anymore," said Richard Hocking, the aquarium curator at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward.

With a few exceptions, picking seaweed is unlawful anywhere in Alaska. But the Alaska Bureau of Wildlife Enforcement has not enforced the rule for years because, until now, the impact was negligible, troopers said.

Last month, troopers put up signs along four Seward beaches that said picking seaweed was illegal. Four seaweed pickers got citations, with another four pending, authorities said.

Seward seaweed trips are especially popular in the estimated 5,000-member Korean community in Anchorage, said Yohyon Pharr, an Anchorage Korean-American. She said she thought there was no limit on seaweed picking.

The seaweed, including kelp, is dried, salted, pickled, boiled or eaten fresh. Pickers send it to friends and family in the Lower 48 or Korea, she said, and church groups organize harvesting trips to Seward.

District makes a deal in school assault case

ANCHORAGE - Lawyers for the Anchorage School District have reached a tentative settlement with the parents of a 6-year-old boy who was sexually assaulted by a classmate in a school bathroom.

The School Board is expected to consider the deal Monday. Neither party would reveal the amount of the potential agreement Friday, but if board approval is required, it tops $50,000. The family of the victim is seeking $100,000 and changes to district policies regarding how students and staff are trained to handle sexual assaults and how students are monitored.

With the trial set for May 17, Judge Mark Rindner has already ruled the School District was negligent when it left the two children alone for nearly an hour.

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