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State Briefs

Posted: Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Murkowski travels to Seattle for heart tests

JUNEAU - Gov. Frank Murkowski, who underwent an angioplasty last month to clear a blocked artery, is going to Seattle for additional tests on his heart, he said Tuesday.

Murkowski, 70, is to go to Virginia Mason Medical Center today for about two days, said press spokesman John Manly.

The governor underwent an angioplasty procedure April 9 at Providence Alaska Medical Center to clear a blocked artery. A stent was inserted to keep the walls of the blood vessel open.

During a physical therapy session in Juneau on Tuesday, medical staff detected an irregularity on a heart monitor, Manly said.

Murkowski told reporters of the appointment during a press conference Tuesday. Manly said it did not appear serious.

"He says he feels fine and is not in any pain," Manly said.

Murkowski is going to Seattle because his cardiologist, Dr. George Rhyneer Sr., is out of state, Manly said. Chief of Staff Jim Clark will manage day-to-day functions of the governor's office while Murkowski is gone, Manly said.

Assembly raises bus fares

JUNEAU - The Juneau Assembly voted Monday night to raise the cost of adult bus fares. The new fare for a single ride is $1.50, a 25 cent increase. The cost for a month bus pass is $36, a $6 increase. Other fares will not change.

Bus fares had not been increased since 1992. The revenue from the increase will be used to fund two part-time Capital Transit positions, a driver trainer and a bus cleaner, city officials said.

Other rates, such as children's bus passes, will not change.

City to perform noise tests with floatplanes

JUNEAU - The city of Juneau will conduct noise tests with floatplanes in the downtown harbor Saturday. The planes will make several takeoffs and landings from the downtown Seadrome starting at 10 a.m., weather permitting.

The purpose of the test will be to determine if there is a significant reduction in noise by using turbine-powered Otter airplanes instead of the standard Otter. Based on the results, the Juneau Assembly may consider an incentive program with low-interest loans to encourage conversion to the quieter engines as part of a noise-reduction program.

Equipment will be set up at Marine Park, West Juneau, Douglas and Thane to measure noise levels. Area residents are invited to provide comments or observations about the difference in noise levels. Send comments to Steve Gilbertson, Lands and Resources Manager, 155 S. Seward Street or e-mail at Steve_Gilbertson@ci.juneau.ak.us.

Bike to Work Day is Friday

JUNEAU - Juneau bicyclists will celebrate Bike to Work Day on Friday with two-wheeled group commutes from the Mendenhall Valley, Douglas and North Douglas to downtown.

Bike to Work Day is part of National Bike Month, said Dave Ringle of the Juneau Freewheelers Bicycle Club.

"While most bike commuters follow their own schedule, this day allows people to try this alternative form of transportation and meet others who do," Ringle said.

Valley riders will meet from 6:30 to 7 a.m. Friday at Super Bear for free continental breakfast. North Douglas riders meet at 7:15 a.m. at Bonnie Brae. Douglas riders meet at 7:15 a.m. at Douglas Library.

All will gather at 7:45 a.m. at the Dimond Courthouse for food and drinks provided by Silver Bow Bagels

Juneau Freewheelers is part of the America Bikes coalition, which is using the month to call for an increased federal commitment to using transportation dollars to create a bike-friendly transportation system. Ringle said local involvement in his group shows support for such changes.

"People in Juneau want to bike, and they want the roads to be bike friendly," he said.

Murkowski backing oil tax break

JUNEAU - Gov. Frank Murkowski said Monday he's backing a tax break intended to encourage new oil exploration. He said he'll support a severance tax credit of up to 40 percent of the cost of new exploration wells.

The tax credit was to be added to a related bill proposed by Sen. Tom Wagoner, a Kenai Republican, Murkowski said. Wagoner's bill would reduce the state's share of revenues from some Cook Inlet oil wells.

The proposed severance tax credit would apply to new exploration wells begun after July 1, 2004, Murkowski said.

It would provide a credit of 20 percent of the cost for wells drilled more than three miles from an existing well, and an additional 20 percent for those drilled more than 25 miles from production facilities.

The credit could carry forward if not used by the company, and credits could be sold by a company that does not pay severance tax to one that does.

Department of Revenue Commissioner Bill Corbus said the credit would cost the state about $50 million a year.

Senate approves timber as No. 1 use of forests

JUNEAU - The state Senate has approved a bill that would change the primary purpose of state forests from multi-use to timber harvesting. Senate Bill 149 passed 12-8 Monday, with Republicans in support and Democrats opposing. It now heads to the House.

Supporters have pitched the bill as a way to promote the timber industry and resource development.

"Hopefully, with this legislation, and with the encouragement of this administration, we can see significant additional utilization of a terribly underutilized resource," said Sen. Robin Taylor, a Wrangell Republican and the sponsor of the bill.

Opponents say the changes would lessen oversight and public input into forest management and fail to acknowledge the diverse uses of forest lands.

"It's used for recreation, for hunting, for subsistence, it's used for all kinds of gathering activities, and a lot of those activities are not just fun and games, they're things that actually bring money back to the community," said Nancy Fresco of the Northern Alaska Environmental Center.

Alaska has two state forests, the Haines State Forest near Haines and the Tanana Valley State Forest along the Tanana River from Manley Hot Springs to the Canada border.

The Haines forest is used for eagle-watching, hiking and other recreation as well as logging. But the bill wouldn't make much difference because its timber is of low value and is not expected to attract much interest from buyers, said state forester Jeff Jahnke.

The Tanana forest is open to activities such as mining and dog mushing and is governed by a forest management plan designed to accommodate different uses.



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