State Briefs

Posted: Thursday, May 16, 2002

Aniak partly evacuated because of Kuskokwim flooding

ANCHORAGE - Thirty-one people have been evacuated from Aniak and the nearby village of Red Devil because of spring flooding on the Kuskokwim River, officials said Wednesday.

The problem was caused by an ice dam below Aniak, said Bob Stewart of the state Division of Emergency Services. He said a 30-mile-long stretch of ice consisting of large, solid chunks was coming down the river.

Flooding on the Western Alaska river forced the partial evacuation Sunday of Aniak and Red Devil. The flooding, which had been contained to old Aniak, was now affecting new Aniak, officials said Wednesday.

Stewart said a National Guard helicopter was stationed at Aniak in case more people needed to be evacuated.

"There are some small scale evacuations happening all over the river," said Mike Smith, the American Red Cross' programs director for the South Central Alaska Chapter.

He said two disaster relief volunteers arrived in Aniak on Wednesday to help operate the emergency shelter set up in the village school. Aniak officials called the Red Cross on Tuesday night after flood waters came to within six inches of the top of the dike at the village airport.

If the dike failed, Smith said an estimated 150 to 200 people might need shelter.

Sen. Jerry Ward proposes subsistence solution

JUNEAU - Sen. Jerry Ward this morning presented a proposed constitutional amendment that would establish a proximity-based subsistence priority over other consumptive uses of fish and game.

Ward, an Anchorage Republican and a Native, said he has suffered from zip-code discrimination under the current rural priority in federal law. The failure of Alaskans to amend the constitution for a rural priority prompted a federal takeover of subsistence management on federal land and navigable waters, covering about two-thirds of the state.

Ward's amendment would accord a preference to residents who live near to and traditionally have relied upon a fish or game population.

The House Resources Committee started taking testimony this morning on subsistence alternatives in preparation for Friday's special session called by Democratic Gov. Tony Knowles. It is the sixth subsistence special session.

Knowles has proposed an amendment for a rural priority that also allows secondary priorities for traditional subsistence users in urban Alaska.

If approved by two-thirds of the Legislature, a constitutional amendment would go on the general election ballot in November.

Ex-Exxon Valdez captain completes sentence

ANCHORAGE - Thirteen years after the Exxon Valdez fouled Prince William Sound with crude oil, former tanker Capt. Joe Hazelwood has finished paying his official debt to Alaska with a $50,000 restitution check.

The state received the check from Hazelwood's lawyers Wednesday, officials said. The restitution was part of a sentence handed down in 1990 after a state jury convicted Hazelwood of negligent discharge of oil, a misdemeanor.

Hazelwood was given probation instead of jail time, and $50,000 in restitution was a condition of that probation. The sentence also included 1,000 hours of community work service, which he completed last summer.

Hazelwood was in charge, but not at the wheel, of the tanker Exxon Valdez in March 1989 when it ran aground on well-charted reef on its way south from the Alaska pipeline terminus in Valdez with a full load of crude. About 11 million gallons spilled from the ship's torn hold into the sound. The cleanup took years and cost billions.



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