Northwest Digest

Posted: Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Ice dam blamed for flooding in Hughes

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FAIRBANKS - An ice dam is being blamed for flooding in the Interior village of Hughes that washed away two outhouses and three boats.

"There's ice all over town right now," said Hughes resident Jack Ambrose on Sunday afternoon.

The flooding was likely caused by an ice jam that began to form in the Koyukuk River late Friday night downstream of Hughes, a small village located about 200 miles northwest of Fairbanks.

According to the National Weather Service, the Koyukuk River began to breach its banks on Saturday morning. By mid-afternoon the same day, the Weather Service issued a flood warning and reported that about half of the airport's runway was under water. Residents reported that water was 3 feet deep in places and they were moving personal items to higher ground.

By early that evening, residents of Hughes contacted troopers in Fairbanks about the flooding. They said the river was running through parts of the village, and that flooding had washed away several small nonresidential buildings and boats.

Murkowski, Dems to debate reserves tax

JUNEAU - Republican Gov. Frank Murkowski and three Democratic legislators will face off Wednesday in a radio debate over a proposed gas reserves tax on North Slope leases.

The debate will be aired live at 10 a.m. on public radio stations.

The three lawmakers, Eric Croft and Harry Crawford of Anchorage and David Guttenberg of Fairbanks, are sponsors of an initiative that would penalize oil companies for delaying construction of a natural gas pipeline by taxing gas reserves under lease but not developed for more than 20 years.

The governor, who opposes the measure, challenged lawmakers last week to a debate on the issue. In a press release Monday, Murkowski said he looked forward to the debate.

"While I do not discount in any way the initiative process, the facts clearly indicate that the reserves tax will destroy the economics of the gas pipeline," he said.

Croft, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for governor, and the prime sponsor of the November ballot initiative dubbed the Alaska Gasline Now Act, said the governor's proposed gas contract lacks a firm commitment from producers.

"We are supplying the one side of the contract that Murkowski forgot - a penalty for delay," he said.

Lawmakers are meeting in a special session in Juneau's Centennial Hall to consider the governor's contract proposal with the state's three largest oil companies for the financial terms to recover the North Slope's vast reserves of natural gas.

Murkowski called the special session to deal with issues related to the deal with BP PLC, ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil Corp. that he hopes will lead to a $20 billion to $25 billion pipeline from the North Slope to Canada and markets in the Midwest.

Alaska Airlines, union reach deal

SEATTLE - Alaska Airlines and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers have reached "agreements in principle" on basic contract terms with more than 3,600 clerical workers, passenger service and ramp crews, the company said Monday.

"Open issues still remain, and the local negotiation teams are continuing to work on contract language related to the agreed terms and the open issues," the company said in a statement.

The clerical, office and passenger service contract, which became amendable in October 2004, covers about 3,000 Alaska Airlines customer service, reservation sales and operations agents, as well as people in accounting. Nearly 650 ramp service and stores agents are covered by their own contract, which became amendable in January 2004.

Airline industry contracts do not have fixed expiration dates; they "becomes amendable," which means negotiations can begin on a new contract. Until a new contract is negotiated or mediated, the terms of the old contract remains in effect.

The announcement Monday concerns both contracts, the company said on the eve of its shareholder meeting.

More than 1,100 graduate from UAF

FAIRBANKS - The University of Alaska Fairbanks held its graduation ceremony Sunday in which it conferred more than 1,100 degrees.

The graduation ceremony at the Carlson Center was the culmination of years of school work for hundreds of students.

Nets holding hundreds of balloons hung from the ceiling, waiting for the moment after a nearly four-hour ceremony that signaled the completion of a hard earned degree.

"It has to be hard," UA president Mark Hamilton told the graduates. "It's supposed to be hard."

The graduates received plenty of encouraging words from the ceremony's featured speakers.

Keynote speaker Joanna Burger spent more than 20 years studying ecological issues in Alaska. She spoke about her visits and studies in rural villages and lessons she learned in respecting culture and history in preparing for the future.

"Remember this as you go forward from this graduation day. We are all part of a very long shared culture," she said. "Today, we all value your hard work and success, congratulate your graduation and hope for the every best in your future. Someday all of you will be the elders of your village."

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