Alaska Digest

Posted: Friday, May 19, 2006

Family escapes fire on Glacier Highway

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JUNEAU - A mother, her daughter and their dog escaped injury Thursday morning when a fire broke out in the garage of their Glacier Highway ranch-style rental home and spread to the kitchen.

The family was able to scramble out of the home, at 4521 Glacier Highway.

Capital City Fire and Rescue responded to the fire at 6:45 a.m. and had the blaze contained within 90 minutes. The incident is still under investigation.

At least 50 percent of the home was damaged, said Linda Wahl, from the Juneau chapter of the American Red Cross.

The Red Cross has secured the mother and daughter a hotel room. The dog is staying with friends of the family.

"We're still unsure about how the fire started this morning," Wahl said Thursday afternoon. "But it will be some time before the tenants can move back into the home."

The Red Cross is accepting monetary donations for the family. To donate, visit the organization's office at 3200 Hospital Drive, call (907) 463-5713 or look on the Web, at

Center warns of avalanche danger

JUNEAU - The Southeast Alaska Avalanche Center warns this week that Juneau residents should avoid walking under any snow cornices or the slopes beneath them, such as the Snowslide Creek path on Thane Road.

Juneau has entered a cycle of large cornice-triggered wet slab avalanches, said Bill Glude, the center's director.

On Saturday, a large cornice dropped on Thane's Snowslide Creek path, triggering an avalanche that traveled to within 20 meters above sea level, nearly filling the diversion berm.

Sometime during the week, a chunk of a cornice gave way on Gold Creek's Snowslide Gulch path, producing a large avalanche that ran all the way to Gold Creek.

Other slides on thawing slopes have also been reported in the area.

Glude said the current avalanche cycle does not generally threaten developed areas, but it may if a large glide plate releases or if a big cornice drops.

Judge dismisses Pt. Thomson lawsuit

JUNEAU - A judge has dismissed a claim that the state Department of Natural Resources did not live up to its obligations to develop the Point Thomson natural gas fields.

The Alaska Gasline Port Authority alleged the state allowed Exxon Mobil Corp. and other leaseholders to "mothball these valuable resources rather than develop and produce them."

Point Thomson abuts the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and has an estimated 9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves.

Anchorage Superior Court Judge Sharon Gleason dismissed the port authority's lawsuit May 12, which was announced by the governor's office Thursday.

No final agency action has occurred, and the state has found the leaseholders in default, which led to her decision to dismiss the case, Gleason wrote.

State to get 8-9 cents more per cigarette

JUNEAU - The Alaska Department of Revenue will begin collecting 20 cents more in tax on cigarette packs beginning July 1.

The tax hike amounts to an increase of 8 or 9 cents per cigarette. It is part of a series of phased-in tax increases authorized by the Legislature during a special session in 2004.

Cigarettes present in Alaska on or before June 30 will be taxed at the old rate of 8 cents per cigarette. Cigarettes imported into the state after June 30 will be taxed at the new rate.

Also, the new tax rate applies only to cigarettes manufactured by companies that participated in a 1998 legal settlement between 46 states and several major tobacco companies.

Taxation on cigarettes manufactured by other companies will be set at a rate of 10.25 cents per cigarette - $2.05 per pack of 20.

The final Legislature-approved tax increase will take place on July 1, 2007, when the tax on a pack of cigarettes will be $2.

Revenue generated by the cigarette tax is deposited into the school fund and general fund.

Subsidized logging roads voted down

JUNEAU - The U.S. House of Representatives voted 237-181 Thursday to prevent the use of tax money to build logging roads in the Tongass National Forest.

Nearly all of the roads to major timber sales in the Tongass have been paid for with federal appropriations from Congress in the past few years.

The House voted to strike the road funding as the result of an amendment to the Interior Appropriations bill, which was still under debate as of press time Thursday.

Nearly 80 Alaska Panhandle tourism-dependent companies, including artists and guide-outfitters, had signed a letter to Congress in favor of the amendment.

The amendment was sponsored by Reps. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, and Robert Andrews, D-N.J. It also had support from taxpayer, environmental and sportsmen groups.

Climber dies in fall in Wrangell-St. Elias

ANCHORAGE - A 56-year-old California man died after falling into a crevasse near Mount Bona in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, officials said Thursday.

Attempts to revive Will Hirst of Castro Valley, Calif., failed after he was pulled from the crevasse, and an on-scene doctor pronounced him dead, National Parks Service spokesman John Quinley said.

The Alaska State Medical Examiner's Office determined the cause of death as "positional asphyxia," or when people are restrained in uncomfortable positions that make it difficult to breathe. Dr. Franc Fallico said Hirst was wedged head-down in the crevasse.

Decision on Cordova kings upheld by judge

FAIRBANKS - A judge has upheld the Alaska Board of Fisheries' decision to restrict the harvest of Copper River king salmon by Cordova commercial fishermen so more fish reach upriver subsistence users.

The judge's decision could be moot given the first 12-hour opening for commercial fishermen. The opening produced a preliminary catch of only 2,900 king salmon, less than half of the anticipated harvest, according to commercial fisheries biologist Bert Lewis in Cordova.

In addition, gillnetters caught only an estimated 23,000 reds compared to a predicted harvest of 33,000.

A late spring could result in a late run the way things are looking now, Lewis said.

"The fish aren't moving in yet," he said. "The river is still frozen for the most part."

Superior Court Judge Craig Stowers on Friday, citing testimony from upriver subsistence users who say they are not catching enough fish to feed their families, rejected a request for an injunction to prevent a new regulation passed by the Fish Board in January.

The ruling went against Cordova District Fishermen United, which represents the Cordova commercial fishing fleet.

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