State and local briefly

Posted: Monday, May 22, 2000

Sea otters dying in Cordova

CORDOVA - Sea otters have been dying in unprecedented numbers along Cordova beaches in recent years.

Last winter, the Cordova-area representative on the federal Sea Otter and Sea Lion Commission picked up more than 100 otter carcasses while walking along the beaches near the Prince William Sound community, said Doug Burn, a supervising biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Numbers for 1998 may be as high.

Among the theories advanced so far are that the otters are dying from eating fish-processing waste, that the otters are dying of old age for the first time in recorded history, or that the otter population has grown beyond its local food supply.

Linda Comerci, a Fish and Wildlife Service biologist, dismissed the old-age theory by pointing out that many of the carcasses washed up on the beach were animals in their prime. Burn said the carcasses yielded evidence that the dead otters had been feeding on fish waste from processing plants.

``They had very high parasite loads and lots of bones in their digestive tracts,'' Burn said. ``The big question is why sea otters are turning to feeding on fish waste.''

Troopers launch child seat campaign

FAIRBANKS - Alaska State Troopers are stepping up their enforcement of seat belt and child restraint laws this summer. Troopers have received federal funding for the enforcement effort, which begins today.

According to troopers, traffic crashes are the No. 1 killer of children. Six out of 10 children who die in crashes are completely unbuckled.

As part of the crackdown, troopers are calling on motorists who see unbuckled children to call a hotline and give the license plate number of the vehicle. That number is (800) 764-5755. Officials will send a warning letter to the owner of the vehicle.

``No one should look the other way when they see a child at risk. Everyone must speak up if they see their friends and relatives letting a child ride unbuckled,'' said Lt. Greg Tanner, deputy commander of the trooper post in Fairbanks.

Knowles vetoes service area changes

JUNEAU - Gov. Tony Knowles vetoed a bill Friday that would have changed the laws governing local service areas that provide road maintenance, fire protection and other services.

Knowles objected to a part of the bill that would have given local voters more say in changes to service area boundaries, saying it violated the powers granted to municipalities in the state constitution.

However, the bill would also have allowed different tax rates within the same service area - a change eagerly sought by the Fairbanks North Star Borough to encourage consolidation of some of the 130 service areas within its borders.

The borough pays half the administrative costs of each district, and wants consolidation to cut down on those expenses. Current law forbids different tax rates, which Fairbanks officials said discourages some service areas from joining adjacent areas with higher taxes.

Anchorage Municipal Attorney Mary Hughes welcomed the veto because of language that would have required multiple elections for each change to a service area.

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