Governor signs medical parole, SARS bill
JUNEAU - The state can establish a program to control the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome under a bill Gov. Frank Murkowski signed into law Tuesday.
The bill makes clear the state can enforce isolation and quarantine measures if needed to deal with SARS, according to a news release. So far, Alaska has had only one suspected case of the disease, in Anchorage, but whether that patient has SARS hasn't been confirmed.
Another section of the bill signed Tuesday would allow the state Parole Board to let some prisoners out early if they have severe cognitive disabilities, including dementia.
That section is intended to save the state money on medical costs.
A number of limits on the provision are in the bill. It would apply only to those likely to remain incapacitated for their entire parole period or the rest of their lives. And they would have to be so disabled they're not likely to commit other crimes.
The state also would have to determine more appropriate or cost-effective care could be provided outside of prison and would have to come up with a plan for the inmate's housing, health care and other needs.
Prisoners convicted of felony rape or felony sexual abuse of a minor could not be released early.
Overdue walrus hunters return safely to Gambell
NOME - Two Gambell men reported overdue from a weekend walrus hunting trip returned safely to Saint Lawrence Island on Tuesday morning.
The Coast Guard said Dennis James Jr. and Jerry Aningayou managed to reach the island after getting stuck at sea, about 80 miles out.
The two men reportedly rigged up a makeshift sail after their engine failed, according to the Coast Guard. They reached home at about 4:30 a.m. Tuesday.
The Coast Guard said the two men had heard search planes flying overhead, but were not able to signal rescuers because of poor visibility.
The men were reported overdue after they failed to return from their hunting trip early Sunday.
Blaze near Anderson continues
ANCHORAGE - Firefighters continued to gain an upper hand on a wildfire near Anderson that consumed three buildings, state fire officials said late Tuesday.
The fire broke out Monday afternoon about 4 miles from a subdivision, and residents were evacuated, according to Pete Buist with the Alaska Division of Forestry. Fast winds fanned the blaze.
By Tuesday the winds had subsided, but not before the fire burned about 1,000 acres.
Buist said the fire was running and spotting through black spruce in an area where the Parks Highway crosses the Nenana River, about 80 miles southwest of Fairbanks.
The river served as a natural barrier for the east flank of the blaze, while the north flank was slowed when it reached the site of a 1991 fire, Buist said. Fire crews focused much of their efforts Tuesday on creating a fire line along the vulnerable west flank, Buist said.
The fire was blamed on a smoldering burn pile that spread into the woods, according to the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center.
Light earthquake jolts Kodiak Island
ANCHORAGE - A light earthquake struck Kodiak Island on Tuesday morning.
The quake occurred at 6:57 a.m. about 55 miles southwest of Kodiak City, according to the Alaska Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer.
The quake had a preliminary magnitude of 4.7 and was 47 miles deep.
No reports of injuries or damage we made.
Ranger District plans Back Loop Road building
JUNEAU - The Juneau Ranger District has decided a two-story office building is the best option for expansion of its facilities on Back Loop Road.
After completion of an environmental analysis for the construction of an office and other facilities near the National Weather Service office, acting District Ranger Sara Baldwin selected the plan.
The Forest Service will construct a two-story office building, a heated warehouse, a dry storage building, and a parking lot at the site. To address public concerns, the design of the facility is planned to compliment the surrounding natural forest setting, Baldwin said.
"We were able to modify our initial site plan to reduce the amount of clearing while maintaining a vegetation screen from adjacent property," said Baldwin.
Public parking in the vicinity of Dredge Lake Trailhead will be maintained while construction is in progress. Design and award for construction of the office complex may take place as early as fiscal year 2004, depending on available funds, Baldwin said.
Reservations available for Forest Service shelters
JUNEAU - The Juneau Ranger District is taking reservations for noncomercial day use of Skater's Cabin and reservations for the Auke Village picnic area and shelter through Sept. 30.
The sites have undergone renovations. There are fully accessible toilets, a water hydrant, picnic tables, grills, trails and a ramp to access the beach. Skater's Cabin has a 14-stall parking lot and two spaces are for disabled people.
Skater's Cabin will be available from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily and the Auke Village picnic area and shelter will be available from 6 a.m. to midnight daily. Charges are $10 per hour, with a minimum fee of $20 and a maximum fee of $100. The sites can be reserved up to 180 days in advance.
Reservations can be made at the district office, 8465 Old Dairy Road, the second building south of Valley Lumber, or by phone using a credit card at 586-8800. Reservations can be faxed to 586-8808.
When a site is not reserved it is available on first come, first served basis.
Troopers kill injured bear in North Pole
FAIRBANKS - Authorities killed a badly injured black bear that was seen limping near the Richardson Highway in North Pole, Alaska State Troopers said.
A Fish and Wildlife Protection trooper put the bear down about 5 p.m. Monday with a shotgun after it was spotted in some nearby woods filled with trails. The area is popular with runners, bicyclists, swimmers and fishermen.
Sgt. Scott Quist, who shot the bear, said it was nonaggressive and injured.
An initial examination of the carcass showed the 2-year-old female's left foreleg was almost useless and had two visible wounds. One of the wounds was badly infected.
Quist said killing a bear is a last resort, but in this case public safety was more important.