Alaska Digest

Posted: Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Volunteer marching band rehearses today

JUNEAU -The Juneau Volunteer Marching Band will host a rehearsal and group meeting to practice for its upcoming season of concerts and marches from 7-9 p.m. today in the Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School commons.

This is the 30th annivesary of the band, which will be partcipating in Fourth of July parades and concerts.

All musicians are invited to participate in the concerts, parades or both. Bring folding music stands and lyres to rehearsal.

For more information, call Peter Anderegg at 789-2552 or e-mail

Visit the marching band's Web site at

Knik Arm ferry plan nears completion

ANCHORAGE - A commuter ferry could begin transporting people and vehicles across Knik Arm between Anchorage and Point MacKenzie as early as 2007 if all goes according to plans being finalized by the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.

A bridge across Knik Arm, however, is years of study and decisions away if it's ever built.

Borough officials are set to meet with Lockheed-Martin engineers and U.S. Navy officials in June to work out some last details on the vessel that defense contractor Lockheed has signed on to design, according to borough manager John Duffy.

The borough has $18 million in federal funds in hand to build the ferry - that will happen at Ketchikan's shipyard - and most of the $12 million it plans to spend will go to build landings near the borough port at Point MacKenzie and near the mouth of Ship Creek.

Duffy and borough Mayor Tim Anderson said they hope to have much of the 14-mile Point MacKenzie Road paved by the time ferry service begins.

"Most definitely, we've got to fix the road ... before you'll see a lot of traffic from our side," Anderson said Friday. The road work is scheduled to begin this summer.

Duffy said the borough probably will hire a private contractor to operate the ferry. Round-trip fares could be between $10 and $20 for a transit of 15 to 25 minutes.

Wildfire burns near Pilot Point village

ANCHORAGE - Several new wildfires were burning Monday in Alaska, including a 1,000 acre blaze close to the Alaska Peninsula village of Pilot Point.

The fire was sparked across tundra Sunday night after escaping from a smoldering garbage dump in high winds.

Eight smokejumpers scrambled to the site and an air tanker dropped 2,000 gallons of retardant between the blaze and the village a half mile to the south, said Brett Ricker, a fire information officer for the Alaska Division of Forestry.

An abandoned shed near the village was the only structure known to be destroyed.

Despite its proximity to the village of 75 people, the fire was not considered at threat because wind currents were running parallel to the community, Ricker said.

A 200-acre fire was burning around Dot Lake, a tiny village near the Alaska Highway about 40 miles northwest of Tok.

The blaze started Sunday night, creeping near some houses in the community of 33 people, but there were no injuries, although some residents went to neighboring communities, officials said. An uninhabited cabin burned, said Steve McCombs, a fire information spokesman.

About 330 miles to the northwest, another escaped dump fire was being blamed for a 60-acre blaze near the Koyukuk River village of Huslia. The fire was quickly knocked down Sunday night by water-scooping planes, Ricker said.

Wandering bear caught in Anchorage

ANCHORAGE - A black bear wandering through Anchorage neighborhoods for more than two weeks has been caught and sent to Fairbanks for research.

A state biologist tranquilized the male bear at a midtown business park Friday then shipped to the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where the animal will be live research subject at the Institute of Arctic Biology.

The bear has a year to live as a captive helping scientists understand hibernation, after which it will be destroyed, said institute director Brian Barnes.

The bear was never known to be aggressive, according to biologist Rick Sinnott of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, who captured the animal. But the time had come for the 200-pound animal to go, Sinnott said.

"It's a sad end, but if left to our own devices, we would have shot him," he said. "He was going to keep coming back, as far as I could tell. We couldn't have him running amok in the center of town."

The bear is probably 3 years old, on the cusp of adulthood, Sinnott said.

Scientists at the UAF institute will keep it in an exercise yard where it can roam around this summer, Barnes said.

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