Alaska Digest

Posted: Thursday, May 31, 2007

Police arrest manin alleged assault

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JUNEAU - After a short investigation late Tuesday, police arrested Mark Mergenthal, 26, on charges of second degree robbery and fourth degree theft.

Mergenthal allegedly punched one of two men who were in his company on Franklin Street shortly before 5:54 p.m, according to police.

Mergenthal had told the man, whose name was withheld, to give him money, police said.

Mergenthal was held without bail at the Lemon Creek Correctional Center.

One dead, 2 missing at Interior lake

ANCHORAGE - A digital camera showing AmeriCorps volunteers drinking from a whiskey bottle in their canoe before going missing was found Wednesday, a day after one of the boaters' bodies was found submerged in a popular interior Alaska lake.

Searchers on Tuesday found the body of New York state native Liza Lomando, 20, about one-eighth of a mile from where the empty canoe was recovered Sunday night, Ipsen said.

The search for the other two missing canoeists was to resume Thursday, and was to include dive teams searching several areas of Harding Lake where trained dogs showed interest, Alaska State Troopers spokeswoman Beth Ispen said.

The digital camera contained about six shots showing at least some of them drinking from the bottle, Ipsen said. She did not know if all three missing boaters were pictured.

Along with the camera, searchers on Wednesday also found a whiskey bottle and a pair of flip flops that had washed up on shore. Ipsen said it appears all items belonged to the group.

Witnesses last saw Lomando alive Sunday afternoon in the red canoe with camping companions Travis Alexander, 19, originally of Fort Yukon, and Kathy Garrigan, 24.

Minor crimes can now be reported online

JUNEAU - Police have launched a new program for reporting minor crimes through the Internet.

The program is designed to allow people to report small crimes and accidents at their convenience, freeing police dispatchers for more serious calls, said Juneau police spokeswoman Cindy Brown-Mills.

By accessing the "Online Reporting" link at, people can report thefts of up to $25,000, vandalism, lost property and accidents 24 hours a day.

Zoo delays decision on elephant's future

ANCHORAGE - Board members of the Alaska Zoo want more time and more consultation with experts before deciding the future of Alaska's only elephant.

"All they want is for Maggie to be healthy," said Pat Lampi, zoo director, on Tuesday night after a zoo board meeting that included discussion of Maggie the elephant.

Critics stepped up calls for the elephant to be moved after the animal twice this month lay down but could not get up without human assistance.

A group lobbying to move the elephant to a warmer, roomier sanctuary with other elephants is circulating a 2004 report that indicated 10 of 11 experts the Alaska Zoo consulted then said Maggie should be moved.

The African elephant, originally from South Africa, has been at the Alaska Zoo since 1983.

The zoo board last week solicited public opinion on Maggie's future and received thousands of e-mails, Lampi said. The board is reviewing the opinions and the advice of elephant experts and will meet again next week.

City wants to move against rogue cabs

KODIAK - City officials and business owners are up in arms over residents hailing rogue taxicabs.

The illegal haulers are costing the city and businesses thousands of dollars each month, some city officials claim, prompting two council members to try to shut down the contra caravans.

Council members Josie Rosales and Gabriel Saravia recently asked city administrators what could be done to stop illegal taxiing. The city has already been looking into the matter for nearly three years.

The problem, Saravia said, is that nobody wants to lose a cheap ride by becoming an informant.

"It is difficult to catch them in the act," Saravia said. "It's like everybody sees a killing or murder, but nobody says how the person died."

Rosales said she has received complaints from taxi drivers who say people are loading up passengers at $3 and $4 a head - just slightly more than some cab companies charge just to step in the door.

Wisconsin men fined for illegal Alaska hunt

MILWAUKEE - A federal magistrate fined two Wisconsin hunters Wednesday for illegally hunting bear in Alaska.

U.S. Magistrate Judge William Callahan ordered Gerald Thull of West Bend to pay $15,000 in fines and Thomas Bahr of Random Lake $5,000. He also ordered them to pay a total of $2,600 in restitution to the state of Alaska.

According to an information and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Thull and Bahr hunted brown bear in Alaska in 1998 with guide Bradley Saalsaa's help. Both Thull and Bahr shot bears that year.

When they returned with another man the next year, they hunted in the same game management unit as the year before, a violation of Alaska state law, with Saalsaa again guiding them, authorities said.

Forest Oil announces sale of Alaska assets

ANCHORAGE - Forest Oil Corp. will sell its Alaska assets to Pacific Energy Resources Ltd. of Long Beach, Calif., the company announced.

Denver-based Forest Oil said Tuesday it has a "definitive agreement" with Pacific Energy in a $464 million deal.

The transaction is expected to close June 30, according to the company announcement.

Most of the sale price, $380 million in cash, will repay loans of Forest's subsidiary, Forest Alaska Operating, the company said.

Forest Oil in January had said it was selling its Alaska business unit to reduce debt as the company moved to take over Houston Exploration Co. in a $1.5 billion deal.

The company's holdings are concentrated in shares of nine Cook Inlet fields and seven offshore platforms, including the Osprey platform. The sale includes a 40 percent stake in Cook Inlet Pipe Line Co., plus about 1 million leased acres, Forest said.

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