Northwest Digest

Posted: Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Assembly tables wetlands transfer

JUNEAU - Once again, the Assembly tabled a resolution requesting the state to transfer land from Mendenhall Wetlands State Game Refuge to the Juneau International Airport .

Juneau International Airport Manager Allan Heese said he was relieved the Assembly didn't approve the resolution because it didn't ask for enough land. He said the airport wants 18.5 acres.

"That doesn't mean we would necessarily use all of them, but that allows our alternatives to be considered," Heese said.

The resolution asked for 5.5 acres of wetland for the airport to expand its runway safety areas, build a trail and construct an emergency vehicle access to the airport's float pond.

The resolution requested only the amount of land necessary for a runway safety area built with the engineered materials arresting system - a method the airport board says they have little confidence in unless it is proven in an Alaska maritime temperate rain forest environment.

A traditional runway safety area is 500 feet wide and 1,000 feet long at each end of the runway. A runway safety area built with the arresting system is 600 feet long and doesn't need as much wetlands.

Mayor Bruce Botelho suggested the resolution as a compromise, said City Attorney John Hartle.

Heese said without enough land, federal and airport agencies wouldn't approve its project proposals, which might need more wetlands.

The airport made a refuge land transfer request last June. The Assembly tabled the issue, saying that it would wait until the Federal Aviation Administration released a study about the environmental impact of the airport's various projects. The FAA released the study in late April.

At its Monday meeting, Assembly member Merrill Sanford, liaison to the airport, suggested the Assembly table the resolution until the airport mangers and the mayor come up with a compromise. The Assembly approved it unanimously.

"This resolution doesn't meet the airport's needs," Sanford said. "We need to discuss how much they actually need."

Canadian: Passport is 'damaging change'

WASHINGTON - Canada's ambassador predicted Monday that the United States would drop a controversial proposal that would require all travelers to show passports in order to cross the long border between the neighboring nations.

Discussions with the Bush administration, which introduced guidelines to crack down on potential terrorist travel across borders, indicates that "passports will not be the ultimate requirements," Canadian Ambassador Frank McKenna said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Currently, U.S. and Canadian travelers need only driver's licenses to cross the border, although passports are often shown.

Requiring passports, which only 20 percent of Americans have, "would be a big change," McKenna said. "And it's become clear to me that both sides of the border think it would be a very damaging change. ... This would cause real havoc to the economy."

Canada is the largest U.S. trading partner, with $1.2 billion worth of goods crossing the border daily.

The Homeland Security and State departments proposed the rules two months ago to deter terrorists from entering the United States. But a week later, President Bush stepped back from the plan, saying he was surprised to hear of it and feared it could hamper travel to the U.S. from neighboring countries.

Teacher quits after sexual accusations

LONGVIEW, Wash. - An Oregon man accused of spanking and fondling a boy at his home has resigned from his job as a special education teacher in Oregon's Rainier School District.

Boyce Williams Jr., 51, has been charged in Columbia County with misdemeanor harassment for an alleged incident with a 15-year-old boy. Police are continuing their investigation and additional charges could follow, District Attorney Steve Atchison said.

Under Williams' agreement with the Rainier School District, information regarding the allegations is to remain confidential; neither Williams nor his attorney would comment to the Longview Daily News.

But an investigation by the newspaper found that Williams had previously been released from school districts in Oregon and Alaska under similar circumstances, during his 26-year career.

In 1984, Williams began teaching special education in the remote Alaska village of Kwethluk in the Lower Kuskokwim School District, where Les Daenzer, his former principal said he was known as a dedicated teacher.

But in 1991, two boys, ages 14 and 15, accused Williams of spanking them on the bare buttocks and touching their testicles in separate incidents in April and May of 1991, according to court documents.

He was later indicted by a grand jury on sexual assault charges, but the charges were dismissed by several judges during drawn-out court proceedings, based on "insufficient evidence."

In the spring of 1991, after the school district first learned of the accusations, Williams was "relieved of his contract," Daenzer told The Daily News.

Judge rules West recall can proceed

SPOKANE, Wash. - A recall petition against Mayor James E. West over a homosexual sex scandal can proceed to the signature-gathering phase, a visiting judge ruled Monday.

Benton County Superior Court Judge Craig J. Matheson threw out two of the recall charges made against West by Shannon Sullivan, a Spokane resident, but said the allegation that West improperly offered city jobs to prospective dates should be put before voters.

"That to my mind is an improper use of the office," Matheson ruled.

Sullivan, an unemployed florist and novice political activist who argued the misfeasance charges without a lawyer, now must collect more than 12,600 signatures in six months to put the recall on the ballot.

"I will get those signatures. I promise I will get those signatures," an emotional Sullivan told reporters outside the courtroom.

William F. Etter, a lawyer representing West, said he would consult with his client about appealing the remaining recall charge to the state Supreme Court.

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