Alaska Digest

Posted: Friday, June 29, 2007

Dungeness harvest predicted to be down

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JUNEAU - Based on early-season statistics, the Dungeness crab harvest in Southeast Alaska is expected to be more than 2.25 million pounds, down sharply from last year.

The Commercial Fisheries Division of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game based its projection on the take for the first week of the summer season, which began June 15.

The initial estimate for the 2006-07 season was 4.8 million pounds, and the final catch was 4.5 million pounds.

This season will be the same length as last year's, the division announced.

The summer season in most of the region runs from June 15 through Aug. 15; the fall season begins Oct. 1 at noon and runs through Nov. 30, said division spokeswoman Karla Bush.

Some special areas will have longer seasons, she said.

Ionospheric research center operational

GAKONA - One of the world's largest and most advanced ionospheric research facilities is now fully operational in central Alaska.

Built on the site of a canceled Air Force over-the-horizon radar site, the massive instrument known as HAARP, or High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program, will be used to study interactions between high-power radio signals and the earth's ionosphere.

A dedication ceremony was held Wednesday, and a public open house is being scheduled for August.

The facility includes 360 radio transmitters with a combined power of 3.6 megawatts. It also has 180 60-foot-tall antennas covering 40 acres, and five generators providing more than 16 megawatts of powers.

HAARP is jointly administered by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory and the U.S. Office of Naval Research, and is run by BAE Systems, a defense contractor. Its use is split between scientific and defense research.

"HAARP is a scientific project to study the properties and behavior of the ionosphere, with emphasis on using the ionosphere to improve communications and surveillance systems for civilian and defense purposes," said Rod Jacobsen, HAARP program director for BAE Systems in Washington, D.C.

Adjusting for inflation, approximately $300 million have been spent on the project since its beginning 15 years ago. Currently, annual operations run at about $7.5 million, which also funds the salaries of the dozen or so permanent employees.

Anchorage program targets trash bears

ANCHORAGE - Anchorage residents will be able to lease bear-resistant trash cans for $5 a month in an effort to crack down on bears cruising neighborhoods looking for a free meal.

Mayor Mark Begich, state biologist Rick Sinnott and Alaska Waste sales manager Craig Gales announced the project Wednesday. Sinnott said the program also is about findings ways to discourage trash bears.

"We're the primates with the big brains. We can figure this out," he said.

The 96-gallon containers are made by BearSaver, a California manufacturer. According to the company's Web site, the rollout curbside trash cans are battle-tested, designed to keep out even the most tenacious of bruins. They look like other large tipper-carts but have a self-locking lid that bears just can't figure out, the company said.

The new cans will replace the clumsy, difficult to handle retrofitted bear-resistant containers previously available from Alaska Waste.

The $5 monthly charge looks cheap compared to penalties for leaving out trash that attracts bears. City fines range from $50 to $600; state fines are $110.

"Our goal is not to fine people but to have people contain their waste," Begich said.

Man survive bear mauling near Kenai

CLAM GULCH - A man survived a bear mauling in the area of the Sterling Highway near Kenai.

The man was not critically injured and was walking to paramedics when Larry Lewis with the Department of Fish and Game arrived after the Wednesday morning attack.

The bear had come from the inlet-side of the Sterling Highway, crossed the highway, entered a very small patch of woods, and popped out next to the man and his leashed dog, Lewis said.

The man had been walking down a dirt road next to the highway.

Lewis said the man was lucky two vehicles were nearby. Both drivers began honking their horns to scare the sow and her cubs away from the victim.

The man's name was not immediately released by authorities.

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