Alaska Digest

Posted: Friday, July 01, 2005

Alaska gets grant to help ease base closure

ANCHORAGE - Alaska is receiving a $615,000 federal grant to help plan for thousands of jobs that would be lost if four bases on the Pentagon's realignment list are closed or cut back.

Acceptance of the grant from the U.S. Department of Labor should not be taken as a sign that anyone has given up on keeping hardest-hit Eielson Air Force Base at full staff, according to U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, who helped secure the emergency planning funds. The base, outside Fairbanks, is slated to lose nearly all of its roughly 3,000 military personnel.

The grant comes prior to any final decision about the four installations and amid an energetic battle by Alaska's congressional delegation, governor and others to save Eielson.

All states facing the possibility of massive layoffs due to base closures or realignments were eligible for the grants, said Corine Geldhof, director of the Division of Business Partnerships in the state department of labor.

The grants are designed to help communities analyze their work forces and come up with a transition plan should there be massive layoffs. The money cannot be used to lobby for or against the base closures.

Bleach spill kills fish in Ketchikan

KETCHIKAN - A public water chlorination plant sprung a leak and dumped up to 28 gallons of diluted bleach into Ketchikan Creek, killing hundreds of fish.

The Ketchikan Public Utilities plant sounded an alarm while unstaffed at about 3 p.m. Saturday, but it followed several false alarms over the previous couple of days, Water Division Manager John Kleinegger told the Ketchikan Daily News.

"Like the apocryphal story of the little boy who cried wolf, when the next alarm came in at 2:59 p.m., the assumption was made that it was another false alarm and might clear itself," Kleinegger wrote in amemo Tuesday. "Consequently, about an hour was lost before a (water division) employee was contacted to inspect the chlorination plant."

Ketchikan Creek is the waterway that winds past downtown Ketchikan and Creek Street, the walkway along which tourists gather to watch salmon swimming upstream.

A pump at the plant failed, causing a PVC lid to blow off of a pipe and spill sodium hypochlorite into a floor drain, according to Kleinegger. At 0.8 parts per million, the solution was weaker than household bleach but stronger than the 0.1 ppm capable of killing fish.

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation reported that the spill killed 200-300 fish, including hatchery steelheed smolt, juvenile wild coho salmon, rainbow trout, wild Dolly Varden, adult steelhead and an adult king salmon.

Anchorage fire displaces 21 families

ANCHORAGE - A fire Thursday in Anchorage forced 21 families from their homes.

The fire broke out in a 42-unit apartment complex at about 4:15 p.m. All but two of the units at the Tudor Park Apartments were occupied at the time.

The cause of the fire was not immediately known.

About 40 firefighters with 10 pieces of equipment fought the blaze, which at one point threw flames and smoke into the air visible for many city blocks. Three of the apartment units were quickly engulfed in flames, forcing the evacuation of the entire apartment complex, according to KTUU-TV in Anchorage.

Firefighters battled the blaze for a time from inside the apartments, but when the roof became compromised the attack was moved to the outside of the building. No injuries were reported.

Sitka school to train Natives for college

SITKA - Sheldon Jackson College will use a $307,000 federal grant to help develop Alaska Native high school students' skills for success in college, the Sitka school announced.

The Department of Education money is the first part of a $1.95 million five-year grant to support development of the Rural Alaska Preparation Program. It will be available in October and allow Sheldon Jackson to host a six-week summer outreach program, college officials said.

"The primary purpose of this grant is to provide a summer bridge program to assist in the development of academic skills and interest of Alaska Native high school students," David Harrington, dean of academic affairs, said in a written statement. "We are confident that the project will not only assist high school completion, but will also facilitate college success."

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