State Briefs

Posted: Thursday, July 18, 2002

Feds designate $1.8 million for Juneau airport

JUNEAU - The Juneau Airport was awarded $1.8 million from among $36.8 million in U.S. Department of Transportation grants for Alaska airports announced this week by Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta.

The grant for Juneau will be used to acquire an aircraft rescue and firefighting vehicle and snow-removal equipment.

The grants in Alaska will be divided among 12 airports, with Sitka's Rocky Gutierrez Airport getting the biggest chunk - $7.2 million - to purchase property next to the runway for development.

Mariners should watch for orcas

JUNEAU - Alaska mariners who will be on the water this weekend can assist a marine research project by keeping track of whether or not they see orcas.

The first-ever Alaska Killer Whale Count is being held Friday through Sunday as part of a five-year study of Steller sea lions in Alaska.

Researchers want to know what role killer whales play in the population of Steller sea lions, and to do that they need to have some population figures for orcas in Alaska waters, said Andrew Trites, a professor at the University of British Columbia.

Trites and UBC graduate student Kerry Irish are leading the count, and have established a Web site - http://www.alaskakillerwhales.org/ - where interested parties can find more information and sign up to participate. Counters can send information to the researchers after the three-day count is over.

The researchers are interested in reports of where orcas were sighted and where they were not seen. The information will be used to identify areas in need of further study.

The sea lion study is being conducted by the North Pacific Universities Marine Mammal Research Consortium, which includes UBC, the University of Alaska, the University of Washington and Oregon State University. For more information about the study, visit www.marinemammal.org.

Ketchikan borough manager candidate withdraws

KETCHIKAN - The man hired to become the Ketchikan Gateway Borough manager changed his mind and declined the job Tuesday.

But borough officials will ask James Patrick, 51, to reconsider.

In a letter faxed to Borough Mayor Jack Shay and the Assembly, Patrick wrote that several Assembly members apparently had reservations about him due to "recent past events."

Responding to questions at the Assembly's regular meeting Monday, Shay said Patrick had disclosed to the borough's manager hiring committee that he had been indicted by an Ohio grand jury. All charges were subsequently dropped.

Patrick had been charged with four counts of complicity to theft in office and complicity to unlawful interest in a public contract. The charges were related to an early retirement buyout program that Patrick reportedly recommended when he served as city manager of Lebanon, Ohio.

Body of Wainwright man recovered in small lake

BARROW - A Wainwright man was found dead in a small lake southwest of the North Slope village Tuesday.

David Negevanna Ahlalook, 66, apparently drowned, said North Slope Borough Police.

Wainwright resident Kenny Tagarook discovered an overturned four-wheeler in the lake and saw something floating some distance away, police said.

Tagarook's brother, Michael Tagarook, rowed a boat out into the lake and discovered the body.

North Slope police said Ahlalook apparently had been crossing shallow bodies of water around the lake when the four-wheeler was driven into deeper water.

Wainwright is a village of 546 people about 85 miles southwest of Barrow on the Arctic Ocean.

Anchorage police say body is that of missing girl

ANCHORAGE - Anchorage police said Wednesday that a girl's body found this week is 13-year-old Delaney Zutz, who vanished from her home last week.

An autopsy performed Tuesday and Wednesday confirmed the identity, police said. The body was found in the woods near Zutz's South Anchorage home.

Police would not discuss the cause of the girl's death, saying they were withholding information for investigative purposes.

The body was found Monday by three relatives who flew to Anchorage from Minnesota to help search for the missing eighth-grader.

She vanished early July 10, somewhere around 2:30 a.m., the family said. Police were told she was on the phone with her boyfriend when a 15-year-old identified as "Brandon" knocked at her bedroom window. She told her boyfriend she was going somewhere with Brandon, her family said.

On Tuesday evening, police would say only that they had identified several Brandons among Delaney's acquaintances. They also said they were interested in locating several vehicles described by neighborhood children.

Six air forces gather for joint exercises in Alaska

ANCHORAGE - Air forces from six nations are in Alaska this week for joint exercises.

Aircraft from the United States, Japan, Singapore, the United Kingdom, Canada and Spain are practicing bombing runs and other maneuvers as part of Cooperative Cope Thunder 2002.

Sixty aircraft and 900 people are stationed at Eielson Air Force Base outside Fairbanks, and another 40 aircraft and 500 people are at Elemendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage.

By the time they leave, said exercise spokesman Curtis Viall, they'll have flown nearly 2,000 sorties.

The exercise began last week and continues through July 26.

Jury sides with ExxonMobil in cities' oil spill lawsuit

ANCHORAGE - An Anchorage jury on Wednesday rejected claims by six Alaska communities that ExxonMobil Corp. owed them $12 million in costs associated with the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound.

During a six-week trial in state Superior Court, ExxonMobil disputed the contention it owed money to Kodiak Island Borough, Seward, Cordova, Old Harbor, Larsen Bay and Port Lions. The Irving, Texas-based corporation said it already paid its bills - more than $3.7 million.

The plaintiffs "obviously were disappointed" in the verdict, said Dave Oesting, one of the attorneys representing the communities.

"Apparently, the jury didn't believe our facts or our economic expert," he said. "This case wasn't terribly complicated."

Compiled from staff and wire service reports.



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