Northwest Digest

Wire reports

Posted: Friday, July 21, 2006

Cold Bay runs out of gas, low on diesel

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ANCHORAGE - A small city on the western tip of the Alaska Peninsula is a week away from running out of diesel fuel needed to generate electricity, and a loss of power could affect operations at Cold Bay's main physical asset - the third largest airport in Alaska.

The local fuel company, Frosty Fuels, already has run out of gasoline.

Gary Ferguson, owner of G&K Inc., which operates Cold Bay Electric Utility, said Thursday his small company has just seven to eight days worth of fuel left and the community of 90 will go dark after that.

The fuel supplier has told him a barge with fuel is expected next week, but has made the same claim for the last three weeks, he said.

"It's getting kind of desperate," he said.

A barge is due into the community Wednesday, said Sandra Moller, president and chief executive officer of Aleut Enterprise LLC, which owns Frosty Fuels. Aleut Enterprise is a subsidiary of the Aleut Corp., a regional Native corporation.

"We are waiting for our barge delivery company to deliver our product ordered some weeks ago," she said.

Kirk Payne, chief operations officer for Delta Western Inc., which will operate the barge, confirmed the Wednesday delivery.

Cold Bay is a community of 90 nearly 634 miles southwest of Anchorage in the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge.

Cold Bay was built up as a key World War II staging area and once had a military population of 30,000. The state continues to maintain its 10,000-foot runway.

The airport has been a safe harbor for intercontinental aircraft. In March 2001, the population nearly quadrupled when a Delta Airlines jet with 220 passengers on board was forced to make an unscheduled landing on a flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo.

Report: Bypass mail is major cost burden

FAIRBANKS - Alaska's bypass mail program has been identified as one of five major cost burdens to the U.S. Postal Service, according to an inspector general's report.

"Current estimates of the annual direct loss to the Postal Service are $50 (million) to $60 million," according to the June 22 report to Postmaster General John Potter.

Bypass mail is an Alaska-only program that lets rural residents send bulk items through the mail system, usually on small air carriers, at parcel post rates. Everything from groceries to auto parts to pallets of dog food can be shipped by air at affordable rates.

Under the program, which has changed little over the years, the U.S. Postal Service pays air carriers to deliver the mail, dividing up shipments among the eligible carriers along the route, and charging shippers third and fourth class postal rates for what is essentially first class service.

Bypass mail is so called because the shipments bypass the post office and go straight to the carrier.

The report suggested ways to reduce the burden on postal ratepayers, including charging priority mail rates, contracting directly with air carriers, seeking permission from Congress to operate more efficiently and seeking additional federal money to cover the system.

The report says bypass mail and four other burdens - including DOT-set rates to fly international mail - cost the Postal Service about $5.2 billion a year.

Technology gives geese new life

SEATTLE - New technology may allow peaceful coexistence with Canada geese, whose daily 5-pound poop production has had officials here and in other cities killing them by the thousands.

"It's basically a carpet sweeper for grass," said Ed Zylstra, inventor of the patent-pending Goose Goo Gone machine and co-founder of Naturesweep, based in Victoria, British Columbia.

Seattle is the first U.S. municipality to try Naturesweep's device, a boxy little trailer with rotating bristles. The company is providing a free test run for the city Parks Department, which has an agreement with the Progressive Animal Welfare Society to look into nonlethal means of controlling the problem.

The geese don't migrate if there's food year-round, causing problems in urban parks. In addition to lethal removal, geese in the Puget Sound area have been herded by dogs, shipped to rural areas and prevented from multiplying by "addling," or oiling, their eggs.

According to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, Washington state has about 70,000 resident Canada geese - each producing as much as 5 pounds of waste per day.

2 killed, 4 injured in Skyway shootout

SEATTLE - Some young people who had just gotten kicked out of a bowling alley for loitering exchanged gunfire with a nearby homeowner early Thursday, leaving two people dead and four wounded, King County sheriff's deputies said.

Sgt. John W. Urquhart said the shooting began not long after midnight at a house near the Skyway Bowl in the unincorporated suburbs between Seattle and Renton.

Three of the wounded - including the homeowner - were taken to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle with serious injuries. The fourth, found in the street near the house, was being treated for less severe wounds at Valley General Hospital in Renton, authorities said.

One of the dead was described as a 16-year-old boy. There was no immediate description of the other.

Investigators told KIRO Television the shooting may have been related to an earlier argument in the bowling alley but did not appear to be gang-related.

Urquhart said witnesses told officers a group of young people got kicked out of the bowling alley shortly after midnight and went to a nearby house. Soon afterward, nearby residents said, bullets began flying in the driveway of the home and four people got into a car that headed away, then crashed into a nearby building.

Two of those in the car died.

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