Alaska Digest

Posted: Thursday, July 22, 2004

City removes burn ban

JUNEAU - Capital City Fire & Rescue has lifted the ban on open burning in Juneau.

The fire department issued the burning ban on July 8 because of heavy smoke from fires in the Interior and Washington state.

"We lifted the ban because we have improvement of air movement. And we have had some rain," said Fire Marshal Richard Etheridge.

Residents still need to have a burn permit before burning, and should make sure that the fire is constantly attended. For more information, call the fire department at 586-5322.

DOT nixes cheap roof repair for ferry HQ

JUNEAU - The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly has reversed plans on a quick-fix solution for a leaking building where some 30 Alaska Marine Highway System administrators will be moved this fall.

The Assembly voted earlier this month to use a "hot mop tar" roof repair to fix the Ketchikan Pulp Co. administration building.

"We're not allowing that," said DOT Deputy Commissioner Tom Briggs, noting that the hot mop tar solution did not meet Uniform Building Code requirements.

A memorandum to Assembly members from Ketchikan Gateway Borough Manager Roy Eckert on July 13 said that if the borough did not install a more expensive "membrane roof," then the state would not move into the building.

The Ketchikan Daily News reported that on Friday the Assembly approved a $349,000 contract with Croy Construction to install the flat membrane roof.

Kenai-area tribe to swap outboard motors

KENAI - Kenaitze Indian Tribe members will swap their outboard boat motors for new ones in a federal environmental program to reduce pollution in the Kenai River.

The swap, part of a $751,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant, aims to replace 200 motors over the next three years, according to Kenaitze tribe environmental protection officer Brenda Trefon.

Boat owners will be able to trade in their two-stroke motors and receive $500 vouchers to buy new four-stroke motors.

Replacing the older, more polluting motors could reduce gas spillage into the river by at least 20 percent, the EPA estimates.

The old engines are to be disabled and shipped to a recycling center, according to the EPA.

About a third of the motors used on the Kenai River are two-stroke motors, which produce three to 15 times the emissions of four-stroke engines, according to EPA spokesman Bill Dunbar.

A 2003 study by the state Department of Environmental Conservation reported that as much as 10,000 gallons of fuel is spilled into the Kenai River each summer. The report blamed two-stroke motors as one of the primary reasons for the contamination level.

The grant also provides money to help owners replace V-hulled boats with flat-bottom or non-motorized boats that produce less wake.

Boat wake is thought to contribute to erosion of the riverbank.

Judge orders fired plant manager to go

ANCHORAGE - A judge has ordered the manager of a troubled Bristol Bay fish-processing plant to leave his job.

Jeremy Oliver, principal owner of Wild Alaskan Seafoods Co., was hired to run the plant near Dillingham. But the company that bankrolled the venture said he mismanaged it to the brink of collapse. Then, Oliver refused to go after being fired.

Superior Court Judge Dan Hensley said he based his decision Tuesday to remove Oliver from the property mostly on a clause in a signed contract with Strategica Import-Export Financial Group that says the company can terminate him at any time for any reason.

Hensley also required Strategica to honor any contracts Oliver had entered into to sell the fish prior to his being fired. The company must post a $200,000 bond to cover any damages he might suffer in the event that the Strategica's allegations of mismanagement ultimately are disproved.

Strategica will move quickly to try to salvage what it can from the operation this year as the season winds to an end, said Greg Miller, a Strategica attorney.

The Miami-based company put up the money to get a new seafood processing operation going in the old Ward's Cove cannery at Ekuk, about 30 miles south of Dillingham.

The plant recently was retooled and put to use as a head-and-gut processing operation, where sockeye salmon are beheaded, eviscerated and frozen.

Strategica claims Oliver grossly mismanaged the plant by not paying employees or fishermen, allowing salmon to spoil and misappropriating funds. The company last Thursday faxed him a notice telling him he was fired, but he refused to leave, Miller said.

The company asked the court to evict Oliver, claiming that the business would collapse within a week were he to remain in charge, leaving employees and fishermen unpaid and as much as 400,000 pounds of salmon to rot.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation already has barred the plant from selling any of the more than 1 million pounds of sockeye after investigators last week found that some of it was unfit for human consumption.

Oliver said some salmon had gone bad, but he blamed it on the company, claiming it didn't come through with the $650,000 it had promised to cover the factory's payroll and operations.

Instead, it only provided him with $243,000, and the lack of funds meant he had no money to pay all the plant's employees, which numbered near 90 when it got started in June and has since waned to about 40, Oliver said.

"They starved our payroll, and that caused people to leave," Oliver said Tuesday.

Being short-handed, the plant couldn't get all the fish processed and frozen fast enough, which caused the spoiling problem, he said.

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