Alaska Digest

Posted: Monday, July 25, 2005

Five charged in drug trafficking case

KETCHIKAN - Five Ketchikan residents have been arrested on charges of trafficking more than $1.3 million worth of methamphetamine over the past 18 months.

Ketchikan Deputy Police Chief John Maki said a federal indictment was returned last month for Ronn Roseberry, 41, of Longview, Wash., a part-time Ketchikan resident.

Also indicted were Twila Davis, 40, Susan McKitrick, 41, Sabrena Vitcovich, 38, and Betty Duvall, 40.

The post office on May 12 referred a suspicious package to the Ketchikan Police Department. The police used Morea, Ketchikan's narcotics detection dog, to investigate the package, Maki said.

Upon obtaining a warrant to open the package, police found 5.2 ounces of methamphetamine, with a street value of about $21,840, said detective Andy Berntson.

"The package was just the beginning," Berntson said.

Two days later, on May 14, police seized an additional 3.8 ounces of methamphetamine, which has a street value of $16,000, Maki said.

Roseberry is accused of obtaining drugs over 18 months in Washington and using the other defendants to distribute 15 to 20 pounds of methamphetamine with a street value of about $1.3 million, Maki said.

"It's the biggest amount I've seen in the four years I've been here," Berntson said.

Police, Alaska State Troopers, the U.S. Postal Inspectors Service, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and Washington state's Cowlitz-Wahkiakum Narcotics Task Force took part in the investigation.

Banners on bridge highlight villages

FAIRBANKS - A bridge over the Chena River has been adorned with banners representing 42 Interior Alaska villages, symbolizing what Fairbanks leaders hope will be an improved link between urban and rural residents.

Forty-three banners representing the villages, Doyon Ltd., the regional Native corporation, and it's nonprofit arm, the Tanana Chiefs Conference, were hung Friday on the Wendell Street Bridge. Each banner has a design from a village and a sponsor's name. Alatna and Allakaket share a banner.

Sponsors gathered at Information Insights Inc., a consulting firm, for a reception, then watched the 4-by-7-foot banners go up.

"Partly it's a welcome to Fairbanks. Partly it's a message to tourists that there's a lot of Interior Alaska. Stay here awhile and see it," said Brian Rogers, principal consultant for Information Insights.

The idea developed two or three years ago during the Tanana Chiefs Conference, Rogers said. Business got involved as sponsors. Information Insights helped coordinate the project with the endorsement of the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce Urban-Rural Committee, the Downtown Association and Main Street Fairbanks, the city of Fairbanks and the state Department of Transportation.

Denali State Bank sponsored a banner representing Nenana.

"We have a very strong feeling that working relationships with all the Interior villages is good for all of Alaska," said Jerry Walker, senior vice president and commercial loan officer.

The banners will hang on the bridge through the Alaska Federation of Natives conference in October. They will be taken down for much of the winter and return in February.

Sonar error leads to undercounting salmon

KENAI - An error in sonar calibration resulted in "significant underestimation" of king salmon entering the Kenai River, according to the state Department of Fish and Game.

The error was detected when technicians performed calibration at the counter 8.6 miles from the mouth of the Kenai River.

The fish count help biologist manage both sport and commercial fisheries for the highly desired salmon that return to spawn in river. A low count could have resulted in fishing restrictions.

On July 12 the counter recorded the largest daily total of kings entering the river in the late run. It noted 1,711 fish for a cumulative total of 14,894 late-run kings.

However, after compensating for the sonar mistake, Fish and Game has determined 2,463 fish passed the counter that day for a cumulative total of 15,744 late-run kings to that date.

"While the level of the error would not have caused them to make different management decisions earlier this season, it could have had potentially adverse affects on future fisheries management decisions," the department said in a press release.

Department officials have reanalyzed and recalculated the data for late-runs kings and concluded the new numbers are greater than previously thought.

The projected end of the season in-river run is now 45,000 to 55,000 fish, close to the preseason forecast of 61,000.

Warm weather brings proliferation of pests

ANCHORAGE - Warmer than usual temperatures in Southcentral Alaska has led to a proliferation of mites that attack wild blueberry bushes in some areas.

The creatures are one of several insects that callers have brought to the attention of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service at Palmer.

Rudy Wittshirk noticed yellow splotches on blueberry bushes near his home off three weeks ago. The yellow spots turned brown, leaves crinkled, and the bushes, normally loaded with fruit, were nearly berryless.

"I've lived here for 18 years," he said. "I have never seen anything like this on high-bush blueberries."

Wittshirk was concerned that the plants were affected by a disease that could spread, but instead they're under attack, said Pam Compton, who examined samples at the Palmer lab.

Microscopic mites smaller than a period in a newspaper have likely been feasting on the plants since early summer, she said.

The mites bite into blueberry leaves, then suck out the chlorophyll, the compound that keeps the leaves green, she said. That causes the yellow spots. The brown patches are parts of the leaf that have died, she said.

The crinkly leaves were a clue. Leaves often will be warped if bugs have chewed on them while they were still in the bud, she said.

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