Posted: Monday, July 26, 2004

Tour boat evacuated near Fox Island

ANCHORAGE - More than 150 passengers were evacuated from a scenic tour boat Sunday when the vessel began taking on water in Resurrection Bay, the Coast Guard said.

All 161 passengers and two National Park Service employees were safely transported from the Star of the Northwest to a competitor's tour boat after the afternoon mishap.

The 100-foot Star of the North began quickly taking on water about 2 p.m. in Eldorado Narrows near Fox Island after striking an unknown submerged object, said Coast Guard Lt. Mike McNeil.

No one was injured, but the Star of the Northwest sustained heavy damage, the Coast Guard said.

As many as 30 vessels in the area responded to a distress call from the boat, which is owned by Anchorage-based Major Marine Tours. The company operates two tour vessels out of Seward and one from Whittier.

Passengers and crew members were taken on board the Greatland, a tour boat operated by competitor Kenai Fjords Tours. That vessel was among those responding to the distress call, said Russ Mager, owner of Major Marine Tours.

Passengers were taken back to Seward, 13 miles to the north.

Court asked to remove cyanide initiative

HELENA, Mont. - An initiative to repeal the state ban on a mining process involving cyanide should be removed from the Nov. 2 ballot, an environmental group and a southwestern Montana landowner say in a petition filed with the Montana Supreme Court.

Initiative 147 is unconstitutional, says the petition submitted to the court Friday by the Montana Environmental Information Center and Mark Gerlach of the Lincoln area.

"It addresses two separate topics and that's banned by the constitution," said Jim Jensen, executive director of MEIC.

Tammy Johnson of Whitehall, coordinator of the I-147 campaign, said she did not anticipate opponents to petition the high court and maintained the MEIC continues to be obstructionist.

"The people of Montana have clearly indicated they would like to see this on the ballot in November, would like to have the right to discuss the opportunities this initiative presents...," she said. "This campaign, its legal counsel and all factions of state government did a careful review of this initiative and it is, indeed, constitutional."

The Supreme Court is being asked to order that Secretary of State Bob Brown remove I-147 from the ballot.

The measure would repeal Montana's ban on open-pit gold or silver mines that use a cyanide process to extract the metals, a ban proposed by Jensen through Initiative 137 in 1998 and narrowly passed by voters.

Icicle Creek fire fully contained

LEAVENWORTH, Wash. - Firefighters have fully contained a lightning-sparked wildfire that burned nearly 780 acres near Leavenworth.

Crews declared the Icicle Creek fire 9 miles west of Leavenworth 100 percent contained around 6 p.m. Saturday, said Marc Hollen, spokesman for the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center in Portland, Ore.

Crews plan to spend Sunday mopping up hot spots, reinforcing containment lines and cutting down fire-damaged snags that might pose a risk to hikers and campers.

Meanwhile, a new fire was reported east of Darrington in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

At first, officials thought the Green Mountain fire was 500 to 1,000, but once a plane flew over it, they revised their estimate to 200 acres, Hollen said.

Lightning appeared to have been the cause, Hollen said.

The fire was burning on the edge of Glacier Wilderness about 16 miles east of Darrington on the western slopes of the Cascades. No firefighters were working it Sunday morning, since it was not threatening any structures or campgrounds.

Sunday afternoon fire officials learned of another fire burning about 20 miles northwest of Ellensburg and southeast of Wenatchee National Forest.

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