State Briefs

Posted: Monday, August 04, 2003

Recovery team digging up World War II site

ANCHORAGE - Specialists from a U.S. Army lab are on Kiska Island excavating the crash site of a World War II bomber in an effort to repatriate the remains.

The PBY-5 aircraft and its seven crewmen are thought to have crashed into Kiska Volcano during an attack against the invading Japanese army in June 1942.

A nine-member recovery team from the Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii arrived at Kiska on Friday aboard a chartered ship.

The team includes a forensic anthropologist and an unexploded ordnance expert. They will excavate a site on the northwest side of the volcano at about the 2,750-feet level.

"The recovery site is excavated like an archaeological dig," lab spokeswoman Ginger Couden told the Anchorage Daily News. "It's divided into 4-by-4-meter grids, and then the team excavates those grids and recovers as much of the remains and personal effects as they can."

Recovered remains will be taken to Hickam Air Force Base for identification by a forensic team. The identification process could take several years, Couden said.

Kiska is an uninhabited island in the Aleutian Islands about 1,500 miles from Anchorage. The crash site is so remote the ship and helicopter used in the recovery are constantly tracked by satellite.

Leftover cash could fund Alaska depository

FAIRBANKS - Gov. Frank Murkowski is mulling what to do with the $210,000 left over from his U.S. Senate warchest.

Murkowski said he is considering creating a repository for office material created by himself and Rep. Don Young.

The governor has talked to the University of Alaska about creating a repository for the material he jokingly referred to as "our junk."

Federal law allows such a use of campaign funds, Murkowski told The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

He could also give the money to other campaigns. His senate fund has contributed $2,000 to the campaign of his daughter, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, whom he appointed as a replacement. Under current law he could give up to $4,000 to a candidate over the course of an election cycle.

The governor also could donate up to $10,000 apiece to political action committees or give an unlimited amount to the Republican Party.

Fuel cell powers UAF energy research

FAIRBANKS - University of Alaska Fairbanks researchers are studying a new technology that could one day provide a clean and efficient source of energy for rural Alaska.

The UAF Arctic Technology Development Laboratory plan to gauge the feasibility of using new natural gas fuel cells to generate electricity.

Laboratory director Dennis Witmer said fuel cells are an appealing idea for rural Alaska because they are efficient, have the potential to operate for long periods of time without much maintenance and produce next to no emissions.

Researchers plan to study the performance of the fuel cells, created by Canadian company Fuel Cell Technologies, over the next several years.

"Right now, I would say we're probably at least five or 10 years from these being used in a remote village," Witmer said.

Rippie tax helps village utilities project

ANCHORAGE - The Western Alaska village of Hooper Bay has turned to an unlikely source to revive a stalled water and sewer construction project: pull-tabs and bingo winnings.

After falling behind on its commitment to a utility project under construction, the Hooper Bay City Council approved the "rippie tax." In 15 months, the project was back on track.

The state had stopped work on a $43 million utility project for the Bering Sea coastal community because village homeowners weren't paying $25 per month for upkeep on existing utilities.

Hooper Bay officials said they pleaded with residents to pay up, because more was at stake than just getting running water and flush toilets into village homes.

A $24 million school approved in a state bond election last fall hinges on the new system, as does a proposed health clinic.

State officials said the village had met its financial obligations and utility work could resume. "That's good news for us," said Cowart.

Man dies in skiff capsize

JUNEAU - One man died and two others were rescued after their skiff capsized on its way to a Kenai Peninsula village, the Coast Guard said Sunday.

The dead man is identified as Sperry Moonin, 56, of Nawalek. The two other men were not identified.

The three departed from Seldovia at about 7:35 p.m. on Saturday for an hour-long trip to Nanwalek and were reported overdue three hours later, the Coast Guard said.

A fishing boat from Point Graham found the overturned skiff early Sunday but found no sign of the missing men.

A Coast Guard helicopter from Kodiak found two men on shore near Point Pogibshi at about 8:10 a.m. Sunday, the Coast Guard said. The third man was found about an hour later.

The two survivors were airlifted to awaiting emergency medical crews in Homer, the Coast Guard said.

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