Alaska Digest

Staff and Wire reports

Posted: Thursday, August 04, 2005

Gov. Murkowski names nine to hunting board

FAIRBANKS - Nine people have been appointed to the Big Game Commercial Services Board.

The new board will regulate transporters who ferry hunters to and from hunting destinations and will standardize contracts to include specific language regarding different aspects of a hunt, such as length and exactly what services hunters can expect.

"Nobody is going to guarantee a hunt but a guide should provide a certain level of service," said Rep. Ralph Samuels, the Anchorage legislator who spent three years pushing the bill through the Legislature.

Fairbanks big game guide Virgil Umphenour supports the guide board's revival.

"There will be a forum to discipline unethical guides and transporters; right now there isn't one," Umphenour said.

The Alaska Professional Hunters Association supported the re-creation of the board.

The board replaces a similar guide board disbanded in 1995. The guiding industry has been overseen by the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development for the past decade.

There are 685 registered big-hunting guides, 1,505 assistant guides and 311 licensed transporters in the state. The guiding and transporter industry generates an estimated $250 million a year in Alaska.

Alyeska plans to shrink work force

ANCHORAGE - Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. has started to trim the firm's work force as part of a major overhaul of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline.

The $250 million upgrades are expected to negate the need for 350 jobs and save money for the pipeline company, which transports oil over 800 miles from the North Slope to Valdez.

Alyeska is rebuilding several remote pump stations that push crude oil down the pipeline. The pump stations are being converted from work camps into unmanned, automated stations.

Of the jobs expected to be cut, about half would be Alyeska employees and the rest workers for Alyeska contractors, Alyeska spokesman Mike Heatwole said.

The job-cutting process begun this week involves selecting top managers first and will continue down through the company, according to a memo from Alyeska president David Wight.

Alyeska has asked for volunteers to take a severance package.

Nearly 900 Alyeska employees plus about 700 contractors work along the pipeline, at the tanker port in Valdez, and in offices and yards in Anchorage and Fairbanks, Heatwole said.

All employees will be notified of their status by Sept. 15, he said.

Alyeska is an Anchorage-based consortium that runs the pipeline on behalf of five owners: BP, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, Koch Industries and Unocal. The pipeline carries 13 percent of total U.S. oil production daily.

Police arrest two on cocaine charges

JUNEAU - Police responding to a reported disturbance between two people in the Mendenhall Valley early Wednesday ended up arresting both on felony drug charges.

After a follow-up investigation, police arrested Emmanuel Contreras-Guzman, a 30-year-old Mexican citizen, on third-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance. They arrested Terri M. Bourdon, 26, on a charge of fourth-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance. She also was charged with a misdemeanor count of disorderly conduct, police reported.

According to Juneau Police reports, officers responded to a Valley home shortly before 2 a.m. and contacted several people about a complaint of a disturbance there. Officers reported they were unable to determine if people had been fighting or just yelling. During the call, Bourdon attempted to kick officers and emergency medical service personnel from Capital City Fire and Rescue, police said.

After further investigation, police alleged that Contreras-Guzman and Bourdon were in possession of cocaine.

Both were lodged at the Lemon Creek Correctional Center.

Upper Cook Inlet sees good salmon season

KENAI - This year's commercial sockeye salmon season in the Upper Cook Inlet is shaping up to be one of the best ever.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game estimates that fishermen have harvested more than 4.4 million sockeye salmon this season in the Upper Cook Inlet - ranking this year's harvest as the second largest in the past decade and ninth largest on record.

Last year, drift and set gillnet fishermen in the Upper Cook Inlet harvested 4.9 million sockeye.

When monetary value is factored into the equation, fishermen had an even better year. With prices for sockeye currently at around 90 cents per pound, the total value of the fishery - with king, chum, coho and pink salmon harvests added in - could push $25 million. That would rank this year's catch as the most valuable since 1997, when inlet fishermen netted more than $35 million worth of salmon.

Last year's total catch was valued at just under $22 million, with prices at around 65 cents per pound for sockeye.

2005 marks the fourth year in a row that the value of the Upper Cook Inlet salmon harvest has increased more than the previous year.

Man gets stung by counterfeit $100 bill

FAIRBANKS - When James Sweeney cashed a large check at Key Bank after selling a trailer, it didn't occur to him to check the bills. The money had come straight from the bank's vault, he said.

Sweeney, a 24-year-old heavy duty mechanic, won't be making that mistake again.

After getting $4,700 in cash from Key Bank, Sweeney took the cash to his financial institution, Credit Union 1, to deposit. A teller there pulled out the counterfeit $100 bill.

When Sweeney returned to Key Bank less than a half hour later, the bank refused to replace the bill, saying its liability ended when Sweeney walked out the door.

Most other banks would do the same, said David Lawer, past president of the Alaska Bankers Association and senior vice president and general counsel for First National Bank Alaska.

"It's difficult to confirm that they got the bill from you," he said.

The counterfeit bill has since been turned over to the U.S. Secret Service, which investigates such matters.

Sweeney said the bill fell into his hands on May 21 at the College Road branch of Key Bank. When the buyer of his trailer paid with a check, he went to Key Bank to make sure the person had the funds, he said. It was about 1:45 p.m., or 15 minutes before the bank's closing time.

"I gathered up the money and put it into a Key Bank money envelope," Sweeney said. "I didn't look at the money until I got to my bank, which is Credit Union 1 on University (Avenue)."

A teller there counted the money once and found the bogus bill, Sweeney said.

"As soon as I laid my hands on it, it was like, that is definitely fake," he said.

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