Posted: Monday, August 09, 2004

Fishing vessel Mitkof sinks near Petersburg

KODIAK - The fishing vessel Mitkof, a 75-foot long salmon tender based in Petersburg, sank 10 miles north of Petersburg early Friday with 160,000 pounds of fish on board.

The Coast Guard received notification at 1:57 a.m. that the Mitkof struck a rock and began flooding. Search and rescue coordinators at the Coast Guard Command Center in Juneau directed the launch of a Jayhawk helicopter and crew from Air Station Sitka and a small boat from the Petersburg-based cutter Anacapa. Additionally, they issued an urgent marine information broadcast to any nearby mariners requesting their response to assist the Mitkof and its crew.

The Mitkof sank quickly, but the four people on board - master Arne Fuglvog, 41; crewmembers Cub and Brannon Finney, 16 and 18; and Caleb Caulum, 17; are safe after the Angjenl vessel rescued the group from the water.

The Mitkof contained 2,500 gallons of diesel fuel, but Coast Guard responders found no evidence of pollution. Officials from the Coast Guard Marine Safety Office in Juneau are investigating.

Feds offer money for airport project

FAIRBANKS - The U.S. Department of Transportation will pay to complete the second phase of taxiway reconstruction at Fairbanks International Airport, a spokesman said.

Deputy chief of staff Martin Whitmer announced the agency will pay $13 million for the project.

Speaking at the airport while heavy equipment operators were busy on the first phase, Whitmer said the money for the second phase will be part of $26 million in grants the department is distributing for Alaska transportation projects.

"This represents the largest single federal investment in this airport's history," Whitmer said.

The first phase, paid for by a Federal Aviation Administration grant, is reconstruction of the south 4,000 feet of the taxiway and the construction of two deicing pads, or aprons, at both ends of the taxiway.

That work started this summer and is expected to be completed next summer or in summer 2006. The second phase will complete the refurbished taxiway.

A goal for the project is to have the taxiway ready to serve as the airport's main runway while it undergoes repair.

Airport officials also consider the new deicing pads a major benefit. The pads could lead to quicker departures, reducing delays caused by planes having to deice repeatedly during storms.

Deicing now is done south of the terminal, farther from the runway. In bad weather, aircraft must be deiced again before takeoff. It also means more deicing fluid, or glycol, to account for in an area without a drainage system.

The new deicing aprons are more environmentally friendly, according to airport officials, as deicing fluid would be more efficiently drained and treated.

Unions, grocers reach tentative agreement

SEATTLE - Puget Sound-area grocers and unions representing about 14,000 workers have reached tentative agreement on a contract.

The agreement reached Saturday with Safeway, Albertsons, and Kroger-owned QFC and Fred Meyer stores comes after nearly four months of negotiations and four days of intensive talks. The previous contract expired three months ago.

"The tentative agreement preserves affordable health care, protects livable wages, healthy pension plans and prevented the introduction of a two-tier system," Dan Kully said in a statement released by the United Food and Commercial Workers.

Since talks began April 15, the two sides have been arguing over proposed reductions in health benefits and a two-tier wage structure that would place new employees on a lower pay scale.

The two sides would not discuss details of the proposed pact, pending notification of union members. No date had been set for a ratification vote.

The agreement covers UFCW Locals 44, 81, 381 and 1105, as well as Teamsters Local 38.

An additional 11,000 Western Washington grocery workers are covered by contracts that will expire later this year.

"This agreement is likely to be a model for the remaining contracts," said Melinda Merrill, a spokeswoman for the grocery chains.

Transformed apple industry gets first test

YAKIMA, Wash. - Washington's transformed apple industry, which has undergone dramatic change since a judge slashed the role of the Washington Apple Commission, gets its first real test with this year's harvest.

A federal judge ruled in March 2003 that it was unconstitutional for the commission to force growers to pay 25-cents-a-box in fees to support domestic promotion. The panel had been the crop's primary marketer for more than 60 years.

Now, private packing and shipping companies have taken over the task.

Last season, Yakima County growers received terrific prices for their fruit and the region's warehouses nearly sold out. But that harvest was the smallest in recent memory.

This year, growers predict an 88-million box crop, an average or slightly above-average harvest at least 10 percent bigger than last season's.

That volume would be a challenge any year, but especially so without the promotional juggernaut that was the apple commission.

"I think it will be the first year in which a lot of the marketing firms have gone out on their own, if you will, in regards to domestic promotions," said Miles Kohl, executive director of the Yakima Valley Growers-Shippers Association.

He says the industry is "absolutely up to it."

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