Northwest Digest

Posted: Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Assistant Secretary of Interior speaks at ANB Hall

JUNEAU - Assistant Secretary of the Interior David Anderson, who was appointed to oversee the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs in December 2003, spoke Monday at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall.

Anderson is a member of the Chippewa and Choctaw tribes. He also is an enrolled member of the Lac Courte Orielles and Lake Superior Band of Ojibwa. He is founder and former chairman of Famous Dave's of America Inc., a chain of barbecue restaurants.

During a lunchtime speech, Anderson prayed with attendees, giving thanks for land, culture, elders and God's protection. He also encouraged Natives to have their voices be heard through the electoral process.

"We need to start recognizing that as Indian people we can have a voice if we all pull together," Anderson said. "We need to go from being victims of change to the architects of our own destiny."

During his five-day trip to Alaska, Anderson also will visit Cordova, Fairbanks, Anchorage, Nome, Copper River, Chitina and Tanana. He will visit Department of Interior offices and meet with Tribal Council representatives.

Assembly introduces 2 ordinances for ballot

JUNEAU - The Oct. 5 ballot is likely to be a long one.

At its Monday meeting, the Assembly introduced two ordinances it might put on the October ballot.

Voters might be asked to decide whether the city should increase the sales tax of alcoholic beverages from 3 percent to 5 percent, effective Jan. 1, 2005. The Assembly justified the increase by saying that the city spends a significant percentage of its annual budget to combat the effects of alcohol.

"A high percentage of the criminal cases handled by the police department, the law enforcement, the municipal public defender and Lemon Creek Correctional center, are alcohol related," the draft ordinance says. "Alcohol should pay its own way in the community."

Voters might also decide on whether the city should issue $54 million in bonds for a term of 15 years for constructing a new high school at Dimond Park. The bonds would qualify for 70 percent reimbursement from the state.

The Assembly will hold public hearing on both items at its next meeting, Aug. 23.

Information about whale collision sought

GLACIER BAY NATIONAL PARK - A criminal investigation continues into the violent 2001 death of a pregnant humpback whale, as park officials look for information on a humpback calf who was killed this July.

Humpback whales are on the endangered species list.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Skrocki, based in Anchorage, said he could not comment on the case. He would not discuss possible charges or the applicable statute of limitations that would place a deadline for any charges to be filed.

On July 16, 2001, a pregnant humpback was found floating at the mouth of Glacier Bay. A medical examination determined the whale died of massive head injuries, likely after being hit by a large ship.

The 28-foot whale calf found dead on the Strawberry Island beach July 30 is believed to have been fatally injured the previous day. An examination revealed a severe dislocation of six ribs on its right side that caused internal bleeding.

Park officials said the evidence in the recent death doesn't rule out the possibility that the injuries were caused by a collision with another humpback or a killer whale. They urge anyone who may have seen or heard anything unusual in the area to contact them.

"The most important thing right now is for us to understand the circumstances surrounding the collision so we can determine what extra measures might be needed to protect whales, especially when we have so many juveniles and calves in the bay," park Superintendent Tomie Lee said.

Anyone with any pertinent information is asked to call the chief ranger's office at (907) 697-2621.

State auctioning small boat harbors in Ketchikan

KETCHIKAN - The state is auctioning its small boat harbors at Hole in the Wall and Knudson Cove after the city of Ketchikan decided against taking ownership.

The deadline for making a sealed bid is Aug. 28, the state Department of Transportation said.

The auction covers only harbor property such as docks, flotation devices and piers. No rights or legal access to the tidelands or uplands are available, the department said.

Bob Palmer, a property manager for the department, said there are two options for the successful bidders - towing the equipment to another site or making agreements with the owners of the tidelands and uplands at the existing locations.

"There are a lot of complex property issues with each site because the tidelands are owned by one entity and the uplands are owned by another," Palmer said.

At Hole in the Wall, the Ketchikan Gateway Borough will own the tidelands, he said. The existing stairway and parking lot are within the South Tongass Highway right-of-way owned by the state.

Restoration plan for Chester Creek unveiled

ANCHORAGE - A faulty fish ladder at an Anchorage creek would be replaced by a natural channel under a plan being circulated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to increase local salmon populations.

Government agencies and stream advocates have wanted to fix the dysfunctional fish pass almost from the time it was installed at Chester Creek more than three decades ago. It is widely blamed for diminished fish populations.

The plan marks an important step toward restoring the health of the urban creek, said Holly Kent, executive director of the Anchorage Waterways Council, a nonprofit group dedicated to improving local waterways.

The new report recommended building an open creek channel from the end of the lagoon. It would flow under a new pedestrian bridge, run along the edge of what is now a grassy marsh and through a new tunnel under the railroad tracks and out to Knik Arm.

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