Alaska Digest

Posted: Friday, August 19, 2005

Ketchikan voters nix new ship berths

KETCHIKAN - Ketchikan voters have rejected a $70 million proposal that would have paid for new cruise ship berths.

Tuesday's measure failed by a margin of 144 votes, officials said Wednesday.

The revenue bonds would have paid for expansion of the port of Ketchikan, adding space for two more cruise ships to dock along the city's shoreline next to Water Street.

The city canvass board announced the final numbers after counting 115 absentee and 63 questioned ballots. The tally shows 603 votes in favor of the port expansion bonds and 747 against. According to the canvass board, 34 ballots were refused.

The City Council is scheduled to certify the election Monday.

The board reported that 1,384 voters participated in the election, about 23 percent of registered voters.

The bonds also would have paid for improvements such as sidewalks and traffic signals.

Advocates said the plan would not substantially increase the number of tourists that come to Ketchikan, but would accommodate the larger ships that cruise lines are building. Those who opposed the bond proposition cited the high cost of building new berths, a lack of planning on the part of the city and a desire to curb the number of cruise ship visitors.

Peace activist to lecture tonight

JUNEAU - Author and lecturer Marianne Williamson will visit Centennial Hall at 7:30 p.m. Friday to speak about her new book, "The Gift of Change: Spiritual Guidance for a Radically New Life."

Williamson has lectured professionally since 1983 and founded The Peace Alliance, an international network of peace activists. She has published nine books, four of which have been New York Times bestsellers.

The evening is free but donations will be accepted. For more information, call Reb. Robert Buttcane at 586-4851, Leah or Barbara at 789-3993 or visit

Smoky conditions to linger in Interior

FAIRBANKS - Heavy smoke from Interior wildfires will continue to blanket the city for at least a week as winds persist in pushing the smoke into Fairbanks, weather officials said.

The Fairbanks North Star Borough continued to report hazardous levels of particulates, warning residents to avoid physical exertion outside. Conditions were expected to worsen, according to borough officials.

Visibility at Fairbanks International Airport was less than three-quarters of a mile, grounding some smaller planes.

"I feel for people, my eyes are burning too," said Brad Sipperley, a forecaster with the National Weather Service.

A weak cold front that moved through the area Wednesday kept temperatures cooler than they have been, Sipperley said, but it contained little moisture. Winds continue to push the smoke into Fairbanks from fires burning to the north and northwest.

"There may be some thinning in the smoke but nothing dramatic," Sipperley said of the prospect for the next few days.

Teen dies in ATV crash near Fairbanks

FAIRBANKS - A boy was found dead on a popular all-terrain vehicle trail near a gravel pit east of Fairbanks.

Charles Floyd Byrd, 17, apparently died in a four-wheeler accident, according to Alaska State Troopers.

An acquaintance of Byrd's happened upon the accident scene and contacted troopers at about 11 a.m. Wednesday, said trooper Josh Bentz.

Byrd's body, as well as the four-wheeler, were in a large ditch the trail crosses, Bentz said.

Byrd was to begin his senior year at North Pole High School on Thursday morning, according to Fairbanks North Star Borough School District officials. A crisis team of psychologists and counselors was assigned to the school to monitor and help students.

"What a horrible way, a tragic way to start the school year," Superintendent Ann Shortt said.

Bentz said tracks at the scene indicate Byrd was riding the four-wheeler down one side of the ditch and hit the bottom hard, causing the ATV to flip up the opposite side of the ditch.

Byrd's body had no visible injuries, he said, and will be sent to the medical examiner in Anchorage for an autopsy. He said he is not sure whether Byrd was wearing a helmet but that one was found nearby.

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