Alaska Digest

Posted: Sunday, August 19, 2007

Sen. Inouye lends support to Stevens

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HOMER - Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye has come to the aid of his friend and colleague, U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens.

Inouye, D-Hawaii, visited a wildlife refuge visitor center in Homer on Thursday where he made a few statements in support of his Republican colleague. The two senators are traveling together in Alaska through the weekend.

"I'm here to tell the people of Alaska that I support him, that you're fortunate to have him," Inouye said.

Stevens is being investigated by the FBI, which is looking into his ties with the VECO oil services field company and a renovation of his Girdwood home, as well as the awarding of a large National Science Foundation contract.

Inouye deemed national press coverage of the Stevens investigation "overkill," citing repeated mentions of the recent FBI search of his friend's Girdwood home.

"It should be reported. It's news. But good God," Inouye said.

Inouye is a frequent visitor to Alaska. He was honored Wednesday by the Alaska Federation of Natives in Anchorage. The two senators were headed to Kodiak on Friday and planned to be in Fairbanks on Saturday.

In Homer, the reception was friendly. Thanked by Homer Mayor Jim Hornaday for the many buildings constructed with federal funds, Stevens said, "Every one of these came from an earmark. None of them was requested by the president."

Kensington mine facilities complete

ANCHORAGE - Owners of the Kensington mine announced this week that it has finished building nearly all the facilities that it needs to begin operations.

But plans for a disposal facility for a slurry containing millions of tons of mine waste into a small lake are still on hold, the Coeur d'Alene Mines Corporation said.

The federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in May that the Idaho-based company's plan to pour the waste into Lower Slate Lake violates the Clean Water Act.

The 23-acre lake is in the Tongass National Forest and drains into Berners Bay.

A Kensington manager said in a letter to supporters that the mine's legal team is working to file a petition for a rehearing of the 9th Circuit ruling. The deadline for filing is Monday.

The company said it has finished building all other parts of the mine, including roads, bridges, temporary housing, support buildings and tunnels.

Kensington should be in full operation by the middle of 2008, Kensington's special project manager Rich Richins said in the letter.

The mine, 45 miles northwest of downtown Juneau, is expected to produce up to 150,000 ounces of gold annually for 10 to 15 years.

The court has said the tailings would contain concentrations of several potentially hazardous materials, including aluminum, copper, lead and mercury.

"Until Coeur comes up with a legal mine plan, they can't start operations," said Buck Lindekugel, conservation director of Southeast Alaska Conservation Council. "The ball's in their court to move forward," he said.

Man pleads guilty to hunting violations

ANCHORAGE - A Utah resident pleaded guilty this week to two hunting violations in an Alaska court after taking foreign visitors on a black bear hunt without the proper registration.

Christopher Palle faced a $120,000 fine. All but $10,000 was suspended after he pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of guiding without a big game license and one count of helping nonresident aliens hunt without a guide.

Palle and his company, Shoreline Charters, were placed on probation for three years.

Palle represented himself to clients as a registered big-game guide in a spring 2006 black-bear hunt in southeast Alaska, Alaska State Troopers said.

However, he was only a transporter, meaning he was authorized to bring hunters to a location but not to accompany them in the field, said Sgt. Bernard Chastain, supervisor of the wildlife troopers' Ketchikan post.

"A transporter is allowed to contract with clients for hunting assistance, but only for transportation," Chastain said.

Two of Palle's clients were from Spain and one was from Mexico, he said. Alaska law requires that only a registered guide can accompany nonresident aliens in the field.

The troopers began their investigation in May 2006 right after the hunt and charged Palle and others with numerous guiding violations, they said.

The foreign hunters were cited for hunting without a registered big-game guide.

They told authorities they didn't understand the regulations but still pleaded guilty, paid fines of about $1,000 each, and returned to their respective countries in May 2006, Chastain said.

Church investigates sex allegations

ANCHORAGE - The second highest ranking Russian Orthodox Church official in Alaska is under investigation for alleged sexual misconduct, national church leaders said Friday.

Chancellor of the Alaska Diocese Archimandrite Isidore is accused of inappropriate sexual conduct with a former missionary and educational leader in Kodiak, according to officials with the Orthodox Church in America's headquarters in Syosset, N.Y.

Bishop Nikolai, who heads the Alaska Diocese, also is facing "extraordinarily serious" allegations, according to the senior church official in the country, although the nature of the accusations has not been revealed by church officials.

But in a letter to the church's primate, Metropolitan Herman, the missionary accuses Nikolai of domestic violence, neglect and malpractice. Nikolai denies there have been any accusations made against him.

"I'm not under investigation from anybody, and there are no allegations against me," Nikolai told The Associated Press on Friday. "There's hearsay, innuendo and rumor, but no allegations against me."

However, in an Aug. 9 letter to Nikolai, as was first reported by the Kodiak Daily Mirror, Herman asked Nikolai to step aside from the investigation because the accusations posed a conflict of interest.

Herman wrote that the investigation should be conducted by a national church investigator rather than internally within the diocese because of "diocesan disorder," possible litigation and "extraordinarily serious" allegations against Nikolai.

Five days after that letter, on Aug. 14, Nikolai requested the investigation be conducted by the primate's office.

On Friday, Nikolai said he didn't receive Herman's letter until Aug. 14 and that he received it after he requested the investigation. He said the timing was a coincidence.

Herman requested the investigation, said spokesman Father Andrew Jarmus. He didn't know how long it might take and declined to comment further.

"We have an investigation under way and it is our policy not to comment on an ongoing investigation," he said.

The accusing missionary also claimed in a letter to Herman that Isidore made improper advances toward him, including acts he characterized as sexual harassment and sexual assault. His name is being withheld because The Associated Press does not identify alleged victims of sex crimes.

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