Alaska Briefs

Posted: Thursday, August 21, 2003

David Stone files to run for Assembly

JUNEAU - David Stone, vice president of consumer affairs for Alaska Electric Light and Power, filed Wednesday to run for Assembly for District 1.

The seat is held by Ken Koelsch, who has not yet entered the race.

The election will be held Tuesday, Oct. 7.

Stone, who announced his plans to run previously, said it would be his first run at elected office, but noted that he has served on local boards and committees such as the Juneau Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, the Juneau Energy advisory committee and the Historic District advisory committee.

Stone, 46, said the state is headed for tough times and that "we all have a responsibility to try to make this a better community."

Senior aid program draws 11,000 applicants

JUNEAU - More senior citizens than expected applied for a new state program for low-income seniors.

The state Department of Health and Social Services has received about 11,000 applications for the $120 monthly payments, according to a news release. The administration had estimated 7,500 Alaskans 65 or older would apply for the program.

The larger-than-expected number of applicants means the $10 million the administration had planned to spend for the program will not be enough. But Gov. Frank Murkowski said the state will honor its commitment to those who applied.

The program was put in place after Murkowski vetoed funding for the Longevity Bonus Program, which had provided payments of up to $250 a month for senior citizens who were 65 by the end of 1996 when the state began phasing out the program. The last longevity bonus payments went out this month.

The new program is open to all senior citizens who meet low-income criteria. The payments are scheduled to go out monthly from September through June 2004.

The state had allocated $10 million for the program from a $25 million payment it received this summer from the federal government as part of a federal tax cut bill.

The state is in line to receive another $25 million in federal cash this fall. John Manly, a spokesman for Murkowski, said no decisions have been made, but it's possible some of that money could make up the shortfall in the senior assistance program.

The first month's payments will be mailed between Sept. 3 and Sept. 5 to eligible seniors who applied before Aug. 15. Those who applied after Aug. 15 will receive their September and October benefits in early October.

Caribou quota reduced

JUNEAU - The Alaska Department of Fish and Game and federal biologists have trimmed the quota harvest for the Fortymile Caribou Herd from 1,150 animals to 850.

The decision was made after a photo census of the herd was conducted June 30. Staff finished counting the caribou in the photos this week, and results showed that the herd increased about 2-4 percent during 2003. Calf production dropped below average.

Calf production for the past two years has been higher than average, contributing to an average growth of 8-10 percent since 2000.

Last year's harvest was 864 caribou.

Officials said the hunting season dates will not change.

Murkowski turns down Greenpeace invitation

JUNEAU - Members of the environmental group Greenpeace are coming to the capital city Friday, but they're not likely to get an audience with the governor.

Gov. Frank Murkowski has turned down two invitations to meet with the international environmental group.

Murkowski's spokesman, John Manly, said the governor is not snubbing the group. He's just had a really packed schedule.

The Greenpeace vessel Esperanza was in Ketchikan last week as part of a trip through Southeast Alaska to protest logging in the Tongass.

When the activists found out the governor - who supports logging in the Tongass - was also in Ketchikan, they invited him aboard the boat, but he turned them down.

Greenpeace spokeswoman Nancy Hwa said the environmentalists also asked to meet with Murkowski when they reach Juneau, but his office told them he'll be out of town.

The Greenpeace ship is supposed to be in Juneau through Aug. 27.

Stevens: Bridge, railroad expansion top priorities

ANCHORAGE - Sen. Ted Stevens said funding for a Knik Arm crossing and an expansion of the Alaska Railroad are among his top transportation projects for the state.

Stevens, an Alaska Republican, met with reporters Tuesday at his Anchorage office. He called a Knik Arm bridge "an absolute necessity" for the city's future.

Stevens said a bridge is needed because the Anchorage Bowl, bordered by water, military land and mountains, is quickly running out of room to grow.

Some opponents of the idea argue that a bridge would lead to urban sprawl, which has been a hindrance to growth of many Lower 48 cities. Others advocate a commuter rail system between Anchorage and Mat-Su, which they say would cost much less.

Stevens is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which is responsible for annually allocating more than a half-trillion dollars in federal funds.

Stevens and Rep. Don Young, chairman of the House Transportation Committee and Infrastructure Committee, have a solid track record of directing federal money to Alaska transportation projects.

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