Alaska Digest

Posted: Sunday, August 21, 2005

Launch complex hosts open house

NARROW CAPE - Hundreds of people got a close-up look of Alaska's commercial rocket launching range Saturday in the first open house at the 3,700-acre site on Kodiak Island.

The Kodiak Launch Complex has allowed some limited public access since the first rocket was fired almost seven years ago over the Pacific Ocean from Narrow Cape on the eastern shore of the island. But Saturday's five-hour event was the first mass tour of the launch pads used by commercial and federal clients, including the military, to test mock intercontinental ballistic missiles for the Bush administration's missile defense system.

Visitors got to choose self-navigated tours or shuttled rides around the grounds, which for some included photo opportunities of dozens of bison that roam the cape's lush terrain. They watched videos of past launches, saw three-foot-tall hobby rockets being fired, watched crews swing open the 174-foot-high entrance to the larger of two launch pads - dubbed the "tallest door in Alaska" - and got a free lunch of burgers, potato salad and brownies.

Haze from wildfires on the mainland obscured the view across the vast range on an otherwise balmy day.

Plans for Fairbanks hatchery finalized

FAIRBANKS - Plans have been finalized to demolish an old sewage treatment plant site and prepare to hand it over to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to build a $25 million hatchery for Alaska anglers.

The hatchery could provide about 1 million fish annually for stocking Interior lakes.

Fairbanks Mayor Steve Thompson and Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Jim Whitaker are sending a letter to Fish and Game Commissioner McKie Campbell outlining their agreement, Whitaker said. The letter was being drafted Friday.

The Legislature voted last spring to add a surcharge to state fishing licenses to pay the bond that will be issued for the hatchery construction as well as improvements to an Anchorage hatchery.

Teacher contract negotiations break off

ANCHORAGE - Negotiations between the Anchorage School District and the teachers union have broken off with both sides still in disagreement over salaries and health insurance costs.

Just how far apart, however, depends upon which side you are talking to.

Rich Kronberg, president of the teachers' Anchorage Education Association, said Thursday after negotiations ended that the two sides' offers were within about $5 million. But Friday, district officials disputed that, saying the two sides are really $13.1 million apart.

Kronberg's figure is accurate when considering the district's newest offer, which teachers will consider at their meeting later this month, and when it is compared with an offer made by the union earlier. But the district ignored that union bid, and it dissolved, Kronberg said.

Then the union made another offer that was about $13.1 million more than the district's, said Eric Tollefsen, the district's human relations director.

"We've moved up, they've moved down, but we're still $13.1 million apart," Superintendent Carol Comeau said.

Search suspended for missing hiker

DENALI NATIONAL PARK - The search has been suspended for a hiker missing in Denali National Park for more than a month, according to a park official.

Richard Hasbell, 34, described as mentally disabled, disappeared sometime after July 10 after setting his tent up about five miles northeast of Wonder Lake. The ground search ended Aug. 14, park spokeswoman Kris Fister said Thursday.

Family members said Hasbell dealt with his illness by taking strenuous hikes and bike rides.

He began his trip in the park without notifying relatives. He stated on his park registration that he intended to be out by July 18. He rode on a park bus to near Wonder Lake, but he never returned.

Park authorities spotted his abandoned camp near Wonder Lake on Aug. 5. The camp is 80 to 90 miles from park headquarters.

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