Alaska Digest

Posted: Wednesday, August 25, 2004

DEC to hold hearing on spawning stream rules

JUNEAU - The state Department of Environmental Conservation wants to allow diluted pollution in fish spawning streams and is holding a public hearing on its proposal Thursday in Juneau.

The proposal would lift a 1995 ban on "mixing zones" in spawning streams, replacing the ban with language that would allow mixing zones where they do not harm spawning. Mixing zones are areas in water bodies where a pollution discharge can exceed water quality standards but is diluted by mixing with uncontaminated water. The pollution must not exceed the allowable level downstream.

A number of fishermen and environmentalists in Southeast oppose mixing zones in spawning streams. They could detract from the pristine reputation of Alaska's wild salmon products, said Paula Terrel, Southeast director of the Alaska Marine Conservation Council.

Regulators say they will reject mixing-zone proposals that could have an adverse impact on spawning. Those who could benefit from the proposed change include seafood processors, municipal wastewater treatment plants and placer miners.

The Juneau hearing will be held from 4-6 p.m. at the Legislative Information Office at the Terry Miller Legislative Building, Suite 111. Those who wish to provide testimony by telephone may do so by calling 1-800-395-5073, preferably by 4 p.m.

All public comments on the proposal must be submitted to the department by 5 p.m. on Sept. 10. They can be mailed to Nancy Sonafrank, 610 University Drive, Fairbanks, Alaska 99709 or sent to

Absentee firefighters flex voting rights

FAIRBANKS - They've been away from home during a record wildfire season, but that didn't keep Alaska firefighters from voting in Tuesday's primary election.

Fire officials have been scrambling to get dozens of absentee ballots to crews - sometimes by helicopter or boat.

"It's kind of labor-intensive but we thought it was important that they have the opportunity," said Kris Eriksen, a fire information officer based out of Tok.

About 150 absentee applications were distributed at numerous camps scattered around fires on the 1.2 million-acre Taylor Complex fires, Eriksen said.

Realizing the ballots will pass through numerous hands, firefighters signed a waiver of confidentiality, Eriksen said.

It's not uncommon for absentee ballots to be distributed on fires outside Alaska, said fire information officer Bill Beebe.

It is unusual in Alaska, however, mostly because the fires are usually quiet by the time elections roll around.

"I've been in fire for 16 years and I can't remember being on a fire that coincided with a primary or election," Tribby said.

Earthquake rattles Southcentral Alaska

PALMER - An earthquake rated at a preliminary magnitude of 5.4 rattled Southcentral Alaska on Tuesday.

The West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center said the epicenter was 40 miles north of Valdez and 120 miles northeast of Anchorage.

The quake occurred at 6:22 p.m. It was widely felt, the center said. But no damage was immediately reported.

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