Board recommends zoning change
JUNEAU - The Juneau Planning Commission recommends that more than 50 acres in the Montana Creek area be rezoned to allow up to three single-family residences per acres.
The land, extending from Mendenhall Loop Road, had been zoned for no more than one residence per acre. The Empire reported Wednesday that the commission was considering the four contiguous rezoning applications, but results of the vote were not available by press time Tuesday night.
Both area residents and applicants said they had problems with the recommendations of the city planning staff, approved by the commission.
Developers said the recommendation was too restrictive on building in areas where the creek flood plain and wetlands coincided were too restrictive. Residents said they were looking for more protection of the wetlands and creek.
The recommendation will go to the Juneau Assembly for consideration, said city planner Nathan Bishop. A similar recommendation was sent to the Assembly in 1997, but the Assembly instead left the land zoned for only one residence per acre.
At that time, the land was zoned for one residence per acre, to become five residences per acre when water and sewer service was extended to the area, Bishop explained. Water and sewer service has been extended to the area, he added.
Alaska man dies hiking in Washington
HYAS LAKE, Wash. - An Alaska man has died after he collapsed while hiking in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.
Robert Singer, 57, of Anchorage was pronounced dead at the scene Tuesday afternoon in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Kittitas County Sheriff's Sgt. Fred Slyfield said family members attempted life-saving measures.
Singer's body was recovered Wednesday by deputies and personnel from the U.S. Forest Service and Kittitas County Search and Rescue.
Singer's brother-in-law, Greg Easton of Seattle, ran down the Hyas Lake Trail for help, Undersheriff Clay Myers said. He met other hikers, who went three miles down the trail to get cellular service and then called 911.
Further investigation will be needed to determine the exact cause of death, Myers said, but officials believe Singer died of natural causes, most likely a heart attack.
The family hiking party was in one of the more remote parts of the county, within a mile of the King County border, Slyfield said.
Conservation Fund seeks Kenai wetlands
KENAI - The Conservation Fund is eyeing five parcels of wetlands along the Kenai River and is willing to purchase them at the current appraised market value.
Brad Meiklejohn, the fund's Alaska representative, told the Kenai City Council that the environmental nonprofit group is interested in purchasing five parcels of wetlands along the Kenai River between river miles 5 and 11. The parcels, appraised at $557,000, range in size from 2.04 acres to 621.89 acres.
The Conservation Fund earlier had expressed interest in another parcel, and has since swapped a tract of land near the city boat dock for that wetland parcel upriver.
The city intends to use the acquired land for an exit road and parking for the Kenai Boating Facility.
Meiklejohn told the council The Conservation Fund had $600,000 in a use-or-lose grant fund set to expire this month, but recently received a one-year extension on the grant.
The Conservation Fund has been active in Alaska since 1994, according to Meiklejohn, and has been involved on the Kenai Peninsula in projects on the Ninilchik and Anchor rivers, Stariski Creek and at Point Possession at the northern end of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.
Gov. Murkowski OKs hatchery construction
FAIRBANKS - A $25 million hatchery in Fairbanks that would supply Interior lakes with up to 1 million sport fish each year was authorized on Tuesday by Gov. Frank Murkowski.
The hatchery, which will be operated by Fish and Game, will provide rainbow trout, arctic char, grayling and silver and king salmon for the agency's stocked-waters program in 130 Interior lakes.
"In four years, we'll be able to double the amount of fish we release in the Interior," Murkowski said.
Officials said the hatchery will help boost the local economy. It is intended to increase sport-fishing stocks along the road system near Fairbanks, Delta Junction, Glennallen and outlying areas.
The hatchery will also serve as a visitors attraction and educational facility in the center of Fairbanks.
The hatchery will operate at a former sewage-treatment facility site, which the borough has agreed to lease to the state for $1 a year.
The project is expected to break ground in the spring and release the first fish by 2009.
Senate Bill 147 also authorizes issuing $44 million in bonds for refurbishing sport-fish hatcheries in Anchorage, Sitka and Haines.
The bonds will be paid for through $10 million in federal revenues and increases to sport-fishing license surcharges, most of which will be tacked on to nonresident license fees.
Court: feds must protect groundfish
SAN FRANCISCO - A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that the federal government must increase protections for a Pacific fish species whose population has been depleted by overfishing.
The decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reverses a lower court ruling that the National Marine Fisheries Service did not violate federal law when it boosted fishing quotas for darkblotched rockfish, a bottom-dwelling fish commonly known as red snapper.
In 2002, conservation groups sued the fisheries service, alleging that NMFS officials violated the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act when they raised fishing quotas for darkblotched rockfish by nearly 30 percent even though they knew the species was severely overfished.
On Wednesday, the San Francisco-based court sided with the environmentalists, calling the 2002 quota "patently unreasonable." Quotas for darkblotched rockfish have stayed the same or risen over the past three years.
The three-judge panel said the Magnuson Act requires the National Marine Fisheries Service to give conservation of fisheries priority over the short-term economic interests of fishing communities.