Alaska Digest

Posted: Thursday, August 26, 2004

Worker interviews on burned building complete

JUNEAU - Juneau Fire Marshal Rich Etheridge has completed his interviews of the men working atop the first floor of the building at Front and Seward streets, when it was destroyed by fire Aug. 15.

Details provided by the two men, interviewed Tuesday and Wednesday, are consistent with other witness accounts, he said. Last week, he concluded that the fire began when the men, both in their early 20s, were working with a weed-burner and tar paper.

Both said they made attempts to put the fire out before Capital City Fire and Rescue was called. Etheridge said he isn't sure who called authorities. "I'm still waiting to hear the 911 tape."

The difference between the two accounts concerned the time it took for the emergency call. One said it was between five and 15 minutes and the other said it was between 10 and 20 minutes.

Etheridge said he expects the final report to be completed by the end of next week. Although the city's law department will take a look at it, he doesn't anticipate it will generate any criminal charges, he said.

The owner of the building, Tom Huntington, faxed a letter to city officials Friday expressing his intention to demolish what remains of the 108-year-old building.

Capital City suspends all open burning

JUNEAU - Capital City Fire and Rescue received a notice from the Department of Environmental Conservation that all open burning approvals in Southeast Alaska have been suspended due to poor air quality and the expected continuation of air pollution from ongoing wildfires.

This ban includes burn barrels, slash and stump piles, land clearing and open burns. Small camp fires and cooking fires are not included in this burning ban.

This ban will continue until further notice. For more information on this burning ban, contact the Department of Environmental Conservation at 465-5100.

Bethel man sentenced in illegal hunting case

ANCHORAGE - A Bethel man will spend 40 days in jail and must forfeit his boat, airplane and nearly $13,000 after his conviction in a case stemming from a sting operation.

An undercover Michigan game officer paid Ronald Peltola $1,500 to take him on a two-day moose hunt near Holy Cross in September 2000. Two moose and two black bears were illegally killed, either from moving boats or while they were swimming, the state charged. The animals were transported in Peltola's boat and airplane.

In August 2003, a jury in the Kuskokwim River community of Aniak found Peltola guilty on one count each of illegally guiding a big-game hunter and unlawful possession and transportation of illegally taken game, plus three counts of unlawful methods of taking big game animals.

In February, a Bethel jury found him not guilty on three additional counts of illegally transporting big-game hunters. The judge dismissed a fourth charge.

At his sentencing last week in Bethel, Peltola's hunting and guiding privileges were revoked for five years. Peltola, 60, was ordered to forfeit his Cessna 185 floatplane and a 24-foot skiff. He also was fined and sentenced to time in jail.

At the two trials, Peltola admitted that he occasionally took friends to his moose camp and accepted payments of up to $1,100 to cover his expenses, which is legal.

Premera appeals state's rejection of proposal

ANCHORAGE - Health insurance provider Premera Blue Cross has appealed the state of Alaska's decision to conditionally reject its application to convert to a public for-profit company.

Premera, based in Mountlake Terrace, Wash., said Wednesday that it would be discussing possible changes to its conversion proposal with state Insurance Director Linda Hall.

It also appealed to Anchorage Superior Court the state's decision last month to reject the conversion application.

"It is our hope that we can reach a satisfactory outcome on the conditions and render the appeal moot," said Yori Milo, a Premera executive and chief legal and public policy officer.

Environmental groups object to pollock eco-label

ANCHORAGE - Several environmental groups are objecting to Alaska's pollock fishery - the largest fishery in the United States - getting approval for an eco-label.

Oceana, Greenpeace International, the National Environmental Trust and Alaska Oceans Program are objecting to the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska pollock fisheries making the grade for an eco-label from the Marine Stewardship Council, an international nonprofit that promotes sustainable fisheries.

The pollock fisheries were approved for the eco-label by Scientific Certification Systems Inc., of Emeryville, Calif., hired by MSC to evaluate the $750 million fishery. The certification is being sought by At-Sea Processors Association, an industry group that hopes to grow markets in Europe where consumers are more likely to buy products with eco-labels.

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