Northwest Digest

Posted: Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Ferry rudder issues force rescheduling

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JUNEAU - The state ferry Kennicott experienced a malfunction of one of its trailing edge rudders while docking in Kodiak on Tuesday, according to the Alaska Marine Highway System.

No injuries were reported, and the ferry Tustumina can take the passengers, a spokesman said.

Divers will try to fix a rudder pin so the ship can cross the Gulf of Alaska and be fully repaired in Ketchikan, a spokesman said.

As a result of the malfunction, the Kennicott will cancel its Sept. 2 sailings from Ketchikan to Prince Rupert, and the ferry Taku will take its place. Customers with prior reservations are asked to contact their closest AMHS terminal or call 1 (800) 642-0066.

Lawsuit seeks to cut back immigrant fees

PORTLAND, Ore. - Two unions sued in federal court Tuesday seeking to roll back stiff hikes in the fees immigrants must pay to file for naturalization papers.

Effective July 30, fees for starting the naturalization process went from $400 to $675, which plaintiffs say is both illegal and beyond the means of many seeking to apply.

The lawsuit on behalf of the 1.9 million-member Service Employees International Union and the Northwest Treeplanters and Farmworkers United of Woodburn, Ore., was filed in U.S. District Court in Portland by the Immigrant Law Group of Oregon.

About 98 percent of 5,000 members of the treeplanters and farmworkers union are Mexican or Central American, and the union goes by the abbreviation of its name in Spanish, PCUN. The lawsuit says many members of the service workers union also are immigrants, from many countries.

The suit names Michael Chertoff, the secretary of Homeland Security, and Emilio Gonzalez, director of federal Citizenship and Immigration Services agency, as defendants.

It claims the immigration agency's fees for the naturalization process can't exceed the cost of providing the services.

Alaska Airlines jet bumps into another

LOS ANGELES - An Alaska Airlines jet bumped into another one Monday while pulling away from a gate at Los Angeles International Airport, authorities said. No one was injured.

At 1:30 p.m., Alaska Flight 006 was pushing back from its gate when its left winglet made contact with another Alaska jet parked at a different gate, Los Angeles International Airport spokeswoman Nancy Castles said.

The winglet is a small vertical fin on the outer tip of a wing.

The second plane, Alaska Flight 117, was hit on its left wing, said Castles.

"They just bumped," Castles said.

Both planes were 737s. It was not immediately clear how many passengers were on board the planes.

Castles referred questions about damage and delays to Alaska Airlines. A call left with the airlines was not immediately returned.

Gusts whip wildfire near Idaho ski area

KETCHUM, Idaho - Gusty winds stoked a wildfire Tuesday above this central Idaho resort town, pushing flames near the borders of the Sun Valley Resort ski area even as air tankers and helicopters armed with red retardant made passes at five-minute intervals.

The Castle Rock fire was "extremely active," federal fire managers said. The fire, which has ebbed and flowed around this town and burned more than 64 square miles of spruce, fir and pine trees, leapt to life again Tuesday afternoon, keeping crews busy at their station near a summit lodge adorned with fading pictures of Ernest Hemingway, Gary Cooper and Tyrone Power, past visitors to the resort founded in 1936.

Amid the smoke, managers opted to leave ski lifts running - not for people, but to keep errant flames from cooking cables that ferry more than 200,000 visitors up the slopes each winter.

Blaine County and Ketchum officials issued a new mandatory evacuation order for residents of homes located west of the Warm Springs Bridge, in the northern part of town. Ketchum has already canceled the traditional Labor Day weekend's Wagon Days celebration when 10,000 guests usually come to town. With the latest evacuation order, about 2,000 homes are affected.

Company banks on nearly-organic fruit

PASCO, Wash. - A major fruit company has decided to convert 100 percent of its stone fruit trees to organic farming practices, part of the ongoing push to meet consumers' insatiable demand for healthier food.

But Stemilt Growers, a bit player in the stone fruit industry but one of the nation's leading apple suppliers, isn't waiting two years to capitalize on the switch. The company has created a new label - Artisan Naturals - to sell its naturally farmed fruit, an effort to get a higher price for the fruit even if it can't yet come with an "organic" sticker.

"It's a fact that the organic market has exploded," said Lorna Christie, senior vice president of industry products and services for the Produce Marketing Association in Newark, Del. "Connecting your product to the consumers' demands or preferences - that's what this is all about. And it's not a bad strategy."

To be certified organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, growers must raise their crop free of bug killer or fertilizer for three years. Agricultural experts estimate the costs for growers at as much as 30 percent higher during the transition, and growers rarely get a higher return for the fruit during that time.

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