Alaska Briefs

Posted: Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Halibut prices high

KODIAK - Halibut prices have been unusually high this year, but some in the industry worry the bottom could fall out of the market.

Halibut fishermen landed 630,170 pounds last Monday, the largest deliveries since late May and landed more than 1.5 million pounds last week statewide. Seventy-six percent of the 59 million-pound quota has been taken to date.

Despite the influx of fish, prices in Kodiak continued to hover between $2.90 and $3.30 per pound, while Homer prices were slightly higher at $3.15 to $3.40 per pound.

"These are some of the highest prices we've ever seen," said Jessica Stack of the Auction Block in Homer.

Kodiak and Homer processors attribute this year's elevated prices to higher demand for the flaky white fish in the Lower 48 and more competition from Dutch Harbor and Sand Point processors.

The high prices are an unexpected bonus for boat owners and crews this year, but industry insiders remain apprehensive that prices could plummet. Dave Woodruff of Alaska Fresh Seafoods said he has talked to several brokers in the Lower 48 who have told him they can no longer afford to buy halibut.

"Eventually the consumer will rebel - then the whole house of cards will come tumbling down," Woodruff said.

Man enters no contest plea to rape charge

FAIRBANKS - A Fairbanks man has pleaded no contest to a charge of first-degree sexual assault in the rape of a 17-year-old girl.

Allen R. Greer, 40, will serve 15 years in prison under a plea agreement approved Thursday in Superior Court. State prosecutors dismissed a misdemeanor charge of furnishing alcohol to a minor.

His previous record, including a 2001 stalking conviction, made him subject to a possible sentence of 15 years or more.

He also faces as many as 10 years of probation following his release from prison and will have to register as a sex offender on the state's database for the rest of his life.

Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 13.

Greer was accused of inviting the teenager to his apartment March 21, saying there would be a party there, police said. There was no party when the girl arrived, but Greer gave the girl alcohol before the assault, police said.

Greer had been scheduled for trial next week.

Plant to continue pumping warm water into Chena River

FAIRBANKS - Federal environmental regulators say a Fairbanks power plant can continue to pump warm water into the Chena River.

The U.S Environmental Protection Agency issued a permit to Aurora Energy LLC despite opposition from critics who say the 78-degree discharge prevents some of the river from freezing, limiting winter recreation.

The permit is effective Oct. 1.

The utility sucks about 20 million gallons of water a day from the Chena, uses it as a cooling agent and pumps the heated water back into the river. Aurora Energy claims it has investigated alternative options and can't afford them.

The EPA said it won't force the company to find a use for its heated wastewater or phase out the discharge because the water is harmless to Chena River habitat. The agency issued the permit on Tuesday.

"EPA sees no reason based on water quality concerns for the permit to contain either provision," said a report prepared by Cindi Godsey, an EPA permit writer in Anchorage, and Luke Boles, environmental engineering assistant with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.

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