Alaska Digest

Posted: Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Driver charged with felony assault

JUNEAU - A 43-year-old Juneau man faces three felony charges after an accident that police believe occurred while he was driving drunk.

Jeffrey Rockwell is charged with two counts of third-degree assault and one count of failing to render assistance after being involved in an accident, along with the misdemeanor drunken driving charge. Assistant District Attorney Jack Schmidt said in Juneau District Court Tuesday that Rockwell's blood alcohol level was measured at .143 percent.

District Judge Keith Levy set Rockwell's bail at $1,000.

Police reported that the two-vehicle accident occurred shortly before 9:30 p.m. Monday on the Juneau side of the Douglas Bridge. A vehicle driven by a 24-year-old woman, while stopped at a red light, was struck from behind on outbound Egan Drive at 10th Street. The car suspected of being at fault was reported to have fled the scene.

The woman was treated for neck pain at Bartlett Regional Hospital, police reported.

Police located Rockwell, driving a 1994 Ford Escort on Egan Drive at Vanderbilt Hill Road. The Escort had an inflated airbag, a crushed hood, no headlights and was dragging a front bumper. The horn was stuck in the on position, police reported.

Both Rockwell and a 5-year-old girl riding in the Escort were taken to the hospital. The girl complained about stomach pain. She was checked and released to her mother, police said.

Report: Groundfish stocks in state strong

KODIAK - Groundfish stocks in Alaska remain strong, an annual National Marine Fisheries Service report has concluded.

The Annual Status of U.S. Fisheries report was released last week and found that several groundfish species throughout the United States were being overfished, including blue king crab, mid-Atlantic sea bass, Atlantic sea scallops and Pacific whiting. Most of those were outside of Alaska.

The study said about 28 percent of groundfish stocks nationwide are overfished and 19 percent are subject to overfishing.

Alaska fared well on the report, with only four crab stocks considered overfished.

The findings of the study will be reported to Congress to review while discussing the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The act is up for renewal and Congress is reviewing what needs to be done to maintain sustainable fishing.

Blue king crab in the St. Matthew Island area and Tanner crab in the eastern Bering Sea were deemed overfished. Both stocks are closed to fishing and the report said that could be due to changing environmental conditions. Both stocks were considered overfished for several years before 2003.

"We do have some crab stocks that are on the rebuild," said Al Burch, executive director of the Alaska Draggers Association.

Panel ponders cause of rural problems

KENAI - A nine-member state advisory commission will try to understand why economic instability plagues some rural Alaska communities.

A Senate concurrent resolution passed by the Legislature last session created the Advisory Commission on Local Government. Senate Majority Leader Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, is the chairman.

The commission will work over the next four months to develop recommendations for legislative options that could help struggling communities develop sustainable economies.

"The past few years have seen a number of local communities struggle to provide even basic services," Stevens said.

Small communities in fiscal trouble affect other areas of Alaska, Stevens said.

Villages in boroughs, such as the Kenai Peninsula Borough, can draw on borough money raised through property or sales tax, Stevens said. Unorganized areas tap state funds to cover costs of schools and other services, reducing the pool of state funding.

"There are some inequities there," Stevens said. "Those of us who pay property taxes are indirectly supporting those who do not."

With the demise of state revenue sharing programs, some rural villages are on the verge of going out of business as local government organizations.

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