Posted: Tuesday, September 12, 2000

Assembly OKs sewer, airport funds

JUNEAU -- At its Monday night meeting, the Juneau Assembly appropriated some big-ticket items to the manager. Money for the Lena Loop reservoir, expansion of the wastewater collection system to North Douglas and construction of runway safety areas at the airport were all OKd.

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation provided partial funding of $1,555,000 for the reservoir, a 1-million gallon water reserve and pump station in the Lena Point area. The project will provide the storage and pressure needed to meet fire flow demands for the Lena Loop and Tee Harbor areas, including the new National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration fisheries laboratory.

The sewer expansion project is funded by a $2 million grant from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. The project aims to replace on-lot treatment facilities is such areas as the Bonnie Brae subdivision.

The ongoing airport runway safety area project is being funded by the FAA to the tune of $723,333, with an additional $23,333 from the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.

Still no sign of missing men

YAKUTAT -- About 10 people still are walking the shoreline and searching the woods on four-wheelers in Yakutat, but the families of two missing men have little hope left they will be found.

Chuck Johnson, 40, of Yakutat, and his cousin Erik Kveum, 21, of Hoonah, went out to check setnets five miles from Yakutat last Wednesday and have not been seen since. The Coast Guard, police and private boats thoroughly searched a 15-mile stretch of the bay on Thursday. The only result was the finding of their skiff, overturned, four miles from shore. Searching continued Saturday in rainy weather, said Bill Fletcher, editor of the Monti Bay Times.

Memorial services will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Yakutat Presbyterian Church. Call (907) 784-3360 for details.

Meeting looks at JDHS renovations

JUNEAU -- Architects and planners will talk about proposed renovations to Juneau-Douglas High School at an open house 6-7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the school library.

Topics will include what work can be done with the $13 million in bond proceeds voters approved in 1999 for a JDHS renovation, plus what might be done with another $4 million in city funds if voters approve a sales tax ballot proposition this October.

The $13 million in bonds, which would include about $10 million in actual construction funds, are contingent on getting some state reimbursement. So far, with voters' prior approval, the city has sold bonds only for part of the design costs of the JDHS renovation and a proposed new high school, and to demolish a state ferry building near JDHS.

There also will be a meeting next week to show preliminary sketches of the high school proposed for Dimond Park. A city and school district planning team will meet 2:30-5 p.m., followed by an open house 5-6:30 p.m. Sept. 21 at the JDHS library.

Alaska's small caribou herds declining

ANCHORAGE -- Several of Alaska's caribou herds are growing to immense size, but three small bands are shrinking so rapidly some biologists believe they may become extinct within the decade. Biologists are blaming the declines for the most part on predation.

Two of the disappearing herds, the Mentasta and Chisana, roam largely within Wrangell St. Elias National Park and Preserve except during the winter when they migrate toward Canada. The third, the Beaver Mountain herd, roams west of McGrath.

The Mentasta herd numbers between 350 and 450 animals. That compares with a high of 3,500 caribou in 1987. The Chisana herd has dropped to about 350 caribou, state biologists said. That's down from about 1,500 in 1989. The Beaver Mountain herd has declined even more, to 125 animals from the 3,000 in the early 1960s, biologists said.

Pat Valkenburg, a caribou specialist and research coordinator with the state Department of Fish and Game in Fairbanks, thinks the smaller herds are disappearing because of predation by bears and wolves.

But while the smaller herds are in decline, several large herds are thriving. The Western Arctic herd is estimated at 430,000 animals. Valkenburg thinks the large herds have developed a better strategy for evading predators.

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