State Briefs

Posted: Friday, September 13, 2002

Forest Service cuts Tongass budget to pay for fires

PETERSBURG - The U.S. Forest Service is making a big cut in the Tongass National Forest budget to help pay for firefighting expenses in Alaska and the Lower 48.

More than $13 million, or about 20 percent of this year's Tongass budget, was reallocated last month, according to Forest Service spokesman Dennis Neill.

"What they're looking at having to do is balance out the total fire expenditures for the Forest Service fighting fires throughout the system," he said.

In order to cut expenses, certain projects and planned land acquisitions are being postponed. That includes the purchase of Sitka's Mount Verstovia and Petersburg Creek from the state Mental Health Lands Trust as well as cabin repairs and maintenance.

About $5 million of the money, allocated for timber sale expenses, was in limbo anyway because of legal challenges.

"We've postponed some cabin reconstruction projects, road maintenance projects and timber sale NEPA analysis on sales that are under (court) injunction because we were going to carry that money over anyway," Neill said.

NEPA is the National Environmental Policy Act.

Subaru found sunk in channel

JUNEAU - Police are trying to figure out what or who landed a vehicle in Gastineau Channel on Thursday night.

Around 9 p.m. police responded to a call from a resident who said she thought she saw a vehicle go into the water near Taku Smokeries and the Princess Cruises dock, near South Franklin Street, according to a police press release.

The U.S. Coast Guard, firefighters and police arrived to find a white 1983 Subaru just under the water along the rocks, police said.

The vehicle was unoccupied when a dive team and employees of Glacier Muffler and Towing pulled it from the water, police said.

Police said they believe the car may have been involved in a hit-and-run vehicle accident on Willoughby Avenue that was reported shortly before the vehicle was spotted going into the water.

Mat-Su teachers approve contract

WASILLA - Matanuska-Susitna Borough teachers on Thursday approved a one-year contract with the school district.

Teachers voted overwhelmingly to accept the deal, said Mat-Su Education Association president Barbara Morris.

The contract gives teachers a $3,000 across-the-board raise and halves employees' health insurance contributions. The agreement adds about $3.4 million in teacher salary and benefit costs, according to district estimates.

Under the contract, teacher salaries would range from about $35,000 to $66,000 a year.

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