Alaska Digest

Posted: Sunday, September 26, 2004

Murkowski picks Ogan replacement

ANCHORAGE - Alaska Office of Veterans Affairs director Charlie Huggins has been named to the state Senate seat left vacant by the resignation of Scott Ogan, Gov. Frank Murkowski said Friday.

Huggins, 57, of Wasilla, will serve the remaining two years of Ogan's term as the senator from District H, which stretches through much of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.

Huggins is a Vietnam veteran and was a senior adviser to the Alaska National Guard at Fort Richardson until 1994, when he retired. He came out of retirement in 2002 to head the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs' Office of Veterans Affairs.

Deputy administration commissioner named

JUNEAU - Department of Administration Commissioner Ray Matiashowski appointed Mike Tibbles of Juneau to serve as his deputy commissioner.

Tibbles will leave his post as Gov. Frank Murkowski's legislative director.

"His experience in the legislative process as well as his experience in the executive branch gives me great confidence in him," Matiashowski said.

The new position makes Tibbles manager of the divisions of Labor Relations, Motor Vehicles, Personnel, Risk Management, the Office of Public Advocacy, the Administrative Hearing Office, the Alaska Public Offices Commission, the Public Defender Agency and the Violent Crimes Compensation Board.

Ferry back in service

JUNEAU - The state's newest ferry, Lituya, is back in service, the state Department of Transportation announced Friday.

The Lituya, which serves the cities of Ketchikan and Metlakatla, was pulled offline Thursday after experiencing engine trouble. One of two engines on the 180-foot ferry shut down Thursday after a smoldering air-intake filter set off the vessel's exhaust gas temperature alarm.

The engine was inspected Friday by vessel technicians and determined safe to continue with its regularly scheduled trips, according to DOT spokesman John Manly.

Coast Guard search for floatplane continues

SITKA - There has been no trace of a missing floatplane as the search for it and its five occupants entered its sixth day in Southeast Alaska.

Coast Guard officials had hoped a break in the weather Friday would turn up signs of the plane's passage, but flyovers of mountain passes the plane may have taken yielded nothing, according to Lt. Matt Moorlag at the Coast Guard's Juneau command center.

The search by Coast Guard, Civil Air Patrol and private aircraft continued Saturday. Wind gusts of up to 50 miles an hour were expected in the area by evening, which could hamper the search.

"So we're trying to search as much as we possibly can with the weather window we have today," Moorlag said.

Those on board are Joe Murphy, of Bremerton, Wash., senior vice president of the Washington State Labor Council; his twin brother, Jim Murphy, of Sequim, Wash.; Jerry Balmer, of Auburn, Calif.; Lloyd Koenig, of Pleasanton, Calif., and pilot Eric Johnson of Sitka.

The four passengers were on a fishing vacation together. They took off from Sitka on Monday and were destined for Baranof Wilderness Lodge at Warm Springs Bay to the east of the island.

Bull moose lock horns, die in battle

ANCHORAGE - The carcasses of two bull moose that died with their antlers locked in battle have been discovered near the University of Alaska Anchorage.

They were found Friday in a stand of black spruce 50 feet from the parking lot of the university's arts building, two bulls in rut among the skinny trees with their antlers fused in a fatal tangle.

The moose were on their sides and at a right angle to each other, their heads locked back to back. The face of the smaller bull was in the ground, while the other's head was wrenched around to face the sky, its tongue hanging to the side.

That's just a tragedy," said Ben Lawson, a UAA electrician, one of the scores of visitors to the site. "You'd think the horns would break."

But moose antlers are not likely to break, even when animals as large and powerful as these, estimated to be 1,000 pounds or more, try to free themselves from the mesh of antler tines and palms, said biologist Rick Sinnott of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

"They do sometimes break the tines, but these guys were locked into the palms," he added, referring to the broad, flatter part of the antler.

Sinnott guessed the bulls had killed each other a week before or earlier.

The animals probably choked to death, he said. They got turned on their sides, and their huge, compartmentalized stomachs regurgitated mash into their windpipes, Sinnott said.

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