State Briefs

Posted: Wednesday, October 09, 2002

Counterfeit bills in Ketchikan

KETCHIKAN - Merchants in Ketchikan are reporting a surprising influx of high quality counterfeit bills around town.

Fake bills in $100 and $20 denominations have been distributed during the past month.

The bills are realistic enough to pass a cursory inspection, said First Bank Marketing Director Eric Bjella. "With the high-tech printing capabilities out there, it's easy to print (money) that looks like a real bill," he said.

Fairbanks nixes snowmobile ban

FAIRBANKS - Fairbanks North Star Borough voters by a 2-1 margin rejected an initiative to ban snowmobile use within most of the city of Fairbanks.

Advocates of the snowmobile ban said the machines were noisy and a hazard to skiers and hikers.

"I don't care for the noise either, but everybody has a right to play where they want to play," said Kevin Parsons, an Air Force technical sergeant who spoke after voting in North Pole.

If the ban had passed, it would have closed off most of the city of Fairbanks and a few adjoining neighborhoods to snowmobiles and allowed for more controls in the future. The ballot measure would have imposed speed limits on the Chena River and Noyes Slough, which run through downtown Fairbanks and residential areas.

The Fairbanks Snow Travelers and people who make their living through snowmobiles fiercely fought the ban in an effort dubbed Can the Ban.

"Snowmachining is part of Alaska. It's tradition in a sense," said John Johnston, president of the Snow Travelers.

Supporters may turn to state lawmakers next for speed limits on snowmobiles.

Storm pushes barge on beach

ANCHORAGE - A fierce autumn storm hammering Northwest Alaska ripped a barge from its tugboat near the Red Dog mine port on Tuesday and pushed it onto a gravel beach about 30 miles south of Kivalina.

Wind-whipped surf pounded the vessel, carrying 22,000 gallons of diesel fuel, but environmental officials detected no signs of leaks. Salvage crews and environmental technicians were expected on scene today.

"With 18- to 20-foot seas and a gravel beach, it's hard to say what can occur," said Leslie Pearson, emergency response program manager with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.

The weather snapped a tow line connecting a tugboat and the barge early Tuesday. The heavy winds and waves sent the barge toward shore, about four miles away. The stern hit the beach and the vessel grounded about 9:10 a.m., said Joe Langjahr, vice president of Seattle-based Foss Maritime Co., the owner.

The barge is one of two that Foss uses to lighter ore concentrate from the Red Dog mine to freighters when the ocean is ice-free. Red Dog is the world's largest zinc and lead mine, located in the DeLong Mountains about 90 miles northwest of Kotzebue. No ore was on the barge at the time of the accident because it was riding out the storm, Langjahr said.

If the barge breaks up or otherwise spills diesel, sea ducks and marine mammals are the animals of most concern for contamination, state biologists said. Beluga whales, along with bearded, ringed and spotted seals, ply the waters around the port this time of year, said Lori Quakenbush, a marine mammal biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Fairbanks.

Compiled from Associated Press reports.

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