Alaska Digest

Posted: Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Overdue hikers located by helicopter Monday

JUNEAU - Two University of Alaska Southeast students overdue from a hike were found in good health by a Temsco helicopter crew Monday morning.

Charles Lindley, 23, and Andy Kittleson, 22, were dropped off at about 4 a.m. Sunday on West Glacier Trail, Alaska State Troopers reported.

The students were expected to hike up West Glacier to Mount Stroller-White. They were due to return by 10 p.m. Sunday or no later than 8 a.m. Monday, troopers reported.

A helicopter contributing to the search effort Monday morning located the two men at about 11 a.m. The men said all was well and they wanted to continue to walk out, troopers reported.

Juneau Mountain Rescue sent a team up the trail to meet the pair, troopers reported.

New name for public employees credit union

JUNEAU - The Alaska State Employees Federal Credit Union changed its name Monday to True North Federal Credit Union.

The name change is intended to better reflect those served by the credit union, a group that includes not only state employees but public employees in general, their families and various other groups.

True North Credit Union was founded in 1948 as the Juneau Territorial Employees Federal Credit Union. It was the first nonprofit, membership-owned credit union in Alaska.

The credit union is launching the new name in conjunction with International Credit Union Day on Thursday. Offices in Juneau, Fairbanks and Anchorage will be open for current members or those interested in becoming members.

State to begin pipeline tariff negotiations

ANCHORAGE - Alaska Attorney General Gregg Renkes is talking with owners of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline about the prospects of renegotiating a new tariff.

The Murkowski administration asked owners of the pipeline for an early reopener of the 1985 settlement and they agreed, Renkes told the Petroleum News.

State and company officials are drafting a memorandum of understanding that would set out negotiation goals and outline who would be involved, Renkes said.

Renkes said he anticipates reaching an agreement to begin negotiations this fall and have a deal in place within a year.

The existing rate structure for interstate oil shipments was set when the state and pipeline owners settled the tariff case in 1985 before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The tariff agreement runs until 2011, but it has provisions to reopen negotiations as early as January 2007.

The battle over pipeline tariffs greeted the Murkowski administration weeks before it took office when the Regulatory Commission of Alaska ruled the pipeline owners had overcharged shippers for in-state transportation of oil from 1997 to 2000.

Williams Alaska Petroleum Co. and Tesoro Alaska Co. filed the complaint in 1997, alleging they were overcharged for North Slope oil shipments to their in-state refineries.

The RCA determined the tariffs were about $1.50 per barrel too high, and set new rates and ordered refunds for those years.

The Regulatory Commission of Alaska regulates in-state tariffs, with FERC in charge of interstate rates. The RCA ruling affected only in-state rates starting with the complaint in 1997.

If FERC or a court were to adopt the RCA tariff calculation and apply it to interstate rates, the pipeline owners could face billions of dollars in reduced future charges and refunds - but no such claim is before FERC.

Nelchina subsistence caribou hunt to close

ANCHORAGE - Hunters have met the state harvest quota of Nelchina caribou, prompting the state Department of Fish and Game to close the winter Tier II subsistence hunt.

An emergency order closing the hunt in Game Management Unit 13 take effect at midnight Oct. 20, the department said Monday. The winter season was to begin Oct. 21.

Jeff Hughes, a regional supervisor with the department, said a harvest goal of 1,000 bulls was met during the fall subsistence hunts, which ended in September.

A total of 643 bulls were taken during the state hunt. State officials don't know what the federal harvest brought, but they expect it to be similar to the past three-year average of 390 bulls.

The Nelchina caribou herd was estimated to number 30,141 this fall, which is nearly 4,000 lower than last year.

New tests expected to boost geoduck value

KETCHIKAN - Southeast fisheries officials are looking to a new geoduck clam testing program to help boost the value of the upcoming harvest.

The Southeast Alaska Regional Dive Fisheries Association has been working with the state on a new protocol for testing geoducks for paralytic shellfish poisoning and the opening of fishing areas.

The overall goal is to ship most if not all of the geoducks live to market instead of processed.

Julie Decker, association executive director, said live clams from Alaska fetch up to five times the price of processed clams.

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