Alaska Digest

Posted: Thursday, October 16, 2003

Juneau man waives probable cause

JUNEAU - A Juneau man, in jail since his Oct. 2 arrest, waived his right in U.S. District Court Tuesday to have federal prosecutors show they have probable cause to charge him with two felony drug counts.

Randy Nutt, 49, was arrested at his Lemon Creek area residence after an investigation by U.S. postal inspectors and federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents, with the assistance of the Southeast Alaska Narcotics Enforcement Team. SEANET reported that the investigation began with postal inspectors discovering about 186 grams - about 612 ounces - of methamphetamine in two Juneau-bound packages.

Nutt is next schedule to appear in federal court Oct. 23 on conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance and sale, distribution or dispensing of a controlled substance.

Kathie Nutt, 50, also was arrested after investigators served a warrant on the Nutts' residence. Prosecutors, speaking in court on the telephone from Anchorage, told U.S. Magistrate Judge Philip Pallenberg they didn't plan to seek a grand jury indictment against Kathie Nutt.

Pallenberg ordered her release Tuesday but ordered her to return to court Oct. 23 if prosecutors have not dropped their case. Randy Nutt returned to the Lemon Creek Correctional Center after the hearing.

Volunteer pilot crashes while aiding family

JUNEAU - A pilot crashed his plane while flying in supplies to a McCarthy-area family that has been feuding with the National Park Service.

Kurt Stenehjem, 52, of Anchorage, said he was unhurt in the crash. His Cessna 180 was heavily damaged. A spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration said the crash was reported Friday.

Stenehjem had volunteered to fly supplies to the 17-member Pilgrim family, which has been barred by Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve officials from using a former mining road.

The family had earlier driven a bulldozer the length of 12-mile abandoned road, sometimes with the blade down, prompting park officials to close the road while they assess any damage.

The family's dispute attracted attention from neighbors and a group called the American Land Rights Association, which has been critical of national park policies toward "inholders," people who own property within park boundaries.

Chuck Cushman, director of the Battle Ground, Wash.- based group, blamed park officials for the crash.

"If they hadn't blockaded the road, it wouldn't have happened," Cushman said.

Stenehjem said his landing gear collapsed as he touched down on a gravel strip near the family's remote cabin, which is surrounded by the park boundaries.

"What frustrates me the most is I am grounded and I can't fly this mission of support," he said via telephone from the Pilgrim's home.

Bristol Bay king crab season opens

KODIAK - Amid gale-force winds and building seas, 252 fishing vessels began the race for lucrative Bristol Bay red king crab.

In what could be the final derby-style king crab fishery, crabbers departed at 4 p.m. Wednesday to compete to catch the 15.7-million-pound quota. The quota represents a 70 percent increase over the 9.2-million-pound guideline harvest level last year.

While the upswing in crab stocks represents good news for the future of the fishery, a parallel plummet in prices has left some fishermen feeling cheated.

After talk of a possible strike, processors and fishermen settled on a price of $5.05 per pound Saturday. In 2002, fishermen received $6.15 for the crustaceans, a price exceeded only in 1999, when anticipated millennium parties had Japanese buyers clamoring for crab, driving up prices to $6.25.

The fast-paced fishery is expected to last less than a week.

"Based on catch rates we've seen in recent fisheries, effort level, and the guideline harvest level, we expect a four- to six-day season," said state Department of Fish and Game shellfish biologist Forrest Bowers.

Last year, the fleet caught the smaller quota in just 68 hours, a record-breaking pace.

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