Alaska Digest

Posted: Friday, October 24, 2003

Paddlewheeler strikes lock gate; no injuries

RICHLAND, Wash. - A cruise ship became stuck in the navigation lock at Ice Harbor Dam on the Snake River after striking the lock's gate.

There were no injuries to the 188 passengers or 84 crew members aboard when the Empress of the North struck the lock at about 5:40 p.m. Wednesday, said Gina Schwetz, spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which operates the dam.

The 360-fot paddlewheel ship, which was built and launched this summer, has visited Juneau.

The passengers will receive refunds for their trip, said Joel Perry, vice president for the ship's operator, American West Steamboat Co. of Seattle.

Repair crews hoped to free the ship late Thursday. Afterward, it was to go to Troutdale, Ore., for inspection, while the lock was to be drained and inspected, Schwetz said.

Perry said the company was investigating what caused the ship to hit the gate.

American West, which has been in operation since 1995, offers cruises to Alaska and on the Columbia, Snake and Willamette rivers on two paddlewheelers.

Salmon fishermen can seek up to $10,000 in aid

JUNEAU - Alaska salmon fishermen who can prove they lost money in 2002 because of competition from farmed fish can apply for up to $10,000 in federal aid.

Fishermen can apply for aid through the Trade Adjustment Assistance program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Forms will be mailed to all state limited-entry permit holders. Boat operators and crew members can obtain application forms at

Applicants will have to submit their 2002 fish tickets and income tax returns, and also will have to demonstrate that their 2002 fishing income was smaller than their average income the previous five years, according to staff at Sen. Lisa Murkowksi's office.

Applications are due Jan. 20, 2004.

Juneau man pleads not guilty to drug charge

JUNEAU - A man arrested earlier this month after allegedly receiving methamphetamine in the mail pleaded not guilty Thursday to a federal drug charge.

Randy Nutt, 49, appearing in U.S. District Court, was charged with attempted possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Philip Pallenberg told him that if he is found guilty of the charge, he could be sentenced to five to 40 years in prison.

Pallenberg scheduled a trial for Nov. 24.

Nutt was arrested at his Lemon Creek home on Oct. 2, 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 said the investigation began with postal inspectors discovering about 186 grams - a little less than 6 ounces - of methamphetamine in two Juneau-bound packages.

Kathie Nutt, 50, who also was arrested Oct. 2, appeared separately before Pallenberg on Thursday.

Attorneys asked for her hearing to be postponed until Nov. 5 to give DEA agents a chance to brief her.

Prosecutors have said they do not intend to charge her.

Pallenberg released Kathie Nutt from custody last week while ordering Randy Nutt to remain at the Lemon Creek Correctional Center.

On Thursday Pallenberg ordered Randy Nutt's continued detention.

Moderate earthquakes strike western Aleutians

ANCHORAGE - Two moderate earthquakes occurred at the western end of the Aleutian Islands chain Thursday.

The first one at 2:54 a.m. had a preliminary magnitude of 5.6, said the Alaska Earthquake Information Center in Fairbanks. It was recorded in the Rat Islands region, about 105 miles south of Buldir Island.

A second quake, with a preliminary magnitude of 5.0, was recorded at 7:32 a.m., said the Alaska Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer. It was recorded about 65 miles southeast of Buldir Island.

There were no immediate reports of injury or damage.

Fire traps Anchorage man in cherry picker

ANCHORAGE - A man working high above the ground in a cherry picker bucket said he considered leaping onto a light pole after fire broke out in his truck.

Joe Grice's biggest fear was that the fire that engulfed the truck was going to cause the hydraulics on the boom to fail and send him hurtling toward the pavement some 50 feet below.

"If the thing started coming down, I wasn't going to be no captain of no ship - I was coming down that pole," said Grice, 41.

Grice and two other Skyline Electric workers were at Lake Otis to replace about a dozen light fixtures. They were working on their first one, near Hanshew Middle School, when the engine in their boom truck caught fire, according to Grice and fire officials.

The workers on the ground immediately shut off the truck's engine, which left Grice with no power to use the controls in his bucket to lower himself.

Firefighters arrived and doused the Skyline truck with water. The blaze was put out in about five minutes, said Engine 9 Capt. Ursa Lively.

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