Alaska Digest

Posted: Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Section of tanker shifts in winter storm

ANCHORAGE - The stern of the wrecked Selendang Ayu has shifted in recent storms off Unalaska Island, releasing about 1,000 gallons of residual oil in the soybean tanker that broke apart last December, officials said Tuesday.

A Coast Guard crew flew over the wreckage Monday and saw that the stern had been dislodged and rotated 90 degrees, putting it closer and nearly parallel to shore at Spray Cape on the western side of the island, the Coast Guard said.

A private pilot flying over the site on Friday reported that the stern had moved.

Emulsified oil was seen over a three-mile area of the wreck, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation. The oil probably had been clinging in pumped tanks and other areas not reachable when the bulk of the oil was removed in January, DEC officials said.

Pollution survey crews will try to assess the impact of the shifting, the Coast Guard said. No oil has been seen coming from the sunken bow section.

The Selendang Ayu spilled nearly 340,000 gallons of fuel oil and diesel, and tons of soybeans, last December after it lost power and broke in two.

Salvage crews managed to lighter another 142,000 gallons of fuel from the freighter's tanks.

Senior citizens pump up Mat-Su population

ANCHORAGE - The Matanuska-Susitna Borough population has grown over 15 years and one of the main reasons has been an influx of senior citizens.

"There is a migration," said Borough Mayor Tim Anderson, who served as head of the Wasilla Senior Center for about 12 years before leaving in 2004.

"There's quite an influx of seniors who move up because their kids are here. They want to be near their kids and grandkids."

Between 1990 and 2004, the Mat-Su population increased by about 77 percent, said state demographer Greg Williams. Over that period, the number of people 65 and older jumped about 150 percent, to more than 4,630.

The median age now is almost 1 1/2 years older than the statewide mark and more than two years older than the median age in Anchorage.

Some retirees are fleeing Anchorage for the Mat-Su. People say they want more land for their money and want to escape congestion.

"I'm seeing that a lot of Anchorageites that are retiring ... are getting out of town and moving to the Valley," said Mary Vincent, a real estate agent who has been selling property in the area for more than 20 years.

Anchorage airport toils to kill lake weeds

ANCHORAGE - Anchorage airport officials are taking aim at weeds in a lakes heavily used by floatplanes.

Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport workers will drain a couple of feet from Lake Hood, hoping that freezing temperatures will kill weeds. They also hope to buy a special "aquatic vegetation harvester" to remove 10-foot swaths during summer.

Weeds grab floatplane rudders and interfere with maneuvers.

The soggy pruning is needed because of better water quality in lakes Hood and Spenard, said John Parrott, airport deputy director. Changes in deicing chemicals and wastewater procedures have cleaned up the water.

"We now have things growing in the lakes," he said.

Allowing ropy clumps of water weeds to clog docking space for 500 aircraft is a bad idea for the world's busiest seaplane base, Parrott said.

"They aren't really compatible with floatplanes," he said.

House committee plans ANWR session

FAIRBANKS - A proposal to develop oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge released by the chairman of the U.S. House Resources Committee contains far more provisions than a Senate version.

Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Calif., released a draft version Monday that would direct the Interior Department to sell oil leases in the refuge under a list of conditions that covers about 25 pages.

The Resources Committee will meet to consider the language Wednesday.

The House, in a budget resolution passed earlier this year, asked the committee to produce legislation that would create $2.4 billion in extra federal revenues over five years. The unwritten intent was that the money would come from oil lease sales in ANWR.

To meet the $2.4 billion, Pombo also proposes to charge more for mining claims, develop oil shale and let coastal states opt out of congressional moratoriums on offshore oil leasing.

A parallel but much trimmer version of ANWR-drilling language was approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee last week.

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