State Briefs

Posted: Friday, November 01, 2002

Fog lifts, flights return to Juneau

JUNEAU - The fog lifted enough Thursday for Juneau flights to resume, but not before a convention had to be canceled.

Alaska Airlines spokesman Jack Walsh said four flights made it into Juneau late Thursday afternoon and all flights were running today. He said an extra midday Seattle-Juneau-Seattle flight was added today to help travelers backed up by this week's fog.

"It looks like we're back in business again," Walsh said this morning.

He said hundreds of travelers were affected by flight cancellations. Some stranded travelers took advantage of Allen Marine Tours catamaran runs between Juneau and Sitka while planes weren't flying.

Flight delays caused by the fog caused the Alaska State Home Builders Association to cancel its convention, scheduled to begin Thursday at Centennial Hall. Staff at the office of the Anchorage-based group said the convention had not been rescheduled yet.

The National Weather Service predicted light rain and wind today, which was expected to clear out any remaining patches of fog.

Game Board meeting delayed

JUNEAU - The state Board of Game meeting scheduled to begin today in Juneau will start Saturday because of flight delays, officials said late Thursday.

The board will meet starting at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at Centennial Hall. The meeting is still scheduled to end Nov. 7.

For scheduling updates, call 465-8901.

Among the regulatory changes to be considered at the meeting are proposals to permanently ban hunting of white-colored bears in the Juneau area, halt shooting and trapping of wolves on Douglas Island until its population has built up, and require free registration of wildfowl hunters on the Mendenhall Wetlands, or stop them from hunting near homes.

Masek escapes injury in Parks Highway accident

ANCHORAGE - State Rep. Beverly Masek lost control of her pickup truck while trying to avoid striking a moose on the Parks Highway on Thursday morning. She suffered only bumps and bruises, her office said.

The truck slid on the road and rolled. Masek, a Willow Republican, was the only occupant and didn't need medical attention.

The truck was totaled, Masek staffers said. They said Alaska State Troopers described conditions in the Willow area as icy and slick.

In next week's election, Masek will face Democratic opponent Kay Bills and Alaskan Independence Party candidate Jon Pinard.

Young eyes future bid as House speaker

KODIAK - U.S. Rep. Don Young said Wednesday he is considering make a bid for speaker of the House in four years if the circumstances are right.

"I've got good support," said Young. But he would not seek the seat if his friend, House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, a Texas Republican, sought it, he said.

Young has been chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure for two years. In four years he would be expected to step down, under self-imposed Republican term limits. At that time, the eight-year term limit expires of House Speaker Denny Hastert, an Illinois Republican.

Emergency order issued to protect Denali wolves

ANCHORAGE - An emergency order was issued to halt hunting and trapping of wolves on state land just east of Denali National Park and Preserve, the state Department of Fish and Game said Thursday.

Without the order, protecting wolves in a new buffer zone approved by the Board of Game at its October meeting in Anchorage would have had to wait until next year to go into effect.

The board on Oct. 11 voted 4-2 to create a 55-square-mile area to protect the Mount Margaret wolfpack that frequently ventures outside park boundaries. The wolfpack is one of two that provides park visitors with the best chance of viewing a wolf in the wild.

The board also extended a ban on wolf hunting and trapping in a 72-square-mile buffer established in November 2000 to protect the Toklat wolves, the best known of the Denali packs.

"The board intended to provide immediate protection to certain packs of commonly viewed wolves," Wayne Regelin, director of the Division of Wildlife Conservation, said in a statement.

Pete Buist, board member and former president of the Alaska Trappers Association, said Regelin was wrong to issue the emergency regulation.

"It is a misuse of the emergency regulation because there is no emergency. In fact, there is no biological need to begin with," he said.

The trappers association feels the millions of acres in the national park should be enough for nonconsumptive uses, he said.

Court bars Exxon Valdez from Prince William Sound

SAN FRANCISCO - The Exxon Valdez oil tanker cannot return to the Alaska waters it fouled 13 years ago with nearly 11 million gallons of crude oil, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Oil Pollution Act, which among other things prohibits any ship from operating in Prince William Sound if it has spilled more than 1 million gallons of oil anywhere.

The 1990 act has prohibited 18 vessels from sailing into the sound, Justice Department spokesman Charles Miller said.

Congress adopted the rule on the grounds that the sound was an "environmentally sensitive area" and that the law would encourage vessel owners to take steps to avoid spills.

The Valdez spill was March 23, 1989. Congress made the act retroactively enforceable to cover that accident.

A spokesman for SeaRiver Maritime International Inc., a Houston-based shipping concern that owns the ship, said the ExxonMobil Corp. subsidiary may appeal the decision.

He said the ship, which cost $125 million to build, has been shipping internationally under the U.S. flag since the company spent about $30 million fixing its damaged hull.

The company argued to the appeals court that the Valdez, since renamed the Mediterranean, was being wrongly singled out and punished. The company said there was no basis for believing that a vessel that spilled oil in the past would spill in the future.

Compiled from staff and wire service reports.



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