Alaska Digest

Posted: Sunday, November 04, 2007

Driver crashes into Airport Blvd. building

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JUNEAU - A driver backed across one parking lot, through an 8-foot-tall fence and a second parking lot before crashing the vehicle into a building on Airport Boulevard on Thursday evening, police said.

"After interviewing the driver, it was determined that medical and possible alcohol issues were probable factors in the accident," Sgt. Steve Hernandez said.

Police did not return phone calls requesting details about the driver. A press release said a 2002 Toyota Tundra was found against the building at about 7:30 p.m.

The release also said the truck caused an estimated $10,000 in damage to the structure. Damage to the truck was estimated at $6,000.

The driver was taken to Bartlett Regional Hospital and the investigation continues, police said.

Enstar says prices will decrease slightly

ANCHORAGE - After a 30 percent increase this year, Enstar Natural Gas Co. customers can expect a slight decrease in the price of gas next year, according to company officials.

Enstar, which provides gas to about 345,000 Alaskans, plans to reduce its rates by about 2 percent next year. That should equate to an average household savings of $2 or $3 each month, the company said.

When gas rates jumped this year, it prompted customers to cut back on the amount of gas they use, said Enstar spokesman Curtis Thayer, which in turn played a role in the proposed price reduction for 2008.

"We overestimated how much gas we were going to need, and what we already paid for, so now the customers get that back," he said.

Salmon bycatch threatens fisheries

ANCHORAGE - The number of salmon that are accidentally caught by pollock fishermen in the Bering Sea is soaring and that's not good news for those who fish Alaska's rivers.

This season the pollock fishery's king salmon bycatch will set a new record, with 116,000 fish and counting, according to fisheries managers. The bycatch of chum salmon was about 97,000 fish.

Many of these salmon would have headed up the Yukon and other rivers to spawn and that's where subsistence, sport and commercial fishermen would have hauled them in.

Salmon tend to swim with the pollock, making it difficult for fishermen to avoid them. Pollock fleet managers say they're working hard on new fishing techniques and better communications to avoid spots where salmon are thick.

"We're doing everything we can" to avoid chinook, said Brent Paine of United Catcher Boats, a Seattle trade group of pollock trawlers.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council is considering tougher regulations to control salmon bycatch. Ideas include setting strict limits on the number of salmon the Bering Sea fleet may catch in a season if it wants to keep fishing for pollock.

Use of cyanide OK'd for Fort Knox mine

FAIRBANKS - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is allowing a mining company to use large batches of the toxic chemical cyanide at the Fort Knox gold mine.

Fairbanks Gold Mining will use the chemical to lengthen the life of the mine by extracting fine particles of gold from extremely low-grade ore. The process is known as heap leaching.

A permit from the Corps allows Fairbanks Gold Mining to start building a heap leaching facility at the mine, 26 miles northeast of Fairbanks. The permit allows the company to discharge waste into federal wetlands.

Mine officials estimate the heap leaching facility should extend the life of the operation by several years.

Fairbanks Gold Mining, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Canadian mining giant Kinross Gold Corp., originally expected Fort Knox to last until 2010. The heap leaching process should keep the mine active until 2014 and the processing facilities going through 2019.

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