Alaska Digest

Staff and Wire reports

Posted: Monday, November 10, 2003

Stevens crab quota bill faces challenge

FAIRBANKS - A proposal to guarantee seafood processing companies a large share of Alaska's lucrative Bering Sea crab catch faces a challenge on the U.S. Senate floor this week.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is expected to offer an amendment to strip the processor shares from the bill, along with several other provisions added by Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens during a committee meeting in September.

"We know there are quite a few senators who have indicated support for that, but we don't know what the vote tally is," Linda Kozak, a Kodiak consultant told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

The proposal would divvy up the $140 million Bering Sea crab fisheries among fishermen based on their catch histories.

But it would also guarantee processors a right to buy a portion of the catch, directing about 90 percent of the harvest to about a dozen established processors. Small-boat fishermen fear the plan would turn them into little more than sharecroppers.

Stevens said Congress has to do something to end the existing "race for fish" that has crab boats going out in dangerous weather to catch as much as they can before the season closes.

Reindeer shooter gets 1 year in jail

ANCHORAGE - A 20-year-old man has been sentenced to a year in jail for shooting five reindeer at a popular Butte tourist attraction.

Caleb G. Bennett also was ordered to pay more than $15,000 in restitution for the Jan. 31 shootings at Williams Reindeer Farm, under terms of a plea bargain announced Friday in Palmer Superior Court.

Bennett entered a no contest plea to three charges related to the shootings, one of them a felony. A former employee of the farm who lives in the Butte, Bennett will be formally sentenced on Feb. 9. Until then, he must remain in 24-hour "sight and sound" custody of his father, Superior Court Judge Beverly Cutler ordered.

At about 5 a.m. the day of the shootings, Bennett rode a snowmachine up to a fence surrounding the reindeer farm. He got off the machine and shot the reindeer with a .22-caliber rifle. Two of the animals were pregnant. One was killed outright, two others had to be euthanized, and two died of their wounds later.

Committee proposing Whitaker replacement

FAIRBANKS - A Republican committee is proposing three names as possible replacements for former state Rep. Jim Whitaker, who stepped down after being elected borough mayor.

A Republican House District committee will forward a recommendation to Gov. Frank Murkowski who has until Nov. 25 to appoint a successor.

The committee has recommended Rich Hughes, Nick Stepovich and Jay Ramras as potential replacements.

Stepovich, 45, is owner of Soapy Smith's Pioneer Restaurant and chair of the Republicans in Whitaker's district.

Whitaker recommended Stepovich to be successor when he first announced his intention to run for mayor, though said Saturday he would support any of the three candidates.

Hughes, 65, is project manager for Tricon Mining's Nolan Creek Deep Channel Project located in the Brooks Range. He considers himself more of a conservative than Whitaker and said he would work to spur resource development.

Ramras, 39, is the owner of three Food Factory restaurants as well as Pike's Landing and Pike's Waterfront Lodge.

Canadian firm strikes gold at Alaska prospect

ANCHORAGE - A Canadian mining company is pursuing plans to develop the Pebble prospect near Iliamna in Southwest Alaska.

Bruce A. Youngman, vice president of Vancouver-based Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd., said test results of minerals at the property showed high-grade gold, copper and molybdenum throughout the site. Geologists consider it one of the world's largest untapped gold and copper deposits.

Because the minerals are under a thin layer of gravel, they're configured in a way that would make for very low cost, open-pit mining, Youngman said.

"It's a world-class mineral district," Youngman told the Alaska Miners Association annual conference in Anchorage.

Anchorage teen dies in shooting

ANCHORAGE - A shooting outside a Spenard video arcade left a 15-year-old girl dead and another boy injured, Anchorage Police said Sunday.

Ann Saephan, a student at East High School, was shot in the head as the car she was riding in pulled away from the arcade, police said. The gunfire came from another car, police said.

Another passenger in the car, 14-year-old Steven Keoviengthong, was wounded and taken to Providence Alaska Medical Center for treatment, police said.

The shooting happened sometime after 9 p.m. Saturday outside the Space Station arcade, police said.



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