Northwest Digest

Posted: Friday, November 24, 2006

Alyeska Resort to be sold to Utah financier

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ANCHORAGE - A real estate financier and ski enthusiast from Utah has agreed to buy the Alyeska Resort in Girdwood and said the sale would be finalized by next week.

John Byrne III said he'll be the principal owner of Alyeska and plans to make several changes and upgrades after the purchase from Seibu Holdings Inc., the Japanese company that has owned Alyeska since 1980.

For one thing, he wants to make the resort more family friendly. He said possibilities include increasing the square footage of easier ski terrain and developing a "kids camp" for ski instruction.

The resort includes a ski area on Mount Alyeska, and a large hotel called the Alyeska Prince.

Last summer Seibu put Alyeska up for sale as part of a large sell-off of its resort properties.

Chris Von Imhof, Alyeska's chief executive, who has managed the Alyeska resort for much of the last 30 years, said he'll step down as chief executive after the purchase, but has agreed to serve as an executive consultant.

Byrne is the principal owner and president of Cirque Property, a privately owned real estate investment company based in Utah. Byrne will also take over the city-owned O'Malley Golf Course, which Alyeska runs under a lease agreement.

Jesuits, archdiocese settle sex abuse cases

SEATTLE - The Jesuit order in the Northwest has settled a lawsuit against the Rev. Michael Toulouse, a priest who taught at Seattle University from about 1950 to 1976, the year he died.

The Seattle Archdiocese has also recently reached settlements in some of its priest abuse cases, including three against the Rev. James McGreal, whom the Vatican has permanently barred from ministry.

The plaintiff in the Jesuit case, who sued in 2005, claims the abuse occurred in 1968 at a Jesuit residence at Seattle University when he was 12. He settled for $350,000 dollars on Monday.

The Very Rev. John Whitney, head of the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesuits, said "we admitted the allegation from the very beginning. I said I believed the survivor suffered what he had talked about. Litigation was about just compensation."

The Seattle Archdiocese settled the three lawsuits against McGreal for $1.25 million last week. Previous suits against McGreal have ended with multimillion-dollar settlements, including a $7.9 million agreement reached in September 2003 with 15 alleged victims.

Rainier flood damage could reach $30 million

MOUNT RAINIER NATIONAL PARK, Wash. - When floodwaters washed away roads and trails, damaged campgrounds and forced the closure of this popular Pacific Northwest park earlier this month, officials there couldn't begin to estimate the cost of the damage.

Now that they have, the numbers are as sobering as the damage was when they first encountered it.

Park Superintendent Dave Uberuaga said repairs will cost an estimated $29.85 million, the bulk of it - $16 million - to repair roads wiped out or weakened by water.

The park has been closed since Nov. 6, when 18 inches of rain fell on the park in 36 hours, swamping roads and bridges, cutting power and sewer lines and forcing park officials to swing the gates closed to visitors for the first time since nearby Mount St. Helens' massive May 18, 1980, eruption.

The shutdown now marks the longest closure at Mount Rainier since all national parks were closed during World War II.

"Every day I keep adding to it and adding to it. Originally, I would have said $25 (million) to $30 million," Uberuaga said. "And it could go up very easily. We could have more damage during the winter. Every culvert that's plugged now could cause trouble when the snow melts next spring."

National forests in Washington and Oregon also face extensive repairs, particularly the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, which includes Mount St. Helens, and the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, in Seattle's backyard. The North Cascades National Park and Olympic National Park also saw roads washed away.

"It comes at a bad time because trails funding for national parks and national forests is declining," said Andrew Engelson of the Washington Trails Association, a group representing hikers.

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