Alaska Digest

Posted: Wednesday, December 07, 2005

LeConte out of service again

JUNEAU - Propulsion shaft problems have sent the state ferry LeConte back to the Ketchikan Shipyard for repairs, Alaska Marine Highway System officials reported Tuesday.

The LeConte stayed at the dock in Sitka overnight Monday and was inspected by the Coast Guard Tuesday morning after experiencing abnormal movement in its propulsion shafts, said Jim Beedle, the marine highway operations manager. The LeConte underwent annual maintenance and an overhaul this fall.

"We hope the problem can be taken care of within two weeks," Beedle said. But he added, "we do not know how long the LeConte will be out of service."

As it did when the LeConte was out of service in the fall, the system will contract with Alaska Catamarans for use of the St. Aquilina to provide passenger-only service to Hoonah, Tenakee Springs, Angoon and Kake, Beedle said.

People with questions about the upcoming marine highway schedules can call the toll-free reservations line at (800) 642-0066.

Ferry captain died of heart disease

JUNEAU - Heart disease caused the death of the captain of the Taku, who was discovered dead while the Alaska Marine Highway System ferry was underway Monday, the Alaska State Medical Examiner's Office has determined.

Thomas Reed, a Hollis resident, was found unresponsive in his cabin by crew members who tried to wake him when the vessel approached Peril Strait between Chichagof and Baranof islands. Alaska State Troopers were notified of the death at 1:15 p.m. Troopers met the vessel to investigate the death when it arrived in Sitka later in the day.

Trooper spokesman Greg Wilkinson said the autopsy Tuesday in Anchorage listed the cause of Reed's death as an artery blockage - coronary artery atherosclerosis.

From the outset of the investigation, troopers reported there was no evidence of foul play.

Inspectors find no more mine violations

JUNEAU - The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation announced Tuesday that it inspected the Kensington Mine project on Dec. 2 and found no repeat violations of state water quality standards.

After receiving a tip, DEC inspectors in early November visited the mine construction site and discovered significant discharges of sediment into Johnson Creek from the Coeur Alaska-operated site.

The discharges into Johnson Creek, a salmon stream that enters Berners Bay, originated with construction at the mill site, a bridge and topsoil stockpile areas. The state issued Coeur Alaska a Nov. 10 notice of violation, requiring the company to fix the problem.

During the Dec. 2 inspection, state regulators measured water quality in Johnson Creek and reviewed the mine's stormwater treatment systems and diversion ditches. They found sediments to be within state regulations.

Inspectors also noted a number of improvements to stormwater systems since Nov. 3, including diversion ditches and pipes for clean water, new ponds adjacent to the road to collect and treat muddy water and the addition of more and larger ponds at the topsoil stockpile area.

The state violation notice requires Coeur Alaska to submit to DEC a long-term plan for stormwater treatment and diversion by Dec. 12.

Valdez donates boat lift in Gulf Coast relief

JUNEAU - A Juneau-based charity set up this fall to assist Gulf Coast fishermen is working with the city of Valdez to send a 60-ton boat lift to Plaquemines Parish, La.

The Valdez Assembly voted on Monday night to offer the lift - deemed surplus when Valdez bought a replacement - to help Gulf Coast fishermen get back in the water after the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina.

"There are thousands of fishing boats stranded ashore in the hurricane-affected areas," said Mark Vinsel, board chairman for the Alaska Fishing Industry Relief Mission, based in Juneau.

Vinsel credited Valdez Port Director Alan Sorum and Albert "Rusty" Gaude of Louisiana's Sea Grant program with the initial idea for donating the lift, valued at about $40,000.

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