State Briefs

Posted: Friday, December 20, 2002

Coast Guard ends search for pilot

JUNEAU - Coast Guard rescue crews suspended their search at 4 p.m. Thursday for the pilot of a floatplane overdue from a hunting trip to Admiralty Island.

But family and friends continued the search today for Lawrence Howell of Petersburg, the Coast Guard said. Howell, known as Smokey, was a pilot and avid hunter who owned a construction business.

"If anybody out there could have survived, he could," said Ty Cummings, a friend and search volunteer. "He's tougher than nails. I know that if he has fighting chance, he's going to fight."

Howell departed Petersburg en route to Admiralty Island for a day of hunting on Dec. 13 in a cream-and-blue Cessna 180 floatplane. A friend reported him overdue Friday evening. The plane is equipped with an emergency locating transmitter and flares, but the Coast Guard never detected an activated transmitter in the area.

Coast Guard helicopters and boats, along with Civil Air Patrol planes and several Good Samaritan planes, conducted numerous searches for six days. Rescuers flew 37 searches, amounting to more than 111 hours on scene, the agency said.

Searchers also made periodic radio calls and monitored emergency radio frequencies, with no response.

A fishing vessel skipper reported seeing a plane possibly matching Howell's approaching Gambier Bay at about noon Friday. The Coast Guard asked that anyone who has seen the floatplane in the vicinity of Admiralty Island, Frederick Sound or Stephens Passage to call 1-800-478-5555 or the nearest Coast Guard unit.

Helicopter landings allocated

JUNEAU - The U.S. Forest Service has divvied helicopter landings among four companies following a decision earlier this year that set the number of landings on the Juneau Icefield through 2007.

Of the 18,823 landings on the icefield authorized by the agency in 2003, 17,796 "priority use" landings were reauthorized to existing users in a non-competitive process, according to the Forest Service. The four companies that will split those landings are Coastal Helicopters, Era Helicopters, NorthStar Trekking and TEMSCO.

In 2001, helicopters made 17,783 landings on the Juneau Icefield.

The 1,027 remaining landings for 2003 were awarded to NorthStar, TEMSCO and Coastal through a competitive bid process. The allocation was based on the quality of the proposal, performance history, safety plan and record, according to the Forest Service.

A proposal from Era was not received by a Nov. 15 deadline and could not be considered for the additional landings, but the company still will receive "priority use" landings, the Forest Service said.

The decision can be appealed, said Sara Baldwin, acting district ranger in Juneau.

Assembly to re-hire lobbyists

JUNEAU - The Juneau Assembly plans to re-hire the city's three lobbyists, Mayor Sally Smith said today.

Assembly members discussed the lobbyist positions at a retreat on Thursday, focusing on the city's two state lobbyists. The Assembly agreed to re-hire Clark Gruening as the city's lead lobbyist, along with Jerry Mackie. Gruening's contract expired June 30, while Mackie's is up on Dec. 31.

In one change, the Assembly will ask Gruening to attend city enterprise board meetings quarterly. The Assembly also discussed ways to improve communication with its lobbyists, Smith said. The city plans to re-offer its lobbyist contracts at last year's pay levels, she said.

The city's federal lobbyist, John Roots, has a $60,000 month-to-month contract, Smith said. Gruening has a $60,000 contract, while Mackie makes $40,000.

The five-hour Assembly retreat was held at the Prospector Hotel and focused on goals for the upcoming year.

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