Northwest Digest

Posted: Friday, December 31, 2004

Eaglecrest Ski Area to open today

JUNEAU -Eaglecrest Ski Area will open for the 2004-2005 season at 9 a.m. today with the Platter surface lift and the Ptarmigan chair lifts operating.

The area will open with early season snow conditions and limited terrain. There is minimal snow cover on the lower mountain. Not all trails will be open, and snowmaking will be in progress. The Hooter lift and the tubing hill are closed.

Only intermediate and expert terrain will be accessible off Ptarmigan. Platter will be open for beginning skiing and snowboarding. The Eaglecrest Snowsports School will offer group lessons at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.

To celebrate the opening, Ptarmigan lift tickets will be available for $24 for adults, $16 for youth and seniors and $13 for children. Platter tickets will be $9.

The Day Lodge will be open, and the bus will operate on the regular schedule. For current conditions, visit or call 586-5330.

Gregoire declared governor-elect, but Rossi wants new vote

OLYMPIA, Wash. - After three statewide vote tallies and 58 nerve-racking days of waiting, Democrat Christine Gregoire was declared Washington's governor-elect on Thursday - by a margin of just 129 votes. But it may not be over.

"Less than two weeks from today I WILL take the oath of office as your next governor of the great state of Washington," an ebullient Gregoire said in a victory speech at the Capitol.

She held her first news conference as governor-elect, toured the governor's office and received a State Patrol bodyguard and access to a new suite of transition offices. She said she'll have her first cabinet appointments ready to announce within a week.

"We're off and running!" she said in an interview. "This is the shortest transition ever - less than two weeks. We've got to hurry. We will do the people's business."

But if she was the soul of certitude, her Republican rival, Dino Rossi, was still in fighting spirit, believing irregularities or even fraud may have unfairly swung the final count against him. He had won the first two counts narrowly.

Rossi refused to concede and called for a new election. He also was exploring whether to contest the election in the courts or in the Legislature.

"The water is so muddy; it is such a mess," he said of the election.

United Way wins $230,000 grant

JUNEAU - United Way of Southeast Alaska has received a $230,000 grant from the Rasmuson Foundation to fund the first two years of a $400,000, five-year capacity-building project.

After 18 months, United Way may be invited to apply for an additional $170,000 to fund the project's remaining three years.

The Rasmuson Foundation invests in nonprofits that provide public service.

The grant will boost existing programs and advance new initiatives, the United Way said. The grant also will support increased travel and outreach to Southeast communities, training for staff and volunteers, and improving communications with donors.

United Way awards grants to seven member agencies

JUNEAU - United Way of Southeast Alaska has awarded $32,224 in small grants to seven of its member agencies. Preference was given to organizations that have received fewer donor-designated gifts during United Way campaigns.

The Boys and Girls Scouts will receive $4,224. The agency will partner with the Juneau School District to establish the second of two school-based cooperative games projects designed to address playground bullying.

A grant of $4,000 will fund part-time child care for mothers attending education and support groups while living at the Sitkans Against Family Violence shelter.

Catholic Community Service will receive $5,000 to buy a replacement oven for its senior nutrition program, which has served more than 26,000 hot meals to 599 clients in 2004.

With a $5,000 grant, Helping Hands will replace its three aging home freezers with a new freezer. The freezer will maintain the agency's emergency food services to 500 people a week.

Southeast Alaska Independent Living will receive an outreach specialist who will deliver disability services in Southeast Alaska's rural communities.

A grant of $5,000 will help maintain adult education services based at St. Vincent de Paul, including basic skills, English as a second language, life skills and job search training.

Hospice of Haines will receive $4,000 to train nine to 12 bereavement facilities.

Future looks good for Tanner fishery

KODIAK - State biologists are predicting a bountiful future for Kodiak's Tanner crab fishery, although they have alerted fishermen about the slim potential for parasite-infected crustaceans in the coming season.

With stocks rebuilding, the 2005 harvest level has more than doubled from the 2004 season.

The southwest section of the Kodiak District, which opens for the first time since 1993, will add 450,000 pounds to the total harvest.

The reopening of the section prompted an advisory from the state Department of Fish and Game about bitter crab syndrome in crab caught in that area. Bitter crab syndrome is a parasitic disease that imparts a bitter taste and chalky texture to the meat of infected North Pacific Tanner crabs.

"It is less of a problem now than it has been in the past the disease is cyclic," said Nick Sagalkin, a state shellfish biologist.

A trawl survey taken before the 1993 opening showed a 10 percent incidence rate in the Tanner population, according to Sagalkin. A survey conducted this year indicated an incidence of between two and three percent, he said.

"It is prudent for us to be careful because we dont know how it is transferred or why some areas have more than others," Sagalkin said.

The Kodiak Tanner crab fishery, once a mainstay for local processors, peaked in 1977-78 with a harvest of 33 million pounds. After a dramatic decline, the fishery closed in 1994.

The fishery began its comeback in 2001 with a harvest level of 500,000 pounds. This has built to the 2005 level of 1.75 million pounds.

The region's Tanner season is expected to open at noon on Jan. 15.

JAL makes first direct flight to Fairbanks in decades

FAIRBANKS - A 747 jet full of Japanese tourists touched down at Fairbanks International Airport a little less than seven hours after taking off from Tokyo, marking the first direct passenger flight from Japan to Fairbanks in decades.

"This is a landmark day for winter tourism in the Interior," said Deb Hickok, president and CEO of the Fairbanks Convention and Visitor's Bureau.

The plane's 291 passengers who arrived Wednesday morning included the president of Japan Air Lines and his wife. They will spend four nights in the Fairbanks area and leave on another JAL flight Sunday morning.

The visitors are on package tours. While in the Fairbanks area, they will be engaged in a variety of activities, including aurora viewing, skiing and dogsled rides.

Syun Akasofu, director of the University of Alaska International Arctic Research Center, also will provide a lecture on the aurora in Japanese.

The flight, as well as two in February, are sold out, said Colin Lawrence, FCVB's tourism manager. The package tours, including the flights, cost the tourists $1,200 to $1,500.

The direct flight cuts in half the average amount of time it normally takes to travel between Tokyo's Narita International Airport and Fairbanks.

The flights are expected to pump more than $1 million into the local economy.

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