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Friday, February 15,  2008  10TH  EDITION        

Arson not ruled out yet in Fisherman's Bend fire
Fire investigators are still in the process of determining the cause of the fire that destroyed the Fisherman's Bend Store last Saturday.

Fire Marshal Rich Etheridge says arson or an accidental cause has not been ruled out yet.

He says there are still many interviews to conduct and evidence to process.

The department has been working with the insurance company's fire investigator, the state fire marshal's office as well as local police.

Etheridge says there's a large amount of debris and the what's left of the structure is on an elevated surface so getting heavy equipment in to move some big timbers has been challenging.

The fire destroyed the structure and the debris was coated with ice, with temperatures below freezing for the first few days after fire.

Capital City Fire Rescue responded to a report of smoke in the building just after midnight last Saturday morning. The fire spread quickly and the wooden structure was fully involved in flames shortly after firefighters arrived on scene.

The front doors of the building were blown off by a smoke explosion that occurred soon after the fire was reported.

The roof collapsed at about 3:30 in the morning.

Temperatures at the time of the fire hovered around the zero degree mark or below with gusting winds. 

No injuries were reported. There were a few bumps and bruises, according to the fire marshal, and no cases of frostbite reported.

When he left the scene, Etheridge says it was nine below zero. 

He says the biggest problem was dealing with hose lines freezing up after the were shut off and repositioned and ladders freezing in place.

The building was insured.

Todd Palin crashes in the Iron Dog
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Todd Palin, husband of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, was injured when his snowmachine hit a barrel hidden beneath fresh snow in the 2,000-mile Tesoro Iron Dog race.

A Galena race checker Ray Debenham says Palin and teammate Scott Davis from Soldotna were on the outskirts of Galena along the Yukon River, racing at high speed toward a fuel stop, when the crash occurred.

The impact stopped the snowmachine and sent Palin, 43, flying, the Anchorage Daily News reported Friday.

"He flew about 70 feet off the machine, they said. He's going to have some bruises," Debenham reported by telephone from Galena.

After the crash, Davis stopped his snowmachine, went back to get Palin, loaded him up and took him straight to the clinic in Galena to be checked out.

Palin and Davis are the defending Iron Dog champions.   

DNR wants more info on Redfern's hoverbarge proposal
The Department of Natural Resources is requesting more information from Redfern Resources about its hoverbarge proposal for transporting Tulsequah Chief Mine ore concentrate on the Taku River.

The comment period for the Alaska Coastal Management Program consistency review was to end February 21st. 

That's been suspended until Redfern responds to DNR's request for more information.

Redfern is proposing using a hoverbarge, a shallow-draft tug and an amphibious vehicle to bring supplies and transport ore from the Canada mine.

High court finds in favor of state in pipeline tariff case
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - The Alaska Supreme Court says that owners of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline charged too much in the past to ship North Slope crude oil to refineries in the state.

The opinion from the state's high court Friday upholds a 2002 ruling by the Regulatory Commission of Alaska that owners of the 800-mile pipeline should refund the excess revenues collected from shippers - about $80 million plus interest.

The plaintiffs in the case include Tesoro Alaska and Williams Alaska, which both owned refineries in the state at the time.

A spokesman for BP PLC, one of the pipeline owners, says the company is reviewing its legal options.

State asked to identify corridor for second crossing
CBJ officials continue to seek ways to construct a North Douglas Crossing.

Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho has drafted a letter to the Alaska commissioner of Natural Resources requesting that his department and other state agencies, including the Department of Fish and Game, consider the local government's request for identifying a transportation corridor through the Mendenhall Wetlands Refuge.

Once the state acts on that request, City Manager Rod Swope says they can probably proceed to secure necessary permits and line up funding. In addition, an environmental impact statement is necessary if federal funding is involved.

Right now the use of federal funds is not allowed since the corridor is in a refuge with wetland areas.

The Assembly last year selected Vanderbilt Drive as the preferred crossing point on the mainland side of the project.

ConocoPhillips shaking up natural gas line proposal
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - ConocoPhillips may be trying to shake up the natural gas pipeline picture -- but it's not causing any waves in Juneau.

Governor Palin and House Speaker John Harris Thursday didn't have much reaction to the news that ConocoPhillips will re-evaluate its plans to build a North Slope natural gas line.

The company's plans didn't have state backing to start with. And state leaders say they're not even sure what ConocoPhillips' plans are.

During a joint news conference yesterday, Harris said he would like to learn more about it.

He has been holding public gas line meetings featuring the administration and industry players.

He had hoped to hear from ConocoPhillips on Monday, but the company postponed. A day before that scheduled meeting, ConocoPhillips met for four hours with Palin about their plan.

Brian Wenzel is ConocoPhillips vice president of Alaska North Slope gas development. He said the company left that meeting feeling frustrated.

He says they have seen, "no real encouragement from the administration, no real engagement on that proposal."

There's only one pipeline application currently under consideration by the state.

Public comments are being accepted for a few more weeks on the proposal from TransCanada.

Federal regulators look at pipeline equipment malfunctions
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - The operator of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline is working with federal regulators looking at malfunctions of new equipment to automate the 800-mile system.

New pumps were sidelined for five weeks at Pump Station 3 while faulty power generators were adjusted to operate in lower temperatures.

Alyeska Pipeline Company's Mike Heatwole says old pumps were used until the new equipment was restarted Tuesday.

Heatwole says vibrations also were found in the new equipment, but don't pose a risk. Stronger vibrations showed up last year in Pump Station 9, the first facility overhauled in the ongoing automation project. Heatwole says that problem has been resolved.

Coast Guard suspends search for balloonist
The search for missing hot-air balloonist Michio Kanda was suspended by the Coast Guard after searching Thursday.

Chief Steve Harrison in the Juneau Command Center with that word. He says negative results through yesterday prompted the suspension.

The cutter Hickory from Hawaii was originally scheduled to arrive in the search area 420 to 450 miles south of Adak Island Thursday.

He says the cutter reached the lower part of the search area, but not the main area.

Following its release, the cutter headed to its homeport.

During the 16 day search, the Coast Guard covered over 40,000 square miles, roughly the size of Kentucky.

The Cutters Rush and Jarvis initially headed to the search area until they were forced to turn back due to weather.

The Rush sustained a two foot crack in its hull and was taking on water in 30 to 40 foot seas. Crew was able to temporarily patch the hull which allowed the cutter to make port in Dutch Harbor for further repairs.

The Chief of Response for the Coast Guard in Alaska, Captain Michael Inman, said the weather took its toll and made for challenging search conditions.

The 58 year old Kanda left over two weeks ago on January 31st for a 56-hundred mile trip from Japan to Portland, Oregon. He was reported missing that night when he failed to respond to communication checks.

He was equipped with a personal life raft and 20 days of food and water.

A C-130 crew spotted white and blue cylinder-shaped objects and a tan object Monday almost 300 miles northeast of the balloon's last known location.

Attempts to relocate the debris were not successful. It was never established that the debris came from the balloon.

It's not the first time Kanda has been lost.

He attempted to cross the Pacific Ocean with a colleague in 2004, but his balloon became enveloped in snow clouds midway and they had to ditch in the Pacific Ocean.

Kanda has set several world records in hot air ballooning for flight duration, altitude and distance over the last 30 years.

Stevens among leaders in pork
WASHINGTON (AP) - A Washington-based watchdog group lists Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens as the top player in the capital's pork barrel playground.

Only a dozen House members and half as many senators have declined to play.

The other 500 members of Congress managed to obtain $18 billion in so-called earmarks for funding of projects in their states or districts. The story is told in a database assembled by the congressional watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense.

The champion is Stevens. The Alaska Republican obtained the lion's share of the earmarks his state is getting this year. Stevens' pork adds up to $506 for every Alaska resident.

Stevens to address state lawmakers Tuesday; Native forum Monday
Alaska U. S. Senator Ted Stevens will be in the state capital next week.

He's scheduled to address a joint session of the Legislature Tuesday.

It's scheduled for 11 a.m.

Stevens is scheduled to speak at the Native Issues Forum Monday.

The forum at the ANB Hall on West Willougby is open to the public.

The luncheon event is scheduled to begin at about 11:45 Monday.

Lawmakers consider whether to oppose national ID card
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - Alaska lawmakers are considering a bill that would bar the state from spending money to meet federal regulations for a national identification card.

Bill sponsor Bill Wielechowski (will-eh-COW-ski), an Anchorage Democrat, said the requirements of the U-S Department of Homeland Security could be the start of a surveillance society where the federal government can track the movements of its citizens.

The federal rules would require that every citizen carry a card approved by the U-S government to board a plane or enter a federal facility -- or a national park.

Seventeen states went on record last year opposing Real I-D. About 20 more have legislation currently under consideration.

Congress passed the Real I-D law in 2005, but implementation has been delayed amid concerns from states about the cost, threats to privacy and the potential for infiltration of people's personal information.

Senate Bill 202 was heard in the State Affairs Committee today (Thursday). Public testimony on the bill will continue next Tuesday.

Bill proposing to ban PBDE's in Alaska up for committee hearing
A bill that would make Alaska the twelfth state to ban or phase out the manufacture, sale and distribution of new products containing a type of toxic flame-retardant will be heard by the House Labor and Commerce Committee today. (Friday)

HB 271 is sponsored by Juneau Representative Andrea Doll.

Doll says studies show that polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs negatively affect brain development in young children, including memory and learning functions.

They also cause thyroid problems, slow sexual maturation and significantly reduced sperm counts in adults.

According to studies, about 15 million Americans have unsafe levels of PBDEs in their bloodstreams.

PBDEs are commonly used in mattresses, carpet pads and upholstery, as well as the plastic housings of computers and other electronic devices.

When products containing PBDEs are burned, the toxins become airborne, and are a threat to firefighters.

Alternatives to PBDE-containing plastics are widely available.

Many companies are voluntarily phasing out the use of PBDEs; including DELL computers, Canon, Hewlett-Packard, Mitsubishi and Sony.

Mattress companies that don't use any PBDEs include Sealy, Serta, Simmons, and Spring Air.

HB 271 is scheduled to be heard at 3 this afternoon in House Labor and Commerce Committee.

NYC police say fugitive in Alaska has history of violence
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - New York City police say a man they tracked to Alaska has a history of violence.

Twenty-five-year-old Michael Baranovics was arrested February 7th at a home in Butte south of Palmer.

New York City Police Detective Gerald Kluberdanz says Baranovics has ten arrests. He says six were assaults and four were violent.

Kluberdanz says the fugitive warrant was based on a 2004 robbery at gunpoint.

Kluberdanz on February 2nd received a tip that Baranovics was in Alaska.

The detective also came up with a 2003 report of an Alaska license plate stolen from a car in Queens.

The plate belonged to a resident of Butte and led authorities to the home were the fugitive from justice was arrested.

Baranovics is being held at the Mat-Su Pre-Trial Facility in Palmer.

Bail is $750,000, cash only.
(Anchorage Daily News)

Man charged after twice spraying bar patrons with bear spray
KODIAK, Alaska (AP) - A Kodiak man faces assault charges after allegedly twice spraying bar patrons with bear spray.

Kodiak police charged Daniel Pement after the incidents Saturday and Sunday at the B&B Bar.

Police say the first happened Saturday, 15 minutes after Pement was escorted from the bar. He allegedly returned and sprayed customers.

Police talked to him later and took the bear spray, but were called away on a more urgent matter.

Then on Sunday, police reported to the bar again after Pement allegedly sprayed patrons with another can of bear spray.

Police found Pement walking down the street and charged him with six counts of misdemeanor assault.
(Kodiak Daily Mirror)

Alaska civil rights leader remembered
Saturday is Elizabeth Peratrovich Day in Alaska.

The past Grand President of the Alaska Native Sisterhood is honored and remembered each year for her efforts to eliminate discrimination and bring about equal rights in Alaska.

She worked with members of Native organizations to win approval in the Territorial Legislature of the Anti-Discrimination Act of 1945.

The act was the first such document approved by any state or territory since the Civil War.

A celebration dinner honoring Peratrovich is scheduled from 5 to 7 Friday evening at the ANB Hall.

The event sponsored by Valley ANS/ANB Camp 70, Juneau ANS-ANB Camp 2, Sealaska Corporation, and Tlingit and Haida Central Council is free of charge.

Lady Bears lose first game of road trip, men's team in Sitka
The Lady Crimson Bears are on a road trip up north.

They lost the first game of the road trip last night to Palmer 56 to 46.

They play Wasilla tonight and then move to Anchorage to take on Service Saturday.

------

The men's basketball team from Juneau Douglas High School is in Sitka this weekend.

Tip off tonight and Saturday on KINY is at 7-30.

Maggie now among her own kind
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - The elephant that formerly lived in Anchorage has been united with others of her kind.

Handlers at the Performing Animals Welfare Society sanctuary in San Andreas, California, on Tuesday removed a fence and let Maggie interact with four other elephants.

Maggie had been kept in a private yard since leaving the Alaska Zoo in November

                           (Copyright 2008 Alaska Juneau Communications - KINY Radio)