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Thursday, December 14, 2006  8TH EDITION

Governor cancels pioneer road contract
Governor Sarah Palin has canceled the construction contract to build a pioneer road in Berners Bay.

Palin today (Thursday) directed the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities to terminate the construction contract for the planned 11-mile pioneer road.

The 18-foot wide gravel road from Cascade Point to the Antler River and from the Lace River to the existing Jualin Mine access road would provide access to the Kensington Gold Mine, about 40 miles northwest of Juneau.

Palin concluded that the one-lane pioneer road is not what Alaskans need and is not in the best interest of the state.

Plain said in a press release issued today, that Alaskans expect practical results and a transparent process.

She said she's canceling the project because it would only achieve a narrow road, with incomplete segments with two major rivers without bridges and would not be open to the public after it's completed.

The governor goes on to say that she also believes the use of an emergency procurement was questionable and a more straightforward approach is appropriate.

DOT signed the road contract with Southeast Road Builders of Haines on November 30.

DOT gave notice today of its intent to terminate the contract.

Governor Palin has also directed DOT to delay any further contracting for construction of the project until the new administration has reviewed the project and several other major projects that DOT has underway.

Proposed change would lower tax on property destroyed in disaster
A resolution approved by the Assembly Finance Committee Wednesday night directs city staff to prepare an ordinance that allows the reduction of property taxes for owners who lose their property due to a disaster.

It was spurred by Holy Trinity fire last March in which a neighboring home was destroyed.

Assembly member Randy Wanamaker, who introduced the idea, says the homeowner would be assessed at the normal tax rate even though the structure is gone.

He says this change will allow city staff to make a finding that a disaster has occurred and reduce the tax assessment to a low level until the property is rebuilt.

He says the current system is cumbersome. The property owner is required to make an application and come before the Board of Equalization.

If approved, it would be in effect for past months in order to assist the owner of the home destroyed in the Holy Trinity fire last March.

In addition to home owners, the program would also be open to commercial and non-profit property owner.

Wanamaker figures it would go back about a year, although that provision and others are yet to be debated by the Assembly.

The Skinner Building fire occurred in August of 2004.

9-1-1 surcharge increase recommended
The Assembly Finance Committee is recommending that the current emergency 9-1-1 charge increase from 75 cents per-line, per-month to $1.90.

The Juneau Police Department is proposing the  increase to  fund equipment upgrades, operation and future replacement of the enhanced 9-1-1 service.

Wireless calls account for about 40 percent of 9-1-1 call volume, but right now, the system does not supply call back numbers or locations for those  callers.

Committee Chair David Stone says the increase will be set for public hearing and action at a future Assembly meeting.

The committee also heard a presentation of the McDowell Group's 2006 tourism survey.

Stone says, according to the survey, the number one issue with citizens of Juneau is congestion.

Foot traffic congestion and vehicle congestion were the leading tourism related impacts, followed by helicopter noise.

He says the survey will give the Assembly, as well as the tourism industry, guidance in terms of reducing the negative impacts of tourism.

Urban avalanche forecasting in Juneau could be first in North America
Avalanche forecasting for Juneau's urban area will begin for a limited period early next year.

The City and Borough of Juneau is providing the funding.

Bill Glude of the Southeast Alaska Avalanche Center was a guest on KINY's Capital Chat this morning. (Thursday)

He believes it will be the first urban avalanche forecast system in North America.

But he says the level of funding will only allow them to operate for eight or nine weeks. That will occur beginning around February 15.

He says there are two avalanche path areas with homes in the way. They are the Behrends Avenue and White Subdivision path zones.

Glude says Behrends slid in 1962. What went through the subdivision, he says, was airborne snow and not flowing snow.  

People were buried, but the snow was light enough that they were able to extricate themselves, he says.

It still caved in roofs, toppled utility poles, filled houses with snow and knocked them off their foundations.

Glude says it did quite a bit of damage all the way to Glacier Highway with the powder cloud extending across Gastineau Channel and reaching the elevation of the Treadwell Ditch on the other side.

Glude explains avalanches are cyclical. He says the town has seen a 30 year event, but not a hundred year event yet.

He says such an event could be "wall to wall", as he put it.

Glude explains it could take everything from where the trees end on both sides of the avalanche paths and bulldoze it right into the channel.

In the worst case scenario, it could be pushing cars into the boat harbor and sinking boats. Glude says it would be a "real mess."

Two die, two wounded in Wasilla shootings
WASILLA, Alaska (AP) - Alaska State Troopers say an Anchorage man shot his wife to death and wounded two others after seeing her kissing another woman at a home near Wasilla.

Forty-seven-year-old Jeffrey Evans killed 32-year-old Carey Randall-Evans, then turned the gun on himself and died late last night (Wednesday).

Wounded were 49-year-old Simone Greenway and 46-year-old William Anthony, both of Wasilla.

Troopers say Greenway had picked up the Jeffrey Evans and Carey Randall-Evans yesterday afternoon in Anchorage and driven them to her home. Anthony arrived sometime later.

According to information from Anthony, Evans saw his wife kissing Greenway in the home's living room.

He went to a back room and returned with a .45-caliber pistol.

He shot Anthony first, chasing him into the street.
---
He shot Greenway in the home's dining room.

He chased his wife into the garage and shot her multiple times, then shot himself once in the head.

Anthony waited until the shooting stopped and returned to the home. He called 911 and collapsed as he spoke to a dispatcher.

Greenway and Anthony were rushed to do Mat-Su Regional Hospital and Greenway later was transferred to an Anchorage hospital.

Legislators looks forward to getting to know AG candidate
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - The incoming chairman of the state Senate Judiciary Committee says he's looking forward to getting to know Governor Palin's nominee for attorney general.

Talis Colberg will face confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee chaired by Anchorage Democrat Hollis French, a former prosecutor.

French says Colberg is not well known in the Anchorage legal community and is something of a blank slate.

French says he will press the nominee for his opinion on health benefits for partners of gay state employees, locking in tax rates for multiple years, and other oil and gas issues.

Palin says she has observed Colberg for years as an attorney and assemblyman in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.

She says she was drawn to nominate him for his honesty, work ethic and reputation for giving solid, sound legal advice.

French says not having financial or other connections to Alaska special interests can be an asset for an attorney general.

But he says the central question is whether a nominee is organized, competent and tough enough to represent the state in a variety of complex matters.

Young anticipates struggle in developing Alaska resources
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Alaska Representative Don Young says he'll keep pushing for development of Alaska's oil and mineral deposits as the highest-ranking minority member on the House Resources Committee.

Meanwhile, the committee's new Democratic leadership is hinting at tougher environmental regulations and a departure from industry-friendly policies.

Young says his top-tier issues will include fighting Democrats' efforts to permanently close the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration.

He also plans to work for completion of a pipeline that would siphon natural gas out of the North Slope.

Nicholas J. Rahall the second, a West Virginia Democrat, will take over as chairman of the committee when the Democrats assume control of Congress next month.

The outgoing chairman is California Republican Richard Pombo.

Among Rahall's top goals are reform or repeal of Republican legislation and Bush administration policies giving oil and gas companies breaks on royalty payments.

He wants to rewrite the Mining Law of 1872 to put environmental controls on gold, silver and other hard-rock mining, and extract royalty payments from mining companies.

Young says he plans to fight changes to the mining law and the --quote-- ``anti-growth agenda the new leadership will seek to advance.''

Drue Pearce sworn in to steer gas pipeline project
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Former state senator Drue Pearce has been sworn in as a federal coordinator to guide the natural gas pipeline project.

Vice President Dick Cheney swore in Pearce yesterday. She was confirmed by the U-S Senate in August.

It will be Pearce's job to integrate activities on the federal level to permit and construct a gas pipeline to bring North Slope gas to Lower 48 markets.

Pearce is well-positioned for the job. Since 2001, she has served as policy coordinator for the Department of the Interior's efforts to forward the gas pipeline project. 

OPEC sentiment for oil production cuts ebbs - for now
OPEC ministers have agreed to hold oil production unchanged for now, but set the stage for a cutback of half a million barrels a day in February during its meeting in Nigeria.

Oil rose above $62 a barrel in response.

In October, OPEC agreed to a one-point-two million-barrel-a-day cut in production but that has not been fully implemented.
(ABC Radio News)

Commission approves Skagway borough
The Local Boundary Commission has approved the city of Skagway's petition to form a borough.

The panel voted 3 to 2 yesterday [Wednesday] to approve the petition.

In the past Skagway has been denied borough status because it doesn't meet the state's size requirement for boroughs.

Bethel residents uneasy over recent crime spate
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Residents in Bethel are being made uneasy by a recent string of serious crimes.

In one week, a cab driver was shot, a woman was found dead in the snow, a snowmachiner was robbed at gun point and a juvenile was stabbed by another kid.

Another stabbing victim refuses to tell police what happened.

Police Chief Ben Dudley says it is very unusual to have even one homicide and two in the same week is unheard of.

He says a lot of Bethel residents want answers, and the police don't have them yet.

41-year-old Ju Young Joung was fatally shot Sunday. Days earlier, 40-year-old Agnes Evan was found dead in some brush. Police say she died of hypothermia but had suffered blunt force trauma to her abdomen. No arrests have been made in either case.
(Anchorage Daily News)

Defendant will not testify at his trial
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Steven Hinshaw will NOT testify in his trial for the murder of Elmendorf Airman Crystal St. Auburn.

The decision comes one day after the state said it would ask him questions about two other drive-by shootings he may have been involved in. Hinshaw admitted to firing the gun that killed St. Auburn in 2003.

He shot at a car driven by Levar Macon. Macon's girlfriend, St. Auburn, was a passenger in that car.

Hinshaw claims he fired only after seeing Macon with a gun.

Without Hinshaw's testimony that he was attacked first, there was a question of whether self-defense could be claimed.

``I conclude someone other than Mr. Hinshaw can give evidence of Mr. Macon having provoked the attack,'' said Anchorage Superior Court Judge Philip Volland.

The jury is expected to hear closing arguments and then will begin deliberating on whether or not Hinshaw acted in self defense.
(Angela Unruh, KTUU)

Child suspended after taking knife to Anchorage school
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Anchorage school officials say a sixth-grader was taken into custody by police after bringing a knife to school.

Spokeswoman Michelle Egan says the sixth-grader on Tuesday took a utility knife with a four-inch blade to College Gate Elementary School and showed it to other students ``in a threatening way.''

The name of the boy was not released.

Classmates told the principal, Sue Toymil, who called police.

Egan says the student suspended and school officials will recommend he be expelled.
(Anchorage Daily News)

Kodiak keeps rural status
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Kodiak maintained its rural status, but other areas of Alaska weren't so lucky.

The Federal Subsistence Board at a meeting yesterday in Anchorage reassessed the status of several areas. It ended up removing hunting and fishing rights on federal lands for several areas after determining they were no longer rural.

Those areas included areas near Ketchikan in Southeast, Point MacKenzie in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, areas on the Kenai Peninsula around Sterling and Homer and Prudhoe Bay on the North Slope.

However, the board found that Kodiak and nearby communities remain rural. The area's population has grown little since 1990.
(Anchorage Daily News)

Alaska Airlines expands ground tours
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) and KINY - Alaska Airlines says it has significantly expanded the number of ground tours it offers in some parts of Alaska.

The airline says it will continue to offer its popular tours in the Arctic destinations of Barrow and Nome, and add dozens of new ground-tour options in other Alaskan destinations.

Those destinations include Denali National Park, Glacier Bay National Park and Fairbanks.

The airline  named Alaska Vacations and Travel as its official ground-tour operator for tours beginning with the 2007 travel season.

The company was founded by Bob Kaufman of Alaska Channel in Anchorage and Bob Dindinger of Juneau.

Dindinger is chief executive officer of Alaska Travel Adventures, the state's largest day-tour operator.

The packages, which include options for escorted or self-guided tours, rental cars and cruises, can be customized based on customers preferences.

Lobster industry protests new surimi labeling rules
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - Lobster promoters in Maine are seeing red over new federal labeling rules that allow producers of surimi (sir-EE'-me) to drop the word ``imitation'' from their labels.

The Maine Lobster Promotion Council says the decision by the U-S Food and Drug Administration will confuse consumers and hurt the Maine lobster industry.

Surimi comes from pollock caught in Alaska or other whitefish that is formed and flavored to imitate crab, lobster, scallops and other types of seafood.

The FDA is now allowing the product to be labeled as ``crab-flavored seafood'' or whatever seafood it is made to resemble, rather than as ``imitation.''

Kristen Millar is executive director of the Maine Lobster Promotion Council.

She says the rule change amounts to misleading marketing at a time when consumers are demanding more accurate labeling.

Fish board denies Kvichak setnetters request
DILLINGHAM, Alaska (AP) - The Kvichak (Kwee-jack) setnetters in Bristol Bay had hoped the Board of Fish would let them fish earlier in the season, instead of waiting for the enough salmon to escape up the river.

But the board refused to change the management regime on the Kvichak.

Ron Hoffman has had a site on the Kvichak River for 25 years. He's tired of watching drift fishermen in Egegik and Naknek intercept fish he could be catching.

Hoffman says the management plan now means that Kvichak setnetters are so far behind when they are allowed to put their nets in the water that there is no hope of harvesting their share of the salmon.

In general the Board of Fish made no major changes to the Knaknek special harvest area preferring to let the troubled Kvichak run rebuild.
(Jody Seitz and Johanna Eurich, KDLG-Dillingham)

Boozer helps lead Jazz to another victory
Utah is a league-best 17-and-5 after Juneau's Carlos Boozer and Deron (DA'-rihn) Williams scored 28 points apiece in a 105-to-86 win over the Los Angeles Clippers.

Williams also had 14 assists and Boozer grabbed 15 rebounds for the Jazz.

Fire department escort  set for Santa from downtown Juneau to Douglas
Capital City Fire Rescue will be escorting Santa Claus around town and Douglas again this year.

The tour begins at 6 Friday evening from the Mt. Roberts Tram, according to Fire Marshal Rich Etheridge.

He says it will work its way through downtown Juneau and end up in downtown Douglas.

Santa's fire department entourage will be in the Highlands area and at the Geneva Woods Apartments in West Juneau before proceeding to Douglas.

When asked how they get Santa to do this every year, the fire marshal said, "Hey, we have connections."

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