Gas line study provides 'good little shot' of revenue to Fairbanks

FAIRBANKS -- Just once, Don Bennett bent his company’s rules and allowed a customer to take one of his rental recreational vehicles north on the notoriously rough Dalton Highway.As a result of his flexibility, Bennett’s company, Tanana Motorhome Rentals, landed a summer-long rental contract for 10 travel trailers. Field crews used the trailers while conducting baseline environmental research for a proposed gas pipeline from Prudhoe Bay south to Delta Junction and east to the Canadian border."This sealed the lid for us having a successful year. A lot of the logistical details that could have been nightmares really went well," Bennett said, of the 75-day rental contract with the Anchorage branch of URS Corp., a consulting firm hired by the Alaska Gas Pipeline Production Team to conduct the environmental research this summer.The economic spin-off from that work went well beyond Bennett’s motor home rental business, which nearly doubled its fleet size with the purchase of seven new travel trailers specifically for the environmental research teams.Heindl’s Car and Truck Sales of Fairbanks provided 34 vehicles used to tow trailers and transport field workers during the 2 1/2 month study. Arctic RV and Interior Topper landed extra maintenance work for the 10 trailers that traveled the notoriously rough haul road north of Fairbanks. Chena Marina RV Park hosted the 10 field crews several times during the summer-long project."I estimate that $250,000 to $300,000 came into Fairbanks with us negotiating that contract with URS," Bennett said. "The city absorbed it real well, instead of saying, ’It’s the middle of tourism season and we don’t have time.’ "Taking its cue from the visitor industry, URS opted for recreational vehicles to house about 50 field workers assigned to the pipeline study this summer, starting in mid-June and concluding the end of August. That’s because the work involved some areas with little or no public facilities, said Shauna Thums, URS project administrator. "We also needed electricity for the information gathering so it could be done on an expedited basis," Thums said. "This way, you don’t have people sitting for 12 hours, hand writing information."Portable computers were used in the field and information gathered was downloaded into the study’s central database during evenings spent in the recreational vehicles."It can speed up the process as much as by a year," Thums said. "Doing it this way, we were able to coordinate with the client as each day went by."She said it wasn’t typical for URS to use travel trailers or motor homes for such field work."The biggest argument for it was local spending," she said. "If we went to Budget Rent-a-Car, they’re only giving back to the community a couple of $5 an hour jobs and the rest of the money goes to the corporate headquarters Outside."URS tried out the motor home field accommodations earlier in the season, renting a unit from Bennett for about a month."That one rental that went up the Haul Road got the ball rolling," he said. "They were near the end of their 26-day rental and said they wanted to extend, and that they would like to have nine more motor homes."Bennett suggested the company rent travel trailers and extended cab trucks, providing crews with transportation to remote field sites while maintaining a base camp with the trailer."We didn’t want to send motor homes up there -- the road does too much damage," he added. "It’s like having your house in an earthquake. Everything jiggles loose."Bennett ended up providing each crew with a complete set of housekeeping items -- bed linens, towels, pots and pans, silverware -- as well as a five-kilowatt gas generator, which provided power for the trailer during camp spots in remote areas. Bennett and his wife, Dawn, outfitted the 10 mobile accommodations in 10 days, in order to meet a departure deadline of June 18 set by URS.Other Fairbanks businesses scrambled at the last minute to accommodate the pipeline survey crew, but were also appreciative of the new customer base."They made up for an RV caravan we didn’t have this summer," said Suzanne Spanjer, owner of Chena Marina RV Park. "With nine or 10 rigs, that makes a big impact on a park our size."Greg Heindl, owner of Heindl’s Car and Truck Sales, also faced a short turnaround time to provide vehicles for the summer rental. He purchased 14 vehicles for the contract, and took five more off his sales lot. URS crews kept adding more vehicles during the summer, renting a total of 34 rigs."I was a little nervous about buying so many vehicles, but I got decent prices on them," he said. "I’ve got about 25 extra vehicles now, which I’m paying interest on the money and I need to get rid of but it’s nice to have trucks and sport utility vehicles for sale in Fairbanks in September."Kevin Brown, owner of Arctic RV and Interior Topper, said he felt a time crunch for some midsummer maintenance work."We had to drop things to get these units worked in, and the timing wasn’t done real well for us," he said. Yet he’s glad for the extra business."It was a good little shot that helped us through the summer. We had a lot of road construction right in front of us that kept a lot of the tourist traffic away."Patricia Jones is a free-lance writer living in Fairbanks. She can be reached via e-mail at ([email protected]).

FCC may ask court to look at licenses

The U.S. Supreme Court may review a case early next year that disputes ownership of spectrum licenses successfully bid on by an Alaska business and its partner AT&T Wireless.This week Federal Communications Commission officials were set to ask the nation’s high court to consider the case.Alaska Native Wireless LLC was successful bidder on wireless licenses including the major markets of Los Angeles and New York during a January spectrum auction conducted by the FCC. However, a U.S. appeals court decision in mid-June held up awarding spectrum licenses previously owned by a company, NextWave Telecom Inc., that later went bankrupt.The decision ties up the licenses rather than releasing them for service.Arctic Slope Regional Corp. of Barrow, Doyon Ltd. of Fairbanks and Juneau-based Sealaska Corp. formed Alaska Native Wireless to bid on wireless licenses auctioned by the FCC. The spectrum auction, which began Dec. 12, was completed Jan. 26.Officials from the FCC were due Sept. 20 to ask the Supreme Court to review the case, said Conrad Bagne, head of ASRC Wireless, the managing partner for Alaska Native Wireless."NextWave and amicus parties then have until Oct. 22 to respond," he said. "Assuming there are no requests for extension of the time, the Supreme Court will consider whether to hear the case in late November or early December. If the court decides to hear the case, arguments would likely be made in the March/April time frame, with a decision by the end of June."Alaska Native Wireless with its partner AT&T Wireless was the high bidder on almost $2.9 billion in wireless licenses covering 43 markets with a population of 71 million. Markets include Los Angeles, New York City, Denver, Tampa, Fla., Cleveland, Jacksonville, Fla., Minneapolis, New Haven, Conn., and Portland, Ore.However, NextWave sued the FCC for seizing the licenses, which were re-auctioned in January, according to Associated Press reports.A U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ordered the FCC to return the licenses, contending the agency could not seize the property of NextWave, which was reorganizing under bankruptcy protection.On Aug. 30 Alaska Native Wireless and Voice Stream Wireless filed a petition with the FCC to deny reinstatement of NextWave’s licenses, Bagne said.FCC officials returned the licenses to NextWave on Aug. 31 based on the court order, according to Associated Press reports.However, the "FCC’s reinstatement of the licenses is highly conditional," Bagne said, noting the appeal to the Supreme Court. FCC officials also have told Bagne they plan to resolve pending regulatory proceedings concerning NextWave, including a petition for an investigation filed in July.Despite the legal and regulatory proceedings placing the licenses in limbo, Alaska Native Wireless anticipates providing service via the spectrum licenses."Alaska Native Wireless has done significant planning and is poised to quickly deploy the licenses when they are ultimately awarded," Bagne said. "Our filings have urged the FCC to issue the licenses to the winning bidders in Auction No. 35 including Alaska Native Wireless since we have demonstrated that we have the financial wherewithal to build out our system and offer new and innovative services to the American public."

Summit tackles privacy

Declaring that a discussion of privacy issues raised by the Internet "seems timely in Alaska," Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer on Sept. 5 kicked off a three-day privacy summit in Anchorage.Ulmer is chairwoman of the state’s Telecommunications Information Council and has been active in making state information and services available to Alaskans on the Web.For the privacy summit, she pulled together a diverse group that included representatives from government, the telecommunications industry, academia, privacy advocacy groups, law enforcement and Microsoft Corp., a company whose practices regularly spark privacy concerns.One of the cosponsors of the event was the Alaska Humanities Forum."Alaskans are passionate about the privacy of their personal information," said the group’s president, Ira Perman. "But at the same time we are one of the most wired states."Perman made his remarks at a press briefing preceding the summit. Also on hand was Steve Smith, chief technology officer for the University of Alaska. The university also was a cosponsor of the event.Smith said the free and uninhibited flow of information will depend on proper policies being developed and put into place as laws and regulations; technology which provides adequate security; and education of the people using the technology."People need to understand what their liabilities and options are," Smith said.In her introductory remarks, Ulmer pointed out that Alaska is the only state in the union with a specific guarantee of privacy in its constitution. The right to privacy is not spelled out in the federal Constitution, either.Will that put Alaskans in a unique position as the battles over Internet privacy play out in the future?"It might," said Attorney General Bruce Botelho, also a summit participant.Botelho said the state’s privacy amendment, which was adopted in 1972, has been invoked in cases involving everything from abortion to marijuana use. More recently, however, it was used as the basis for a court decision banning an employer’s surveillance of an employee because the employee "had a reasonable expectation of privacy," he said.Botelho said privacy in commerce might be an area where Alaska’s privacy guarantee would be put into play. But he said that would depend if Internet commerce ended up being regulated nationally or on a state-by-state basis.One person who already deals with privacy issues on a daily basis is Richard Purcell, corporate privacy officer for Microsoft. His job is to establish privacy and security guidelines both within the company and for the company’s millions of customers.Purcell said those guidelines cover five areas:* Notice from companies to their customers, to make people aware that information about them is being stored;* Choice, allowing people to opt in or opt out of data gathering on the Internet;* Access to the information companies have about you;* Reasonable security appropriate to the information being stored; and* Enforcement of privacy provisions.Microsoft has come under fire recently for its proposed "Hailstorm" system, which would store personal data for its customers, who would then decide who could have access to it. A group of privacy advocates has filed a complaint about Hailstorm with the Federal Trade Commission -- a complaint Purcell said he expected would be dismissed as having no merit.He then vigorously defended Hailstorm."For the last 10 years, companies have taken data from people and made money with it," he said. "We’re hoping to change exploitation into stewardship."For the system to work, people will need to trust Microsoft to prudently handle their information."We’re betting the company’s future on it," he said. "We believe in privacy. Period. Full stop."Purcell said Microsoft had contributed $10,000 to help defray the costs of the summit. Other sponsors included Alaska Communications Systems, AT&T and the Alaska Telephone Association.

Former Wasilla High, UAF man among the missing at Pentagon

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- A Navy officer who grew up in Alaska and chose to work in the Pentagon to be closer to his family is among those missing after a commercial jet hijacked by terrorists struck the building Tuesday.Petty Officer 2nd Class Ronald Hemenway, 37, hasn’t been heard from since the fiery crash, said his parents, Bob and Shirley Hemenway of Shawnee, Kan.Hemenway’s name is on the list released by the Defense Department of the 188 people who remain unaccounted for in the Pentagon attack.Hemenway, who attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks, has a wife, Marinella; and two children, Stefan, 3, and Desiree, 1. They live at Bolling Air Force Base near Washington.Shirley Hemenway told the Washington bureau of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that her son was successful enough to pick his posts and ended up at the Pentagon after a tour on the USS LaSalle.’’We said ’Hey, you’ll be closer to us, you’ll be safe and you’ll be home for your family every night,’’’ she said. ’’Obviously we were wrong on some of our observations.’’Hemenway lived in Fairbanks with his family from 1967 to 1974 and returned, after graduating from Wasilla High School in 1982, to attend UAF.His father, Bob, worked across the state for Alascom and its predecessors, dating back to the days when Alaska’s long-distance phone systems were run under contract to the U.S. Army. He and Shirley came to Alaska in 1961.Their first assignment was Cape Yakataga, on the Gulf of Alaska coast. They had no electricity or running water, Shirley recalled, and she flew 120 miles west to Cordova for Ronald’s birth.After Yakataga, they moved to Tok and then to Fairbanks in April 1967, just a few months before the Chena River flooded the town.In Fairbanks, Bob worked at the military’s White Alice communication stations on Murphy and Pedro domes while cultivating an interest in politics. He became the Republican Party chairman for the Fairbanks area in 1968 and served through 1972. That’s when he met the soon-to-be U.S. Rep. Don Young and his wife, Lu. The couples remain friends.The Hemenways moved south to Wasilla, where the family eventually grew to six children. Seeking warmer weather, the family uprooted again and headed for Atlanta. There, Bob signed on with Sprint and helped develop the early backbone of the Internet.Ronald left UAF and followed his family shortly afterward, deciding to pursue a career in horse breeding. He worked at a chemistry firm and an equestrian school but followed his parents once again when Sprint reassigned Bob to a post in Kansas.There, Shirley remembers finding a note from her son one morning. It said: ’’I won’t be home until I’ve found a job.’’’’He came back around supper time and said he had a job. He was going to join the Navy,’’ Shirley said. ’’We thought it was a joke.’’Ronald wasn’t joking. He had tried to join the Air Force, but at age 30 was over that service’s age limit. The Navy recruiter was in the same building, though, so Ronald signed up with that branch, his mother said.From there, she said, her son had one success after another. He aced his vocational aptitude tests, entered Navy training in electronics and graduated at the top of his class.’’So he had his pick of what to do,’’ she said.He picked a ship sailing for Italy -- the USS LaSalle.’’We teased him and said now you’re going to find an Italian girl and marry her,’’ she said. ’’And he did.’’Ronald and Marinella were married in Italy, then renewed their vows in America at a joint ceremony with his sister Kathleen. He also has two brothers and two other sisters.

Scientists dive for research, share what they find at SeaLife Center symposium

Divers can get up close and personal in their studies of Alaska’s marine mammals, kelp forests, fish and other sea dwellers at the 21st annual Scientific Diving Symposium, set for Sept. 19-23 at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward.It’s sponsored by the American Academy of Underwater Sciences and the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. The theme for this year’s conference is cold water science diving. This will be the first time the academy will meet in Alaska. More than 20 underwater studies will be presented by scientists who use scuba and other underwater research techniques. Researchers will present work done in the Arctic and sub-Arctic, the Antarctic, and numerous cold water environments in between.Several of the presentations will be on work done in Alaska, including underwater video counting of salmon returns to the Yukon River and jellyfish studies in the Bering Sea. Underwater techniques used to study Alaska river otters, herring embryos and kelp forest production and survival.Oil spill damage to near-shore habitats in Prince William Sound also will be discussed. Scientists will also explain techniques used in the underwater capture of Steller sea lions.Advance copies of the symposium proceedings are available by calling Alaska Sea Grant toll free at 888-789-0090. For more information, contact Dr. Stephen Jewett at 907-474-7841, or e-mail him at ([email protected]).Sunburn scenarioThe latest twist in the scientific who-dunit about Canada’s vanishing salmon stocks claims that salmon are being sunburned to death. That idea comes from a University of British Columbia researcher named Carl Walters and his so-called "hypothesis from hell," which was just published in a National Research Council journal.He bases his theory on a link between higher levels of ultraviolet radiation and plunging numbers of four kinds of salmon since the mid-1980s. Walters speculates the fish might suffer serious genetic damage from ultraviolet radiation bombarding them during their first months in fresh water streams.Fish storiesThe Thames Water Authority of London installed acoustic screens in seven reservoirs after thousands of fish, mainly salmon, died from swimming into treatment pipes and reservoirs. They then played loud music underwater, which caused the fish to turn tail and swim away -- much like humans standing next to a very loud speaker.Russian fishermen in Magadan were buying Barbie dolls cheaply produced in China and using their hair as bait.Japanese textile manufacturers have launched a line of seafood skivvies. It’s underwear treated with chitosan -- an antibacterial agent found in crab shells, and shark liver extract said to promote the release of moisture and oils. The undies are especially suited to the elderly or people with dry, sensitive skin.And speaking of skin, since the start of this century in Turkey, people with severe skin problems visit hot springs filled with carp. They immerse themselves in the water and the carp nibble on the diseased skin. Some report complete recovery after just a few carp encounters.Kodiak-based free-lance writer Laine Welch can be reached via e-mail at ([email protected]).

Cruise ships cut smokestack emissions, exceed wastewater pollutants, state finds

JUNEAU -- The cruise industry has reduced smokestack emissions this year compared with last year, but some of the big ships continue to exceed standards for pollutants in wastewater, according to a preliminary state report.The levels of fecal coliform bacteria and suspended solids in wastewater discharged into the Inside Passage in 2001 are consistent with high levels found last year, said David Rogers of the state Department of Environmental Conservation."The problem still exists," said Rogers, deputy director of DEC’s Division of Air and Water Quality.However, two ships equipped with new technology to treat wastewater achieved very low levels of pollutants, according to the report released Sept. 7. Pollutants on board other ships, which were not identified, could drop significantly as more cruise lines adopt the technology, Rogers said."There’s some high numbers and we’re going to keep getting high numbers until all the vessels install new or improved treatment systems," he said.A group representing cruise lines issued a written statement saying the report shows "the industry’s large investment in cutting-edge technology is producing results.""We’re very pleased with the findings to date," said John Hansen, president of the North West CruiseShip Association, which represents nine major cruise lines operating in Alaska.A Juneau conservationist who tracks the issue was less impressed."I think everyone understands these ships will continue to violate standards until their treatment systems catch up with the ability to handle large levels of concentrated waste," said Amy Crook of the Center for Science in Public Participation.A similar report in 2000 alarmed some political leaders and prompted the Legislature to pass a law restricting allowable levels of fecal coliform bacteria and suspended solids in blackwater, or toilet waste, and in graywater from sinks, laundries and showers.Some wastewater samples taken from ships this year far exceeded standards set by lawmakers in June, but most of the samples were collected before the new law went into effect July 1, said Rogers of the DEC.Under the monitoring program, an independent contractor took samples from 11 of the 24 ships operating in Alaska this season. The 13 nonparticipating ships discharge all wastewater beyond state waters three miles from shore and are not subject to standards in the new law, the report said.The preliminary report includes findings from 35 samples taken from tanks and discharge lines in seven of the 11 ships. Of the seven, five discharge only graywater in state waters, one discharges graywater and blackwater in the Inside Passage, and one releases all wastewater outside state waters.Although some samples fell far below legal levels for fecal coliform bacteria, others measured up to 45,000 times beyond permissible limits. The agency excluded half the samples for the bacteria because it took too long to get them to the lab, Rogers said. Out of 19 samples considered valid, nine exceeded state standards and 10 did not.The results for suspended solids also ranged from very low to significantly higher than standards set in state law.Rogers said most of the samples came from graywater, which isn’t supposed to contain pollutants from toilet waste. However, he emphasized it’s unclear whether the high levels are hurting the environment. The state has formed an independent panel of scientists to study the pollutants’ effects on marine life, he said.He also noted 14 ships elected to discharge all wastewater beyond state waters this year, so the cruise lines released fewer pollutants into the Inside Passage in 2001 than in 2000. But it’s also unclear whether the wastewater is harming marine life in the open ocean, he said.Crook, the conservationist, said discharges outside state waters could affect people, too."In Southeast, the outside waters are not outside of areas that influence people’s harvest areas, either subsistence, commercial or sport," she said.The report found some improvement in air emissions this cruise season. The state found 19 potential violations of air opacity standards in 2001 compared with 30 last year, the report said. Some cruise lines have spent millions of dollars on new technology to reduce exhaust emissions, said Hansen, the cruise industry official.The data did not raise any major concerns about health hazards associated with smokestack emissions, suggesting that downtown Juneau does not have an ambient air quality problem, the report said.The state expects to release a final report later this year.

From cleanup to prevention

The environmental business in Alaska is changing. At the heart of the transition is the fact that many of the old contaminated federal government sites in Alaska, which has been the core of the industry here, are being cleaned up."It seemed like such an insurmountable problem just a few years ago, but we’ve really put a dent in it," said Jonathan Widdis, a vice president for ASCG Inc., an Anchorage-based engineering firm that does environmental projects as an offshoot to its traditional civil engineering work.It’s good news that polluted sites are being cleaned up, but it also means that firms in this business must find new things to do or they face extinction.To deal with this, environmental firms are adapting, changing the shape of their business and the services they offer."We’re not sitting around waiting for dirt to be dug up," said Bruce Steely, who heads IT Alaska Inc.’s government services group in the state. "A company like ours must be forward-thinking, anticipating our clients’ needs,"For many, the solution is moving from pollution cleanup to pollution prevention, which includes contingency planning and services related to permitting. That’s what IT Alaska has done.

Native heritage center crowds grow

Officials from the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage report attendance increases this summer compared with the total number of visitors recorded in 2000.This year more than 95,500 people visited the center between May 12 and Aug. 31, up by 300 from figures recorded last summer.Several special events this month should help boost attendance to more than 105,000, according to center officials. The total would record a 10 percent increase in attendance, officials said."Given some of the pre-season projections for a flat or slightly declining visitor season, we’ve been cautious -- and perhaps a bit surprised -- about the attendance levels we’ve been experiencing all summer," said Margaret Nelson, Alaska Native Heritage Center president and chief executive."We’ve seen strong, consistent growth throughout the summer. I attribute this growth to increased visitation from residents, their visiting friends and relatives and other independent visitors, as well as the ongoing support of our partners in the visitor industry."

Juneau woman escapes Trade Center hotel

JUNEAU -- Juneau nurse Ruth Perez-Matera was taking a shower in the Marriott Hotel across the street from the World Trade Center on Tuesday when the building shook and her mother saw a body fall outside a window of their room.Perez-Matera, a nurse at Bartlett Regional Hospital, was in New York on vacation with her mother and sister and planned to go to the Trade Center that morning to shop. When the first jetliner struck, her mother, Jan Perez, ran to the hotel window and saw debris and the man’s body fly by."I thought ’Where could he have come from?’ I just couldn’t understand it," said Perez, who lives in California."My sister started screaming ’Fire!’ said Perez-Matera, who was still in the shower and covered with soap. "She said ’Get out of the shower, don’t rinse off.’"Perez-Matera pulled on some clothes and the trio ran from their room on the 16th floor. In the lobby, they saw bleeding people stumbling into the hotel. Perez-Matera ran to the victims to give first aid."One woman had a chunk of building or something heavy fall on her back," Perez-Matera said.At that point, they still did not know what had happened. Then they heard an explosion, and a man ran into the hotel and said a second plane had struck the towers."Then all of us knew it was terrorists," Perez-Matera said today from Brooklyn. The hotel employees "told everybody to calm down, stay put."But Perez-Matera’s mother would not stay put and ventured outside where she heard police telling people to run to nearby Battery Park. She ran back into the lobby."I told people ’Get out of the building now,’ " said Jan Perez.She and her daughters ran from the hotel, which later collapsed, and that’s when Perez-Matera saw the carnage."I could see intestines and different parts of people’s bodies laying around. And I ran with my mom and my sister," she said.They ran nearly a mile to Battery Park and turned to look at the towers just as one began to fall. They had run far enough to escape the lethal rubble, but now Perez-Matera wondered if the smoke would kill them all."You couldn’t see in front of yourself," she said. "You just felt this heavy soot, you couldn’t breathe. People started panicking at that point."Some people jumped into the water, while others ran, trampling a fallen woman. Perez-Matera stopped to help the woman up, then turned to a police officer for guidance. He told them to run toward the bridges leading off Manhattan Island. With shirts over their mouths, they headed for the Brooklyn Bridge and the air finally cleared halfway across.But her agony was just beginning. She and her sister had lost their mother in the chaos, and Perez-Matera worried the severe asthmatic would suffer a deadly attack in the smoke and fumes."We searched for my mom all night," she said. "We thought she had died because I didn’t think she could breathe."Her mother was not the victim Perez-Matera had imagined. As it turned out, the 64-year-old chose to stay behind to help tend to people. For the next 24 hours, she washed faces caked with soot and helped police guide the fleeing crowds to safety. She was struck by the civility of the people in chaos."I was holding up the ribbon for them to pass through and each one said thank you," she said. "Very influential-looking people in business suits just humbling themselves."The three women were reunited on Wednesday at the Jehovah’s Witnesses world headquarters in Brooklyn, where Perez-Matera and her sister, Joni Vasquez, had taken refuge."We all held each other and cried and cried," Perez-Matera said. "It was so scary to have thought you lost somebody you love. So I know how these people feel. It’s so horrible for them....."We’re pretty shaken up. We’re doing OK though. We’re better off than many people."Perez-Matera is stuck in New York but hopes to fly to California on Saturday to meet with her husband, Dr. Greg Matera. She plans to return to Juneau on Sept. 22 - not a second too soon for her friends at the hospital who anxiously await her safe return."We love her so much," said nurse Trish Whitman. "And we want her back."

Former Fairbanks woman among Trade Center missing

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- A former Fairbanks woman is among those missing following Tuesday’s terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York. Kirsten Janssen Santiago, a 1993 graduate of West Valley High School, called her aunt, Cheryl Davis, to tell her she was OK soon after a hijacked jet slammed into her building at the Trade Center. She called from an office on the 79th floor of the South Tower. The three-minute call was made about 5:45 a.m. Alaska time. Santiago, 26, told her aunt, who has been her legal guardian since age 9, that there had been a terrorist attack on her building. She had already called her husband, Peter, an Amtrak security guard, and asked for the phone number of another aunt. But before she could say goodbye to Davis with her usual ``I love you,’’ the phone line went dead. Minutes later, the South Tower collapsed. ``We’re still hoping we can find her somewhere,’’ said Marcus Swart, Davis’ son. ``We’re still holding out that our prayers will be answered and we will find her.’’ Santiago had been working for a temporary agency in the tower for the last six weeks. After high school graduation she attended Mansfield University in Pennsylvania, earning a degree in economics. There she met her future husband whom she married four years ago following her college graduation. Her last visit to Fairbanks was in May to attend the high school graduation of Davis’ youngest daughter. For others, the news was better. Many Fairbanksans have learned through e-mails and phone calls that family members and friends safely escaped the terrorist attacks. John Lentine knew by midday Tuesday that his sister, Air Force Lt. Col. Geri Posner, is safe. Posner, who is expecting twins in February, attended Anderson Elementary School on Eielson Air Force Base as a child. ``It was her last week of work at the Pentagon after many years there,’’ Lentine said. Deb Hickok, executive director of the Fairbanks Convention and Visitors Bureau, had four New York cousins survive the World Trade Center attack. The cousin closest to the disaster was walking across the grand concourse of the center when the first plane hit. ``An elevator exploded out in front of him, and he ran out of the World Trade Center and saw doors shatter behind him, and he ran all the way to the Staten Island Ferry,’’ Hickok said. He managed to hop on a ferry that was leaving, and his brother, a stock trader, who was just coming into work, met him on the Staten Island side. ``He had been crying all the way over,’’ he said.

East Coast attacks strangles mail service in Alaska

JUNEAU (AP) -- There’s no bread and milk in Nome. Child support checks for parents in the Bush aren’t going anywhere, and in Bethel there’s fear that about 100 people won’t be able to vote absentee in Oct. 2 local elections. All around Alaska, residents dependent on the U.S. Postal Service as a lifeline are finding that a national tragedy on the East Coast has accomplished something that neither rain nor sleet or dark of night could. The estimated 2 million pieces of mail normally handled daily in Alaska has slowed to a trickle after three days of an unprecedented nationwide grounding of civilian and commercial aviation. ``Incoming mail is piling up in Seattle. What we had here that was going to the Bush is sitting here,’’ said Nancy Cain Schmitt, spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Service office in Anchorage. Ferries and other watercraft continue to ship the lower priority parcels, which means Juneau -- which has no roads out of town -- continues to get its junk mail. ``We don’t even have that to burn,’’ said Leo Rasmussen, mayor of Nome where a panic buying spree shortly after Tuesday’s terrorist attacks in New York and Washington D.C. emptied shelves of bread and milk. ``I would guess we are probably looking at two or three days for some type of supply to take place,’’ Rasmussen said. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta reopened the United States airspace on Thursday to air travel with new and tighter security measures imposed on airliners. Scores of flights were canceled and transportation officials warned that air service will take some time to resume normal operations. Alaska Airlines expected to make only 22 flights to the Last Frontier on Thursday, said Jack Evans, Alaska Airlines spokesman. The carrier, which normally hauls about 550,000 pounds of mail per day on its flights, carried none on Thursday, he said. The Seattle-based carrier received special permission to continue to carry mail on its passenger flights, which is barred in the Lower 48 under tighter security measures, he said. ``We expect to be up and running in mail and cargo in passenger service as we ramp up service,’’ Evans said. ``We hope it will be sooner rather than later.’’ Smaller cargo carriers resumed flights to remote villages, but it will take them some time to catch up as well, they said. ``We’re just strangled here with so much freight and we need to get it out of here,’’ said Colin Dolan of Northern Air Cargo. The company, which carries groceries, building supplies and other essential goods to remote towns like Bethel and Nome, planned to fly extra days to catch up, Dolan said. Half of the 2,400 child support checks mailed to parents in Alaska this week were expected to be delayed because of the flight restrictions, said Barbara Miklos, director of the Child Support Enforcement Division. ``There are many people that depend on their child support,’’ Miklos said. ``The bottom line is this will create problems for people.’’ Bethel City Clerk Colleen Soberay said an absence of about 100 absentee ballots, which are due on Monday, is causing some consternation. ``With service starting to resume, the mail will eventually get out and the sooner the better,’’ said Bob King, spokesman for Gov. Tony Knowles. ``There still may be additional delays as the national air system gets back to full operations.’’ Schmitt said the 350 postal workers in Anchorage working to sort mail is adequate to handle the expected crush as mail again starts to flow freely in Alaska. There are no immediate plans to increase cargo flights to distribute the mail to remote areas, Schmitt said. ``We are going to be hustling to get the mail out,’’ she said.

Alaska airports take steps to reopen

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Alaska’s airports took small steps toward returning to full operations Thursday with the departure of stranded flights, the resumption of limited commercial flights and the go-ahead for private aircraft to take to the skies. The Federal Aviation Administration shut down all flying in the country Tuesday after four commercial airliners were hijacked and used in attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Except for exceptions granted for medical flights, only military and law enforcement flying was permitted. Acknowledging Alaska’s special flying needs, the Federal Aviation Administration permitted all forms of aviation operations Thursday in the state. In the Lower 48 and Canada, only commercial operations were permitted. The exception for Alaska meant private planes, air taxis and charters could start retrieving hunters and resupplying rural communities. Just five Alaska airports remained closed as of Thursday morning but by afternoon all had been recertified to open by the FAA’s Civil Aviation Security Division. The first commercial flight out of Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport was a Continental Airlines international flight. The jet, diverted Tuesday from its Tokyo-to-Newark route, left about 7:30 a.m., said acting airport manager Corky Caldwell.Caldwell said his staff spent a busy day Wednesday obtaining certification to reopen under the new security rules. ``When the ’go’ signal comes, we wanted to be ready,’’ Caldwell said. Caldwell said his day Thursday started at 4 a.m. with a couple hours of phone calls at home, coordinating the resumption of operations with the FAA, the airlines and other agencies. ``Restarting a national airline infrastructure, it’s never been done before,’’ Caldwell said. When he reached the airport, he was dismayed to see some ticket counters were not staffed. He said he called airline representatives, urging them to have employees on hand to answer questions and aid passengers already stressed from flight cancellations. Passengers lucky enough to board faced the new security measures. Among them: no curbside luggage service, no cutting instruments such as jackknives allowed on board, no electronic ticketing, random searches, and no one but passengers with tickets allowed past security checkpoints. Airlines resumed flights on a limited basis. Alaska Airlines scheduled just nine flights out of Anchorage, three out of Fairbanks, two from Juneau and two from Ketchikan and Kotzebue. Laura Sarcone and her family hoped to fly Wednesday to Portland, Ore., on board Alaska Airlines for a wedding. On Thursday, the family drove to the airport in hopes of finding space but were turned away. The soonest they could be guaranteed a seat: Wednesday, a day after they were scheduled to return. ``We’re thinking about going to the Kenai Princess (Lodge) since we have the time off,’’ she said. Caldwell urged passengers not to show up at the airport unless they had tickets on board confirmed flights. At Anchorage’s international terminal, Condor Airlines passengers scheduled to fly to Germany on Tuesday were told their jet would arrive from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, and they lined up for check-in Thursday morning. But at about 11 a.m., Condor representatives announced that the flight might not arrive. John Nordstrom, an American and an airline employee living in Frankfurt, Germany, was hopeful but not optimistic. If the aircraft did not leave, ``We’re back in Humpy’s tonight,’’ he said, referring to an Anchorage pub. Antje Sommer, a German national visiting Alaska, said the attacks put a pall on her visit. ``It affects us a great deal,’’ Sommer said. ``No matter what nationality you are, it’s horrible.’’ Alfred Schroeder and Mechthild Linden of Heidelberg, Germany, were wrapping up a three-week car camping trip and were among those in line. Their rental company let them keep their truck camper two extra days at no cost. However, Schroeder and Linden turned it in Thursday morning. ``Perhaps we will sleep on the floor here,’’ Linden said with a smile. FedEx Express said nearly 60 aircraft throughout the country were launched Thursday and the first priority would be given to moving medical supplies, emergency equipment and payroll-related shipments. Air taxis began retrieving hunters who in some cases had been scheduled for pickup Tuesday. Hunter Dan McClain, a pharmaceutical company employee from Hughesville, Pa., learned of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon only when a pilot Rust’s Flying Service arrived to take him back to the city. The pilot carried a newspaper with accounts of the attacks and McClain’s first reaction was disbelief. ``You kind of look at it and it’s like a fake newspaper,’’ he said. McClain and childhood friend Steve Sullivan, a 16-year resident of Cantwell, had just completed a week of caribou hunting at Whitefish Lake about 175 miles west of Anchorage. Rust’s was to do a midweek check on the hunters but did not show up. Sullivan, after unloading two caribou, said they had been seeing up to a dozen airplanes per day until Tuesday. ``We just couldn’t figure it out why no one was flying,’’ he said. Regal Air retrieved Tony Grabiel of Wasilla and Patrick Peltier of Danbury, Texas, after a 70-mile float trip where they shot caribou and a black bear. Unlike many hunters, they carried a satellite telephone. They reached their pickup point a day late and called the air taxi. ``I told them we were at the pickup point,’’ Grabiel said. ``They told me they couldn’t fly.’ ``The worst part was not knowing what was going on at home,’’ said Peltier, a rice farmer. ``I have a wife and three kids.’’

Officials continue heightened security measures in Alaska

ANCHORAGE (AP) The nation’s skies were reopened to air travel Thursday but service in Alaska as well as the rest of the nation was expected to remain disrupted for some time. While some major airlines were expected to begin limited flight schedules Thursday, including United Airlines, American Airlines and TWA, it was unclear when Alaska Airlines would resume flying. U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta ordered new security measures for both airports and air carriers after Tuesday’s attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Though airspace remained restricted, three of Alaska’s airports late Wednesday afternoon received clearance to again open. Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Joette Storm said Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, Juneau International Airport and Ketchikan International Airport were cleared to receive flights after inspection by the agency’s Civil Aviation Security Division. Alaska on Wednesday evening received permission from the FAA to open airports for travel to rural villages, remote hunting camps and other locations highly dependent on air travel. Melanie Alvord, a spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, said her boss spoke with Mineta and FAA Administrator Jane Garvey on Wednesday to make a personal appeal to approve waivers sent by the FAA Alaska regional office. Maj. Gen. Phil Oates, commissioner of the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, said Wednesday the effect on rural communities so far was minimal. However, ``The longer we restrict them, the worse they’ll get,’’ Oates said. Relief officials were gearing up for another night of taking care of stranded airline passengers. Grace Community Church hosted 226 people from a Continental Airlines flight and a China Airlines flight, plus 30 independent travelers. Scott Merriner, administrative pastor, said half of the passengers could be moved to hotels Wednesday night but many would remain. ``I expect a good chunk of them will be here,’’ he said. Most of the visitors boarded buses Wednesday for a four-hour tour of Portage Glacier, Girdwood and other destinations. ``I think they felt they were well cared for,’’ Merriner said. Among the guests aboard the China Airlines flights were 15 infants. Merriner said relief workers thought at first that they were orphans. However, translators learned the babies were on their way to live with their extended families. ``The folks who are taking them, in most cases, are not the parents,’’ he said. Some of the only aircraft to fly Wednesday were military jets. Air Force pilots flew over Anchorage, the trans-Alaska oil pipeline terminal in Valdez, and other Alaska locations deemed critical installations. The military aircraft planned to continue ``air superiority missions’’ ready to intercept hijacked aircraft, Oates said. Among the allowed flights: an Air National Guard C-130 from Kulis Alaska National Guard Base to McChord Air Force Base in Washington carrying samples of more than 400 units of blood donated to the Blood Bank of Alaska in Anchorage. Responding to an appeal for blood following the attacks, the blood bank had 708 people offer to donate blood Tuesday. The bank collected 474 units. The response was so strong that the bank collected no new blood Wednesday but scheduled appointments for Thursday and the rest of the week. ``We’re in kind of a holding pattern,’’ said spokesman Gregg Schomaker. Blood must be sampled for purity within 72 hours after it’s donated. The blood bank usually sends samples south on board Alaska Airlines. Schomaker said more samples would be sent Wednesday night. Once the blood is tested, it could be released to Alaska hospitals or sent east to help casualties in the terrorist attacks. ``We’re waiting to hear from national headquarters,’’ Schomaker said. In Juneau, Gov. Tony Knowles offered search and rescue dogs trained in wilderness rescue to New York and Virginia officials for help in the recovery of victims. In letters to New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, New York Gov. George Pataki and Virginia James Gilmore, Knowles said 12 dogs and handlers could be mobilized quickly and sent to the disaster sites. The dogs are trained in avalanche, disaster and water search and rescues. In Valdez, the Coast Guard captain of the port lifted all restrictions on oil tanker traffic. The Coast Guard on Tuesday ordered all tanker loading halted and directed three tankers to depart the port. Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. received permission to resume loading at 12:30 a.m. Wednesday. Later in the morning, the tankers Overseas Chicago and B/T Alaska took on oil. The Coast Guard assigned the cutter Roanoke Island to Port Valdez to provide additional security in the area. Alyeska also continues a heightened level of security.

FAA clears Bush pilots to pick up stranded hunters and fishermen

JUNEAU (AP) The Federal Aviation Administration has agreed to allow special clearance in Alaska for air taxi flights such as those used to pick up stranded hunters in remote sections of the state, a spokesman for Gov. Tony Knowles said. The FAA’s decision will allow most flights to Alaska’s Bush to resume, Knowles’ spokesman Bob King said Thursday. The change was expected to begin Thursday and comes as the nation’s air transportation system begins ramping up following a nationwide grounding. The action will allow air taxies to retrieve an estimated 600 to 800 hunters who had no way out of Alaska’s Bush after the FAA imposed a nationwide grounding of all civilian and commercial air traffic in the wake of Tuesday’s terrorist attacks on the East Coast. ``Certainly, we understand the reasons for the flight restrictions nationwide,’’ King said. ``The governor appreciates the FAA’s flexibility to address the special and unique conditions in Alaska.’’ The decision came hours before Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta opened the nation’s airspace to limited commercial travel. Mineta said commercial and private flights were allowed to resume as of 8 a.m. Alaska Time as airports demonstrate higher levels of security in the wake of four terrorist hijackings of jetliners on Tuesday. Some major airlines were expected to begin limited flight schedules Thursday. It wasn’t immediately clear whether Alaska Airlines would resume flying on Thursday. Immediately after Tuesday’s attack, FAA officials were allowing lifesaving flights to be conducted around Alaska on a case-by-case basis, most involving military and Coast Guard craft. About 55 such flights involving search and rescue operations and medical evacuations had been conducted, state officials said. Joette Storm, a spokeswoman with the FAA in Alaska, said her agency had been seeking approval of an exemption under the nationwide grounding for the state, where a large number of remote areas rely heavily on airplanes as a lifeline to other regions. That plan also required military approval. ``We are working on a plan that will give them some relief,’’ Storm told The Associated Press late Wednesday. King announced the agreement at about 9 p.m. Some Bush pilots had said their clients are prepared to spend additional days in the Bush due to inclement weather. But they had feared that extended delays may put them at risk. ``These guys are prepared to be weathered in for a while, but not for days and days on end,’’ said Willis Thayer, who works for Rust’s Flying Service in Anchorage. Thayer said by Thursday 31 clients were expected to be overdue to be picked up. State officials again raised the concern on Wednesday during a briefing of the State Emergency Coordination Center, which has been staffed around the clock since after Tuesday’s attack. ``That’s a big concern and of course there’s a potential of compounding the problem,’’ said Wayne Rush, emergency manager with the Alaska Division of Emergency Services. State officials feared that in some instances sportsmen who had been in the field for several days may be low on food or medication. Nick Karnos, manager of Ketchum Air Service, said by Thursday that air service would have 26 clients on unguided hunting and fishing trips overdue to be picked up. ``If you get into four or five days, our system gets to be overwhelmed,’’ Karnos said. Clients with Ketchum generally take seven- to 21-day trips into the Mulchatna River corridor west of the Alaska Range, about 200 miles west of Anchorage, Karnos said. He said pilots had been frustrated by their inability to get to the sportsmen stranded in the Bush. ``I don’t think anything we do here poses any type of even minimal threat,’’ Karnos said.

Federal officials trying to accomodate Bush Alaska's aviation needs

JUNEAU (AP) -- The Federal Aviation Administration is trying to make provisions for some flights into Alaska’s Bush country despite a national ban on civilian air travel, an official said. This comes after a decision by the FAA to leave in place a grounding of all commercial and civilian flights on Tuesday after terrorist attacks on the East Coast. Civilian flights had been expected to resume Wednesday, but the FAA instead extended that restriction. State officials were concerned the order could create hardships for remote villages dependent on flights for food and other essential supplies and hunters waiting for transportation out of the Bush. ``We’re acutely aware of the needs and are working with the folks in headquarters to come up with a solution for the Alaska situation,’’ said Joette Storm, of the FAA in Anchorage. Following the grounding, the FAA and the Air Force allowed a total of 30 lifesaving flights in Alaska on Tuesday, Storm said. Each flight was approved on a case-by-case basis. In one case, an Army National Guard helicopter searched Mount Roberts near Juneau for a 79-year-old man suffering from Alzheimer’s disease who walked away from a cruise ship on Monday, said Maj. Mike Haller of the Alaska Division of Emergency Services. Rescue workers also continued a search for the grandson of former Lt. Gov. Jack Coghill. His boat capsized Friday on the Tanana River about 60 miles west of Fairbanks. Michael Coghill, 26, of Nenana, remained missing Tuesday. Medical transports were also conducted in Ketchikan and Fairbanks, Haller said. State officials have talked to villages to assess how critical their supply situation is, Haller said. None reported supply shortages, he said. State officials would continue talks with the FAA to make accommodations for some flights, said Bob King, Gov. Tony Knowles press secretary. ``I don’t think allowing a number of these Bush flights is going to threaten national security,’’ King said. ``It doesn’t pose the same concerns as opening the mainline air traffic system.’’ Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta had ordered commercial air traffic grounded until at least Wednesday. The grounding applied not only to major commercial aircraft but to air taxis, charter flights and even hunting and fishing guides. Knowles expressed concern over the flight ban Tuesday since many remote areas of Alaska are only accessible by air. FAA officials in Alaska are trying to craft exceptions to the national grounding to accommodate people in these remote areas, Storm said. ``We’re all Alaskans and we know just how important aviation is,’’ Storm said.

Flags lowered in memory of victims of terrorist attacks

Knowles Offers Alaska Search Dog Teams to Help Locate SurvivorsFollowing terrorist attacks yesterday that killed thousands in New York, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania, President George W. Bush has ordered all flags at all federal installations lowered to half-staff through sundown on Sunday, September 16. Gov. Tony Knowles today ordered all state flags lowered to half-staff through the same period. Both state and federal flags should be lowered to half-staff at all state facilities, effective immediately."The date, September 11, 2001, will forever be etched in the minds of Americans as a terrible day of tragedy for our nation - another day of infamy," Knowles said. "As we unite to try to comprehend the magnitude of this horrific deed, our first responsibility is to the thousands of innocent victims and their families, and the scores of police and fire-fighting heroes who gave their lives responding yesterday. "I know theyre in every Alaskans thoughts and prayers, and I know every Alaskan from humanitarian organizations to the soldier in uniform - stands ready to assist with the massive recovery and response," Knowles said. Knowles today wrote the Governors of New York and Virginia an the mayor of New York City offering Alaska search and rescue assistance in helping locate survivors."The thoughts and prayers of all Alaskans are with you today as all Americans try to comprehend the magnitude of the horrific deed perpetrated on our nation yesterday," Knowles said in letters to Govs. James Gilmore of Virginia, George Pataki of New York, and New York City Mayor Rudolph Guiliani. "We understand that the first responsibility of those of you on the front lines is to the thousands of innocent victims, their families and any survivors who may remain in the rubble."The State of Alaska is honored to provide any support we may have for your response and recovery efforts," Knowles said. "Specifically, we have search and rescue dogs in Alaska that are trained in wilderness, avalanche, disaster, and water search and rescues. They have been successfully used in numerous incidents for avalanche disaster work and missing person searches. Teams are available in Anchorage, Juneau, and Fairbanks and can be mobilized quickly with approximately 12 dogs and handlers. The State of Alaska will deliver the resources you need to any location in New York you desire."

Air Force jets intercept Korean Airlines jet near Anchorage

ANCHORAGE (AP) _ Police ordered the evacuation of several major buildings in the city’s downtown Tuesday after air traffic conrollers lost contact with a Korean Air Lines jet headed for the city. Fighter jets from Elmendorf Air Force base were sent to intercept the jet, which was 160 miles from the city. Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles said air traffic controllers received an emergency transponder signal from the aircraft, indicating low fuel or a highjacking. The transponder signal turned out to be a low fuel indicator. The plane was diverted to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada. The evacuation of major hotels and federal buildings was canceled a few minutes after city officials learned the plane did not pose a threat. Korean Airlines flies regularly to Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, the nation’s sixth-largest cargo airport.

Alaska military bases placed on high alert following terrorist attacks

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Military bases in Alaska were placed on high alert Tuesday and the FBI was coordinating with other federal agencies following a series of terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C. Elmendorf Air Force Base and Fort Richardson were placed on full military alert. Maj. Johnn Kennedy, chief of public affairs for the Air Force’s 3rd Wing fighter group at Elmendorf Air Force base said the base is, like all others around the world, on high alert, although access to the base was not being completely restricted Tuesday morning. ’’Obviously, as a result (of the attack) we’re on an increased measure of protection,’’ Kennedy said. ’’But we’re going to let anyone on base who needs to be here. But it may take awhile this morning.’’ Major Bryan Hilferty of the U.S. Army in Alaska said posts are also under full alert. ’’We’ve increased our security posture,’’ Hilferty said. Meanwhile, planes nationwide were grounded, including those at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. Planes headed for the United States were being detoured to Canada. The Fairbanks International Airport also was on increased alert. ’’We are in a heightened state of alert, yes,’’ said Robert Burnham, an assistant special agent in charge for the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Anchorage. ’’I don’t think anyone has a handle on this yet.’’ Burnham said there had been no reports of attacks occurring in Alaska. He said the FBI would be coordinating with other federal agencies to check major buildings in the city, including its own building. FBI agents were being sent to the airport. ’’Right now we have no information of any direct threats to any sites in Alaska,’’ he said. The FBI was coordinating efforts with the Secret Service, U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Anchorage Police Department and the federal office of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Burnham said FBI officials also were trying to get in contact with oil company officials to help them with any additional security measures they felt were needed. BP (Alaska) and Phillips Petroleum are two companies that have ownership in the trans-Alaska pipeline, which supplies the nation with about one-fifth of its oil needs. In Juneau, Gov. Tony Knowles was also watching the situation closely and keeping contact with state emergency officials, said spokesman Bob King. ’’The governor is certainly following the terrible events back East and wants to express his condolences sympathy to victims and concerns for firefighters and others,’’ King said. ’’He will also commit any assets that may be needed to assist the National Guard.’’ Alaska’s congressional delegation was also watching the tragedy. ’’Words cannot express the anguish and horror we all feel at today’s tragic news,’’ Sen. Frank Murkowski, R-Alaska, said. ’’I can assure you that the perpetrators of these murders will be rooted out and brought to justice.’’ The attacks began when two hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center around 9 a.m. EST. The twin towers later collapsed. Within the hour, an aircraft crashed on a helicopter landing pad near the Pentagon, and the White House, the Pentagon and the Capitol were evacuated. In Pennsylvania, a large plane, believed to be a Boeing 747, crashed about 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. The fate of those aboard was not immediately known and it was not clear if the crash was related to the disasters elsewhere.

Security tightened on Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The company that operates the Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline said security was heightened Tuesday in the wake of coordinated terrorist attacks on the East Coast, but was tight-lipped about how it was protecting the 800-mile line. ’’Obviously there’s more security because of the pipeline’s importance in terms of energy,’’ said Tim Woolston, spokesman for the Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. Woolston said the pipeline was not shut down and oil was continuing to flow. He said there were no immediate plans to shut down the line, he said. The pipeline carries more than a million barrels of oil per day and provides 17 percent of the nation’s oil. The line travels from the Prudhoe Bay oil fields to Valdez, much of it passing through remote wilderness. About 420 miles of the pipeline are above ground. The rest is buried. Pipeline officials say the line can be shut down within minutes if necessary, with a series of check valves to limit oil spills. The pipeline has been a target in the past. A Canadian man was charged two years ago with plotting to blow up the pipeline as part of an effort to drive up oil prices and reap a profit. Alfred Reumayr was arrested in Canada in August 1999 after an 18-month investigation by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. U.S. and Canadian officials said at that time that the plot was not political or ideolgical. They were reluctant to release details at that time for fear it would encourage copycat acts. An act of sabotage on the pipeline in 1978 resulted in a spill of 16 thousand barrels of oil. A hole was blasted in the line with explosives at Steele Creek, near Fairbanks. No one was ever arrested in connection with that attack.

VECO eyes Mat-Su port

The speculation about where one of the state’s largest oil development companies is looking for expansion may be over. Roger Chan, executive vice president and chief financial officer for VECO Corp., sent a letter Aug. 20 to the Matanuska-Susitna Borough stating that "We are quite impressed with the potential advantages of your port to accommodate our future module fabrication and shipping needs. ... Via this letter, we would like to express our interest in utilizing the port and associated uplands." Borough Manager John Duffy said the letter is just the beginning of what he sees as a long-term relationship with the Anchorage-based corporation. "We have been in discussions with VECO for some time now," he said. "As a matter of fact, we offered to include them in our plans for capital improvements at the port." Duffy said VECO’s interest in Port MacKenzie was a result of opportunity meeting preparation. "We have the land for expansion, and we’re right in the middle of making crucial improvements at the port site, including road grades and utilities," he said. "VECO is just in the process of completing a huge module fabrication project for the North Slope and is looking at even more contracts in the near future," Duffy added. "We can make the improvements they need for future contracts and provide them with thousands of acres of industrial land for expansion." Chan’s letter was an expression of interest, not a firm commitment. "We feel confident in the potential use of Port MacKenzie for oil field development," he wrote. "However, until there is more certainty concerning design and award of future modules, we do not think it prudent for us to enter into a definitive lease and user agreement." VECO’s interest in the port comes on the heels of a remediation project that was recommended by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The corps recently concluded that the port’s current infrastructure was not stable enough to withstand a moderate earthquake. Port Director Marc Van Dongen says the first stages of the port pad’s upgrade are nearly completed. The next step for both the Mat-Su Borough and VECO is to decide what kind of infrastructure would fit at the port for both short- and long-term expansion. Chas St. George is a free-lance writer living in Palmer. 


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