Around the World July 8, 2001

STATEClosed Marketplaces available to nongrocers ANCHORAGE -- The state has cleared the way for nongrocers to move into two former Alaska Marketplace locations in the Dimond Center and at Northern Lights Boulevard and Minnesota Drive now that certain conditions have been met.Since companies like Kmart are moving into the grocery business in the state, concerns about Safeway’s dominance of the grocery market have lessened, the state argued in a recent court filing. Second, Northwest Retail Ventures satisfied the state that it could not find a grocer interested in either location. Third, nongrocer retailers have expressed an interest in the properties. Add it all up, and the state decided it made sense to open the locations to other kinds of business, and the court agreed this month.NATIONDrag that privacy notice out of the trashWASHINGTON -- Many Americans greeted the billion-plus "privacy notices’’ in the mail recently with a hook shot into the trash can. That action may become a collective mistake.It turns out those fine-print-filled envelope-stuffers weren’t your typical junk mail.They give people a say in how far companies can spread around a mountain of personal information -- everything from monthly income and Social Security numbers to credit card spending habits and account balances.Under federal law, Sunday is the deadline for banks, credit unions, insurance companies, mortgage providers, brokerage houses and other businesses that collect personal financial information to mail out notices telling people how they handle it. And if companies want to sell that personal information to nonaffiliated businesses, they have to give consumers a chance to say no -- known as "opting out.’’Buried in the fine print, many of the notices offer toll-free numbers to call or forms to mail back that give consumers a limited right to block release of their information. Consumers are under no deadline and can opt out at any time.Economy grows 1.6%, is likely to slow furtherWASHINGTON -- The U.S. economy barely inched forward in the first three months of the year, and President Bush’s chief economist said that growth in the current quarter was likely even worse.The Commerce Department reported June 29 that gross domestic product -- the country’s total output of goods and services -- grew at an annual rate of 1.2 percent from January to March, slightly slower than the government previously thought.Lawrence Lindsey said he believed the economy was growing at an even weaker 0.6 percent rate in the current April-June quarter, based on his review of economic data that has been released so far.That view is in line with many private economists, who have put growth at around 0.5 percent for the second quarter.WORLDWTO tosses Canada’s lumber trade complaintGENEVA -- The World Trade Organization on June 29 rejected Canadian claims that the United States was breaking international trade rules in a dispute linked to the huge North American lumber industry.Canada imposes a total ban on exports of raw logs, which U.S. producers say leads to a glut of lumber domestically and a fall in the cost of items made from logs, such as boards.The U.S. producers claim that the export ban is therefore a hidden government subsidy to the Canadian wood industry. They are also concerned that Canada’s "stumpage’’ system for licensing lumber cutting on provincial land -- which often takes into account social and environmental policy, not just market rates -- is unfair.WTO rules allow member states to impose additional import duties if lower-priced subsidized imports are damaging their own producers.Canada denies that its export ban is a subsidy. Although the United States has never used the administrative action provision, Ottawa took the case to the WTO to pre-empt any future use.Putin governmnet gains control of gas companyMOSCOW -- The Kremlin strengthened its control over the world’s biggest gas company June 29, gaining a majority of seats on the board of Gazprom in a change investors hope heralds the broad reforms President Vladimir Putin has promised for Russia’s economy.Gazprom, which is Russia’s biggest taxpayer and supplies more than a quarter of Europe’s gas, is seen as epitomizing the power a few tycoons and companies have held over Russia’s economy in the past decade.Although the government owns 38 percent of Gazprom shares, the company has resisted attempts to clear up questions about its finances and relationships to other companies.Putin has sought to change that, and his efforts are seen as a test case for reforming several huge Russian conglomerates accused of murky financial dealings.Compiled from business wire services.

Knowles signs bill to fund treatment for women with breast, cervical cancer

Gov. Tony Knowles signed into law June 25 a bill that aims to provide medical treatment for Alaska women diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer."By signing this bill into law, Alaska will take advantage of a new federal law giving states the option to help women diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer who, until now, have earned too much for regular Medicaid but not enough to buy their own health insurance," Knowles said in a statement."These women have been trapped in a terrible predicament. Although the federal screening program would diagnose their cancer, there was no provision to pay for treatment. Until now."The law will help an estimated 40 women each year. The state’s cost for this program is $175,000 per year.Support group to meet July 10The Mat-Su Breast Cancer Support Group plans to conduct its monthly meeting from 7-9 p.m. July 10 in Wasilla.The program will address topics including tamoxifen, chemotherapy, side effects, lymphedema and other issues. Questions also will be taken.The event will be at Valley Hospital Medical Campus Classroom C. For more information, call 907-376-8689.A future meeting is scheduled for Aug. 14.Knowles inks measure to build new APIGov. Tony Knowles signed into law House Bill 76, which would allow the state to issue $16 million in certificate of participation bonds to fund construction of a new Alaska Psychiatric Institute.These funds will be added to the $19 million appropriated by the state for the new facility along with $3 million from the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority. The remainder of the money comes from interest earnings on the bonds and earlier appropriations, according to representatives at the governor’s office.The new 80,000-square-foot facility is expected to cost $41.7 million and house up to 72 patients. It is scheduled to open in 2004.The new API, to be built at 2900 Providence Drive, will replace the current 40-year-old building.

Visits will build up South Korean ties

Representatives from South Korea and Alaska hope to nurture economic ties between the two regions through visits this summer. "As Alaska’s second largest export market, Korea offers huge market potential and opportunities for Alaskans," said Consul General Byung-rok Moon, who leads the consulate general office for his country in Seattle. He spoke June 28 during a Alaska World Affairs Council luncheon at the Petroleum Club in Anchorage. The state Division of International Trade and Market Development was scheduled to lead a trade mission including legislators and business people June 29 to July 5. Officials from the Seattle consul general’s office helped arrange some meetings for trade mission participants, noted Chuck Becker, director of the Alaska Export Assistance Center. Alaska is part of the consul general’s jurisdiction. Last year South Korea ranked as Alaska’s No. 2 trading partner, with exports totaling $448.6 million. Also, the United States is important to South Korea, the consul general said. "The U.S. is Korea’s largest trading partner," he said. Last year Korea was the fifth largest export market for the United States and the nation’s seventh largest trading partner, he said. However, this year a slowing U.S. economy and a struggling Japanese economy "may take a heavy toll on the Korean economy," he said. The country has endeavored to rebuild its economy since the financial crisis in 1997, he said. "We have put the economy back on track after the economic crisis in 1997. It was a wake-up call for Korea," he said. "Korea has dramatically transformed into an open-market based system. However, our reforms are not yet complete." Another connection between Alaska and South Korea is investment by Korea-based air cargo companies Asia Airlines and Korean Air, he said. Also significant is that Alaska coal is shipped from Seward to South Korea, he said. The consul general stressed Alaska’s richness in natural resources and noted that a proposed natural gas pipeline could benefit the state. Alaska and South Korea have supported trade relations in past years. Gov. Tony Knowles, and former Govs. Walter J. Hickel and Bill Sheffield each visited the country, the consul general said.  

Small-claims miners prepare for federal rule changes while debate rages on

WASHINGTON -- Small-claims miners on federal claims in Alaska have until September to obtain bonds to cover any potential costs of restoring the land should their mines close, but debate over that rule and other new mining regulations continues.The federal Bureau of Land Management announced June 15 that it would uphold a Clinton administration rule that requires all miners to obtain bonds. Previously, miners who had a disturbed area of five acres or less didn’t have to obtain a cleanup bond.Bonding provides money to restore a mine site with topsoil and natural contouring if a mining company goes bankrupt.Although the Bush administration kept the Clinton bonding rules, it did decide to delay the deadline for compliance from July 19 to Sept. 13.The Alaska Miners Association and others said small claims miners would not have time to obtain bonds under the earlier deadline, given the short northern mining season.Federal officials have estimated that 135 mining operations in Alaska are affected by the rules.Large mining companies have secured such bonding for many years, according to Karen Batra of the National Mining Association, which primarily represents major mining companies.However, Steve Borell, director of the Alaska Miners Association, said he is concerned that the BLM’s new rules will disallow the only method that small claims Alaska miners in recent years have found to provide such a guarantee -- the state bonding pool. The pool backs small claims miners, mostly placer operators, who do not use chemicals in the mining process."The way this is written, you can’t use state bonding pools,’’ Borell told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. "What you effectively will have done is eliminate the small mining operations.’’The bonding requirement was just one among a list of changes to mining rules that the Clinton administration issued on its last day following a lengthy public process. The final draft rules were first published Nov. 21, two months before Clinton left office.Although the BLM upheld the new bonding rules on June 15, it also announced that it would continue to review the other changes adopted by Clinton.Chief among those changes is language that gives new discretion to federal managers to stop a mine if they determine it is harming public lands."That means I can spend hundreds of millions of dollars (on exploration and development) and then it gets to the end of this project and the BLM can say ’Oh-oh, doesn’t fit,’ ’’ Borell said. "That’s just too much uncertainty. People are not going to operate on federal land.’’If the Bush administration wants to review such issues, though, it may have to hurry.Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., successfully amended the House version of the annual Interior appropriations bill in mid-June with language that could stop the Bush review and force BLM to keep the Clinton-era rules.Inslee’s amendment passed 216-194, with the support of most Democrats and 28 Republicans. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, voted against the amendment.

Court puts off Native Wireless launch

A U.S. appeals court decision in mid-June has stalled the entry into the national wireless market by an Alaska business and its partner AT&T Wireless.Alaska Native Wireless LLC was the successful bidder on wireless licenses including major markets in Los Angeles and New York during a January spectrum auction conducted by the Federal Communications Commission. However, the court ruling disputed auction results, which included spectrum licenses previously owned by a company that later went bankrupt.The move 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.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, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Minneapolis, New Haven, Conn., and Portland, Ore."The majority of the licenses we bid on are involved in this litigation," said Conrad Bagne, head of ASRC Wireless, the managing partner for Alaska Native Wireless."This has put us in kind of a limbo situation," he said.The U.S. appeals court ruled June 22 that the FCC should not have sold off certain licenses. The FCC had put the licenses on the auction block after seizing them from a company that bought them in 1996 but then went bankrupt.The court ruled that the commission violated bankruptcy laws when it took back the licenses bid on by NextWave Personal Communications. In January, the FCC resold them to companies like Verizon Wireless and firms linked to AT&T Wireless and Cingular, which were seeking to boost their coverage area and improve their quality.Now the agency has to decide whether to appeal the decision, reach a settlement with NextWave or pursue another course.Officials from Alaska Native Wireless urged the FCC to appeal the ruling, Bagne said."This is one decision in a long string of decisions that have gone in different directions," he said. "This one unfortunately has gone in favor of NextWave. At this point control is in the hands of the FCC."Earlier this year, Alaska Native Wireless officials studied the process required to roll out service in its markets, but expected to start with the two markets for which Alaska Native Wireless paid the most, said Bagne, who also is ASRC’s chief administrative officer."New York and L.A. are obviously a priority," he told the Journal, noting that the total price for those two licenses represented two-thirds of the company’s total bids.Alaska Native Wireless also was developing a business plan for licenses it acquired in Fairbanks and Juneau, he said.To serve the markets, Alaska Native Wireless will either use AT&T Wireless’ infrastructure, build its own network of repeaters or work with another company in areas not served by AT&T Wireless, he said.Of the $2.9 billion bid for the licenses, AT&T Wireless will take the lead in funding the venture.AT&T Wireless has said it will pay $2.6 billion, while the three Native corporations and other consortium investors will contribute $260 million.After the auction was completed, industry representatives criticized the process, saying some of the largest U.S. wireless companies took unfair advantage of FCC rules to win a majority of licenses aimed at small businesses.The Associated Press contributed to this report.

After 20 years, Sand Point finishes road with BIA partnership

Alvin Osterback is only half joking when he says managers selected for village road-building projects need to be young, because by the time construction is finished, they’re near retirement age.Osterback, of the Qagan Tayagungin Tribe of Sand Point, was 20 years younger when the Federal Aviation Administration required the village to move its landfill away from the airport runway because birds feasting at the dump where often vying for the same airspace as airplanes.It’s not road construction itself that takes tremendous time, but rather unraveling the red tape and garnering the cash, he said."It was one of those unfunded federal mandates many communities face,’’ said Osterback, who is in charge of road project.A new dump was eventually built, but a 2.7-mile road was needed to get to it.This month, after two decades of trying, the final touches are being put on the road and a 2.4-mile repaving project in town, 580 miles southwest of Anchorage.The $6.8 million project was funded through the Bureau of Indian Affairs, under a federal law that allows tribes to build all or part of roads in their communities. Another $30 million in road and bridge projects are under way in Alaska, through the BIA partnership program.After less than two years of construction, Sand Point has a community road, built with pride by the residents there, Osterback said.As part of the partnership, the BIA provided the heavy equipment and a crew made up of two mechanics and a foreman, according to Dale Michaelson, BIA’s construction maintenance supervisor."We furnish the equipment and expertise,’’ Michaelson said. "They furnish the manpower.’’And there were plenty people ready to work in Sand Point, where fishery closures and low salmon prices have devastated the town’s economy over the past few years, Osterback said.About 60 of Sand Point’s 890 residents worked on the project, Osterback said. Workers, who are mostly Aleut, were taught how to run the heavy equipment -- excavators, loaders, dump trucks -- by the Qagan Tayagungin Tribe and the BIA. Workers were either trained on the job or sent to a BIA school in Oregon before construction.Sand Point police did the testing for commercial drivers licenses. Workers were required to be tested for drug use.The project wasn’t built on manpower alone."A lot of women worked,’’ Osterback said. "At one point, all of our drivers were women.’’Workers were paid union-scale wages and given the opportunity to join a union, but did not due to the short duration of the project, Osterback said.Workers in some communities with the BIA partnership do opt to join a union, said Michaelson, who has been working on road-building projects for the agency for the past 20 years.The Sand Point road project was as difficult as they come, he said."It was a tough job, and logistics was the toughest part,’’ Michaelson said.Shipping the heavy equipment to Sand Point from Anchorage cost several hundred thousand dollars, Michaelson said. "And, of course, we had to get it out.’’Supplies and equipment are almost always bought in-state, Michaelson said. An exception on the Sand Point project was a new asphalt oil made in Sweden and Norway for cold climates.Michaelson said Sand Point and other villages have produced some top-notch road builders."In my opinion, we build just as good a road -- if not better -- than anybody else,’’ Michaelson said.Too often, Osterback said, contractors come to the Bush for construction projects and "hire a couple of flaggers at most.’’"I encourage other communities to go with a BIA partnership,’’ Osterback said. "It’s amazing to see how the community is uplifted and changed.’’Sand Point got much more than a road, as the additional income helped greatly and raised morale in this once thriving fishing community, he said."People painted their houses, got vehicles fixed and took care of medical problems they’d been putting off,’’ said Osterback, adding that the economic upshot ripples beyond the Bush."Whatever is felt in the Bush is felt in Anchorage,’’ Osterback said."It’s a big boost to villages,’’ Michaelson said of BIA road-building projects. "You can really see a difference from the time we go in to the time we leave. People upgraded their homes and vehicles. It’s a good feeling, really.’’Several folks from Sand Point have landed jobs in other communities, namely Amchitka, where work is under way cleaning up a government nuclear underground testing site.Even though the project took more than two decades to complete, Osterback said he wishes there was more road work to do at Sand Point."It’s done a lot of us a lot of good and given us the economic shot in the arm that we need until fishing gets better," Osterback said. "I just wish we had the project for another year."

New campaign plugs Seward as year-round business opportunity

Tens of thousands of tourists each year view Seward as a hot destination, and now the city is hoping that year-round businesses will do the same.With a $26,000 grant from the state Department of Community and Economic Development and the U.S. Forest Service, Seward recently launched a multimedia campaign to attract year-round industry to the area.As a gateway to the nearly 670,000-acre Kenai Fjords National Park, Seward’s economic growth is driven largely by the visitor industry, but that’s primarily limited to the summer months."It’s like a double-edged sword," said Julie Tauriainen, executive director of the Seward Chamber of Commerce. "It’s wonderful for the businesses in the summer, but they’re so successful that they close in the winter. That’s really hard for the year-round residents when half of the stores are boarded up during the winter. A lot of services are not available and the quality of life decreases."To help balance tourism, the campaign aims to entice more year-round and diverse companies, from start-ups to established businesses wanting to relocate or set up branch offices, she said.The $26,000, awarded in April, is now being split among three projects: a 10-20 minute promotional video, a printed brochure and an informational Web site that links to a video -- all produced by Syntax Productions in Anchorage.The materials will tout Seward’s spectacular scenic beauty, high quality of life, strategic location and business-friendly community."We want to show companies that we’re a great place to bring employees," Tauriainen said.Seward’s existing amenities also will be showcased. As the southern terminus for the Alaska Railroad with a road link to Anchorage and the Interior, Seward has long been a transportation center. Also, Seward is a year-round ice-free port served by road, rail and air, making it especially desirable to companies with busy shipping schedules.Yukon Fuel Co. of Anchorage, for example, wants to make Seward home to a $30 million fuel tank facility and is negotiating a long-term lease with the Alaska Railroad Corp. Fuel would be shipped by barge to the company’s markets in Western Alaska.Northland Services, a sister company of Yukon Fuel, barges into Seward’s freight dock when ice conditions prohibit docking in Anchorage. Louis Bencardino, the railroad’s dock manager for the Seward and Whittier docks, is now negotiating with Yukon to relocate the company to Seward."We’ve got lots of land and a brand new freight dock," said Bencardino. Cargo ships using this new dock won’t be hampered by the cruise lines, according to Cindy Ecklund, executive assistant with the city of Seward.The marine maintenance business is also growing in Seward. At Seward Ship’s Drydock, an 11-acre full-service shipyard, construction was recently completed on an 11-story work station capable of covering a 200-foot vessel. Owner Jim Pruitt calls it "the largest boat enclosure on the West Coast."Scott Janke, Seward’s city manager, said the city is open-minded and ready to do business with any company that can provide year-round employment. The city is interested in expanding tourism into the off seasons as well. One opportunity is to use Seward as a meeting destination for conferences of 200 or fewer people."We have a lot of infrastructure available," Janke said. "We have a pretty attractive location for relocating businesses because of our low tax rate. We have a lot of available industrial land." And, he adds, Seward is also home to the highly regarded Alaska Vocational Technical Center -- which he called "a great training ground for employees."Indeed, Seward has plenty of advantages in the competition for jobs and industry, Janke said."We’ve just got to find the parties that want to look at it more seriously," he said. Janke adds that he spends much of his time talking with people and working through different state organizations to find companies looking for relocation.The new video, brochure and Web site are much-needed tools to increase the city’s competitive edge when soliciting businesses, Tauriainen said."Right now, we have a great packet if you want to move to or visit Seward, but if you’re a business that wants to come to Seward, we don’t really have anything that we can send out," she said.The plan is to actively market the new tools rather than just wait for people to call for the information, she added."We’ve got so many great things happening in Seward," Tauriainen said. "We want to appeal to the Alaska market and also the national and international market."

This Week in Alaska Business History July 08, 2001

Editor’s note: "This Week in Alaska Business History" revisits events that shaped our past."Those who cannotremember the past arecondemned to repeat it."-- George Santayana, 1863-195220 years ago this weekAnchorage TimesJuly 8, 1981State tourism officials plan outside media blitzby Bill WhiteTimes WriterA doubling of the budget for the state’s tourism industry/state campaign to entice travelers to Alaska is awaiting approval by Gov. Jay Hammond.The Legislature appropriated about $11.3 million for the state division of tourism, of which about $5.2 million will be used in the worldwide advertising blitz aimed at luring tourists, said Terry Miller, deputy director of the division of tourism.Last year’s appropriation for the campaign totaled about $2.3 million. Fifty-eight private businesses added $717,000 to the effort.To fund the campaign, the tourism division’s $5.2 million will be added to by 60 tourism industry businesses in Alaska, according to Bruce Pozzi, who is handling the public relations for the campaign.Anchorage TimesJuly 10, 1981Major expansion to double size of Dimond mallBy Patti EplerTimes WriterThe Dimond Center is embarking on a major expansion program to more than double its size and make it the largest shopping mall in Alaska.The expansion will be to the west of the existing center at Dimond Boulevard and the Old Seward Highway.The new center will be anchored by a Lamonts department store and expanded Pay ’n’ Save. The Pay ’n’ Save will open next spring, Dennis Nash, manager of the existing Dimond Center Pay ’n’ Save said this morning.The new Pay ’n’ Save will be about half again as large as the existing store, making it about the size of the Pay ’n’ Save in Northway Mall, Nash said.The Northway Mall, which opened last May, is the largest shopping center in the state, with 44 stores now open in its 285,000 square feet of space.10 years ago this weekAlaska Journal of CommerceJuly 8, 1991New timber regs worry operationsThe Alaska Journal of CommerceAlaska timber operations say proposed new state timber management regulations could remove substantial amounts of harvestable trees -- as much as 9 percent -- from the timber base on state and private lands.The state Department of Natural Resources has issued a draft of regulations under the state Timber Practices Act adopted by the Legislature in 1990.The new law covers state and private lands, while federal forest lands, such as the Tongass National Forest in Southeast, are covered under federal timber management regulations.What’s at issue is the flexibility for variances to restrictions in logging near small streams. There are three options for variances within a 66-foot buffer zone along salmon-spawning streams.John Sturgeon, president of Koncor Forest Products, says his company is still calculating the effects of the proposals, but it appears that the two most restrictive options would remove about 9 percent of marketable timber on lands owned or under contract by Koncor.Alaska Journal of CommerceJuly 8, 1991Study: Fort Knox looks goodThe Alaska Journal of CommerceFAIRBANKS -- Prefeasibility studies of the large Fort Knox gold prospect near Fairbanks, discovered when a bulldozer operator building a road in 1987 sliced open a bed of mineralized ore, indicated it would be not only one of the largest gold mines in the nation, but also very profitable.Based on an economic evaluation by Davy McKee, a Canadian consulting firm, Fort Knox investors could get their equity back in less than one year and enjoy an overall 91 percent annual rate of return on their investment.That assessment assumes U.S. gold prices at $400 an ounce, a gold production cost of $215 per once over the life of the mine under a base case development scenario and $204 per ounce over the life of the project under an alternative scenario. The analysis assumes project funding at 70 percent debt and 30 percent equity.-- Compiled by Ed Bennett.

University, Gillette researchers develop field test to detect shellfish poisoning

A new testing procedure could soon turn the tide against incidents of paralytic shellfish poisoning, or PSP. The test will also allow shellfish harvesters and growers to easily test their catches for the deadly toxin in remote areas.In Kodiak late last month, aquaculture specialist Ray RaLonde of the University of Alaska’s Marine Advisory Program and researchers from Gillette Biotech were scheduled to unveil a PSP field test kit they’ve invented, and instruct people on how to use it. Kodiak Island is an appropriate place to introduce the new technology, as the region has the dubious distinction of being the "PSP Capital of the World." Whereas the allowable limit of PSP is 80 micrograms per 100 grams of tissue, shellfish around Kodiak have contained as much as 19,600 micrograms."A concentration that high will deliver a lethal dose by consumption of only a single small mussel," RaLonde said.Other areas showing worrisome, albeit much lower, levels of PSP are along the southern shores of the Aleutian Chain, in Southeast Alaska near Ketchikan and near Juneau. According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, the occurrence of PSP has severely affected development of clam fisheries throughout Alaska, where an estimated 50 million pounds are available each year for harvest.PSP comes from a single-celled algae that produces the toxins as a normal byproduct. Shellfish, and some crabs, feed on the algae and can accumulate PSP toxins to dangerous levels. PSP is estimated to be 1,000 times more toxic than cyanide, and symptoms appear soon after consuming toxic shellfish. So far, at lease 24 molecular forms of PSP toxins have been identified, "and we’re still counting," RaLonde said.Collectively, the toxins are termed saxitoxins, named after the common butter clam, Saxidomus giganteus, where they were originally extracted and identified. Butter clams are particularly notorious, because they can hold the PSP toxin for two years. The toxins block movement of sodium through nerve cell membranes, and stop the flow of nerve impulses. This results in the symptoms of PSP, which include numbness, paralysis, disorientation and even death.There is no antidote for PSP, and all cases require immediate medical attention. In Alaska, more than 172 cases of PSP have occurred since the 1970s, although the state Department of Epidemiology estimates that only one in seven cases is reported. Two deaths from PSP have occurred in recent years, both on Kodiak.Currently, the only federally approved test for PSP involves injecting a serum made from ground up shellfish tissue into a mouse. The level of toxicity is determined by how long it takes the mouse to die. In Alaska, testing of all shellfish is done through the Department of Environmental Conservation at a single lab in Palmer.State funding provides only for the testing of commercially harvested products, and there is no mandate or funding to test beaches for recreational harvests. The only beaches officially certified in Alaska are on Kachemak Bay and Cook Inlet, where harvests of razor clams and shellfish sent in by aquatic farmers are tested regularly.PSP episodes in Alaska tend to be seasonal, occurring most often during late spring and summer. According to a paper by RaLonde, "Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning: The Alaska Problem," shellfish become toxic when environmental conditions, such as changes in salinity, warming water temperature and increased nutrients and sunlight, enable the poisonous cells to rapidly reproduce, causing a toxic bloom. In time, the water may take on a fluorescent reddish color referred to as a red tide.But that can often be a misnomer. RaLonde said: "In Kodiak, for example, we have never seen a red tide that’s caused the toxicity. You don’t see the massive amounts of cells, but the ones that are there are highly toxic. A bloom may come and go quickly, but the shellfish are contaminated."RaLonde said that in 1997, funding by the Alaska Science and Technology Foundation enabled Gillette researchers to discover which kinds of PSP toxins are found in Alaska, and they developed fabricated antibodies that link to the toxin."The antibody has a color tag, and when you mix the toxic serum with the antibody, the color shows the level of toxicity. It’s a yes/no test, the product either passes or it doesn’t," he said.People will need some training to use the field kit properly, as it involves grinding and heating shellfish tissue, and the test protocol must be followed exactly. RaLonde said: "There are limitations, but it has great potential. I look at it as a good monitoring tool to screen locations, or find patterns of toxicity occurring in a certain area. Finally, you don’t have to send samples into a lab for testing. You can do right here."Rock music attracts fishThe Internet site WorldCatch reports that a new survey reveals that fish love listening to the Rolling Stones. Fishermen reportedly have found that playing classic tracks of the Stones and ZZ Top attract large schools of fish. On the contrary, female voices tend to send the fish flying.WorldCatch said that according to the magazine Boating, the sounds of Alanis Morissette and Dionne Warwick "send the fish swimming off in a panic."Kodiak-based free-lance writer Laine Welch can be reached via e-mail at ([email protected]).

Career flier parks F-15 to pilot Gwin's Lodge

After a 22-year career as an F-15 jet pilot, Bob Siter, owner of Gwin’s Lodge in Cooper Landing, now seeks counsel from octogenarian Helen Gwin, who opened the roadhouse nearly 50 years ago with her husband, the late Pat Gwin.Many of the challenges of running a roadside business are still the same, Helen Gwin tells Siter from her home on the lodge property. However, unlike the original owners in 1952, today Siter uses the Internet to market the lodge and recruit workers.One similarity is hiring and managing seasonal employees, Siter said. This summer the lodge, at Mile 52 of the Sterling Highway, has 45 full-time employees. The business, which includes a tackle shop, cabins, restaurant, grocery store, liquor store and outdoor clothing shop, is one of the few highway businesses in the area open round-the-clock, according to general manager Siter."I call it the fishery that never sleeps and neither do we," he said.Alaskans and out-of-state visitors alike are lured to the area, chiefly for its fishing on the nearby Russian River.Frequently travelers touch down at Anchorage’s airport after midnight then drive south to Cooper Landing. They often arrive at Gwin’s Lodge at 3 a.m., ready to fish, and Siter’s employees are ready to equip them with tackle, fishing licenses and food, he said.Alaskans account for another business segment, probably about half of daily customers, he said. "A lot of people consider the Kenai Peninsula to be the vacation heartland."Raised in New Jersey, Siter later helped his parents operate a Vermont restaurant in the 1970s where his mother served as head chef. As a U.S. Air Force pilot, Siter was transferred to Alaska where he was inspired to call the state home after retirement.In 1994 Siter bought Gwin’s Lodge, although he still had five years until retirement."Once I saw this place, I knew how lucrative a location it was so I decided to follow my intuition," Siter recalled.His parents agreed to move to Cooper Landing from New Jersey and run the lodge until he retired.Like other roadside businesses, Gwin’s Lodge is affected by various factors.For example, poor salmon runs in 1996 and 1997 prompted officials to close the Russian River fishery in late July and August, Siter said. Despite just two years in business, Siter weathered the setback by appealing to nonfishing visitors who were drawn to the area for hiking or rafting. Diversification is the key, he said.Favorable fishing on the Russian River this year has yielded record business for Siter so far.A possible future decision on rerouting the Sterling Highway at Cooper Landing could affect Gwin’s Lodge business, but Siter is convinced customers will still visit the historic property.Since acquiring Gwin’s Lodge, Siter has added 15 cabins to six existing ones. He cannot buy adjacent property for expansion because the lodge is surrounded by the Chugach National Forest. Instead he has expanded the store and introduced a clothing line."Our business has been able to grow 130 to 140 percent in the six years we’ve owned it," he said, citing the lodge’s location en route to other Kenai Peninsula destinations.Visitors stay longer at Gwin’s Lodge cabins, with the average stay extended from 1-1/2 days in the mid-1990s to about three days now, he said.In winter Gwin’s Lodge is open on weekends, catering to snowmachining enthusiasts and others, he said.Siter also champions the other area businesses, calling Cooper Landing the gateway to the Kenai Peninsula. "We tell people to use Cooper Landing as a base," Siter said, adding that visitors can try rafting or a tour before returning to check on fishing conditions at the Russian River.

Census hunts Southeast logging camps, finds them going, gone

JUNEAU -- Hobart Bay has almost disappeared and other Southeast towns are shrinking.When census takers visited Southeast 10 years ago, it was full of bustling logging camps. At the time, 187 people lived and worked at Hobart Bay, 60 miles southeast of Juneau. When the census takers returned a year ago they could find only three residents.That was more than they found in Long Island, Labouchere Bay, Dora Bay, Port Alice or Rowan Bay, all logging communities counted in the 1990 census that are gone now, said Greg Williams, a state demographer."Those, in particular, were logging camps that shut down ultimately with the closing of the mills," Williams said. "The folks either went to another logging camp somewhere or left the state in some cases."Changes in Southeast’s resource-based economy have hit some towns hard, and it shows in their populations. Out of 36 communities in Southeast, 15 lost population over the last decade.Their losses were Juneau’s gain, as people left smaller communities to find work in the city. Juneau grew 21 percent since the last census, outpacing the rest of the country’s 17 percent growth."To some degree, some of Juneau’s growth has been the result of folks moving in from the surrounding area, from Wrangell and Prince of Wales and Angoon and places like that, because we’ve had at least a moderate steady growth in jobs as a regional service center," Williams said. "Juneau probably is the only community in Southeast that has shown any steady, substantial growth in this decade."Others, including Sitka and Haines, have been stable, Williams said.Wrangell’s loss of residents was no secret, but city officials there were surprised by how much. The census count found 171 fewer people in Wrangell this time than 10 years ago."It was a huge shock when you suddenly get the numbers," said Wrangell economic development planner Carol Rushmore.The mill in Wrangell shut down in 1994. For two to three years the out-migration seemed like an exodus. Now it has slowed, but recent stops and starts in the timber industry have more people talking about leaving, Rushmore said. She expects another drop in population.About 30 percent of the homes and apartments in town are vacant, and homes are taking a long time to sell, Rushmore said. The schools had 90 fewer students in 2000 than five years before, and fewer still are expected this fall.Populations in small Southeast communities react more directly to changes in the economy than communities in which the residents can commute to a larger city. Rushmore said a planned inter-island ferry system could help stabilize Wrangell’s population. She also is trying to identify land to develop into a new harbor and marine repair facility. A recently opened golf course is already drawing golfers to Wrangell from around Southeast.When communities shrink below a certain size, it’s hard for them to rebound. If the community can’t produce at least 10 students, the state reduces funding for the school, which is usually closed. That causes other families to move away."Certainly places like Elfin Cove have been seriously damaged as the school’s been pulled," Williams said.In 10 more years communities like Hobart Bay and Meyers Chuck could be ghost towns, Williams said."There are places where the population is getting older and most of the kids are gone," Williams said. "They haven’t been replaced, and I don’t know what will ultimately happen to them, but some of them may cease to exist."Other towns may have stabilized and be ready to start growing again, said Lance Miller, executive director of the Juneau Economic Development Council."They will reach an equilibrium, one would think," Miller said. "In some of these places the first people to leave have left and the people left are more deeply rooted."Ketchikan lost 341 people since the last census, not surprising considering the pulp mill closed in 1997, said Ketchikan City Clerk Katy Suiter. Businesses closed, but now new businesses have begun to open."A lot of businesses have shifted focus, as far as trying to figure out what will work," Suiter said. "There’s been a huge increase in tourism businesses."Southeast isn’t the only part of Alaska on the losing end. The population also has fallen in Athabascan areas in central Alaska. The only real growth has been in Anchorage and the surrounding urban areas."We haven’t had very much growth in the state as a whole this decade," Williams said. "We’ve been one of the slowest growing states in the country in terms of overall economic growth. While we’ve been growing a little bit, we just have not been keeping up with the rest of the country, economically, income-wise, you name it."Traditionally people came to Alaska from Washington, Oregon and California to earn money. Now the tables have turned, and many professionals can make more money in the Lower 48 than in Juneau, Miller said. He predicts Juneau will continue to grow slowly, at a rate of 1 percent to 1.5 percent a year, as people move here for the quality of life.Williams agrees."I don’t anticipate some major turnaround in growth," Williams said.

Anchorage's Signature ranks No. 1 among cargo plane pit stops

When Chuck Gielow says his company "moves some fuel,’’ he means it.Signature Flight Support pumped more than 715 million gallons of jet fuel last year at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, leading the nation in the amount of fuel pumped into cargo planes.The airport also ranks in the top five for passenger aircraft fueled, according to company officials.Orlando, Fla.-based Signature Flight Support is the contractor that operates Anchorage Fueling and Service Co., a consortium of 21 airlines formed in 1981 to provide fueling services at the airport.The consortium runs the bulk fuel storage plants in Anchorage, as well as the transfer pipelines, fueling trucks and aircraft facilities. Signature is responsible for pumping the fuel, security, spill prevention and cleanup.The company fuels planes at 48 locations nationwide. Signature took over operations in Anchorage in 1992 with the merger of Page Avjet and Butler Aviation.In May, Signature fueled just more than 4,200 jet airplanes in Anchorage. In the summer, the numbers go up to more than 4,900, according to Gielow, the company’s airline service manager.On average, Signature pumps about 2 million gallons of jet fuel daily. Alaska Airlines is the largest fuel user for passenger service; Korean Air, Federal Express and United Parcel Service use the most fuel for cargo planes, Gielow said. "Any overseas flight has to stop here for fuel," Gielow said. "That’s why we’re as big as we are."Fuel storage facilities are at the Port of Anchorage and near the airport. Williams Alaska Petroleum Inc.’s North Pole plant provides more than half of the jet fuel, which is shipped by rail to Anchorage. Tesoro Alaska Co. provides about 40 percent of the fuel for the airport via its Nikiski pipeline.The remainder comes from producers outside Alaska and is shipped here in tankers and barges, according to Gielow.Jeff Cook, vice president of external affairs for Williams, said his company produces 1.4 million gallons of jet fuel daily for Anchorage. Another 210,000 gallons is produced for Fairbanks each day, he said."We’re producing pretty much all we can," Cook said, adding that production was increased substantially in 1998. The company has no immediate plans to boost production, which would require major expansion of the North Pole refinery, he said.Increased production sometime in the future is not out of the question, however, he said."We’re certainly watching market trends," Cook saidRon Noel, Tesoro spokesman, said his company has no immediate plans for increased production, either. In fact, he said, the company sometimes has to import jet fuel from other producers to keep up with demand in the state."There are a lot of airplanes out there," Noel said.Jet A fuel fetches roughly the same price as premium unleaded gasoline, Gielow said. The actual cost is determined by each participating airline in the consortium, which negotiates prices individually with suppliers.Signature Flight Support has 115 workers in Anchorage, more than half of whom fuel airplanes.Safety, naturally, is the top priority with the company, said Bruce Vergason, Signature’s plant manager. He said new employees spend about 10 days of classroom time getting to know aircraft and safety procedures, followed by two weeks of on-the-job training.Any damage to an aircraft is grounds for an automatic discharge, said Gielow, who started with the company in 1982 as an aircraft refueler. On the flip side, the company rewards its employees for not damaging airplanes.Last year, the company had no incidents, resulting in a $1,600 bonus for each employee, Gielow said."We think of it as a free but hard-earned dividend every year,’’ Gielow said.Employees also are given bonuses and luncheons every month during which no flights are delayed due to refueling. Those free lunches are tough to earn with the sheer number of airplanes needing to be fueled and the obvious obstacle associated with Alaska, Gielow said."Weather -- that’s a challenge here,’’ Gielow said.With the capacity to fuel up to 50 airplanes at one time, coordination is vital. Airlines usually give the company two or more hours of notice for their fueling needs, Gielow said.Fuel is delivered to airplanes by tanker trucks or an underground pipeline that feeds a myriad of tanks or "pits" on the airport ramp. Jet wings are positioned over the pits and connected with hoses through a hydrant truck, which meters and filters fuel flow to the airplane.Jets take on anywhere from 6,000 to 44,000 gallons of fuel, depending on their size and destination. Most overseas cargo flights require more than 30,000 gallons per airplane, taking about 90 minutes to top off, Gielow said.

Owner makes King Mountain Lodge more than just burger joint

Half a decade ago, registered nurse Judy Nix was helping people die with dignity at the Hospice of Anchorage, a job that carries with it a certain amount of stress.On the weekends, she would get away by spending time at what she called her "hiding place," King Mountain Lodge at Mile 76 on the Glenn Highway.She never dreamed she’d end up buying the place, but at the urging of friends, that’s exactly what she did in August 1995.Nix soon learned that she couldn’t run a lodge and be a nurse at the same time."I found out I had to be here 24 hours a day, eight days a week," she said.That’s because the lodge is much more than a place to buy a burger or a beer. It’s the center of a community that stretches from Sutton to the Matanuska Glacier. "In winter, we’re the only phone along a 55-mile stretch of the highway," Nix said. "A lot of people don’t have wells, and we have clean water. I share it with everybody."If someone in the area gets hurt, they head towards the lodge. Nix said she’s seen her share of compound fractures and lacerations -- even heart attacks."I’m still nursing. I just don’t get paid," she joked.After owning the lodge for a couple of years, Nix realized she needed help managing the place, someone who could do everything from cook to tend bar -- along with some not-so-pleasant tasks. So she placed an ad for a general manager/chef and got a quick response from Darryl Dean.Dean said he could cook and he could tend bar, but the clincher was when Nix asked him if he would be willing to clean toilets if necessary. When he told Nix he would, he got the job.And Dean certainly can cook. His resume includes kitchen manager at Simon & Seafort’s Saloon & Grill in Anchorage, sous chef at the now-defunct Elevation 92 and catering work on the North Slope. He spent several years as regional manager for Restaurants Unlimited, a chain in the Pacific Northwest, where he was in charge of opening new restaurants.So with that kind of background, why did he choose to work at King Mountain Lodge?"It’s fun out here," Dean said. "I had worked for a corporation that wanted 6 percent more revenue every year, and I wasn’t happy. I got tired of working that way."Dean is also in charge of promoting the lodge. He’s got a special event scheduled there every other weekend until October. On June 16, for instance, nearly 200 people showed up for the so-called "March Madness" celebration, put on by a group of local property owners. (It was first held in March last year, but it snowed, so this year it moved to June -- without a name change.)Coming up on July 3 will be a free barbecue to mark the death of Jim Morrison, the legendary leader of the Doors rock group. Dean said this quirky approach works well, generating lots of visitors, all of it through word of mouth.Those visitors patronize the bar and often buy meals before or after the main event, generating badly needed revenue. Nix said creating successful summer events is the key to the lodge’s survival."We get behind in winter and try to get caught up by the end of summer," she said.That job hasn’t been any easier over the last four years, as major reconstruction of the Glenn Highway north of Palmer has dramatically reduced visitors to the lodge."People have told me they’re not coming here because the road is so terrible," she said. "We’ve suffered."But Nix is optimistic that things will pick up once the road construction is finished. "I want to make a living instead of just survive," she said.

Rubber tire traffic

Roadhouses historically provided refuge for travelers along Alaska trails -- and business for those long-ago lodge operators. Modern day outposts on the highway system rely on business from Alaskans and out-of-state travelers alike. Statistics show July typically is the busiest month for passenger vehicles to cross the Alaska-Canada border. Likewise, business operators agree that this month usually is vital to the visitor season. This year many business owners note a slower season so far in some parts of Alaska due to various factors. Conversely, other areas say business is hopping, partly attributable to favorable fishing and weather conditions, both of which can make or break a season. Business along Alaska’s roadways includes cruise ship passengers touring via bus; recreational vehicle traffic from instate residents and visitors; and people relocating by driving the Alaska Highway. When potential visitors imagine their trip to Alaska, they envision mountains, streams and wildlife, according to one businessman who makes his living along the road system. "These people have these dreams in their head. It’s the highway that fulfills those dreams, not the cities," said Alan LeMaster, president of Gakona Junction Village, at Mile 128.5 of the Richardson Highway. He operates a gas station, grocery, cabins and river guiding in Gakona as well as a firm that distributes brochures to highway businesses. Highway tourism represents about 15 percent of total entry to Alaska, said Tina Lindgren, president of the Alaska Travel Industry Association. More than half of all visitors come via domestic airlines, and cruise passengers account for about one-third, ATIA data shows. Communities that depend on the economic benefits of vehicle travel include Fairbanks, Glennallen, Tok, Delta Junction, Skagway, Haines, Palmer and Wasilla.

Task force soon to review options to phase in low-sulfur diesel

A working group assembled by the state Department of Environmental Conservation will meet again in Anchorage July 18 to go over options on phasing in new requirements by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for use of ultra-low sulfur highway diesel fuel in Alaska.Requirements that diesel trucks, buses and other highway vehicles use fuel with no greater than 15 parts per million sulfur will be in effect nationally in 2006 under an EPA rule that went into effect earlier this year.Alaska can phase in the requirement by 2010, according to Clint Farr of the Department of Environmental Conservation’s clean air group. DEC Commissioner Michele Brown must submit a proposal to the EPA for an Alaska phase-in plan by April.Farr said DEC’s air quality division must have options prepared for Brown by October on how the requirements can be met in Alaska, minimizing costs for consumers, petroleum distributors and retailers.DEC convened the working group of refiners, distributors, environmental organizations and others earlier this year.Two meetings have been held, the latest in May."No one at the May meeting was willing to make any decisions on the options presented," Farr said. "Costs were an issue to people, but many were unwilling to really talk about costs with their competitors sitting there at the table," he said.A decision was made after that meeting to meet confidentially with refiners, distributors and retailers, Farr said. Most of those meetings have now been held, "and we’re writing up the options we have based on information from those meetings."Farr couldn’t talk about what was discussed in specific meetings, but he said that, generally, operators of Alaska refineries want more time to evaluate how refiners in the Lower 48 will react to the new requirements and what new technologies might be adopted."They didn’t say they wouldn’t make the refinery modifications needed to produce the fuel in Alaska, but they clearly want more information," Farr said.For their part, distributors were concerned about an incremental phase-in plan because that would require investments in infrastructure to handle the fuel separately that would only be good for four or five years, he said.There’s still considerable uncertainty as to what the new fuel will cost. There are preliminary estimates from the EPA that with modifications of large refineries in the Houston, Texas, area, the new 15 ppm diesel could cost only 2 to 5 cents per gallon more than conventional diesel fuel. By the time it is moved to Alaska, because of the separate handling and storage required, it will cost more, however.Frank Dillon, executive director of the Alaska Trucking Association, said that by the time the fuel is shipped to Alaska it could cost 25 to 30 cents per gallon more.One complication in buying the 15 ppm diesel in the Lower 48 is that diesel fuel used in very cold winters that most of Alaska experiences outside Southeast is that it must be "arctic" grade diesel, made to pour at low temperatures. Conventional diesel jells up when it is cold.Diesel meeting the 15 ppm specification will be available from refineries in the Lower 48, but whether the arctic grade diesel at 15 ppm is available, or what it will cost to run small batches, is unclear.Farr said that an illustration of the potential complexities came when the agency investigated a source of arctic grade diesel a few years ago that would meet a 500 ppm sulfur limit.No refineries in the Lower 48 could supply the fuel. Refiners in Edmonton, Alberta, were found who make arctic grade 500 ppm diesel for use in Canada, but the best way of shipping it to Alaska, a combination rail/barge route through Vancouver, British Columbia, added 45 cents a gallon to costs, Farr said.

Supporters try again with Young-sponsored conservation bill

WASHINGTON -- A bill to spend more than $3 billion a year on land conservation and recreation nearly cleared Congress last year, and now its supporters are trying again. The Conservation and Reinvestment Act, sponsored by Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, had its first hearing of the year on June 20. It would send $175 million to Alaska for coastal conservation, wildlife management and city parks, among other uses. The share for other states would range from Vermont’s $9.2 million to California’s $349 million. Most of the money would go to state and local governments, but $450 million would be available for federal land acquisition. The money would come from federal offshore drilling receipts. As was the case last year, the bill makes strange political bedfellows for Young. Environmental groups and their champions in Congress, who usually oppose Young’s pro-development approach, are with him on this one. At the same time, some congressmen from Western states, who usually join Young in decrying the heavy hand of the federal government, passionately oppose CARA. They say it will force land out of private hands and give federal agencies jurisdiction over more of their districts. Young and other supporters say the bill improves the standing of landowners. "I suggest you read the legislation and tell me where it is worse," Young told opponents at the House Resources Committee hearing. The bill specifies that the federal government can only buy lands from a "willing seller," he and others pointed out. Rep. Barbara Cubin, R-Wyo., said that wasn’t enough for her. "I know in my district sometimes how the federal government makes a seller willing," she said. The government can ruin the value of private property by not allowing the owners to use any part of surrounding federal lands, she said. She was sympathetic to a Colorado rancher who testified that her family is harassed and under constant surveillance by the National Park Service, which has threatened to condemn the family’s ranch and make it part of the surrounding Dinosaur National Monument. When Congress funds federal land acquisition, it endangers the way of life her family has practiced since 1919, Renee Daniels-Mantle said. "Without adequate private-property protections, my family and others like us across the country fear it will become the instrument by which the government forcibly removes us from our homes," she said. Park officials have said the Mantles misuse public lands by overgrazing, dumping trash and treating the monument as if they own it. Despite the objections, CARA has many fans in Congress. It cruised through the House last year 315-102, and supporters said they had at least 60 Senate votes. The bill cleared a Senate committee 13-7 but then died amid protests over its cost: $45 billion over 15 years. When it fizzled, Congress passed what became known as "Cara Lite," which increased funding for conservation but not through a law that would have guaranteed money for future years, as CARA does. The new CARA bill is substantially the same as last year’s version. It has more than 220 co-sponsors. Among them is Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind. Where he is from, the only federal property is the veterans’ hospital and the courthouse, he said. He said he likes the bill because it would provide cities and suburbs more open space.  

Processors again short on employees

KENAI -- The salmon are massing in the Inlet; the fishermen are geared up to put their nets in the water and, for the second year, processors are worried they won’t be able to handle the season for lack of labor.In mid-June the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development sent out an alert that the state’s seafood industry needs workers immediately. It listed about 700 vacancies, about half of which were on the Kenai Peninsula.Last summer, some central peninsula canneries were so short of workers they ran only one shift instead of the normal two. This year, with more fish anticipated, they are scrambling to build crews."It has been getting worse for the last three years or so," said Donna Allen, personnel manager at Inlet Salmon in Kenai."We probably have half as many as we need."With the stronger economy in other parts of the nation and a weaker, shorter fish processing season in Alaska, the state is no longer attracting the numbers of migrant seasonal workers it once did. Processors are staffing their plants instead with local high school students.The starting pay rate is $7 per hour. Workers get time and a half for overtime, which is frequent in the industry, and some get bonuses for experience or committing to a full season.Because of low prices for the finished product, processing companies are boxed in economically and unlikely to offer higher wages.The work is physically demanding and the shifts long but, especially in a good season, it can be quite profitable to work on "the slime line."Ken Sirois, who handles fisheries jobs for the state job service office in Kenai, pointed out that the worker shortage is a problem both statewide and on the peninsula. How many positions will be available depends on how strong the salmon runs are.Processors have been working for several weeks, handling small amounts of fish from Prince William Sound and ramping up for the main commercial season in Cook Inlet, which was due to begin the last week of June.Pacific Star in Kenai pursues a strategy of offering early work and employee amenities such as a cafeteria.Other processors are more worried.Allen estimated her plant could use 100 more workers, with perhaps 50 to 100 more for Inlet Salmon’s Kasilof plant.

This Week in Alaska Business History July 1, 2001

Editor’s note: "This Week in Alaska Business History" revisits events that shaped our past."Those who cannotremember the past arecondemned to repeat it."-- George Santayana, 1863-195220 years ago this weekAnchorage TimesJuly 2, 1981Alaskans praise coal tax rulingState oil levy may be legalAssociated Press and Times StaffWASHINGTON -- Alaska officials today applauded a U.S. Superior Court decision upholding the legality of a large severance tax levied by the state of Montana on its abundant coal deposits.The decision may mean that Alaska’s tax laws on the oil industry are constitutional, state officials said.The high court decision was described as "either a good case or a neutral case for (Alaska) depending on the rationale used by the court majority to justify the decision," said state Revenue Commissioner Tom Williams."If it’s couched in terms of state’s rights then it’s a very good case for the state."Attorney General Wilson Condon said this afternoon in Juneau that while he had not yet read the opinion, "it probably means our (oil) severance tax is OK."Condon said the state’s 12.25 percent severance tax also would have been challenged if the Superior Court had struck down the Montana coal tax.Anchorage TimesJuly 2, 1981Lower Cook Inlet catch exceeds predictionsBy Deb DavidTimes WriterLower Cook Inlet commercial fishermen are pulling in a better catch than they bargained for this year, says a fisheries biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.But they still aren’t catching as many fish as fishermen in the three other Alaska fishing districts."I’m speaking in terms of relative magnitude, not raw harvests," says biologist Keith Webster.What makes the Lower Cook Inlet total catch -- estimated at 37,000 red salmon, 970 pink salmon and 5,500 chum -- exceptional is that it far exceeds Fish and Game predictions, said Webster.While Bristol Bay leads in the number of fish caught to date, it has not met biologists’ expectations."Aerial surveys show the run (at Lower Cook Inlet) is a lot stronger than normal," Webster said. "It’s an exceptionally good catch for this early."10 years ago this weekAlaska Journal of CommerceJuly 1, 1991Air Cargo: Up Again!International passenger service plummets, but air freight operations are boomingBy Ray TysonFor the Journal of CommerceCargo operations at Anchorage International Airport are back on course following two disruptive years marked by the eruption of Redoubt Volcano and the Persian Gulf war.Though Alaska continues to rapidly lose passenger service to long-range jets and Soviet airspace, international cargo landings in Anchorage are expected to increase about 5 percent this year, said Anders Westman, marketing director for the Alaska International Airport System.However, airline user fees are plummeting, and it’s unlikely cargo can ever make up the difference, Westman said.Alaska Journal of CommerceJuly 1, 1991Building Boom in FairbanksBy Al GeistFor the Journal of CommerceFAIRBANKS -- While the rest of Alaska experiences an overall drop in construction, Fairbanks builders are finding themselves amid a mini-boom. Construction permits are up more than 600 percent and there’s more on the way."The total dollar value for all new construction permits in the Fairbanks North Star Borough is $469,000 for the first quarter 1991," said Carrin Halffman, research coordinator for the Borough’s Community Research Center. "Last year it was only $77,000." These figures include site preparation for a new $12.5 million Princess Tours hotel near the international airport.-- Compiled by Ed Bennett.

In contracts, a signature's valid even if it's signed electronically

The law of contract is an integral part of our everyday business world. Agreements are made on a daily basis, performance rendered and payment usually follows.Historically, and even through today, the simplest form of contract was an oral contract. An oral contract can be enforced with the same level of judicial support as a written agreement. In order to prevent fraud, legislation known as the "Statute of Frauds" was passed that requires certain categories of contracts to be reduced to writing. The Statute of Frauds covers:* land sale contracts;* leases that exceed one year in length;* an agreement that by its terms is not to be performed within a year from the date of making the contract;* an agreement to lend more than $50,000 or extend creditor for more than $50,000; and* a promise to answer for the debt of another.As with many areas of the law, an agreement that is subject to the Statute of Frauds that does not meet the requirements of that statute may nevertheless be enforceable if, for example, there has been full performance on one side which is accepted by the other in accordance with the contract.Other instances include the existence of a memorandum that would satisfy the requirements of the statute except for a technical error or omission in the recital of past events or, perhaps, where a party against whom enforcement is sought admits voluntarily or involuntarily to the making of the agreement.A frequent contract question is whether a written agreement is enforceable without notarized signatures. Whether a document is notarized generally has little to do with the enforceability of the agreement. Notarization of a document only is evidence that the person who signs actually has established their identity to the notary before signing. The notarization generally does not deal with the substance of the underlying agreement between the parties.Recently signatures for written agreements have seen a number of changes. Facsimile signatures are frequently treated as being equally as valid as an original. The acceptability of a faxed signature is generally something that the parties previously agree upon; however, the prevalence of faxed signatures has become a routine fact of life in the law of contract.For the future, the law is moving toward the acceptability of electronic signatures. We all know that e-mail is quickly becoming an integral part of the business and communication process. Recent state and federal legislation and one uniform law appear to be setting the stage for this next phase of development in the law of contract.Effective Oct. 1, 2000, the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act was implemented. The purpose of this federal legislation was to remove legal impediments to the use of electronic contracts to help the growth of e-commerce.Under the act, a signature may not be denied legal effect solely because it is in electronic form. An electronic signature is defined to be any electronic sound, symbol or process attached to or logically associated with a contract or other record and executed or accepted by a person with the intent to sign the record.In actuality, many of us already have electronic signatures; for example, every time you use a PIN number to access an ATM account, or use passwords to access computer programs, you use electronic signatures.While the foregoing act represents federal legislation, in 1999 the National Conference of Law Commissioners promulgated a Uniform Electronic Transaction Act. By January 2001, this uniform act was adopted in 23 states and pending in a number more.Alaska was actually in the forefront of this movement due to its enacting legislation, in 1998, authorizing the use of electronic signatures. Alaska’s recognition of electronic signatures requires the parties to first agree to be bound by such before it will be given legal effect.While the use of electronic signatures is still not all that common in the business contract setting, there appears to be a concerted effort to put weight behind the principle that electronic contracts should have the same legal effect as equivalent paper documents.As business people, we have seen the increasing use and reliance on e-mail. We would all be well advised to become familiar with the use of the electronic contracting capabilities for it seems only a matter of time until electronic signature options become a predominant feature in the law of contract.Jim Gorski is a member of the law firm of Hughes Thorsness Powell Huddleston & Bauman LLC. He can be reached via e-mail at ([email protected]).

With repaired Columbia a month overdue, ferry manager changes July schedule

JUNEAU -- Tension is mounting between the state and a Ketchikan shipyard hired to fix the ferry Columbia, damaged in a fire last year.Frustrated by what he called a series of missed deadlines by Alaska Ship and Drydock, the marine highway system’s George Capacci revamped the July ferry schedule anticipating the ship will not be delivered July 2 as promised by the company. Delivery already is a month behind schedule."There’re milestones they’ve missed," said Capacci, general manager. "I think it’s only prudent to think there might be more."However, a company spokesman insisted the shipyard would deliver the ferry by the July deadline and blamed the state for the delays."One hundred percent of our efforts are going to complete the ship at the earliest possible date," said Doug Ward, director of shipyard development.The shipyard was supposed to deliver the ferry May 26, but in May it asked for an extension to July 2, saying the state requested more work than was specified in the $10 million contract, which includes renovations unrelated to the fire.Capacci agreed the state expanded the scope of the project, but said the extra work should not have taken the shipyard so long to complete.A key issue is the ferry’s switchboard, which was destroyed in the blaze. The switchboard is the central nervous system of the ship -- the "brain" that controls the electrical system, said Capacci, noting that without it nothing else works. He wanted to put cleaning crews on the ferry while the renovation was in progress, to make the ship ready for passengers sooner, but without electricity, he can’t do it."We had verbal assurances the electrical power would be back on board and the crew would move back on board the 18th of June. That didn’t happen. Before that it was the first of June," Capacci said. "We’ve been telling them for 30 weeks that you’re late and they’ve been in denial or they’ve not seen it."However, Ward accounted for the delay by saying the state Department of Transportation requested more extensive testing of the switchboard than specified in the contract.In response to the missed deadlines to restore power, Capacci assumed the shipyard would not deliver the vessel July 2 and changed the July ferry schedule. If the shipyard does deliver it by July 2, the state would revert to the previous July schedule, he said.Meanwhile, Capacci is worried the delay has hurt the ferry system’s reputation in Alaska and the Lower 48. The Malaspina was diverted to the Bellingham-Skagway route to accommodate passengers with reservations on the Columbia. However, the smaller Malaspina cannot handle them all, and the state has turned travelers away."Those people we turn away are very upset. The general public’s impression is the whole marine highway system is goofed up, and that’s not the case at all," said Capacci, noting some ferry reservation agents were so weary of dealing with angry customers that they quit.The state could charge the shipyard $86,740 for each day beyond the contract’s May 26 deadline, he said. However, the money would go to the federal government, which funded the renovation, not to the state.

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