CDQs expand their fishing investment

The Community Development Quota program was created by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council in 1992 to foster economic development in remote Western Alaska coastal communities.As a part of its annual allocation of allowable harvests of pollock, cod and other groundfish, the council allocates a percentage of harvest quotas to six regional Community Development Quota groups, formed as nonprofit corporations.They represent 65 communities within 50 miles of the Bering Sea coast.Initially, the CDQ groups sold their harvest quotas to fisheries companies, which did the actual fishing. Programs were created to train and employ Western Alaska residents in jobs on the larger catcher-processor ships.As revenues to the corporations increased, CDQ groups invested in the fishing, either through ownership of the fishing company or part ownership of the vessels. They initiated other fisheries business activities, mostly in their home regions.Initially, the CDQ program was to last five years, but in 1996 Congress made the program permanent in its reauthorization of the Magnusen Stevens Act, the federal law that guides management of offshore fisheries.Although the fishery council sets the overall allocation for CDQ groups yearly, the share each corporation receives is determined by the state of Alaska in consultation with the National Marine Fisheries Service.CDQ groups are required to submit information on their activities to the state quarterly and to get state approval for their investments.Although the program is modeled on the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, which created Native-owned regional and village business-development corporations in Alaska, CDQ groups must secure state approval for investments in projects. Also, all investments must be fisheries related.In contrast, Native corporations created under ANCSA are free to invest and do business without government oversight and can invest in any type of enterprise.The six CDQ groups include: Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association, representing six communities; Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp., representing 17 communities; Central Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association, representing one community; Coastal Villages Regional Fund, representing 20 communities; and Yukon Delta Fisheries Development Assoc., representing six communities. Norton Sound Economic Development Corp., representing 15 communities.

Around the World December 23, 2001

STATESen. Murkowski calls for gas line meetingFAIRBANKS -- Sen. Frank Murkowski, R-Alaska, is calling for those interested in developing Alaska’s North Slope gas reserves to a meet in Washington D.C. early next year.Murkowski said he wants to get the gas producers and pipeline companies together sometime in late January or early February."If they don’t want to meet together then we’ll extend the invitation individually," Murkowski said.A study group organized by Alaska’s three major gas owners -- BP, ExxonMobil Production Co. and Phillips Alaska Inc. -- has concluded that a pipeline is not economically feasible at this time. Their final report hasn’t been issued, however.But pipeline companies have been more optimistic about the project than the producers. A consortium of American and Canadian companies that had first proposed the gasline in the 1970s has agreed to resolve financial issues associated with the project and will present a gasline proposal to producers early next year.Ketchikan cruise ship visitors up last summerKETCHIKAN -- Nearly 100,000 more cruise ship passengers visited Ketchikan last summer, but that trend could be changing due to the psychological impact of the September terrorist incidents.More than 665,000 cruise ship passengers stopped in the city, according to the Ketchikan Visitors Bureau, up 92,000 from the summer of 2000. Altogether, there were 690,000 cruise ship passengers who stopped at Alaska ports.But the terrorist attacks, a fear of flying and a slowdown in the U.S. economy could halt the industry’s rapid growth in Southeast Alaska and the rest of the state.About 39 percent of respondents who planned to visit Alaska next year have changed their minds, according to an initial Alaska Travel Industry Association survey."We are in the process of collecting data to see where we are on that trend," said Patti Mackey, executive director of the Ketchikan Visitors Bureau.Park service plans new Denali visitors centerFAIRBANKS -- Denali National Park and Preserve officials hope to build something the park has never had before, an information center to welcome park visitors."There is nothing in there that really communicates the history of the region, kind of the essence of the park," said superintendent Steve Martin.The park service plans to build a complex within 200 feet of the Alaska Railroad train depot. There would also be a theater, a modest food service area, an art gallery and a place to buy limited merchandise like a raincoat or hat. The complex would be constructed on the site of the old 100-room Denali National Park Hotel, which is now nearly torn down.The price tag for the plan is about $22 million, with about $8 million of that to come from the private sector as part of the concession opportunities. The remaining $14 million is to come from the federal government. Some $8.5 million has already been approved, and the remainder is expected in 2003.Construction is slated to begin this summer, with the bulk of the work to occur through the early summer of 2004.NATIONFord Motor Co. moves Web site in-houseDEARBORN, Mich. -- Ford Motor Co. is moving its corporate Web site in-house.The move, which takes Ford.com out of the hands of Maryland-based Digex Inc., is designed to lower operating costs.The Web site will be maintained and developed by Ford’s information technology department, spokesman Chris Vinyard told The Detroit News.The site includes company news, vehicle owner information and details about Ford’s family of brands and car and truck offerings. Vinyard said the site attracts about 3 million users per month, which makes it one of the most popular automotive Internet sites.According to Jupiter Media Metrix, Ford.com draws more unique visitors than any other car manufacturers’ Web site.Digex, a corporate Web site manager controlled by Clinton, Miss.-based WorldCom Inc., will continue to maintain about 300 Web sites for Ford. A Digex spokesman declined to comment on Ford’s decision.WORLDVivendi expands with USA Networks assetsPARIS -- Vivendi Universal is buying the entertainment assets of USA Networks Inc. in a $10.3 billion deal to improve distribution of the French media giant’s music and movies in the United States.The deal announced Dec. 17 is the latest chapter in Vivendi’s remarkable transformation in just a few years from a water utility into a global media and entertainment powerhouse.Under the deal, Vivendi will combine USA Networks’ assets such as the USA and Sci-Fi cable channels and the TV production operation responsible for "Law and Order" and "Jerry Springer," with its own Hollywood-based Universal Studios.Universal has a huge film catalogue and its Universal Studios last year produced hits like "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and "Erin Brokovich."For $10.3 billion in cash and stock, Vivendi will get a 93 percent stake in a new company that will be called Vivendi Universal Entertainment.USA Networks’ Barry Diller, the entertainment industry veteran who ran the Paramount movie studio in the 1970s and oversaw the launch of the Fox television network in the 1980s, will be chairman and chief executive of Vivendi Universal Entertainment.World growth slower, Monetary Fund predictsWASHINGTON -- The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks dealt a major blow to a global economy that was already under severe strain and will result in the weakest economic performance in nearly a decade, the International Monetary Fund said on Dec. 18.The 183-nation lending agency projected global growth of 2.4 percent for this year and next, down sharply from the 4.7 percent pace recorded in 2000.The United States, which entered its first recession in a decade last March, will grow by just 1 percent this year and an even weaker 0.7 percent in 2002, the IMF forecast.The new projections were included in a special edition of its "World Economic Outlook."Because of the Sept. 11 attacks, "prospects for global recovery have been set back significantly," the IMF said in the new report.The IMF predicted that the world economy will see the most marked simultaneous slowdown in two decades, with all major economies from the United States and Europe to Japan struggling to emerge from a pronounced slowdown.-- Compiled from business wire services

Railroad says system will ease reservations

The Alaska Railroad Corp. has purchased and installed a new computer software system designed to improve telephone reservation service and allow customers to book seats and purchase train tickets via the Internet.The new railroad-specific reservation software, scheduled to be operational this month, was designed by United Kingdom-based FSS Travel & Leisure Systems, said Steve Silverstein, vice president of the railroad’s Markets, Sales and Services Division."Rail Res 2000" is used by railroads worldwide and also for ferry reservations to and from Seattle to Vancouver, British Columbia, Silverstein said.Cost for the computer software and hardware upgrades was $820,000. The Federal Transit Administration covered 80 percent of the cost of the new reservation system; the remainder came from railroad revenues, Silverstein said.The new system is compatible with the railroad’s existing computer equipment but faster processors needed to be installed, according to Silverstein.The new software replaces the railroad’s old reservation system purchased in 1993 from Vertical Marketing Systems. That system, according to Silverstein, was antiquated and was no longer supported or maintained by the computer company."When they stopped supporting the system, it made it very difficult for us,’’ Silverstein said.The old system also could not handle reservations online, a marketing component that is vital nowadays, Silverstein said.Managers and senior reservation agents were trained on the new system in early December, Silverstein said. The railroad will train its seasonal reservation agents in February and March."(Rail Res 2000) is much simpler than the old system and much more intuitive and connected than the old system was,’’ Silverstein said."It’s simpler for our reservation agents to use and simpler for the customers to use,’’ Silverstein said. "It’s a good, smooth system."Over the past two years, the state-owned railroad has hauled about 500,000 passengers annually and has had revenues of slightly more than $13 million each year.Railroad officials hope the new reservation system will increase ridership on the 525-mile rail line by providing instant access to railroad schedules, tour information and package deals, all with the option to purchase online. Internet reservations should improve telephone reservations by allowing agents more time to serve customers, Silverstein said.Eventually, Silverstein said, the new system could be expanded to computerized kiosks or ticket vending machines around the state, or on board a train.

North Pole flight marks 50th year

Fifty years ago this month, a commercial airliner crossed the North Pole for the first time, establishing a route across the top of the world connecting Alaska with Europe and Asia. Alaska Airlines is credited with the inaugural flight over the North Pole, calling the polar route the Panama Canal of world air travel. Today, scores of cargo jets come to and from Anchorage daily over the North Pole without fanfare. But in 1951, just reaching the northernmost point on the Earth was cause for much pomp and publicity. Robert E. Peary was the first to reach the North Pole on the ground in 1909. Russian and American military aircraft had reached the ice-covered point that lies roughly in the middle of the Arctic Ocean, but no commercial airliner had ever attempted the journey. The plan was to fly a Douglas DC-4 from Fairbanks, refuel at Point Barrow, then cruise over the northern point of the Earth’s axis of rotation. Once there, a barber pole and a bag of letters from Alaska children to Santa Claus would be dumped from the air and then the airplane would head home. "To make a long story short, there was a heck of a lot of ballyhoo just to drop off a pole at the North Pole,’’ co-pilot James Robert "Bob" Long said from his apartment at the Anchorage Pioneers’ Home Dec. 11, the 50th anniversary of the flight. On hand at the North Pole Express pre-launch gala in Fairbanks were media, Alaska Airlines officials and Carolina Cotton, movie star and world yodeling champion who gave each of the crew members a kiss for luck before the 2,800-mile flight. Long said the ski- and wheel-equipped DC-4 was topped off with about 3,600 gallons of fuel. For the lipstick-smudged crew, there was plenty of coffee and a big box of fried chicken, he said.

Local phone competition to begin in Juneau next month

JUNEAU -- Competition in local phone service will start in Juneau next month, says Ronald Duncan, president of Anchorage-based General Communication Inc.Duncan and other GCI officials were in Juneau in December courting businesses who have service through Alaska Communications Systems, which does business here as PTI Communications. By mid-January, some users can be switched over, he said.The long-delayed entry of competition into the market closely follows yet another court ruling in a seemingly interminable series of stops and starts over several years.Last month, an Anchorage Superior Court judge upheld a regulatory panel’s order allowing GCI to offer local phone service in Juneau and Fairbanks."The court decision is significant because it’s the first court decision on the full merits of the case," Duncan said.ACS officials haven’t decided whether to take the case to the Alaska Supreme Court, spokesman Tom Jensen said shortly after the ruling.GCI has been offering local service in Fairbanks since the summer, when the Regulatory Commission of Alaska ordered ACS to let GCI lease equipment and enter the two markets, said GCI spokesman David Morris.While there always will be connections between the two telecommunications networks, GCI will be rolling out its own infrastructure during the next two to three years, Duncan said.There are about 30,000 local phone lines in Juneau, Morris said. Within four years, GCI wants penetration in local phone service that mirrors its roughly 50 percent share of the market in Internet and long-distance, Duncan said. But there should be room in Juneau for two providers, he said.GCI is focusing on businesses now because ACS is trying to lock down long-term contracts to keep customers from switching, Duncan said. In the spring, GCI will target more marketing at residential consumers, he said."The head-on (price) comparison initially won’t be huge," with GCI underselling ACS by 5 percent to 10 percent, Duncan said. But services will be packaged so that additional features will be more attractive, he said.Duncan said there could be some switchover snafus. If there’s a problem with a line once a customer has changed providers, it’s still up to ACS to perform maintenance, he said."We can’t force them to get the truck out there." But state regulators would notice that, he said.

Movers & Shakers December 23, 2001

Helen Howarth and George Hieronymus recently were appointed the Rasmuson Foundation’s first program officers. Howarth will oversee grants relating to arts and culture. Howarth previously served as executive director of the Alaska State Council on the Arts and held executive positions with the Sitka Summer Music Festival, the Anchorage Symphony and the Anchorage Concert Association. Hieronymus will oversee grants relating to health and human services. Hieronymus most recently served as executive director at Bean’s Cafe. Nancy Miles was appointed executive assistant for the Rasmuson Foundation. Miles previously served as executive assistant for RM Huhndorf & Co. and for Diane Kaplan & Co. The foundation also appointed Marguerite Lambert as secretary/receptionist. Lambert previously worked as an administrative assistant with the University of Alaska Anchorage.Peggy Kelly, Anita Dalton, Chris Novak and Jed Weingarten recently attended the National Association of Realtors Conference in Chicago. The four conference attendees are sales associates with Dynamic Properties. About 23,000 real estate agents from around the world attended the conference. The conference provided leading-edge information on services and technology for the real estate industry.Dennis Sayer has joined DAT/EM Systems as director of marketing and international sales. Sayer previously worked as a graphic arts sales consultant and information technology manager for an Anchorage commercial printing company. Sayer has a background in graphic design, computer information technology and technical sales. Sayer has more than 12 years experience working on various marketing projects and campaigns. Sayer will be responsible for the company’s marketing materials, printing, trade journal and magazine advertising, trade show marketing, Web site development and software sales. Brian Barnes has joined DAT/EM Systems as a hardware engineer. Barnes formerly served as service manager and computer technician for an Anchorage-based computer firm. Barnes has more than six years experience in electronics and computer hardware and has assembled and tested electronics hardware for Honeywell and Packard Bell. Barnes will be responsible for manufacturing and assembling DAT/EM hardware products and services.Ginny Jacober has opened a residential interior design business, Blue Bear Design, that serves Anchorage, Eagle River and Wasilla. Jacober, an interior designer, has more than 30 years experience and education in the fine arts and design field. Jacober is an associate member of The Interior Design Society.John Hallinan and Terry Hilton have been recognized by Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta for their efforts to improve aviation and support national security in transportation. Hallinan, Capstone program manager for the Federal Aviation Administration, and Hilton, FAA information resource specialist, were recently presented Meritorious Achievement awards in Washington, D.C. Hallinan spearheaded the Capstone project, a program to provide pilots with more weather and terrain information in the cockpit. Hilton was praised for his work in computer security during preparations for the Year 2000 transition and in meeting the DOT’s strategic goal for information technology. Both employees were nominated by the FAA’s Alaska Region and competed with employees across the nation.Landye Bennett Blumstein LLP has hired Cindy L. Thomas as an associate in its Anchorage office. Thomas has a background in engineering and focuses on federal American Indian, Alaska Native, municipal, environmental and natural resources law and policy. Thomas most recently was a National Association of Public Interest Law Fellow for the Rural Alaska Community Action Program and Alaska Legal Services Corporation and served as a law clerk for the Native American Rights Fund. Thomas previously worked as the statewide coordinator for the Rural Alaska Sanitation Coalition and was as an environmental engineer for Tanana Chiefs Conference Inc. Thomas is a member of the Alaska Bar Association and its Native Law section.

This Week in Alaska Business History December 23, 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 TimesDec. 23, 1981CAB refuses to speed up Wien saleBy Paul MonaghanTimes Washington BureauWASHINGTON -- The Civil Aeronautics Board ruled late today against the quick takeover of Wien Air Alaska by Neil G. Bergt, owner of Eagle International Corp. and recently named head of Western Airlines.Instead, the CAB found that Bergt must submit his planned acquisition of Wien to the board for a full antitrust review that could take up to six months."Mr. Bergt cannot acquire control of Wien without first getting the board’s approval," said Betsy Wolf, an attorney with the CAB’s Competitive Maintenance Division.Bergt had filed Monday for an exemption to the Section 40-approval process. Such exemptions are available to air cargo and commuter air service companies. Under the exemption provision, the applicant can merely notify the CAB of its proposed takeover and, unless the CAB objects within 45 days, the merger can go ahead. But the CAB in its brief order Wednesday said Bergt, because of his position with Western Airlines, cannot receive the exemption.Anchorage TimesDec. 23, 1981Alaska Railroad posts $3.3 million profitLine turns 1980 red into blackFrank Jones, manager, reported today that the Alaska Railroad earned a bottom-line profit of $3.3 million during the fiscal year ended last Sept. 20, the first earned surplus in five years.The profit reflected a turnaround in revenues and expenses that totaled $9.1 million from 1980, when the railroad reported a loss of $5.8 million.Jones, in his annual report to the U.S. Department of Transportation, said freight revenues increased 29 percent during 1981. The railroad moved a record 51,307 carloads of freight. That was 1,723 more than in 1977 when shipping for the trans-Alaska oil pipeline was at its peak.The manager noted that the movement of gravel from the Matanuska Valley to Anchorage accounted for the greatest percentage of the freight increase. The railroad operated two special gravel trains and moved 1,796,800 tons, exceeding the total of all freight tons hauled.10 years ago this weekAlaska Journal of CommerceDec. 23, 1991Hunt lots soldEquitable buys downtown Anchorage propertiesBy Ray TysonAlaska Journal of CommerceThe Equitable has paid an undisclosed sum for about half of Nelson Bunker Hunt’s remaining property in Anchorage, and the local real estate broker who handled the sale for the financially troubled Texas investor said it’s the biggest downtown land deal in years.Dale Jackson, president of TRF Brayton Co., said he expects to find a buyer for the rest of Hunt’s downtown property within a year to 16 months.Jackson said the Equitable, which repossessed Hunt’s 300,000-square-foot Enserch Tower in 1988, paid cash for 23 parcels. TRF Brayton listed the property at $10,921,690."We were delighted with the sale," Jackson said. "I’d say this is one of the largest real estate deals in raw land downtown in seven or eight years, maybe longer. I think they (Equitable) have a lot of confidence in Alaska."Alaska Journal of CommerceDec. 23, 1991’Tis the season to be jolly,’ for mostBy Margaret BaumanAlaska Journal of CommerceAlaska’s business owners seem to have their usual stock of holiday cheer this season, hosting enough gatherings to keep hotel and restaurants jumping.Despite cancellations by some of the usual major clients, reports from prominent gathering spots indicate the demand for catered holiday parties is up over a year ago.While some firms are cutting back entertainment budgets, those who had a good year are having more elaborate parties, caterers said.At the same time, there has been a decline in parties hosted by larger companies because budgets are being cut, said a representative of one prominent hotel. The missing notables from this year’s large party circuit include an airline, a telephone company, an oil company and a major automobile dealership, said the representative, who asked not to be identified.-- Compiled by Ed Bennett.

Family company not always smart

Clients often make gifts of interests in family-owned Limited Liability Companies and Limited Partnerships. A consequence of giving through a business entity is that the donees often will have a tax basis substantially less than the basis they would have had if the donor continued to own all assets outright until death.Consider a client, living in Alaska, with three adult children. The client has never made a taxable gift, and her only asset is a share of stock. Although she purchased the stock for $100,000, it is now worth $675,000. The client forms an LLC and contributes the $675,000 of stock to the LLC.Initially the client is the only member of the LLC, so she does not recognize gain when she contributes the stock to the LLC. Also, because the client is the sole member of the LLC, the LLC is ignored for federal income tax purposes. In other words, the LLC is disregarded as an entity separate from its owner. Later, when the client brings her children in as members, the LLC is then, absent an election, treated as a partnership for federal income tax purposes.The client, over the balance of her lifetime, gives her children interests in the LLC totaling 13.3 percent per child. At all points in time the LLC’s only asset is the stock, worth $675,000.At the time of the client’s death, her only asset is the remaining 60 percent interest in the LLC. Under her will or revocable living trust, the client gives this remaining property to her children in equal shares; so each child owns one-third of the LLC. The LLC’s only asset is the stock, which is still worth $675,000.If the client had not formed the LLC and instead had continued to own the stock until her death, under current law her children’s tax basis in the stock would have been stepped-up to $675,000. So the children could then have sold the stock for as much as $675,000 at absolutely no tax cost.A consequence of the client’s giving through the LLC is that the donees will have basis substantially less than $675,000. In other words, if the LLC sells the stock for $675,000, there will be taxable gain.Specifically, under current law the tax-basis analysis is as follows:First: The client’s basis in the stock is her cost of $100,000. When she contributes the stock to the LLC in return for 100 percent of the LLC interests, the LLC takes a carry-over basis of $100,000 in the stock. The client receives a basis of $100,000 in her LLC interests. Although the LLC is initially disregarded as an entity separate from its sole owner, the LLC becomes a partnership for federal income tax purposes on the day the LLC has two or more members.Second: At the time of her death, the client owns 60 percent of the LLC interests. Although the LLC owns stock worth $675,000, the value of 60 percent of the LLC interests is less than 60 percent of $675,000, or $405,000. The valuation expert assisting with the client’s estate believes the value of 60 percent of the LLC interests was roughly $364,500 on the date of the client’s death. Thus the children receive a stepped-up basis of $364,500 in the LLC interests they inherit from their mother.Third: The children now own 100 percent of the LLC and their basis in those interests is $404,500 (i.e., $40,000 carryover basis plus $364,500 stepped-up basis).Fourth: If the LLC sells the stock for $675,000, it will have taxable gain of $270,500 ($675,000 sale proceeds minus $404,500 basis equals $270,500). Assuming an applicable capital gain rate of 20 percent, the LLC members would owe $54,100 in tax.Again, if the client had not formed the LLC and had owned the stock until her death, under current law her children’s basis in the stock would have been stepped-up to $675,000. So the children could then have sold the stock for as much as $675,000 without incurring any tax, a savings of $54,100 under the facts of this case.The upshot is that LLCs or Limited Partnerships could increase taxes down the road. This consequence needs to be figured into the analysis of whether the advantages of a family business entity outweigh the disadvantages.Steven T. O’Hara is a shareholder in the Anchorage law firm of Bankston, Gronning, O’Hara, Sedor, Mills, Givens & Heaphey, P.C. This article is Copyright 2001 by Steven T. O’Hara and is used by permission.

CDQ groups grow into economic force worth $150 million

Community Development Quota groups in Western Alaska have become powerful regional economic development engines, investing millions of dollars in docks, ports, seafood plants and other infrastructure, as well as fisheries businesses.They may also be the fastest-growing business enterprises in the state, although the parent corporations are nonprofits. They started with nothing in 1992, but with a valuable "community share" allocation of valuable pollock and cod harvests of the Bering Sea.By 1999 the groups had combined net assets of $103.7 million, according to data compiled by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. Between 1999 and 2000, net assets increased 24 percent, to $128.8 million, the council data showed.Larry Cotter, a fisheries consultant who helps manage one of the CDQ groups, predicted that combined assets of the groups could exceed $150 million by the end of this year.Most of growth is in the businesses in which the CDQ groups are investing. All six now own part of the fishing companies with which they share their allocations of groundfish -- this year approximately 300 to 400 million pounds of pollock, cod, sablefish, halibut and crab -- from the rich Bering Sea fisheries."What these groups are accomplishing is the Alaskanization of the offshore fishing industry," said Trevor McCabe, executive director of the At-Sea Processors, the association of large catcher-processor vessel operators.Large sectors of Alaska’s fishing industry have traditionally been owned by nonresidents, but the CDQ groups are changing those dynamics by buying into the catcher-processor fleet in a major way, McCabe said.All of the six CDQ groups have now invested in vessels with their fishery partners. Examples include Norton Sound Economic Development Corp., which now owns 50 percent of Seattle-based Glacier Fish Co., and Coastal Villages Region Fund’s ownership of 20 percent of American Seafoods, a major offshore vessel operator.Central Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association owns an additional 3.2 percent of American Seafoods.The groups have become particularly important as a new source of investment in regional infrastructure. In Nome, NSEDC contributed $3 million toward a required $5 million local match for a planned $36 million major port expansion. The project has now been approved by Congress and should be under construction next year.NSEDC earlier contributed over half a million dollars to improvements of Nome’s existing small boat harbor and is now building a $550,000 new seafood processing plant in Nome. The plant, operated by Norton Sound Seafood Products, a division of NSEDC, will include a retail seafood outlet, according to Eugene Asicksik, NSEDC’s president.The new port will allow fishing to continue later in the year, as late as Nov. 15, Asicksik said.Small processing plants have also been built in Unalakleet and Savoonga. The corporation is also fostering regional fisheries development and helping local fishermen, which is bringing new income into the area.A small halibut fishery has developed in Norton Sound and the northern Bering Sea following test fisheries promoted by NSEDC. About 50 local fishermen, from Savoonga, on Saint Lawrence Island, to Nome, Golovin and Elim on Norton Sound, now fish the quota of halibut allocated to the corporation, Asicksik said.Halibut fishing now brings more than $150,000 in seasonal income to Savoonga, a remote village where people formerly depended mostly on welfare and ivory sales for cash.Through loan programs, the corporation is helping fishermen upgrade their boats and buy gear. Halibut fishermen may also be able to fish an allocation of red king crab that NSEDC receives, for example.NSEDC has also been the only buyer of salmon in the region for six years now. In 1992, the corporation was able to pay fishermen the highest price for pink salmon in the state that year because of the efficiency of the high-volume processing ship Glacier Fish Co. brought to Norton Sound, Asicksik said.For the past two years NSEDC has purchased chum salmon from Kotzebue fishermen who had no other outlet. Half a million pounds of salmon were flown this year from Kotzebue to NSEDC’s processing plant in Unalakleet, where fillets were prepared for ultimate sale in Seattle.A similar success story is unfolding in the Aleutian Islands, where Aleutian Pribilof Island Development Corp. has developed Atka Pride Seafoods, a processing plant, in partnership with the community of Atka.The plant had several years of start-up losses but is now in its third consecutive year of profitability, according to Larry Cotter, executive director for APIDC.What’s important is that the plant and related investments in docks and other facilities has fostered the local small-boat fishery, creating jobs in the community, Cotter said.

Alaska construction can proceed

ANCHORAGE -- Construction of a missile defense system in Alaska can proceed with President Bush’s decision to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia, state and federal officials said Dec. 13."That certainly was the biggest obstacle," said Chris Nelson, a missile defense expert with the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.Bush’s announcement came as a congressional conference committee was putting the finishing touches on a defense authorization bill that includes $786 million for construction of a missile test bed in the North Pacific.Some of that money would be used to deploy test interceptors to new silos at Fort Greely near Delta Junction, said Lt. Col. Rick Lehner of the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization. The federal money would also include upgrades for the state-funded rocket launching site in Kodiak, which will be used for anti-missile tests under the administration’s plan.The Bush plan announced last summer would convert the Fort Greely test facility into a rudimentary missile defense system by 2004 if tests are successful. However, the 1972 ABM treaty allowed testing only, so the groundbreaking in Alaska could have been considered a treaty violation.The president’s announcement will allow construction in Alaska to begin next spring with no risk of a violation, state and federal officials said."The phrase you always heard for the last year and a half is what point do you bump up against the treaty," Nelson said. "We see a clear path ahead."The Alaska plan calls for basing a command center and five silo-based missiles at Fort Greely. In addition interceptors would be launched from Kodiak for test shots at target missiles launched from California or from the air above the western Pacific, Lehner said.Kodiak would also be used to launch target missiles toward the Lower 48 to test interceptors launched from California, he said.Plans for an advanced radar installation at Shemya in the Aleutian Islands are on hold, according to state and federal officials. The radar link could end up there or in Hawaii, Nelson said.

Medical training program accredited

The University of Alaska Fairbanks Tanana Valley Campus medical assisting program has received national accreditation by the Commission of Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.The accreditation was based on the recommendation of the Curriculum Review Board of the American Association of Medical Assistant’s Endowment. The review board conducted a site visit of the program in May.Tanana Valley Campus offers an associate of applied science degree in medical assisting as part of its allied health program. The degree provides students necessary training and education required for entry-level jobs in the medical assisting profession."The accreditation wouldn’t be possible without the diligent work and dedication of the allied health faculty at TVC," said campus director Jake Poole in a statement. "The approval is a tribute to their efforts."Grant funds UAF Alaska Native nutrition, lifestyle researchThe University of Alaska Fairbanks has received an $11 million, five-year grant to establish an Alaska Native Health Research Center and Center of Biomedical Research Excellence in Alaska.Funds for the grant come from the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Research Resources Program.UAF’s program aims to develop knowledge about the behavioral, genetic and nutritional factors related to obesity and its relationship to diabetes and heart disease.According to UAF the rate of diabetes for Alaska Natives has climbed in recent years. Alaska Natives have had the ability to survive extreme environmental conditions with limited food resources for several generations, and despite a traditional diet high in fat they have experienced little obesity, heart disease and diabetes until recently.According to the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corp., between 1985 and 1999 the rate of increase of diabetes for Alaska Natives in the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta was 177 percent. This figures compares with an increase of 76 percent for all Alaska Natives and Native Americans in Alaska.The Alaska Native Health Research Center will work with tribal health organizations. Research will collect information to identify dietary patterns, nutrient intakes and food sources to improve understanding of the nutritional value of subsistence foods.Other efforts aim to work with Alaska Natives to identify a cultural understanding of health and wellness. This research will be used to work with communities in reducing risk associated with increased body weight by improving nutrition and cultural behavioral health.

Recognize office friction, and deal with it appropriately

Do you have people in your office that dislike each other? Do they cause problems for everyone else? Conflict in the workplace is a painful reality. The goal is to recognize friction and tension and deal with it before it escalates into a major problem. One point is clear: Conflict does not magically go away if ignored.Certain types of conflict in the workplace, such as sexual harassment and discrimination, are very obvious and readily identified. Other forms of conflict may not be so easily identified. Small, irritating events that occur repeatedly over time may cause one individual to strike out at another.Managers who exhibit favoritism toward one or more employees set themselves up for problems with the nonfavored. Employees who find ways to appear busy while doing nothing can easily create dissatisfaction among the rest of the department. Conflict may develop when an employee, because he or she did not fully understand the job responsibilities, receives an unsatisfactory job evaluation.What type of conflict requires intervention? Anything that disrupts the office or poses a threat to other employees needs addressing. The degree to which you tolerate a situation before intervention may vary. A manager may not feel it necessary to intervene when a minor exchange of words occurs between employees, unless such an incident becomes a daily occurrence and expands beyond the employees initially involved. However, a situation where one employee threatens another requires immediate action. When handling conflict, some basic guidelines apply. Acknowledge the situation. I remember an exchange between a manager and an upset employee. The manager said, "Well, don’t worry about it. It really doesn’t matter." To which the employee replied, "Just because it doesn’t matter to you doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter to me." Refusing to acknowledge an employee’s anger or concerns only adds fuel to the fire. Get all the information. Few situations are exactly as presented by one person or even two. Before you try to settle a dispute, you need to hear all sides of the matter. Take your time; be patient. The old adage, "Haste makes waste," has more truth in it than we sometimes realize. Take time to evaluate all information. A too-quick decision can do more harm than good when it turns out to be the wrong decision. Focus on the problem, not the individual. Employee X may not be the most congenial of your employees. Most people know at least one "problem employee" during their work experience. This is the employee who is consistently unhappy and uncooperative.This does not mean employee X does not have a legitimate problem. Focus on identifying and resolving the problem. If, after careful and thorough investigation, you determine the individual is the problem, then focus on the individual at that point. Keep talking, keep listening. Keep the communication open. Allow employees to express their viewpoint, but also share with employees the view from your perspective. In addition, be aware of the difference between talking "with" the employee and talking "to" the employee. Talking "with" the employee involves listening. Act decisively. Once you have taken time to gather information, talked to all the parties involved and reviewed all the circumstances, make your decision and act. Leaving the matter in limbo can damage your employees’ perception of you as an effective manager. They may view you as either too weak, too uncaring or both, to handle the problem. The employees may not all agree with your decision, but at least they will know where matters stand. Do not try to resolve conflict by intimidation. Yelling at someone or using manipulation may stop the problem at that moment, but do not fool yourself into thinking it is a long-term solution. Odds are the problem will resurface. At that point not only will you have the initial problem to deal with but also the angry feelings that have festered in the interim.Gregory Smith is president of a management consulting firm called Chart Your Course International located in Conyers, Georgia. He can be reached at 770-860-9464.

Senators halt NextWave deal benefiting Native venture

FAIRBANKS -- Two U.S. senators are raising objections to a proposed deal that would let three Alaska Native corporations keep control of wireless telephone radio frequencies purchased in January.In response to the objections, Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, agreed to keep the deal out of a Defense Department appropriations bill.Stevens told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner he had little choice, even though he supports the agreement.Sens. Fritz Hollings, D-S.C., and John McCain, R-Ariz., called the proposed deal an outrage. Hollings said the agreement would set a bad precedent, and McCain said it at least needed hearings.The proposed deal settles a disagreement between the Federal Communications Commission and bankrupt NextWave Telecom Inc. NextWave had failed to pay for wireless spectrum it bought five years ago for $4.3 billion, so the FCC repossessed and reauctioned the frequencies.Alaska Native Wireless, a joint venture between Doyon Ltd., Arctic Slope Regional Corp. and Sealaska, bought a large portion of NextWave’s wireless spectrum in the January auction. The partnership won wireless spectrum rights in such major markets as New York City, Los Angeles, Denver and New Haven, Conn.But NextWave convinced an appeals court this summer that the FCC should have stood in line with other creditors. The issue is now before the U.S. Supreme Court.Rather than continue that litigation, however, the Department of Justice worked out a settlement that would allow the successful bidders to keep the spectrum they purchased. The government would then pay NextWave $5.8 billion to drop all its claims.The Justice Department asked that Congress approve the agreement by Dec. 31.But Hollings said he doesn’t like the deal or the deadline."They’ve put a gun to our head," he said at a news conference. Hollings is chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction, and McCain is the ranking Republican on the committee.Faced with such opposition, Stevens said, there was little he could do."When the chairman and ranking member of a standing committee object to an amendment, there’s little chance that such an amendment will stand when challenged on the floor," Stevens said through his spokeswoman Melanie Alvord.The problem is that such language is not germane to the bill’s subject of defense appropriations. So Hollings and McCain could rise on the floor and raise a point of order against the amendment’s consideration. To defeat that would require 60 votes.Hollings also objected to the NextWave payment."Congress is being asked to reward a group of speculators who put 10 percent down, litigated, lobbied and lawyered for five years, and are now on the cusp of a $5 billion payment," he said.The best thing Congress can do, he said, would be to "clarify that bankruptcy claims do not prevail over the FCC’s role as trustee of our airwaves."

In Phillips' exploration cuts, Alaska fares better than other areas

Phillips Alaska Inc. will reduce exploration spending in Alaska by about 40 percent next year, but the company is treating Alaska better than other regions of the world. Worldwide, Phillips’ exploration spending will be down 50 percent in 2002, according to figures released by the company’s board of directors Dec. 13.Phillips’ Alaska exploration budget is $41 million next year, down from $68 million this year. Total exploration by Phillips is being reduced from $446 million this year to $208 million next year, the board announced. This will result in 10 new wells being drilled in 2002, down from the 15 being drilled this winter.Phillips’ overall capital spending in Alaska is also reduced next year, from $942 million this year to $807 million next year. Capital spending related to production will be $766 million next year, compared with $874 million this year.The company’s budget for Alaska next year also includes ongoing expenditures on new millennium-class tankers to carry North Slope oil to market.Phillips’ board of directors approved overall capital spending of $3.5 billion for 2002, up from $3.1 billion for in 2001.Besides the tankers, Phillips’ 2002 capital expenditures include development of Meltwater, Palm, West Sak and other new developments, as well as ongoing development of the Borealis satellite field in Prudhoe Bay.Phillips is also investing heavily in international projects, including the Bayu-Undan project and gas recycling project in the Timor Sea, the Hamaca heavy-oil development in Venezuela, and the Bohai Bay development in China.The company will undertake projects in the Jade field in the British sector of the North Sea and further development of the Ekofisk and Eldfisk fields in the Norwegian sector.Forty-three percent of Phillips’ capital spending in exploration and production will be spent domestically, with 72 percent of that planned for Alaska. However, only 31 percent of the company’s worldwide exploration budget will be spent domestically, with about half of that planned for Alaska.Foreign exploration budgets are also being cut. In the current year, Phillips is spending $348 million for exploration outside the United States. That will be reduced to $165 million in 2002.

2002 halibut limit goes up statewide, but could go down in Southeast, Aleutians

Halibut limits will be higher next year if recommendations are accepted by fishery managers next month. The International Pacific Halibut Commission has announced that based on stock assessments, the coastwide catch could be boosted to 74.08 million pounds, up from this year’s quota of 73.18 million.The harvest figures include Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Alaska. Alaska longliners always get the lion’s share of the catch, which would be 61.02 million pounds of halibut if all goes according to plan. That’s up from just more than 58 million pounds this year.Southeast Alaska and the lower regions of the Aleutian Chain are the only regions where halibut catches may be reduced.The halibut catch limit recommendations for next year and other issues will be taken up at the IPHC annual meeting scheduled for Jan. 22-25 in Seattle. Any proposals for consideration must be submitted to the IPHC by Dec. 31. The halibut fishery begins each year on March 15 and ends on Nov. 15.Offshore fish farmsSome 100,000 fish are being raised in a large cage anchored to 28 acres of the ocean floor, just two miles offshore from Honolulu International Airport. The cage measures 65 feet from top to bottom, is 80 feet wide and has 50 feet of clearance from the ocean floor.According to the Los Angeles Times, it’s the first commercial lease for offshore marine aquaculture in the country. The fish being raised in the cage are moi, a favorite in Hawaii. Since July, divers have been feeding the fish daily, pumping pellets through a tube to the cage 40 feet below.Because the cage is submerged, it poses no hazard to navigation and is not in danger from storms. Offshore fish farming also does not pose environmental concerns, as fish wastes are quickly diluted, and disease is less likely to spread. The project so far boasts less than a 1 percent mortality rate, according to the National Sea Grant College Program, the project’s sponsor.The first moi harvest is scheduled for sometime next month and will fetch roughly $8 a pound. Under a 15-year lease, the project may soon expand to four cages with harvests of up to 2 million pounds a year.Aquaculture has been growing steadily in Hawaii over the past decade, from $6.9 million in value in 1991 to $22.2 million last year, according to state figures. Offshore fish farming could boost those figures substantially, because cage culture allows large volumes of fish readily available to major markets on the West Coast and Japan, the Times said.Fish farming, Alaska styleThe Department of Natural Resources is accepting comments on 13 aquatic farm applications for sites in Southeast Alaska and one in the Southcentral region. The Southeast sites propose to raise oysters, geoduck and littleneck clams, kelp and abalone. The lone aquatic farm application for Southcentral is for growing oysters in Paradise Cove near Seward.Any questions regarding the proposed sites can be directed to Guyla McGrady at 907-269-8543. The deadline for applications is Dec. 26.Grant program aids marketingThe Alaska Department of Community & Economic Development and the Kodiak-based Fisheries Industrial Technology Center are again offering Specialty Salmon Marketing mini-grants. The program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture through the efforts of Sen. Ted Stevens, R -Alaska, provides roughly $400,000 to Alaska salmon processors and fishermen trying to make inroads into new markets."The purpose of this grant program is to provide a marketing boost to those proven value-added salmon products that are paving new market directions and opportunities for Alaska salmon overall," stated a press release. Awards will range from $10,000 to $100,000 each, and may be used for advertising, test product giveaways, marketing manager travel, label design and all tasks related to product marketing. Administrative services and indirect costs are not allowed.Clarification on sea ottersRegarding the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to deny the Center for Biological Diversity’s petition to list Alaska sea otters as depleted under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, pending further scrutiny, Fish Factor stated in an earlier column that any listing holds the potential to constrain fishing, because of increased regulations and area closures.USFWS public affairs specialist Bruce Woods added the following clarification: "The key word here is potential,’ and in the case of this species we feel that the potential for significant impacts upon fishing is actually very low. Sea otters eat benthic invertebrates (primarily sea urchins), and therefore don’t compete with large-scale commercial fisheries in southwest Alaska."Woods added, "Sea otters typically occur in shallow, nearshore waters where there is little fishing activity, so the incidence of entanglement and mortality is also low. We’ve been working closely with the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to keep its members informed about sea otter issues, both to help them understand these issues and to reassure them that the potential impacts of a sea otter listing would, in all likelihood, be minimal."Kodiak-based free-lance writer Laine Welch can be reached via e-mail at ([email protected]).

Unocal, Marathon propose natural gas line for Kenai Peninsula

ANCHORAGE -- Officials from the Unocal and Marathon oil companies say they plan to apply soon for permits to build a natural gas pipeline to bring gas to the lower Kenai Peninsula.The companies announced Dec. 12 the completion of a yearlong study that concluded the gas line is feasible. The two companies have formed a joint venture, Kenai Kachemak Pipeline LLC, to build and operate it.Natural gas retailer Enstar and Homer Electric Association, the Kenai Peninsula’s chief electric cooperative, also participated in the study.The oil companies still must determine that there is a marketable supply of natural gas reserves before the project gets a final go-ahead, said Unocal spokeswoman Roxanne Sinz. Exploratory drilling is ongoing. The ultimate route and capacity of the pipeline also depend on exploration.The proposed line would link the Kenai-Soldotna area with Anchor Point and Homer, promising cheap heating fuel to the southern Kenai Peninsula in the short term and the prospect of shipping gas from reserves near Anchor Point northward in the long run.The first phase of the pipeline, between Kenai and Ninilchik, may be operational by 2004, Sinz said. The line is expected eventually to snake down to Anchor Point, with a feeder line to be built from Anchor Point to Homer.The project’s goal is to bring natural gas to market in the lower Kenai Peninsula within about three years, possibly sooner, she said.Unocal sees the line as a big economic boost. "And, hopefully, lower energy costs for the end users. We see this as a big plus for everybody," Sinz said.The line will likely follow the Sterling Highway corridor, the companies reported.A large part of Marathon’s capital spending next year in Alaska will be aimed at boosting natural gas production, said John Barnes, manager of Marathon Oil Co.’s Alaska business unit.

Pollock, cod news good for Unalaska, but not for Kodiak

It will be a good fishing season for pollock and cod in the Bering Sea in 2002. That’s good news for Unalaska.But things look pretty bleak for the Gulf of Alaska. That’s bad news for Kodiak and other gulf communities where fishing is a big part of the local economy.In its December meeting in Anchorage, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council approved a 2002 fishing allowance of 2 million tons for all groundfish in the Bering Sea, about the same as 2001. Stocks of pollock and cod are in good shape in the Bering Sea, according to National Marine Fisheries Services scientists.Not so in the Gulf of Alaska, however. Scientists recommended a smaller allowable harvest, and the council approved a 2002 catch of 237,880 metric tons of all species of groundfish, which include pollock and cod.That’s less than half the 554,710 metric ton harvest allowed in 2001.A lower groundfish harvest will hit Kodiak doubly hard because local fishermen have also done poorly in crab because of smaller harvests in recent years. And though the Kodiak fleet fared better than most in the 2001 summer salmon season, lower prices resulted in lower earnings.Setting the annual groundfish allowable catch was the main business for the fishery management council in its December meeting, which concluded Dec. 10.The council also approved a change in the amount of halibut fishermen from Norton Sound, the Yukon Delta and St. Lawrence Island can harvest on each trip, from 6,000 pounds to 10,000 pounds.The change will allow the fishermen to catch more halibut and, ultimately, use larger, more efficient vessels. A halibut quota is allocated by the council for Community Development Quota groups, and in the northern Bering Sea the quota is set aside for local fishermen.The council also received progress reports on a complex plan being developed to streamline crab fisheries with a system of quotas for fishermen and processors.The intent is to reduce the number of vessels fishing for crab by allowing the formation of cooperatives in which quotas can be shared.In that way, the number of vessels actually fishing can be fewer but the benefits can be shared with vessel owners who choose not to fish that season.Hearings on the plan are scheduled for the council’s February meeting, with action by the council expected in its April meeting.

Program offers funding to bring Internet to rural Alaska

Lawmakers recently approved a federal program aimed at providing Internet access to residents in rural communities who lack dial-up connections. The move is another step in efforts to bring basic Internet services to rural Alaska.Meanwhile Alaska Network Systems, a nonprofit organization with members from 12 Alaska local exchange carriers, continues its own push for federal funding to finance its plan to provide rural Internet services.President Bush signed into law Nov. 28 the fiscal 2002 agriculture appropriations bill, which includes expanded language geared at rural telecommunications services, said Jen Siciliano, who works in Alaska Republican Sen. Ted Stevens’ office. Language in the new law is part of the Rural Development Administration’s community facilities program."Dozens of villages in Alaska lack basic dial-up Internet services," Stevens said in a statement issued after the Senate approved the bill. "The expanded language included in the agriculture appropriations bill will provide the resources to develop state-of-the-art Internet access for rural communities."To qualify for the program, state regulatory commissions would submit applications to the Agriculture Department, said Regulatory Commission of Alaska chairwoman and commissioner Nanette Thompson.Communities’ eligibility will be based on high unemployment and absence of dial-up Internet access, she said."Many communities in our state would qualify," Thompson said. "It’s something we are actively pursuing."However, some unemployment data based on census information is unreliable for some rural areas in Alaska, she said.Funding will not be available until the agriculture department lists a notice of availability of funds in the Federal Register, she said.Thompson estimated at least 50 villages in Alaska would qualify for the program.The RCA chairwoman praised recent action by the Federal Communications Commission earlier this month, which also aims to boost Internet access for Alaskans. The FCC granted a waiver Dec. 3 to the state’s part in a federal program that provides funds to eligible schools and libraries to reduce the cost of providing Internet services at those facilities. The move allows community members at home to use the Internet connection of their local schools and libraries for noneducational use during hours when those facilities are closed.The program, administered by the state Department of Education, will probably be more active than the federal program for which state regulators must apply, Thomson said.Last June, Alaska Network Systems submitted a grant proposal for $24 million, seeking to fund Internet service to 139 Alaska villages. ANS filed the grant request June 1 to receive funding from the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Housing Service Community Facilities grant.However, most of the funds ANS targeted were already distributed to 50 other projects in 26 states, although not including telecommunications services, said Ed Cushing, ANS president.The one-time grant, coupled with $8 million from ANS, would have paid for satellite circuits and other expenses associated with providing Internet access, according to the grant proposal."We continue to pursue other grant opportunities," Cushing said.He hopes to secure federal funding next year and plans upcoming trips to Washington, D.C., to promote the project.Cushing noted rural residents’ use of school and library Internet access is better than no Web connection at all but contends that his company’s plan is a better in the long term.

Alaska, like nation, felt economic fallout from Sept. 11 terrorist attacks

No review of the top Alaska business stories of 2001 is possible without discussing a single day in American history: Sept. 11. The terrorist attacks that day on New York City and Washington, D.C., have affected every corner of this country’s economy, and Alaska is no exception. In a state that depends largely on oil revenues, prices plunged and the state’s fiscal gap grew to nearly $1 billion. In a state where tourism is a major industry, advance bookings are off 23 percent. And the stock markets’ decline have reduced the savings of individual Alaskans, the portfolios of major Alaska corporations and even the size of the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend. Economists now tell us that the United States entered a recession sometime this spring, so lower demand for oil, reduced recreational travel and lower stock prices would have occurred regardless of the events of Sept. 11, but it’s also clear the attacks intensified those trends. And those trends have spread around the world. In Japan, the economy shrank last year. That’s bound to have a negative effect on everything from air cargo shipments to commercial fish prices in Alaska. Ironically, all of this occurred in a year in which Alaska itself was not in a recession. In fact, the state’s economy grew by 2 percent, and state economists believe it will grow another 1 percent in 2002. But Alaska, and Alaskans, are part of the national and global economies. Sooner or later, what happens outside our borders will affect us all. If Sept. 11 taught us anything, it is that we are all in this together. Natural gas pipeline The year 2001 began with oil and gas prices high. Those prices fueled a long-standing Alaska dream: to build a natural gas pipeline from the North Slope to the Lower 48 through Canada. The "big three" owners of natural gas on the North Slope, BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc., Phillips Alaska Inc. and ExxonMobil Production Co., had begun studying the economics of two proposed routes.

Weather slows construction; waterpark to open in spring

Developers of H2Oasis, a South Anchorage indoor water park, are continuing construction despite delays and now aim to open in spring.The company expects to enclose the building this month, said Dennis Prendeville, president of Alaska Waterpark Co. Inc. At press time in mid-December about 70 percent of the structure was enclosed, he said.Project developer Alaska Waterpark is serving as general contractor with help from Marlow General Contractors Inc. of Anchorage.Cold weather slowed some exterior work, and other delays have slowed the project, Prendeville said."Everything seems to take longer than expected," he said.Work on a major feature of the attraction, the wave pool, is more than half finished. Most of the special equipment is at the construction site, including slides and a pirate ship, although some pumps have not arrived yet, Prendeville said.Other significant project milestones include pouring about 600 yards of a total of 2,000 yards of concrete. Once electrical and other systems are installed, the final concrete section for the pool deck will be poured just before the project is finished, he said.Financing for the estimated $6.25 million to $7 million indoor water park originates from local investors and KeyBank, Prendeville said. The project developer continues work on the financing equation."We’re still tuning up financing with more equity dollars," he said.Prendeville started planning H2Oasis about five years ago. Site preparation began at the corner of O’Malley Road and the New Seward Highway in March 1999. Once Prendeville retired from Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. in May 1999, he stepped up efforts on the project.Prendeville earned a electrical engineering from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and a master’s degree in engineering management. Other owners of the project also are engineers, he said.Some construction is being handled by crews based in Florida and Texas who specialize in building water parks, he said.Once completed H2Oasis will employ about 25 full-time staff members with several part-time employees, although operators will determine the exact number once they open, he said.Prendeville believes nearing enclosure of the structure marks a major milestone for the project."What we’ve done is the impossible," he said. "There are many aspects to the whole thing. It’s a complex project, but it’s not rocket science."

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