Around the World September 30, 2001

STATEThree shipyards vie for fast ferry contract JUNEAU -- A second attempt by the state to hire a shipyard to build fast ferries netted responses from three companies that competed for the contract the first time around.Derecktor Shipyards of New York, Eastern Shipbuilding of Florida, and Austal USA, an Australian company with a shipyard in Alabama, have submitted technical proposals for the project, said Philip Grasser, marine engineering manager of the Alaska Marine Highway System.The state will review the proposals to determine if the companies are qualified to build two of at least four high-speed aluminum catamarans capable of speeds up to 32 knots. The shipyards that make it through the initial screenings will have a chance to bid on the contract to be awarded in December, Grasser said.This is the second time the state has tried to award the fast ferry contract. During the first attempt in 2000, five companies filed technical proposals but only one submitted a complete bid to build a ferry slated to run between Juneau and Sitka. The state in April rejected the $35.99 million bid by Nichols Brothers Boat Builders of Washington state, calling it "nonresponsive."BP orders fourth double-wall tanker to carry Alaska oilANCHORAGE -- BP has ordered a fourth double-wall tanker for carrying Alaska oil to the West Coast, the company said Sept. 21.The tanker, like the three ships already ordered, will cost about $200 million, said BP spokesman Ronnie Chappell. It will hold 1.3 million barrels, or nearly 55 million gallons.BP is planning to convert its Alaska fleet to the new double-hull design by 2006, the company said, with deliveries of a tanker each year from 2003 to 2006. Single-hull tankers must be phased out on the Alaska route under a federal law passed in the wake of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.Three tankers were ordered last fall from a shipyard in San Diego, with options for three more. Construction of the new ships is scheduled to begin early next year in San Diego. The first ship is to be delivered late in 2003.The new ships will have dual propulsion systems and other safety measures to reduce the risk of spills.Southeast cruise ships carrying fewer passengersKETCHIKAN -- Cruise ships visiting Southeast Alaska are running far lighter passenger rosters in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist violence on the East Coast.The Carnival Spirit carried "a fair amount lower than 80 percent" of its 2,124-passenger capacity, said Jennifer de la Cruz, spokesperson for Carnival Cruise Lines.Other cruise companies also reported losses.Celebrity Cruises, whose ships Infinity and Mercury stop in Ketchikan, reported sailings to be about two-thirds full in the week after the attacks. Only half the usual number of bookings were made in the days immediately following the attacks, said Richard Fain, chairman and chief executive officer of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., which owns Celebrity.The Holland America ship Ryndam had only 880 of its 1,266 beds filled when it arrived in Ketchikan on Sept. 19, and sister ship Statendam, which also can accommodate 1,266 was expected to carry about 700 passengers when it arrived Sept. 21.The week of Oct. 1 is the final week for cruise ships in Ketchikan for the year.Southeast leaders seek electrical intertiePRINCE RUPERT, British Columbia -- Southeast communities will study a format for a regional agency that would own and operate electric transmission lines that might someday link towns from Metlakatla to Skagway.The Southeast Conference, meeting in Prince Rupert, British Columbia, approved a resolution Sept. 20 to send to the communities a memorandum of understanding and draft agreement for the Southeast Alaska Regional Power Agency.The idea is to build transmission lines, and use existing lines where available, to bring inexpensive and reliable electric power throughout Southeast. Some communities are dependent on diesel generators and wildly fluctuating diesel fuel costs. Electricity in small communities can cost four times what it costs in the larger cities, said Randy Cornelius, chairman of the Southeast Conference’s Intertie Committee.At its greatest extent, at 392 miles of lines, the intertie would cost an estimated $435 million to build, he said.NATIONFedEx profits down 36 percent in first quarterMEMPHIS, Tenn. -- FedEx Corp., the world’s largest cargo airline with about 1,300 Alaska employees, reported Sept. 20 that first-quarter profits fell 36 percent, in part because the flat economy weakened demand in the manufacturing and high-tech sectors for its premium services.Company officials said they’re unsure how the disruption of air deliveries in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the economy’s response to the strikes on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon will affect the company’s next quarter.Along with the rest of the nation’s airlines, FedEx planes were grounded for two days as a result of the attacks.The Memphis-based package delivery company reported net earnings of $109 million, or 36 cents per share for the fiscal quarter that ended Aug. 31. That compares with profits a year ago of $169 million, or 58 cents per share.-- Compiled from business wire services.

Halibut facing post-terror woes

KODIAK -- Even Alaska’s halibut market has been disrupted by ripples from the terrorist attack on the East Coast.Without access to the nation’s air cargo system to ship fresh halibut to market, the price paid to fishermen has plunged.When processors can’t fly out the fresh fish, they have to freeze it. Frozen halibut brings a lower price, so the processors pay less to fishermen.Just before the attacks, halibut of more than 40 pounds brought $2.40 a pound in Homer and $2.20 a pound in Kodiak. A week later, the Kodiak price was $1.60 to $1.90.In Homer, boats were tied up at the docks with fish aboard and no market."There are definitely loads begging for a home," said fish buyer Brad Faulkner of Homer, the state’s leading halibut port.Halibut, which is perceived as a luxury, is not selling well to the American consumer, Faulkner said.Custom processor Dave Woodruff in Kodiak was telling fishermen to wait to fish halibut until the market stabilizes."I’ve suggested my guys refrain from fishing for the next few weeks until we see where it’s all going. Prices are free-falling. Frozen inventory is very high," Woodruff said.

Bank changes its name

First National Bank of Anchorage is now First National Bank Alaska.The bank’s shareholders Sept. 20 voted for the name change, saying the new moniker more accurately reflects the bank’s statewide presence."It is a natural progression for us,’’ said Lyn Whitley, assistant communications director."We thought we should have the name reflect our service area, which is Alaska," said FNBA president and chairman Dan Cuddy during a reception at the bank Sept. 21.The name change goes into effect immediately. Checks and other bank documents printed with the bank’s previous name are still valid, Whitley said.The bank’s signs, which generally consist of the number 1 with a circle around it and the words "First National Bank," will not need to be changed, said bank vice chairwoman and chief operating officer Betsy Lawer. When it opened in 1922, FNBA was the first national bank to be chartered in Anchorage. But federal regulations prohibited the bank from using Alaska in its title because National Bank of Alaska -- now Wells Fargo Bank Alaska -- had already opened a national bank in Skagway in 1916.Over the years as banking regulations were relaxed, FNBA expanded outside of Anchorage.Today, FNBA has more than 750 employees working at 27 branches in the state.FNBA has assets of $1.8 billion.

Pepe's North of the Border restaurant is a Barrow must-visit

BARROW -- Along the remote coast of the Arctic Ocean in a city where the sun does not set for 82 days a year, a rural business thrives and prospers. Fran Tate, owner and operator of Pepe’s North Of the Border restaurant in Barrow, has seen her rural business grow from a restaurant housed in a remodeled two-bedroom house with room for 40 patrons to a facility that can seat 234 customers.The restaurant sees a steady flow of business year round in Barrow, according to the restaurant’s founder. "Regular customers eat their meals at the restaurant all the time," said Tate."City gatherings are often held at Pepe’s," said Jim Vorderstrasse, Barrow’s mayor. Vorderstrasse describes Tate as "a leading first citizen." The northernmost incorporated city on the North American continent has about 4,600 residents.Pepe’s two dining rooms and coffee shop also are open for banquets, community meetings, social gatherings, conferences and dances. Community service organizations are not charged for room rental in the restaurant and usually five to seven meetings are scheduled each month. Tate plans a special event that adds to the list of activities held at the restaurant monthly.From May 15 to Sept. 15, Tate sees big spurts of business during the afternoon at Pepe’s. During the summer season, the Arctic Slope Regional Corp. conducts Tundra Tours for visitors who want to experience the wonders of the Arctic. A stop at the restaurant is a lunch-time option offered to the visitors midway through the tours. Overnight visitors to the Top of the World Hotel, which is owned by ASRC and located adjacent to Pepe’s, have even more opportunities to taste the restaurant’s fare. Menus are printed in English, Japanese and Braille."During the winter, business is steady all day long with oil company executives, vice presidents and workers," said Tate. "Barrow is kind of a hub for the oil industry."Although no roads lead to Barrow, scheduled passenger and freight flights arrive and depart daily from the Will Rogers/Wiley Post Memorial Airport. According to Tate, Prudhoe Bay is a mere 240 miles away and Kuparuk is even closer at about 185 miles.Tate, who is remodeling one room now, said, "Future expansion may depend on what happens in ANWR (Arctic National Wildlife Refuge), because I’m stuck and can’t get any bigger in my present location."Tate rents her restaurant space from ASRC, which has headquarters in Barrow. Tate points out, however, that "everything inside is mine.""You have to keep going, keep active, or you feel you’re at a place of cancerous complacency," said Tate when speaking about future plans.Tate started her Mexican-American restaurant in 1978. Tate originally moved to Barrow to work as an electrical engineer for the Naval Petroleum Reserve No. 4 both in the field and behind a desk. When the Department of Interior took over the operation, Tate decided she did not want to accept the new direction her job was taking and work in an office all day.After studying the needs of the city and its one, tiny cafe, Tate determined that Barrow needed a restaurant. Today Barrow boasts 10 restaurants, according to Vorderstrasse.

This Week in Alaska Business History September 30, 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 his weekAnchorage TimesSept. 30, 1981Loan interest rate increase means larger paymentsBy Deb DavidTimes WriterAlaska home buyers will have to dig deeper into their pockets or settle for a less expensive house because of a seven-eighths percent hike in mortgage loan interest rates.The new rate of 12 1/8 percent will drive up monthly payments on a $90,000 loan from the Alaska Housing Finance Corp. by $60. It will take effect Thursday, replacing the current interest rate of 11 1/4 percent.Only the first $90,000 of an AHFC loan is eligible for the 12 1/8 percent rate. Loan amounts above $90,000 carry the prevailing prime interest rate. The two rates are combined to come up with an effective annual interest rate.Anchorage TimesOct. 1, 1981Japan Air Lines spends freely in AnchorageBy Deb DavidTimes WriterJapan Air Lines flies the pole over Anchorage, stopping here only to refuel, but the carrier reportedly spent about $10 million last year on Anchorage hotel rooms for its flight crews and food for its passengers.JAL also paid about $500,000 last year in landing fees to Anchorage International Airport and bought 60 million gallons of fuel, public relations executive Tadao Fujimatsu said.Although he had no documentation, he said Japanese tourists spend a lot of money here on furs, seafood, liquor and jewelry in the airport’s duty-free shops. These commodities are cheaper in the United States than they are in Japan.Fujimatsu is in Anchorage this week to celebrate JAL’s 30th anniversary. This year marks its 20th year of over-the-pole flights.10 years ago this weekAlaska Journal of CommerceSept. 30, 1991From auto repair to computersBy Al GeistFor the Alaska Journal of CommerceFAIRBANKS -- With the purchase of Today’s Computer Business Center, a man who owned an auto-repair business a few years ago has become a major force in Interior Alaska’s computer and office-systems marketplace."I was actually into electronics long before I picked up a wrench," said Gary Jones, former owner of Northside Auto Repair. "I really didn’t take computers seriously until I saw my first graphic interface." That introduction began a long relationship with Apple’s Macintosh computers and Northside Computer Center, the company that grew to become Automated Business Center."I actually started talking about the possibilities (of forming ABC) about three years ago," said Jones, who incorporated the company last year as part of a sales/service partnership. ABC sells and services price-sensitive, low- to medium-end computer system and office machines.Alaska Journal of CommerceSept. 30, 1991Alaska auto buyers, car dealers stress serviceBy the Alaska Journal of CommerceAs the weather cools, Wayne Drumm warms to his work at Continental Motor Co. Inc., buoyed by the popularity of Subarus in Alaska and his own enthusiasm for the car’s reputation."This is our time to shine, because termination dust is on the mountains," said Drumm, chief operating officer for what he says is the highest volume Subaru dealership in the world.Harold Nye, the Oneida, N.Y.-based entrepreneur who started Nye Corp. of Alaska seven years ago, is similarly enthusiastic about Toyota."Toyota really excels," said Nye, who still has some rival dealerships wondering what he’s up to. "Toyota is the No. 1 import."To serve Toyota buyers, Nye plans to open a new 20,000-square-foot Toyota service center in Anchorage next spring, right next to the Toyota showroom slated for a facelift. Nye’s firm also was scheduled to open its new Lexus showroom in downtown Anchorage in late September.-- Compiled by Ed Bennett.

Domestic energy plan still in the works

It’s still too early to discern the effects of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., on national energy policy, but the Bush administration is firm in its resolve for strengthened domestic energy production.That’s the word from Drue Pearce, a former Alaska state senator who is Interior Secretary Gale Norton’s senior adviser on Alaska issues. Pearce was in Alaska Sept. 20 and spoke in Anchorage to the Resource Development Council for Alaska Inc., along with Cam Toohey, Norton’s special assistant in Alaska.Congress is now dealing with issues relating to the terrorist attacks but will soon return to its work on energy legislation, Pearce said. A bill that would open the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has passed the U.S. House and is now in the Senate.The Department of the Interior itself is pressing forward with its domestic energy agenda, Pearce said. The department has secured funding for a start on environmental assessments needed for oil and gas lease sales in additional areas of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, and approvals were given to seek additional funding for NPR-A lease sales in mid-September, she told the RDC.The Bureau of Land Management plans a second lease sale in the petroleum reserve next year, in the same northeastern part of NPR-A where a previous sale was held, Pearce said. Earlier this year, Phillips Alaska Inc. announced oil and gas discoveries on NPR-A leases acquired in the first lease sale.The lease sale in the northwestern part of the reserve is now planned for 2004, Pearce said. In matters related to a North Slope natural gas pipeline, Pearce said she is now a member of the Bush administration’s energy task force, which is being led by the Interior Department, and which will be dealing with the gas pipeline and other issues."The position of the department is that we are ’route-neutral,’ but we are also not recommending any changes to existing law," she said, referring to the Alaska Natural Gas Transportation Act of 1976. "You can read between the lines and get what that means," she told the RDC.Since ANGTA is the framework for former President Carter’s selection of the Alaska Highway gas line route, what Pearce implied was support within the department for the status quo, or the designation of the highway as the approved route.Pearce said an important shift within the Interior Department is that land and resource agencies like the U.S. Geological Survey, the Minerals Management Service and the Bureau of Land Management, "are now being heard more" within the department."During the Clinton presidency those bureaus were essentially ignored," Pearce said.Among several topics discussed, Pearce said that Interior’s review of new Clinton-era mining regulations that went into effect the day after President Bush took office are still being reviewed.Two sections being given close scrutiny are provisions for bonds on small mining operations that could hamper small miners in Alaska, and a provision for examining the validity of mining claims in areas that are under withdrawal from public lands.Because so much federal land in Alaska is under a withdrawal order of one form or another, thousands of mining claims could be jeopardized by subjective decisions of a government employee as to their validity, Pearce said.

Attacks may help open ANWR

FAIRBANKS -- Alaska’s senators are not bringing up the subject, but when asked, they say that prospects for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge improved after hijacked jets crashed into the World Trade Center and Pentagon."I think we’ve got an issue here whose time has come," said Sen. Frank Murkowski, R-Alaska, while talking with reporters Sept. 21.Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, said he senses "a softening, if not a change, in position."The legislative path toward that end, though, was muddied when a senator from Oklahoma introduced amendments that could attach oil-drilling language to a military funding bill.Republican Sen. James Inhofe announced that he would introduce two energy-related amendments to the Defense authorization bill that senators started debating Sept. 21.One amendment would add to the national energy policy bill that the House passed in early August. The other amendment would be attached to an energy policy bill developed by Murkowski before the Alaska senator lost his chairmanship of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.Both Inhofe proposals contain language to open ANWR to oil drilling.Just a few hours before Inhofe introduced his amendments, Murkowski had said that adding such language to the Defense bill would be inappropriate and in poor taste.Murkowski is generally considered to have the votes in committee to make that happen, but the fate of such legislation on the Senate floor, where opponents have threatened a filibuster, is less certain.The House, in its energy bill passed in early August, approved drilling in ANWR.Stevens, also speaking with Alaska media Sept. 21, said the anti-terrorism fight outlined by President Bush will take years and that the nation must assure itself a solid supply of oil during that time.ANWR cannot produce oil soon enough to be of help, Stevens said, but if it is a known quantity and available, the country can allow existing fields to be drawn down at a more rapid rate if necessary, he said.

Thanks to Asian interest, skates could go from bycatch to million-pound fishery

A new fishery could soon have many Kodiak processing workers clocking lots more time on the job. That’s welcome news for line workers who have been idled from fishing closures to protect sea lions, as well as from fewer salmon and halibut landings crossing the Kodiak docks.Alaska Fresh Seafoods is one of the smallest operators along Kodiak’s working waterfront. But it’s always been one of the most innovative, and for the past few years has been dabbling in buying and selling skates. The item is popular in Asian countries where the skate wings are used in spicy soups, and buyers there want all they can get. Now, AFS wants to attract at least a million pounds of big and long-nosed skates into its plant each year to sell to a guaranteed buyer in Korea. In the past, skates have been taken only as bycatch from draggers and longliners who catch them while targeting species like cod or flatfish. According to AFS manager Dave Woodruff, boats bring in anywhere from a few hundred thousand pounds to more than a million pounds annually. Now, under special federal and state permits, Woodruff said skates can be a targeted fishery and he’s hoping more fishermen will give it a try.No stock assessment has been done for skates in Alaska, but any fishermen will tell you there’s a lot of them. Some report fishing areas of mostly muddy bottom where they only haul up large volumes of skates. Skates are regarded as an underused or "newly emerging" fishery. The flat, triangular fish can reach four feet across and weigh up to 70 pounds, although the average is roughly 35 pounds.Skates occupy the same places as other bottom dwelling species like halibut, and it’s a tricky task to keep those fish from getting illegally entangled in trawl nets. To avoid that, Woodruff said the draggers are using specially modified nets that retain the skates while allowing the other fish to go free.The new net, which was designed for Canada’s skate fishery, uses a large, 14-inch mesh "excluder panel," and reportedly yields bycatch levels of just 1 percent to 2 percent."Skates are such an odd-angled fish, and the net lets all other fish swim on through. The only bycatch we’ve had is starry flounder," Woodruff said, referring to the few 65 to 70 foot draggers currently targeting skates.According to Woodruff, removing more of the skates that blanket the ocean’s bottom could have a positive affect on halibut stocks."They’re eating the dickens out of them. When the skates are cut open, they’re often full of little halibut. Take skates off the grounds and it will reduce that predation," he said.After skates are delivered to the plant, they’re sorted by size. Fish weighing less than 35 pounds are boxed up whole; for larger sizes, only the wings are used and the rest of the skate is ground up for fish meal. AFS is paying 17 cents a pound for whole skates and 23 cents for wings. That’s compared with 6 cents a pound for pollock and 15 cents for pink salmon.Woodruff, who in his 32 years in the seafood business "has tried to find markets for everything from lumpsuckers to wolf eels" believes skates can sustain a good market."If we can get enough volume, skates will pay the bills and most importantly, keep people working. Any time we can be processing anything, it’s good for the community in terms of jobs and raw fish taxes," he said.Attacks slow seafoodThe Sept. 11 attack on America has disrupted the flow of food to our nation’s markets. Seafood and other perishables that are flown in fresh daily are likely to be in short supply and more expensive. Foods that come into the United States by ship were also held in holds as seaports felt the squeeze of security restrictions.If the seafood was kept at the proper cold temperature for a few days, it would be all right for restaurants and retail counters. However, since many airports don’t have refrigeration, it’s likely much of the fresh seafood spoiled and had to be dumped. That could ratchet prices upward, at least for the immediate future.Hatch price and housewivesMitch Kink, former head of the Alaska Independent Fishermen’s Marketing Association and "perpetual advocate for higher fishermen’s prices," said he’s tired of hearing excuses about why salmon prices are so much lower.He told the Alaska Fishermen’s Journal: "There are only two figures that matter -- the hatch price (what processors pay fishermen) and what the housewife pays. Everything else along the way is just talk. We took a 37-percent cut in our hatch price. Are housewives paying 37 percent less? That’s what I’m concerned about."Kink added that it’s not so tough taking a price hit if it’s also passed onto the consumers. But he feels betrayed when retail prices remain the same year after year. His solution? Solidarity. He told the AFJ: "When I go to the negotiating table, how many guys are standing behind me? That’s the question."Kodiak-based free-lance writer Laine Welch can be reached via e-mail at ([email protected]).

Alaska National Guard could be activated for airport security

JUNEAU (AP) More than 200 members of the Alaska National Guard could be called to active duty to provide security at the state’s airports, state officials said Thursday. Some could be activated as early as this week, said Maj. Gen. Phil Oates, Adjutant General of the Alaska National Guard. The announcement came as President Bush asked the nation’s governors to activate their militia forces to temporarily assist with airport security until the federal government can take up the task permanently. Gov. Tony Knowles said Thursday he is prepared to activate troops to comply with that request. ``The message is loud and clear. Alaskans deserve and Alaskans will have the necessary security at state facilities,’’ Knowles said. It is unclear how many of the 4,040 members of the Army and Air Force National Guard could be called to active duty. Alaska airports need at least an additional 262 security workers to meet more stringent federal requirements and some of those roles would be filled by part-time military forces, state officials said. State officials are now trying to ascertain how many additional security workers are needed at Alaska airports and where National Guard troops are needed, said Bob King, Knowles’ press secretary. ``We’re immediately responding to the president’s request and will seek to get Guard troops positioned as soon as possible,’’ King said. Airport security employees and local law enforcement would first be offered state-funded overtime. National Guard troops would fill the gaps in coverage, Oates said. Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport needs 30 additional security workers and Fairbanks International Airport requires 12 workers. They would be tasked with performing vehicle checks outside the terminals, Oates said. Another 220 security workers are needed at 17 rural airports in the state to fulfill basic security needs, he said. National Guard troops called to active duty could expect to serve for up to six months, Oates said. Those filing security and infantry roles could expect to be called up first, Oates said. Involuntary call-ups of some National Guard personnel would be implemented only after security needs are met with volunteers from Guard units, Oates said. This is in an effort to ease the burden carried by Guardsmen with jobs and families, he said. ``When we call up a National Guard member most times we take them away from other employment. So we want to be careful when we do that,’’ Oates said. Nationwide, the Bush Administration expects up to 5,000 National Guard troops to assist with security at 420 commercial airports around the country. The federal government expects to pay for additional expense to state governments, which is estimated at $100 million to $150 million, administration officials said. Also, many more in-flight air marshals would be trained and a federal agency would be set up to oversee the screening of passengers and luggage. Alaska National Guard troops will receive about four days of security training from the Federal Aviation Administration, Oates said. The Alaska Army National Guard has about 2,036 troops attached to the 207th Infantry Group stationed at 74 armories around the state, a spokeswoman said. Another 2,004 members of the Alaska Air National Guard operate from Kulis Air National Guard base in Anchorage and Eielson Air Force Base in Fairbanks, the spokeswoman said.

Unalaska OKs $100,000 donation to terrorist attack victims

UNALASKA (AP) The Unalaska City Council approved a $100,000 donation for the victims of the terrorist attacks. Half of the money will go to burn units at hospitals in Washington, D.C., and New York City, to help treat people hurt in fires that broke out when planes hit the Pentagon and the World Trade Center Sept. 11. Another $25,000 will go to the Twin Towers Fund, to benefit families of firefighters, police officers and emergency medical technicians killed in New York. The remaining $25,000 is earmarked for victims of the hijacked plane that crashed outside of Pittsburgh. Unalaska City Council member Shirley Marquardt said Unalaska is rich in revenues derived from commercial fishing, and that the city should do its part to respond to the national disaster. The donation was approved Tuesday. Business

Alaska Airlines to resume flights to Washington D.C.

JUNEAU (AP) Alaska Airlines will resume nonstop flights to Washington, D.C., on Oct. 8, a company spokesman said. The airlines suspended the daily flights to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and New York. Alaska Airlines now will fly into Dulles International Airport, about 26 miles from the Capital, said airlines spokesman Jack Evans. Reagan airport remains closed pending an announcement from President Bush about it reopening. Alaska Airlines began offering the nonstop flight from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to Washington in September. The daily flight was its only stop east of Chicago.

Alaska Medical Response Team to deploy to New York

Gov. Tony Knowles says Alaska is proud of its 44-member emergencymedical team that will be sent to New York City in early Octoberto aid in recovery efforts at the World Trade Center, site of arecent terrorist attack."Following the attacks, Alaskans have given generously both indonations and prayers. Federal deployment of this medicalassistance team is another example of Alaska’s commitment to thenational recovery effort," Knowles said. "Alaska is proud to playan active role as America comes together in response to thisterrible tragedy and we stand by to assist the nation further asneeded."The Alaska-1 Disaster Medical Assistance Team, or AK-1 DMAT,consists of professional and paraprofessional medical and supportpersonnel who volunteer to provide emergency medical care duringa natural or man-made disaster or other event. From October 10through 22, the Alaska team will be activated as a federalresponse team and deployed to New York City, where they willprovide medical support to rescue and recovery workers at groundzero, the site of the terrorist attacks.DMAT members are primarily from Anchorage and the Mat-Su Valley,but also from other parts of the state. They include physicians,nurses, paramedics, emergency medical technicians, pharmacists,respiratory therapists, and support staff. Members of the AK-1DMAT are volunteers until deployment, when they becomefederalized employees of the U.S. Government.No one on the team is happy to receive the call to deploybecause that means someone is hurt and we wouldnt wish forthat, said Phyllis Goodwin, Commander, AK-1 DMAT. However, ifpeople are hurt and need our help, we want to be there to givewhatever assistance we can.The AK-1 DMAT is part of the National Disaster Medical System(NDMS), within the federal Department of Health and HumanServices Office of Emergency Preparedness. The NDMS is acooperative asset-sharing program among federal agencies, stateand local governments, and private businesses and civilianvolunteers which ensures that resources are available to providemedical services following a disaster and to assist the localhealth care system and emergency personnel.Level one DMATs like the team from Alaska are equipped to deployto a disaster site with sufficient supplies and equipment tosustain themselves for 72 hours while providing medical care.There are 27 Level 1 DMATs in the United States.Alaskans are already participating directly in the recoveryeffort. Last week, Knowles sent Jim Harris, a program manager inthe recovery section of the Alaska Division of EmergencyServices, to New York to work a two-week shift.

Alaska makes first run to D.C. airport

The ribbons have been cut and the speeches given, but Alaska Airlines is still sky high over its new daily jet service to Washington, D.C."We’re extremely excited," Jack Walsh, spokesman for the Seattle-based airline, said of the inaugural service that started Sept. 4 to Reagan Washington National Airport."This is a coup," Walsh said. "Things are much more convenient for the people of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. In the past, there wasn’t anything to compare it to."The same-plane flight from Anchorage takes about nine hours, including a 50-minute layover in Seattle. The airline is using its new 172-seat Boeing 737-900s on the flight.Until people realize Alaska Airlines is flying to the nation’s capital, the flights probably won’t be at capacity, Walsh said."Any time you start a new route, it takes a while to get going," Walsh said. "There is still room to get tickets -- on down the road I suspect peak times will be sold out well in advance."The airplane was full on its inaugural flight with politicians, including Anchorage Mayor George Wuerch and "various and sundry other people and VIPs," Walsh said. The airline hosted ribbon-cutting festivities in Anchorage, Seattle and Washington, D.C.Boeing held a special ceremony at Reagan Washington National Airport to welcome the new flight, Walsh said. The airline’s entire fleet consists of the Seattle-made airplanes.Alaska Airlines in June won landing rights at the airport closest to Washington, D.C., allowing the airline to operate one round-trip flight daily from the nation’s capital to Seattle and continuing on to Anchorage.The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded the highly coveted slot to the Seattle-based airline June 22. It is one of six "beyond perimeter (landing) slots" available at the airport. The slot opened in December after Trans World Airlines filed for bankruptcy and was purchased by American Airlines.Alaska Airlines officials said the flight was made possible with the help of Alaska’s congressional delegation who wrote Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta in support of the company’s application.The all-Republican delegation noted that federal law grants a preference for the slots to carriers that don’t already provide service to the nation’s capital.

Former Alaskan forced from home by World Trade Center attacks

FAIRBANKS (AP) Nicole Hallingstad liberally sprinkles her conversations these days with the words ``fortunate,’’ ``lucky’’ and ``blessed’’. There’s a chance she lost her home in Tuesday’s terrorist attack on New York City, but it doesn’t seem to matter. ``Hey, I’m healthy and I’m alive,’’ said Hallingstead who grew up in Petersburg and lived in Fairbanks until last month when she moved to York City. ``I am doing OK. I can find a new place to live.’’ Hallingstead was sharing a 3,000-square-foot loft apartment three blocks from the World Trade Center but had not yet taken a job, choosing instead to spend some time getting to know the city. While she had never been to New York before and didn’t know a soul, she said she felt an immediate affinity for her new home. Hallingstad, who holds a master’s degree in European history, had long felt a desire to live in Europe but decided that life in New York was the ``best possible domestic counterpart. ``I wanted to be part of a large global community and to feel as if I were in a hub of the world, some place larger in the social and cultural sense,’’ she said in a Saturday telephone interview. ``I had only one choice, and that was New York City.’’ On the morning of the attack she had gone early to Rockefeller Plaza, about a mile and half from the World Trade Center, to be in the ``Today Show’’ crowd. Holding a sign that said, ``Hello Alaska,’’ she was all set for fun and excitement.And then the planes struck. She watched with others as the attack played out on nearby television monitors. Her cellular phone was out of service, so Hallingstad asked a stranger for the use of his. She called her brother in Petersburg to tell him she was all right and also called a friend who works at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. For now, her plans are uncertain. She has not been able to go back to her home since the attack, and it may be weeks before she is allowed to return. All her belongings are there, and she is aching to retrieve her laptop computer, mail, passport and some clothes. Before she can return, however, engineers must determine the soundness of the building, located in the city’s TriBeCa area. Her landlady, who was at the building on Wednesday, reported that the building seems to be intact but that everything is covered with a thick layer of chalky gray powder. The landlady, longtime New Yorker Nan Dillon, has made sure Hallingstad has a place to stay. They are spending the weekend at a home in East Hampton and expect to return to the city Wednesday. Hallingstad, 35, worked in Fairbanks for eight years as a sales associate for Personal Page and was a bartender at the Klondike Lounge. ``I’ve been so blessed with friends from Alaska expressing concern,’’ she said. Worn out from explaining her circumstances on the telephone, she sent a three-page e-mail message to Alaskans spelling out her feelings about the disaster and her love for New York. ``It’s hard to explain it over and over and it helped to write about it,’’ she said. Her e-mail encourages her friends to ``hug your children tightly. Grasp the hand of your partner firmly. And tell those that you care about that you love them. Because in the blink of an eye, everything else simply becomes stuff that you realize you can do without if you have to.’’ The attack has not deterred her intent to live in New York. ``I feel so connected to this city. We just have to think what the options are.’’

Fishing chief doesn't expect new rules to curb sea lion decline

SITKA -- Proposed rules for commercial fishing in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska will not halt the decline in Steller sea lion populations there, according to the nation’s new top fish manager.Instead, the rules will be tailored to preserve the nation’s most valuable groundfish harvest while minimizing its impact on the remaining 34,600 sea lions in western Alaska waters."Even if we remove all the fisheries in the waters, over the next six to eight years the status of the Steller sea lions will still have a negative decline," said William Hogarth, appointed Sept. 6 as the new director of the National Marine Fisheries Service.New rules being considered by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council are intended to avoid jeopardizing sea lions while scientific research on their decline continues, Hogarth said."I think the emphasis is on protecting the fishing industry and Stellers. There’s no reason you can’t do both," Hogarth said.Steller sea lion populations west of Prince William Sound were placed on the endangered species list in 1997 after the population plummeted by about 80 percent over four decades from an estimated 180,000 mammals.Steller sea lion numbers in western Alaska are dropping at a rate of about 5.2 percent a year, according to the Alaska Steller Sea Lion Restoration Team, a panel appointed by the governor to study the issue.Some environmentalists argue that heavy fishing of pollock, Pacific cod and Atka mackerel in the Bering Sea, Gulf of Alaska and waters off the Aleutian Islands caused the decline in the sea lions.But fishing industry officials disagree. They’re quick to note that the sea lions are the most abundant mammals on the endangered species list.So far, scientists have been at a loss to explain the population drop. Possible explanations include ocean climate changes affecting sea lion prey, predation from killer whales and sharks and a so-called "junk food" theory, which suggests the sea lions eat too much low-fat pollock and cod.The fisheries service, which is responsible for protecting threatened and endangered marine animals, says commercial fishing is contributing to the decline.For decades, Steller sea lions were seen as nuisance animals and were often shot by mariners, hunters and fishermen. Some Natives also hunted sea lions for food.Eastern stocks of Steller sea lions -- from Southeast Alaska to California -- are listed as a federally threatened species despite increasing numbers.The North Pacific Fishery Management Council is expected to recommend new fishing rules at its October meeting in Seattle. Those rules should cover fishing in the region when the season begins in January.A plan favored by the fishing industry and the NMFS calls for sweeping changes in rules on fishing techniques, seasons and fishery locations. But it would largely preserve the industry.The proposal would keep boats from fishing within three nautical miles of 37 rookeries. And it would prohibit groundfishing within 20 miles of five Bering Sea foraging areas. Specific areas would be closed to some types of fishing, but environmentalists challenging the plan say those areas aren’t used anyway.Such a change would cost the Alaska commercial fishing industry up to $14.4 million and up to 513 jobs, according to an NMFS study.Environmentalists favor reducing the groundfish catch and essentially moving fishing boats away from known sea lion habitat. That could cost the industry up to $149 million and result in the loss of up to 4,740 jobs, fisheries service officials say.Current emergency regulations, enacted last year to preserve Steller sea lion habitat, provide three nautical mile "no transit" zones for fishing boats near 37 rookeries and forbid trawling within 10 and 20 nautical miles of various rookeries.Phil Kline, of the environmental group American Oceans Campaign, said any new fishing plan that doesn’t reverse the decline in Steller sea lion populations is "unconscionable." He criticized the NMFS for kowtowing to the fishing industry."I’m afraid we might drive Stellers to extinction if we continue the way we are going," Kline said.A federal judge in Seattle ordered NMFS to further study reasons for the decline of Steller sea lions after Greenpeace and other environmental groups sued in 1998. Part of the work in Sitka is reviewing a new biological opinion prepared in response to that judge’s order.Environmental groups have stopped short of threatening legal action to block changes in the fishing regulations. But Hogarth, the new NMFS leader, expects a court challenge."I think we’ve got something the agency can defend," Hogarth said.

Firm builds Midtown Hilton inn

A developer who runs a hotel in Midtown Anchorage is building another 125-room property in the area.Navin Dimond, president of Denver-based Stonebridge Cos., has started construction on a Hilton Garden Inn at Tudor Road and C Street. The developer owns Hampton Inn Hotel in Anchorage, located a few blocks from the hotel under construction. Both hotel brands are part of Hilton Hotels Corp. based in Beverly Hills, Calif.The Hilton Garden Inn is scheduled to open in May, Dimond said.General contractor Ironwood Inc. of Anchorage was handling foundation work in early September. Site work was scheduled to be finished this month, said Gerry Zeek, president of Ironwood. The builder plans to begin structural framework in October, he said.Developer Dimond operates Hilton Garden Inns in southern California, he said. Dimond described the hotel brand as a cross between a limited-service hotel and a full-service hotel because Hilton Garden Inn features a smaller restaurant and scaled-down bar, he said.Other features of the brand include a glass-walled pavilion with a 30-foot ceiling containing the lobby, and a Pavilion Pantry store offering microwaveable packaged, refrigerated and frozen food, drinks, snacks and sundries.The new Anchorage hotel also will have a pool, spa, exercise room and meeting rooms, Dimond said.The developer believes the hotel is suited to the Midtown Anchorage location, and Dimond aims to chiefly target business travelers as well as leisure travelers during summer."It will be a higher scale property than others in Midtown or elsewhere in Anchorage outside of downtown," he said.Dimond has owned and operated the Anchorage Hampton Inn since it opened in October 1997.Hilton Hotels Corp. lists more than 125 Hilton Garden Inn hotels operating in the United States, Canada and Mexico with another 24 scheduled to open later this year and early in 2001.

Route mandate will shut gas line study down, oil companies say

FAIRBANKS -- A spokesman for Alaska’s three main gas producers is warning lawmakers that the companies will shut down their study of a gas line to the Lower 48 if government ends up deciding the route."The continuation of our study is only justified if a route is not mandated," said Curtis Thayer, spokesman for a consortium of ExxonMobil Production Co., BP and Phillips Alaska Inc.The warning came as members of the group plan to pitch their proposed federal legislation to Congress.The producers’ proposal, given to Alaska’s delegation in mid-July, would create a regulatory framework that could speed construction of a line, but does not describe the line’s route.The warning is a challenge to lawmakers in both Alaska and Washington where the trend is to try and legislate a preferred route.The Alaska Legislature last session passed a bill that was signed by Gov. Tony Knowles prohibiting a line across Alaska’s North Slope into Canada. In July, Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, added language to the U.S. House energy bill that would do the same. The House passed its bill in early August, but the Senate has yet to act on its own.The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee was scheduled to start the final writing of its energy bill in mid-September.The committee’s chairman, Democratic Sen. Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, said in a floor speech Sept. 6 that the starting version of the bill will contain language to "streamline the regulatory approval process" for a gas line from the North Slope. Bingaman made no mention of designating a route.Alaska Sen. Frank Murkowski is an "avowed opponent" of a gas line across the North Slope into Canada, said his spokesman, Chuck Kleeschulte.Murkowski, the ranking Republican on the Energy Committee, hopes to hold hearings on the gas line issues in late September or early October, Kleeschulte said.BP, ExxonMobil and Phillips Alaska are more than halfway through $100 million worth of gas line studies, Thayer said.The information developed to date shows that neither a northern route crossing the North Slope nor a southern route paralleling the Alaska Highway is currently feasible, he said. The producers group is going back over the information to look for cost savings.But Thayer said the study group now has some "compelling facts" when comparing the two routes. One of those facts is that the northern route would be $2 billion cheaper than the southern route, he said."As they look at the issue, their opinion might change," Thayer said. "If a route is mandated, the chances of a gas pipeline are reduced."John Katz, head of Knowles’ office here, said the governor is working to make the southern route more attractive."The governor’s goal is to make the southern route economic for all the concerned parties," Katz said.Knowles’ proposed federal bill would offer an investment tax credit, a gas tax credit and accelerated depreciation. It also, however, would mandate the southern route along the Alaska Highway.

Tree chemistry helps account for Alaska's golden autumns

The fireweed and blueberry leaves are turning scarlet above treeline, and soon autumn will paint the birches and aspens on the lower hillsides gold. Where do these brilliant colors come from? And why are Alaska trees golden, instead of the burning crimson and purple of New England?During the summer, most leaves are green. The color is due to chlorophyll, without which life on earth would not exist. It is chlorophyll, condensed into little packets called chloroplasts within the cells of plants, that allows a plant to use carbon dioxide from the air, water from the ground, and energy from sunlight to produce the sugars and oxygen that support animal life. This process only occurs, however, when the leaves are unfrozen. Since leaves are useless for producing food for a plant during cold winters, many plants drop their leaves in the autumn and regrow them each spring. The fall of the leaves is usually preceded by the destruction of the chlorophyll.The chlorophyll destruction can be triggered in two ways, or by a combination. Plants that are native to an area, like the birches and fireweed of Alaska, will begin to prepare for their winter rest at about the same time each year, regardless of temperature. This is possible because plants can sense day length, or more accurately, night length. As the nights grow longer and colder in the fall, the trees stop growing, the circulation of sap to the leaves is cut off, and the chlorophyll in the leaves breaks down.Imported ornamentals, on the other hand, are often from areas of the world where the proper time to start shedding leaves would be signaled by a much longer night. These trees are given an abrupt warning by the season’s first frost. An unusually early frost may affect native plants in the same way, making them speed up their normal schedule.There are other pigments in leaves in addition to chlorophyll. Many of the yellow and orange colors in flowers and vegetables like tomatoes and carrots are caused by a group of pigments called carotenes. (Yes, they are named after carrots.) In leaves, these carotenes are packed in the chloroplasts with the chlorophyll, and in summer are hidden by the green chlorophyll. As the chlorophyll breaks down in fall, the carotenes remain, producing the gold of birch and aspen leaves.The red of fireweed and blueberry leaves is produced by a different set of pigments, the anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are responsible for most red, pink, purple and blue flowers -- in fact the word means a flower (anthos) which is blue (cyan). They are also found in the cell sap of some but not all leaves.In Alaska, anthocyanins are common in the leaves as well as flowers and fruits of undergrowth and tundra plants, but not in the trees that grow here. Furthermore, the amount of anthocyanins in a plant that is able to produce them depends on environmental factors: cool but not freezing nights, drought and sunshine.Fall in much of Alaska is the rainy season, and the transition from warm summers to subfreezing nights is rapid in the drier areas. Our weather conditions would not promote the development of red fall color even if the raw materials were present in our trees.In fact, there are only two places in the world with abundant trees, such as maples and oaks, with lots of anthocyanins in the leaves along with dry, crisp, autumns. These two areas are eastern North America and eastern Asia. Both areas are noted for their displays of crimson, scarlet, purple and gold. Here in Alaska, we must be content with golden trees in the autumn.Assistant professor Sue Ann Bowling wrote this column in 1987. It is provided as a public service by the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, in cooperation with the UAF research community.

FAA rewards F.S. Air Service's improved safety with a Diamond

After commercial pilot Floyd Saltz died in an airplane crash in July 1998, his wife, Sandi Saltz Butler, vowed to make F.S. Air Service Inc. safer.She has.The Federal Aviation Administration in September presented the Diamond Certificate of Excellence to the Anchorage-based airline and nine individual awards to employees who completed technical training."Safety is our biggest priority,’’ said Butler, whose company now provides pilots and mechanics with advanced flight and technical training.Johnnie Wallace, assistant manager of the FAA’s Flight Standards district office in Anchorage, said the agency wants to give credit to companies that are increasing safety and technical training, beyond what is required by law."We want the public to recognize that we recognize companies that are going above and beyond training and education for employees,’’ Wallace said.The FAA has given similar awards in the past year to Era Aviation Inc., Northern Air Cargo and Peninsula Airways. F.S. Air Service has a fleet of 10 airplanes that provide charter and jet ambulance services throughout Alaska. The airline also runs scheduled Anchorage-to-Seward flights.F.S. Air Service no longer runs cargo, or what Butler calls "high liability’’ flights, like landing on beaches or "unimproved’’ village runways.The company also is participating in the Five Star Medallion Program, a volunteer accreditation by Alaska air carriers that includes, among other things, a company safety program, simulator training, risk assessment checklists for pilots, increased mechanic and ground service training and independent safety audits.Jeff Pull, the airline’s chief inspector, said the additional training not only makes the airline safer but decreases airplane downtime."It takes less time to work on the airplanes, which increases profits for the company,’’ Pull said. "(Training) definitely pays for itself. It’s expensive, but a company can recoup those costs in a fairly short amount of time.’’There’s another big benefit, said Pull, who started at the airline shortly after the crash that killed Floyd Saltz, the airline’s founder and former president."The morale here is really good -- a lot different than it was back then.’’The change is due to increased technical and safety training the airline provides for its pilots and mechanics."It’s given mechanics here recognition. This is not a ’glory’ job, so it’s nice to have a pat on the back every once in a while,’’ Pull said.In addition to Pull, other mechanics receiving awards for recurrent and new training were Andrew Crane, Todd Held, Mark Kapsch, Jerimiah Thibodeaux, Greg Grist, Francis Penatac, Roy Redifer and William Wheeler.

Tax law changes retirement plan rules

After four attempts in prior sessions, Congress finally enacted, and President Bush signed into law, major 401(k) and pension law changes in June. These changes are generally effective for plan years beginning in 2002.The new pension provisions are part of the budget bill, known officially as the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001. This column will focus on changes that directly affect employers who act as plan sponsors. Larger profit sharing deductionsEffective with the 2002 plan year, the maximum deduction limit for profit sharing plans increases from 15 percent of the taxable wages of plan participants to 25 percent of the gross wages of the participants. This is particularly significant with respect to profit sharing plans that include 401(k) provisions.Definition of wagesFor 2001 and prior plan years, the deduction limit was based on the wages of participants after reduction by untaxed wages, specifically 401(k) elective contributions and cafeteria or flexible benefits plan salary set-asides.For example, if our theoretical participant Susan’s gross wages equaled $40,000 and she made elective contributions of $6,000 to a 401(k) arrangement, her taxable income is $34,000. Her employer, when calculating how much it can claim as a tax deduction for profit sharing contributions, can only count the $34,000, rather than $40,000, in wages when calculating the 15 percent limit prior to 2002.Effective with the 2002 plan year, the employer can count Susan’s entire wages of $40,000 when calculating the 25 percent maximum deduction limit.Employee elective contributionsParticularly galling to many employers has been the fact that the elective contributions, or deferrals, employees have made from their own pay to the 401(k) component of a profit sharing plan are treated as employer contributions for deduction purposes, which can significantly limit the deductible profit sharing contributions an employer may make.If Susan were the only participant in the plan, under the rules in effect for 2001, the employer’s maximum deduction for profit sharing contributions would be limited to $5,100, or 15 percent of $34,000.However, since total deferral contributions by Susan were $6,000, not all of her contribution is deductible by the employer who can deduct only $5,100 and must pay an excise tax equal to 10 percent of the $900 nondeductible contribution, or $90. Of course, there is no "room" for an employer contribution at all.Effective for plan years beginning in 2002, the employer’s profit sharing deduction limit increases to 25 percent of gross wages from 15 percent of taxable wages and employee deferrals are no longer treated as part of the employer’s contribution when calculating the profit sharing deduction limit.Removing employee deferral contributions from the employer’s contributions for deduction purposes is extremely important, particularly in light of the changes made to the calculation of an employees’ limit on annual additions effective for the 2002 plan year.For the 2001 plan year, an employee’s limit on annual additions is capped at the lesser of 25 percent of wages or $35,000. Annual additions are the sum of employer and employee contributions, both pre-tax deferral and after-tax contributions, plus forfeitures reallocated to the participant. Wage earners making less than $42,000 in 2001 are unable to make the maximum deferral contribution of $10,500 since it is greater than 25 percent of pay.Effective for the 2002 plan year, the 25 percent limit on annual additions is repealed. The only limit is the dollar cap, which increases to $40,000 for plan years ending in 2002. This effectively means that a lower paid employee making $18,000 will theoretically be able to make 401(k) deferral contributions of $11,000 (the 2002 increased limit) even though that amount far exceeds 25 percent of pay.Of course, in most cases, an $18,000 wage earner will be unable to take advantage of this generous new limit, unless it is a second family wage.Money purchase plansMany small employers have adopted a money purchase pension plan in addition to a profit sharing or 401(k) plan in order to work around the 15 percent deduction limit on profit sharing contributions in effect through the 2001 plan year.Money purchase pension plans effectively have a deduction limit of 25 percent of pay, but the trade-off is the employer contributions to the plan are mandatory, unlike employer profit sharing contributions, which are generally discretionary. Hence, the second plan has traditionally been set up with a 10 percent contribution allocation rate to achieve the maximum deduction limit with 40 percent of that contribution being mandatory.With the increase of the profit sharing deduction limit, most money purchase plans in these paired arrangements are likely to be terminated or merged into the surviving profit sharing plan. The employer must take certain steps to effect these changes, including new notice requirements for pension plans that are being terminated or merged into another plan.Particularly for employers sponsoring standardized prototype money purchase pension plans, it may be necessary to take action no later than November 2001 to eliminate the pension plan for 2002. ConclusionThe change in the structure of and the increase in the profit sharing deduction limits, along with the elimination of the participant’s percentage limit on annual additions will require employer and plan sponsors to rethink the design of their qualified retirement plans.Particularly with respect to the elimination of the 25 percent annual addition limit, it will require the plan sponsor to amend its plan or plans to take advantage of this change.J. Michael Pruett is president of Cache Pension Services Inc. in Anchorage. He can be reached at ([email protected]).


Subscribe to Alaska Journal RSS