Thursday, March 5, 1998

Daily Sitka Sentinel

Location: Sitka, Alaska

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Daily Sitka Sentinel (Newspaper) - March 5, 1998, Sitka, Alaska Member of the Associated THE DAILY SENTINEL Thursday March 51998 Volume 60 No 38 Sitka Alaska 500 Environmentalists Vow Fight Over Logging Bill By SCOTTSONNER Associated Press Writer WASHINGTON AP Envi ronmentalists say the biggest forest fight in Congress this year will be over a bill a House panel approved Wednesday expediting logging and restoration projects in the name of re ducing fire risks On a voice vote the House Agri culture Committee approved the mea sure by its chairman Rep Bob Smith ROrej and sent it to the House floor where its fate is uncertain Agriculture Secretary Dan Click man has expressed a number of reser vations about the bill Conservation ists claim it would accelerate logging under the guise of improving forest health This is it This is where the fight is going to be this year said Michael Francis director of national forest programs at The Wilderness Society The bill is the first major legislation to clear the full House Agriculture Committee this year and reflects one of Smiths top priorities before he is scheduled to retire at the end of this year It requires the secretary of agricul ture to designate special areas for for esthealth pilot projects ranging from cutting of overstocked stands of trees to intentionally setting small fires to help clear but underbrush It also al lows citizens to petition for designa tion of such areas and would tap an existing roads and trails funds to fi nance the Forest Service projects po tentially millions of dollars a year Smith said Wednesday he had made several changes in the bill to meet the concerns of environmental ists and the few Democrats on the panel who earlier objected It is a balanced and timely answer to the problem of our deteriorating na tional forests Smith said Much of this precious forest re source is degraded and threatened by catastrophic fire insects disease and other natural and humancaused events he said Backers say the effort is necessary to clear overstock forests of dead and dying timber that serve as fuel for catastrophic fires The Forest Service has acknowledged some 40 million acres of the 192 millionacre national forest system is in need of some form of treatment for fire risks Smith said all the projects would be subject to existing environmental laws but critics said they would have no avenue to file administrative ap peals or lawsuits challenging the sec retarys designations It is phony said John Leary the Sierra Clubs forestpolicy specialist It pays lip service to forest protec tion and does real damage at an ex pense to taxpayers The panel rejected on a voice vote an amendment by Rep Sam Fair D Calif that would have prohibited any new roadbuilding as part of the pilot projects His amendment also would have banned the projects in areas 1 000 acres or larger that currently have no roads Road building is expensive I dont think we should be using our hardearned dollars to build roads when other restoration projects need money Farr said Despite changes Rep Debbie Continued on Page 8 Criticizes ANCHORAGE AP US Sen Frank Murkowski RAIaska used a Senate committee hearing Tuesday to scold the ForestjSjejyijce for what he called increasedcbslsand declining incbmefrbm timber sales Murkowski chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural R states with large federal forests said that taxpayers should not be burdened with spending more money on timber lands that produce less timber The lawmakers were angry that the Forest Service is working on rules to temporarily cease new road construc tion oh it may slasji agencys budgef agreement jsfeajcned i Has airivedto seriously sincerely and carefully assess the via bility of continuing along our present course Murkowski said in opening the hearing on the Forest Services proposed billion budget for 1999 The administrations spending re quest to Congress represents a 2 per cent increase from this year Logging on national forests is projected to fall by more than 10 percent to about 34 billibn board feet Dombeck and Lyons said the bud get request reflects a shift away from timber production in national forests and toward recreational uses and con servation In some instancies they said federal forests are used for wildlife pro tection to limit Togging restrictions on private fofestlands under the federal Endangered Species Act The return on investment should not be measured in terms of net rev enues Lyons testified Unfortu nately we continue to be challenged on what we produce out of the woods Thats only part of the picture But Murkowski and other commit tee Republicans all from Western Forest Service Names Acting Chatham Official By Sentinel Staff The US Forest Service announced Wednesday that Don Fisher regional assistant director for recreation her itage and wilderness resources has been selected as Chatham Area acting assistant forest supervisor Fisher will move into the temporary post in Sitka following the departure of Chatham Area Forest Supervisor Gary Morrison who plans to move to Missoula Mont to take the position of director of lands minerals recre ation and wilderness in the Montana area office Fisher began his Forest Service ca reer in Sitka 20 years ago before be ing transferred to the regional office in Juneau He also has served as direc tor for the Cradle of Forestry in America and Recreation and Interpre tive Services program leader on the national forests in North Carolina He returned to Alaska in 1990 when he was offered a post in the Ketchikan Area then served as dis trict ranger for Misty Fjords National Monument before being transferred to the Juneau office last year wouldristrict access to iiniiwr stands This is an extraordinary departure from multiple use to say were going to havtan 18mbhth hiatus in new roads while we reorganize and every thing stops Murkowski said But Dombeck said the pressure to revamp the road program is coming from Congress itself He said the agency is fighting a huge backlog of road maintenance work while trying to address such roadrelated environ mental considerations as sedimenta tion of streams We came within a one vote of los ing 80 percent of our road program in the House in 1996 Dombeck said The public perception is that roads equal logging equal sediment equal bad Tuesdays hearing underscored what Sen Larry Craig RIdaho de scribed as a policy stalemate be tween Western Republicans and the administration over the balance be tween logging environmental protec tion and other forest uses The tension appeared to turn per sonal At a news conference Monday Lyons said that natural resources committee leaders in the House and Senate were trying to scare Forest Service workers with the threat of budget cuts Murkowski wanted an onthespot exemption from the roads policy to speed up logging in beetlekilled areas of the Chugach National Forest but Dombeck refused US Canadians Study Coho Stocks JUNEAU AP British Columbia salmon are the focus of a joint USCanadian study that Alaska says could help cool Canadas worry that weak runs in the Skeena River are linked to Alaska harvests The study is being undertaken by the Northern Boundary Technical Committee the scientific body of the Pacific Salmon Commission The committee includes Alaskan and Canadian scientists In a prepared statement Wednes day Dave Benton Alaskas deputy commissioner of fish and game said the study will help both sides manage salmon resources Benton said Alaska has sought a joint study for three years but Canada has resisted He said the state would take steps to conserve spawning salmon if the review uncovered problems Alaska coho fisheries are managed very con servatively he said Time to Read Pirtsy Young reads Dr Seuss book The Cat In the Hat to a crowd of youngsters at Kettleson Memorial Library Monday night The bedtime story hour called Bianktes 6t Books was a celebration of Dr Seuss 94th birthday Sentinel photo by James Poulson Sitka Gets Offer for City Electric Utility By SHANNON HAUGLAND Sentinel Staff Writer The TlingitHaida Regional Elec trical Authority has extended a pre liminary offer to the city to purchase Sitkas municipal electric utility for million But City Administrator Gary Pax ton said today that after meeting Monday with the authoritys general rector Brad Dennison and Finance Di jirector Paula Bush The offer by the TH Electrical Au Hhority is to purchase all the assets of the city power system allowing Sitka to keep electrical department reserves million minus debt obliga tions Paxton said The tradeoff would have been giv iiigup the citys exclusive control of to the city that his organization was interested In a threepage letter to Paxton Feb 25 Martin gave specific conditions for the prospective sale THREA believes the purchase can be accomplished without affecting the current rates for Sitka but that effi ciencies and economies of scale achieved with the sale will allow a ficant reduction of the rates in the privatizing the citys partment at this time Weres going to put a hiatus on said It would have taken a 16t of staff time to verify the numbers and were not sure wed want to give up local controL Hismainihesitationfiwasnthat discussed at a work session in two or three months or at the annual strategic planning sessions Paxton said Martin whose office is in Juneau was in Sitka Monday to go over his proposal with Paxton Mayor Stan Filler Electrical Superintendent Randy Cornelius Public Works Di communities servedI by THREA THREA currentiy qwhi electrical members for the authority assets and distributes power in the would have been from Sitka elected Chilkat Valley Hoonah Angoon by Sitka voters The others would Kake Klawock and Kasaan The au havebeen fronvvotlw communities operated the power served by the power authority system in Klukwan for more than a The idea of selling Sitkas power year on a trial basis Martin said today company came up about two years from his Juneau office ago Assembly i members It is clearly understood that the J 3lin 1 flciSj1 JUI acquisition must be approved by a vbreof the and Borough ofSitka he vvfpteinlus letter to Paxton But Paxton said after discussing the idea with city staff members and Filler they decided to put the propos al on hold because of the extensive work involved and the fact that the Assembly needed to make a decision on the issue Right now its just a theoretical question Paxton said In general the advantages of priva tizing an electrical company include decreasing the size of city government and the lengthy public process in volved in changing rates and upgrad ing assets Cornelius said It takes time to get through the process but the city of Sitka does well he added But there are questions of whether a private corporation would sarnelevel of that dbesj arid whether a private company would favor keeping employees in Sitka or running the operation out of the authoritys Juneau office he said But Paxton and Cornelius both agree the biggest question is whether Sitka wants to be able to control its own power rates rective fromPaxton and mentioned the idea to participants at the annual Alaska Rural Electrical Cooperative Association meeting in 1997 We got no response nothing Cornelius said I figured the thing would just die out Six months ago Martin mentioned same but for Kow longare theygbihg tbdo that Pax tori Sitka currently has one of the low est rates in the state which is a benefit to those on fixed incomes and encour ages economic development he said Paxton added that Sitkas electrical department appears to be in fine shape with a solid plan for upgrading Continued on Page 8 Programs Help Get Community Working By BRENDAN I JONES Sentinel Staff Writer Representatives from five different agencies outlined different employ ment opportunities Wednesday at the Chamber of Commerces weekly lun cheon meeting Speakers from the Sitka Tribe of Alaska Center for Community Alas ka Employment Service Workforce Development and University of Alas ka addressed the chamber on their programs which help people join the local workforce Mandy Evans a program coordina tor previewed the speeches Youll get a spectrum of angles from several different programs Evans said So youll have to listen quickly Following are summaries of the presentations Center for Community Established in 1985 Center for Community works with people who have disabilities and helps them enter the workforce The center provides vocational services through contracts with the Division of Vocational Re habilitation the Division of Public Assistance the Division of Develop mental Disabilities and the Job Train ing Partnership Act Program Coordinator Mandy Evans said that the center currently serves six clients with money from the Divi sion of Public Assistance and 12 clients funded by the Division of De velopmental Disabilities She said the center works hard to customize the job training to each client as welfaretowork programs put strong emphasis on moving clients into the local workforce One main thing that happens is the establishment of support ser vices Evans said The new man date is that work is the first priority All people on public assistance are expected to be finding jobs and every thing else should be supporting them Center for Community clients can start out at lowpaying jobs because of the continuing public assistance she said The interest is to help them get that first job Evans said If they started out with a six dollar an hour job they can actually live on that even with kids and they can get the train ing and experience they need to go somewhere else and make more Sitka Youth Employment Sitka Prevention and Treatment Services sponsors the Sitka Youth Employment program which trains youths ages 1421 for local jobs Connie Bisson program manager for youth employment said most of the youth employment services are funded through grants About 80 per cent of the programs participants dont attend school she said Part of the program objective is to get them back into school Bisson said Thats probably one of the main parts of the program Participants are taught how to fill out applications create resumes write cover letters tackle interviews and master various job skills The learning process takes from three weeks to three months Bisson said If theyre not ready then we dont put them out she said Bisson also discussed the Gender Equity Program offered by the youth employment office Funded through the Department of Education the new program trains both males and fe males in nontraditional jobs Par ticipants are working at the water treatment plant as well as with doctors and physical therapists Workforce Development Center The Workforce Development Cen ter is a reference for dislocated work ers or adults who no longer work in their former occupations President Sheila Finkenbinder said that the center assesses workers before helping them find another job Most of the clients have previous job expe rience These people arent new to work ing Finkenbinder said Quite often theyve had successful careers But what theyre faced with now is I cant do this anymore because of a layoff or my backs broken or whatever The center also works with public assistance helping people who arent in need of the level of service provid Continued on Page 8 US Arms Inspector Returns to Baghdad By LEON BARKHO Associated Press Writer BAGHDAD Iraq AP An American weapons inspector whose presence helped touch off the last UNIraq standoff returned to Iraq to day picking up where he left off after the crisis started two months ago Scott Ritter arrived in Baghdad late this afternoon with about 40 members of his team UN officials said speak ing on condition of anonymity Chief weapons inspector Richard Butler had ordered Ritter back said Allen Dacey the inspectors spokesman in Baghdad In January Iraq blocked inspections by Rittcrs team alleging he was a spy and that his team was weighted with Americans and Britons Ritter left Iraq on Jan 16 officials insisted at the time he had been scheduled to leave then and would continue as an inspector Iraqs blocking of Ritters team started a standoff with the United Na tions and the two sides sparred for weeks over access by UN weapons teams to sensitive sites including dozens of President Saddam Hus seins palaces The United States threatened to at tack if Iraq did not allow inspectors access to the sites while Iraq said such inspections would violate its sovereignty The crisis eased when UN Secre taryGeneral Kofi Annan struck a deal with Saddam on Feb 23 that called for diplomats to accompany UN teams on visits to presidential com pounds The 15member UN Security Council unanimously endorsed the Annan agreement on Monday and warned Iraq of severest conse quences if it fails to comply US officials said the resolution gives the United States a green light to attack Iraq in such a case Council members Russia France and China insist the resolution does not authorize military action The weapons inspectors must certi fy whether Iraq has eliminated all its weapons of mass destruction before UN sanctions imposed after Iraqs 1990 invasion of neighboring Kuwait can be lifted Butler came under renewed criti cism Thursday LJ Gen Amer alSaadi the mas termind of the nations chemical weapons program said in remarks published Thursday that Iraq would like to see Butler removed from his post and have sanctions lifted by the end of the year AlSaadi said Butler an Australian lacked the diplomatic tact and le niency of Rolf Ekeus his Swedish predecessor He Butler has openly adopted a hostile stand towards Iraq His press statements are hostile and provoca tive alSaadi said His comments were carried by al Zawra weekly issued by the Iraqi Journalists Syndicate Asked if he wanted to see Butler out of office alSaadi said I hope that will happen tomorrow because he is biased dishonest and his statements and practices do not represent the United Nations He added that Iraq will cooperate with Butler

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