Warm winter keeps cold-weather tests from getting off the ground

Thawing temperatures are dousing plans by Europeans who traveled to Interior Alaska to cold weather test aircraft in Fairbanks this winter.Flight test teams from Italy’s Agusta Helicopters and Germany’s Eurocopter Deutschland GmbH may be forced to cold weather test on the North Slope if Fairbanks’ unseasonably warm temperatures persist."This is definitely not what we expected," said Dave Carlstrom, marketing director for Fairbanks International Airport. "The Italians were told by their boss, ’Don’t come back until you finish the cold weather testing.’ "In November 1999 Agusta Helicopters chartered an Airbus "Beluga" to transport the military type high-speed helicopter to Fairbanks for cold soak testing.The Italians missed the coldest weather in December when they returned to Italy for the Christmas holiday. They came back to Fairbanks this year to complete the tests.Normally, January has the coldest average temperatures in the Interior city, with an average of 11.5 degrees Fahrenheit below zero for the month, although spikes as low as 20 below zero have been known to happen, according to National Weather Service officials in Fairbanks.The Italians, according to Carlstrom, need a 35 below zero temperature to flight test the EH-101 helicopter."Normally for January the average high is 2.6 degrees below zero, the coldest temperature spikes are normally in late December and early February," said Scott Berg, a hydrometeorological technician for the National Weather Service in Fairbanks."We are only 80 degrees off the mark today," quipped Carlstrom. "And 40 degrees warmer than normal."On Jan. 15 Fairbanks saw temperatures as high as 40, but Berg said that’s not unprecedented. "This happened seven years ago when we had warm temperatures like this.""Plans were being discussed ... to try Coldfoot or even Deadhorse, but now everyone is sitting and waiting for the mercury to drop," added Carlstrom. He said officials with Agusta do not want to test at Deadhorse due to high winds."This is not a good year to do this job," said Giovanni Puricelli, project engineer for the EH101 Agusta helicopter. "No matter where we look the temperatures are not good this year."Puricelli said the Agusta team of 11 people from Italy needs 49 degrees Fahrenheit below zero temperatures to get the helicopter certified for cold weather flights.Puricelli and his team are in Fairbanks to honor a contract with the Canadian government for an order for 15 of the helicopters headed to the military in Canada."This is a good place for logistical support. Alaska Aerofuel offers precise service and has everything we need," Puricelli added. "My two daughters and my wife came here for Christmas. Now they have asked me to move here."Asked if the Agusta group will return, Puricelli says the decision to come back, or to go to the North Pole or the South Pole will be up to someone else in Agusta management.Meantime, the 15-member German team is testing with two helicopters that are painted with German Police markings."This is a hoot. The Poletzi is flying around Fairbanks," Carlstrom said. The Eurocopter team actually rented the helicopter from the German government for the tests, thus the official paint scheme."This appears to be a global condition, not a local condition, and perhaps an environmental problem," said Elmar Kreutzer, flight test manager for Eurocopter of Germany."Although we don’t have cold weather, we are not wasting time. We are doing other standard tests here that would be done in Germany," Kreutzer said.Eurocopter is testing two models, the BK-117 and the EC-135, and needs at least five days of 30 below zero weather for a basic test program, and for a more extensive program needs seven to eight days of 40 below zero weather.Eurocopter spent nearly $500,000 to get the two aircraft to Fairbanks for testing. The aircraft came to Alaska in a Lufthansa Boeing 747-200 freighter along with the extra gear.Both the German team and Italian group have data telemetry in their hangars to receive digital information transmitted from the helicopters to the test computers.Despite the lack of cold weather, this has been a break-even year so far, said Bob Hawkins of Alaska Aerofuel. "We still have the hotel rooms, meals, transportation, and the extras like snowmachines and dog tours," he said.Alaska Aerofuel has also seen an increase in its fuel oil business locally in Fairbanks, which is helping to add revenue to the mix, according to Hawkins.Though the upturn in temperatures has the aerospace testing groups disturbed, Fairbanks residents seem to be enjoying the warming trend. In fact, local businesses are creating sales and promotions that are boosting the retail economy in Fairbanks."I think that this is just a bad year. The jet stream has changed and temperatures are warming all over," said Kreutzer. "Besides the temperatures we have great support from the locals. Everyone is friendly and helpful. Here you can get what you need to do the job."Fairbanks International Airport has marketed itself as a good spot for cold weather testing and has had success with numerous companies including Airbus, Boeing, Bombardier, Lear, Allied Signal, MD Helicopters, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and other aerospace giants.Support for the testing, lodging and meals adds to the economy at a time when other tourism and service industries are virtually at a standstill."We’re not sure exactly how much it adds to the economy, but it’s better than a poke in the eye at this time of the year," Carlstrom said.Perhaps one of the more positive things to come out of the testing has been an influx of business for Alaska Aerofuel, which offers logistics and airport services."This is a fantastic program for Fairbanks, and we feel it’s good for the aerospace industry, too," said Tom Murray, president and owner of Alaska Aerofuel.Murray said that the warm weather is a touchy subject to the two teams and to Fairbanks locals involved in the testing promotion. "When you have two teams of 15 people each, planning a stay for three months, that can run into some serious money."Alaska Aerofuel recently added features to the logistics aspects of the cold testing projects by building special freezers for cold soaking batteries used on the aircraft. They also purchased a hangar formerly owned by United Parcel Service at Fairbanks International Airport for use by the test groups."Well, all our ducks are in order. All we are waiting for is something cold to happen," Carlstrom added.

To fill summer's lull, resort lures Germans

FAIRBANKS -- The vision of a local entrepreneur will add flights to Fairbanks and Whitehorse by a German-based luxury airline that will boost the Interior economy -- and microbrew sales -- this summer."Alaska and the North has a natural allure to it, and they have to love the healing powers of the water," said Bernie Karl, proprietor of Chena Hot Springs Resort, LLC.Karl has persuaded Condor Flugdienst, the world’s largest leisure airline and a subsidiary of Lufthansa German Airlines, to fly from Frankfurt, Germany, to Fairbanks and Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, to start a new type of circular tour bus trip that starts in either of the two destinations and ends at the other.The new service will mean that Fairbanks will be by far the smallest U.S. city with scheduled nonstop passenger service to Europe, according to the Fairbanks Convention and Visitors Bureau.The flights, using a 270-seat Boeing 767ER, will start on May 24 and wrap up Sept. 27, with flights arriving at midday on Thursdays.The package rate will start at $2,350, and go up depending on which of the two options a person wants to choose, said Andy Anger, marketing director-Europe for Chena Hot Springs.The flights will feature a local microbrew from Fox brewery Silver Gulch. The brew on board will be an amber ale with a special label called "What Ale’s You," according to Karl."That Bernie, he is a real visionary," said Johne Binkley, whose family has offered paddlewheel boat trips in the Fairbanks area for many years. "This is going to be great for Fairbanks and for Chena Hot Springs Resort.""That takes a lot of gumption," said Kevin Portorella, owner of Popeye’s, Alaska Burger Master, Winchells and a Subway franchise.Karl, along with the Fairbanks Visitor and Convention Bureau and the Fairbanks Industrial Development Corp., persuaded Condor to make the flights. But Karl had to guarantee a high percentage of enplanements before the company would agree to schedule them last fall, according to Anger.Anger was responsible for getting the word out to the biggest vacation tour groups to sell the trip and tours in advance."We contacted FTI, Der Tours, TUI, and Neckerman -- the biggest," Anger added. "These are specific tours for the German market." The tours, although billed as rugged Alaska and northern viewing, will offer a high level of comfort, according to Anger.Germans typically choose their vacations in the fall, when catalogs of destinations and packages are printed. Prussian tourists are quick to pick up the new catalogs and book their vacations far in advance, according to Anger."We were able to get in the catalogs of the big names, so we feel that we should have a very successful first season," he said.Anger said the tours offer two different 15-day packages. One, called Great Yukon Alaska Roundtrip Mountains, Glaciers, Bears and Prospectors, is designed for 49 passengers; the other, called the Great Alaska Day Hiking Tour, is for 12 people.The resort has undergone a face-lift under the ownership of Karl and his wife, Connie Parks-Karl, with remodeled rooms and upgraded facilities.The resort has also purchased a Cessna 208 Caravan on amphibian floats for flightseeing along the Yukon River, Fort Yukon, Mount Deborah, and Mount Hayes. Will Johnson, formerly of Dillingham, who has a lifetime of experience flying, much of it here in Alaska, is piloting the flights.The tours that will visit Whitehorse, Tok, Valdez, Denali and Chena Hot Springs were developed around the Chena resort’s need for more guests in the summer months."We developed this because of a hole in our season, explained Karl. "We needed more guests for the summer months. We don’t know what it is, but the summer lull has always been a challenge for us."Chena Hot Springs is well known in Japan as the place to go for aurora viewing in the winter, and as such Karl says the facility is generally full from November through March.Alaska All Season Tours Inc., a company owned by Karl, will offer the tours with an MCI 50-passenger luxury bus with bathrooms and plush interiors, according to Karl."Transportation can make or break a tour, so we had to have control of this aspect, too," Karl said.The increase in tourism in the Interior is not by accident, and according to Karl the local push is due to a changing economy, and to show off the state’s No. 1 resource."We are selling our state’s natural beauty, and it has little impact on our day-to-day lifestyle," Karl said. "I equate this with selling someone a hot dog, with a string attached to the wiener. You hand them the hot dog, and pull the dog out of the bun and keep it. They are getting the bun and the condiments, and they love it."

Bill mandates southern route

The first bill attempting to influence a decision by North Slope natural gas producers on a route for a major gas pipeline has been introduced in the state House of Representatives.House Bill 83 is sponsored by the House Special Oil and Gas Committee, chaired by Rep. Scott Ogan, R-Palmer.The bill would set in statute a definition of the state constitution’s mandate that state-owned resources be used to the "maximum benefit" of residents.For a gas pipeline transporting state-owned royalty gas and crossing state lands, "maximum benefit" is defined as a requirement that the project should allow access by Alaskans to gas, including "reasonably foreseeable" future needs, and that it maximize employment opportunities for residents, according to the legislation."It’s clear that Alaska’s interests are best served by a southern route, and this bill puts that into law," Ogan said.Producers are studying a route through Interior Alaska that would follow the Alaska Highway into Canada, called the southern route, as well as a northern route that would run east from the Prudhoe Bay oil and gas field to the Mackenzie River delta of northern Canada.Alaska’s leaders, including Gov. Tony Knowles, are supporting the southern route through the Interior because it would create more jobs for residents, although that route is longer and may be more costly.House Bill 83 would amend three existing state laws by requiring them to conform to the statutory interpretation of the constitutional language.These include the state right-of-way leasing act, under which pipeline corridors across state lands are leased to pipeline companies. The commissioner of Natural Resources would be required to certify that a gas pipeline right-of-way lease conforms to the policy of maximizing residents’ access to gas.Another law change is to the state public utilities act, to require the Regulatory Commission of Alaska to order the pipeline be built with spare capacity, so that a future spur line to a liquefied natural gas export project in southern Alaska is not foreclosed.The bill also changes the state Stranded Gas Act, a law enacted three years ago that allows the Commissioner of Natural Resources to negotiate special tax terms for a gas pipeline and LNG export project.Under the proposed change, a gas project would not be eligible for negotiated tax terms unless it met the requirement that residents have access to gas.Ogan admitted the committee bill is just a starting point for discussions on the gas pipeline.The three major North Slope gas owners are still engaged in studies of different routes and don’t expect to be able to make a decision until the end of the year.Two related bills have also been introduced, separate proposals by Gov. Tony Knowles and Rep. Joe Green, R-Anchorage, which both amend the Stranded Gas Act so that it is not exclusive to LNG projects. Under the proposals by the governor and Green, developers of a conventional gas pipeline or another gas project, such as a gas-to-liquids plant, could negotiate special tax arrangements under the Stranded Gas Act.

Successful businesses seek out equity

I am continually amazed at the level of resistance to equity ownership that I run into at the start-up business level. "I don’t want to give anyone a piece of my pie, my hard work and creativity," I hear all the time. Then there’s the frontier spirit of independence: "I can do it all alone. I don’t want money that comes attached to someone who will tell me how to run my business!" This attitude is a recipe for failure. Successful businesses are always team efforts. Founding entrepreneurs who can’t listen to others are found starting one unsuccessful business after another.Study successful companies and to a one, the founder-entrepreneur understands his or her own strengths and weaknesses and finds others with complementary skills with whom to run the business.The recipe for success is what Ernesto Sirolli calls the "Management Trinity" -- the technical skills to produce the goods or services one wishes to sell, the ability to market one’s goods or services, and the ability to financially manage one’s affairs. No one is equally passionate and proficient in all three areas.Enter equity. No one will care as much about your product as someone who has an invested interest, who wants a return on his or her investment, and so is willing to be your regular customer, serve on your advisory board and give you the feedback you need to be successful.Owner’s equity is on the bottom of the balance sheet; in accounting terms, it’s what is left after liabilities are subtracted from the assets. How are you going to put this equation in the black?People, not money, run businesses, as the recent dot-bombs and their burn rates demonstrate. Angel investors have run successful businesses and earned enough real owner’s equity to be willing to risk some of it on start-ups. They come with the connections to the talent that entrepreneurs need to complete the management trinity as well as the ability to provide meaningful mentoring and advice along the way.The other day, I had the pleasure of eating lunch with a vibrant group of young Alaskans, most in their 20s. They were concerned that most of their high school classmates are putting their college educations to work outside of the state where they have higher earning power -- often with stock options, the incentive of equity .Many of us started businesses in Alaska when we were in our 20s. Today, the economy has changed -- the markets are global, everything has been speeded up by the Internet -- but the basic tenets of building a successful company remain the same. And there are still plenty of untapped market niches for those who want to establish themselves in business and to be successful.Take entrepreneur Bob Gillam, president of McKinley Capital. He has taken advantage of Alaska’s strategic time zone and grown the McKinley fund into the 12th best performing fund in the world in the last 10 years, according to Nelson’s Investment Research.Key to his success is that he has put Alaska’s youths to work and given them a piece of his business. Twenty percent of McKinley Capital is owned by his employees, most of whom are Alaska’s college graduates, happily competing with their peers Outside.There is as yet no real active venture capital in Alaska, but we do have angel investors who are looking for good Alaska businesses in which to invest. To introduce start-up entrepreneurs to Alaska’s angels, and continue spreading the gospel of equity, Alaska InvestNet will be hosting its third annual Capital Investment Conference on March 22-23 in Anchorage.The top 10 business plans from some of the state’s most innovative entrepreneurs who are looking for equity investors will be selected for showcasing at the Venture Forum.Highlights include a keynote address by Cairn Cross of Fresh Tracks Capital, who will speak to venture capital in nontraditional markets like Alaska’s; there will also be panel discussions and educational breakout sessions. The complete conference schedule is on the Web site (www.alaskainvestnet.org).Deborah Marshall is director of Alaska InvestNet. She can be reached via e-mail at ([email protected]) or by telephone at 888-393-3662.

Ex-ARCO exec says gas hub would keep Alaska's options open

A former top Atlantic Richfield Co. executive is promoting the creation of a natural gas trading hub for Alaska gas in Fairbanks or Delta Junction. Ken Thompson, former ARCO executive vice president and ARCO Alaska president, shared his vision for establishing a competitive gas trading hub for Alaska North Slope gas about 541 miles south of Prudhoe Bay on Jan. 24 with a Commonwealth North study group in Anchorage.Alaska has 35 trillion cubic feet of known gas reserves on the North Slope and an estimated 65 trillion cubic feet yet to be discovered. Proposals currently being debated include shipping the gas to the Midwest via at least two different routes through Canada; shipping the gas to tidewater and converting it to liquefied natural gas for shipment in tankers to Asia and other markets; and converting the gas to liquids and shipping it south via the trans-Alaska oil pipeline.Thompson, who recently returned home to Alaska after establishing a similar gas trading hub in Thailand, said he believes such a facility would enable Alaska and investors to take advantage of all the options as well as provide gas for in-state demand for power generation, petrochemicals and other manufacturing.A trading hub also would help Alaska reduce the risk of picking one of the different gas projects and then watching the bottom fall out of that project as natural gas prices plummeted in the prospective market, said Thompson, who now heads his own consulting firm, Pacific Rim Leadership Development.All of the proposals for marketing Alaska gas have significant disadvantages, but a trading hub would enable gas developers to "plug in" and purchase Alaska gas for their respective project when the timing is right to be competitive, Thompson said. The pipeline to the hub and the hub itself would be owned by the state, Alaska gas producers, other investors or some combination of these entities, he added.

Economic indicators show mixed results for Fairbanks heading into 2001

Construction should play a strong role this year with work continuing on the replacement hospital at Fort Wainwright and at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. This summer the Interior City expects to see a 20 percent increase in hotel rooms, when 362 hotel rooms are to come on line. Looking at a handful of years into the future, Fairbanks business leaders are hopeful that construction of a proposed natural gas pipeline would benefit the Interior economy. "People are anticipating the pipeline coming," said Pamela Throop, Fairbanks commercial real estate broker and president of Alaska Commercial Properties Inc. "And now that Bush is in office there’s a possibility of building a missile defense system (in Alaska), so there is a very positive, upbeat feeling about the economy for the next five to seven years." However, statistics from the Fairbanks North Star Borough describe varied results in 2000. The most recent data, from a third-quarter 2000 borough statistics report, shows three business bankruptcies, down from 10 for the same period in 1999. The borough registered 38 nonbusiness bankruptcies for the period ended Sept. 30, 2000, fewer than the 50 recorded for third quarter 1999. Civilian employment in the borough for third-quarter 2000 climbed 2.4 percent to total 34,200 jobs in a year-to-date average compared with the same period in 1999, according to borough officials. Total freight handled at Fairbanks International Airport was down 1.4 percent to total 9,087 tons for the second quarter of 2000. Second quarter revenue landings at the airport were down 5.6 percent compared with second quarter 1999 and totaled 6,483. Incoming passenger figures at the airport rose 1.2 percent for the quarter to total 108,554. Outgoing passengers increased 0.2 percent in second quarter 2000 compared with the same period in 1999, according to borough statistics. Also, for second quarter, new housing units authorized by building permits were 75, down from 129 for second quarter 1999. The value of new residential permits for second quarter 2000 dropped 50 percent compared with the same period in 1999, according to borough data. Construction could play a strong role in the Fairbanks economy this year. "I think construction numbers will come in solid," said Brigitta Windisch-Cole, a labor economist for the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development. She cited development work for the True North deposit, which will be milled at Fort Knox and could add about 100 jobs this year at the mine. "It could really be positive for Fairbanks in terms of job growth," she said. Another major project is the $133 million, 32-bed hospital, which will serve Fort Wainwright and Eielson Air Force Base and replaces the Bassett Army Community Hospital. A general contractor is expected to be chosen in early 2001 to build the replacement hospital at Fort Wainwright. The project is scheduled for completion in 2005. Site development began in April. At the University of Alaska Fairbanks, construction continues this year on the $13 million Duckering Building, and work should be complete in October, university officials said. This year work should begin on the first phase of the $5.6 million Brooks Building project, as well as the $18.7 million Rasmuson Library project. In the university budget request for fiscal 2002, officials have noted $5 million for renovating the old courthouse, which could be the new home of the Tanana Valley Campus. In terms of commercial real estate, the market has sufficient vacancies for office space, said commercial real estate broker Throop. However, she does not gauge a vacancy rate for the sector. Throop noted that handicap accessible office space, which is needed for government agencies, is difficult to find in Fairbanks. Few vacancies are available in warehouse space from 2,000 to 4,000 square feet as well as larger spaces, she said. "There’s definitely not much small warehouse space," she said. One residential real estate broker expects 2001 to come in similar to last year. "Our office had a good year in the year 2000," said Margalynn George, owner and broker at Re/Max Associates of Fairbanks. Last year, however, didn’t see any strong market boosts, like an influx of Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. workers needing housing as in past years, she noted. Rental units are scarce, she said. "The rental market continues to be tight, and rents are still high." George is another real estate broker who is optimistic about possible future projects like a natural gas pipeline or oil exploration on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Tourism officials in Fairbanks also are eyeing the future, including upcoming winter events and summer visitors. Although December bed tax figures were not yet available, Fairbanks Convention and Visitors Bureau executive director Deb Hickok expects this winter to compare evenly with last year. However, totals for Japanese visitors to the Interior City are up from 2000 thanks to a current peak cycle for the aurora borealis, she said. These visitors usually total 8,000 to 10,000 people or up to 10 percent of total winter visitors, she said. Several events in February and March should benefit the city and related visitor services, she said. "Winter events are definitely Fairbanks’ forte," Hickok said. The Yukon Quest sled dog race starts Feb. 11 in Whitehorse, Yukon Territories, and heads for Fairbanks before returning across the border. The event starts in Fairbanks alternate years, and Hickok believes the originating city gains the largest economic benefit. The event typically generates $500,000 in economic impact for Fairbanks, she noted. The World Ice Art festival starts March 7 with a lighting ceremony March 18 and runs until the sculptures melt. The Fairbanks Winter Carnival runs March 9-18 with the North American Open sled dog race on the last weekend. The FCVB is now developing a survey to gauge the economic impact of these events and others, Hickok said. New this winter is FCVB’s winter coupon book featuring discounts on lodging, shopping and winter activities. The coupon book is aimed at Alaskans this year and may have an increased circulation in the future, she said. "We think it’s another way to get the message out and get people interested in winter products," she said. FCVB officials and other Fairbanks tourism companies are looking ahead to summer when two new hotels and an addition at another property will come on line. "We’ll have a 20 percent increase in room inventory this summer. It will be positive and a challenge," Hickok said.  

Retail lags; Home Depot, eateries offer hope

Retail in Fairbanks may receive a boost this year with the proposed addition of major national retailer Home Depot.The Atlanta-based home improvement giant is now working to buy property in the Interior city, a company official said."We are currently in negotiations with the property owner of a site in Fairbanks," said Home Depot spokesman Chuck Sifuentes.He would not disclose the possible store location because the acquisition has not yet been finalized. "We’re hopeful to complete the negotiations very soon," he said in mid-January.If the company successfully purchases the property, Home Depot officials would next secure the necessary permits for construction, he said."Our hope is if everything goes right we could begin construction in spring of this year with completion by fourth quarter," Sifuentes said.The company operates one store in Midtown Anchorage with another store scheduled to be built this spring in East Anchorage.The second Anchorage store could open in late 2001.The new Anchorage retailer will weigh in at 133,000 square feet and include a 15,000-square-foot garden center. That store, once open, would employ 175 to 200 people, mostly full-time workers.Competitor Lowe’s, a home improvement retailer, likewise plans to build a second Anchorage store. In early January the retailer completed the purchase of 21.5 acres in South Anchorage, according to company spokeswoman Suzanne McCoy. Work on the estimated 150,000-square-foot store could begin in May, and the store could open in January 2002, she said.Lowe’s is not considering a Fairbanks store, she said.The retail sector in Fairbanks should see some recovery in merchandising with Gottschalks reopening the former Lamonts store, said Brigitta Windisch-Cole, a state labor department economist who covers Fairbanks."Retail is a riddle" in Fairbanks, she continued, noting that the nation’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart, has opened stores in Kodiak and Ketchikan but not in the Interior city. However, the retailer does operate a Sam’s Club warehouse store in Fairbanks.Wal-Mart officials did not return phone calls concerning a possible new Fairbanks store.Windisch-Cole believes the Fairbanks market currently lags in the retail sector. "The only thing growing in retail is restaurants," she said.Although the Royal Fork restaurant closed Dec. 27, operators are now considering reopening the eatery as perhaps a steak and buffet restaurant.Also, a new Popeye’s Fried Chicken and Biscuits is under construction.Popeye’s, at 1800 Airport Way, is expected to open in February, said Scott Roselius, vice president of the franchise’s Fairbanks operation. Roselius’ partner is Kevin Portorella, who runs the Subway franchise in Fairbanks and one in Valdez and owns local Winchell’s and Alaska Burger Master.The area franchise operators are considering opening another Fairbanks Popeye’s in a year or two, Roselius said.The new eatery is in the same building as Subway/TCBY with a connecting hallway, creating a food court, he said. Popeye’s will seat about 44 diners, while Subway seats about 30 people. Winchell’s also is nearby.In terms of available retail space, Fairbanks currently registers some prime locations, said Pamela Throop, broker and president of Alaska Commercial Properties Inc. She cited available space in Shoppers Forum, University Center and the first floor of the Sadler’s locale.

Court decision redefines wetlands, how Corps regulates them

In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Jan. 9 that the Army Corps of Engineers had no jurisdiction to regulate fill of ponds on an Illinois landfill site. The decision has potentially far-reaching consequences for the Corps’ regulation of wetlands under the Clean Water Act.The property in question was a former sand and gravel pit on which ponded water had accumulated. A public agency purchased the property with the intention of filling the ponds. The Corps initially declined jurisdiction because the ponds did not qualify as "wetlands." However, an environmental group asserted the ponds are used by migratory waterfowl.Using its 1986 "Migratory Bird Rule," the Corps reasserted jurisdiction over the ponds because these constituted "waters of the United States." The rule states that waters that are or could be habitat for migratory birds crossing state lines become "waters of the United States."The Supreme Court disagreed. The court’s majority emphasized that the Clean Water Act regulates "navigable waters." Referring to an earlier decision, the court said that Congress intended to regulate some waters that are not navigable in a classical sense. That decision held that the Corps could regulate wetlands adjacent to actually navigable waters.However, the Jan. 9 decision found that the Corps’ "isolated waters" regulation as clarified in its "Migratory Bird Rule" exceeds the authority granted in the Clean Water Act.The Corps’ "isolated waters" and wetlands regulations are administrative interpretations of the Clean Water Act. Normally, the courts defer to administrative agencies in their interpretations of statutes. In the Jan. 9 decision, the court refused to do so.The court also declined to legitimize the Corps’ assertion that Congress has been aware of the Corps’ wetlands regulations for years and tacitly approved the rules.Most importantly, the court refused to endorse an expansive interpretation of the Clean Water Act that would trigger constitutional consequences under the Commerce Clause, saying it would alter "the federal state framework by permitting federal encroachment upon a traditional state power."The impact of the case is perhaps best expressed in Justice John Paul Stevens’ dissent: "In its decision today, the court draws a new jurisdictional line, one that invalidates the 1986 migratory bird regulation, as well as the Corps’ assertion of jurisdiction over all waters except for actually navigable waters, their tributaries, and wetlands adjacent to each."With those exceptions, the Corps’ wetlands regulatory program is at risk of being declared unlawful. The ramifications for Alaska are obvious, with thousands of acres of wetlands lying across the state.Due to the many environmental laws on the books, wetlands may still be regulated under other laws unaffected by the court’s Jan. 9 decision. For example, the Coastal Zone Management Act provides extensive authority for resource regulation. Also, the Clean Water Act allows states to condition or veto permit approval pursuant to state water quality considerations.In addition, wetlands may be classified as habitat for endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. Furthermore, state and local governments may regulate land use, including wetlands, pursuant to their police powers over real property generally. Finally, wetlands adjacent to waters that are navigable fall within the Corps’ jurisdiction.Reverberations are likely from the court’s Jan. 9 decision. The Corps of Engineers may issue interpretative guidance; property owners will seek determinations that wetlands regulations do not apply to their property; and environmental advocates may seek remedial legislation in Congress.Prior to the decision, the docket of regulatory takings cases filed in the United States Court of Federal Claims consisted largely of the Corps’ regulation of wetlands under the Clean Water Act. For those who believe Alaska’s land is over-regulated by the federal government, the decision is a breath of fresh air.For those who advocate responsible stewardship of resources, other environmental laws and authorities will have to be examined as a source of wetlands protection.Lawrence V. Albert is an Anchorage attorney in private practice specializing in natural resources and regulatory takings law. He can be reached via e-mail at ([email protected]).

If 'Survivor' wasn't enough, consider this show

In case you weren’t sure whether a stop should be put to reality television shows, now you will be. A recent classified advertisement appearing in a California legal newspaper announced that a television producer was seeking "Lawyers (ages 25-35) who are intelligent, outgoing, attractive, and have passed the California bar exam, to star in a reality law firm television program. Send resume, video, and recent photo. This is for real."God in courtMany lawyers think they have God on their side when they enter a courtroom, but one may actually be right about that.Defense attorney Mary Ross attended law school and practices law despite being a Catholic nun. She is now a staff attorney for Legal Aid Society in Hempstead, N.Y. "We’re all guilty of something, you know," she said in an interview.Her supervisor at Legal Aid says Sister Mary too often believes her clients’ stories.Lawyers still lowA Harris poll has measured the amount of prestige associated with various professions. Lawyers ended up toward the bottom of the list -- but not the very bottom! Only 19 percent of those participating in the survey said that the law provided "very great" prestige.That may make lawyers feel bad but not as bad as journalists and bankers may be feeling. Those two professions came in at 15 percent each. In last place were union leaders.By contrast, more than 50 percent of the survey participants associated "very great" prestige with doctors and scientists.’A’ for attorneysPersonal injury lawyers in Connecticut are competitive -- even when it comes to listings in the Yellow Pages. A lawsuit filed against Southern New England Telecommunications Corp. alleges that lawyers are being allowed to list themselves in the telephone directory out of alphabetical order.The suit sites the case of personal injury lawyer John Haymond who, instead of being listed with the H’s where a potential client’s fingers may never walk, is listed with the A’s under "Affordable Legal Services."Haymond’s name, however, comes after that of another lawyer who lists himself as "AAAAA" for "Accident Attorneys Always Affordably Available."FootnoteA Finnish man recently received a $71,400 fine for driving 40 mph in a 25 mph zone. The reason is that Finland bases such fines on income and the driver was Internet millionaire Jaakko Rytsola. Rytsola had previously received a $44,000 ticket for reckless driving.Have something to share with Out of Court? E-mail it to ([email protected]).

Air Force general to take reins

ANCHORAGE -- Patrick Gamble, a four-star general in the U.S. Air Force, has accepted the top job at the Alaska Railroad.Gamble, 55, was named Jan. 22 as the new president and chief executive officer by the railroad’s board of directors. He was head of the Air Force’s Alaska Command from 1996 to 1998 and is currently serving as Commander of all Air Forces in the Pacific.Gamble, who will make $176,000, takes over from former Gov. Bill Sheffield, who is retiring.Board chairman Johne Binkley said Gamble has a track record of managing large budgets and work forces and has specialized in the development of safety programs and strategic plans."General Gamble is committed to the Alaska Railroad’s vision to continually improve its safety, customer service and profitability," Binkley said in a statement.Gamble has participated in numerous formal safety programs and has convened six formal safety board investigations.Gamble and his wife live in Hawaii but had always hoped to return to Alaska. Gamble will take over his new duties in mid-March after his retirement from the Air Force becomes official.

Seafood testing, exotic species bills among those of interest to Alaska fishermen

Alaska lawmakers are already putting forth bills that are of interest to the fishing industry. For example, testing seafood for safety will become more timely and convenient if Gov. Tony Knowles’ request for a new laboratory is granted by Alaska lawmakers. House Bill 51 would authorize the State Bond Committee to issue the necessary paperwork for a lease-purchase agreement for a new facility with a maximum cost of $13.6 million. Currently, a single lab in Palmer tests shellfish and other foods from across Alaska."The laboratory facility is now outdated and woefully inadequate, and will have to relocate in any case when its current lease expires in the near future," Knowles wrote in a statement that accompanied the bill. The Legislature has previously approved design and planning funds for a new testing facility.Also, anyone who introduces an "exotic" species of fish into state waters could be hit with a fine of up to $50,000 if Rep. Andrew Halcro, R-Anchorage, has his way. Halcro has asked the House Special Committee on Fisheries to sponsor the proposal, referring to the continued spread of Northern pike and yellow perch in Southcentral.Pike were put into the waters more than 20 years ago and are voracious eaters of salmon, trout and other native species. More recently, yellow perch have been found in lakes on the Kenai Peninsula and further north. Halcro’s bill would fine a person from $10,000 to $50,000 per occurrence for releasing a nonindigenous species into public waters. The misdemeanor conviction could also result in a jail term for up to one year.The bill has the support of Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Frank Rue, who called the pike problem one of the biggest threats in sustaining stocks of salmon, trout, char and grayling in the area.According to the weekly report "Laws for the Sea," Rue noted that a variety of exotic fish beside pike or perch have been found in Southcentral waters. He said goldfish and koi, an Alaska blackfish that is not native to the Anchorage bowl, and one 12-inch specimen of a pacu, which he described as a "vegetarian relative of piranha" have been caught in recent years.More health newsA report in the Journal of the American Medical Association claims that eating fish can cut the risk of a stroke in half. Researchers at Harvard University’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital tracked the eating habits and medical records of nearly 80,000 women for 14 years. After taking age and smoking into account, they found that women who ate five portions of oily fish each week cut their risk of having a stroke by 52 percent.The study also found that eating just one portion of oily fish a week cuts the risk of stroke by 22 percent.The study reports that oily fish like mackerel, salmon and sardines contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to have a number of health benefits. Omega-3s are credited with slowing the growth of tumors, easing arthritis and asthma, promoting fetal brain development, boosting the immune system and slowing effects of Alzheimer’s disease.The study found that eating oily fish was particularly helpful in reducing thrombotic infarction, a type of stroke in which a blood clot blocks an artery in the brain.Seafood.com reports that the Harvard study is one of the first to provide definitive proof of a protective role for fish in cardiovascular disease. According to federal data, Americans eat only about 1.3 servings of any type of seafood each week.Fewer fatalitiesThe Coast Guard reports that 26 vessels and nine lives were lost last year, down from 32 boats and 17 lives lost in 1999. Overall, fires were blamed for the loss of 10 of the vessels, nine boats sank, and alcohol was a suspect in at least two losses. The decline in fatalities could be due in part to the postponement of the snow crab fishery from January to April, which reduced the havoc caused by winter storms.Kodiak-based free-lance writer Laine Welch can be reached by e-mail at ([email protected]).

Widening of Parks, Seward highways top list of state's summer road projects

State transportation Commissioner Joe Perkins laid out plans for a busy highway construction program this summer, speaking before the Resource Development Council in Anchorage on Jan. 25.One important project is widening the Parks Highway to four lanes all the way to Wasilla. Last year a $50 million interchange was completed at the intersection of the Parks and Glenn highways near Palmer. Widening the Parks to Wasilla will allow commuters there to drive all the way to Anchorage on wider highways without stops, Perkins said.The Parks will also be widened further north, from White Crossing to the Little Susitna River, Perkins said.He also said paving will continue this summer on the Dalton Highway, which connects Interior Alaska roads to the North Slope; about 33 miles of the 500-mile Dalton is now paved and another 40 miles will be paved this summer.Additional contracts for paving will be let this summer, enough to have 40 percent of the entire Dalton paved within a year or two, the commissioner told the RDC.He said that in addition, more work is planned this summer on the Seward Highway, including widening the road from Seward north for eight miles and around Moose Pass. A bypass will be built at Moose Pass, so that motorists can drive around rather than through the small community.A lot of work has been done on the Seward Highway in recent years. One major project the department is now working on, Perkins said, is relocating the highway away from a major avalanche exposure area between Indian and Girdwood. The highway will be moved toward the nearby Turnagain Arm shoreline.Last year major avalanches closed the highway for several days, and an Alaska Railroad employee was killed by slides.The Seward Highway has been designated as a scenic "All-American Highway" by the federal Department of Transportation, which makes it an important attraction for summer visitors.Perkins said that on the Sterling Highway, which connects Soldotna, Kenai and Homer with the Seward Highway, a future project involves relocating the highway away from the Kenai River around Cooper Landing.One big project that will be advertised for bid in late summer on the Glenn Highway is a new bridge to replace the existing one at Caribou Creek. This will be a $35 million to $40 million project, Perkins said.A lot of improvements have been made on the Glenn Highway, but one project in planning is relocating the highway in the vicinity of Long Lake, the commissioner said.Improvements are also planned on the Richardson Highway from Glennallen to Delta and on the Tok Cutoff from Gulkana to Tok. Some work will continue on the Alaska Highway from Fairbanks to the Canada border, but this road has seen a great deal of reconstruction in recent years and is now in good shape, Perkins said.He said a great deal of state and federally funded road improvement work is also planned for Anchorage, including widening Arctic Boulevard and the Old Seward Highway and extending the four-lane width on C Street from International Airport Road to Dimond Boulevard.A project in the planning stages is an overpass on Minnesota Boulevard at C Street, where there is now a stop light, Perkins said.The department faces an interesting dilemma of its own making here, the commissioner said. A few years ago, as a part of building Minnesota, an artificial pond was created that has now become home to wild ducks and geese.The pond is in the center of an established right of way, and must be removed, or moved, if an overpass is to be built. How to deal with the birds has now become a problem, Perkins said.In terms of maintenance, the state is doing better."I think we’re in the best shape we have been in for 10 to 12 years in maintenance, thanks to a decision by the federal government to allow us to spend federal dollars on road reconstruction," Perkins said.However, the $20 million in federal funds that the department is devoting to what is essentially major maintenance projects on roads could be used to build new projects if the Legislature were to increase state funds for maintenance, Perkins said.Overall, Alaska’s maintenance spending of state funds on a man-hour-per-miles basis is among the lowest in the nation. That is a result of 10 to 12 years of steady cutting of state road maintenance budgets, Perkins said."Our gasoline tax, at 8 cents per gallon, is the lowest in the nation. If we were to raise it to the national average -- 23 cents a gallon -- and dedicate these funds, as well as auto license and registration fees, we could fund our maintenance without any further appropriation from the Legislature," he said.

What to do when you fall ill abroad

Travel requires some mental toughness and physical fitness. When you travel across many different time zones, you need to be in extra good shape. So what if you become seriously ill or injured while traveling abroad? Here are some helpful tips to remember. International calling plan Enroll in an international calling plan before you leave home. Find the program that offers you access to international calls from any local phone. If you can use the program only from "international" phones, you may not be able to use it in need. Remember, the 800 toll- free number is of no use if you are calling from overseas. Emergency contact numbers Keep handy emergency phone numbers including local police, fire and the nearest U.S. consulate or embassy. Local consular offices can notify family members back home in the event of an emergency. They can also assist in the transfer of funds from the United States if needed. Insurance coverage Carry your health insurance card with you and check with the provider ahead of time to find out what types of medical services are covered while traveling abroad. Prescription drugs Medications should be kept in the original container with doctor’s name, item description, and so forth attached. Do not mix medications in the same container. When going through customs, a lack of a label may cause officials to question items as possible illegal substances. Also, know the generic name of any medications you are taking. You can’t stop from getting sick while you are traveling. However, the best protection is prevention. Here are some tips to stay healthy. Dollar bills Have enough dollar bills. Nothing is more frustrating than having a bunch of 20- or 50-dollar bills when you are in the need of dollar bills for tipping or for airport carts. Baggage claim is where many back injuries occur. It is a small price to pay for the cart or for the porter compared to injuries you may suffer for the rest of your life. Dehydration Push water through your system constantly while flying to avoid dehydration. Avoid alcohol and sodas with caffeine that can dehydrate you even more. Air in the passenger cabin is extremely dry. A lack of water can also cause constipation, which is more common than diarrhea when you travel. Take some fiber products to deal with this. Noise Do you realize how noisy it is inside the cabin when you are airborne? Noise is one of the top causes for fatigue and stress, whether you are traveling or not. Take some ear plugs or a noise desensitizer. Flying objects If you are seated on an aisle seat, be extra careful. Many people are injured from falling objects from the overhead compartments. Laptop computers are small, but are heavy enough to cause major injuries. This can happen any time during the flight, boarding or deplaning process. Have a safe and nice trip! Yoshi Ogawa is president of ITC Travel & Tours.

A landing strip for Santa?

NORTH POLE -- North Pole officials are studying options for a new airport or to purchase Bradley Sky Ranch in hopes of creating an alternate airport for general aviation users at Fairbanks International Airport."Two years ago we couldn’t even get the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) to acknowledge us. Today they are allowing us to put out an RFP (request for proposals) for a master plan," said Merle Jantz, chairman of the North Pole city transportation subcommittee.Jantz and eight other North Pole residents are studying options for a new airport or to purchase the aircraft facilities at the ranch and the 100 acres that go along with it.The facility’s 4,093-foot runway and 2,500-foot float pond have room for 100 tie-downs and an on-site aircraft maintenance business, but according to Jantz the airport’s current condition is questionable."Currently the airport is deteriorating and losing tie-down business," said Jantz, a pilot and former aircraft owner. "We hope to find an alternative or in Bradley’s legacy continue to improve the Sky Ranch."The RFP to develop a master plan for the airport will include several options, according to Jantz. And one of the options could be for North Pole to buy the airport."... One of the planning options could be to purchase the existing airport, but we are not leaning one way or the other," said Matt Freeman, a statewide airport planner for the FAA.A typical grant for an airport master plan costs from $250,000 to 350,000, with the FAA capable of providing up to 92.5 percent of the funding with the other 7.5 percent provided by the community or the State Department of Transportation and Public Facilities."The state can provide funding for this if the city decides not to fund it, and we may want to go this way," added Jantz.Bradley Sky Ranch has been embroiled in a family feud that had the heirs suing each other, although the intent of the airport’s namesake was to support his wife, Sophie Bradley, after the passing of Robert Bradley.The results of the lawsuits by the Bradley children eventually forced the court system to assign a conservator to handle Bradley Sky Ranch’s business.The court assigned Guardian Services to handle the airport assets and business, according to Jantz.Guardian Services referred all calls and information about the airport to Tom Manniello, an attorney with Borgesson and Burns of Fairbanks. Manniello did not return the Journal’s calls.The RFP is set to be opened in mid-February, according to Jantz. "We hope to get a start on this in the spring and have some answers to what we are going to do about an airport in the future."Several airports in the Tanana Valley have disappeared in the past 10 years. Phillips Field yielded to the Johansen Expressway, and Metro Field in the Van Horn Road industrial area in South Fairbanks is now closed, leaving little in the way of general aviation alternatives to Fairbanks International. Jantz also indicated that the gravel strip could be paved to attract more commercial operations."If the master plan indicates that we buy the Sky Ranch, we could offer an alternative to Fairbanks International for general aviation aircraft who have a radio failure or other restrictions that could keep them from using the airport’s airspace," Jantz said.North Pole, famous for the Santa Claus House and the mail stop for the winter cherub, may have an additional facility for a sleigh and reindeer."Perhaps we could call it Santa Claus International Airport," Jantz said.

Industry totals 15% of state's payroll

An economic survey of the petroleum industry’s impact on the state’s economy concludes that the industry and its contractors directly and indirectly contribute 15 percent of the state’s payroll and 8.3 percent of total employment.For communities in the state where petroleum employees live, and where producing company regional offices and contractors are located, the percentages are higher, according to the survey.In Anchorage, 16.2 percent of total payroll, or $740 million, comes from the industry, its contractors and suppliers. Some 16,323 jobs in the Municipality of Anchorage exist because of the industry, or 13 percent of total employment, the survey found.The percentage is even higher on the Kenai Peninsula, where 26 percent of the jobs and 36 percent of the payroll comes from industry activities, according to the survey. Kenai Borough communities play a major role in supporting Cook Inlet oil activities, and many petroleum contractors working on the North Slope are based on the peninsula.Brian Rogers of Fairbanks, who helped coordinate the project, said the petroleum industry’s economic impact in the state has been obscured because the data is reported in different ways by the state and federal agencies that monitor employment trends."Both the state and federal governments tend to blur the industry’s reach to the casual eye in their official economic reports," Rogers said. "Oil production is often referred to as ’mining,’ and oil refining may be folded into ’manufacturing’ without delineation. Pipeline operations are rolled into the broad category of ’transportation, communication and utilities.’ "The survey was conducted by Rogers’ firm, Information Insights of Fairbanks, and McDowell Group of Juneau. Both consulting firms have done previous regional economic studies of economic impacts of the Fort Knox gold mine, the University of Alaska and the petroleum industry in Fairbanks.The McDowell Group also has done studies of the tourism industry in Alaska over several years.The petroleum industry study included in-depth reviews of payroll and purchasing records of 13 companies responsible for oil production, transportation and refining, and reviews of payroll and purchasing records of contractors and suppliers to the industry.Excluded from the survey were the economic effects of state spending of petroleum revenues and Alaska Permanent Fund dividends paid to residents, which are from earnings of accumulated state oil and gas royalties paid into the fund.The industry and contractor participation was coordinated through the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, a trade association for oil producers, and the Alaska Support Industry Alliance, the association for oil-support contractors and service companies.Rogers said the statewide survey grew out of a similar study of the petroleum industry’s impact on the Fairbanks economy, also done by Information Insights and McDowell Group."That investigation provided surprises, findings that showed the industry’s role in the local economy has a far wider reach than was suspected," Rogers said.

Business Profile February 4, 2001

Name of the company: Criterion General Inc.Established: 1992Location: 816 Whitney Road, AnchorageTelephone: 907-277-3200Web site: www.criteriongeneral.comMajor focus of services: Criterion General Inc. provides general contracting services -- new construction or remodeling -- for commercial buildings. History of the company: Dan Austin founded the company in the early 1990s and eventually added an office in Montana. In 1995 Austin’s friend, Scott Johannes, left a painting company he had owned since 1983 to become a partner at Criterion General.By 1996 company officials decided to close the Montana office, and Austin left Criterion General to stay in Montana while Johannes became the sole owner. Today, Criterion General is owned by Johannes and Dave Paule.The company employs 30 to 50 people. This winter Criterion General expects to employ its peak number of workers to handle projects.Major projects: Criterion General has completed several projects across Alaska, including its largest project to date, the $7 million school in Kasigluk. In Anchorage the contractor has built the Land Rover dealership, the Salvation Army’s Serendipity Living Center and a 30,000-square-foot trucking facility for Carlile Enterprises Inc.Top accomplishment of the company: Criterion General President Scott Johannes is most proud of the firm’s ability to establish a good reputation with clients leading to repeat business or referrals. The contractor handles remodeling work for Phillips Alaska Inc.’s Anchorage office and builds branches for Alaska USA Federal Credit Union.Major player: Scott Johannes, president, Criterion General Inc.Johannes moved to Alaska in 1965 with his family. He later attended the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Wash., for a year before moving back to Alaska later starting the painting company."What makes our company is the group of people we’ve maintained. It’s the people who make it happen to get you where you’re at. ... Our whole philosophy is when you go into a project with the team of owners, architects and subcontractors, identify what you want to accomplish and work to get there. We enjoy what we do."-- Nancy Pounds

It's a new year, time to review finances

As we enter the new calendar year, it’s always a good time to consider your overall financial plan. Any review should include the four primary sections in every financial planner’s book: investment, insurance, retirement and estate. InvestmentThe latter part of 2000 provided a great reminder of what it means to have good, solid financial planning that includes discipline and diversity. Since October 1987, when the market crashed and then recovered instantly, stock return expectations have been out of whack.Not only do investors who lived through that ’80s cycle believe that a downturn is an opportunity to buy because the market immediately turns around, but the last five years have convinced investors that stock returns should grow 15-26 percent per year.Such returns don’t remotely resemble the historical average return for equities over a long period. Of course, a big part of this perception is a result of young investors who have experienced a market that had only gone up. Not only did the up-market cause normally conservative money managers to put more of their wealth into stocks, but also larger percent allocations in the sectors that seemed to have no upside boundary -- volatile technology stocks.There was no "plan" basis for this type of investing, just greed or "herd mentality." Re-evaluate your holdings, set realistic expectations for returns that provide a source of funds to meet future needs and stick with the plan.InsuranceReview your property, health and life insurance. Insurance should cover the catastrophe. Do you have every item insured that, if lost, would cause undue stress on your financial well being? Specifically, do you still need collision on your automobile and is the deductible right for your financial situation? Will insurance cover the replacement of your home?In the health area, I recommend coverage for the major situations, unless premiums are less than the cost of medications and/or doctor visits. Health insurance is one area that an annual review of benefits compared to costs can save you money.Check life insurance coverage. Has your situation changed in the past year -- an addition to family, change in job, change in cost of living, earnings capacity or net worth? Don’t forget to consider disability insurance. You are much more likely to become unable to perform your current job than to lose your life. How would your loss of income affect family lifestyle?RetirementYou are never too young to be considering your plans for this stage of life, even if currently it only pertains to setting aside earnings in a 401(k) or individual retirement account. Under what conditions would you like to leave your profession and when? Do you want to continue earning income in some capacity in this profession or another? Where would you like to live? What kind of lifestyle would you like?What amount of income will provide you the ability to do what you want to do? Are you closer to your retirement goal at yearend? If not, why not? What adjustments should be made?Estate planningThe one area of planning most likely to be neglected, but likely to have the greatest consequence on your family fortune is the estate plan. If you have a will that has been updated in the past few years based on your current family situation, you are more prepared than most. Be sure your family and the executor know where to find the will. Send a copy to a close relative, as well.If your estate exceeds the unified tax credit of $675,000 this year, including life insurance proceeds, or you have real property in more than one state, then you should consider having a trust, as well. If you don’t have a will, contact an estate attorney and get one. An estate attorney will meet with you to discuss your needs, and will quote you a price to provide the service required.The financial planning exercise requires some effort on your part to be effective. Begin by collecting information about your current situation. I would suggest completing a balance sheet for starters so you can see what you own, what you owe and your net worth.At the very least, bundle up your balance sheet, three years of tax returns, your current will and any trust documents, retirement account statements and insurance policies and go see a financial planner. Remember, if you don’t do anything, nothing will change.There are a number of certified financial planners in Anchorage that will assist you in your review. Some work for a fee, some make commission on selling you financial instruments and some do both. Interview each with an eye toward experience in their field, what others say about them and your comfort in talking with them.Ron Kukes is president of First Interstate Bank of Alaska.

State scientists urge federal Steller plan go back for improvement

Go back to square one and come up with a better plan, is the recommendation Alaska scientists are making to federal fish managers. At issue is the hotly disputed BiOp or biological opinion, on Steller sea lions, which states that commercial fisheries jeopardize recovery of the endangered animals. The document proposes "reasonable and prudent alternatives" that drastically curtail pollock, Atka mackerel and Pacific cod harvesting in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska. The protective measures were scheduled to take effect this month, but last-minute congressional action delayed them by six months. "I’ve not read a document generated by an agency like the National Marine Fisheries Service before that had as many shortcomings as this BiOp," said state biologist Gordon Kruse, head of the Alaska Steller Sea Lion Restoration Team. In its six recommendations, the scientific review team states that the alternatives outlined in the BiOp are "not justified based on the data and analysis provided." The group notes that fishing closures in many areas were based on historical data that goes back three decades and recommends that contemporary data on present-day fisheries should be included in this analysis. The restoration team recommends delaying the implementation of an experimental management plan until "a better one has been developed," and states that any regulations in 2001 should be considered temporary. The NMFS has released its proposed emergency rules to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council in order that the fisheries can open on schedule. The basic rules would: * Prohibit all directed groundfishing within three miles of sea lion haul-outs. * Modify previous rules to allow up to 60 percent of the catch of pollock and cod to take place in the winter, rather than 40 percent. This is important because the valuable roe fishery takes place in the winter. * Reduce the Gulf of Alaska pollock catch quota by 10 percent. * Limit Bering Sea pollock catches within the conservation areas to the levels they were in 2000. * Close the critical habitat areas defined in the BiOp as of June 10, rather than immediately. This will provide more time to review the science behind the fishery closures and permit the NPFMC to suggest modifications. Fish and Alzheimer’s A new study in the U.S. journal "Lipids" claims that eating fish might ward off Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. The study, done on 70 test subjects at the University of Guelph at Toronto, found that Alzheimer’s sufferers all had lower levels of docosahexaenoic acid in blood samples than did elderly subjects with normal cognitive functioning. DHA and other omega-3 fatty acids are found in high concentrations in many fish species, including tuna, salmon and trout, and have been found to lower incidences of cardiovascular disease, depression and attention deficit disorder. "Our research suggests that the need to increase fish, fish products or other sources of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet of both the population at large and the elderly seems prudent. We should all be eating more fish," said team leader Julie Conquer. Fish shop attacked The Independent of London reported that fish and chips shops have become the latest target of animal rights activists. A letter bomb packed with nails exploded at a shop in North Wales, and it’s suspected that the perpetrators are members of the Animal Liberation Front. Previous targets have included animal testing laboratories. Robin Webb, spokesman for the ALF, said: "When one looks at the meat industry in this country ... there is what is supposed to be humane slaughter. With the fishing industry, there is no such thing. They are dragged out of the water into an alien environment in which they slowly die. There is no pretense of humane slaughter."  

Commission spends $40 million on utilities, economic projects

The Denali Commission, a state and federal agency formed to coordinate funding for rural Alaska infrastructure improvements, approved $40.5 million in projects at its Jan. 18 quarterly meeting in Juneau. The commission will have $65 million to spend overall this year. That is up from $40 million last year and $20 million the year before. Approved Jan. 18 was $18 million to Alaska Village Electric Cooperative, a utility serving small rural communities in Western Alaska, for improvements to electrical generation, bulk fuel storage and related equipment, as well as $7 million to the Alaska Energy Authority, a state agency, for utility and bulk fuel upgrades in other rural communities. Previously, money for rural energy and bulk storage projects was channeled through AEA, a commission spokesman said, but the direct grant to AVEC was made with the state’s agreement because the state energy agency has reached capacity in its ability to administer the projects. About $10 million was appropriated for improvements to rural health facilities. The money will be allocated according to a rural health primary needs assessment that was completed last year. Whether projects can get under way this summer will depend on whether permits and approvals from local communities can be secured. It’s possible that 10 rural health projects could be going this summer, either new construction or major upgrades. Two regional health facilities on the list are at St. Paul, in the Pribilof Islands, and at Metlakatla, an Indian reservation in Southeast Alaska. In both cases money from the Denali Commission will "jump-start" construction, allowing work to get under way so that other federal funds can be tapped. The commission also approved $4.5 million for rural economic development projects and $1 million for emergency medical equipment. Jeff Staser, federal co-chairman of the commission, said the group’s work is concentrated on nuts-and-bolts infrastructure in rural communities. "The work we’re doing is carrying out the vision of Sen. (Ted) Stevens, (R-Alaska), in creating the commission, that Alaskans work together to find the right solutions in creating rural infrastructure," Staser said. Stevens formed the commission through congressional action to coordinate federal program money for rural Alaska. It is modeled on the successful Appalachian Commission, which coordinates federal programs in poverty-stricken eastern U.S. states.  

This Week in Alaska Business History January 28, 2001

Editor’s note: "This Week in Alaska Business History" revisits events that shaped our past. "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." -- George Santayana, 1863-1952 20 years ago this week Anchorage Times Jan. 28, 1981 Prudhoe revenue estimated to be more than $1 trillion By John Knowlton Times Writer The oil and gas that will flow from Prudhoe Bay in its 36-year life span will cause a whopping $1.1 trillion to flow into the coffers of Alaska, say the federal government and the oil companies that own and produce the hydrocarbons. Nearly one-third of that mind-boggling sum, $327 billion, will go into Alaska’s treasury in the form of oil industry income taxes, severance taxes and royalties. By way of comparison, that would be about $817,500 per man, woman and child in Alaska if the state were to pass the money directly to residents. The $327 billion figure also is enough to operate state government for more than 100 years at the level proposed for next fiscal year by Gov. Jay Hammond. Anchorage Times Jan. 29, 1981 Greater role urged in marketing state seafood The Associated Press JUNEAU -- Alaska’s fish harvest has more than doubled over the past six years, but marketing efforts have not kept pace with the increased production, lawmakers were told Wednesday. Marketing problems are the single biggest handicap facing the state’s fishing industry, Rodger Painter, executive director of the United Fishermen of Alaska, told the Senate Resources Committee during a briefing on fisheries. State investment in fish marketing is a wise investment, Painter said, because fish will be around until long after the state’s oil wealth is depleted. The seafood industry is now the state’s largest private employer, added Painter, who heads the state’s biggest fisherman’s organization. ... Pointer strongly urged long-term legislative financing of the Alaska Marketing Institute, which is now working under a $1.2 million loan from the Alaska Renewable Resources Corp. to develop markets. 10 years ago this week Alaska Journal of Commerce Jan. 28, 1991 Oil giants list plans for 1991 By the Alaska Journal of Commerce BP Explorations (Alaska) Inc. has earmarked a capital budget of slightly more than $575 million for 1991, for plans including a much-accelerated well-fracturing program, a top BP official says. Most of the budget increase, up about $150 million from 1990, is due to preliminary work on GHX-2 and to add a fourth drilling rig at Prudhoe and a second at Kuparuk, said Julian R. Darley, president of BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. "It’s difficult to be precise at this point of the year, but it appears we’ll be spending between $250 million and $300 million of our capital budget in Alaska, with drilling being the biggest single component," Darley said Jan. 19 in a speech before the "Meet Alaska" conference sponsored by Alaska Support Industry Alliance. Alaska Journal of Commerce Jan. 28, 1991 Dock gets closer look By the Alaska Journal of Commerce A multipurpose dock planned for the end of Ship Creek Point will get more scrutiny from Anchorage officials after a study that seriously questions the economic feasibility of the dock. "Based on cost estimates and additional engineering that had to be done, we have found there is a significant increase in that part of the project," said Ed McMillan, head of the city’s department of public works. "If we can go ahead, we are going to have to appropriate additional money, and from what the report has told us, I seriously doubt we are going ahead with that portion of the project." Three years ago, city residents approved a $7.5 million bond issue to help finance the project. -- Compiled by Ed Bennett.  

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