The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

News Briefs


November 22, 2017

File photo

An avalanche circa 2014, blocking the Richardson Highway through Keystone Canyon.

End of the year

The Valdez Star will not publish a newspaper the week of December 27.

The one-week break is part of the newspaper's annual Christmas vacation. The newspaper will publish December 20 and resume its regular printing schedule Jan.3.

The deadline to publish ads in the Jan. 3 edition will be pushed back to Dec. 30.

On the road

It may be early in the season, but officials with Alaska Dept. of Transportation (ADOT) are asking drivers to be aware of avalanche dangers when hitting the road - especially in well known avalanche zones.

Valdez is well known for its numerous avalanche hot spots - and while several areas of the Richardson Highway have signage warning travelers of the potential dangers - it is important that drivers remember that avalanche areas are abundant across Alaska's road system.

"Common conditions that increase avalanche hazards include significant amounts of new snow or rain, strong winds and rapid changes in temperature," ADOT said.

ADOT advises travelers to look at before hitting the road or call 511 to know current conditions.

If you encounter an avalanche while on the road, ADOT advises motorists and passengers stay in the vehicle and, if possible, turn around and head towards safety. Reporting the avalanche to DPS is important. ADOT also advises driving not attempt to drive through avalanches.

Unemployment up

Alaska's total employment was down by an estimated 1.3 percent in October compared to October 2016 according to the Alaska Dept. of Labor.

That reflects a loss of about 4,100 jobs.

"While the state continues to shed jobs, over-the-year losses have gradually slowed in 2017," the department said last week in a press release. "The largest loss during the current downturn was -2.6 percent in fall 2016."

Oil and gas employment was down by 7.8 percent, followed by construction (-7.2 percent). The only industries to add jobs were health care (2.0 percent) and local government (0.2 percent), which includes public schools and tribal government. Federal employment was down 1.3 percent and state government was down 2.0 percent.

Alaska's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 7.2 percent in October was unchanged from the prior two months but higher than last October, when it was 6.6 percent. The comparable national rate for October was 4.1 percent.

Alaska's not-seasonally adjusted rate was 6.7 percent, up one-tenth of a percentage point from September, which is typical in the fall. Unemployment rates were up in 21 of 29 boroughs and census areas, with notable increases in areas dependent on tourism. The largest increases were in Skagway and the Denali Borough.

Rig count

(AP) The number of rigs exploring for oil and natural gas in the U.S. increased by eight this week to 915.

That's up from the 588 rigs that were active a year ago.

Houston oilfield services company Baker Hughes said Friday that 738 rigs sought oil and 177 explored for natural gas this week.

Among major oil- and gas-producing states, Texas gained seven rigs, Louisiana added four and Ohio and Utah were up one apiece.

Alaska, Colorado, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Wyoming declined by one each.

Arkansas, California, Pennsylvania and West Virginia were unchanged.

The U.S. rig count peaked at 4,530 in 1981. It bottomed out in May of 2016 at 404.

Sheep shot

(AP) The Alaska Board of Game has reaffirmed that using an airplane to spot Dall sheep while hunting is illegal.

The Peninsula Clarion reports that the board narrowly shot down a proposal that would have repealed the regulation on using planes to hunt the sheep.

The ban was put in place in 2015 and has since survived much scrutiny. It was instituted on grounds that airplanes give certain hunters an unfair advantage, among other reasons.

John Frost wrote the proposal, saying the regulation causes crowding and safety issues. His proposal also claimed the ban is redundant to another federal regulation that already bans harassment of wildlife by airplanes.

Board members also voted against a proposal that would have loosened the distance requirement for hunting coyotes with the use of an airplane.

Crime bill

Valdez Star photo

Workers were busy last week piecing together the first of three stories that will be the new Totem Inn, which is slated to feature 65 rooms, an indoor pool, exercise room and a buffet-style restaurant.

(AP) Constitutional questions swirl around a crime bill passed by the Alaska Legislature. But the director of the Department of Law's criminal division thinks the courts will work out a solution.

KTOO reports that John Skidmore says courts will find a way to interpret the law in a way that avoids constitutional issues.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska warned legislators that a provision added by the House would make presumptive sentence ranges for first-time Class C and Class B felonies the same. The group said this would violate due process requirements.

Skidmore had also flagged the issue as problematic before the Senate approved the House version.

ACLU of Alaska attorney Tara Rich expects lawsuits if Gov. Bill Walker signs the bill, which he says he plans to do.


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