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

News briefs


Valdez Star photo

Burgers and hot dogs were sizzling last week as Steve Brockman of Copper Valley Telecom dished out the free barbeque at the cooperative's annual Customer Appreciation Picnic.

Unemployment rate

(AP) Recent figures indicate Alaska's unemployment rate improved slightly last month.

The Juneau Empire reports numbers from the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development say the state's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell from 7.2 percent to 7.1 percent in June.

The slight improvement comes as Alaska reports the fewest number of June jobs since 2010.

The department's figures say the state had 347,400 nonfarm jobs in June. That's down 1,700 from June 2017 and down 11,400 from June 2015, the start of a statewide oil-price-driven recession.

There was a decline of 6,100 jobs between June 2015 and June 2016. That decline dropped to 2,800 between June 2016 and June 2017.

Initiative panned

(AP) Alaska officials say the ballot initiative that aims to strengthen state law protecting salmon habitat could be costly and delay infrastructure projects.

The state officials noted the possible negative effects during the Senate State Affairs Committee meeting last week in Anchorage.

Ben White, the environmental program manager for the state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, told lawmakers the initiative would increase the number of streams that officials must assume have salmon, likely resulting in more state checks on the streams.

Ron Benkert, a habitat coordinator for the state Department of Fish and Game, told the committee that the state would need to hire people to enforce the regulations, likely costing more than $1 million annually for at least five years.

Sea creature IDed

(AP) A sea creature that Alaskan fishermen believed to be a giant squid turned out to be the decaying carcass of a humpback whale, officials said.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration received reports Tuesday from fishermen near St. James Bay, saying there was a 30-foot (9-meter) squid floating in the water, the Juneau Empire reported.

NOAA sent a biologist from the Ted Stevens Marine Research Institute to investigate. The biologist discovered the sea creature was a "badly-decomposed" whale, which was missing its head and tail, said Julie Speegle, a NOAA spokesperson. The fishermen may have mistaken bones protruding from the carcass for an eye.

"We think it was floating belly up and there were some vertebrae and a ball and socket from the pectoral joint that were visible," Speegle said. "That may have been what people were mistaking for an eye."

The carcass was possibly the same whale that washed ashore in June after it was likely killed from a collision with a large sea vessel, Speegle said. The Marine Mammal Stranding Network conducted a necropsy on that male whale last month. The results are still pending.

The whale was spotted in the water Tuesday after it was observed still beached earlier in the day, Speegle said.

Dead fish

(AP) Authorities are investigating after hundreds of fish were left rotting on a hillside near Wasilla.

The fish that appear to be salmon were discarded off a hiking trail near Knik Goose Bay Road, KTUU-TV reported Sunday. The overpowering smell suggests the fish were left there for some time.

"Discarding fish waste on public or private property or along roads, pull-offs, and trails can attract bears into residential areas and result in fines ranging from $300 to $1,000," said Ken Marsh, a public information officer with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

The discarded fish is now a law enforcement matter, Marsh said.

Dumping fish can create dangers, wildlife biologist Dave Battle said.

"Fish attract bears, and brown bears, particularly, may aggressively defend those food sources," Battle said.

If people are discarding fish, Marsh recommended they cut them into smaller pieces and throw them into fast-moving water.

People should also check with their waste transfer station or landfill to see if fish waste is accepted, Marsh said. The fish waste should be taken directly to these locations if allowed.

Freezing the waste is another option. Freezing eliminates the fish odors, allowing the waste to be placed with the garbage on the morning of trash pickup.

Photo courtesy Linda Guthrie

Jeannie Kirkland of the U.S. Forest Service helping a youngster Saturday for "Fish Day" at the Crooked Creek. The annual event featured knot tying, ecology, fish printing and other skills.

Rig count

(AP) The number of rigs exploring for oil and natural gas in the U.S. decreased by eight this week to 1,046.

At this time a year ago there were 950 active rigs.

Houston oilfield services company Baker Hughes reported Friday that 858 rigs drilled for oil this week and 187 for gas. One was listed as miscellaneous.

Among major oil- and gas-producing states, New Mexico gained four rigs and Ohio and Wyoming each increased by one.

Texas lost five rigs, Oklahoma decreased by three, Louisiana lost two and Alaska, North Dakota and West Virginia each decreased by one.

Arkansas, California, Colorado, Pennsylvania and Utah were unchanged.

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


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