NMFS ponders limits on Pacific cod fishery
The National Marine Fisheries Service is considering whether to limit Pacific cod fishing to protect Steller sea lions in the Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands. Steller sea lions are listed as endangered west of Yakutat and are considered threatened in Southeast Alaska.
In a draft environmental assessment, NMFS considered maintaining the current commercial fishing regime versus taking measures to avoid excessive removals of Pacific cod from critical sea lion habitat, particularly during winter. Biologists believe the availability of food limits the sea lion population, NMFS said, and the present fishing regime could decrease the foraging success of sea lions.
Changes could include restrictions on fishing near Steller sea lion rookeries and haulouts, creation of multiple fishing seasons or limits on the harvest of cod in critical sea lion habitat.
"This is another step in our continuing efforts to protect Steller sea lions while overseeing commercial fisheries of high economic value to the nation," said Jim Balsiger, Alaska regional administrator for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries.
The environmental assessment is available at www.fakr.noaa.gov or by calling 586-7235. The deadline for public comment is Sept. 15. NMFS will present the assessment to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council on Sept. 6.
A-1 Video has new owners
Melodie and Shawn Symington are the new owners of A-1 Video in Soldotna. They plan a grand opening in September with specials for customers.
"We are family-oriented and welcome everyone in to meet us," Melodie said.
Seafood processing boosts July job totals
Kenai Peninsula Borough unemployment was 6 percent in July, down from 7 percent in June and from 8.3 percent in July 1999.
The statewide rate was 4.7 percent, down from 6 percent in June and from 5.5 percent in July 1999. July rates were 3.6 percent in Anchorage, 4.4 percent in Fairbanks, 3.6 percent in Juneau and 5.8 percent in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.
Alaska's fishing, visitor and construction industries added 7,900 wage and salary jobs in July, said Brigitta Windisch-Cole, a labor economist with the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
Communities with commercial fishing ties -- Kodiak, Dillingham and the Lake and Peninsula and Bristol Bay boroughs -- showed the greatest gains. Seafood processing was the biggest source of new jobs, with 6,800 positions at the peak of the salmon season. Even so, seafood processing posted the second-lowest number of jobs since 1989, the year of the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
Every industry but government gained jobs in July, she said. Construction, transportation, mining and tourism showed significant gains. Government lost jobs as school districts dropped staff for summer vacation.
Homer chamber takes award nominations
The Homer Chamber of Commerce will accept nominations until Sept. 1 for the Community Beautification Awards program, sponsored by the chamber and the Kachemak Bay Realtors Association. There will be awards for most attractive business, most improved, most attractive residence and most creative. Nominations will be judged the first week of September. The winners will be announced at the Taste of Homer in October.
Nominations must include the nominee's name, phone number, location or address and award category. Submit them to the Homer Chamber of Commerce at 135 Sterling Highway, fax them to 235-8766 or e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alaska Communications Systems has gained Regulatory Commission of Alaska approval to change the names of several acquisitions that provide local and long-distance telephone service.
The companies that did business as PTI Communications -- PTI Communications of Alaska Inc., Telephone Utilities of the Northland and Telephone Utilities of Alaska -- now do business as ACS or ACS Local Service. They will be named ACS of Fairbanks Inc., ACS of the Northland Inc. and ACS of Alaska Inc.
The company that did business as ACS or ATU Telecommunications now does business as ACS or ACS Local Service, and will be named ACS of Anchorage Inc. ATU Long Distance is renamed ACS Long Distance.
The changes will appear on customers' bills in the next 30 days.
Chugach overhauls Beluga generators
Chugach Electric Association plans to spend $32.5 million over the next few years to upgrade and overhaul two gas-fired turbine generators at its Beluga Power Plant. Managers expect the work to extend their life by up to 25 years, increase their efficiency by at least 7 percent and cut nitrogen oxide emissions by about 75 percent.
The Beluga plant, 40 miles from Anchorage on the west shore of Cook Inlet, is the largest power plant in Alaska. It contains seven turbine generators, including one powered with steam produced with waste heat from two gas-fired turbines. The plant accounts for half of Chugach's generating capacity and a third of the capacity of Railbelt utilities.
Chugach believes current natural gas contracts will supply the plant until 2015. Additional reserves are available, but Chugach has not yet begun negotiating contracts to use them. Natural gas fuels 85 percent of Chugach power generation. Hydroelectric generators provide the rest.
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