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Inside Alaska industry.


They just keep coming! Developments in the state's tourism industry reflect continued growth in visitor trends:

* Princess Tours is putting the finishing touches on its new hotel in Fairbanks, slated to open in June. The $12.5 million Fairbanks Princess Hotel, with 200 rooms and open year round, is located on the banks of the Chena River. The company expects a flood of business.

* Alaska Sightseeing/Cruise West has added another vessel to its fleet of small tour ships plying the inland seas of southeast Alaska. The 101-passenger Spirit of '98 will offer packages featuring seven-day, one-way voyages and return by air originating in both Juneau and Seattle.

The company now owns six ships, with the latest addition being the largest. Voyages highlight many of the natural attractions of Southeast, including Misty Fjords National Monument, LeConte Glacier, Tracy Fjords, Endicott Arm Fjord, as well as visits to Ketchikan, Petersburg and Sitka.

Company officials say they have been able to add a new ship each year for the last five years, thanks to large demand in the niche for up-close, scenic cruising, as opposed to cruises which focus on shipboard activities.

* The Alaska Marine Highway, now 30 years old, is offering discount bookings for 1993. Throughout the coming year, 1991 prices will be in effect. In addition, every 100th passenger will receive a 30 percent discount on passenger, vehicle and cabin bookings. The ferry system, which operates eight ships serving 32 communities, is also planning several celebrations.


In a move calculated to slow development of the Windy Craggy copper mine in British Columbia near the Alaska border, Glacier Bay National Park has been listed as a "world heritage site" meriting special attention by a United Nations agency.

Park Superintendent Marvin Jensen nominated the site, which was approved by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in December.

Jensen is concerned about the impact of the mine on rivers flowing through the park. Since Canada is a signer to the world heritage convention, it is theoretically obliged to avoid damage to such sites. As Jensen sees it, Geddes Resources Ltd. will have a hard time avoiding acid rock drainage.

"If the mine is going ahead, we wanted whatever protection is available to us. To some extent, I was sticking my neck out. It was not easy getting it through the last administration," says Jensen.

Jensen says the international designation was not an original idea with him. A similar move was made with a coal mine project developed near the boundaries of Glacier National Park, which straddles the U.S.-Canadian border. The coal mine shut down.

More mining news nuggets:

* It may not be a pretty sight before it's over. Echo Bay Mines Ltd. has entered a long regulatory gauntlet in its efforts to start up the A-J and Kensington mines, both near Juneau. Mine opponents struck their first blows by appealing a permit issued to the Kensington by the Juneau Planning Commission and by threatening to sue the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act.

* If it can survive Alaska winters, a strain of bacteria that breaks down cyanide may provide a cost-effective way for mining companies to dispose of waste from gold mines that use cyanide to leach gold from rock. Scientists from the University of Alaska Fairbanks are monitoring bacteria samples all winter at the Citigold Mine on Ester Dome near Fairbanks. The bacteria has proven effective in lab tests and field applications in South Dakota and Idaho.

* The Bureau of Land Management is developing procedures to implement new rental requirements for federal claims mandated by Congress last year. The law now requires a $10 service fee and $100 rental fee to be paid for each new claim.

* A federal judge says the Department of Interior cannot refuse to process mining claims, even if Congress specifically denies the agency funds to do the work. The lawsuit stemmed from objections by miners to a Congressional stipulation denying funds for processing applications for oil shale patents. The ban passed at the urging of opponents to the General Mining Law of 1972.


Can we get along? Members of the Alaska Forest Association and resource managers from several state agencies recently attended a two-day seminar on salmon ecology sponsored by the association. The seminar was conducted by consultants Jeff Cederholm and Phil Peterson from Washington, who stressed that logging's impact on salmon habitat can be effectively managed.

Other chips from the timber sector:

* Chugach Alaska Inc.'s Seward sawmill opened Feb. 5 after being closed for more than a year. After months of negotiations with creditors, Chugach, emerging from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, re-opened the mill with partners Young & Morgan of Oregon and Citefir, a Chinese investment company.

* A Native Alaskan/Canadian joint venture has begun a 10-year project to harvest spruce trees from Native lands near Tetlin, Mentasta and Chitina for chipping and export to Japan. KDK Logging of British Columbia and DS Fuel Wood of Tok will cut and chip the trees on site; chips will then be trucked to Valdez for shipment overseas. The year-round project will employ about 40 people.

* Marple's Business Newsletter reports as many as 122 mills have closed in California, Idaho, Washington and Oregon since 1990. The closures have reportedly resulted in loss of 11,259 factory jobs and another 3,750 jobs in the woods.

* It's not always the high-profile environmental groups that try to quash timber sales. A coalition of residents, community groups and hunting lodges on Chichagof Island is currently fighting a five-year timber sale in the area intended to supply the two mills operated by Alaska Pulp Co. of Sitka.


They're being driven to distraction on the Dalton Highway. Accidents and mid-winter storms that left truckers stranded up and down the North Slope haul road underscored what some see as a maintenance crisis. The problem originates with a $2.5 million cut in the annual budget for the road leading to Prudhoe Bay.

While state bureaucrats scraped up about $1 million after a particularly rigorous spell of weather, truckers and their families are pressing the legislature for a more permanent solution: Opening the highway to the public would make it eligible for federal highway dollars. Whether the Republican-controlled Alaska Senate can pull off this long-time goal of many Interior residents remains to be seen.

Air carriers, too, are having their share of troubles.

Continuing fare wars, a sluggish economy and an antitrust lawsuit against major airline carriers over discount ticket policies provided the chaotic backdrop for recent dramatic cutbacks at Alaska Airlines. Last December, company officials predicted 1992 would be the first time in 20 years that Alaska wouldn't turn a profit.

More transportation trends:

* Soldotna's municipal airport commission has endorsed a plan by Natron Air to buy the local terminal and use it as a base for on-demand air taxi service and freight delivery. Next stop for the proposal is the Soldotna City Council. Prospects for approval seem pretty good: City fathers and mothers say they're tired of subsidizing the airport to the tune of $160,000 a year.

* The Federal Aviation Administration has issued an emergency order revoking the certificate of Bethel-based Bush Air Inc. The revocation follows discovery of alleged maintenance violations.


Fishery managers continue to puzzle over the complex ecological jigsaw of the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska in efforts to establish biologically safe, economically viable harvest limits for pollock and other species.

At its December meeting, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council was presented with evidence of increased predation on Steller sea lions and harbor seals by killer whales. If the evidence is conclusive -- and no one has yet said that it is -- it might take some of the heat off of managers to restrict bottomfish quotas. Restrictions have increased in recent years for fear that overfishing was cutting into the food supply of marine mammals.

Scientists report that climate also has far more impact on fish stocks than previously thought, and not all species are affected the same way. Average water temperatures, surface temperatures and wind speeds can have profound effects on halibut, salmon and crabs, says Dr. Bradley Stevens of the National Marine Fisheries Service in Kodiak.

Other morsels from the fishing industry:

* Hoping to end a cycle of alternating apathy and alarm in the salmon industry, the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation has committed itself to a program to expand and diversify markets for Alaska salmon products. Also new in AFDF's approach to dealing with roller-coaster salmon demand: Ask the market what it wants, then meet that demand, rather than develop unsolicited products and subject them to a long and often disappointing promotional effort.

* In an effort to help fishermen cope with expanding requirements for protecting and reporting encounters with marine mammals, an 80-page marine mammal guide has been published by the Alaska Sea Grant College Program. Written and compiled by marine mammal specialist Kate Wynne, the guide costs $15 and can be ordered by calling (907) 474-6707.

* Factory trawlers will be allowed to process salmon in the Gulf of Alaska and Bristol Bay this summer because opening of the summer pollock season has been delayed until August 15. The chief product is expected to be surimi.

* The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute has been awarded nearly $7 million in federal funds to promote Alaska seafood products overseas. The amount represents an 18 percent cut over last year's allocation, due to congressional budget-cutting.

* At the encouragement of the seafood processing industry, the University of Alaska Fairbanks Fishery Industrial Technology Center on Kodiak Island will offer classes leading to a master's degree in seafood science beginning this fall. Courses include chemical, biological and engineering aspects of seafood processing and new product development.


Unocal has increased production from its Granite Point platform in Cook Inlet to 5,200 barrels a day. That figure is double its previous performance and is the result of the company's program of revitalizing part of the aging field. The $27 million program combines new technology and a new discovery to achieve the higher output.

More plugs from the oil patch:

* Doyon Ltd. now owns 100 percent of its drilling operations. Doyon Drilling Inc., a subsidiary of the Fairbanks-based, Native-owned firm, bought out the 49 percent minority share of its joint venture partner, Nugget Nevada Inc. The joint venture has built four North Slope oil rigs. According to Doyon president Morris Thompson, the owner of Nugget Nevada, W. Joris Brinkerhoff, will continue as general manager of Doyon Drilling.

* Less encouraging is a recent study citing several factors which suggest that a major oil spill in Cook Inlet is only slightly less probable than one in Prince William Sound. The study, conducted by ECO Inc. of Annapolis for the Alaska Oil Spill Commission, predicts the likelihood of a spill in Cook Inlet ranging from 300 to 1 million gallons every 2.2 years.


"Our task is not to follow America, but to educate America," proclaimed Gov. Walter Hickel in his State of the State address in early January. The governor strongly reaffirmed his administration's priorities of wresting from the federal government more land, more rights -- and more respect.

Commenting on the recently-filed application for the final 23 million acres due Alaska under its statehood entitlement, the governor could barely contain himself: "More than 100 million acres. At long last--Alaska--for Alaskans!"

More news from the government:

* One more meeting to attend. Rosemary Maher of Fairbanks was appointed by outgoing Interior Secretary Manuel Lujan to the National Public Lands Advisory Council. The 21-member council advises the secretary on national policies for administering lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Maher is chair of Doyon Ltd., the largest private landholder in the nation. Reappointed to the council was mining geologist Chuck Hawley of Anchorage.

* Relationships between citizens and their government can be so taxing. In Wasilla, a group has sued to keep their city from collecting a new sales tax. On the Kenai Peninsula, the borough government is now asking courts to shut down businesses that are habitually late in paying the sales tax they collect from customers. Officials hope this measure will reduce a $1.5 million tax backlog accumulating since 1986.
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Publication:Alaska Business Monthly
Date:Mar 1, 1993
Previous Article:Environmental profile: Soil Processing Inc.
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