Story last updated at 2:19 p.m. Thursday, April 25, 2002

Board appointment knocked by Inlet fishermen
HOMER FISHERMEN are among those calling for the Alaska Legislature to reject Gov. Tony Knowles' nomination of Brett Huber to the Alaska Board of Fisheries. Huber, the executive director of the Kenai River Sportfishing Association, was named to the panel earlier this month. Commercial fishermen were quick to oppose his nomination, but some sport fishermen jumped on the bandwagon after the board last February adopted new catch-and-release regulations on early run Kenai River kings <> an issue promoted by Huber's association. The board called it a conservation issue, but resident fishermen who want to put meat on their table disagree, saying they are being shunted aside in favor of the burgeoning industry of guided angling. The Fish and Game Advisory Committees from Soldotna, Ninilchik and, most recently, Homer now oppose Huber's nomination. "As far as I'm concerned, he's one of the five worst people in the state that Knowles could have named," said Marvin Peters, chairman of the Homer committee. "His job is to take fish from commercial fishermen and local sport fishermen and give them to nonresident, guided anglers, and he's real good at what he does. I don't think he has any business being on the board."

HUBER SAID TUESDAY he had no idea why his nomination has engendered so much opposition, but said it seemed to be centered in Cook Inlet. "I've got support from a lot of commercial fishermen," they just happen to live outside the Cook Inlet basin, he said. And that's no surprise, he added. "Cook Inlet nominations especially tend to be controversial." He visited Homer last week to meet with fishermen, he said. "I thought it went really well. They had a number of questions and we covered a bunch of topics. I had a lot of people come up afterward or call me and thank me for coming down, and said they looked forward to working with me." News of the Homer committee's stand came as a surprise, and disappointing, he said. "None of the committees have invited me to talk to them."

AS OF TUESDAY, a poll of the 15-member Homer committee plus two alternates found nine opposed to Huber and eight either undecided or not yet contacted, Peters said. Although he expected others to oppose Huber, also, some committee members might support his appointment. Nevertheless, Peters sent a letter to Rep. Drew Scalzi, R-Homer, asking to block the nomination. Asked whether he thought Huber might not "improve" with time, as some commercial fishermen say about former board member Dan Coffey, Peters said he doubted it. "I'm hoping not to give him a chance."

SCALZI SAID HE HAD TALKED with Huber and planned to keep an open mind during the hearings, but said Tuesday he had heard almost no support for the nominee. "I don't necessarily go with the polls. We have to take the information we get (during the hearing) and digest it and then make a decision," he said. "But it seems so overwhelmingly in opposition it would be very difficult for me to render support for Brett." Confirmation hearings begin next Wednesday.

THE HOMER-BASED LONGLINER Billy D needed Coast Guard assistance Sunday when it began taking on water near Afognak Island. A Coast Guard helicopter crew delivered de-watering pumps to the 79-footer after a crewmember radioed the Coast Guard at 11:11 a.m. requesting assistance. The helicopter crew dropped two pumps to the boat, which allowed the five-man Billy D crew to control the flooding. According to the Coast Guard, the boat then went to Seward. Coast Guard officials said they will investigate the incident. Boat owner Bill Burke was not available for comment.

FISHERMEN ARE INVITED to sit down and discuss fishery issues with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Fran Ulmer on Friday from 3:30 to 5 p.m. at Land's End Resort. As lieutenant governor the last eight years, Ulmer has been on several commercial fishing panels as Alaska's representative.

ALASKA'S TOP COAST GUARDSMAN, Rear Adm. Tom Barrett, is leaving the state for a new post. President Bush has nominated him as vice admiral <> one of four in the United States <> and to service as vice commandant of the Coast Guard, which is the agency's No. 2 position. The rank and position are subject to confirmation by the U.S. Senate. The Coast Guard is bulking up as part of the anti-terrorism effort, according to the Juneau Empire, and will grow by 1,300 active duty personnel if its budget is approved. That additional work must be balanced with the traditional missions of search and rescue and law enforcement, Barrett said. "We've got these great challenges. When you have big challenges it's a chance to turn the rocks over and try to do things better," he said. Barrett has spent 13 years in Alaska. He will be replaced by Rear Adm. James Underwood, who currently is the national security adviser to Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta.

JUNEAU OFFICIALS BURNED or carted away more than a dozen boats that had been abandoned at the "boneyard beach" just outside of town last week. The boats have been temporary homes for vagrants over the years, but the Juneau Harbor Department thought they were an eyesore, so three fiberglass boats were taken to the dump and 10 wooden boats were burned. Engines, fuels, plastic parts and other non-combustibles were removed first. The burn lasted more than 12 hours, according to the Juneau Empire, leaving a plume of white smoke down Gastineau Channel. Cleaning up the ashes and debris took another four days.

SOME SOUTHEAST CRABBERS are disappointed in a National Park Service plan to buy back limited entry permits in their fishery. The agency had $700,000 to retire seven to 10 permits, with the goal of making the fishery more profitable for those remaining. The buyout had been requested by fishermen, and will be funded out of the $23 million compensation package from the closure of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve to commercial fishing. But crabbers complain that the park service is buying back interim permits, which may be revoked anyhow after the state sets the final number of participants in the fishery. Nor can the interim permits be sold. "I think it's a very gross misuse of government funds," Norval Nelson Jr. told the Juneau Empire. Park officials said they still plan to buy back the 10 permits that were offered by fishermen. All are interim permits, at prices ranging from $35,000 to $80,000. Permanent permits are worth about $100,000, and none will be purchased.

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