Alaska News

New Activity Seen At Mount Shishaldin

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-11-24 17:24

Shishaldin Volcano with a typical steam plume, pictured on Sept. 14, 2013. Photo by Joseph Korpiewski, U.S. Coast Guard.

There has been some new activity at Mount Shishaldin. The Alaska Volcano Observatory upgraded the volcano to an orange status several months ago, but as geologist at AVO Chris Waythomas says Shishaldin started acting differently Sunday night.
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“We detected an escalation in seismic activity that suggested the volcano had increased its level on unrest.”

Waythomas says there has been no ash emission thus far from Shishaldin but that volcano is known for producing huge ash plumes as high as 20,000 feet.

“But there are some very strong thermal signals detected at the summit, suggesting that there may have been some emission of hot material blocks or flows on the upper flanks.”

Shishaldin is one of the most active volcanoes in Alaska.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: November 24, 2014

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-11-24 17:23

Stories are posted on the APRN news page. You can subscribe to APRN’s newsfeeds via emailpodcast and RSS. Follow us on Facebook at alaskapublic.org and on Twitter @aprn

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Judge Temporarily Halts EPA’s 404(c) Process on Pebble Mine

Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage

U.S. District Court Judge H. Russel Holland issued a preliminary injunction Monday, temporarily halting the EPA’s 404(c) process regarding the Pebble Mine.

Walker Transition Team Brings 250 Delegates to Shape Policy

Zachariah Hughes, KSKA – Anchorage

Gov.-elect Bill Walker and his transition team held meetings in Anchorage over the weekend to hammer out a list of priorities for the incoming administration. The 250 committee members- stakeholders from across the state- discussed topics ranging from fiscal policy to subsistence. It was a rare attempt for an incoming administration to shape its future so openly.

Details Sketchy on Expanded Deferred Action for Illegal Immigrants

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

It is estimated that 1,800 undocumented Mexicans are living in Alaska, although there is no account of how many undocumented immigrants of other nationalities may be in the state.  Now, some undocumented immigrants may be eligible for an expanded deferred action program announced last week by President Barack Obama.

New Activity Seen At Mount Shishaldin

Thea Card, KDLG – Dillingham

There has been some new activity at Mount Shishaldin. The Alaska Volcano Observatory upgraded the volcano to an orange status several months ago, but as AVO geologist at is Waythomas says, Shishaldin started acting differently Sunday night.

BBAHC Testing All Expectant Mothers For Opioid Use

Dave Bendinger, KDLG – Dillingham

A few weeks ago, police were called to the Kanakanak Hospital in Dillingham when a woman six months pregnant and a mother who had just given birth that day were caught smoking an oxycodone pill in the bathroom of the maternity room. The disturbing incident highlighted just how severe the use of opioids like heroin and oxycodone has become in Bristol Bay. Now the hospital has made the testing for opioids routine for all pregnancies.

For Better Storm Warnings, NWS Goes Local

Lauren Rosenthal, KUCB – Unalaska

Predicting storms in a fast-changing environment isn’t easy. But the National Weather Service is slowly working on a plan to improve their forecasts in Alaska – and across the country – by adding in the view from the ground.

Interior’s Dry Weather To Continue

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The interior is forecast to get a little snow over the next couple days, but the trend is for continued dry weather.

Report: Subsidized logging costs feds millions

Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau

A new report says the Forest Service is wasting millions of dollars by propping up a failing Southeast Alaska timber industry. It says the Tongass National Forest should instead invest in projects supporting tourism and fishing, which are growing segments of the economy.

“Frost” Brings Art Seekers into Anchorage Parks

Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage

Frost is one of Anchorage’s newest public art projects. It’s a scavenger hunt with photo clues that lead you to a place where the artists have mixed lights and film into a temporary art piece. It’s called “creative placemaking” and aims to get people out into the city’s parks and help them see the space in a different way.

Categories: Alaska News

BBAHC testing all expectant mothers for opioid use

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-11-24 17:23

A few weeks ago, police were called to the Kanakanak Hospital in Dillingham when a woman six months pregnant and a mother who had just given birth that day were caught smoking an oxycodone pill in the bathroom of the maternity room. The disturbing incident highlighted just how severe the use of opioids like heroin and oxycodone has become in Bristol Bay. Now the hospital has made the testing for opioids routine for all pregnancies.

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Categories: Alaska News

For Better Storm Warnings, NWS Goes Local

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-11-24 17:22

Predicting storms in a fast-changing environment isn’t easy. But the National Weather Service is slowly working on a plan to improve their forecasts in Alaska — and across the country — by adding in the view from the ground.

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Since he moved to Unalaska 12 years ago, Dale Miller has weathered a lot of storms. But nothing like the one he calls the doozy.

Miller: “I had a new Colorado out in the front yard that I watched go on two wheels. That leaned over, and it slid about four inches.”

The morning after a major storm passed over Unalaska, mechanic Dale Miller stopped into CarQuest auto supply. (Lauren Rosenthal/KUCB)

That’s exactly what Miller wanted to avoid when the tail end of a super typhoon swept into the Bering Sea this month. He’s a mechanic with a lot of spare materials and cars laying around.

Miller: “Kind of wanted to park things in a way where maybe the glass isn’t going to get broken. But I didn’t know which direction the wind was going to be coming from if it did hit.”

That information was available in a string of alerts from the National Weather Service. But even though they’re meant for the public, meteorologist Dave Snider says they’re not always user-friendly.

Snider: “Warning and advisory and watch: Are those types of words helpful to you, or are they confusing?”

Those questions are at the heart of the Weather-Ready Nation project. Over the last three years, Snider and other forecasters have tried to get the country better prepared for storms.

That includes putting out effective storm warnings. And research has shown that most people don’t understand the different terms that the National Weather Service has relied on.

If there’s an exception, it might be coastal Alaska. Commercial fishermen and recreational boaters rely on forecasts to navigate, so they learn to speak the language.

But weather is a critical part of life on land, too. In Unalaska, Snider says the terrain is full of hills and valleys that can channel wind into strong, localized gusts.

Snider: “If the wind’s blowing one direction and it happens to make it down the canyon and into town just right, well, that might hit a container. Or if it’s blowing a different way, it might hit a crane.”

That’s exactly what happened five years ago. The same storm that picked up Dale Miller’s truck also knocked down a cargo crane at Unalaska’s port.

It’s a pretty extreme example. But weather can affect port operations on a smaller scale, like when shipping companies try to figure out when it’s safe to offload cargo.

Snider visited Unalaska last week to see how weather drives those decisions on the ground.

Snider: “Those kinds of things are really important. Any time there’s damage, even from a little bit of weather, we’d like to know about it. So we know how this particular weather situation impacted your daily life.”

That’s where a new crop of Weather-Ready Nation ambassadors comes in. Snider is helping recruit volunteers who can explain how their communities respond to storms.

Eventually, it could lead to a new kind of forecast — one that clearly lays out how traffic or shipping might be affected by the day’s weather, in language that’s easy to understand.

For Dale Miller, that can’t come soon enough. The mechanic tried to windproof his property in Unalaska — but the big storm he was expecting this month mostly blew out to sea.

Miller: “So, it’s all good. I just think that there’s one coming for us out there. And that’s the one that’s gonna ruin our day pretty good.”

Whatever the form, it won’t come without a warning.

Categories: Alaska News

Interior’s Dry Weather To Continue

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-11-24 17:21

The Interior is forecast to get a little snow over the next couple days, but the trend is for continued dry weather.

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Categories: Alaska News

Report: Subsidized logging costs feds millions

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-11-24 17:20

Beached logs pile up in Shoal Cove on Revilla Island in the Tongass National Forest. A new report challenges old-growth logging spending in the forest. (Jim Baichtal/USFS)

A new report says the U.S. Forest Service is wasting millions of dollars by propping up a failing Southeast Alaska timber industry. It says the Tongass National Forest should instead invest in projects supporting tourism and fishing, which are growing segments of the economy.

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Headwaters Economics, a Montana-based research firm, prepared the study with funding from two conservation-oriented foundations.

It was released by the Alaska chapter of Trout Unlimited, which is critical of Tongass logging.

“The Tongass has historically been a national forest focused on old-growth harvesting and it looks very much today like the same thing,” says Ben Alexander, Headwaters’ associate director.

“The underlying economics in Southeast Alaska have shifted radically and the growth sectors and the sectors creating jobs and opportunities for communities and businesses now are no longer in timber,” he says.

The report says the Forest Service spent more than $100 million subsidizing old-growth logging over the past five years.

Alaska Regional Forester Beth Pendleton didn’t have the information at hand to confirm or deny that figure.

But she says the Headwaters report does not accurately describe how agency funding works. She says Congress, not her office, decides how much goes to programs such as timber, fishing and tourism.

“I believe that the report, while well-intentioned, is flawed. And I think it shows some naivety relative to how the federal budgets are allocated,” she says.

Ross Gorte, a research professor involved in the report, says that’s sidestepping the problem, which he says is in Washington, D.C.

“They don’t tell the Forest Service how much money to spend on recreation in the Tongass versus how much to spend on recreation in Washington or Alabama or anywhere else,” he says.

“We do have some flexibility relative to policy and how we implement certain program direction,” says Pendleton.

She says that’s allowing her agency to start moving away from old-growth logging. The goal is to do that in 10 to 15 years.

“So over the last five years, we’ve been putting an increasing emphasis on that transition toyoung growth,” she says.

The Headwaters report says the agency has moved too slowly.

Austin Williams is Alaska policy director for Trout Unlimited.

“It’s frankly not clear when that time frame might start or end. And there’s an opportunity to speed it up. Ten to 15 years is just too long and it’s not getting at the real needs of Southeast Alaska communities,” he says.

The Forest Service says a change this big doesn’t happen overnight.

Pendleton says the planning process is ongoing, including consulting with an appointed Tongass Advisory Committee representing different interest groups. That panel meets this week in Sitka.

“The planning process takes time. It’s one that’s based on collaborative engagement with our communities and [the] public and also through the offering of stewardship contracts. So these things do take some time, but we’re making some progress in that direction,” she says.

separate report, from an industry consultant and an environmental scientist, says the transition could happen in five years.

The Forest Service says that’s not realistic. But Pendleton says the research is part of the advisory committee’s discussion.

Categories: Alaska News

Details Sketchy on Expanded Deferred Action for Illegal Immigrants

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-11-24 16:50

It is estimated that 1800 undocumented Mexicans are living in Alaska, although there is no account of how many illegals of other nationalities may be in the state. Now, some undocumented immigrants may be eligible for an expanded deferred action program announced last week by President Barack Obama.

 The presidents’s executive order may not become official any time soon, according to the Immigration Justice Project’s Robin Bronin. Bronin says there are few details as yet, and it could be 180 days  before applications are available. But, she cautions, illegals who could qualify should start gathering proof of identification now.

“This is a program to make sure the people who are living here, who are contributing to our community, hae immigration documents so that they can get, for instance, driver’s licenses and not be afraid that when they are taking their children to school that they are going to be deported from the United States. “

President Obama last week announced his executive action on a plan to grant temporary, three year legal status to up to five million undocumented immigrants who have family in the United States. The president’s plan does not grant them citizenship, but it does expand an earlier program aimed at keeping illegal immigrant children in the US. The earlier Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals [DACA ] plan helped one Anchorage woman who arrived in Alaska illegally at age 13. She spoke through a translator.

 ”I’m very happy because I am not anymore afraid of driving, and I can go to work, and I can keep my family together.”

Attorney Bronin says it is critical for applicants for the expanded deferred action program to show that they have been in the US since January of 2010.

The president’s action is intended to allow undocumented parents of immigrant children born in the US to remain in the country legally, and it frees federal immigration authorities to target criminals and those undocumented immigrants recently arrived in the US for deportation.

Bronin spoke at the Consulado de Mexico in Anchorage on Monday.

 

Categories: Alaska News

Finding the Perfect Thanksgiving Wine

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-11-24 16:41

Ann and her dad at Thanksgiving.

Today we’re planning Thanksgiving. Now, a lot of time energy goes into what we eat for Thanksgiving, but what about what we drink?

For that, I found a local wine enthusiast Ann Byker. Byker’s day job is architect, but she also works weekends at UnWINED, a wine boutique in midtown Anchorage. She knows a lot about wine these days, but that wasn’t always the case.

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“Probably like any other young girl I started with the Boones Farm and the awful things of that nature, but I quickly worked myself up to have I don’t if it’s a refined palette, but certainly a more expensive one,” Byker said.

And that was a big factor in Byker learning more about wine. She says if she’s going to spend more than 15 bucks on a bottle of wine, she wants to like it. So she started asking questions.

“’What is it I’m tasting? Why do I love this?’ That made me think about it,” she said. “The way it smelled, the way it looked, the way it tasted, the way it hit my mouth when I drank it.”

Byker says she loves Thanksgiving, and not just the eating part.

“I just have a lot of fun trying to pair the appropriate wines with the food that we have,” she said.

And that can be tricky with so many rich and heavy foods. That’s why Byker starts her Thanksgiving with a bang, or in this case, a pop.

“I’ll typically start off with champagne. If I were to recommend something though I would say sparkling rose,” Byker said. “It’s different, it’s got that little bit of red juice to it. But what it really does is set that celebratory mood. And when you’re drinking something sparkling between multiple appetizers it sort of acts like a palette cleanser. ”

Next up, and probably the most important, is what to drink with your Turkey, Ham or Roast.

“I’m definitely going to lean toward a red on this one. You always hear about Pinot Noir and Zinfandel, and those are great choices, but this particular Thanksgiving I’m going to throw a curveball and do a Grenache,” she said. “A typical Grenache is going to be medium bodied, really low on tannins, kind of spicy. You’re going to get huckleberry and wild strawberry. It’s such an easy drinking red, but it’s not one that you typically see on the Thanksgiving table.”

And lastly, we need something to drink with our pumpkin pie.

Byker: “This is a hard category for me, because I’m not a big sweets person. I tend to lean toward Tawny Ports. It’s a fortified wine, fortified with great brandy. On the scale of sweetness it kind of falls in the middle. The older they are the more fig and nutty flavors like walnut you’ll get. It’s an absolutely beautiful wine.”

Waldron: “Ok, as much fun as this is I think most families, mine included, will not be pairing wine with individual foods. We’re going to get as many different foods on the plate as we can, so what’s the one wine you would pick to go with a traditional Thanksgiving plate.”

Byker: “The one wine….well in my personal opinion, and what I plan on bringing to the table is Grenache. I think it’s so dynamic and so interesting. I think there are so many characteristics from Grenache that most people would find incredibly pleasing and complimentary to the things that make up the bulk of a Thanksgiving dinner.”

For the non-drinkers at your Thanksgiving, Byker says you can’t go wrong with sparkling cider. She says there’s also non-alcholic wine out there that is pretty good.

“They actually mimic the taste of wine quite well, it’s pretty amazing,” she said, laughing. “That being said, it’s not something I would drink unless I had to.”

And we can’t forget about the leftovers. Byker says she likes her turkey and gravy sandwich the next day with a nice glass of Pinot Noir.

Categories: Alaska News

Judge Temporarily Halts EPA’s 404(c) Process on Pebble Mine

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-11-24 16:29

U.S. District Court Judge H. Russel Holland issued a preliminary injunction Monday, temporarily halting the EPA’s 404(c) process regarding the Pebble Mine.

The process allows the EPA to restrict or prohibit projects that could have adverse effects on fishery areas.

The Pebble Partnership contends the EPA violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which ensures advisory committees are objective and accessible to the public, while developing the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment.

“The preliminary injunction basically says that the EPA can’t take further steps in their preemptive process against Pebble until the merits of this case have more time in front of the court,” Mike Heatwole, spokesperson for the Pebble Limited Partnership, said.

The EPA initiated the 404(c) process at the end of February, alleging the Pebble Mine would have significant and irreversible negative impacts on the Bristol Bay watershed.

Trout Unlimited‘s Tim Bristol says the ruling is disappointing.

“The people of the region, the people who depend upon that fishery for their livelihood, I think after last week’s announcement of a potential huge run, I think they were hopeful that we would have the Clean Water Act protections in place, so for the first time in over a decade and fish and operate their businesses and get on with their lives and not have the specter of Pebble looming over their head,” Bristol said.

Bristol says Monday’s ruling likely means Judge Holland needs more time to sort through the information filed by the Pebble Partnership.

The EPA says it’s waiting to see the court’s written order on the preliminary injunction and hopes the litigation is resolved quickly so the agency can move forward with its regulatory decision-making.

Court proceedings are expected to resume early next year.

Categories: Alaska News

“Frost” Brings Art Seekers into Anchorage Parks

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-11-24 15:41

Frost is one of Anchorage’s newest public art projects. It’s a scavenger hunt with photo clues that lead you to a place where the artists have mixed lights and film into a temporary art piece. It’s called “creative placemaking” and aims to get people out into the city’s parks and help them see the space in a different way. A team of seekers and followed the clues to find the newest installation.

http://www.alaskapublic.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/24-Frost.mp3
Readers, beware: this story may spoil your search. So if you’re hoping to find the hidden art exhibit completely on your own, stop reading and stop the audio player on your computer.

“Hi, I’m unnaturally telling my name into the microphone….” joked Krystal Garrison as she did exactly that.

The clue we used to find Frost. Photo by Sierra Mills and posted to frostanchorage.org.

Krystal had heard about Frost and let me tag along on her expedition to find it. She roped her fiancee Corey Crawford into the outing and their trusty dog Leo.

The first stop was inside at the computer to look up the clue on the Frost website.

“So I just googled ‘Anchorage Frost’…” Krystal narrated.

“You got Frost Dental, so I guess we can go get our teeth cleaned…” I responded.

With a more refined search we find the first clue — a picture of a snowy lawn with towering lights. In the distance you can see a blurry fence and a dark area on the edge.

“I would have a hard time guessing on this picture to be honest with you,” Krystal said.

But Corey knew it instantly.

“That’s *****,” Corey states matter-of-factly.

“That’s *****?” Krystal questioned, disbelievingly.

“Yeah, that’s *****.”

“He’s super visual,” Krystal said to explain how he instantly knew the site of a park he rarely visited from a dark, half blurry photo.

“Yeah, the duck pond’s right here. The parking lot is right in front of it.” He pointed out vague features.

Corey said it makes sense because the park is easily accessible by car, bus, bike, and foot, but people don’t always think to hang out there.

Gretchen Weiss is one of the project coordinators. She said the five exhibits will be placed in different parks in the city for short periods throughout the winter.

“Anchorage is huge, and we’ve got over 200 parks, and each one has it’s own flavor and variety. And we kind of took the personality of what that ‘Frost’ was going to be like and what that parks were like and we kind of matched them up.”

This time the Frost exhibit is a short film made from footage gathered around the world, so the setting has a more classic cinematic feel.

Weiss said the temporary, outdoor exhibits invite people to interact with strangers that they may never otherwise meet.

“For Frost it’s dark, and people are wearing lots of layers so you really don’t have a whole lot to go off of somebody except for here’s one marshmallow, and you’re a marshmallow and you see this thing and it’s pretty cool and you can start talking when maybe usually you wouldn’t,” she explained.

When we arrived at ***** to look for the movie, the park was empty, despite the relatively warm weather. Leo the dog leads the way. As we enter the park, Corey finds the scene of the clue.

“You remember seeing the rock in the picture?”

“No, I don’t,” Krystal said.

“These rocks were in the picture. That’s the duck pond to the left.”

Leo bounds ahead, and we follow him straight to the movie.

“You totally called it,” Krystal said.

The film was projected from a locked box onto a white wooden board. Extension cords trail away from the set up. Krystal watches it while standing outside, in the cold. She was impressed.

“This is so awesome that you’re bringing art to the public. And you’re leaving it out there for people to explore and discover on they’re own whether they’re meaning to or not,” she said. “But it’s also got to be kind of nerve wracking to leaving this equipment and this art and, you know, all the time spent involved setting it up. Hopefully people will enjoy it for what it is and not feel the need to tamper with it.”

Krystal’s statement turned out to be prophetic. Within a week of our successful quest, cords began to disappear and the set up had to be altered to make it more secure. But Weiss said they’ll try to keep it running until December 6 when they’ll reveal the final location and host a drive-in movie at the *******.

OK, I’ll give you another clue. It’s that big building in midtown where you can go to read for free…

Categories: Alaska News

Walker Transition Team Brings 250 Delegates to Shape Policy

APRN Alaska News - Sun, 2014-11-23 19:57

Hundreds of delegates came to Anchorage to offer policy solutions to the incoming governor and his team. In 1990, Hickel’s transition team was 20 advisers who met behind closed doors. (Photo: Zachariah Hughes).

Governor Elect Bill Walker and his transition team held meetings over the weekend that shed new light on the incoming administration’s priorities, and the very public process they are using to find policy solutions to state-wide issues ranging from fiscal planning to subsistence.

Small working groups made up of stakeholders from across the state met in classrooms all over the UAA campus to discuss a wide spectrum of topics. Gail Anagik  Schubert is CEO of the Bering Straits Native Corporation, and brought her region’s needs to conversations within the infrastructure committee.

“We’re on the Bering Straits, and so any of the Arctic development, you know the Northern waters expansion and that sort of thing,” Schubert explained after Sunday’s Plenary Session,  ”our communities are going to be impacted by it.”

Each of the 17 committees will produce reports from notes taken all weekend long, and share them with the public as well as with all 250 delegates broadly considered part of the transition team. The reports will also be used by the governor and his staff as the starting point for policy revisions.

“This is a listening process, and the question has been asked: what’s the product? The product is you and the relationships you’ve built, and that report,” said Rick Halford, co-chair of the Walker transition team, emphasizing the influence the weekend’s discussions will have on the incoming administration. ”It is not intended to stop here, it’s intended to go on.”

Meetings were open to the public, and represent a strong effort to bring as many voices from different parts of the state into the transition process. That has not been the case for most gubernatorial change-overs. Malcolm Roberts was part of Governor Wally Hickel’s transition team in 1990.

“It was only a very small group of people involved,” Roberts recalled, 20 or so advisers meeting behind closed doors.  ”This is a whole new world,” he added.

The crowd at the meeting’s final session was as diverse as the as the agenda, with men in suits sitting knee-to-knee with women holding the sunshine ruffs of their parkees, and plenty in between.

“We should identify best practices and utilize tribal structures to capture the values in our state,” read the other chair of the transition team, Ana Hoffman, summarizing comments made from the various committees. “We will achieve sustainability by being conservation-minded. We need to reverse negative trends, to populate our training facilities and not our holding facilities. We all agree to put fish first, and we know that the low-hanging fruit can sustain us,” added Hoffman, earning a laugh from the crowd.

The air of optimistic camaraderie was undercut by the bleak financial outlook facing the state, and conversations early in the weekend about leaner budgets in the years ahead. Walker told the crowd his campaign’s motto of diversity creating unity will be fundamental to his administration’s approach for finding economic solutions.

“Yes, I wish the oil wasn’t at $75, or whatever it is. But it is. And there’s nothing we’re gonna do about that ourselves,” Walker told the large audience. But he stressed bringing his campaign’s motto of diversity creating unity forward into the administration’s approach to developing policy solutions. “We’re gonna work our way out of this because we’re Alaskans.”

“And there’ll be some changes, you bet there will be,” Walker added.

Two of those changes have already been announced, as Walker’s team named new commissioners for his cabinet. Mark Myers will replace Joe Balash at the Department of Natural Resources. And Randall Hoffbeck has been chosen to head the Department of Revenue, a position currently held by Angela Rodell.

Categories: Alaska News

City to Pursue $485 Million Design Strategy for Port of Anchorage

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-11-21 20:07

On top is the current Port of Anchorage configuration, and below is the proposed modification, with a draft depth of -45 feet, and other tweaks. Photo: Anchorage Port Modification Plan.

The mayor’s office announced it has selected a design for the Anchorage Port’s overhaul, setting a blue-print for how the half-billion dollar project will take shape in the years ahead. At a work session on Friday, planners and engineers explained their decisions to members of the Anchorage Assembly. 

Representatives from the port and the company managing the project, CH2M Hill, made presentations to on the different plans they analyzed, and how they settled on what was previously referred to as ‘Concept D.’ But now, said the port’s Director of External Affairs Lindsey Whitt, it’s just called ‘the plan’  as they move forward with a longer term solution for fixing the facilities.

“The wharf pilings are rotting, and eroding, and rusting,” Whitt explained after the work session. “So every year we pour money into putting band-aids on the piling. And its really only a temporary fix.”

The plan calls for building out terminals to accommodate bigger ships in deeper water, cutting back a wedge of land to help mitigate sediment build-up and all the expensive dredging it takes to remove it, and adding a new extension for loading cement and fuel.

The three different designs were given a weighted analysis comparing different criteria, from short term costs to effects on cargo handling. Photo: Anchorage Port Modernization Project.

The design determines how the port will be configured what it’s done, but it also sets out the different steps getting there, and how to keep construction from interrupting cargo coming in and out of the terminals. The idea is to build a port that can endure for the next 75 years, without hampering commerce too much as it is built. Mayor Dan Sullivan has done a lot to guide the port project’s development, and believes this version will help it progress smoothly during the two major government transitions in the year ahead.

“The key is to have a solid plan with a price tag that’s affordable. And one that has the minimum amount of risk for changing and all the sudden become a project that’s much more expensive,” Sullivan said. “I think what we saw today is a plan that’s really well thought out, and I think we have price estimates that are reasonable.”

That reasonable estimate is $485 million dollars, which was the least expensive of all the options analyzed. There’s already $130 million set aside, but the city will have to raise the remaining $355 million. Whitt says that while it’s expensive, she expects financial support to come from the legislature and elsewhere given the facility’s critical importance for the state as a whole.

“The Port of Anchorage is kind of a magical place, because it brings most of the food and goods for Alaska through the docks,” Whitt said, lighting up as she spoke. “This project is vital to Alaskans, and I wish I could show the port to every single person who lived here.”

So far about $312 million has been spent on an earlier model of port expansion that was halted, and which is the subject of a lawsuit the city has brought against three of the companies previously involved.

 

 

Categories: Alaska News

Mexican Consulate Readies To Help On Deferred Action Plan

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-11-21 17:53

The Mexican government, through it’s consulate in Anchorage, has issued a statement regarding President Barack Obama’s announcement regarding deferred action on illegal immigrants. Senor Javier Abud is Anchorage’s Mexican consul. He says the Mexican government welcomes the announcement.

“Why, because some studies show more than fifty percent of undocumented people in the US are of Mexican origen. And we are talking about more thatn 11 million in total”, Abud said on Friday.

President Obama on Thursday announced his executive action on a plan to grant temporary, three year legal status to up to five million undocumented immigrants who have family in the United States. The president says that the plan does not grant them citizenship. The president’s action  protects families and allows federal immigration authorities to target criminals and those undocumented immigrants recently arrived in the US for deportation.

Senor Abud says the Mexican consulate is preparing to help those undocumented immigrants in Alaska who may benefit from Obama’s announcement.

“…to give them some guidance, to give them some advice. And I can tell you, when the process formally starts, the consulate will be ready with some contingency measures.”

Abud says that those affected must inform themselves about the plan through official sources only, such as the Mexican consulate, to avoid misinformation and to avoid being taken advantage of by scammers who may mislead them.

Abud says according to the Pew Hispanic Center studies, , there are an estimated 1,800 undocmented Mexicans in Alaska.

 

 

 

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: November 21, 2014

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-11-21 16:39

Stories are posted on the APRN news page. You can subscribe to APRN’s newsfeeds via emailpodcast and RSS. Follow us on Facebook at alaskapublic.org and on Twitter @aprn

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LNG Project Gets Export Approval

The Associated PRess

A federal agency has approved the export of liquefied natural gas from a proposed mega-project in Alaska to free-trade nations.

Regional Tribal Government Considered by Calista Regional Committee

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

Could the YK Delta see a new tribal government system?  Delegates from the region will consider steps that could lead to a new regional government, new taxes, and a constitutional convention.  That topic will be front and center at a meeting of the Regional Committee Monday in Anchorage. The group was created by the board of directors of Calista, the YK Delta’s regional native corporation.

Kennels Protected Under New Mat-Su Ordinance

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

Dog mushers in the Matanuska Susitna Borough now are protected under a new Borough ordinance.  The law licenses kennels, and is aimed at protecting mushers against complaints from neighbors as the Mat Su population grows.

Another Orphaned Alaska Bear Cub Needs A Home

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

Another orphaned Alaska bear cub needs a home. The young black bear found near Eagle is the 8th the state has dealt with this year.  The other seven cubs, all but one black, including a trio rescued in Galena in September, have been placed in lower 48 wildlife care facilities.  The fate of the latest orphaned cub is uncertain.

NOAA Designates Kachemak Bay a Habitat Focus Area

Shady Grove Oliver, KBBI – Homer

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced this week it is designating Kachemak Bay as its next habitat focus area. That will open up the door to more directed research and conservation efforts and possible federal funding.

Federal Court Rejects Alaska’s Appeal

The Associated Press

The state of Alaska has lost another attempt to reinstate a ban on same-sex marriage, and Gov.-elect Bill Walker has changed his stance on the issue.

Listen: What Marriage Means For One Alaska Same-Sex Couple

Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau

Since same-sex marriage became legal in Alaska  around 90 marriage license applications have been issued to same sex couples

AK: Eagles Up Close

Emily Files, KHNS – Haines

Each fall, thousands of bald eagles flock to a stretch of the Chilkat River about 20 miles north of Haines. The birds fly there for a late chum salmon run. And it’s one of the largest gathering of eagles in the world. Dozens of people travel to witness the raptors each year, filling up almost every hotel room in Haines.

300 Villages: South Naknek

This week, we’re heading to the community of South Naknek on Bristol Bay. Lorianne Rawson is the tribal administrator with the native village of South Naknek.

Categories: Alaska News

Borough Musher’s Law Protects Dog Kennels

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-11-21 16:01

A  hundred huskies howling is  the  kind of noise that angers homeowners who happen to live close by a sled dog kennel. And with suburbia edging ever – closer to the heart of the Mat Su, clashes between dog owners and new neighbors are inevitable.  Iditarod musher Cim Smyth, from Big Lake, testified Wednesday at the Mat Su Assembly public hearing on a new ordinance aimed at protecting musher’s rights.

“There’s a lot of regulations out there. Very few are positively supporting our sport. Which is the state sport. It is a major hobby for a lot of people, but it is also a major business in this state for a lot of people. I pay my taxes racing sled dogs, racing sled dogs.”

The ordinance sets out terms for a three year kennel license  for a fee of 150 dollars.

 Mat Su Assemblyman Vern Halter , who  keeps a kennel, has run his share of Iditarods, and happens to be an attorney.  Halter sponsored the lengthy ordinance that covers everything from a definition of sled dog to mushing facility standards of care.

 Halter also points out that  sled dog  mushing is the state sport, and that Alaska has been officially recognized as a “right to mush” state by the legislature.

 A number of professional kennel owners spoke up at the meeting in support of the ordinance.   Dee Dee Jonrowe,  says the ordinance protects the dogs as well. In her forty years of mushing, Jonrowe says she’s seen positive changes in dog care.

“And I believe that this ordinance is really helping to design the framework for the quality facilities that I think we would like to see all sled dogs have available to them.”

 Other mushers related negative incidents aimed at their sport… blocked trails and signs with derogatory messages. The ordinance spells out the the definition of interference with mushing, with possible fines for interference of up to one thousand dollars and imprisonment of 90 days.

 The Borough’s Animal Control Board did not offer an opinion on the ordinance. But John Wood, board chair and a sprint musher, noted the economic boost that mushing has become for the Valley

“If you take a look at the economic driver that this industry provides for you, it’s immense. It’s an international sport. If we play our cards correctly, we could be the center of that.

 But some expressed concerns.  Patty Rosnel spoke against the ordinance, saying that  the Borough has not attached a fiscal note to the law, and that there is no money in the Borough budget to pay for enforcement.

 Despite that complaint, the ordinance passed unanimously, adding a new chapter to the Borough’s animal care regulations.

Categories: Alaska News

LNG Project Gets Export Approval

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-11-21 15:53

A federal agency has approved the export of liquefied natural gas from a proposed mega-project in Alaska to free-trade nations.

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The U.S. Department of Energy said Friday that the automatic approval, which was required by law, should not be read to indicate the department’s views on a still-pending request to export to non-free trade countries, like Japan.

Pacific Rim nations such as Japan have been eyed as possible markets for the project, which is being pursued by the state, TransCanada Corp., and the North Slope’s three major energy companies. A final decision on whether to build the project has not been made.

Federal pipeline coordinator Larry Persily said more significant than Friday’s order was the relatively little opposition the department received related to the project’s export license application.

Categories: Alaska News

Regional Tribal Government Considered by Calista Regional Committee

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-11-21 15:52

A new regional tribal government, new taxes, and a constitutional convention will be considered when theCalista-facilitated Regional Committee meets Monday in Anchorage.

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The delegates will look at major changes to how the YK Delta is governed through four main resolutions under discussion. The first option being considered would strengthen the role of the Association of Village Council Presidents. Amendments include changing the name to the “Association of Sovereign Yupiit Villages,” providing for direct election of the President, and modifying the charter to allow the President to take executive action to carry out directives from the board.

The next option is to create a new borough government under Alaska state law, with the goal of strengthening the region’s political voice.
The third option is a constitutional convention to establish a regional tribal government with the intention of assessing taxes currently being paid by regional and village corporations to the United States and State Governments.
Willie Kasayulie is Chairman of the Calista board of Directors, as well as the Regional Committee and its steering committee.

“I think the strongest of the three options would be a regional tribal government format. In that concept we basically create a two house system, similar to the state and federal legislative structure. One side of the house would include tribal representation and tribal governments, the other house would be the house of organizations,” said Kasayulie.

A draft 12-page constitution lays out a regional tribal government, complete with three branches of government, power for law enforcement, and fish and game management. The resolution looks at capturing income taxes from native corporations and assessing taxes on regional lands and businesses.

The Regional Committee formed this February after the Calista board of directors voted to create the group to study problems with current legislation affecting Alaska Native people, tribal government, and corporations, and come up with a strategic plan. A 16-person steering committee has met several times since the spring. Calista’s website says more than 50 tribes have registered for the second full meeting in Anchorage.

Several regional organizations have passed resolutions opposing the Regional Committee and regional tribal governments, including the Bethel Native Corporation and Bethel’s tribe, ONC among others.

The Association of Village Council Presidents provided a list of 16 groups opposing an earlier AVCP resolution in support of a regional tribal government, or the Calista Regional Committee process. Myron Naneng is AVCP President.

“That has come up before but it has been rejected by tribal governments in the villages because they want to ensure they have their local tribal power. This happened 1986 and 2000. We’re kind of perplexed by the fact that Calista wants to move in this direction,” said Naneng.

A final option calls for no changes in governance and would terminate the regional committee. The meeting agenda includes a vote on whether to pursue any of the governance options.

The Regional Committee meets at the Egan Center in Anchorage Monday. Calista’s board approved 200-thousand dollars to run the committee process. Several corporate sponsors made it possible to fly in delegates to Anchorage for the meeting.

KYUK requested to broadcast the proceedings for both of this year’s full meetings, but Calista declined. When KYUK requested that a reporter attend the meeting, a spokesperson said the meeting was closed to the public and to the media. It’s open to shareholders and descendants, space permitting.

Resolutions and draft constitution are posted on Calista’s webpage.

Categories: Alaska News

Another Orphaned Alaska Bear Cub Needs A Home

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-11-21 15:49

“BaBa” the bear cub, comes out of a dog house at his temporary home with Kate Rourke and Andy Bassich. (Credit Terry Pratt / BBC)

Another orphaned Alaska bear cub needs a home. The young black bear found near Eagle is the 8th the state has dealt with this year. The other seven cubs, all but one black, including a trio rescued in Galena in September, have been placed in lower 48 wildlife care facilities. The fate of the latest orphaned cub is uncertain.

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Categories: Alaska News

NOAA Designates Kachemak Bay a Habitat Focus Area

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-11-21 15:48

Ocean acidification and climate change have become more prominent topics of conversation over the past few years, especially in areas heavily dependent on the sea, like Alaska.

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“The ocean conditions are changing and that’s something that we want to understand as well as we can so that we can be better prepared to address those changes and help our coastal communities be more resilient to those changes,” Julie Speegle, who works with the Alaska region of the National Marine Fisheries Service, said.

She says Kachemak Bay joins seven other habitat focus areas nationwide under NOAA’s Habitat Blueprint initiative. And it was a logical choice.

“One of the special things about Kachemak Bay is we have already gathered quite a bit of data on ocean conditions and habitat there,” says Speegle. “What we haven’t done is put all that data together and see what comes out of it, what we can learn from it.”

The bay is already a State of Alaska Critical Habitat Area and a National Estuarine Research Reserve. So, the building blocks are already in place. She says the blueprint initiative provides the framework for organizations to efficiently work together in a targeted area.

“So, we basically select habitat focus areas where we can prioritize resources and activities and foster and leverage partnerships to address changes in coastal and ocean habitats,” says Speegle.

NOAA already has relationships with outside groups in the Kachemak Bay area, including tribal governments, regional citizens advisory councils, municipal bodies, and environmental interest groups like the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies.

But the designation also encourages NOAA to make a concerted effort within the branches of its own organization.

“So, you’ve got NOAA’s National Ocean Service, National Weather Service, National Marine Fisheries Service and we’ll be working together internally to focus our efforts on Kachemak Bay,” says Speegle.

But what does that mean practically?

Speegle says it provides groups with the incentive to conduct scientific studies and the facilities to streamline data sharing. But it also has the potential to ease the financial burden that’s often a barrier to ongoing research programs. She says there is some federal funding that opens up to projects once they are designated within a habitat focus area.

The research and information that comes out of these projects will reach beyond Kachemak Bay as well.

“So, as we go forward, we’ll be sort of using Kachemak Bay as a testing area to improve NOAA mapping and model information,” says Speegle. “And we have a goal of developing new tools for habitat assessment that can be used not just in the Kachemak Bay area, but other coastal areas throughout Alaska.”

Speegle says the next step is to evaluate ongoing studies and what’s already in place. Overall, she hopes Kachemak Bay will provide some more insight into changing ocean conditions and the best ways to manage those changes for the future.

Categories: Alaska News

Federal Court Rejects Alaska’s Appeal

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-11-21 15:47

The state of Alaska has lost another attempt to reinstate a ban on same-sex marriage, and Gov.-elect Bill Walker has changed his stance on the issue.

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The federal appeals court for the West rejected the state’s request that an 11-judge panel review the district court decision that found the state’s ban unconstitutional.

The state could appeal again to the federal court or to the U.S. Supreme Court. The state has spent more than $100,000 defending the ban.

As a candidate, Walker said he wouldn’t pursue costly litigation with little chance of success, even though he personally believes marriage should be between a man and a woman.

But now his spokeswoman says Walker wants a proper analysis before making any decision on the lawsuit.

Categories: Alaska News

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