Alaska News

Anchorage Assembly – Seat 4G

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-03-26 16:27

Elvi Gray-Jackson, who is running unopposed for Anchorage Assembly Seat 4G, discusses local issues with host Michael Carey.

Elvi Gray-Jackson

Categories: Alaska News

Anchorage Assembly – Seat 5I

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-03-26 16:22

Candidates for Anchorage Assembly Seat 5I – Pete Peterson, Mao Tosi, and Adam Trombley – discuss local issues with host Michael Carey.

Pete Petersen


Mao Tosi


Adam Trombley

Categories: Alaska News

Anchorage Assembly: Seat 6K

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-03-26 16:15

Candidates for Anchorage Assembly Seat 6K – Bruce Dougherty, Bill Evans, and Pete Nolan – discuss local issues with host Michael Carey.

Bruce Dougherty


Bill Evans


Pete Nolan

Categories: Alaska News

Anchorage School Board – Seat C

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-03-26 15:58

Candidates for Anchorage School Board Seat C – Pat Higgins, Liz Ross, and Dean Williams – discuss local issues with host Daysha Eaton.

Pat Higgins


Liz Ross


Dean Williams

Categories: Alaska News

Anchorage School Board – Seat D

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-03-26 15:54

Candidates for Anchorage School Board Seat D, Kameron Perez-Verdia and Don Smith, discuss local issues with host Daysha Eaton.

Kameron Perez-Verdia


Don Smith

Categories: Alaska News

Candidates Compete for Six Assembly Seats

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-03-26 12:56

2014 Anchorage Assembly Candidates. Photo by Alaska Public Media.

Candidates are competing for six seats on the Anchorage Assembly.

The Assembly has been deeply divided this past year and faced many challenges – a controversial labor law, a rewrite of Title 21, and a troubled port project, to name a few. And the challenges will continue in 2014.

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Patrick Flynn. Photo by Alaska Public Media.

In Assembly District 1 – Seat B – representing Downtown Anchorage, two-term Assembly member Patrick Flynn is the incumbent. Flynn helps manage an environmental engineering company and says he is a bridge builder who gets things done.

“Some of the specifics – we’ve worked on some housing issues to try and address some of the concerns about workforce housing,” Flynn said. “We’ve worked on some neighborhood issues related to the concentration of alcohol sales.”

Mark Martinson. Photo by Alaska Public Media.

Mark Martinson is challenging Flynn. He is a chemistry instructor at UAA and wants a focus on energy.

“I’d like to see some more energy conservation construction methods and some better mass transit,” Martinson said. “I think it should be possible for people in Anchorage to survive in this city without a car.”

Bill Starr. Photo by Alaska Public Media.

In Assembly District 2 -Seat C – Representing Chugiak/Eagle River, two-term Assembly member Bill Starr is the incumbent. He runs a development company and is proud of his work on Title 21.

“And it will provide us some flexibility in the type of roads that are going to be different and a little more characteristic of our area – roads and signs and lighting all sort of fits in there,” he said.

Sharon Gibbons. Photo by Alaska Public Media.

Sharon Gibbons is challenging Starr. She serves on the Eagle River Community Council.

“The public should vote for me because I’m accessible, I’m approachable. I’m a mom. That always helps in every situation,” Gibbons said. “I know what it takes to be responsible – a responsible budget. I’m hard working. I appreciate fiscal responsibility and will advocate for that.”

Tim Steele. Photo by Alaska Public Media.

In Assembly District 3 – Seat E – representing West Anchorage, Tim Steele is the incumbent. He won the seat just a year ago after Harriett Drummond was elected to the State House. Steele has worked for NOAA and served on the Anchorage School Board. He’s proud of his budget work.

“One of them is to deal with flooding at Chester Creek and Arctic where three of the last five years peoples’ houses have had water in them,” Steele said. “And we were gonna do another study and I said well, go ahead and do the study but let’s the construction money also and see if we can’t get it done.”

Phil Isley. Photo by Alaska Public Media.

Phil Isley, who served in the Army National Guard and owns a small business, is running against Steele. He wants fiscal reform.

“I have better things to do but I need to do this now or thing things I used to be able to do I won’t be able to do,” Isley said.

Elvi Gray-Jackson. Photo by Alaska Public Media.

In Assembly District 4 – Seat G – representing midtown, two-term Assembly member and former Assembly Budget Director Elvi Gray-Jackson is running unchallenged.

In Assembly District 5 3-year Assembly member Adam Trombley is the incumbent. He works selling chemicals for an oil field service company. He says he’s kept his word.

Adam Trombley. Photo by Alaska Public Media.

“I promised I’d do three things: create jobs, keep property taxes down, and create a community plan for East Anchorage,” Trombley said. “Three years later I’ve accomplished all three of those things.”

Former state legislator Pete Petersen is challenging Trombley. He says the Assembly has gone astray with a controversial labor ordinance called A0-37 and

Pete Petersen. Photo by Alaska Public Media.

he can help.

“The Assembly voted to stop taking testimony and cut people off with still a long line of people over 100 still waiting to give their opinions on the at bill,” Petersen said. “I thought that was a perfect example of bad government because no matter what level of elected official you are part of your job is to listen to the people you work for.”

Mao Tosi. Photo by Alaska Public Media.

Mao Tosi is also challenging Trombley. A former NFL player, manager of the Northway Mall and founder of the non-profit AK Pride, Tosi says he is in a unique position to help the city adapt as it grows and changes.

“It’s a need in a city that’s continuing to grow in diversity and variety. Creating safer neighborhoods is kind of a focus for me and lowering crime,” Tosi said. “So connecting with many more diverse communities to empower them to make the difference in their communities is something that I look forward to doing.”

Bill Evans. Photo by Alaska Public Media.

In Assembly District 6 – Seat K – South Anchorage, Chris Birch is terming out.

Attorney Bill Evans who has worked on municipal boards and commissions is running for the seat.

“My main pitch is that I’m in favor of protecting the tax payer. I’m fiscally conservative,” Evans said. “I believe that municipal government’s main obligation is to make sure that everybody’s taxes are spent in the most efficient and economical way.”

Pete Nolan. Photo by Alaska Public Media.

Retired police officer Pete Nolan is also running for the seat. He’s served his community council and municipal advisory boards and says he can help cut costs.

“We’re spending too much, so we need to look at that and get control of that because property taxes are going up,” Nolan said. “And the second is housing. That’s a big issue right now. Where do people live, workforce housing, entry-level housing.”

Bruce Dougherty. Photo by Alaska Public Media.

Retired Air Force officer Bruce Dougherty is also vying for the seat and says his leadership experience could help.

“Now I want to take the 28 years of experience and put it to work for the people of South Anchorage,” Dougherty said. “I’d like to bring back a sense of balance to the Assembly.”

Municipal Election Day is April 1.

Categories: Alaska News

Anchorage Office of Emergency Management Readies For Earthquake Drill

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-03-26 12:20

Anchorage is readying to take part in the Alaska Shield earthquake preparedness drill on Thursday, March 27.  The city’s Office of Emergency Management is located in an anonymous building on a quiet side street in midtown. Inside, there’s a seemingly haphazard arrangement of desks, but there is a method in it all.

 Director Kevin Spillers, invited the media into the office a couple of weeks ago. OEM personnel wanted to show how they work, if, or when, disaster strikes. Spillers says the city’s Emergency Operations Center , or EOC, is located within OEM

 ”We are stewards of EOC. we are lead agency for city’s emergency preparedness activities.. EOC is a facility, until it is activated, then becomes the lead agency for response and recovery activities ” Spillers says.

The EOC is only activated in times of great stress, such as on September 11, 2001 or during the anticipated Y2K event at the turn of the century.

According to Spillers, when the EOC is activated, it focuses on emerging response and sets priorities, so that other agencies don’t step on each others toes.

Michelle Torres is the public information officer at OEM. She says Anchorage has three top threats:

“Earthquake, wildfire and severe winter storms.  With severe winter storms we see a lot of wind, but that is not all we want you to get prepared for.”

The 1964 Alaska earthquake was the second largest ever recorded.. one in Chile in 1960 was larger. But the Great Alaska Quake, as it is termed, was the largest ever in North America. Torres says, this week’s drills will be earthquake and tsunami oriented. She says emergency officials estimate that in a city of roughly 300 thousand people.

“If we had an earthquake in March of 2014, or whenever, we are looking at about 530 deaths, injuries in the 6000s, so we are looking to shelter over 42 thousand people, pets 19 thousand, slightly over, feeding and hydration.. 145 thousand people — 49 point seven percent of the population of Anchorage. So you know what that tells me right there. Our citizens and our residents are not prepared. So the question.. is how prepared are you at home?”  Torres asked reporters.

 She urges everyone to have an emergency kit, and emergency escape route and a family emergency plan in the event of another disaster, like the one that struck Anchorage in 1964.

Torres says many different aspects of emergency response must work closely together while avoiding overlap when the EOC kicks in in the event of a disaster.

 She says Alaska has more than half the earthquakes in the US.

 Spillers says, in the eventuality of evacuations, the city already has shelters lined up

 ”We would use designated facilities, primarily rec centers and the schools. There are 22 of them,” he says.

 The municipality will hold a “Great Alaska Shakeout ” drill on Thursday, March 27 at 1:36 pm. All municipal departments will participate as will all schools within the Anchorage School District. Torres says, the international protocol of “Drop, Cover and Hold On” is recommended by official rescue teams the world over. If the Earth shakes, Drop to the ground, take Cover under a sturdy table or desk, and Hold on till the shaking stops. Many earthquake injuries are the result of flying glass and falling debris, rather than the result of collapsed housing.

 Also on Thursday, tsunami sirens may ring out in coastal communities, and a tsunami warning my hit television screens and radios between 10:15 am and 10:45 am.

 March 24 through 28 is Anchorage’s offical Earthquake Preparedness Week. I’m Ellen Lockyer

 

 

 

Categories: Alaska News

Candidates Vie for Two School Board Seats

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-03-26 11:37

2014 Anchorage School Board Candidates. Photo by Alaska Public Media.

Two School Board Seats are up for grabs during the April 1 Municipal election. Three candidates are running for Seat C and two are running for Seat D.

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The Anchorage School District is under pressure. Rising energy and healthcare costs for employees, along with no increase in per student funding from the legislature over the past four consecutive years, are taking their toll and forcing school board members to make tough decisions.

Last year the board cut $25 million from the district’s approximately $800 million budget. This year they cut $23 million more.

Pat Higgins. Photo by Alaska Public Media.

Whoever is elected to the board will inevitably face a battle for state funding and more tough budget decisions in the years ahead.

Running for Seat D is the incumbent, Pat Higgins who has held the seat for six years. He says he’s improved lots of things since he’s been on the board.

“We’ve made a lot of changes that I’ve been very successful in,” Higgins said. “A lot of directives that included changes in the way we do budgeting, expansion of career technology, measuring academic outcomes in the school, changing everyday math was popular one – all came from directives that I did.”

Higgins says since he was elected graduation rates have gone up and the dropout rate has gone down, but he says keeping those numbers going in the right direction will be hard to accomplish unless the base student allocation, or BSA – the per student funding the district gets from the state – goes up.

Higgins has a background in management, works or an insurance company and has lived in Alaska for about 30 years. His opponent is criticizing him for taking a job outside of Alaska – he worked in the Marshall Islands in 2012.

Liz Ross. Photo by Alaska Public Media.

Higgins defends the decision and says he attended School Board meetings telephonically and fulfilled his responsibilities.

Liz Ross is challenging Higgins. She works part time for the Air National Guard as an emergency manager. She’s lived in Eagle River for eight years. Ross says her budgeting experience could help the board.

“I have a lot of years doing budgeting and planning and I think I could bring a great deal of experience to it,” Ross said. “I want make sure that the classroom sizes don’t continually increase and we get rid of teachers. I think that students and teachers need to be the number one priority when it comes to the School Board.”

Dean Williams. Photo by Alaska Public Media.

Ross says the most pressing issues for the School Board are funding and budgeting. She agrees with Higgins that the BSA needs to be increased significantly.

Dean Williams is also running for Seat D. Williams says his work with youth for the state of Alaska for more than 30 years has prepared him for the job of School Board member.

“My entire juvenile justice and department of law career have sort of prepared me for a school board seat,” Williams said. “I think the school board needs somebody with strong fiscal sensibilities.”

“I led a large organization like McLaughlin Youth Center. I made strategic cuts in that organization. I maximized every dollar.”

Kameron Perez-Verdia. Photo by Alaska Public Media.

In addition to managing McLaughlin, Williams also spearheaded a program called “Step Up,” that gives troubled kids one more opportunity to graduate and move into successful employment. He says a modest increase in the base student allocation is needed. However, he believes the board can find more efficiencies.

Running for Seat C is incumbent Kameron Perez-Verdia. He was appointed to the School Board last year to replace Gretchen Guess who resigned. Perez-Verdia has worked as CEO of a consulting company that helped rural school districts improve education. Now, he is the Senior Director of Education for United Way where he is working on their 90 percent by 2020 campaign to improve graduation rates. He says the board, the state and the community need to address money.

“There are a variety of key things that we need to be talking about, whether it’s how much we’re spending on capital, how we’re investing in our schools,” Perez-Verdia said. “So that conversation is very important, but the other conversation is to make sure that we’re investing an adequate and sustainable amount of resources in our schools.”

“And we’ve been experiencing flat funding for several years now and that’s making it very difficult for us to deliver the kind of quality education that I think our kids deserve.”

Don Smith. Photo by Alaska Public Media.

Perez-Verdia says the BSA must be increased.

Don Smith is challenging Perez-Verdia for Seat C. He says he’s running for school board again because he wants to make sure schools stay strong in Anchorage. He’s running on his experience and, he says, his reputation as a fiscal conservative.

“I bring an experience factor to the public arena that is different from most people in politics. I have no agenda,” Smith said. “This is a big business and it needs some people to step up and ask as some questions and demand some things to happen and I’ve done that.”

Smith says the BSA should be raised modestly. Smith served on the School Board from 2010 to 2013. He’s also been a member of State Legislature and the Anchorage Assembly.

Categories: Alaska News

7 Bond Proposition Before Voters April 1st

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-03-26 10:28

Photo by Daysha Eaton, KSKA – Anchorage

There are seven bond propositions on the April 1 Municipal ballot in Anchorage.

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Proposition # 1

  • The largest bond on the ballot – $57 million for maintenance, renovations and upgrades to buildings in the Anchorage School District. Most of the money would go toward renovations and an addition at Airport Heights Elementary School which was built in the 50s.

Proposition # 2

  • A $1.79 million bond that would pay for area wide safety and public transportation improvements. It will pay for things like new ambulances, bus stop improvements and technology upgrades.

Proposition # 3

  • A $5.55 million bond, about half of which would fund improvements to the Loussac Library. The remainder would fund improvements to other important community buildings.

Proposition # 4

  • A $2.55 million bond that would pay for improvements to parks trails and recreational facilities. It will pay for construction of an enclosed dog park at Valley of the Moon Park, resurfacing of greenbelt trails and safety upgrades at recreational centers, among other things.

Proposition # 5

  • The second largest bond package on the ballot – it’s a $20.2 million bond that would pay for roads, storm drainage and related capital improvements. It will fund nearly 20 separate projects across the city, including reconstruction of Arctic Boulevard between 36th and Tudor, which has had drainage problems. A big chunk of the money will be put into an uncommitted drainage fund so that the city can respond quickly to flooding events. The money will also be used for pavement rehabilitation – fixing potholes and installing new culverts, among other things.

Proposition #6

  • A $1.95 million bond that would pay for fire fighting equipment. Specifically, it will pay for a new ladder truck, a new water tender and related capital improvements.

Proposition # 7

  • At $650,000, it’s the smallest bond proposition on the ballot – The money would fund public safety facilities. The money would replace a heating and air conditioning system at the Anchorage Police Department Headquarters, as well as some renovations to the building.

Besides the seven bond propositions, two charter amendments will appear the April 1 Municipal Ballot. One would allow Community Service Officers to continue issuing parking tickets and the other would make language in the charter, basically the Constitution of Anchorage.

 

Categories: Alaska News

School Renovations Depend on Prop 1

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-03-26 10:17

Image from Google Street View.


Proposition 1 is an education bond that would give the Anchorage School District more than 57 million dollars for building maintenance and improvements.

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The Anchorage School District is requesting more than $57 million in bonds make improvements to it’s buildings.

The largest project, nearly $23 million, will renovate Airport Heights Elementary School and build an edition onto the school. Airport Heights was built in 1954 and has not had a major renovation, according to District officials. They say it needs more space for special ed and intensive needs students. The school lacks a multipurpose room. It also does not have dedicated art, health and music rooms. Those subjects are currently taught in relocatables outside the main school building.

Officials say there is not enough room to pickup and drop off kids and the parking is inadequate. Those problems will be resolved by the renovations and the addition, officials say.

The remainder of the bond money would go toward improvements at schools throughout the district.

Besides Airport Heights Elementary School, major building system upgrades are planned for Eagle River Elementary, Huffman Elementary and Bayshore Elementary Schools, among others.

Categories: Alaska News

House Passes Bill To End High School Exit Exam

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-03-25 17:25

The Alaska House has passed legislation that would repeal the high school graduation exam.

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The high school exit exam tests student aptitude in reading, English and mathematics.

House Bill 220, sponsored by Republican Pete Higgins of Fairbanks, terminates the exam as soon as the bill becomes law. It allows former students who earned enough high school credits to graduate to obtain their diploma even though they failed the exam.

Higgins says if the bill does become law, it will save the state $2.7 million in administrative costs.

The vote was 32-5. The measure now goes to the Senate.

Categories: Alaska News

Gasline Bill Could Include Rural Provisions

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-03-25 17:24

With less than 30 days remaining in the legislative session, the Alaska House is considering gasline legislation that would advance a line from the North Slope to an LNG export facility in Nikiski. For rural Alaska, the bill includes funding that could send gas to communities hundreds of miles from the pipeline.

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Categories: Alaska News

Legislature Weighs ‘Erin’s Law’

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-03-25 17:23

This week, Erin Merryn will be visiting Alaska to promote a law that provides age-appropriate sexual abuse education to children in public schools. Erin’s Law, named after the 29-year-old from Illinois, has passed in 11 states and is pending in 26 others, including Alaska. And we should warn listeners: this story talks frankly about sexual abuse and rape.

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A neighbor began sexually abusing Erin Merryn when she was just six years old.

Photo courtesy Erin Merryn.

“I was abused from ages six to eight and half, repeatedly abused by the neighbor up the street who was my best friend’s uncle who lived in the home,” Merryn said. “And what started off as fondling turned to rape as a six and half year-old. And like I said – didn’t know how to speak up and tell and we moved only to wake up at age 11 to now a family member abusing me. And that continued until I was 13.”

Merryn finally told a trusted adult after she found out her little sister was also being sexually abused by the same family member. When she was a senior in high school she published a book about her experience. When she was 25, she made it her mission to give kids the voice she never had as a child, campaigning for Erin’s Law. The law requires age-appropriate child sexual abuse training in grades K-12 in public schools. It passed in Illinois in 2013.  She says it’s important in every state because of national statistics that show one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused.

“In America alone there are 42 million survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Four million of those are kids,” Merryn said.

But only one in 10 tells their story, Merryn says.  In Alaska, experts say the percentage of children who are sexually abused is likely higher than in other states. Nearly 2,000 children were reportedly sexually abused in Alaska in 2013.

State Representative Geran Tarr, who represents the neighborhoods of Airport Heights and Russian Jack and Mountain View in Anchorage, is sponsoring House Bill 233, the Alaska version of Erin’s law to try and change those numbers. A constituent brought the law to Tarr’s attention while she was working on issues related to family health and safe communities and she realized it could help stop the persistent problem of sexual abuse in Alaska.

“Our rates put us in the top five for child sexual abuse and it’s such a life-changing and devastating problem that I became very motivated to work on this issue and look for opportunities where we could protect children and prevent that next generation of children from experiencing child sexual abuse,” Tarr said.

House Bill 233 would provide child sexual abuse training to empower children to speak up if something inappropriate happens, Tarr says, and train teachers and trusted adults to recognize signs that a child is being abused as well as help children out of unsafe situations. Tarr says the law would be a game changer because the training would reach more than 90 percent of Alaska’s youth who attend public schools and the adults who spend a lot of time with them.

“We’ve often been on the reactionary end of this problem. This problem being more broadly domestic violence and sexual assault. So we’ve been dealing with it through the court system. We’ve been dealing with it through victim services and domestic violence shelters,” Tarr said. “This is an opportunity to really try and get in on the prevention side of the equation and try to break that cycle and intervene at a time when you can more successfully prevent it from happening again.”

Tarr says the Alaska Children’s Trust and the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault support for the bill, among others. House Bill 233 has been referred to the House Education Committee, where Wasilla Representative Lynn Gattis is Chair. She says she believes the bill would be a step toward grappling with a difficult problem that is hurting Alaska’s kids.

“What we’re saying is, first of all, raise your hand and say Alaska’s got a problem,” Gattis said. “Number two: how are we going to fix that problem? Is this going to be a part of how we fix that problem?”

Merryn says she hopes so.

“I was informed the high rates of sexual abuse in Alaska and I was shocked,” Merryn said. “Anyone that tells me that sexual abuse is not an issue where they live in their community, they’re living with blinders on.”

She says it’s time for communities to put kids first and take those blinders off, and she hopes Alaska will be the next state to commit to Erin’s Law. Merryn will be in Anchorage talking about her law on Tuesday and Wednesday and in Juneau at the end of the week where she hopes to meet with Governor Sean Parnell and legislators.

Tarr has bipartisan support from 10 other legislators for House Bill 233. A Hearing is scheduled for the bill Friday at 8am.

Categories: Alaska News

Murkowski: Clean Water Act Rule a Threat to Development

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-03-25 17:22

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a proposal today that critics say would expand the reach of the Clean Water Act to cover most creeks and wetlands across the country.

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The EPA says the rule would not broaden its jurisdiction. It says the rule just clarifies that most seasonal and rain-dependent streams are protected, as are wetlands near streams. The agency’s website says it does not cover ditches or groundwater. The EPA plans a 90-day public outreach tour to explain the rule.

The EPA’s emphasis is on protecting seasonal waterways, which is a big issue in arid Western states. But Sen. Lisa Murkowski says it would have a large impact on Alaska, too, because the state has abundant wetlands. She says the rule could effectively give the federal government control over most of the state, threatening access and development.

Categories: Alaska News

Though Earthquake Detection Has Improved, Gaps Remain

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-03-25 17:21

Just five years after statehood, Alaska endured the largest earthquake recorded in North America. The quake devastated communities around the Southcentral portion of the state, but in the years that followed it also made Alaska the epicenter of extreme seismic studies.

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When the quake struck on March 27, 1964, earthquake detection was in its infancy and scientists didn’t understand much about the correlation between seismic events and tsunamis.

But, according the U.S. Geological Survey’s Peter Haeussler, a geologist noticed a particular pattern in the disaster’s aftermath, which has been the key to understanding how this type of event happens.

“As a result of this particular idea, which was brand new at the time and really quite revolutionary, we now understand that these plates are converging and coming together along the southern Alaska margin,” Haeussler said. “And this type of earthquake that occurred in 1964, we now refer to as a ‘mega thrust earthquake.’ It’s the largest type of earthquake on the planet and these are particularly devastating.”

The energy created when the tectonic plates converged was also found to be the driving force behind certain types of tsunamis – forging a scientific link between earthquakes and tsunamis for the first time.

Haeussler says this discovery gave scientists the fingerprint of the worlds-largest earthquakes.

“It occurred at a pivotal time in earth science history. It helped lead to this acceptance of this brand new theory of plate tectonics. It showed the world largest earthquakes are caused at these convergent margins where plates are coming together. It provided a mechanism for launching trans-oceanic tsunamis,” Haeussler said. “And, in many ways, all of the giant mega-thrust earthquakes are now understood in the shadow of what was learned from 1964.”

Though massive earthquakes are a relatively rare occurrence in Alaska, the ’64 quake emphasized the dire need for understanding and tracking seismic events.

“In 1964, there were two seismic stations in Alaska,” Michael West, the director of the Alaska Earthquake Center, said. “The closest one to the earthquake was in Fairbanks, and there was one in Sitka.”

Today, West says the state has around 400 seismic monitoring stations.

“About half of those are clustered on volcanoes in the Aleutians and the other half are distributed generally around the state,” he said.

West says the Earthquake Center’s ability to detect and pinpoint earthquakes varies widely depending on where in the state it occurs.

“Southcentral in sort of a triangle with Fairbanks as the apex, that area has, I think, very robust, very good monitoring,” West said. “And what that allows us to do, it allows us to detect smaller-magnitude earthquakes and it allows us to locate them with great accuracy.”

But, that’s not the case in more remote sections of the state. West says there has been an interesting sequence of five, magnitude four or larger earthquakes recently in the same spot in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

“They’re quite puzzling to us and we are not able to get a good depth constraint,” West said. “So we don’t know if this is on some very shallow fault or some very deep fault; in fact we have little understanding of why they’re occurring because there’s an area up there the size of Oregon that has no instrumentation.”

Even though earthquake and tsunami science has improved by leaps and bounds in the years since the 1964 earthquake forever changed the Alaska landscape, there are still huge gaps to fill and a lot of ground to cover.

Categories: Alaska News

Valdez Earthquake Survivors Recall 1964 Experiences

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-03-25 17:20

The community of Valdez was devastated by the Good Friday earthquake. The giant tsunami that formed right after the shaking began killed 30 people gathered at the harbor and on the dock. The earthquake and tsunami destroyed the town. It took three years for locals to relocate from Old Town Valdez to where the new town site is today.

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Categories: Alaska News

Galena Residents Prep For Season Of Rebuilding

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-03-25 17:19

Galena residents are preparing for another season of rebuilding from devastation wrought by last year’s major break up flood. There was a major emergency response last summer, but much work remains to be done in the Yukon River community.

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Categories: Alaska News

Archivists Rally To Keep National Archives In Anchorage

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-03-25 17:18

Funding for the National Association of Records and Administration, or NARA, building in Anchorage has been chopped from the National Archives budget as a result of a $10 million budget cut. All federal records will be moved to a Seattle based facility beginning in September. Local archivists, historians, senators and residents though, are rallying behind efforts to keep the archives in Anchorage.

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Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: March 25, 2014

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-03-25 17:13

Individual news 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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House Passes Bill To End High School Exit Exam

The Associated Press

The Alaska House has passed legislation that would repeal the high school graduation exam.

The high school exit exam tests student aptitude in reading, English and mathematics.

House Bill 220, sponsored by Republican Pete Higgins of Fairbanks, terminates the exam as soon as the bill becomes law. It allows former students who earned enough high school credits to graduate to obtain their diploma even though they failed the exam.

Higgins says if the bill does become law, it will save the state $2.7 million in administrative costs.

The vote was 32-5. The measure now goes to the Senate.

Gasline Bill Could Include Rural Provisions

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

With less than 30 days remaining in the legislative session, the Alaska House is considering gasline legislation that would advance a line from the North Slope to an LNG export facility in Nikiski. For rural Alaska, the bill includes funding that could send gas to communities hundreds of miles from the pipeline.

Legislature Weighs ‘Erin’s Law’

Daysha Eaton, KYUK – Bethel

Erin Merryn is visiting Alaska this week to promote a law that provides age-appropriate sexual abuse education to children in public schools. Erin’s Law, named after the 29-year-old from Illinois, has passed in 11 states and is pending in 26 others, including Alaska. A warning to listeners: this story deals frankly with sexual abuse and rape.

Murkowski: Clean Water Act Rule a Threat to Development

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington DC

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a proposal today that critics say would expand the reach of the Clean Water Act to cover most creeks and wetlands across the country.

Though Earthquake Detection Has Improved, Gaps Remain

Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage

Just five years after statehood, Alaska endured the largest earthquake recorded in North America. The quake devastated communities around the Southcentral portion of the state, but in the years that followed it also made Alaska the epicenter of extreme seismic studies.

Valdez Earthquake Survivors Recall 1964 Experiences

Tony Gorman, KCHU – Valdez

The community of Valdez was devastated by the Good Friday earthquake. The giant tsunami that formed right after the shaking began killed 30 people gathered at the harbor and on the dock. The earthquake and tsunami destroyed the town.  It took three years for locals to relocate from Old Town Valdez to where the new town site is today.

Galena Residents Prep For Season Of Rebuilding

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

Galena residents are preparing for another season of rebuilding from devastation wrought by last year’s major break up flood.  There was a major emergency response last summer, but much work remains to be done in the Yukon River community.

Archivists Rally To Keep National Archives In Anchorage

Jolene Almendarez, APRN – Anchorage

Funding for the National Association of Records and Administration, or NARA, building in Anchorage has been chopped from the National Archives budget as a result of a $10 million budget cut. All federal records will be moved to a Seattle based facility beginning in September. Local archivists, historians, senators and residents though, are rallying behind efforts to keep the archives in Anchorage.

Categories: Alaska News

Fairbanks Lawmaker’s Birth Control Comments Spark Criticism

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-03-24 18:20

(Skip Gray/Gavel Alaska)

In the process of declaring “war on fetal alcohol syndrome,” a Fairbanks state senator was labeled as an enemy in the “war on women” by national media outlets for comments he made about birth control.

In an interview published by the Anchorage Daily News on Friday, Republican Pete Kelly said “Birth control is for people who don’t necessarily want to act responsibly” when asked if increasing access to contraceptives could help reduce the number of fetal alcohol cases in the state.

The Alaska Democratic Party seized on the remarks, and the story got picked up by outlets like MSNBC and the Huffington Post.

Kelly says his response was taken out of context — he believes binge drinking is irresponsible, and that it can lead to a fetal alcohol case if birth control fails.

“I don’t care if people use birth control, for goodness sakes!” says Kelly.

Kelly was also criticized for bringing up the involuntary commitment of pregnant women who consume alcohol. He stresses that “Empowering Hope,” the group of lawmakers and public health advocates behind the initiative, is not currently pursuing that policy.

“That’s not what we’re doing right now. This leadership group may, and probably will, discuss this. But that’s not part of our program right now.”

In a speech on the Senate floor on Monday, Kelly said the group behind the fetal alcohol initiative may eventually consider the role birth control can play in reducing instances of the disorder.

But right now, the initiative is built around a public relations campaign and an effort to establish community responders who can help pregnant women who struggle with drinking. One idea the group is considering is supplying bars with pregnancy tests. Kelly says it’s a form of micro-advertising.

“It’s a PR weapon,” says Kelly. “Clearly, if you have a bowl – you know a Plexiglas bowl – of pregnancy tests, that’s an advertising exposure in and of itself.”

Kelly also believes the tests could catch some pregnancies early and discourage women from using alcohol.

“What we assume in the pregnancy tests, is the best of people. That if they know they’re pregnant, they’ll stop drinking. And 90 percent of the people who know they’re pregnant quit instantly.”

Researchers from the University of San Diego will be tracking the efficacy of the pregnancy test campaign.

Jessica Cler, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest, is not convinced that effort will work. The organization sent an action alert on Kelly’s comments on Monday. While Planned Parenthood supports increasing awareness of fetal alcohol syndrome, Cler calls the idea of distributing pregnancy tests to bars “ridiculous.”

“Better public health starts with reducing unintended pregnancies,” says Cler. “To do that, we need better family planning in our state, not pregnancy tests in bar-room bathrooms.”

Last year, the Senate added an amendment establishing a woman’s health program to a bill restricting Medicaid payouts for abortions. The health program would largely be covered by federal funds, and its addition to the abortion bill was seen as an olive branch to social moderates in the Legislature. The House Finance Committee stripped that amendment in February, and Kelly told reporters shortly after that his preference was to leave the family planning program out of the bill.

Kelly says the response to his birth control comments from groups like the Alaska Democratic Party are distracting from the goal of the fetal alcohol initiative.

“They’re sitting on the sidelines writing press releases and talking points, and we’re actually trying to address something that is plaguing Alaskan families,” says Kelly.

Kelly adds that he does not see the criticism affecting the initiative itself. Last week, the Senate unanimously passed two resolutions by Kelly expressing support for the initiative. Out of 20 senators, 19 are sponsoring one of the resolutions – urging the governor to expand substance abuse treatment programs for pregnant women and to increase screening of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

The resolutions set the Legislature up to fund some aspects of the Empowering Hope initiative.

This is the second time in one month that a Republican state senator has attracted national attention for statements made about birth control. On March 6, Fred Dyson of Eagle River spoke against a proposal to institute a government women’s health program. He argued that access to birth control is not a problem in the state because Alaska Airlines can rush-deliver it to remote areas, and he said cost should not be an obstacle to getting birth control because “four or five lattes” could cover the monthly expense.

Categories: Alaska News

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