Alaska News

Heliskiing Guide Caught In Haines Avalanche Dies

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-03-18 17:23

A heliski guide caught in an avalanche over the weekend near Haines died late Monday according to a statement posted online by his family.

Aaron Karitis was guiding a group of skiers with Haines heliskiing company Southeast Alaska Backcountry Adventures, or SEABA, on Saturday. According to the statement, which was corroborated by SEABA, he had dug a snow pit to test snow conditions and cut the top of slope to sample stability and determined conditions were safe. Karitis skied down a slope to set a track, while his clients waited on the top. An avalanche was triggered, carrying him about approximately 700 feet and burying him in several feet of snow.

Fellow guides found Karitis within 15 minutes thanks to a locator beacon he was wearing. He was unresponsive and CPR was started. He was transported to the Haines clinic then flown to Providence Medical Center in Anchorage.

The statement from his family and medical team says Karitis’ core body temperature was critically low when he arrived at Providence. He had inhaled snow, compromising oxygen flow to his brain.

Karitis is originally from Bend, Oregon and has been active in heliskiing for more than a decade. His experience includes extensive avalanche education, according to SEABA and his family.

Categories: Alaska News

DNR’s Parks Move Wood Tikchik Under Chugach Supervision

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-03-18 17:22

The state’s division of parks and recreation has reorganized the management structure of two of its largest parks. As part of the re-shuffling, one of Wood Tikchik’s two park rangers will be reassigned to Chugach later this year.

Download Audio

Categories: Alaska News

Oosik Classic Ski Race Draws Hundreds To Talkeetna

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-03-18 17:21

Last weekend, hundreds of skiers descended on Talkeetna for the Oosik Classic Ski Race and Tour. Some come to compete, and others wear costumes. Everyone comes to have a good time.

Download Audio

The Oosik is one of the largest classic ski races in the country. This year, just under 700 skiers came from all over Alaska to Talkeetna to participate. Just two weeks ago, however, there were serious concerns on the part of the race organizers. Temperatures were high, and the snow on the ski trails was quickly taking on the consistency of concrete. With time ticking away before the event, Denali Nordic Ski Club member Chris Mannix had some friends over to make a sacrifice to the patron god of skiers.

Men’s 50k winner Jonas Loeffler.

“We’ve done it once before, and it worked then, so we did it again. We burned skis and it snowed. Ullr smiled on us.”

With fresh snow, the Oosik was looking to proceed smoothly, that is until temperatures reached the high forties once again just a day before the race. Willi Prittie is part of the trail grooming crew, and says it took extra work in the pre-dawn hours before the race to make sure everything was ready for the noon start.

“We got up around 3:00 am this morning and gathered at about 4:00 am, and we set track between 4:30 and 9:30.”
The somewhat backcountry nature of the trail is part of its draw. U.S. Olympic skier Holly Brooks came to ski in the Oosik, and explains why the race is a favorite around the state.

“…Right now, everyone’s smiling, there’s music, there’s Christmas lights, there’s good food, people are friendly. It’s always a good time to come to Talkeetna. The course is a blast. I’m hoping there’s some narrow tree skiing, which is always fun. People dress up. It’s a good party after. I’ve had a good time swing dancing late into the night here at the [Don Sheldon] hangar, before.”

Holly Brooks is fresh off tour of skiing that included the Olympics in Sochi last month. Before the race, she said she wasn’t sure whether she would take a more relaxed pace or let her competitive spirit take over.

Women’s 50k winner Holly Brooks.

“I’m going to just go out there and see what I feel like. I’ve been home for a day and a half. I’ve been gone on the road for four-and-a-half months. [I'm] pretty tired from all the racing and jet-setting I’ve been doing.”

Holly Brooks must have still had some fuel in the tank, however, as she went on to win the women’s 50 kilometer race.

In addition to the super-competitive skiers, many participants in the Oosik don’t bother with the race itself, but rather treat it as an opportunity to have fun on skis. For many, like Kelly Donnelly, that means donning a homemade costume and hitting the trail.
“I am the universe, today. You’ll notice my space pants and my sun cape–hand made. I thought I’d go with the blue theme and be the entire universe.”

Local skiers get involved as well. Galen Johnston, who grew up skiing the trails around Talkeetna, now coaches skiing at Dimond High School. He says this year’s trail offered some variety.

“…Much more technical from a skiing perspective. [It's] still mostly double pole. That’s kind of the status quo for this race. [There] was a lot more hills than the last couple years. It was fun to mix things up. There’s more gliding. It’s not just constant double pole.”

Organizers say this year’s race was a big success. Chris Mannix says the real measure of how well the race goes can be seen on the faces of skiers as they reach the finish line.

“It went fantastically. The weather–what do you say? Last night at 8 o’clock it was raining, and then it turned around. We had a beautiful day and the course held up. It was awesome. We had a couple of glitches out there, but I saw people skiing across the finish line with big smiles on there faces, saying it was fun.”

After the race, the party hosted by the Denali Nordic Ski Club lasted well into the night. On Sunday, hundreds of cars filtered up the Talkeetna Spur, but many will be back for next year’s Oosik Classic.

Complete race results are posted on the Denali Nordic Ski Club website.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: March 18, 2014

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-03-18 17:00

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.

Download Audio

Legislature Debates Gasline Project

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

A debate on a gasline megaproject is currently underway.

KABATA Bill Up For Consideration

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

A bill authorizing the state to build a billion-dollar bridge across Knik Arm is back for consideration.

With Deadline Approaching, More Alaskans Signing Up For Health Insurance

Annie Feidt, APRN – Juneau

Alaskans working to sign people up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act say they’re seeing a big increase in enrollments this month. Groups like the United Way and Enroll Alaska made the announcement at a press conference today in Anchorage. The boost comes as the March 31st open enrollment deadline approaches. Anyone who doesn’t have health insurance by that date will pay a penalty unless they qualify for an exemption.

Lawmakers Urge Gov. Parnell To Keep Flint Hills Refinery In Operation

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

A resolution in the legislature urges quick action by Governor Sean Parnell to ensure Alaska doesn’t lose in state refining capacity. HCR 22 by Representative Tammie Wilson of North Pole, is aimed at keeping Flint Hills North Pole Refinery in operation under a new owner. Flint Hills plans to cease refining this summer in favor of selling cheaper imported fuels.

Lawmakers Mulling Anchorage Office Purchase

The Associated Press

Lawmakers are considering the possible purchase of a legislative office building in downtown Anchorage as an alternative to the current leasing arrangement that critics have questioned as extravagant.

The Senate president and House speaker requested seven working days to discuss the idea raised during Monday evening’s Legislative Council meeting with their members.

The proposal calls for authorizing the Alaska Housing Finance Corp. to purchase the office building for about $28.3 million.

The council’s chair, Representative Mike Hawker, a Republican from Anchorage, said the arrangement could save about $2.4 million a year.

Red King Crab Harvest Abysmal In Bering Straits

Zachariah Hughes, KNOM – Nome

Earlier in March, 1.2 million pounds of Tanner crab were caught in the Southeast’s commercial fishery, the biggest haul in over a decade. But in the Bering Straits region the winter season for Red King Crabs has been abysmal.

University, State Timber Offerings Planned Near Petersburg

Joe Viechnicki, KFSK – Petersburg

Plans are starting to gear up for timber sales on state and university owned lands in the area of the Tongass National Forest.

Heliskiing Guide Caught In Haines Avalanche Dies

Margaret Friedenauer, KHNS – Haines

A heliski guide caught in an avalanche over the weekend near Haines died late Monday according to a statement posted online by his family.

DNR’s Parks Move Wood Tikchik Under Chugach Supervision

Dave Bendinger, KDLG – Dillingham

The state’s division of parks and recreation has reorganized the management structure of two of its largest parks. As part of the re-shuffling, one of Wood Tikchik’s two park rangers will be reassigned to Chugach later this year.

Oosik Classic Ski Race Draws Hundreds To Talkeetna

Phillip Manning, KTNA – Talkeetna

Last weekend, hundreds of skiers descended on Talkeetna for the Oosik Classic Ski Race and Tour.  Some come to compete, and others wear costumes.  Everyone comes to have a good time.

Categories: Alaska News

Mayor Sullivan Vetoes East Anchorage Park, Assembly Could Override

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-03-18 16:26

Mayor Dan Sullivan has vetoed an ordinance the Assembly passed last week that designated municipal land in East Anchorage for a park.

Download Audio

Photo © Jerrianne Lowther: Realigned creek near Grass Creek Village & Begich Middle School west of Muldoon.

The municipality purchased the parcel near the intersection of Muldoon and Debarr streets in 2006 for $5 million from the federal government, which had seized it in a drug case.

Chester Creek runs through the property, and East Anchorage residents have been pushing for a park there for several years. The back part of the 30-acre property has been OK’d by the municipality for use as a park, but Mayor Dan Sullivan has fought to keep some of the land for residential and commercial use. He says he vetoed the Assembly’s decision because it did not follow the correct process.

“There’s already a tremendous amount of park land in East Anchorage, so it’s not like there’s a shortage of parks. What we are short of however is residential land,” Sullivan said. “And to just automatically, without going through a process to just say that all this land that could be developed for both small business and residential should be one hundred percent park, I think is really jumping the gun on the process.”

Sullivan says the Assembly should have waited on a decision until the East Anchorage District Plan is finished. East Anchorage Assembly member Adam Trombley, who wrote the ordinance designating the park, says the Muldoon strip is one of the most densely populated sections of town. And he says splitting the land and selling the front portions off is a bad idea.

Photos © Jerrianne Lowther: Chester Creek in natural creekbed east of Muldoon Road.

“Let’s talk about the developability of the land. The middle section is not developable, not a market prices, because of the soil,” Trombley said. “The front commercial property – nobody’s been pounding on the municipalities door, ‘sell me that property, sell me that property – I want to develop it, I want to develop it.’ So I’m not entirely sure about his justification of why he wants to do that.”

Part of the land is reportedly contaminated with pesticides from when a greenhouse operated there. Trombly argues development of a park would raise the value of existing residential property in the area and provide a common gathering place for one of the city’s most diverse neighborhoods.

Trombley is currently fighting to keep his Assembly seat in a high profile race against former legislator Pete Peterson and former NFL player and manager of the Northway Mall, Mao Tosi.

The assembly can override Sullivan’s veto with 8 votes. The next meeting of the Anchorage Assembly is Tuesday, March 25.

Categories: Alaska News

Unalaska Coast Guard Petty Officer Passes Away

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-03-18 12:17

A member of the Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment in Unalaska has passed away in Anchorage.

Petty Officer Michal Marciniak died at Alaska Regional Hospital on Tuesday morning while receiving treatment for a serious illness. Marciniak had fallen ill Monday morning and was medevaced to Cold Bay on a Coast Guard helicopter. A commercial medevac brought him to Alaska Regional’s emergency room in critical condition.

Petty officer Shawn Eggert says the Coast Guard is investigating what happened, but at this point, he says it’s clear Marciniak’s illness wasn’t
linked to his job.

Marciniak was a Marine Science Technician – one of five at the Unalaska MSD. He was 30-years-old.

Categories: Alaska News

State Reps Reject Measure To Extend Military Perk To Same-Sex Partners

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-03-17 17:20

Rep. Max Gruenberg addresses the Alaska House of Representatives, March 17, 2014. (Skip Gray/Gavel Alaska)

Three years ago, the United States Congress repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and allowed gay men and lesbians to openly serve in the military. Their husbands and wives are also entitled to the same federal benefits they would get if they were straight. But in Alaska, these spouses are not recognized because of a ban on gay marriage that was added to the State Constitution.

Download Audio

On Monday, the Alaska House wrestled with that tension when it took up legislation extending a small perk to military families. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez reports that a measure adding same-sex partners to the bill was rejected.

One of the facts of life in the armed services is you may be asked to move a lot. According to the Department of Defense, military families move 10 times more often than civilian families.

The “Military Spouse Residency Relief Act” was introduced to make those moves easier, and to show that Alaska wants to cater to the troops who are stationed here. All the bill does is let military spouses keep their driver’s licenses, saving them the trouble of going to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Even the lawmakers who want the bill changed like the overall idea. Anchorage Democrat Max Gruenberg made that clear on the House floor on Monday.

“The bill itself is non-controversial, and I strongly support the bill and will be voting for the bill,” he said.

Gruenberg saw just one problem with it.

“The only troubling aspect is the use of the single term ‘spouse.’”

Because Alaska has a ban on same-sex marriage, the term “spouse” does not allow the partners of gay servicemen to take advantage of the benefit, even if they married in another state.

Gruenberg offered an amendment to the bill making it explicit that gay military couples should get the driver’s license exemption, too. The State of Alaska already includes same-sex partners in its employee benefits because of a 2005 court decision, and Gruenberg’s measure copied that language and applied it to the military. Same-sex partners would have to meet a list of conditions to qualify, like having lived together for at least a year and co-managing their finances.

He argued his amendment is tailored to avoid getting into a debate over gay marriage in Alaska, and that it follows legal precedent and the military’s own rules.

“We’re looking at, once again, following the lead of the military – all branches of the service in this country – and I think the trend of most Americans who would like to see people treated equally,” said Gruenberg.

Other members of the Democratic minority agreed, and stood up in support of the bill. Rep. Les Gara of Anchorage framed it as a civil rights issue.

“It’s a matter of respect for people who serve for our armed forces, regardless of who they choose to love.”

But many members of the Republican-led majority were unfriendly to the amendment, including bill sponsor Doug Isaacson. He said the courts are still weighing the issue of same-sex rights, and that until they decide differently, the relationship between husband and wife should be elevated.

“Our State Constitution, as we’ve heard, makes a distinction,” said Isaacson. “We prioritize according to what the voters have told us. And the voters have told us the definition of marriage is between one man and one woman.”

Isaacson represents North Pole, and the Eielson Airforce Base is part of his district. He said there is widespread support for the bill as written.

“Even with the gay spouses, none have asked me to extend this benefit to others,” said Isaacson. “They recognize that in order to help the majority of the spouses who are affected, this is a necessary bill.”

The amendment ultimately failed on a 14-22 vote. While no Republicans spoke in favor of the measure, three – Cathy Munoz of Juneau, Mike Hawker of Anchorage, and Lindsey Holmes also of Anchorage — broke with their caucus to support it. Bob Herron, a Bethel Democrat who caucuses with the majority, was the only member of his party to vote against it.

The bill itself passed unanimously, and will now be sent to the Senate.

Categories: Alaska News

Austerman: Talks Under Way On Pension Issue

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-03-17 17:19

A co-chair of the House Finance Committee says he and fellow majority members are discussing possible options for addressing the state’s pension obligation.

Download Audio

Representative Alan Austerman, a Republican from Kodiak, says “everything” is on the table, including possible contribution increases by municipalities, a proposal from Governor Sean Parnell and extending the time horizon for payments.

Austerman could not say when a firm proposal might be put forth. The session is scheduled to end April 20.

Parnell proposed taking $3 billion from savings and putting it toward addressing the state’s nearly $12 billion pension shortfall. Response to the idea has been mixed. Some lawmakers support a big cash infusion to help lower annual payments while others are wary of taking so much from savings.

Austerman says the Senate is having its own conversations.

Categories: Alaska News

State Representatives Condemn EPA Chief’s Statements

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-03-17 17:18

The Alaska State House unanimously condemned language used by the chief of the Environmental Protections Agency to describe gifts she received in the state.

Download Audio

In the process of describing the strictness of ethics guidelines, Gina McCarthy said she received a jar of moose meat in Alaska that could – quote – “gag a maggot.” She also acknowledged throwing away a pin she was given in North Pole, and used an expletive to describe the action. The comments were reported in a profile by the Wall Street Journal.

In the official rebuke state representatives passed on Monday, they expressed concern that those comments indicate an anti-Alaska bias. The measure was introduced by North Pole Republican Doug Isaacson.

McCarthy apologized to Alaska’s congressional delegation last week.

Categories: Alaska News

IRS Gives a Little on Air Taxi Tax

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-03-17 17:17

The IRS has given a sliver of ground in how it has applied tax rules to air taxi flights. Sen. Mark Begich is calling it a win for small air carriers, but Joy Journeay, executive director of the Alaska Air Carriers Association, says the concession is less than it appears.

Download Audio

“It is not clear at this time that it is going to help anyone,” she said.

The association has said the rules were unclear on when a small plane operator has to collect federal excise taxes from passengers. Several air taxi businesses say they didn’t know they were supposed to collect the money until they were audited and hit with tax bills that, in some cases, exceeded a million dollars.  The IRS last week wrote a letter to Begich saying it will refund any excise tax air services paid for day tours. The IRS letter doesn’t say whether it will also refund the penalties and interest audited businesses had to pay, and an IRS spokesman said the agency didn’t want to talk about its decision. But the letter says the agency is only lifting the tax retroactively. Next month it will apparently revert to its previous interpretation of the rules, which Journeay called baffling.

“The letter issued to Sen. Begich from the IRS doesn’t clear up any of the ambiguous language in the regulations or address any of the items that the Alaska Air Carriers have asked them to address for multiple years,” she said.

The IRS has previously said whether the tax applies to a day trip depends in part on the purpose of the trip. If the passengers deplane to see a glacier or watch bears, the air service doesn’t have to collect the tax, but if they land to fish, that might be taxable, if the pilots fly to the same places with some degree of regularity. The way the agency has defined regularity has also exasperated air carriers.

Journeay says as she reads the letter, the refund only applies to carriers that already paid the tax. For years, even attorneys and tax accountants advised air carriers the excise tax didn’t apply to their small planes, Journeay says. She notes small carriers would still pay a tax to the federal government in the fuel they buy.

Categories: Alaska News

Guide Critically Injured In Avalanche Near Haines

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-03-17 17:16

A heliskiing guide was critically injured in an avalanche near Haines over the weekend, the third avalanche in as many years to injure or kill extreme mountain skiers in the area.

Download Audio

Alaska State Troopers say 31-year-old Aaron Karitis was evaluating snow conditions on a popular ski run west of Haines when the avalanche occurred about 11 a.m. Saturday. Karitis was carried about 800 feet and buried at least seven feet deep, according to trooper spokesperson Beth Ipsen

Karitis was acting as a guide on a heliski tour with Haines company Southeast Alaska Backcountry Adventures, known as SEABA. Four clients were waiting on the top of slope and not caught in the avalanche. Other SEABA staff immediately began searching for Karitis and called in another helicopter and more guides to assist. Ipsen says Karitis was located within 20 minutes.

“If you’re going to survive an avalanche, it’s because the people you are with are going to find you in time,” Ipsen said.

Karitis was wearing a locator beacon that helped rescuers locate him quickly, Ipsen said.

“What you have is you have locator beacons on you and you have to turn it on,” she said. “You have to turn it on so it receives a signal and that’s why it kind of like a metal detector where you’re trying to receive that signal the other beacon is sending out.”

Ipsen said Karitis was unresponsive when located and CPR was started. He was flown by a SEABA helicopter to the Haines Airport and transported by ambulance to the local clinic where CPR continued. He was stabilized and medevaced to Providence Medical Center in Anchorage where he was listed in critical condition on Sunday. There was no other information about his injuries.

SEABA owners did not want to speak about the incident but issued a statement Sunday saying normal response procedures were followed. The statement also says while avalanches are inherent risks of heliskiing, the company has offered its assistance and encouragement to the guide’s family.

Ipsen said a trooper visited the scene of the avalanche Saturday and interview SEABA staff and responders about the incident. Troopers also revised a previous press release that said Karitis had determined the area unsafe to ski. Ipsen said Sunday the guide wasn’t planning on moving his clients from the area. Instead, based on the conditions, he was showing them how to ski that slope. The clients hadn’t yet descended the slope when the avalanche broke loose and took Karitis down the mountain known to skiers as Tele 2.5 near the Kicking Horse Valley west of Haines.

Ipsen said the trooper investigation is complete because they found no sign of criminal intent or negligence.

According to the SEABA website, Karitis grew up in Bend, Oregon. He graduated from the University of Utah and has been working in the heliski industry for about a decade.  He joined SEABA in 2013. Karitis has international guide and avalanche certifications, according to the website, and an excellent safety record.

Just over a year ago, another SEABA guide was killed in a cornice collapsed on a mountain near Haines. That incident also injured two skiers. And in 2012 a guide and client with another heliski company were killed in an avalanche, also outside Haines.

Categories: Alaska News

UAA Students Illuminating Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault Issues

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-03-17 17:15

Students at University of Alaska Anchorage are organizing a panel discussion this week to highlight the problem of domestic violence and sexual assault in Alaska. The conversation is part of the national “No More” campaign that uses a blue circle with a white dot in the middle as a symbol to increase awareness of the issue.

Download Audio

Student Coordinator Simona Gerdts told APRN’s Lori Townsend that leading up to the Wednesday discussion she issued her fellow students a challenge.

Categories: Alaska News

2014 Iditarod Trail Awards Banquet Takes Place In Nome

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-03-17 17:14

The 2014 Iditarod Trail Awards Banquet was held last night at the Nome Recreation Center. Hobo Jim entertained the crowd as they ate prime rib and cake. And emcee of the evening – John Handeland – presented the awards earned by those who raced, and survived Iditarod 42.

Download Audio

Categories: Alaska News

Nome Health Groups Hold Vaccination Drive Amid Iditarod Festivities

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-03-17 17:13

Health groups took advantage of Iditarod visitors last week by holding a vaccination drive at the Nome Recreation Center.

Download Audio

Categories: Alaska News

‘Let The Games Begin!’ Gala Opening Ceremony Celebrates Diverse Cultures

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-03-17 17:12

Members of Team Greenland spill out onto the Carlson Center floor during Sunday’s Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony.Photo by Tim Ellis, KUAC – Fairbanks.

The 2014 Arctic Winter Games officially got underway Sunday, with a gala opening ceremony before a standing-room-only crowd at the Carlson Center. A full slate of competition – and a weeklong array of cultural events – begins today.

Download Audio

The ceremony took on the feel of a rock concert, complete with laser show, as athletes from the nine regions competing in the games stepped onto the stage after being introduced by Alaska Native brothers Philip and Steve Blanchette, while a throbbing electronic beat blasted out at high volume.

“Team Greenland!”

As the athletes made their way onto the floor, many of them, like young people everywhere, began dancing to the beat…

“Team Alberta North!

It seemed the crowd was cheering more loudly with every team that was introduced…

“Team Northwest Territories!”

Some contingents were big, like the Northwest Territory’s, with 347 participants. Some were smaller, like …

“Team Nunavik-Quebec!”

Each contingent was escorted by athletes carrying its flag, followed by the rest waving smaller banners…

“Team Nunavut!”

Some of the flags depicted symbols of the indigenous peoples of the region. Others were national flags, like the Russian tricolor carried by …

“Team Yamal!”

One of the contingents comes from a region that encompasses the northern reaches of several Scandanavian nations …

“Team Sapmi!”

The packed house at the Carlson gave it up for the athletes from our next-door neighbor …

“Team Yukon!”

But of course they saved the best for last, and the crowd was ready when it was time to introduce the home team …

“Team Alaska!”

The music was mainly techno and urban, but some featured indigenous drums and instrumentals, in keeping with the games theme that blends Native and Western cultures. Like this one…

(one drum beats)

It’s entitled “Bubblegum,” by Pamyua, a Yupik group from Unalakleet…

(another drum beat)

Listen closely, and you’ll hear the seal-call…

Respect and regard for all the nationalities and cultures was a common theme for ceremony, like the games themselves.

The North Pole High School choir sang the national anthem or equivalent of each of the contingents participating in the game.

The unifying theme also was reflected in many of the remarks given during the ceremony. Like those by the Rev. Anna Frank, an Athabascan from Minto and now-retired Episcopalian clergywoman in her invocation.

“Creator, you made us in your image. Look with compassion on the whole human race. You gave us this land for our heritage. Bless this land.”

And this, from Sen. Lisa Murkowski:

“You are stepping forward. You’re representing your country, in your event. And these are the moments you look back at with great pride. And know that we share that pride with you!”

Gov. Sean Parnell also echoed the theme of unity.

“As you compete, remember a couple of things. One, when you eat, this first day or two, you’re going to be eating like teams. By the end of the week, you’re going to be eating together.”

The final unifying words were left to Wendell Schiffler, the Fairbanksan who’s vice president of the games’ International Committee and major force in bringing them back to the golden heart city. Said what all the athletes and everyone else in attendance were waiting for …

“Now – let the games begin!”

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: March 17, 2014

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-03-17 17:03

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.

Download Audio

Legislature Rejects Measure Extending Benefits To Military Same-Sex Partners

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

Three years ago, the United States Congress repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and allowed gay men and lesbians to openly serve in the military. Their husbands and wives are also entitled to the same federal benefits they would get if they were straight. But in Alaska, these spouses are not recognized because of a ban on gay marriage that was added to the State Constitution. Today, the Alaska House wrestled with that tension when it took up legislation extending a small perk to military families. A measure adding same-sex partners into the bill was rejected.

Austerman: Talks Under Way On Pension Issue

The Associated Press

A co-chair of the House Finance Committee says he and fellow majority members are discussing possible options for addressing the state’s pension obligation.

Representative Alan Austerman, a Republican from Kodiak, says “everything” is on the table, including possible contribution increases by municipalities, a proposal from Governor Sean Parnell and extending the time horizon for payments.

Austerman could not say when a firm proposal might be put forth. The session is scheduled to end April 20.

Parnell proposed taking $3 billion from savings and putting it toward addressing the state’s nearly $12 billion pension shortfall. Response to the idea has been mixed. Some lawmakers support a big cash infusion to help lower annual payments while others are wary of taking so much from savings.

Austerman says the Senate is having its own conversations.

State House Condemns Statement By EPA Chief

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

The Alaska State House unanimously condemned language used by the chief of the Environmental Protections Agency to describe gifts she received in the state.

In the process of describing the strictness of ethics guidelines, Gina McCarthy said she received a jar of moose meat in Alaska that could “gag a maggot.” She also acknowledged throwing away a pin she was given in North Pole, and used an expletive to describe the action.

In the “Sense of the House” they passed on Monday state representatives express concern that those comments indicate an anti-Alaska bias.

McCarthy apologized to Alaska’s congressional delegation last week. Members said they were disappointed by the comments but accept the apology.

IRS Gives a Little on Air Taxi Tax

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington DC

The IRS has given a sliver of ground in how it has applied tax rules to air taxi flights. Senator Mark Begich is calling it a win for small air carriers, but Joy Journeay of the Alaska Air Carriers Association says the concession is less than it appears.

State Files Suit Against Feds Over ANWR

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington DC

The state of Alaska filed a lawsuit last week against the federal government for rejecting Gov. Sean Parnell’s application to explore the geology of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The U.S. Interior Department says the window for such oil and gas exploration in the refuge closed in 1987. The 1980 law that created the refuge left it to a future Congress to decide whether to allow petroleum development on the coastal plain, and Congress has repeatedly rejected the idea. Parnell argues the law still allows exploratory activity. The case was filed in U.S. District Court in Anchorage.

Guide Critically Injured In Avalanche Near Haines

Margaret Friedenauer, KHNS – Haines

A heliskiing guide remains in critical condition as of Monday afternoon after being buried in an avalanche near Haines over the weekend. It’s the third heliskiing accident in as many years to injure or kill extreme mountain skiers in the area.

UAA Students Illuminating Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault Issues

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

Students at University of Alaska Anchorage are organizing a panel discussion this week to highlight the problem of domestic violence and sexual assault in Alaska. The conversation is part of the national “No More” campaign that uses a blue circle with a white dot in the middle as a symbol to increase awareness of the issue.

2014 Iditarod Trail Awards Banquet Takes Place In Nome

Laureli Kinneen, KNOM – Nome

The 2014 Iditarod Trail Awards Banquet was held last night at the Nome Recreation Center. Hobo Jim entertained the crowd as they ate prime rib and cake. And emcee of the evening – John Handeland – presented the awards earned by those who raced, and survived Iditarod 42.

Nome Health Groups Hold Vaccination Drive Amid Iditarod Festivities

Zachariah Hughes, KNOM – Nome

Health groups took advantage of Iditarod visitors last week by holding a vaccination drive at the Nome Recreation Center.

‘Let The Games Begin!’ Gala Opening Ceremony Celebrates Diverse Cultures

Tim Ellis, KUAC – Fairbanks

The 2014 Arctic Winter Games officially got underway Sunday, with a gala opening ceremony before a standing-room-only crowd at  the Carlson Center.  A full slate of competition – and a weeklong array of cultural events – begins today.

Categories: Alaska News

GCI Nears 3G Data Service In Bethel

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-03-17 09:26

Bethel was expected to have 3G service in December of the last year. The date was then moved to February, and now scheduled for mid to late April.

GCI tells KYUK that all of the permits are complete to build the 80-foot tower near Ptarmigan road. The company completed some additional environmental and historical federal paperwork and will start construction soon.

David Morris is a spokesperson for GCI. He says other towers are ready to go. But you need a complete system to allow phones to work all around town.

“If you don’t have it designed right you will go off air and have to reboot your phone and everything else like that,” Morris said. “So what we’re trying to get is so you can travel from one area of Bethel to another and it will be a seamless communication experience.”

Once the tower is up, there will be a little more testing before launching the data service.

“There’s probably going to be a bit more grooming to take place, but the essential thing is to get the tower in place,” said Morris.

Ten nearby villages are set to receive upgrades to 3G this summer.

Categories: Alaska News

Calista Heritage Foundations Awards $177,000 In Scholarships

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-03-17 09:24

Two hundred and three students from the region will receive $177,000 in scholarships from the Calista Heritage Foundation. All recipients are Calista shareholders or descendants.

Forty-one of the 56 villages in the Calista region are represented in the 2014 spring scholarships. The top majors are business, nursing, biology/health, education and engineering. Six percent of the students study at the graduate level.

To date, $3.5 million have been distributed through the scholarships.

Categories: Alaska News

State Sues Feds Over Arctic Refuge Exploration

APRN Alaska News - Sun, 2014-03-16 15:44

The state of Alaska filed a lawsuit last week against the federal government for rejecting Gov. Sean Parnell’s application to explore the geology of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The U.S. Interior Department says the window for such oil and gas exploration in the refuge closed in 1987. The1980 law that created the refuge left it to a future Congress to decide whether to allow petroleum development on the coastal plain, and Congress has repeatedly rejected the idea. Parnell argues the law still allows exploratory activity. The case was filed in U.S. District Court in Anchorage.

Categories: Alaska News

Long-Awaited Snow A Welcome Sight To Oosik Classic Organizers

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-03-14 18:45

Photo from the Oosik Classic Ski Race Facebook page.

Organizers of the Oosik Classic Ski Race bill it as a “fun and funky” race and tour, followed by a night on the town of Talkeetna. Until recent snows, however, it wasn’t clear just how fun the race was going to be.

This weekend, hundreds of cross-country skiers will flock to Talkeetna for the annual Oosik Classic Ski Race and Tour. The race will happen late in what has been an unusual winter. Record winter highs have been recorded throughout Alaska, and the Upper Susitna Valley saw two prolonged melting periods before mid-March. The lack of snow had event organizers, including Trail Meister Bill Barstow, concerned.

“The race probably would have been severely constrained,” Barstow said. “It wouldn’t have been very Oosik-y.”

Bill Barstow says the race was probably not in danger of being canceled outright, as happened with a cross-country event in Homer, but there were concerns that the skiing would not be ideal.

That all changed recently with well over a foot of snow falling in the last week. Some of that has since melted as well, but race organizers believe that it will still leave a good trail.

“We’re really lucky, because we haven’t gotten that much snow, but I still think we’re going to be able to make it happen,” Barstow said. “We put in a lot of work on some nice, interesting trails that we were thinking we weren’t going to be able to use, but [more snow] brought it all back into the picture. Now…we make it pretty and hope things are going to keep cooperating.”

When registration closed on Tuesday, 678 skiers were signed up.  That’s more than three-quarters of the year-round population of Talkeetna. Arthur Mannix of the Denali Nordic Ski Club says that the Oosik is a different type of skiing experience, which contributes to its popularity.

“Part of the appeal of it for a lot of skiers is that it’s based out of a funky little town, and the trail itself is…cross-country, through the woods, over hill and dale,” Mannix said. “It really makes you ski. It makes you ski with the country.”

In addition to the somewhat rustic trail, the Oosik has developed a feel and a culture all its own, as might be expected from an event named after part of a male walrus’s anatomy.

Advertisements for the event state, “Some race. Some wear costumes.  Everyone has fun.”

Costumes aren’t the only unique factor, however. In addition to the official aid stations where skiers can recharge with a quick snack, area residents have begun a tradition of setting up “unofficial” aid stations, which often serve beer, bacon, and other consumables that might not normally be considered serious skiing cuisine. Arthur Mannix says that Talkeetna’s unique culture probably has something to do with it.

“I guess it’s part of what makes our little town unique,” Mannix said. “People come up with these spontaneous ideas, and they’re creative and outside of the box. I guess what’s really cool is that this event has provided a venue for people to express themselves in a lot of different ways.”

Talkeetna will begin to fill up as the weekend approaches, and the nearly 700 skiers will take off this Saturday afternoon.

Categories: Alaska News

KBBI is Powered by Active Listeners like You

As we celebrate 35 years of broadcasting, we look ahead to technology improvements and the changing landscape of public radio.

Support the voices, music, information, and ideas that add so much to your life. Renew here or visit KBBI by April 21 to enter to win one round-trip airfare with Era between Homer and Anchorage. Thank you for supporting your local public radio station.

ON THE AIR

FOLLOW US

Drupal theme by pixeljets.com ver.1.4