Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School principal Molly Yerkes has been honored with the national Milken Family Foundation Educator Award. Yerkes received the award before 430 students during a school assembly.
Since 1987, the foundation has honored outstanding educators throughout the nation. This year up to 40 educators will be presented with awards; Yerkes is the only one in Alaska.
Thursday morning’s event was billed as a typical assembly, but it wasn’t.
Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School principal Molly Yerkes convened the assembly that was scheduled to feature state education commissioner Mike Hanley.
Hanley talked about respecting others. He told the students not to laugh when someone was being teased or bullied, and how that would discourage unacceptable behavior.
A few special guests sat in the audience – Juneau representatives Beth Kerttula and Cathy Munoz, district superintendent Glen Gelbrich, and a few school board members.
The assembly took a turn when Dr. Jane Foley announced, “The Milken Educator Award goes toMolly Yerkes.” Foley is a senior vice president of the Milken Family Foundation
The award caught Yerkes off guard.
“I was incredibly surprised and so appreciative. I just – I still am in shock,” Yerkes says laughing.
Yerkes has spent thirteen years in education including five years as a teacher at Floyd Dryden Middle School and six years as assistant and interim principal at Dzantik’i Heeni.
As a principal, Yerkes practices shared leadership
“I really value the staff at Dzantik’i Heeni,” she says. “They work with our students one-on-one, so the more that I can include the voices of our staff in decision making, I really find that our decisions are much stronger.”
The rapport with staff is part of the reason why Yerkes was given the award.
“She’s had educators that say if she moved to another school, they would follow her and they delayed their retirement to stay here because she was their leader now,” Foley says.
Dzantik’i Heeni middle school students have similar sentiments. Eighth grader Selma Houck says Yerkes is often in the classrooms, “One time last year I was struggling a lot in math and I actually raised my hand and asked a question and the teacher answered me but I was still a little confused.”
At that point, Yerkes went over to Houck and helped her figure out the math problem. Houck says those are the kinds of things that the students really notice.
“I felt really happy and kind of proud that she would come over and help me with that and thankful that we have such a great principal to come and do things like this,” Houck says. “I’ve moved a lot and have gone to a bunch of different schools and not all principals are this nice.”
Eighth grader Josef Monsef says he’s really excited that his principal got the Educator Award, “She’s just a role model to everyone here. You’d just be joking around with your friends laughing, having a good time, and then you see her come and it’s like – ‘Oh, Ms. Yerkes’s coming. Straighten up,’ something like that. But, yeah, we really just want to make her proud.”
The Milken Educator Award includes a financial element revealed at the assembly just before the big announcement. Standing next to Foley, five students held up placards displaying a dollar sign and the number 2,500.
Foley asked, “Commissioner Hanley, could you find one more zero?”
Hanley pulled the last zero from under his chair to reveal the total amount – $25,000.
Yerkes says she doesn’t know what she’ll do with the money, but she’s sure she’ll have fun coming up with ideas.
Anchorage Municipal Light and Power Bills are about to go up. The rate hike is due to construction of a new power plant.
Bills started going up Oct. 25 by $11 or $12 for the average residential customer.
This increase is primarily to fund the utility’s investment in the Southcentral Power Plant that went into service in January on the Campus of Chugach Electric Association.
“Our cost of that is about $111–$127 million all told, and that’s almost a $400 million plant,” Jim Posey, the General Manager of ML&P, said. “And the two utilities got together and put it in one place, on the south side of town. That is a big driver of the rate increase that we have today.”
Chugach customers saw their rates increase by about $4 on average back in February.
The rate increases are different because Chugach is a cooperative with a different rate structure. The silver lining of the utility price hike, officials say, is that the new plant will require up to 30 percent less natural gas. Posey says the slight increase in power bills will pay off over the long run.
“Fuel is our biggest cost, and if you can save 25 to 30 percent as we are, you’ll see fuel savings alone of around $4-6 million, but the cost of the mortgage is still what you gotta cover, and over time that declines,” Posey said. “But your fuel savings are absolutely locked in for 30 years with this.”
In addition to fuel-efficiency, ML&P officials say other benefits of the new plant, include: better power supply reliability, lower maintenance costs, and a significant reduction in emissions.
Another rate increase of about $3 to $4 to cover construction of the Southcentral Power Plant is expected in early 2016. The rate increases together total 22 percent.
The increase still has to be approved by the Regulatory Commission of Alaska.
This week, we’re heading to Tyonek, an Athabascan community on Cook Inlet across from Anchorage. Pauline Standifer works for the Native Village of Tyonek.
“My name is Pauline Standifer and I work for the native village of Tyonek as an accounting clerk.
The community is a really good place to live because everyone sticks together.
Everyone in the summertime goes fishing and has barbeques. And in the winter they ride their snowmachines and go sledding, stuff like that; just positive, positive fun.
There’s a little store because people get stuff whenever they need it in Anchorage mainly because they’re not that far from Anchorage and it takes like 30 minutes to get over there.
Well, there’s the native village of Tyonek office, and then there’s the health department, there’s the post office and we’re actually building a clinic right now – a new clinic.
The scenery is so beautiful. In the summertime it’s beautiful, you see pretty skies, but right now gloomy and, you know, it’s fall, so it’s probably just like everywhere else.”
Alaska is the most seismically active place in America and one of the most earthquake prone areas on the planet. There were numerous large earthquakes in the 1960s followed by a few decades of relative calm, but that’s changed in recent years. It’s not a matter of if, but when for the next big earthquake in Alaska.
HOST: Lori Townsend, Alaska Public Radio Network
- Cindi Preller, NOAA Tsunami Program Manager, Alaska region
- Post your comment before, during or after the live broadcast (comments may be read on air).
- Send e-mail to talk [at] alaskapublic [dot] org (comments may be read on air)
- Call 550-8422 in Anchorage or 1-800-478-8255 if you’re outside Anchorage during the live broadcast
LIVE Broadcast: Tuesday, November 5, 2013 at 10:00 a.m. on APRN stations statewide.
There aren’t many highways suitable for road-tripping in Alaska, but the ones we do have are dotted with plenty of interesting road-side attractions.
Since moving to the area last December, I’ve been making the drive from Homer to Soldotna and Kenai for all sorts of reasons, but usually I just get in the car and go from Point A to Point B.
Curiosity finally got the better of me and I decided I needed to visit three of the most interesting spots along the highway. So heading out on a recent Saturday, I made my way to the first stop at the Blue Bus Diner in Anchor Point and order a strawberry milkshake.
Diner owner Chett Seekins has been in charge of the place since 1997 and has made the décor pretty homey.
There are cookie jars on shelves; Chett says she’s been collecting them over the years and often trades a jar for lunch.
She also has paintings by her mom hanging on the walls, and there’s a piano sitting in the corner of the room that Chett bought from the old Ninilchik Baptist Church more than 20 years ago.
Chett: “I don’t necessarily play for people unless they ask.”
Shady: “Can you play right now, could you do that?”
Chett: “Oh really, what would you like to hear?”
Shady: “Whatever you want, your choice.”
Chett: “I don’t really have a… nah…”
Shady: “Just Amazing Grace? Quick little lick of that?”
Chett: *singing* “Amazing food, how great it tastes… how’s that?”
Chett says tourist-traffic is a big part of her summer business, but she says locals are loyal customers through the winter. And she will remember you – usually by your order.
“This one guy I didn’t know his name for years,” she said. “I just called him ‘Mocha.’”
After devouring a burger and saying goodbye to Chett, I head further north to the Russian Orthodox Church in Ninilchik. It’s a short drive off the Sterling Highway down a gravel road. Greg Encelewski meets me in the afternoon for a tour.
He tells me the original church was built and dedicated in 1901 and was actually located inside the village. But that building burned down and they put the next church on a bluff that overlooks Cook Inlet. Encelewski says that was intentional.
“I think that was the plan of all the Orthodox churches. If you think about it, travel to Seldovia, it’s up high on the hill. You go to Tyonek, it’s high on the hill. You go to Sitka, they built them in a beautiful place. A beautiful setting, a beautiful view, a beautiful reaching up. That’s part of the design. The community picked it out,” he said.
Encelewski has many ties to the church. His ancestor, Aleksei Oskolkoff, actually built the original church and his grandfather was a priest for many years. Encelewski says in the winter it’s typically pretty quiet, but traffic does pick up in the summer when tourists stop in to look around.
He says he doesn’t mind because he gets to share history and, at times, faith with them.
“We’ve had people that, it’s so neat to me, people just come here and ask if they can sit and pray just a little bit, or whatever, light a candle,” Encelewski said. “They’re down and out and we let them do it. They go about their business.”
After a short visit, I’m back on the road and onto my final destination: Three Guys No Wood, just outside of Soldotna.
This place has always intrigued me because of the giant wooden bowl that sits outside of the building. He and his partners Paul and Shanna Johnson make and sell things like bottles, vases and bowls. Gary Nelson is in the shop making wooden bowls.
“If you’d like to see how to make a bowl, I can show you in 15 minutes,” he said.
Nelson is a retired shop teacher. He uses a ruler to find the center then drills a shallow hole to get started. Nelson will use another machine to slowly shave away the wood and make a bowl.
As Nelson is explaining the mechanics of making the bowl, he’s interrupted by the doorbell. In walk Linda and Judy, they’d just finished lunch at Rocky’s Café in Kasilof and decided to stop at Nelson’s shop on the way back to Soldotna.
They both had driven by this place many times and decided that today was the day to come have a look around.
“You know, you’re always in a rush to get home.”
I’ll be sure to give myself a little more wiggle room from now on. It’s certainly nice to have the time for an occasional pit-stop.
ConocoPhillips has released its third quarter Alaska earnings.
According to a release Thursday, the oil company earned adjusted earnings of $494 million in the third quarter of 2013.
That’s down from adjusted earnings of $585 million during the second quarter of this year.
ConocoPhillips spokesperson Natalie Lowman says the earnings met expectations.
Third quarter oil production was down approximately 20,000 barrels of oil equivalent – that’s oil and gas – a day compared with the second quarter
“Our earnings were down slightly this quarter really due to seasonal maintenance,” Lowman said. “A lot of our maintenance is done and completed in the third quarter of the year.”
“So, that accounts for a slight downturn in income this time of year.”
ConocoPhillips paid out some $900 million dollars in obligations, fees and royalties during the third quarter to Alaska and to the federal government.
Of that, $652 million went to the state of Alaska for royalties, property taxes and income taxes.
Lowman says an improved business climate exists since the oil tax change SB 21, passed the state legislature, and that the company is looking to increase its North Slope investment
“We already have an additional rig working at Kuparuk,” Lowman said. “That rig is already bringing on 1,600 barrels of oil a day extra.”
And ConocoPhillips is planning a new drill site at Kuparuk River as well, and a new project – Greater Moose’s Tooth – in the National Petroleum Reserve, Alaska.
“We’re looking at that project as one that would come online, if approved, it would come online at the end of 2017,” Lowman said. “But, it could as much as 33,000 barrels of oil a day to the pipeline.”
Lowman says the new Kuparuk drill site, if approved, would bring on peak production of 8,000 barrels of petroleum a day, at a cost of $600 million.
Conoco Phillips third quarter earnings world is $2.5 billion.
Alaska State Troopers have ended their involvement in the search for Nick Cooke and Jim Lee Napoka. Trooper Sergeant Greg Lavin says there’s been a huge ground, water, and air effort over the past several days.
“We haven’t found anything definitive on their whereabouts and at this time the Alaska State Troopers are suspending their involvement in the search. However as is custom in this region, a number of volunteer communities and volunteers from surrounding communities usually continue with local interest and donations on behalf of the families.”
Troopers had found the submerged boat along with a gas tank and footprints heading in the direction of Tuntutuliak. Lavin says the leads were encouraging but did not result in any real sign of the men.
“The area the boat was found is a very heavily hunted moose area. And so naturally a lot of tracks are there and tracks are seen and that’s always a very positive thing for any searcher, I certainly understand that. But I have nothing to link those tracks to these missing people,” said Lavin.
Lavin say the community should know about the efforts by local searchers.
“They should recognize the number of volunteers in all the communities. Bethel Search and Rescue is a very active organization with a great group of resources and lot of experience that we draw upon. Each community has a dedicated group of search and rescue volunteers willing to go out on a moment’s notice to help complete strangers. The community and region need to know that,” said Lavin.
The information on Napoka and Cooke will be added to the state’s missing persons clearing house for any future developments.
Information on how to donate to Bethel Search and Rescue is available on their website.
Shell Oil is still weighing its options for drilling in the Arctic next year. The program would be scaled down compared to the company’s last trip north in 2012.
The Federal Election Commission ruled today that U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller can use campaign funds to appeal an $84,000 judgment arising from a campaign related lawsuit.
The FEC, though, stopped short of saying a candidate can use campaign money to pay a penalty arising from his own bad conduct in a court case. That distinction probably won’t matter to Miller.
A cardinal rule of the FEC is that a candidate can’t use campaign funds for personal use.
Everyone agrees the lawsuit at the heart of the Miller case was campaign-related. During his 2010 run for Senate, the Alaska Dispatch and other media outlets sued to get records from his previous job at the Fairbanks North Star Borough. Miller argued the personnel files were private, and he lost.
Earlier this year an Alaska Superior Court judge ordered him to pay the Dispatch $85,000 in attorney’s fees. The tricky part for the FEC was that the state judge ruled Miller acted in bad faith during the case by hiding information, among other issues, and that tripled the amount she ordered him to pay.
FEC Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub said it may have been the campaign that drew Miller into the lawsuit, but that doesn’t mean everything he did was campaign-related.
“Once he got there, how he conducted himself in that litigation was up to him, and people are allowed to be vigorous advocates on their own behalf, but this sounds like he may have crossed the line, at least in the opinion of this judge,” Weintraub said.
As another commissioner put it, a candidate shouldn’t be allowed to use campaign money to pay a penalty arising from his own bad behavior.
Bill Olson, an attorney representing Miller at the meeting today, said it was all campaign-related and the FEC shouldn’t try to second guess Miller’s trial strategy.
“Litigation is a messy business, and many arguments can be made one way and the other and the key question comes back to whether the regs are the regs,” Olson said.
On a 5-1 vote, the FEC ruled Miller can use campaign funds to post a bond so that he can appeal, because the lawsuit DID arise from his campaign. But they expressly did not rule he could also use campaign money to pay the judgment. The chairwoman said she did not want to set that precedent.
She acknowledged it will make no difference to Miller.
He has already paid more than $90,000 in campaign funds to serve as a cash bond in the court case.
If he loses the appeal, the court could just pay that money to the Dispatch.
Miller did not attend today’s FEC meeting in Washington. A spokesman said he didn’t want to comment for this story because of the appeal.
The Federal Communications Commission has approved GCI’s purchase of an Anchorage and two Southeast television stations. But the company says viewers will not notice much change once Denali Media is on the air.
GCI a year ago announced its plan to get into broadcast television and news programming statewide. A number of television companies opposed the purchase.
The FCC order assigns KTVA in Anchorage, KATH-TV in Juneau, and KSCT, Sitka, to Denali Media Anchorage and Denali Media Southeast, new subsidiaries of General Communications, Inc., the state’s largest telecommunications company.
GCI expects the transaction will close within a week. Corporate Services Vice President David Morris says the purchase price will not be released.
GCI provides cable television, Internet, wireless, and telephone statewide. This is its first foray into over-the air television.
Morris says the first new service the company will roll out will be a new look on the Anchorage CBS affiliate.
“The main one that we’re focused on right now is the high definition newscast originating from KTVA in Anchorage,” he says.
The small Southeast stations are affiliated with the NBC Network. The NBC signal is retransmitted from KATH in Juneau to Sitka’s KSCT, and seen in Angoon, Petersburg and Wrangell.
“We don’t see any reason why that would change,” he says.
KATH also broadcasts some original Juneau programming. Morris says in the near term that will not change.
“In general, if you’ve got local programming that people watch, they want to see it then it’s in the interest of the station to keep that local programming,” he says.
In it’s order, the FCC said GCI’s takeover of the television stations was in the public interest of local viewers. But a number of Alaska broadcasters opposed the buyout based on GCI’s near monopoly in cable television. The stations argued a distribution company as large as GCI could not compete fairly with traditional television stations.
The broadcasters, including KTUU in Anchorage, filed a Petition to Deny with the FCC, comparing it to Comcast cable’s acquisition of television program producer NBC Universal. In that case the FCC required several conditions that limited competition between cable and broadcast television.
Instead, the FCC granted GCI the licenses without any conditions.
Denali Media has created a news department and plans to compete with Alaska television stations.
Andy MacLeod is KTUU President and General Manager. His says the safeguards applied in the Comcast/NBC merger would level the playing field.
“They need to compete with us. You know the news business is a very competitive business. I would say you know we’re really not going to change what we do. We tell Alaska’s story and we send people all over the state ad every week we pumped out 22 hours of news.
Jack Goodman is KTUU attorney in Washington, D.C. In filings with the FCC, he said the broadcast licenses just extend GCI’s monopoly in the state. But the commissioners discounted that.
“They gave little weight to what appeared to us to be very serious concerns about the implications of GCI’s ownership of almost all the cable and broadband connections in Alaska and a leading broadcast station (with the purchase of KTVA),” Goodman says.
Goodman says the broadcasters who opposed GCI’s station purchase can petition the FCC for review. If denied, the broadcasters could take the case to federal court.
GCI’s Morris says the launch of Denali Media had been planned for late September, but with the delay in the FCC approval, it’s not clear when new television service will hit the air waves.
Homeless teenagers have been in the news a lot lately. Not as individuals, but as a faceless group responsible for crime and vandalism in downtown Anchorage. Anchorage Daily News Columnist Julia O’Malley wrote last summer about two downtown bike police who questioned whether non-profits that serve teenagers aren’t making the problem worse. Earlier this month, she visited one of those non profits to get their side of the story.
This story is part of a collaboration between APRN and the Anchorage Daily News.
For years, Facebook access has been a vexing issue for the Legislature. Lawmakers have even joked that it’s second only to oil taxes in the amount of controversy it stirs up. On Wednesday, the committee that sets office rules for the Capitol finally approved a policy for staff use of the social networking site.
When an employer decides whether or not to allow Facebook access, the concern is usually over office productivity. But if the employer happens to be the Alaska State Legislature, there are some weightier questions involved, like “Do my Facebook communications count as public records?” and “Under what circumstances would my postings count as politicking?” Lawmakers have been debating Facebook use for years, and Rep. Mike Hawker, an Anchorage Republican who chairs the Legislative Council, wanted to settle on a policy once and for all.
“Frankly, this committee should have taken action in the 27th Legislature to resolve this and it did not,” said Hawker.
Before Wednesday, legislators could access Facebook themselves, under a set of temporary rules. Their staff could use the social networking site on their behalf, and press secretaries also had access.
But the stopgap policy did not include the Legislature’s non-partisan offices — like ethics and auditing staff — who said they wanted access to the site to investigate complaints. For example, the Office of the Ombudsman, which looks into grievances against state government, has needed to use Facebook for child custody cases. Staff was required to do that from personal devices and after hours.
The committee ultimately expanded access to them. But approval of the new policy was not unanimous, and it was cobbled together through multiple votes. A couple of lawmakers simply thought Facebook had no place in the Capitol at all.
But Sen. Peter Micciche, a Republican from Soldotna, argued that seriously restricting Facebook would have been like banning e-mail twenty years ago.
“The world changes, and there’s a whole demographic of folks that I communicate with about legislative affairs and legislative issues and community meetings and committee meetings on Facebook that often don’t communicate in any other way,” said Micciche.
Micciche also joked that his staff “will not be posting pictures of their cats on state time.” Use of Facebook must still comply with the larger rule that any online activity must be for legislative purposes.
No specific policies exist for other social networking sites like Twitter and Instagram.
Anchorage Police are investigating a reported highly suspicious circumstance involving a juvenile in the area of 3433 Commercial Drive.
Police received a report of the incident just before 7:30 a.m. It was reported that the incident occurred between 6:15 a.m. and 7:15 a.m. in the Mountain View neighborhood.
Detectives and officers are working to identify a potential victim and suspect.
If anyone saw any suspicious activity involving a juvenile near Mountain View Car Wash at 3433 Commercial Drive between 6:15 and 7:15 a.m., investigators ask that they call police immediately.
Commercial fishing boats landed 52 million pounds of seafood worth 50 million dollars in Petersburg last year.
Those landings rank the volume of Petersburg’s catch at 24th among fishing ports in the nation for 2012. By value of catch, Petersburg ranked 20th.
Ten other Alaskan fishing ports were ahead of Petersburg on the list of pounds landed, including Ketchikan and Sitka.
Dutch-Harbor continues as the top port in the country for pounds landed for the 16th year running, because of a large catch of walleye Pollock. The highest-value catch was landed in New Bedford, Massachusetts for the 13th consecutive year, primarily because of a valuable scallop fishery.
Petersburg’s 2012 catch was roughly half of the amount landed the year before when fishing fleets brought in 101 million pounds of seafood here.
The port rankings and catch totals are published each year by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA.
In other findings, the agency reports that Americans ate an average of almost 14 and a half pounds of seafood last year, a decrease of 4 percent. The country consumed 4.5 billion pounds of seafood in 2012.
As Alaska’s natural gas prices continue to rise, the Alaska Energy Authority is working on a large-scale project aimed at steadying Railbelt energy costs and moving away from a reliance on fossil fuels.
But critics say the potential environmental impacts of the proposed Susitna-Watana Dam could cost the lifestyles and livelihoods of Alaskans who rely on the river.
“It’s gooey and it jiggles around and it’s really abrasive, but it provides some great habitat for regermination – look, look at that little sculpin!” Mike Wood said, dipping his hand into the gritty silt at the edge of Whiskers Creek, where it connects to the Susitna River.
The sculpin are some of the smaller fish in an ecosystem with grayling, trout and salmon. Wood lives in Chase, just north of Talkeetna and fishes the river year round. He harvests fallen trees for building projects in the area, too.
“These trees that I bring home are huge for our area, they’re like 26 inches on the butt. I always call them salmon fed-trees because – look at that sculpin there—because all this has got to have fish waste in it,” Wood said, pointing to a rotting salmon carcass soon after.
Wood has lived along the Susitna River for nearly a decade, relying on it for food and transportation year round, but he’s afraid that his lifestyle may change because of the proposed Susitna-Watana Dam.
“It’s in a very, very good location for a large hydro project,” Energy Authority Executive Director Sara Fisher-Goad said.
She says the main purpose of the $5 billion project is to meet Alaska’s goal of supplying half of the state’s energy needs from renewable sources by 2025.
“This would be approximately 50 percent of the electrical energy needs of the Railbelt serving over 80 percent of the population,” Fisher-Goad said.
She says the idea for the dam was originally developed in the 1980s but was shelved for purely economic reasons – oil and gas were so cheap, building a dam didn’t make sense. But now, she says the hydroelectric project would stabilize energy prices over time.
But the project’s director, Wayne Dyok, acknowledges that yes, a 735-foot high dam just above Devil’s Canyon would change the Susitna River.
“So you will see some differences in the reach from Talkeetna to the Watana Dam site. I think you can’t avoid that,” Dyok said.
But he doesn’t see all of the changes as necessarily negative. For example, naturally, the river can fluctuate multiple feet per day over the summer. Dyok says stabilizing the river’s flow could help the fish.
“And we do know that some projects, including those in the Lower 48, that have actually improved conditions downstream,” he said.
The dam would make the flows more consistent from season to season as well.
Whitney Wolff with the Coalition for Susitna Dam Alternatives doesn’t see how this could help the fish. She says the salmon need the pulse of water in early spring to send them downstream.
“These seasonal events have a huge, positive impact on the ecosystem, and that would be completely lost,” Wolf said.
Commercial fisherman and Talkeetna resident Steve Harrison says the higher winter levels could cause a problem for the juvenile salmon that normally hole up in little nurseries.
“When they’re young and extremely vulnerable, washing them out to sea would kill them,” Harrison said. “And that could destroy the run.”
It’s not just the fish that Harrison worries about. He and his wife Rachel rely on the frozen river in the winter for transportation. Every year they watch the telltale signs of the frazile ice on the edges of the river.
“It would kind of remind you of white rice, elongated white rice that’s clinking together and sloshing on down,” Rachel said. “It’s a slurry, but it’s elongated.”
That’s their indicator that the world is about to open up. When the Susitna freezes, the Harrisons ski and snow machine alongside bikers, dog mushers and moose. Rachel says the river is busier in the winter than any other time of the year.
The dam would make the winter water higher and warmer and could impact ice formation.
Dyok says he understands the importance of the river ice. That’s why AEA has hired scientists to create ice models based on freeze-up data from the river’s wide fluctuations.
AEA is leading 57 other research projects that look at everything from caribou migration and vegetation mapping to subsistence use. The studies are required as part of the federal licensing process. They’ll be used with thousands of pages of data collected in the 1980s. Dyok says the information is necessary for deciding the best way to run the project, if it’s permitted.
“You try to come up with a operating scenario that’s going to achieve the appropriate balance between the environment and the energy needs that we have in the state,” Dyok said.
Back on Whiskers Creek, Mike Wood takes me to one of the study sites and points to boxes of wires attached to trees and narrow metal pipes covering monitoring equipment by the creek.
Shinny silver bubble wrap once encircled a mammoth cottonwood. It held on sensors monitoring sap movement. But now sections dangle off, ripped to pieces.
“…And here, the bears just love coming and putting their claws right into them,” Wood said, his boots crunching dried ferns as he investigates the decimated piece of equipment. “There’s so much science trash out here. It’s amazing. Just look at them, torn apart…”
But Dyok is confident that their data quality is good, especially the information from over 500 tagged Chinook salmon.
He and his team have four more years to prove it. The state will apply for a federal project permit in 2017.
Story updated at 4:40 p.m.
A Delta flight traveling from Tokyo to San Francisco made an emergency stop in the remote community of Cold Bay on Wednesday.
Delta’s Boeing 767 jet experienced engine problems early in the morning. A Delta spokesman wouldn’t say exactly what went wrong, but a National Transportation Safety Board spokesman told KTUU that the pilots saw a warning on their electronic engine controls.
Cold Bay’s airport is a designated diversion spot for trans-Pacific flights, so the pilots decided to land there.
Catherine Bland works at the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in Cold Bay. She says that she heard a loud jet engine around 6 a.m, followed by a flurry of activity on the runway.
“I thought, ‘What’s going on out there?’ And I looked and I see the Delta plane sitting on the tarmac,” Bland says. “Then when I came into work, we started getting requests for help,” Bland said.
Deputy refuge manager Leticia Melendez says Izembek’s goal – and the goal of the village — was to put Delta’s 178 passengers and crew at ease.
“Our role is to do as much as we can to minimize their discomfort,” Melendez said. “We’re helping with security and trying to take the edge off what could have been a big disaster.”
The travelers spent six hours on board the plane before Delta let them off to stretch their legs. The airport is only a five- or 10-minute walk from the refuge, but the passengers weren’t allowed to stray that far.
“Let me tell you, the little kid in me got excited and thought, ‘Oh! They get to see the refuge!’” Melendez said. “But that’s just a little reaction because I get excited about these things, just as much as anybody who has a passion for exposing the wonders of nature.”
Instead, passengers spent time at Cold Bay’s community center and gym and other spots around town.
Delta finally sent a replacement jet to Cold Bay Wednesday afternoon with a Transportation Security Administration team and Customs staff on board, to screen passengers. The flight departed around 3 p.m. Alaska time.
But some Delta employees were expected to stick around Cold Bay a little longer.
Mary Martin owns and operates the Cold Bay Lodge, a small hotel. She says Delta reserved rooms for its maintenance and cockpit crews, who are coming to town to fix the disabled jet.
Martin says there’s not much to see in the town of Cold Bay – just a few houses and a school. But the airstrip provides the most intrigue.
“We have an interesting airport,” Martin said. “We go from 60 [people] to quadruple our population in a minute’s notice, depending on the aircraft and what’s on board.”
Exactly what happened on board is still under investigation. The NTSB will be looking into the engine issue, along with Delta Airlines.
The Anchorage School District has long been struggling to get more students to graduate from high school, with only slight improvement.
Last year, the rate of students graduating jumped three and half percentage points overall for ASD. Bartlett High School is leading the way.
Brian Jones was typical of many students at Bartlett, in that he’d switched schools a lot and fallen behind. The lanky 19-year-old with black-rimmed glasses started out at Service, then moved to Fairbanks and ended up back in Anchorage at Bartlett for 12th grade. By then he needed to do all his senior year classes plus make up one and half credits.
“I was behind in English, History and I hadn’t [taken] a gym class yet,” Jones said.
Jones says he was able to graduate because of an online credit recovery program called Apex, which was available to him on demand. He used the program to make up the classes, fitting in online work in between his regular classes.
“It was very helpful because it was like a second chance to make up for mistakes of my freshman and sophomore year,” Jones said.
Bartlett High has struggled with a high dropout rate. In 2011, the percent of students graduating from Bartlett was about 68 percent. The percentage dropping out, basically just disappearing from school, hit nearly 10 percent. The other 22 percent of students either left the district or were staying in high school longer than four years to graduate.
“We had our graduation coaches go out into the community,” Bartlett Principal Dan Gallego said. “Find our dropout kids and then literally bring them back to school.”
He also made two other big changes. One was expanding the Apex online credit recovery program that Jones used, making it available to students all day so that students like him, who had fallen behind could more easily catch up.
They also provided more structure for freshman so, hopefully, they wouldn’t find themselves falling behind in the first place.
“We decided to develop a 9th Grade Academy so we can transition those middle school kids into high school life,” Gallego said.
Gallego says studies show 9th grade truancy is linked to dropping out.
“We identified that we were losing a lot of freshman,” Gallego said. “And they would be truant and they would fail a lot of courses.”
The school now separates 9th graders from the upper classman and they are not allowed to leave campus during school hours.
Last Spring the first class that went all the way through high school, beginning with the Freshman Academy, graduated. The school’s dropout rate fell by more than half – to 4 percent and the graduation rate jumped.
Ed Graff, Superintendent of the Anchorage School District says the improvements at Bartlett are notable.
“So what I think we have there is we really have created a culture or a system of support for students and that’s where I would attribute a lot of the success to their graduation increases,” Graff said.
But Graff says lots of other things are also contributing to school’s success.
They’ve implemented targeted instruction – basically teaching to each student at their learning-level, spearheaded a social and emotional learning initiative and provided experiential learning opportunities for students, among other things. He doesn’t want to take a cookie cutter approach, buy Graff says they are watching Bartlett closely.
“It’s a positive thing,” he said. “We are looking at why they are doing so well there and trying to find those targeted practices that are occurring.”
Principal Gallego says he hopes graduation rates at Bartlett continue to climb, but he’s worried that will be difficult without two graduation coaches, who were let go during the last round of budget cuts.
Graduate Brian Jones says walking across the stage on graduation day last spring is a feeling he won’t forget.
“It’s hard to explain. It’s just you know when they call your name up and you grab your diploma and you’re walking across the stage and you shake Mr. Gallego’s hand and you know all the teachers and stuff like that. It just feels pretty amazing. That four years down the road, you finally did it,” Jones said.
Jones has a retail job at the Dimond Mall. He’s saving for college and plans to enroll in UAA to study journalism.
- Anchorage School District: Destination 2020
- Anchorage School District: Destination 2020 – Assessment (PDF)
The Federal Communications Commission has approved GCI’s purchase of Anchorage television station KTVA.
The approval was made public Wednesday.
GCI Vice President David Morris says the FCC found the purchase to be in the public’s interest.
“We’ve waited for this order for about 11 months,” Morris said. “We’ve invested approximately $20 million into a state-of-the-art facility, and we will start preparing for our first newscast – as yet to be determined when that is.”
The approval provides for the transfer multiple television licenses, two of which will be used for GCI subsidiaries.
“We’re in the process of purchasing a full-power station – which is KTVA in Anchorage – and then two low-power stations – one located in Juneau and one located in Sitka. And, so, they have difference licenses and that’s what the FCC approved in this order. We still need to go through the financial closing of the entities, but we expect that to occur over the next several days.”
The federal commissioners denied objections to the sale filed by Alaska Broadcasters, Fireweed Communications and Northern Lights Media.
Alaska Broadcasters had alleged that GCI “lacks journalistic integrity” and would “distort” the news. However, the FCC decision notes that, “The allegations regarding journalistic independence are speculative and based on hearsay, but, even if true, would be insufficient to make out a prima facie showing that grant of the Applications would be inconsistent with the public interest.”
The Alaska National Guard is responding to allegations of sexual assault within its ranks.
Brigadier General Mike Bridges, the Commander of the Alaska National Guard says there have been nearly more than two dozen alleged cases of sexual assault since 2009.
“There have been 29 cases of alleged sexual assault reported to the Alaska National Guard – and that’s with Army and/or Air National Guard,” Bridges said. “The majority of those were alleged by civilian perpetrators on guard members, whether they were in the guard then or since then.”
This week, the Anchorage Daily News reported that there was an investigation into soldiers, including some in the Alaska Army Guard’s recruiting and retention unit headquartered at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.
Alaska National Guard officials would not confirm but did not deny the report.
Bridges says the Alaska Air National Guard has a new trained sexual assault investigator, as part of a military-wide effort to get a handle on the problem.
“Across the Department of Defense the recent expanded amount of reports that were coming in across the whole Department of Defense indicated a need,” Bridges said. “And Department of Defense has now provided that and we received ours within this last year, back in the springtime.”
A statement released from the Alaska National Guard offices Tuesday said local law enforcement, such as the Anchorage Police Department of the Alaska State Troopers have been contacted in 21 cases.
Bridges says he can’t disclose how many of the cases are under investigation.
U.S. Senator Mark Begich says he still supports the Affordable Care Act but he recently joined nine other Senate Democrats in asking the Obama administration to extend the sign-up period.
Begich says it’s only fair because the government’s online insurance marketplace has been plagued with technical problems.
“My view is the individual shouldn’t be penalized because government can’t get it together here and get on the website,” Begich said. “So my view is for each one of those weeks that’s delayed on the front end we should extend out the enrollment period for people to have enough time to enroll.”
The administration did extend the enrollment deadline for six weeks, until March 31. A letter Begich signed calls for another extension.
The letter, originated by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, doesn’t specify a new date, but Begich says he doesn’t think much – if any – more time would be needed and he doesn’t believe it would weaken the healthcare program.
An insurance industry group, though, has said another extension would add to its costs and possibly increase prices for 2015.