Alaska News

Gray Named Bethel DA

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-03-13 15:41

Alaska’s attorney general has named the Fairbanks district attorney as Bethel’s new district attorney. J. Michael Gray will begin in Bethel April 1 and will replace June Stein, who was fired last month.

The state says Gray has 20 years of experience as a prosecutor in Alaska, beginning in Kodiak. He was named district attorney there and later moved to head up the DA’s office in Fairbanks.

He began his career in rural Virginia.

Chris Carpeneti is the Acting District Attorney in Bethel after Stein
finished this week. He’s resigning as of April 3rd. The department of law says it’s actively recruiting to fill the role and expects to make a hire in the coming weeks.

Categories: Alaska News

“Scrubbers” to Cut Cruise Ship Pollution

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-03-13 15:24

A Celebrity Cruise Line ship sails into Juneau in 2012 with emissions coming out of its stack. New pollution-control equipment being installed on Alaska-bound and other ships will reduce the emissions plume. (Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska-Juneau)

Cruise lines that sail Alaska waters are installing new pollution-control equipment. It’s aimed at clearing the air — and meeting new regulations. But it’s also dodging some stronger, more expensive measures.

The stuff that comes out of cruise ship smokestacks can cloud the air, leaving a haze over port cities, and plumes along their routes.

But it’s more than unsightly. Sulfur dioxide, ash and other ingredients contribute to acid rain and smog. They can also cause respiratory problems — and even death.

That’s why the Environment Protection Agency set new emission standards for most vessels.

Smoke pours out of the smokestack of the Carnival Spirit as it fires up its engines. (Courtesy Ground Truth Trekking)
That includes almost 30 large cruise ships sailing Alaska waters, some of which are getting new pollution-control equipment.

“One of the ships, which is the Solstice, is being retrofitted right now,” says Rich Pruitt, vice president of environmental stewardship for Royal Caribbean International.

The line will send five ships to Alaska this summer.

He says about 20 of its vessels, close to half its worldwide fleet, are getting new air-emission control equipment, calledscrubbers.

“By spraying water into the exhaust stream, the sulfur dioxide and particulates are basically captured in the water spray. And it effectively removes any sulfur dioxide, up to about 98-99 percent, and a significant portion of the particulates,” he says.

Pruitt says the rest of the corporation’s fleet will eventually get the technology, though it may try some other options.

The cruise industry could meet EPA standards, and upcoming international rules, by switching to low-sulfur fuel, which causes far less pollution. But Pruitt says that’s too expensive, and refineries may not make be able to keep up with the demand.

That’s why the industry is installing scrubbers.

“We’re looking at this as a way of ensuring that we’ll be able to be compliant regardless of where we operate,” he says.
Royal Caribbean is one of several worldwide lines installing scrubber technology.

Carnival Corporation, which owns Princess and Holland-America lines, announced its intentions in 2013.

“The only other major cruise line that brings ships to Alaska is Norwegian Cruise Lines and they also have a program to start to install scrubbers on their existing ships,” says John Binkley, president of the Alaska chapter of the Cruise Lines International Association.

The new federal rules, which mirror those in Canada, are for lines sailing within 200 miles of the coast. They took effect in January, but Binkley says many ships were not ready.

“Each company has negotiated with the EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency, on a schedule and when they’re going to bring certain ships into compliance,” he says.
Critics say the lines should have been ready sooner.

Chip Thoma campaigned for a tax-and-pollution-control initiative voters approved about 10 years ago.

“The cruise lines fought that tooth and nail in the State Department, and every chance they’d get in Washington, D.C., to try to scuttle that treaty,” he says.

He’s encouraged by plans for new scrubber technology. But he says the lines should also switch to low-sulfur diesel.

“I think the price of fuel, all fuel, is going to keep going down. And it’s eventually going to be in everybody’s best interests to just burn clean fuel,” he says.
Some critics say scrubbers only change air pollution into ocean pollution, since the filtering water is disposed of overboard. Pruitt says Royal Caribbean ships, which include the Celebrity line, will treat the water and dispose of the resulting sludge on land.

Similar technology is used on other large ocean-going ships and coal-fired power plants.

Alaska does not regulate the chemical composition of cruise-ship air emissions. But it does measure its density.

Ed White of the state’s cruise ship monitoring program says scrubbers should improve the situation.

“The assumption is that as the amount of sulfur in the fuel decreases, the opacity would as well. We don’t have any requirements for the equipment used or anything like that. So we’re not directly involved with the scrubbers. But once it goes overboard, we’ll be monitoring that,” he says.

Scrubber technology is expensive.

Some lines won’t discuss what they’re spending. But Carnival has said installation on 70 of its ships would cost about $400 million, or around $6 million each.

Royal Caribbean’s Pruitt says despite the cost, the new equipment won’t increase fares.

“By having the exhaust gas cleaning systems or scrubbers, it will allow us to burn the more affordable fuel. So, it’s not like we feel that we have to pass that on,” he says.
While EPA rules kicked in this year, worldwide standards won’t take effect until 2020. They’re less stringent, but are still a significant reduction.

Categories: Alaska News

Three Advance in Pilot Project to Arm VPSOs

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-03-13 14:36

 

 

First Sergeant James Hoelscher instructs officers at a 2014 training. (Photo By Ben Matheson, KYUK-Bethel)

Three Village Public Safety Officers have been selected to advance in the VPSO Arming Pilot Project with training this month in Sitka. 21 VPSOs initially showed interest in taking part. There were seven earlier this year still in the process.

Veteran VPSO First Sergeant James Hoelscher of Hooper Bay is the only VPSO set to be armed in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Region. Also advancing are Sergeant Philip Plessinger of Fairbanks and Noatak’s Corporal Michael Gagliano.

Lieutenant Andrew Merrill with the Alaska State Troopers says there are many reasons why the 18 other VPSOs did not continue in the program.

“We had a physical fitness test, which was a new process for many VPSOs, and some could not physically pass that test. They have the opportunity to pass that test and participate in the future. Other VPSOs that were fully capable physically and thought they could use force later thought about the fact they live in a community in which they are related to the majority of the community: cousins, aunts, uncles, etc. The thought of using deadly force against one of their family members had them choose to not participate,” said Merrill.

Participants also had to undergo an extensive psychological exam during the process. In 2014 the Alaska legislature passed the law allowing VPSOs to carry guns, in addition to a taser and baton. It was spurred by the death of a VPSO in Manokotak, Thomas Madole, who was shot and killed while unarmed.

The VPSOs that were selected are each employed by the Association of Village Council Presidents, Tanana Chiefs Conference and Northwest Arctic Borough.

In addition to the firearms training, the three VPSOs will receive instruction on defensive tactics, weapon retention, police communication, scenario and judgment training, ethics, and use of force. There are plans for extensive in-the-field training with troopers for the pilot project VPSOs. They are expected to graduate from the program in April and could be armed soon after.

Categories: Alaska News

Governor Bill Walker And The Alaska State Budget

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-03-13 13:00

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker speaks to reporters during a press conference Jan. 27, 2015. He was discussing a draft plan released earlier in the day by the U.S. Department of Interior that would block oil development in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

Governor Bill Walker and legislators need to work together to bring down state spending and raise new revenue. The Governor wants to expand Medicaid, beef up the instate gasline proposal and halt spending on several large infrastructure projects. Some Lawmakers are pushing back. How will they compromise?

HOST: Lori Townsend

GUESTS:

  • Alaska Governor Bill Walker
  • Callers statewide

PARTICIPATE:

  • 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, March 17, 2015 at 10:00 a.m. on APRN stations statewide.

SUBSCRIBE: Get Talk of Alaska updates automatically by e-mailRSS or podcast.

TALK OF ALASKA ARCHIVE

Categories: Alaska News

River Running, Good Dog Care Allows Iditarod Mushers To Keep Larger Teams Later In The Race

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-03-13 11:19

Mushers are allowed to start the Iditarod with a maximum of 16 dogs. More than a third of way into the race, many teams are still that large because of a combination of easy-going river miles, good dog care and support from fellow mushers.

Download Audio

As the sun set over the Galena dog yard, musher Travis Beals walked up and down his line of dogs, sprinkling ground salmon in front of each one.

Beals’ original race plan did not include a 24-hour layover in Galena, but when arrived at the checkpoint, he realized his 14 dogs needed the rest.

“I had a couple sore dogs – key members of the team that needed some attention,” Beals said.

Because he hadn’t planned to stop for long, Beals didn’t have enough food to last 24 hours.

Dallas Seavey’s team pulls into Ruby Wednesday. (Photo by Emily Schwing)

“Mushers are the type of people – they’re always willing to lend a hand and DeeDee’s leaving now and she’s got a smorgasbord of stuff,” he said.

DeeDee Jonrowe was parked a few feet away. She only planned to stop in Galena for a few hours, so before she pulled out of the checkpoint, she handed Beals all of her leftover dog food.

Jonrowe: “I understand because that’s happened with me before.
Beals: “It’s not that I didn’t pack. It’s either behind me in Ruby or [ahead] in Huslia or Koyukuk, you know.”
Jonrowe: “What’s happened with me too is planning to not have as big a team. Because on the coast with 14 dogs, well they ate everything I had and so, I totally have been there.”

Jonrowe is running the Iditarod for a 33rd time. As she packed her sled to go, she said she was glad hers is among a number of teams that have remained large this year.

“If you look at the data, in cold years they often do for a while,” she said. “It just depends on a person’s ability to hold it together with dog care.”

Norwegian Thomas Waerner works in the Ruby dog yard in the middle of the night. (Photo by Emily Schwing)

Paige Drobny still has 15 dogs in her team. She says this year’s reroute may have something to do with fewer dropped dogs.

“The teams are all really big and I think that shows how forgiving more of the trail is because we’ve been on flat river running instead of going through the gorge that can maybe knock dogs out of the competition faster,” Drobny said.

But some of those flat river miles have been hard-packed, so dogs are showing up with sore wrists. Those are injuries musher Richie Diehl did not expect.

“We’re going to work on it and try to get it all straightened out and move on down the trail,” he said. “It’s just frustrating, you know? Dogs that I’ve had to drop who have been some of my most durable all year, you know, and I had to leave them behind. But I mean that’s part of dog racing.”

Diehl wants to massage sore muscles and wrists during his 24-hour layover. He’ll leave Galena with one of the smaller teams in the field.

“I thought I would have more right now, I definitely do,” Diehl said. “But 12 is a big team too. You can do a lot with 12 dogs, so I’m not worried.”

For Aliy Zirkle, it’s continued cold weather that’s causing worry.

“It’s difficult to put extra attention to dog care when it’s cold, because your ointment’s frozen, Algyval is frozen, your hands are frozen, your protective gear is frozen,” she said.

The next two runs exceed 80 miles each – long, by Iditarod standards, and teams will leave the flat, forgiving river for a rougher, forested route.

Categories: Alaska News

Iditarod Mushers Prepare For Break From Yukon River

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-03-13 07:47

Huslia marks the halfway point along this year’s Iditarod Trail. Many mushers are looking forward to leaving the Yukon River and heading for the tiny Interior village.

For most of the first 385 miles of the race, teams travelled long stretches of flat, frozen river. Musher Paige Drobny says the easy-going trail has been good for her.

“I don’t really mind it,” she said. “I’ve gotten more sleep than I ever have before, because of being able to sit on my sled and being able to sleep while the dogs are running.”

But Drobny says the monotony is getting to her dogs.

Wade Marrs at the 2015 Iditarod ceremonial start. (Photo by Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage)

“The dogs are bored. On the way here, my leader Wiseman was trying to take every random snow machine off of the trail that he could, because he was getting bored, and it was very clear they weren’t dog trails,” Drobny said. “He would take a 90 degree turn onto the snow machine trail. He was like ‘get me somewhere more interesting and maybe I’ll do my job right.’”

Wade Marrs says his dog team is also ready for a change of scenery.

“Every time the trail turns and heads toward the bank, they get really excited and take off wide open like ‘oh, we’re going somewhere new!’ So, yeah it will be really cool t get off the river and the dogs will be really happy about that,” Marrs said.

For rookie Jason Campeau, it’s not the trail that’s the most challenging part.

“You know you have to be tough mentally to get through these.,” Campeau said. “There’s times that you’re out there and it’s beautiful and you’re with your dogs and you’re loving it and then there’s other times when it’s freezing and every single person in here will tell you it’s tough when that happens, so it’s a matter of staying tough mentally and staying focused.”

Huslia is the next stop along the Iditarod trail. It’s the home of George Attla, one of Alaska’s most famous sprint mushers. Also known as the Huslia Husler, Attla passed away last month. Many of the mushers taking part in this year’s race say they are looking forward to paying their respects to Attla and visiting a village that hasn’t seen an Iditarod since the last time the trail was rerouted in 2003.

Categories: Alaska News

Aaron Burmeister Leads Iditarod Teams Into Huslia

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-03-13 07:19

Nome musher Aaron Burmeister was the first to reach Huslia Thursday night. He was followed by reigning Iditarod champion Dallas Seavey and rookie Thomas Waerner.

A 3-year-old sled dog named Wyatt on Lance Mackey’s team died suddenly Thursday afternoon between Tanana and Ruby. Iditarod officials say a necropsy will be conducted to determine the cause of death.

Download Audio

Aaron Burmeister. (Photo by Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage)

Mushers are allowed to start the Iditarod with a maximum of 16 dogs. More than a third of way into the race, many teams are still that large, largely because of a combination of easy-going river miles, good dog care and support from fellow mushers.

As the sun set over the Galena dog yard, musher Travis Beals walked up and down his line of dogs, sprinkling ground salmon in front of each one.

Beals’ original race plan did not include a 24-hour layover in Galena, but when arrived at the checkpoint, he realized his 14 dogs needed the rest.

“I had a couple sore dogs – key members of the team that needed some attention,” Beals said.

Because he hadn’t planned to stop for long, Beals didn’t have enough food to last 24 hours.

Dallas Seavey’s team pulls into Ruby Wednesday. (Photo by Emily Schwing)

“Mushers are the type of people – they’re always willing to lend a hand and DeeDee’s leaving now and she’s got a smorgasbord of stuff,” he said.

DeeDee Jonrowe was parked a few feet away. She only planned to stop in Galena for a few hours, so before she pulled out of the checkpoint, she handed Beals all of her leftover dog food.

Jonrowe: “I understand because that’s happened with me before.
Beals: “It’s not that I didn’t pack. It’s either behind me in Ruby or [ahead] in Huslia or Koyukuk, you know.”
Jonrowe: “What’s happened with me too is planning to not have as big a team. Because on the coast with 14 dogs, well they ate everything I had and so, I totally have been there.”

Jonrowe is running the Iditarod for a 33rd time. As she packed her sled to go, she said she was glad hers is among a number of teams that have remained large this year.

“If you look at the data, in cold years they often do for a while,” she said. “It just depends on a person’s ability to hold it together with dog care.”

Norwegian Thomas Waerner works in the Ruby dog yard in the middle of the night. (Photo by Emily Schwing)

Paige Drobny still has 15 dogs in her team. She says this year’s reroute may have something to do with fewer dropped dogs.

“The teams are all really big and I think that shows how forgiving more of the trail is because we’ve been on flat river running instead of going through the gorge that can maybe knock dogs out of the competition faster,” Drobny said.

But some of those flat river miles have been hard-packed, so dogs are showing up with sore wrists. Those are injuries musher Richie Diehl did not expect.

“We’re going to work on it and try to get it all straightened out and move on down the trail,” he said. “It’s just frustrating, you know? Dogs that I’ve had to drop who have been some of my most durable all year, you know, and I had to leave them behind. But I mean that’s part of dog racing.”

Diehl wants to massage sore muscles and wrists during his 24-hour layover. He’ll leave Galena with one of the smaller teams in the field.

“I thought I would have more right now, I definitely do,” Diehl said. “But 12 is a big team too. You can do a lot with 12 dogs, so I’m not worried.”

For Aliy Zirkle, it’s continued cold weather that’s causing worry.

“It’s difficult to put extra attention to dog care when it’s cold, because your ointment’s frozen, Algyval is frozen, your hands are frozen, your protective gear is frozen,” she said.

The next two runs exceed 80 miles each – long, by Iditarod standards, and teams will leave the flat, forgiving river for a rougher, forested route.

Categories: Alaska News

House Passes Leaner Operating Budget

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-03-13 03:49

The Alaska House of Representatives has passed a $4.1 billion operating budget, reducing agency operations by 10 percent over last year.

The vote happened shortly after midnight. House Finance Co-Chair Mark Neuman said they set a record with a $229 million cut in spending from the unrestricted general fund.

“That reduction represents both the single largest single-year dollar reduction and percentage cut in Alaska’s history,” said Neuman, a Republican from Big Lake.

Every state agency saw its non-formula funding reduced compared to the previous budget. The Departments of Commerce, Education, and Military and Veterans Affairs took the greatest hits, with funding cut by roughly a third each.

But while the cuts are significant, they’re only a fraction of the $4 billion budget deficit that triggered them. One member of the Republican Majority broke caucus rules and voted against the budget for that reason. Rep Lora Reinbold, who represents Eagle River, said she wanted bigger reductions.

“I will be pushing the red button tonight, knowing that there may be unnecessary consequences by bucking the system, by challenging a very difficult system to work within,” said Reinbold. “I encourage you to join me and do best for what’s Alaska’s future by voting no on this unsustainable budget only until we make more meaningful reductions that reflect Alaska’s current fiscal crisis.”

The last time a member of the Majority opposed the budget was in 2005, when Nancy Dahlstrom, also of Eagle River, voted against a capital appropriations bill. According spokesperson for the Republican Majority, the caucus plans to meet to discuss Reinbold’s actions.

The Democratic Minority also opposed the budget, but because it did not reflect their priorities. Juneau Democrat Sam Kito said the cuts would cause pain without actually fixing the deficit.

“I will be voting no on this budget, but not because we haven’t cut enough but because I believe we have cut too much,” said Kito. “We have a $3.5 billion deficit. We’ve reduced that to $3.4 billion. We’re still going to have to withdraw a significant amount of savings. But the amount of money that we’ve cut out of the budget will have a significant impact to Alaskans’ lives.”

Other Democrats voted against the budget because it did not include federal money for Medicaid expansion.

Through the night, their caucus offered 21 amendments to restore funding for early education, for workforce development, and for health care. None of their amendments succeeded.

The operating budget will now be considered by the Senate, which says it plans further reductions.

Categories: Alaska News

Budget Consideration Sparks Medicaid Debate

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2015-03-12 18:50

As of 6pm, debate on the state’s operating budget was underway in the Alaska House of Representatives. Democrats have proposed 22 amendments, and discussion of the bill is expected to last into the late hours. The minority opened with an effort to restore Medicaid expansion to the budget. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez reports.

It’s often said that a budget is a moral document, an exercise where lawmakers literally spend money on the things they value. With that in mind, the House minority caucus traditionally offers a series of changes that promote their platform, but that are rarely adopted. At the top of the current priority list is expanding the state’s Medicaid program.

Rep. Andy Josephson, an Anchorage Democrat, offered language to accept federal dollars for that purpose.

“I think there is a moral imperative,” said Josephson. “So I would ask that we expand Medicaid, and I think this can be done. And I think the economy would be better. People would be better. People would be healthier.”

The amendment, which failed on caucus lines, would have allowed the state to accept $145 million in federal funds so that Alaskans near the poverty line can get health care through Medicaid. Expanding Medicaid has been a major priority of Gov. Bill Walker, and the budget he sent to the Legislature included a line to do just that. But the House Finance Committee removed the language, with some members saying the budget was not the appropriate vehicle for expansion.

The Medicaid debate highlighted some of the fractures on the issue not only in the Legislature, but within the Republican majority caucus. Some Republicans, like Rep. Shelley Hughes of Palmer, categorically oppose Medicaid expansion on ideological grounds.

“In the coming years, it’s time for communities to pull together. It’s time for churches to step up,” said Hughes. “We can be kind as people. It’s not the government’s place to be kind. We need to be kind as people.”

But others, like Rep. Dan Saddler of Eagle River, rejected the amendment on the basis of process. If the Legislature is going to consider expanding its Medicaid program, Saddler said the action should be done through a larger reform bill.

“This amendment, sir, has no cost control provisions. It has no over-utilization control for emergency room visits. It has no provision for health savings accounts,” Saddler listed.

In response, Democrats spent nearly an hour touting the economic and health benefits of expansion. As part of the Affordable Care Act, the federal government pays the entire cost of expansion in the first years, and then covers 90 percent after 2020.

Amendment sponsor Andy Josephson said it was unusual for Alaska to go out of its way to reject federal money, invoking the name of the late Sen. Ted Stevens, who aggressively brought funding to Alaska during his tenure in Congress.

“I think that Sen. Stevens, if he were here would, unless he just turned 180 degrees, he’d say, ‘What are you doing? Why don’t you reap the benefit of $1.1 billion? 4,000 jobs?’” said Josephson.

The amendment failed 11 to 26. Even though it was an up-down vote, the issue of Medicaid expansion may come up again in the Legislature. Members of the House Health and Social Services committee are taking part in a Medicaid working group, and a reform bill is in the works in the Senate.

The operating budget spends $4.1 billion from the state’s unrestricted general fund, and cuts $273 million in agency operating funds compared to the budget passed last year. Even with the cuts, the state is facing a deficit in excess of $3 billion.

Categories: Alaska News

Demboski Draws Mat-Su PAC Support for Anchorage Mayor

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2015-03-12 18:26

Download Audio

A conservative Political Action Committee in the Mat-Su valley is wading into the Anchorage mayor’s race. The Palmer-based group is endorsing Amy Demboski’s mayoral campaign, in part because of her stance on a contentious equal rights measure.

Categories: Alaska News

Village Corporation, Tribe at Odds Over Mineral Deposits

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2015-03-12 18:04

Download Audio

Interest in a potential gold and copper deposit near Nondalton has put the village’s tribe and corporation at odds. Nondalton’s village corporation, Kijik, has entered into an agreement to explore the Groundhog claims, and that action doesn’t sit well with all shareholders.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: March 12, 2015

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2015-03-12 17:57

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

U.S. Arctic Rep: Russia’s Arctic Buildup Not Necessarily Martial

Liz Ruskin, APRN-Washington
Robert Papp, the U.S. special representative for the Arctic, says he questions reports that Russia has launched a major military buildup in the Arctic. Papp says he’s asking U.S. intelligence agencies to look beyond Russia’s military swagger for a realistic view of its Arctic activities. Papp says Moscow could be adding infrastructure for general use in the north.

House Begins Debating Operating Budget

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN-Juneau
Debate on the state’s operating budget is now underway  in the Alaska House of Representatives. Democrats have proposed 22 amendments, and discussion of the bill is expected to last into the late hours. The minority opened with an effort to restore Medicaid expansion to the operating budget.

House Speaker Reattempts Agrium Tax Credit

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN-Juneau
The Alaska Department of Revenue expects a proposed tax credit for the Agrium fertilizer plant in Nikiski to cost the state between $3 million and $4 million in foregone revenue annually.

Coast Guard to Train for Shooting at Docks 

Lauren Rosenthal, KUCB-Unalaska
The Coast Guard is teaming up with emergency personnel in Unalaska to practice their response to a mass shooting on the docks — in one of the region’s busiest ports.

Demboski Draws Mat-Su PAC Support for Anchorage Mayor

Zachariah Hughes, KSKA- Anchorage
A conservative Political Action Committee in the Mat-Su valley is wading into the Anchorage mayor’s race. The Palmer-based group is endorsing Amy Demboski’s mayoral campaign, in part because of her conservative stance on a contentious equal rights (bill) *measure* in Anchorage.

Broad Donor Rolls and Deep Pockets in Anchorage Mayor’s Race

Zachariah Hughes, KSKA-Anchorage
Candidates Dan Coffey and Andrew Halcro have raised the most money in the Anchorage mayor’s race.

Swanson’s Employees Embrace for Change

Ben Matheson, KYUK-Bethel
Following the announcement that Swanson’s grocery store would be closing, a rapid response team from the Alaska Department of Labor was dispatched to Bethel Wednesday.

Village Corporation, Tribe at Odds Over Mineral Deposits

Matt Martin, KDLG-Dillingham

Interest in a potential gold and copper deposit near Nondalton has put the village’s tribe and corporation at odds. Nondalton’s village corporation Kijik has entered into an agreement to explore the Groundhog claims, and that doesn’t sit well with all shareholders.

Dogs in Tow More Common This Iditarod

Emily Schwing, APRN Contributor
Whether sled dogs are in need of rest will start to show as teams near the halfway mark in this year’s race.  More mushers than ever are towing trailers behind their sleds to carry dogs as they travel down the trail. The jury is still out on whether the method actually does benefit dogs.

NCAA Rifle Champions Showcase Expert Shooters

Dan Bross, KUAC-Fairbanks
The National Collegiate Athletic Association Division 1 Rifle Championships are being held at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Friday and Saturday. The championships bring together shooters capable of extreme accuracy.

 

Categories: Alaska News

Coast Guard to Train for Shooting at Unalaska Docks 

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2015-03-12 17:10

Download Audio

The Coast Guard is teaming up with emergency personnel in Unalaska to practice their response to a mass shooting on the docks — in one of the region’s busiest ports.

Categories: Alaska News

Dogs in Tow More Common This Iditarod

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2015-03-12 17:02

Download Audio

Race Update: 5:45 p.m.  Aaron Burmeister was leading a pack of mushers into Huslia early Thursday evening. He was running ahead of a small group that included Martin Buser, Thomas Waerner, and Dallas Seavey. 

Whether sled dogs are in need of rest will start to show as teams near the halfway mark in this year’s race.  More mushers than ever are towing trailers behind their sleds to carry dogs as they travel down the trail. The jury is still out on whether the method actually does benefit dogs.

Categories: Alaska News

U.S. Arctic Rep: Russia’s Arctic Buildup Not Necessarily Martial

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2015-03-12 14:27

Robert Papp, the U.S. special representative for the Arctic, says he questions reports that Russia has launched a major military buildup in the Arctic. Papp says he’s asking U.S. intelligence agencies to look beyond Russia’s military swagger for a realistic view of its Arctic activity. Papp says Moscow could be adding infrastructure for general use in the north.

“One person can look at what’s going on in terms of what they call ‘military buildup’ and rightfully say they’ve got an awful long border along the Arctic, and if you’re going to have increased maritime traffic you should have search-and-rescue facilities, you should have modern airports and other things — things I’d like to have built in Alaska as maritime traffic increases,” he said.

Papp says the other Arctic nations have supported the U.S. sanctions against Russia for its incursions in the Ukraine. But he says the Obama Administration and other Arctic countries also agree it’s important not to shut Russia out.

“For the good of the Arctic, for the environment and other important issues, we need to keep Russia in the fold and keep communications open,” he said. “We are all committed to that. ”

Papp, a retired Coast Guard admiral, spoke this morning at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.

 

Categories: Alaska News

Food Bank Needs More Space to Meet Higher Demand

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2015-03-12 13:35

Judy Brown volunteers every Saturday at the Southeast Alaska Food Bank. She says they quickly run out of meats and cheeses after opening at 8:30 a.m. (Photo by Kevin Reagan, KTOO-Juneau)

 

The Southeast Alaska Food Bank  has doubled its inventory in recent years and is lacking the freezer space to preserve it all. The nonprofit hopes to expand its facilities on city-owned land to build additional storage.

It’s 9:15 on a Saturday morning and the shelves at the Southeast Alaska Food Bank are pretty bare. When the facility opened 45 minutes ago there were rows of chicken, cheese, soup and sandwiches — now all that’s mostly left is sour cream and a few loaves of bread.

Volunteer Judy Brown helps a man fill a box with packages of Oreo cookies. She says there’s no limit on how much an individual can take from the food bank.

“I just want to be fair,” Brown says, “I don’t want to see anyone not get anything.”

She says today’s supply is lighter than usual, so she asks visitors to take things sparingly.

The Southeast Alaska Food Bank allows any individual to visit on Saturday morning to take perishable goods such as milk, meat and cheese. The nonprofit gives its canned foods to local charities. (Photo by Kevin Reagan/ KTOO)
About 90 individuals visit the bank this morning and have walked out with roughly 2,700 pounds of food. The majority of it is locally donated from Walmart, Fred Meyer and Rainbow Foods.

Food bank manager Darren Adams says the amount of supply coming in-and-out has doubled in recent years.

“Once upon a time on a busy Saturday we would get 15 or 20 people showing up here to get food. When the economy started getting worse and worse, we started seeing more people and we had to move things around to accommodate that number of people,” Adams says.

The increased demand has led to plans for an expansion of the food bank by a quarter acre on a plot of city-owned land along Crazy Horse Drive.

Adams says the expansion would allow for the installation of walk-in freezers to store more meat — an item always first to go on a Saturday.

The added land would also permit the construction of a 1,840 square foot storage facility on the north side of the existing building.

Adams estimates the cost of the project to be minimal for the organization, but says the process is still very much in the “talking” phase.

Community planner Sarah Bronstein of Scheinberg Associates is helping the food bank navigate the complex process of getting the project off the ground.

“We will be just sort of looking over the shoulder of the city and making sure things are moving forward,” Bronstein says.

The Juneau Assembly needs to approve any changes to the food bank’s lease. Bronstein says it’s usually a three-month process, but does not foresee any hesitation from the Assembly.

“Part of the reason the city leases to the food bank is because it’s such a critical service that the food bank provides to the community,” Bronstein says.

The food bank also distributes nonperishable goods throughout the week to community partners such as The Glory Hole and the Boys and Girls Club of Juneau. Adams says roughly 25 percent of their supply is donated from individuals like the students of Floyd Dryden Middle School, who collected 1,140 pounds of food for the organization this past month.

“We live in a very generous community,” Adams says. “It never ceases to amaze me how willing people are wanting to step up and collect food for us.”

The city’s Planning Commission reviewed and approved the project at their Tuesday meeting. It now goes to the Assembly Lands and Resources Committee, which will decide whether to bring it before the full Juneau Assembly for approval.

Categories: Alaska News

Swanson’s Employees Brace For Change

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2015-03-12 13:29

State staff assist Swanson’s employees who will lose their jobs Friday. (Photo By Ben Matheson, KYUK-Bethel)

Following the announcement that Swanson’s grocery store would be closing, a rapid response team from the Alaska Department of Labor was dispatched to Bethel Wednesday.

The specialists were sent to assist the 80 employees from Swanson’s grocery store who will lose their jobs when the store closes Friday.

Eileen Henrikson is manager at the YK Delta Jobs Center.

“Hopefully, we’re able to work with employees and be able to find them jobs relatively quickly or at least get them into programs, basically whatever they want to do, we’re here to help them how we can,” said Henrikson.

The store, run by Omni Enterprises, is closing after less than a year in a new building owned by the Bethel Native Corporation. The company is liquidating inventory with a half off sale and customers are still waiting in long lines to buy groceries. Amid the busy week for employees, the team set up shop in the break room and met with small groups. Henrikson says she plans to connect local businesses with the large, newly unemployed group of workers.

Shoppers line up Wednesday to buy half-off groceries before the store closes. Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK.
“We’re definitely going to be helping them with resumes, job searching, job placement, whatever we can to help them with. I’m looking to hold an open house on Monday at the jobs center. We’ll have local businesses, recruiters, and people from training programs that can give them other options, said Henrikson.

Joe Nevik worked full-time in the electronics department. He was disappointed to hear of the loss, but is now beginning to apply for jobs. After meeting with the team, he was optimistic about new opportunities.

“I thought about getting a CDL, go to training and get a certificate, so I could find a better job,” said Nevik.

Joe Nevik worked in the electronics department. He is looking into getting a CDL certification. Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK.
Outgoing cashier manager Monica Yako is stressed because she has six kids at home and two days left of work. She spoke with the specialists about getting her GED. She says she will likely have to move out of Bethel and that brings up a lot of emotion.

“I liked being a cashier, I liked working in the store, I’ve been doing it so long. But it’s time to move forward and find something else to do.”

As for her future plans, she says she wants to become a nurse. Anna Tom worked in the clothing department. Her plan was more nebulous.

“A higher power will lead the way,” said Tom. “That’s my goal.”

The rapid response team only had one day scheduled in Bethel. The YK Delta Job Center, however, plans to continue to assist the laid off employees.

Categories: Alaska News

I Am An Iditarod Musher

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2015-03-12 11:34

Long-time Iditarod racer DeeDee Jonrowe shares her experience of life on the Iditarod Trail, her connection with her dogs, and perseverance through health struggles.

Categories: Alaska News

Iditarod Trail Begins To Soften Up, Slows Down

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2015-03-12 08:04

Mushers have been travelling this year’ Iditarod trail from Fairbanks with few complains, but after the left Tanana Wednesday, they found a slow, soft trail.

“Mushers seem to like to complain when there is snow and then when there’s no snow,” Bethel musher Pete Kaiser said.

Pete Kaiser in the 2015 Iditarod ceremonial start. (Photo by Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage)

He says the trail out of Tanana softened up considerably, which slowed down his team.

“Yeah that’s not the type of trail you’d want to be going fast on,” Kaiser said. “I wouldn’t anyway, just because you’d be prone to injuring dogs if they wanted to go faster, so it’s kind of frustrating watching them go slow, but its’ hard work from them to get through that.”

Jess Royer says she was also frustrated with a slow pace after her dog team left Tanana and dropped onto the Yukon River.

“It’s like you’re running on sand. That’s why it’s so slow,” Royer said. “You have 16 dogs and they’re all working, but you don’t get any power there you know. Even if I walk up to do something with the team, every time you take a step, it’s like you slide back a step. It’s just real granular type of snow, I guess.”

Mitch Seavey says drifting snow and soft trail were tough, but he says there hasn’t been the kid of drama he could “write stories about.”

“Yeah it’s fine, I’d rather not have scares from the trail this year,” Seavey said.

But a slower pace wasn’t factored into Norwegian Joar Ulsom’s race plan.

“I would like to be moving faster,” he said. “Hopefully I’ll give them a good rest and in Galena we’ll get some that speed back if we are lucky.”

Many mushers are starting to consider where they might take a 24 hour mandatory rest.

Race officials expect to see most teams stop for the long rest at one of the next three or four checkpoints, before they leave the Yukon River for good.

Categories: Alaska News

Iditarod Mushers Ponder When To Take 24-Hour Rest

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2015-03-12 07:50

Mitch Seavey at the 2015 Iditarod ceremonial start in Anchorage. (Photo by Josh Edge, APRN – AnchoragE)

Denali musher Jeff King led the Iditarod front-runners into Galena, with Aliy Zirkle and Aaron Burmeister arriving around an hour and a half later.

The Iditarod saw its first scratch of the race, as Zoya DeNure made the decision in Tanana, citing personal reasons.

Though a handful of mushers are on their way to Galena, close to half the teams are still working on the long run between Tanana and Ruby.

If mushers were traveling the normal southern route this year, they would likely be arriving in Takotna. It’s a popular spot where mushers often take a mandatory 24-hour rest. But this is not a normal year for the Iditarod. As Emily Schwing reports, a new trail combined with cold weather and long, monotonous river miles have mushers scratching their heads.

Download Audio

Dog teams are roughly a third of the way into this year’s Iditarod. It’s about the time when mushers start to contemplate where they should take a mandatory 24-hour layover.

Mitch Seavey declared his when he arrived first in Ruby, but he says it wasn’t his first choice for a spot to rest long.

“Having seen the past for long enough, I start to predict the future I guess, so here we are taking a nice break,” he said.

Seavey has run 21 previous Iditarods including in 2003 – the only other time the trail was rerouted through Fairbanks. But the two-time champion isn’t relying too much on his experience from that year.

“I think things are a little different than 2003 in terms of what’s successful, what may not be so successful, run rest strategies, things like that,” Seavey said.

The Iditarod trail normally only stops in Ruby in even numbered years. On that trail, the tiny village marks the race’s halfway point. Pete Kaiser has run the northern route three times.

“It’s a little confusing to get used to a new trail and try not to jump the gun thinking you’re in Ruby, but you’re really not in Ruby,” Kaiser said. “It’s confusing. You’re here right now and you’re used to being about 500 miles from the finish, but we’re not. It’s about 700 miles, so yeah, it’s a lot to take in with a tired mind.”

Kaiser says the biggest challenge for him has been the deep cold that’s settled in throughout the Yukon River valley. In some places, mushers have reported overnight temperatures of 40 below. There’s also been a slight breeze, resulting in a wind chill.

“When you’re kicking and ski poling at 3 a.m. trying to keep warm because you’re shivering, it’s harder to eat and stay hydrated, because your face mask is frozen to your face to drink some water or eats something because when you go to put it back on it’s not going to move, so yeah, there’s lots of challenges when you’re dealing with 40 or 50 below,” he said. “It’s a whole different deal.”

Aaron Burmeister says the cold is the reason nearly every musher is exhausted when they pull their dog team into a checkpoint.

“It’s been really flippin’ cold, so people haven’t been talking a whole lot,” Burmeister said. “They’re freezing their butts off. Their legs are sore, arms are sore from moving on the trail from trying to stay warm, so there’s been a lot of work, soft trails, but there hasn’t been much drama.”

Burmeister says he’s struggled most with trying to keep his dog team healthy.

“Pretty much everything that could go wrong on a race you wish never happens has already gone wrong in the last 250 miles, so I’m hoping things pick up from here,” he said. “They’re eating again, they’re’ drinking, I had good stools coming in here, I still have a couple females in heat, but I’m just hoping things clear up and start improving.”

Mushers have reported a mostly smooth trail, but along the Yukon River, it has started to soften up and wind is causing the snow to drift. Jesse Royer doesn’t expect a good trail report to last too long.

“I was hearing some other mushers taking back in Tanana like ‘well if the wind doesn’t get us on the river, it probably will on the coast, because it just can’t not get us somewhere,’” Royer said. “I don’t know the wind on the river can be pretty bad, not that coast is any much better, so I guess it’s still a long ways to Nome, so a lot can happen.”

Teams will continue down the Yukon River toward Galena, where they’ll turn north and make their way for Huslia on an overland trail.

The forecast calls for continued cold, subzero temperatures and wind out of the Northwest throughout the middle Yukon River valley.

Categories: Alaska News

Pages