Senator Lisa Murkowski hosted a Senate hearing on subsistence in Bethel Tuesday afternoon. Over 25 people spoke and many more turned in written testimony.
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Rob Kinneen is a chef from Anchorage and the founder of Fresh49, an organization that raises awareness in Alaska about the benefits of using local foods.
As part of his tour through Southeast earlier this spring, Kinneen stopped in at Sitka’s Mt. Edgecumbe High School and taught a cooking class. Although Kinneen is a Tlingit, with roots in Petersburg, Sitka, and Metlakatla, he is a ready hand with delicacies from other regions, including muktuk sushi.
Mt. Edgecumbe junior Shanelle Afcan is involved with the Fish-to-Schools program. She attended Kinneen’s class and sent this audio postcard.
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There were four bond propositions for infrastructure projects on the Anchorage Municipal ballot Tuesday, and they all passed.
All four bond propositions passed by large margins during Tuesday’s municipal election. Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan says he believes their passage as a sign that his administration is on the right track.
“I’m real please that all of our bond propositions are passing. For me as mayor, one of the best things that’s the best indicator of whether you’re on the right course or not is that whether the public supports your bonds. And I think the people feel that our fiscal situation has been restored, that we’re on the right track in terms of spending money wisely and when you get your bonds passed, that’s a good indicator.”
Proposition 1 secures 55 million dollars for educational structure improvements. Proposition 2 issues bonds for 2.5 million dollars for emergency service, public safety & public transportation expenses. Proposition 3 issues about 20.5 million dollars to preserve existing roads and drainage infrastructure. Proposition 4 approves 2.5 million dollars for park projects.
There were three other propositions on the ballot. Proposition 5 approved the Campbell Creek Land Exchange for improvements on Dowling Road. Proposition 6 amends the municipal charter to change Assembly member terms to 3 years. Proposition 7, which would have allowed annexation of property in road service areas without a vote of the the affected road service area voters, was the only proposition that didn’t pass.
There were two Anchorage School Board seats on Tuesday’s Election ballot. Bettye Davis and Eric Croft won them.
Former State Legislator Bettye Davis beat out incumbent Don Smith for seat A on the School Board. Davis said the Board needs to put children first.
“First of all, we need to do what’s best for the children. They’re our greatest resources. If we educate them early, we keep them from getting in trouble later — that’s why we have high dropouts. So those are the areas that I’m going to be working on. I don’t have a concern about looking for efficiencies in the school district that they might be able to save money, but I’ll do what I can to make sure we get what we can for our children.”
Davis says she believes her experience in the legislature will assist the board in securing funding for the district. Smith had held seat A since 2010. Attorney and former legislator Eric Croft beat out two other candidates for Seat B. He says his first priority will be rearranging the school board chambers.
“You know, my first priority — it sounds funny but, the administration’s back is to the public in the actual meeting room. And, while it’s a small point, I want to change that. I want to have it so they’re looking at us. I think listening to people is a big message of this night on the assembly races and on this. And then really diving into the budget numbers and figuring out how we focus all that energy on the classroom.”
Davis beat Smith by more than 3-thousand votes. She served on the School board during the 80′s and 90′s. Croft garnered nearly 60 percent of votes in his race. Another new board member joined the school board this week to replace Gretchen Guess. Kameron Perez-Verdia, who heads an education non-profit was appointed and sworn in Monday. Board members represent the entire city.
It was hit and miss for Assembly Candidates backed by conservative Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan in Tuesday’s Municipal Elections. And the makeup of the Anchorage Assembly seems as though it will be shifting.
“Cheering, Nick Moe! Nick Moe!”
That’s supporters cheering as the votes rolled in for West Anchorage write-in Assembly candidate, Nick Moe.
“It’s amazing the amount that this campaign was able to accomplish in two weeks. And regardless of the outcome, I am so pleased. I think we sent the message that the public process should be followed, that we should have leaders that listen to us not shut us out of testimony and the public process. Regardless of the outcome, I’m very happy. It’s very encouraging to be ahead this late in the game. But we still have a long way to go both tonight and we’ll see what happens this next week or so”
Moe and Assembly Chair Ernie Hall were neck and neck, trading places for the lead all night long. At the end of the night, Hall led Moe by just 93 votes. Hall received 3,628 votes, that’s 50.65 percent, while, write-in Moe had 3,535 votes that’s 49.35 percent. 26-year-old Moe, who works for the Alaska Center for the Environment, launched a write-in campaign late in the game. He said he jumped into the race with only two weeks to go in response to Hall’s handling of AO37, a controversial ordinance that stripped municipal worker unions of power. Hall oversaw a vote of the assembly which ended a public hearing before everyone had a chance to testify. Hall said Moe’s success was due to support of unions, especially those representing fire fighters.
“People are gonna jump on a bandwagon. In this case it was the fireman’s association that decided that decided that they wanted to get behind Nick Moe and help him get elected.”
Six of the 11 Assembly seats were on the ballot. Chugiak/Eagle River Candidate, Amy Demboski, who was endorsed by Mayor Sullivan won her race. The paralegal who also sits on the Mayor’s city Budget Advisory Commission beat out two other candidates to replace outgoing Chugiak/Eagle River Assembly Member Debbie Ossiander. Demboski said she ran in support of the Mayor’s controversial ordinance but she’s ready to work a reconfigured assembly.
“I live in facts and data and that’s the type of decisions that I’ll make. So regardless of what the other side is saying, or what my side is saying, if you will, I will always be fair and I will always do my homework. And the facts and the data will say what they will and our community will speak. And whatever my community says that they want, that’s the direction we’ll go in.”
Assembly Vice Chair, and Sullivan supporter, Jennifer Johnston ran unopposed for her South Anchorage seat. Cheryl Frasca, the Mayor’s former budget director, who was appointed to fill the West Anchorage seat left vacant by Harriet Drummond after she was elected to the Statehouse, lost here race to Tim Steele. Steele, a former School Board member said voters sent the Assembly and Mayor a clear message.
“Well, I think it’s a message from the voters that they’re not real happy. It seems to be a change election. We’ll see how it all pans out, but I think they’re mad as heck and they’re not gonna take it anymore.”
Midtown Assembly member Dick Traini beat out conservative challenger Andy Clary, whose politics align closely with Mayor Sullivan’s. Traini said he’s looking forward to change on the Assembly.
“There’s going to be a major shift in this Assembly. I think Nick’s gonna win it. We’ll see what happens. I know Steele’s gonna win it for sure. I think the public is speaking and we’re going to listen to them. If there’s a big change [we] should reorganize the Assembly and put it back where it needs to be, where everybody who comes down to testify gets to be heard, and we’ll go from there.”
Assembly member Paul Honeman, who ran unopposed in East Anchorage, agreed with Traini.
“It’s pretty exciting. You know past elections have been somewhat mundane on the assembly race, but with the write-in campaign and certainly right on the heels of what we just recently went through — a couple of weeks of pretty rancorous testimony from the public and not feeling like they’ve been heard. I think their message is loud and clear. They want to respect the public process. They want their local elected officials to listen to them.”
Mayor Sullivan blamed special interests for shifting the terrain of the election. He said they were responsible for upsetting Frasca’s race and giving Hall an unexpected run for his seat.
“Here you have again, special interests pouring a ton of money and a ton of ground support into a ground campaign against a candidate who, quite frankly, didn’t intend on raising any money. So I think it kinda put Ernie at a disadvantage, if you will. Ernie Hall is a great guy, a great gentleman, a great leader — he always tries to find consensus and I think be’s going to prevail in this race, ultimately.”
It won’t be known for a week or so whether it’s Hall or Moe who will prevail. Officials with the Municipal Clerk’s office say there are more than 22-hundred early ballots yet to be counted and an unknown number of absentee and question ballots. The write-ins don’t get counted by name unless Moe gets more votes than Hall. The Election is set to be certified on April 16th.
The day after a vote on a major infrastructure project, the House majority didn’t tout their political win. Instead, messaging focused on childish behavior from a Fairbanks Democrat during debate on the legislation.
Rep. Scott Kawasaki was filmed playing with his phone and sticking out his tongue on Monday night in the middle of a floor speech by Speaker Mike Chenault (R-Nikiski) on a bill advancing an in-state gasline. The morning after, the Speaker’s press office circulated images of Kawasaki before announcing that the majority’s Interior representatives planned to chastise their minority colleague in a news conference.
Violations of the legislature’s uniform rules are not uncommon, but public condemnations of the transgressors are rare. Members of the media, including this one, responded with some incredulity that a press conference had even been called.
“Is this the first time anybody has ever been rude on the House floor?” asked Matt Buxton, of the Fairbanks Daily Newsminer.
Rich Mauer of the Anchorage Daily News asked Rep. Tammie Wilson (R-North Pole) why the group was singling out Kawasaki when others had used toilet humor that same night. A group of legislators laughed at the repeated use of the word “but” in one speech and some encouraged bill supporters to describe voting for it as “passing gas.”
MAUER: You and the other representatives weren’t there trying to convince him to make a fart joke at the end of the session?
WILSON: Oh, absolutely not …
MAUER: Gas? Pass gas? What was that?
WILSON: I didn’t see it that way. If you took it that way, then I’m sorry for that. But it was to make it short and sweet. We’d made our points through the night, and to me, it was not in that response.
Wilson was seen laughing at the phrasing during deliberation on the bill.
At the press conference, Rep. Pete Higgins (R-Fairbanks) explained that the reason for the scolding was that Kawasaki appeared to be openly mocking Chenault at a time when the Speaker held the floor. It was later established that Kawasaki was not reacting to Chenault’s speech, but a text message from someone watching the debate on television. Kawasaki stuck out his tongue at cameras to respond to that person, since text messaging is forbidden on the House floor.
No formal disciplinary action is planned against Kawasaki. Higgins said the group only wanted Kawasaki to say he was sorry for the way he acted. However, the five Fairbanks-area legislators cut the press conference short and rushed out of the room for other committee hearings before Kawasaki could address them. Kawasaki ended up offering his apology to reporters, and said that he regretted making faces during discussion of a bill that he ultimately voted “yes” on.
House Speaker Mike Chenault was not present for the press conference. But when asked later if his feelings were hurt by Kawasaki’s behavior, Chenault jokingly responded, “What feelings?” He elaborated that he was not personally offended, but thought the behavior was disrespectful of the legislature.
Earlier this session, Chenault was involved in his own controversy over comportment when a member of his staff inadvertently sent out an email describing the City of Valdez’s opposition to the gasline bill as a “crock of sh-t” to the city’s clerk.
A decision this week from the U.S. District court for the District of Columbia has big implications for Alaska tribes. In the case of Akiachak Native Community v. Salazar, the court affirmed the ability of the Secretary of the Interior to take land into trust for Alaska tribes. The ruling also states that Alaska tribes have the right to be treated the same as all other federally recognized tribes.
The suit was brought in 2006 by four tribes, the Akiachak Native Community, Chalkyitsik Village, the Tukuksak Native Community, the Chilkoot Indian Association and one Native person, Alice Kavairlook. They challenged the Interior Secretary’s decision to leave a regulation in place that treats Alaska Natives differently than other Native peoples.
David Barry is the tribal administrator for the Chilkoot Indian Association of Haines. The community of 500 members is located about 90 miles north of Juneau. He says the decision gives tribes the ability to engage in economic development on their lands.
“Most tribes don’t have a land base and what land they do have is fee simple, so this would protect our property by putting it in trust.” Barry said.
Barry says this isn’t a move toward reservations but allows them to protect their land and the office and housing buildings on it, from taxation and seizure. He says there is still a lot that needs to be understood about how the decision will impact tribes, but he says the tribal council is happy.
“We’ve been fighting since 94 to have this petition heard and finally reach a decision, so we were actually shocked when we won,” Barry said.
Barry says he is waiting on clarification from Native American Rights Fund Attorney Heather Kendall Miller about the details. Kendall Miller was not available to discuss the decision today. The Attorney General’s office in Alaska did not return calls seeking reaction to the decision. In a release NARF states the decision allows Alaska Tribes to petition the secretary to take non-ANCSA lands into trust and gives those tribes the ability to regulate alcohol, respond to domestic violence and generally protect the health and safety of tribal members.
In a late-night vote on Monday, the Alaska House passed legislation meant to advance the construction of a small-diameter pipeline. It would transport natural gas from the North Slope to Southcentral for Alaskan consumption and, potentially, for export.
The thing is complicated. It would make the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation its own separate entity, and position it to receive $250 million in state funds this year for design and permitting work, with at least another $150 million to come down the road. The hope is to eventually hand things off to private firms for construction of a 700-mile line capable moving 500 million cubic feet of gas a day. That would cover urban Alaska’s energy needs, and still leave some available for export.
Passage of the bill was a coup for Speaker Mike Chenault, a Nikiski Republican who had failed to advance similar legislation in the past. Wearing an Alaska bolo tie and Johnny Cash-style black suit, he handed over his gavel, stepped down from his podium, and gave a rare speech to the House.
“We’re all wanting the same thing, Mr. Speaker,” Chenault said. “We all want the cheapest gas – or the cheapest energy – that we can get to all Alaskans.”
Not everyone is happy with the bill. Democrats have concerns that it doesn’t do enough in the way of public oversight or consumer protection. They made multiple attempts to tweak the document. One amendment would have put into statute language prioritizing the Alaska market over foreign demand in the event of a gas shortage. Another would have given the legislature final approval of a pipeline plan before construction. As written, control of project implementation falls to AGDC and industry. Rep. Les Gara, of Anchorage, said the amendment was needed to give the public a say on whether the project should be built depending on how much it would bring down utility rates.
“The bill is written to say, by passing this bill, this is final legislative approval,” Gara said. “The public can talk all it wants in the future about how high the price of gas might be under this project, but nobody will be there to listen.”
He also argued that since the state was putting hundreds of millions of dollars into project development, the legislature should have some say on if the pipeline is worth the money before ground is broken.
Rep. Mike Hawker, an architect of the bill, responded that any pipeline construction and utility rate agreements would be reviewed by the Regulatory Commission of Alaska and an AGDC board made up of the governor’s appointees. He said that with the way the bill is written, North Slope producers, pipeline operators, and utility companies would all have to negotiate with each other and have incentive to agree on the best possible rate, which, in turn would get passed on to the consumer.
The Anchorage Republican’s opposition to the amendment also had a philosophical basis. The key principle for Hawker in drafting the bill was market efficiency.
“Why in the world would we want the legislature to interfere in a private sector transaction that actually moves a pipeline project forward?,” Hawker said. “I don’t think we ought to be there.”
All eight of the Democrats’ amendments failed, though a pair of measures concerning local hire received some Republican support. The gasline bill ultimately passed 30-9, with four representatives splitting from their caucuses on the vote. Democrats Max Gruenberg, of Anchorage, and Scott Kawasaki, of Fairbanks, voted yes on the bill. Neal Foster of Nome broke with the majority, along with Eric Feige, a Chickaloon Republican who also represents Valdez. The City of Valdez has been an advocate for a bigger pipeline, and it was behind a million-dollar advertising campaign against the bill because of how it could indefinitely sideline the AGIA project.
With less than two weeks left to the legislative session, the bill has been sent over to the Senate, where two committees will review the measure.
High school hazing would be outlawed under a bill introduced by state Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka.
House Bill 189 (PDF: Full text) defines hazing as subjecting a student to the risk of physical injury for the purpose of initiation or affiliation with an organization. It applies to students from elementary school up through college.
The Sitka Democrat’s bill would make hazing a misdemeanor, unless it results in death or serious physical injury, in which case it would be a felony.
It also requires school districts to adopt policies against hazing and to file an annual report on any hazing incidents that result in suspension or expulsion. Districts already report similar cases of bullying and harassment.
Kreiss-Tomkins, a 2008 graduate of Sitka High School, says his bill is designed to clarify existing laws protecting students, and to bring more awareness to the issue of hazing.
“It’s unconscionable to me,” he said in a phone interview. “Both when I was an underclassman and watching it happen to my classmates, and to a certain extent myself, and as an upperclassman, when I watched my classmates who were once on the receiving end of it, perpetrate it. It’s just one of these cycles that has no place in schools.”
Kreiss-Tomkins says when he participated in high school sports, he witnessed hazing first-hand, although nothing as bad as what his bill would cover.
“Actually, I had well-developed evasive instincts,” Kreiss-Tomkins said. “I’m not sure you could ever say I was in the receiving end of it. But my friends were, and I certainly felt intimidated by it, because it was happening to people all around me, and myself. And it would have happened to myself, too, if I wasn’t good at being not in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
The measure also protects people who report incidents of hazing. House Bill 189 now sits in the House Education Committee, awaiting action.
The Matanska Susitna Borough’s School District is anticipating staff reductions in the coming school year. District teacher contracts are in negotiation, and no proposals have been submitted yet, but the school district’s current financial outlook could result in 45 positions being eliminated.
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New research shows some significant changes in the makeup of the labor force in Alaska. The research also sheds some light on who chooses to work.
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A brand new fishing vessel headed for Alaska to join the Kodiak fleet in 1972 never reached its destination, and its fate has been a mystery for over 40 years. That is, until it was discovered sitting on the sea floor under 9,000 feet of water in the Gulf of Mexico.
The fishing vessel Katmai was found by a Schmidt Ocean Institute oil and gas survey ship in December. Having no record of a shipwreck in the spot, 200-miles from Mobile, Alabama, a remotely operated submersible was sent down to investigate a strong sonar return.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which occasionally runs across shipwrecks, alerted the U.S. Coast Guard, according to Lieutenant Commander Theresa Hatfield in New Orleans.
The owner was Oskar Joos. The Coast Guard did not have the name of his wife or daughter. The deckhand was Clinton Hollevoet. KMXT has contacted several people who knew the Joos’ family, but have not heard back from them as of this morning.
Hatfield said she checked historic weather records from the time to see if it offers any clues to the Katmai’s sinking, but there were no reports of foul weather at the time.
In the photographs, the Katmai can be seen sitting upright on the bottom and it’s not possible to determine if there was any damage to the hull.
Hatfield doubts any further effort will be made to determine the condition of the Katmai or to salvage it.
An airplane that crashed 44 years ago near Fairbanks may fly again. The B-25 bomber was being used for firefighting when it belly landed on a Tanana River sandbar in June 1969. No one died in the crash, but the hulk of the World War 2 bomber was damaged and never removed. As KUAC’s Dan Bross reports, a pair of aircraft mechanics from Michigan are planning a rescue attempt.
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Nearly a billion pounds of cargo landed at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport in 2012. That’s the equivalent to about 500 thousand Volkswagen beetles. And the guy who manages it all?
“My name is John Parrott. I am the airport manager at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.”
Currently, Anchorage International Airport is the fourth busiest cargo airport in the world. The airport was the third busiest in the world until the 2008 world financial crisis. The crisis affected supply and demand in the US and Europe. The reduced demand for consumer goods from Asia caused a drop in cargo flights through Anchorage. A majority of the cargo flights come from China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Even with the reduced cargo flights, Anchorage is still an important refueling stop for cargo planes, with 500 wide bodied cargo planes landing at the airport every week:
“Now as a comparison the city and business community of Portland a few years ago came up with a fairly nice financial incentive program. They were very happy to once again reestablish international cargo traffic out of the Portland airport with three flights a week. Uh, that was a success to them. We currently enjoy about 500 flights a week,”Parrott said.
That translates into about 72 cargo planes landing every twenty-four hours.
The majority of the transport cargo comes from Asian countries. Parrott says Anchorage is strategically located between Asia and the lower 48. Most wide-body cargo planes carry only enough fuel to travel 4,000 miles. For Asian products to reach the east coast, cargo planes have to travel twice that distance.
“…but Alaska exists in-between. So, to effectively utilize these aircraft all over the world in all markets, you need an airplane that will go about 4,000 miles and works all over the globe as long as we are here as a fueling stop,” Parrott said.
Parrott is excited about the cargo growth opportunities in Anchorage for a process called cargo-transfer. That allows foreign carriers to exchange cargo among their own fleet or to transfer cargo among different carriers while on US soil. Until 2004, it was illegal in the U-S, but that year an amendment sponsored by Senator Ted Stevens allowed for cargo transfer in Hawaii and Alaska.
“Cabotage is where a foreign carrier carries cargo between two cities in another country. Normally a foreign carrier could not load cargo say in Seattle and fly it to New York. Those rights are preserved for a US flag carrier,” Parrott said.
With only two U-S states using this unique process, Parrott says it is difficult to convince multiple carriers to share their profits. But he believes cargo-transfer will eventually help Ted Stevens expand its cargo development.
The Atwood Foundation is in the process of donating two original Eustace Ziegler Alaskan paintings and two original Sydney Laurence paintings to the Anchorage Museum. The foundation will also contribute an original Nunivak mask.
Monica Shah, the Museum’s Director of Collections and Chief Conservator, says the Museum only accepts original art that meets the mission of Museum which is to illustrate the Circumpolar North. Shah says the Museum has had a long-term relationship with the Atwood Foundation. Shah explains the foundation decided it was time to donate more art to the Museum.
“They let us choose some pieces that are within the collection of the Foundation and so we went over and selected these pieces,” Shah said. “And we picked these particular pieces because of the quality of the work.”
“They fill gaps in our collection that we don’t have this particular subject matter, they don’t duplicate.”
The four paintings depict Alaska’s environment. One of Ziegler’s larger painting portrays a train of horses traveling with supplies on their back with the Mt. McKinley in the foreground. Shah describes another Ziegler painting.
“One by Eustace Ziegler and that is another one that is got two I guess sort of explorers prospectors sitting on a rock with Mt. McKinley in the background and you know sort of a stereotypical sort of an Alaskan scene but really you know very unique to your collection and in a sense by Ziegler we don’t have this particular image and but also very well done,” Shah said.
Shah says the Nunivak mask is from the mid-twentieth century. The mask depicts a bird with unusual green rimmed-eyes with several delicate feather appendages.
“The Nunivak style mask is not signed so we don’t know exactly who made it but it has an owl face and its lovely. It has these little green in the rims of the eyes, we don’t see that very often and in its beak its holding a fish that’s slightly bent. It’s very delicate and really wonderful,” Shah said.
Before the Museum displays the donated paintings, an art conservator is working to restore them.
Carman Bria has been a painting conservator for over thirty years and has worked on several pieces of art for the Museum. He stands next to one of the Ziegler paintings.
“You can see a very yellow discolored a natural resin varnish on it. So a lot of times, although not always possible you can remove those old varnishes and get that yellow off of there like you notice in the sky there where it is yellow, where it’s still yellow um, it looks kind of green. A blue sky with yellow on it looks kind of greenish you take the yellow off and it starts to look more blue like a sky should,” Bria said.
Bria was using a q-tip and chemicals to remove the old varnish off of the Ziegler painting.
According to Shah, the art work will go on display in June.
In a literal eleventh hour vote on Monday night, the Alaska House passed legislation meant to advance the construction of a small-diameter pipeline. The line would transport natural gas from the North Slope to Southcentral for Alaskan consumption and, potentially, for export.
While the bill had been moving at a sluggish pace in the House, Republican leadership put it on the fast track with just two weeks left to the legislative session. The 20,000-word bill would make the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation its own separate entity, and position it to receive $225 million in state funds this year. Bill sponsors had hoped to secure $400 million for design and permitting work need before the project can go to an open season. After that, the plan is to let the private sector take over construction.
Support for the bill was largely split on caucus lines, with Democrats making multiple attempts to amend the document. One amendment would have put into statute language prioritizing the Alaska market over foreign demand in the event of a gas shortage. Another would have given the legislature final approval of a pipeline plan before construction. As written, control of project implementation falls to AGDC and private firms. Rep. Les Gara, of Anchorage, called the amendment a matter of public oversight.
“The bill is written to say [that] by passing this bill, this is final legislative approval,” said Gara. ”The public can talk all it wants in the future about how high the price of gas might be under this project, but nobody will be there to listen.”
Rep. Mike Hawker, an architect of the bill, responded that any pipeline would be reviewed by the Regulatory Commission of Alaska and an AGDC board made up of the governor’s appointees.
The Anchorage Republican’s opposition to the amendment also had a philosophical basis. The key principle for him in drafting the bill was market efficiency.
“Why in the world would we want the legislature to interfere in a private sector transaction that actually moves a pipeline project forward?” asked Hawker. “I don’t think we ought to be there.”
All eight of the Democrats’ amendments failed, though a pair of measures concerning local hire received some Republican support. The gasline bill ultimately passed 30 to 9, with four representatives splitting from their caucuses on the vote. Democrats Max Gruenberg, of Anchorage, and Scott Kawasaki, of Fairbanks, voted yes on the bill. Neal Foster of Nome broke with the majority, along with Eric Feige, a Chickaloon Republican who also represents Valdez. The City of Valdez has been an advocate for a bigger pipeline, and it was behind a million-dollar advertising campaign against the bill because of how it might sideline AGIA.
A similar gasline bill died in the previous legislature.
The bill will now be sent over to the Senate, where it is tentatively scheduled for hearings in the resources and finance committees.
In a somber and sometimes emotional press conference Monday in Anchorage, Public Safety Commissioner Joe Masters said that Helo 1′s pilot, Mel Nading, 55, Trooper Tage Toll, 40, of the Talkeetna post, and a body believed to be that of snowmachiner Karl Ober were aboard the downed craft. Masters said the rescue call came in late Saturday night, and at about 10 pm, the helicopter crew radioed that they had located the missing snowmachiner.
“At approximately 2200 hours, radio communication with Helo 1 indicated that they had located the injured snowmachiner, tentatively identified as Talkeetna resident Carl Ober. It was requested that a ground ambulance be waiting at the Sunshine Tesoro in Talkeetna to meet up with Helo 1 to transport Mr. Ober to a hospital for treatment. Helo 1 did not make it to the rondezvous. “
After the helicopter failed to show up, additional Troopers were dispatched by snowmachine and the Air National Guard was called in. Guard searchers located the wreckage of the helicopter about 9:30 AM Easter Sunday.
”Two para rescue jumpers were lowered down to the scene, the two AWT troopers were on scene shortly thereafter. An assessment of the scene was conducted, and it was determined that there were no survivors from the crash of Helo 1. Due to the condition of Helo 1 and the on scene investigation, the recovery of remains occurred later in the day. Positive identification of the remains is still ongoing. On this point, we will not speculate as to why Helo 1 crashed. The NTSB will conduct an investigation into the cause and circumstances. “
Masters said that the surviving members of the families of the deceased are now the Troopers’ s top concern, although he would not reveal the survivor’s names at this time. He said the crash represented a great tragedy for the troopers and the search and rescue community as well.
Trooper Director Colonel Keith Mallard said that pilot Nading was hired in 2000 and had flown over 3000 hours and saved hundreds of lives during his time with the Troopers in Alaska. He said that Nading had over 12 thousand hours in the air prior to coming to work for the State Troopers
”In 2012, Mel Nading made over 900 contacts. So, it’s reasonable to think that he flew over 900 missons. “
The crash marks the fourteenth and fifteeth Trooper deaths in the line of duty since 1974. Helo 1 was the only helicopter of its type in the state. A second Helo has been requested by the Troopers, but that depends on a legislative appropriation. The cost of Helo 1 is over 3 million dollars.
The EPA is scheduled to release its revised watershed assessment for the proposed Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay sometime this spring.
Conservation groups are stepping up the lobbying pressure in Washington in anticipation of the ruling.
There are a whole host of groups who oppose the Pebble Mine from the Bristol Bay Native Corporation down to independent subsistence fishermen.
But the sheer volume of mineral resources and the hundreds of billions of dollars in possible revenue have enticed many to support the mine.
“It’s a of a size that they’ve told their shareholders is three times bigger than the biggest mine in North America,” former Alaska State Senate President Rick Halford said at a happy hour outside of Washington, D.C. for conservationists.
The Republican has been an outspoken critic of the mine, saying there’s no way an open pit mine of Pebble’s magnitude could coincide with the world’s largest red salmon fishery.
Halford, who represented Chugiak in the state Senate, has both personal and commercial interests in Bristol Bay. He owns a cabin and runs an outfitter service in Western Alaska.
He says the Pebble Partnership needs to step forward and submit its application for a permit.
“Hiding behind the ‘we haven’t applied yet’ when they have the Wardrop Report that they’ve paid for and filed with the Security and Exchange Commission; when they have their water rights application that’s hundreds of pages long, to take all the water from in both forks of the Koktuli and Upper Talarik creek. They have a lot on paper,” Halford said.
The Waldrop report is a study from Northern Dynasty, one of the companies involved with the mine.
Pebble Partnership CEO John Shively says the Waldrop report is a frame work. It doesn’t contain essential environmental guidelines. Those guidelines would be in a final permit application.
Shively would not pinpoint how far along the company is in its application, nor would he say when precisely it will submit its plan to the government.
“We’re a good ways. It’s possible we have a project description out this year. I’ve said that every year I’ve been CEO, and that’s been five years. But I think we’re getting close,” Shively said.
Shively says the Pebble Partnership has spent more than one hundred million dollars researching possible environmental affects.
He says he met with EPA administrators in Seattle three weeks ago, and agency officials say a draft assessment is due this month.
It would be open for public comment, and the agency would review the comments before issuing a final decision.
Jay Bellinger is the former manager of the Kodiak Island National Wildlife Refuge. He and more than a dozen other retired government employees – from the state DNR to the Fish and Wildlife Service – fired off a letter to the president.
They want President Barack Obama to intervene and block the mine.
Bellinger, who now lives in South Dakota, says he can’t believe the federal government, for which he worked for decades, would grant a permit.
“I’m flabbergasted that something like this could be proposed in America. And especially in a pristine habitat in Western Alaska where there’s very little of it rest in the world. And it’s not even necessary for human survival,” Bellinger said.
Unnecessary because the mine would rip copper, gold and other valuable metals out of the Earth, not oil and gas.
Bellinger, who was also visiting DC, says conservation groups in Alaska can’t prevent the mine alone.
“People have joined together that aren’t always on the same page to try and stop this thing. But they can only do so much. They’ve got to get groups down here in the Lower 48 to stand up and be counted,” Bellinger said.
And that’s where Tom Franklin comes in. Franklin works with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. He says his group of sport fishing companies, guides and outfitters from all over the country is increasing pressure on Congress to block the permit.
He says the Alaska Congressional delegation has not led on the issue.
“They’re fence sitting a little bit right now. I think they recognize the volatility of this issue,” Franklin said.
Franklin says many in Congress don’t know much about the issue, in part, because the mine would be on state land. But the EPA has an interest in the water quality in the region.
And the area surrounding the state land is controlled by various federal agencies.
He says the EPA could nix any mine outright.
“It’s not necessary to wait for a permit application. We know that the scale of this development would be so great that it would have an effect on water quality. And that’s what EPA is primarily concerned about,” Franklin said.
With the agency about to undergo a leadership change, it’s unlikely any decision will come in the next few months.
The State Senate unanimously passed the governor’s crime package on Monday.
The bill is meant to combat Alaska’s high rates of domestic and sexual violence.
“We have a problem in Alaska,” said Sen. John Coghill. “This is some forward motion on ways to protect the victims, hold criminals accountable, and give good process for them to work.”
The bill amends criminal code in dozens of ways, with special attention to sex crimes. It gets rid of a statute of limitations for human trafficking and child pornography. It allows for wiretapping in trafficking cases. It makes it so that persons charged with stalking or domestic violence could be ordered to wear GPS monitors. It also makes it a third-degree felony for a probation or parole officer to have sex with someone in their charge. That provision is in response to a case where a state officer had women perform sexual acts in exchange for covering up probation violations. The officer could only be charged with official misconduct and bribery.
Sen. Lesil McGuire, an Anchorage Republican, described that case as “horrific” during discussion of the bill.
“Just because somebody has committed a crime and might be on probation or parole, we don’t allow them to be further sexually violated,” said McGuire.
One controversial provision of Gov. Sean Parnell’s original bill was removed during the committee process. Lawmakers got rid of language that would have imposed criminal penalties on volunteers for sports teams if they didn’t report suspected child abuse.
A companion bill in the House is now in its final committee of review.
The Alaska Volcano Observatory is joining the list of agencies that have announced cutbacks in response to the massive federal spending cuts known as sequestration. AVO will stop maintaining its seismic networks on some remote volcanoes.
Late last year, scientists at the Alaska Volcano Observatory picked up a swarm of small earthquakes at Little Sitkin volcano, in the far western Aleutians. They would have been undetectable to humans, but were picked up by AVO’s seismic network on the volcano, and alerted scientists to the possibility of an eruption. While the closest community is 200 miles to the east and wouldn’t have been affected, an eruption could have caused problems for international flight traffic.
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