Alaska News

Zirkle Overtakes Buser in Iditarod

APRN Alaska News - Sat, 2014-03-08 09:32

Aliy Zirkle – Photo by Patrick Yack – Alaska Public Media

Aliy Zirkle, hoping to end her streak of second-place finishes, was the first out of Kaltag early Saturday morning. She left about 3:18 with 11 dogs in her team. She spent just a few minutes at the checkpoint before darting off for Unalakleet.

Martin Buser left Kaltag about 5:34 Saturday morning with 14 dogs. Nicolas Petit was in third place on Saturday morning. He left Kaltag about 7:14 with 14 dogs.

Dallas Seavey, who won two years ago, jumped into fourth place. He was in Kaltag Saturday morning.

Categories: Alaska News

Buser Keeps Iditarod Lead; First Out of Nulato

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-03-07 23:05

Martin Buser, racing with 14 dogs, kept up his bid to win the 2014 Iditarod, leaving Nulato about 9:34 Friday night. Still in Nulato were Sonny Lindner, Aliy Zirkle and Jeff King.

Buser is attempting to win his 5th Iditarod. He won in 1992, 1994, 1997 and 2002.

Prior to reaching Nulato, both Buser and Zirkle had taken their mandatory 8-hour and 24-hour layovers. Lindner and King had not taken their 8-hour stops.

Last year’s winner – Mitch Seavey – was in 13th place and out of Galena.

Abbie West was leading the rookies and in Galena Friday night. She was in 18th place.

 

 

Categories: Alaska News

Controversial Permitting Bill Back For Consideration

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-03-07 18:35

After sitting in limbo for nearly a year, a controversial permitting bill is on the move again. House Bill 77 has been sent back to the Senate Resources Committee, and it’s scheduled for hearings next week.

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Joe Balash, Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources. Photo courtesy State of Alaska.

Gov. Sean Parnell introduced the bill last session, and he pitched it as a way of reducing the permitting backlog. But tribal organizations, fishing groups, and environmental outfits came out strongly against it. They argued it would limit public involvement in land management decisions and give the natural resources commissioner blanket authority to issue general permits.

Natural Resources Commissioner Joe Balash says a new version of the bill will be released on Monday and public testimony will be taken Wednesday. He says some of the more contentious provisions have been removed.

“What we did was sit down and figure out how it is we could still achieve our objectives and be responsive to those criticisms,” Balash said.

Balash says DNR will still be allowed to issue general permits for a wide variety of human activity, but those permits will get public notice and there will be an opportunity to appeal the initial permit. Language allowing DNR to override other state laws has been stripped. The commissioner will also have to consider “significant” or “irreparable” harm to habitat when issuing a permit. The previous version of the bill required environmental damage to hit both of those thresholds before it was sufficient to block a permit.

Balash says the new draft also allows individuals to apply for water reservations, which are usually used to protect fish habitat.

“We sat down and we really mapped out, ‘Okay, what’s our problem?’ Our problem isn’t that individuals are applying for reservations,” he said. “That’s not the problem. The real problem is those applications are being turned around and used a reason to stop all other permitting.”

Balash says that the process surrounding water reservations will be changed. He says if the bill passes, water right applications would no longer block other permits and temporary uses of water.

The bill has already passed the House, and but was unable to get enough votes in the Senate in its current form.

Categories: Alaska News

HB 77: Gauging Public Sentiment

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-03-07 18:34

Last year, HB77 stalled in part because its opponents were vocal. People packed town hall meetings to tell their legislators to fight it, and tribes across the state passed resolutions asking for a “no” vote. But how widespread was that opposition?

The Hays Group released a poll this week the gauges public sentiment on the bill. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez joins us to walk us through the numbers.

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So, what did the poll determine?

That people mostly don’t even know what it does! I’ve got the poll in front of me, and it says only 15 percent of people they called had heard of the bill – let alone know what’s in it.

But the people who have been tracking it don’t like it. Nearly half of those people who are familiar with the legislation “strongly” oppose it, while another 10% just sort of oppose it. Less than a quarter of people surveyed said they’re in favor of the bill, which is about the same amount of people who said they had no opinion.

Alaska is notoriously difficult to poll. Can you tell us a little bit about how it was conducted?

The survey was commissioned by Trout Unlimited, a conservation group focused on fish habitat, and they project a 4 percent margin of error. The poll was done over the phone – and this includes cell phones — in February, and about 500 likely voters were surveyed.

The Hays Group asked people for their party affiliations, and about a third were Republicans and another third were independents. Just 15 percent were Democrats. The rest identified as other or refused to say.

As far as the language of the survey goes, it’s pretty straight forward when dealing with people who already know what the bill does. But if you’re a respondent who has never heard of HB77, you get the bill described to you in really simple terms. Remember, it’s a super complicated bill. The poll sums it up this way:

“House Bill 77 is designed to allow government officials to issue development permits more quickly by taking away some public participation opportunities from Alaskans.” After hearing that phrasing, nearly 70 percent of respondents say they oppose the bill. Now, if HB77 had been described as something that “streamlines the permitting process,” to borrow the Parnell administration’s terminology, the results might be different.

Does the poll get into whether voters will punish or support lawmakers who come out in favor of HB77?

That’s actually one of the things I think is interesting about this poll.

Even though this is an issue state lawmakers are going to have to vote on, the Hays Group didn’t ask people if a vote for or against HB77 would affect their opinions of their own legislators. They asked if it would make them more or less likely to support Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, Dan Sullivan. He was the commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources up until this September, and he was one of the authors of HB77.

At 32 percent, the most popular answer was it makes “no difference.” A quarter of respondents said it made them “much less likely” to support Sullivan, and about 15 percent said it only hurt their opinion of Sullivan a little. A total of 10 percent of respondents said HB77 made them more likely to support him.

Now, we’ve already talked about how Alaska is really, really difficult to poll, and that language in these polls matters. But whether these numbers mean anything or not, that the poll even asks about this shows that some people are thinking about using the permitting bill as a line of attack.

So far, ads targeting Dan Sullivan have tried to cast him as a stranger to Alaska. They talk about the home he maintained in Maryland, and the fact that he’s from Ohio. Instead, this question focuses on Sullivan’s record, and it looks like people are wondering if this would be a weak spot for him. I guess the proof will be if we see attack ads on this subject.

Categories: Alaska News

DEC Commissioner Says Future Sulfolane Spill Liability Shouldn’t Preclude Sale Of Flint Hills’ Refinery

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-03-07 18:33

The Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation says the issue of liability for future sulfolane spills should not preclude Flint Hills from selling its North Pole refinery.

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Categories: Alaska News

Buser In The Lead As Racers Approach Nulato

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-03-07 18:32

Big Lake musher Martin Buser is leading the Iditarod. After choosing an unconventional checkpoint for his 24 hour layover early in the race, he charged to the front of the race today. He’s now nearing the Nulato checkpoint with Sonny Lindner, Aliy Zirkle and Jeff King in pursuit.

Iditarod Mushers and their dog teams passed in and out of the Yukon River community of Galena on various schedules throughout the afternoon.

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Categories: Alaska News

GCI Receives $41 Million To Build 3G, 4G In Rural Alaska

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-03-07 18:31

Forty-eight communities in rural Alaska, including 26 in the YK Delta will receive 3G or 4G data service, thanks to an FCC grant of $41 million that GCI secured.

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GCI’s David Morris says the money come from tribal mobility funds.  It’s a a one-time opportunity for underserved populations.

“It’s one of the things that happened at the FCC level you would not expect to happen we’re just happy to take advantage of it and bring better technology out in your direction,” Morris said.

GCI doesn’t have the specifics of when the communities will see the upgrade, but it will take a few years.

“We still have to go through a few admin steps to say with certainty when the build schedule starts,” Morris said.

They are expected to take two years to build out 3G, and three years for 4G services.

It will expand off of the Terra-Southwest fiber optic and microwave towers and satellite where it’s still in use.

“But if you’re terrestrial, terra, it’s going to go a lot faster than it will over satellite, but in any event going from 2G data platform which is in rural Alaska today to 3G or 4G will be a significant advancement,” Morris said.

The full list of communities includes:

  • Alakanuk
  • Ambler
  • Aniak
  • Barrow
  • Brevig Mission
  • Buckland
  • Chefornak
  • Chevak
  • Eek
  • Emmonak
  • Gambell
  • Goodnews Bay
  • Hooper Bay
  • Kiana
  • Kipnuk
  • Kivalina
  • Kongiganak
  • Kotlik
  • Kotzebue
  • Kwigillingok
  • Marshall
  • Mekoryuk
  • Mountain Village
  • Newtok
  • Nightmute
  • Noatak
  • Nome
  • Noorvik
  • Nunam Iqua
  • Pilot Station
  • Pitkas Point
  • Quinhagak
  • Russian Mission
  • Savoonga
  • Scammon Bay
  • Selawik
  • Shaktoolik
  • Shishmaref
  • Shungnak
  • St. Marys
  • St. Michael
  • Stebbins
  • Togiak
  • Tooksook Bay
  • Tuntutuliak
  • Tununak
  • Unalakleet
  • Unalaska
Categories: Alaska News

Petersburg Sweeps Education Technology Awards

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-03-07 18:30

7th grade student, Madyson Sauer, works on her laptop in computer class. Photo by Angela Denning, KFSK – Petersburg.

Petersburg School District won three statewide awards for technology in education. The district- and the community -have made computer learning a priority.

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Petersburg is a fishing town of 3,000 on an island in South East Alaska.
But inside the middle school, it’s pretty high tech. As these seventh graders enter their computer class, they pull laptops off a shelf, and settle into desks. The class is teaching them how to navigate google programs and it’s mandatory if they are going to get their own laptops when they enter high school.

It’s this dedication to technology that caught the attention of the statewide group, Alaska Society for Technology in Education. Dr. Mark Standley is President of the organization and a professor at the University of Alaska South East. He says no one at ASTE can remember one school winning so many annual awards.

“We’re calling it the Petersburg sweep,” Standley said.
The district’s three awards were presented at ASTE’s statewide conference in Anchorage February 25. Standley says the sweep reflects on the district’s strong team of educators.

“What Petersburg has done through leadership through the fine work of teachers like Don Holmes who has been there for many years and now more currently with the work Jon Kludt-Painter and your Superintendent Rob Thomason you are seeing the effect of, the results of, Petersburg’s investment over the years in the smart integration of technology in student work,” Standley said.

The district’s technology support teacher, John Kludt-Painter, won an award as did student PK Bunyi for building a quad-copter from scratch and then using it to create an aerial movie called, “A Simple Walk to School”. Superintendent Thomason won the Alaska Technology Administrator of the year. He’s been an educator for over four decades.

“And in all those years, 43 years, five states, two foreign countries, this district with this staff and this technology director, the top of the top,” Thomason said.

The school district follows the belief that technology is a good tool for educators to use and an important skill base for students to learn. And classes use it A LOT. Kids have access to computer devices from Kindergarten on. All high school students have their own laptops 24-7.

Kludt-Painter along with an assistant makes sure they’re all running smoothly.

“Just checked this morning and we had about 500 devices connected to our wi-fi network all doing multiple things,” Kludt-Painter said.

But technology only works if people know how to use it. Kludt-Painter says it’s “mission critical” to what the Petersburg schools do. The district prioritizes real time needs first, addressing students and staff immediately. Say there’s a website that’s not accessible because the school’s content filter has prevented a class from using it.

“Maybe the teacher’s lesson is hinging on that and you have twenty students waiting to access something and it’s blocked and so those sorts of things you have to react quickly,” Kludt-Painter said.

“When Jon talks about opening up a site, it used to be a three week process,” Thomason said. “You had to go through a whole bunch of justifications, and now it’s more ‘here’s what I want to do here’s where I need to do it, I’m in the middle of a lesson, it happens right now.”

It’s basically helping the users use the equipment.

“They call it three click stupid,” Kludt-Painter said, “in the sense that you just need it to work and if it doesn’t work in a number of clicks, then people won’t use it and we’ve invested way too much just to have things collect dust.”

The district’s relationship with technology began about ten years ago when it was awarded a grant for high school laptops called One to One. The students are prepped for it in middle school with classes such as “digital citizenship”.

There have been growing pains over the years. For one, the parents in the community needed to get on board with the idea that computers would help their kids learn. That wasn’t always easy when they saw them surfing the Internet late at night. Kludt-Painter says it has taken a lot of listening and responding to concerns, including working with parents on how to empower themselves.
“Whether it’s timed access so the laptop just happens to turn off at 7 at night so you still retain your family time and then turns back on at 6 in the morning ready to go, those sorts of tools for parents so they don’t feel that the technology is driving it,” Kludt-Painter said. “It’s just a tool that disappears in the background and is just used for education.”

Angela: “IT people, you know, computer experts, etc. are just in high demand, I think, everywhere. . .so why choose working in a school?”

Kludt-Painter: “Oh, boy. . . .(laughs) . . .that’s uh, it’s just um. . .I’m so passionate about watching what the endless possibilities of where students can go.”

Well, they have gone to Australia. . .at least by teleconference when fourth and fifth graders worked with a chemistry teacher there.

It’s this kind of forward thinking that has made this small town an example for how technology can enhance learning with the right dedication.

Categories: Alaska News

Bill Stoltze Announces Run For New Senate Seat

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-03-07 18:29

Representative Bill Stoltze, a Republican from Chugiak, announced a new political path at the Mat Su Senior Center in downtown Palmer on Friday.

Stoltze told the audience that his heart has always been in Palmer, and now he’d like to represent that city in a new state Senate district. He said he’d done “a lot of soul-searching” before making the announcement.

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Categories: Alaska News

AK: Wave Energy

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-03-07 18:28

Yakutat Power’s Scott Newlun checks a reading on a monitor at the power plant. Photo by Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau.

The northern Southeast city of Yakutat is gearing up for a wave-energy experiment. If it’s a success, the community of about 650 residents could lower its high, diesel-fueled power costs. The system could also be a model for some other isolated Alaska cities.

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Photo by Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau.

Scott Newlun opens the door to Yakutat’s new power plant, and it’s really loud.

It’s not so bad outside the sound-absorbing walls. And that’s good news for Newlun, who’s headed up Yakutat’s power system for 15 years.

“That new plant just changed the whole atmosphere, especially where I’m living, next door to it,” he says.

Its generators are more efficient, and Newlun’s proud of that. But power costs remain high.

“Since I’ve been involved here, that’s always been a goal, to find a different source of energy other than diesel fuel,” he says.

These days, he’s thinking about a power source with a different sound.

“Wave energy is about the most exciting thing we’ve got going,” he says.

Photo by Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau.

Yakutat’s geography doesn’t work for hydro. Weather limits what you can get out of solar and wind. Wood-fueled biomass got serious consideration. But with only 450 electrical customers, it’s too small a market.

That’s why the town is looking toward the ocean.

A number of emerging technologies are available. Some use anchored buoys, others long lines of floats.

Yakutat’s trying out a smaller device called the Surge Wave Converter, made by Boston-based Resolute Marine Energy.

It’s sort of like a paddle, hinged to a base on the ocean floor.

“It reminds me of a kelp frond in the water, as waves go by. And it sways back and forth like that. It’s that slow and that mild,” he says.

The back-and-forth movement powers a pump, which pushes water through pipes to the shore. That pressure is the carbon-free energy that runs an electrical generator.

Photo by Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau.

Resolute Marine has tested the Surge at a North Carolina research facility.

Yakutat Planner Bill Lucey says it’s time to try it out in the Gulf of Alaska.

“We know it makes electricity. It’s survived an East Coast storm. So now what we need to know is how much it is going to cost to anchor them to the bottom so they don’t bounce around in a West Coast storm,” he says.

Yakutat hoped to put a test unit in the water this year and add about a dozen more later on. But permitting and other delays pushed that back to 2015.

So the job now, for Lucey and others, is to research possible impacts to the community – and the environment.

“Your sharks and your rays can become attracted to underwater cables. But this project will simply pump pressurized sea water to a shore-based plant and the electricity will be generated on land,” he says.

Lucy says seabirds aren’t expected to be an issue, since the system’s underwater. Acoustic tests will look for impacts on whales and seals.

Commercial fisheries are being taken into account. And then there’s the surfers, attracted by the same ocean power that makes this project a possibility.

Photo by Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau.

“There’s a lot of beach break all along that area. And if we put 14 of these panels out it’s not going to take out all the wave areas for surfing and it might not be an issue where they are,” he says.

Funding and technical help for this testing phase is coming from federal, state and local governments. Early estimates put the cost at about $3 million, but it could be higher.

Borough Manager Skip Ryman hopes it pencil out. But he’s trying to be realistic.

“The big question for us is, is wave energy feasible? Is it going to be something that will actually aid the consumer?” he says. “If wave energy proves to be more expensive than diesel, then certainly, that’s something that will throw it under bus for us.”

It’ll take a couple years ‘til that’s known. But Newlun remains optimistic.

“This might be huge. That’s what I’m hoping, you know. If we can harness some of the kinetic energy out of the ocean, it could change the face of power generation for the world,” he says.

Or at least, for some other coastal Alaska communities.

Categories: Alaska News

300 Villages: Tok

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-03-07 18:27

This week, we’re heading to Tok, where the community is coming together to rebuild a home for a family that lost everything in a recent fire. John Rusyniak is President of the Tok Chamber of Commerce.

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Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: March 7, 2014

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-03-07 18:18

Individual news stories are posted on the APRN news page. You can subscribe to APRN’s newsfeeds via emailpodcast and RSS. Follow us on Facebook at alaskapublic.org and on Twitter @aprn.

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Controversial Permitting Bill Back For Consideration

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

After sitting in limbo for nearly a year, a controversial permitting bill is on the move in the legislature again.

HB 77: Gauging Public Sentiment

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

Last year, HB77 stalled in part because its opponents were vocal. People packed townhall meetings to tell their legislators to fight it, and tribes across the state passed resolutions asking for a “no” vote. But how widespread was that opposition? The Hays Group released a poll this week the gauges public sentiment on the bill.

DEC Commissioner Says Future Sulfolane Spill Liability Shouldn’t Preclude Sale Of Flint Hills’ Refinery

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation says the issue of liability for future sulfolane spills should not preclude Flint Hills from selling its North Pole refinery.

Buser In The Lead As Racers Approach Nulato

Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks

Big Lake musher Martin Buser is leading the Iditarod. After choosing an unconventional checkpoint for his 24 hour layover early in the race, he charged to the front of the race today. He’s now nearing the Nulato checkpoint with Sonny Lindner, Aliy Zirkle and Jeff King in pursuit.

Iditarod Mushers and their dog teams passed in and out of the Yukon River community of Galena on various schedules throughout the afternoon.

GCI Recieves $41 Million To Build 3G, 4G In Rural Alaska

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

48 communities in rural Alaska, including 26 in the YK Delta will receive 3G or 4G data service, thanks to an FCC grant of $41 million that GCI secured.

Petersburg Sweeps Education Technology Awards

Angela Denning, KFSK – Petersburg

Petersburg School District won three statewide awards for technology in education. The district- and the community -have made computer learning a priority.

Bill Stoltze Announces Run For New Senate Seat

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

Representative Bill Stoltze, a Republican from Chugiak, announced a new political path at the Mat Su Senior Center in downtown Palmer on Friday.

Stoltze told the audience that his heart has always been in Palmer, and now he’d like to represent that city in a new state Senate district.  He said he’d done “a lot of soul-searching” before making the announcement.

AK: Wave Energy

Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau

Ocean waves do more than knock your boat around and carry trash to shore. The same force can power devices that generate electricity. Yakutat is gearing up for a wave-energy experiment that could help it – and other coastal cities – lower power costs.

300 Villages: Tok

This week, we’re heading to Tok, where the community is coming together to rebuild a home for a family that lost everything in a recent fire. John Rusyniak is President of the Tok Chamber of Commerce.

Categories: Alaska News

Growing Food Near the Kitchen

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-03-07 13:00

Photo from Foundroot.

During the Second World War, household “Victory Gardens” produced almost half the food the nation consumed. Now home gardens produce about two percent. Could the path to food security run though a garden plot in your front yard?

HOST: Steve HeimelAlaska Public Radio Network

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Categories: Alaska News

Mushers Anticipating Tough Run Up Bering Sea Coast

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-03-07 13:00

Some mushers are still trying to hold dog teams back despite the fast Yukon River miles ahead.

The most experienced mushers know the river miles can be fast, but there’s still a tough run up the Bering Sea Coast ahead.

Four-time Champion Jeff King has run the Iditarod 23 times. He knows exactly what it means when teams reach the Yukon River.

Aliy Zirkle. Photo by Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks.

“Well it will be a chance to really evaluate team speed,” he said.

King’s competition is stiff; Robert Sorlie doesn’t start a race if he doesn’t plan to win. Aliy Zirkle’s team is primed from a winning Yukon Quest last month. Both Dallas and Mitch Seavey won the race the last two consecutive years. Nicolas Petit posted one of the fastest run times into Ruby. But he says the long, flat river miles may not benefit his larger dogs.

“I want to preserve my dog team for getting to the coast and then we can start playing around a little bit,” Petit said.

But the wind is forecast to pick up, transforming and drifting snow for more than 140 miles. A slower, sugary trail could help Petit who says he’s likely to continue holding his team back.

“I don’t really let me dogs run,” he said. “I just make them trot and so we don’t have top end speed because it’s not sustainable.”

Hans Gatt says there’s another great equalizer on the trail.

“Well, the dogs need rest, that’s the bottom line,” he said.

As the race picks up, mushers will start to cut rest. Jeff King says it’s tough to decide how best to do that.

“We’re all trying to be as chintsy as we can to rob Peter and not pay Paul,” King said. “We want to get the very most from our dogs energy and our energy.”

Lucky for mushers, they are required to take an eight hour rest somewhere on the Yukon. The key players in the race won’t shake out until after they’ve all completed that layover.

Categories: Alaska News

Iditarod Strategies Make for Some Head Scratching

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-03-07 11:21

As dogs teams drop onto the Yukon River, Iditarod mushers will find out how their race plans are playing out.  The next 140 miles of long, flat river will shine some light on who has the most speed and who needs a little more rest.

No one is quite sure exactly what’s going on with race strategies this year. In fact even the most experienced mushers are scratching their heads.

Martin Buser departs Willow at the 2014 Iditarod’s official restart. Photo by Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage.

“I realized that I’m probably a better dog training than a dog racer,” four-time champion Martin Buser, who was just waking up from a nap in Ruby, said. “But this team deserves to be raced properly, so that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Clearly exhausted, Buser downs a steaming cup of coffee.

“I just know you have to push so hard and it’s just tough and I’m not into toughness all that much,” he said.

As he talks, Buser pulls at the little finger on his left hand.  It’s dislocated, white and swollen. He keeps it wrapped in a spare dog bootie.  His feet are bare and his left ankle is purple – also swollen.  He sprained it badly somewhere between Rohn and Nikolai.

“The way I look at is we have the toughest individuals in front of us those dogs are so superior to anything else,” he said. “We might as well toughen up buttercup. They are unbelievably strong and tough and willing to give so we might as well give a little bit too.”

Buser is putting all his energy into proving that lots of rest early in the race can pay big dividends later.  It’s a strategy Kelly Maixner is also testing with his dogs.

“It seems like they recover a lot better earlier,” Maixner said. “So, say you do a long run at the beginning of a training session, they seem to recover faster at the beginning, so they get back to normal.”

Maixner is running the Iditarod for the fourth time.  He’s a pediatric dentist by day.  He knew coming into the race he’d surprise a lot of people.

Nicolas Petit. Photo by Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage.

“I’ve had a couple rough years the last couple years,” he said. “I just had injuries and illnesses during the race the last couple years that really bummed me out and this year I trained a lot harder than I ever have and this year I started my own practice so I was able to switch my schedule. I put probably 75 percent more miles on than I have in the past.”

Nicolas Petit is also no stranger to high volume training.

“Considering the lack of snow all over Alaska, basically my dogs haven’t seen a dog house since about New Years,” Petit said. “We’ve just been traveling around using the truck as a home base…training from there.”

Petit’s strategy is to hold a strong steady pace.  He doesn’t like to run too fast.  But he’s been at the front of the pack since the start. He was surprised to see his run time into Ruby.

“Apparently I got here faster than everybody else and that’s fun, but we were just trotting along,” he laughs.

Petit says he hasn’t looked at another dog team since he left Willow.

“I don’t really look at other people’s teams,” he said. “I just look at mine because it’s enough to worry about when you have 16 animals.”

Mushers will have plenty of time to look around as the head out on the Yukon River.  The miles are long and flat for more than 140 miles. Teams are required to take a mandatory eight-hour rest before the get off the river in Kaltag.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska Edition Friday March 7, 2014

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-03-07 09:03

Legislation that would provide for state participation in the gas line moves forward. Fetal alcohol syndrome is a scourge. Some of those affected explain why. Gov. Parnell “absolves” a future buyer of the Fl;int Hills refinery of cleanup costs. Parnell sues past and current owner over the cleanup. Alaska public life and policy is different if not unique – here’s some of the reason why. The emerging problem of scarcity. Idaho compared to Alaska.

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Categories: Alaska News

Zirkle Bolts Ruby With Iditarod Lead; Buser Follows

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-03-07 07:29

Aliy Zirkle took the lead in the 2014 Iditarod early Friday morning leaving Ruby almost two hours ahead of Martin Buser who also took off from Ruby Friday. Both mushers dropped dogs at the layover and were racing with 14 dogs.

Arron Burmeister was about two hours behind Buser and out of Ruby. His team was down to 12 dogs.

Buser has taken both of his mandatory layovers. Neither Zirkle nor Burmeister has taken an 8-hour layover.

Jeff King and Sonny Lindner led the pack much of Thursday but were still in Ruby early Friday morning.

Last year’s winner – Mitch Seavey – was in Ruby early Friday morning and in 10th place.

Two Rivers’ Abbie West led the rookies. She was out of Cripple and racing towards Ruby Friday morning.

Categories: Alaska News

Buser Joins King and Lindner in Ruby

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-03-06 22:09

Martin Buser – Photo by Patrick Yack – Alaska Public Media

Jeff King was first to Ruby on Thursday in the 2014 Iditarod but Sonny Lindner was not far behind. The two leaders were joined by Martin Buser later Thursday night.

Racing in fourth place was Aliy Zirkle who had yet to reach Ruby by 9:00 p.m.

Buser and Zirkle have taken their 24-hour mandatory stop. King and Lindner – prior to reaching Ruby – had not.

 

 

Categories: Alaska News

EPA Settles Over Lead Dust Violations At Governor’s Mansion

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-03-06 18:29

(Casey Kelly/KTOO)

Throughout his administration, Gov. Sean Parnell has accused the Environmental Protection Agency of “overreaching” on Alaska affairs. Now, it looks like the EPA may have reached into Parnell’s own home. The Governor’s Mansion appears on a list of construction projects requiring EPA intervention for lead violations.

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Lead poisoning is nasty business. It can cause headaches and seizures, and result in miscarriages. If you’re a child, the symptoms are especially bad.

“Lethargy. Inability to pay of attention. At high enough levels, it can cause death,” says Wallace Reid.

Reid works out of the EPA’s Seattle office, and his team handles investigations into lead violations. Because a lot of modern cases of lead exposure are caused by home repairs, the EPA implemented a rule in 2010 requiring contractors to be certified in lead paint removal if they’re working on a house that was built before 1978.

Like the Alaska Governor’s Mansion.

The building is a century old, and the state hired Alaska Commercial Contractors to restore the whole exterior a couple of years ago. And that meant removing lead paint, which the company was not certified to do at the time.

“We first became aware of it – this problem in Alaska – because of an anonymous tip and complaint that this work was going on and that there were problems associated with it,” says Reid.

Reid says that as soon as the EPA learned of the violation, they sent two inspectors to check the area for lead paint. They found paint chips on the lawn and on the street.

“When we do this kind of work, all of the lead paint chips and dust has to be maintained within a contained area,” says Reid. “In this case, it was not. And the company was not certified, and the employees were not trained. So those were fundamental violations of our rules.”

Because of the violations, Alaska Commercial Contractors ended up settling with the EPA for $32,000. Their subcontractor, Van Pool Painting, was also dinged $10,000. While the settlements were finalized in September, the EPA only recently made the violations public.

Alaska Commercial Contractors declined to do a taped interview for this story, because there are still outstanding legal questions related to the construction project. But in a written statement, company president Doug Courtney emphasized that Alaska Commercial Contractors cooperated fully with the EPA, and that they became certified in lead paint removal shortly after the incident.

So, why did the state hire a company that was not certified in lead paint removal in the first place?

When asked about that, Administration Commissioner Curtis Thayer declined an interview because of ongoing challenges related to the contract. At $1.5 million, Alaska Commercial Contractors was the highest bidder for the project, and two rival contractors whose bids came in under $1 million appealed the award. The Office of Administrative Hearings rejected both of those protests, but Silver Bow Construction is appealing the decision to the Alaska Supreme Court.

Alaska Commercial Contractors has also requested that the State pay out $150,000 to cover their EPA penalties and legal fees, because they allege that Department of Administration misled them on the scope of the project. The Department of Administration found no merit to that request in January, but the decision is subject to appeal.

Gov. Sean Parnell also declined repeated requests for an interview. Instead, his office referred questions to Larry Hartig, the commissioner of Environmental Conservation.

Hartig says his department’s involvement in the renovation problem was limited. They mostly helped the EPA get access to the governor’s home to make sure the lead paint didn’t pose a health hazard.

“Obviously, there was concerns about the safety of the governor’s family,” says Hartig. “And so they were interested in what was going on – we all were – in making sure that if there is an issue here that would impact the governor and his family, we wanted to be on top of that.”

Hartig says there was no real risk to the Parnell family. He says even the governor’s yellow Labrador, the most frequent user of the mansion’s backyard, was kept safe from lead exposure.

“Annie’s doing fine the last time I saw Annie.”

Categories: Alaska News

Former Crime Lab Employee Charged With 6 Felonies

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-03-06 18:28

A former employee of the State Crime Lab in Anchorage has been charged with six felonies, including drug misconduct and tampering with evidence.

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The Department of Law in says 53-year-old Stephen Palmer was arrested today.

He’s charged with scheme to defraud, drug misconduct and four counts of evidence tampering. He’s also charged with four misdemeanor counts of official misconduct.

Alaska State Troopers launched an investigation seven months ago after detecting irregularities in lab reference standards, the controlled samples of illegal drugs kept at the state crime lab.

Prosecutors say investigators also determined drug evidence was missing in cases worked by Palmer.

Prosecutors say they don’t believe the irregularities discovered in reference standards affected the validity of testing performed by other analysts.

Categories: Alaska News

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