Alaska News


APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-08-29 10:54

Candidates for Alaska governor will be in Kodiak on August 28 to take part in a unique debate that focuses on a single topic:  Alaska’s seafood industry. Airing live on KSKA and statewide from 7:00  to 9:00 p.m. on Thursday, August 28.

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“Chinook salmon, Yukon Delta NWR.” (Photo: Craig Springer, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)

Incumbent Governor Sean Parnell faces stiff competition from two opponents: Democratic candidate Byron Mallott and Independent candidate Bill Walker.

Since 1990 Kodiak has hosted fisheries debates for candidates vying both for Alaska governor and U.S. Congress.  The event has always attracted 100 percent participation by candidates.

“The fishing industry is Alaska’s biggest employer, and it produces over 60 percent of our nation’s wild caught seafood. Seafood also is Alaska’s top export by far,” said Trevor Brown, director of the Kodiak Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors the event.  “The fisheries debate lets candidates share their knowledge and ideas about this vital industry to a statewide audience.”

The fisheries debate is set for Thursday, August 28th from 7-9 p.m. at the Kodiak High School auditorium. The lively format will include written questions from the audience and ‘lightening rounds’ where candidates compete to ring in first to answer questions. There is no admission charge to attend.

For a live webstream of the event, visit Kodiak Public Broadcasting’s website at

Sponsors for the governor candidates’ fisheries debate include: Alaska Groundfish Data Bank , Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers, Trident Seafoods, Kodiak Island Borough, City of Kodiak, Horizon Lines, Samson Tug & Barge, Alaskan Leader Fisheries, Groundfish Forum and Alaskan Quota & Permits in Petersburg.

Categories: Alaska News

Shell Sketches Plans for Arctic Drilling in 2015

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-08-29 08:45

Shell Oil took its first step toward returning to the Arctic on Thursday morning. The company filed a new plan to explore the Chukchi Sea with federal regulators in Anchorage.

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Shell’s had the last two years to consider what approach it might take if it returned to explore in the Arctic.

Spokesperson Megan Baldino says that’s apparent in the plans that the company submitted to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management on Thursday.

“If we move forward in 2015, we are planning for a two-rig program in the Chukchi Sea only,” Baldino says. “We will be utilizing the Noble Discoverer and the Transocean Polar Pioneer.”

Instead of keeping one rig in Dutch Harbor as a backup — as they’ve proposed in the past — both vessels would be sent north to drill.

Shell would be taking advantage of the short ice-free summer, which they’d need to make progress on the six wells that the company wants to complete within the next few years.

But Baldino says that’s not set in stone, because Shell’s not sure if it will return next summer.

“It’s really important to point out that we have not made a formal decision. But we are undertaking activities including submitting this plan, in order to keep the option of a 2015 season.”

Shell tried to mount an expedition to the Arctic in 2014. But they canceled those plans after an appeals court cast major doubt on the legality of Shell’s leases in the Chukchi Sea.

That question still hasn’t been resolved, says John Callahan. He’s a public affairs officer for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, or BOEM.

Callahan says that regulators have to finish a new environmental impact statement for the 2008 Chukchi Sea sale.

“At that point, assuming that this supplemental EIS is accepted, then the Secretary of the Interior will make a decision in March of 2015 as to whether to uphold the sale and proceed, or cancel the sale.”

Until that happens, Callahan says BOEM can only conduct an informal review of Shell’s new exploration plans.

“We’ll call Shell and have meetings, and say, ‘We need more information on X,’ or, ‘It doesn’t look like Section Y is complete.’ That kind of thing,” Callahan says.

Those lines of communication won’t extend to the public. BOEM will not post Shell’s exploration plans to its website or take comments on them until the leases are on solid ground.

But that’s not stopping some environmental groups from weighing in.

On Thursday afternoon, Oceana vice president Susan Murray issued a statement, saying Shell’s “no more prepared to conduct offshore oil and gas exploration activity in Alaska’s remote Arctic Ocean than it was in 2012.”

Until Shell and other oil companies can prove they’re ready, Murray says the federal government should put Arctic exploration on hold.

Categories: Alaska News

Parnell Vetoes A Bill Curbing Record Access

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-08-28 17:44

Gov. Sean Parnell has vetoed a bill that would have scrubbed Courtview — the state’s online criminal records database — of any charge that did not result in a conviction.

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In a four-page letter to lawmakers, Parnell described Senate Bill 108 as legislation that “summarily sweeps” all cases that do not end in a guilty verdict “under the cloak of confidentiality in an unnecessarily broad manner without respect to likely adverse impacts on the public.”

During testimony on the bill, the case of serial killer Israel Keyes, who committed suicide before going to trial, was frequently cited as an instance where court records would have been sealed under the law. The bill was opposed by the Office of Victims Rights, and the Alaska Press Club also came out against it for transparency reasons.

The bill was introduced by Republican Fred Dyson, a retiring state senator from Eagle River. He viewed the legislation as a matter of justice and of privacy, arguing that people who are not found guilty in court should not have their records listed in a public database. In place of Senate Bill 108, the Alaska Court System has adopted a rule that would wipe the records of any person who was arrested but not charged with a crime, minors who had been wrongly prosecuted in adult court, and cases with an identity was mistaken or there is lack of probable cause.

This is the second bill this cycle that Parnell has vetoed. The first dealt with the management of a waterfowl refuge in Fairbanks, and was rejected because of a drafting error. Only one bill, which recognizes Alaska Native languages as official, remains to be signed.


Categories: Alaska News

Senate Candidates Stake Ground In Unconventional First Debate

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-08-28 17:42

The prelude music to the first Senate debate of the season was a Bach cantata commonly played at weddings. It was the most harmonious moment of a night where the two candidates disagreed on nearly everything save the spelling of the Alaska state bird.

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The debate was held in Anchorage on Wednesday, and it was hosted by the conservative umbrella group United for Liberty. It began conventionally enough. The candidates were asked about fisheries management, and Democratic incumbent Mark Begich used the question to cast himself as a practical lawmaker focused on Alaska-specific policies.

“I chair the committee that deals with the fisheries and Coast Guard. We are now looking at electronic monitoring, [and at] more observers that need to be funded properly. We need to ensure new technologies and innovations are available to go after bycatch. And we just passed four treaties to go after these people who I consider pirates.”

Republican challenger and former natural resources commissioner Dan Sullivan explained he wanted more management decisions made at the state level instead of by federal regulators.

Both hit on those respective messages through the night, with Begich emphasizing his experience as someone who knows how Congress operates with regard to Alaska and Sullivan presenting himself as a political outsider who wants to take Washington on.

Later, when Sullivan was asked about immigration, he again signaled distrust of Congress. Where Begich called for compromise, Sullivan critically compared immigration reform efforts to the Affordable Care Act process. He said he did not want another case of “legislative malpractice.”

“I think immigration reform should not be comprehensive — it should be piecemeal,” Sullivan explained.

And later, Sullivan said the Consumer Protection Bureau should be nullified because he believes it is unconstitutional.

Occasionally, avoidance of some questions created more tension than the direct answers. Sullivan dodged a question from Begich on whether he supported the Patriot Act, an anti-terrorism surveillance law that was expanded while Sullivan worked for the George W. Bush administration. And during a lightning round where candidates were asked to write their answers on a whiteboard, Jeopardy-style, Begich refused to say how he voted on the oil tax referendum that narrowly failed last week. He instead wrote “private.”

“The public has spoken,” Begich said in an interview after the debate. “It is irrelevant to the issues that we are facing. That issue is not a congressional issue.”

Sullivan, who advocated for the new capped-tax system while directing the Department of Natural Resources, wrote that he voted to keep that regime.

On top of the non-answers, the lightning round resulted in some wrong ones, too. The candidates were asked a number of Alaska trivia questions, like what’s the size of the state relative to Texas. Begich couldn’t identify Lake Iliamna as the largest body of freshwater in the state, and Sullivan guessed that the Salty Dawg Saloon, a Homer landmark, was in Juneau.

United for Liberty took a straw poll after the debate, and results show Begich narrowly edging out a win with 90 votes to Sullivan’s 85. About a dozen said there wasn’t a clear victor.

But before the debate even started, it seems most of the 300-person audience had already made up their minds on who they were backing. Both candidates had healthy crowds there to support them, and they offered plenty of applause and occasional commentary. But one heckler, who came with anti-abortion protest signs, broke the decorum toward the end of the debate. When Begich gave his closing remarks and made a reference to women’s health care plans, one-time Anchorage School Board candidate Dustin Darden stood up and began shouting “What about the babies?” for one minute before debate organizers escorted him from the auditorium.

Debate schedules are still being finalized, but at least a dozen more events have been proposed between now and the November 4 general election.


Categories: Alaska News

New Study Sheds Light on Peopling of the Arctic

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-08-28 17:41

Qajaa, a grass-covered deep-frozen midden with remains from Early Paleo-Eskimo cultures to the
19th century CE. Ilulissat Icefjord, West Greenland. Photo by Claus Andreasen

Archaeologists have been arguing for decades about how human beings got to the new world, and genetic research released today deepens the mystery. An article published in “Science” magazine shows that there must have been at least four pulses of migration from Siberia through Alaska since the last Ice Age, and the Yupik and Inupiat people now in Alaska actually replaced an earlier population.

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Based on the largest genetic sampling of bones found in the Arctic yet, a group of Danish researchers say the modern Native people of Arctic Canada and Alaska are only related in the very distant past to earlier waves that came across thousands of years ago.  In fact, says lead author Maanasa Ragavan, the earlier arctic population – known in Siberia as “Saqqaq,” and on this side as “Paleo-Eskimo” and “Dorset,” was here for thousands of years, and was also genetically distinct from the earlier migrations that resulted in the Athabascan and other American Indian populations.

“We propose that we remove the Paleo Eskimos from that particular migration wave, and basically grant them a separate migration pulse of their own, which is the Paleo Eskimos, including the Saqqaq and Pre-Dorset culture and the Dorset culture,” Ragavan says.

Dr. Eska Willerslev, who heads the genetic lab, is flatly amazed that the people along the arctic coast and those on the interior of the continent literally had nothing to do with one another, even though their geography overlapped.

“I was actually surprised that we don’t find any evidence of admixture between Native Americans and Paleo Eskimos,” Willerslev says. “I mean, given that in other studies when we see people meeting each other, they may be fighting each other but normally they actually also have sex with each other, and that doesn’t seem to have been the case here.”

The picture that emerges is of a people now vanished, who developed a stable culture that lived off the lean country of the Arctic for at least four thousand years. Archaeologist William Fitzhugh of the Smithsonian Institution theorizes that they could only have done that by being very conservative:

“When you have people that are so close to nature as the Paleo Eskimos had to be to survive, they had to be extremely careful about maintaining good relationships with the animals, and that meant not in a sense polluting your relationship by introducing new ideas, new rituals, new materials and so forth,” Fitzhugh explains.

Then about 700 years ago, a new wave out of Alaska and Siberia known as the “Thule” people simply replaced them. The genetic evidence shows there was very little interbreeding, and the Thule people, from whom the modern Inuit population is descended, replaced the conservative Dorset.

“Socially and economically, they just were no match for this onslaught from this Thule machine that moved in in very quick order.”

Fitzhugh says the Thule migration, equipped with sled dogs, bows and arrows, and a near military whaling discipline, only took about a hundred years to sweep all across the upper part of the continent, and that was the end of the Dorsets.

“They were in a sense sitting ducks. And either they were pushed out into the fringes of the arctic area where they couldn’t survive economically or else they may simply have been annihilated,” Fitzhugh says.

It was thought there was a remnant Dorset population in a remote part of Canada, but the genetics show that not to be the case. They are gone. Fitzhugh says archaeologists need to dig more in Alaska and Siberia to puzzle out these migrations.

The genetics indicate they are likely to have come from the same area – an environment somewhere in the Russian far east so severe as to have almost fossilized the culture:

“And it may be that this is a continuation of a Siberian Mesolithic, Neolithic tradition which has just somehow kept on going in the eastern arctic because of the isolation and the abundance of animals that kept them without annihilating them through some sort of huge climatic changes or other things. It’s really an amazing story of continuity and survival.”

Willerslev says from a scientific point of view they could really use more archaeological genetic data from lower latitudes but that can be hard to come by because it is often the wish of modern tribes that ancient remains not be disturbed.

Categories: Alaska News

Investigation Finds 7 High Schoolers Responsible for Hazing

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-08-28 17:40

After concluding an investigation into an alleged hazing incident, the Juneau School District has identified seven high school seniors who participated in the paddling of six incoming freshmen. The incident took place shortly after school ended in May.

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The district announced this at a press conference Wednesday, but it’s not naming any of the students involved or what punishments they could face.

During a press conference Wednesday, superintendent Mark Miller says seven high school seniors paddled six incoming freshmen. Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO.

Jim Bradley is the father of one of the victims. He says his son, a basketball player, was hit with a paddle about seven times and came home with huge welts.

“I found out through other people that it happened because he didn’t want to have it made anything of. He wanted it to disappear and go away and just call it the tradition of entering high school,” Bradley says.

The concept of initiation isn’t new to Bradley. He went through hazing himself as a student.

“When I was initiated I was, you know, eggs on my head, shaving cream, go swim in the lake or something like that, but never physically or mentally abused like these kids were,” he says.

Bradley and his son are dealing with the situation differently. Bradley’s son, who he doesn’t want to name, didn’t participate in the district’s investigation. Bradley did. He wants justice for his son.

“He’s had to deal with it ever since then. He’s had to be scared. He’s had to walk around the school and see his friends and he’s had to hide this from his friends and family, you know, the fact that he got hit,” Bradley says.

Superintendent Mark Miller says what happened at the end of May is not an isolated case. The investigation found that paddling as a form of initiation has been going on for at least ten years; other types of initiation for much longer.

“Apparently some of these seniors were actually hazed in a similar manner when they were freshmen so this is a pattern, a recurring violence that we have seen over time. One of the things that actually came out is, apparently, one of the paddles was passed down from one student to another,” Miller says.

Hazing is considered one of the most severe violations of board policies and school rules. The district’s high school discipline plan calls for a minimum penalty of one to 10 days of suspension. The maximum penalty is permanent expulsion.

All forms of initiation by school or non-school sponsored groups are also prohibited.

The seven seniors involved in the paddling attend various high schools. Four are athletes, but Miller says the hazing wasn’t related to any particular sport.

Attorney John Sedor, who was hired by the district for the investigation, went through emails and old postings on social media sites to uncover how the victims were chosen, but Miller says it’s still unclear.

He says the victims likely weren’t surprised that they were picked.

“Students generally, I believe, knew something like this was coming because, again, it’s been going on for so long that it’s a pattern. Everybody knew,” Miller says.

When asked if the students were taken against their will, Miller says, “I don’t think anybody wants to be taken out to the woods and paddled, but it was a rather complex social interaction.”

Miller says details of the investigation and names of the students are confidential due to student privacy issues and attorney-client privilege. The district is addressing the problem through disciplinary action, education and restorative justice.

“We’re still exploring exactly what it looks like, but the implementation of an anti-bullying curriculum with an advisory is something that we talked about working with our counselors to make sure that the message gets through to everybody – This is not OK. This needs to stop and everybody knows it needs to stop,” Miller says.

Bradley says he’s glad the district is punishing the students who did the paddling and trying to change the culture of hazing. He doesn’t want it to happen to next year’s incoming freshmen.

“And I also want to make sure that my son doesn’t feel entitled to do this in three more years. I’m not going to allow him to turn around and do this to anybody either,” Bradley says.

Since the paddling, Bradley’s been thinking about it every day. Now that something’s being done about it, he hopefully won’t have to.

Categories: Alaska News

ENSTAR strike ends without a new contract

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-08-28 17:39

The ENSTAR operating employees strike is over, but the workers do not have a new contract. After two and a half weeks, they voted to return to work today.

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Greg Walker with Local 367 says not all of the employees wanted to go back, but he says they didn’t want the community to suffer.

“There’s a tremendous amount of work that needs to be done in the state. I know that the developers, many of the people who have new construction and are looking for gas service to be put to those homes, are way behind schedule. And we don’t want the community to suffer in this strike.”

Walker says the union is trying new tactics to come to a contract agreement with Canadian-owned ENSTAR over retirement benefits. He says they will continue to picket, and the strike sent the company a strong message.

“Did we make any progress whatsoever? We’ll only know that answer down the road,” he said.

John Sims with ENSTAR said in a statement that the company accepted the employees’ unconditional offer to return to work, and all offices are open for regular business.

The operating employees old contract is still in full force while negotiations continue.

Categories: Alaska News

PWI School District Finds Success With A 4-Day Week

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-08-28 17:38

The Southeast Island School District on Prince of Wales Island encompasses nine small, rural schools. Students in Thorne Bay, Kasaan, Coffman Cove, Port Alexander, Hollis, Naukati Bay, Port Protection, Whale Pass, and Hyder started school Monday. Last year, the district implemented a four-day school week in all but one school. It worked so well that every school is running on a Monday through Thursday schedule this year.

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Southeast Island School District schools are tiny. Most have just two teachers and between 10 and 20 students spanning grades K through 12. They’re separated from each other by miles of land, or even by water in Port Alexander’s case. With such remote, rural schools, you have to be adaptable. Here’s Superintendent Lauren Burch.

“You know we’re trying to meet the needs of our families,” Burch says. “I mean you can’t have a basketball team in a school with ten kids but you can have an archery program.”

The 4-day school week is just another way the district has adapted to meet the needs of the families. Burch says the idea actually came from parents. They heard about rural school districts in the Lower 48 having success with the Monday-Thursday model. There was some hesitation at first, including from Nick Higson. He’s principal for all of the Southeast Island School District schools except Thorne Bay.

“We have to sometimes force ourselves to embrace change. I run with philosophy of if it’s not broken, why try to fix it,” Higson says.

But the push to try it out grew stronger, and in 2012, Superintendent Burch attempted to get approval from the State Department of Education.

“They had many legitimate concerns about our educational program that we had to satisfy before we moved on so… You know it’s counterintuitive that a four-day school week would be successful,” Burch says.

The idea didn’t pan out for the 2012-2013 school year. But for the ‘13-‘14 year, the school district submitted a more detailed proposal to the state. And it was approved. The next step was to get approval from the advisory councils at each school, which are made up of mostly parents.

The main concern from them? Childcare on Fridays. So, the district administration decided to organize Friday activities.

“We do things like artist in residence, where we bring in an artist and they come in and do silk screening with kids,” Higson says. “Or we do swim lessons with our kids. We do a number of activities where kids get this neat enrichment opportunity on Fridays that they wouldn’t necessarily  get on a block scheduled day.”

Some families chose to spend that extra day off with subsistence activities.

“You know people do hunt and gather here a lot. Hunting, fishing, mushrooms, berries. They do appreciate that time to get out and have a three-day weekend,” Burch says.

“The kids, not 100 percent of them, but a very high number of them absolutely love it,” Higson says. “It allows them to spend more time with families doing subsistence activities. It allows them to  go to the DMV or the dentist or the doctor on a non-school day so they don’t miss instructional time.”

It also cuts down on days students miss to travel for sports.

The support for the 4-day week isn’t completely unanimous. Principal Higson surveyed students and parents and put their anonymous responses on the school district’s website. Most of the feedback is positive. But some kids commented that the teachers give more homework because of the extra day off or that they felt they learned more in the five-day week.

For Higson, he sees the impact of the four-day week in the test scores.

“And the test data that we got back at the end of the year is phenomenal.”

Scores either went up or stayed the same. Nothing went down. And what about the teachers? Here’s Superintendent Burch:

“The teachers have been I think unanimous in support of it. I wasn’t really sure how that would go either because they’re working harder, longer. But on those Fridays, about half are work days. You can do professional development, you’re workin together, you’re grading papers. And it’s created much more collaborative time for teachers to work together.”

The four-day school week hasn’t saved money for the district. With Friday activities and the slightly longer days Monday through Thursday, Burch says it actually ends being a bit more expensive. But the shorter week fits with people’s lifestyles in these communities, and that is what has made it stick.

Categories: Alaska News

New Tanana Rec Site Not Thwarted By Rain

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-08-28 17:37

It’s been one of the rainiest summer’s on record in Fairbanks, but that hasn’t hampered the debut of new recreation area.

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The Fairbanks North Star Borough’s opened the new Tanana Lakes Recreation site in June.  It offers a swim beach, picnic area and launches for motorized and paddle boats along the Tanana River in south Fairbanks.  Borough Project Coordinator Steve Taylor says despite this summer’s mostly cool wet weather, the area has been popular.

“On the days when the sun is shining, we’ve had —  just from our own expectations — pretty solid use down there.”

Taylor cites numerous days when the beach parking lot overflowed.  There are no admission or parking fees at Tanana Lakes, and Taylor points to the area’s location at the end of South Cushman Street, as another key to its popularity.

“It’s so close to town,” Taylor says. “It’s just a quick jaunt for folks to get down there, that I think that’s made it really appealing. And it’s just a beautiful area too, it really has a lot of [good] qualities that can attract people.”

Under development since 2008, more than $3 million of federal, state and local funds, plus private grants, have been invested in Tanana Lakes, transforming a part of south Fairbanks that was a common spot for crime and partying.

Taylor says having staff on site nearly round the clock this summer helped keep the area safe. He says staffing will continue through moose hunting season, during which the area is also expected to get a lot of use. Tanana Lakes is still under development. Taylor says immediate plans call for more basic infrastructure.

Taylor says the borough has received a 62 thousand dollar grant for trail work, and will pursue money for additional projects. Borough Parks and Recreation Department is holding public meetings to gather input on Tanana Lakes following the rec sites first summer .

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: August 28, 2014

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-08-28 17:34

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 and on Twitter @aprn

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Shell Oil Files Exploration Plan for Chukchi Sea

Lauren Rosenthal, KUCB – Unalaska

Shell Oil took its first step toward returning to the Arctic on Thursday morning. The company filed a new plan to explore the Chukchi Sea with federal regulators in Anchorage.

Parnell Vetoes A Bill Curbing Record Access

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Anchorage

Gov. Sean Parnell has vetoed a bill that would have scrubbed Courtview — the state’s online criminal records database — of any charge that did not result in a conviction.

Alaska Mayors Group Rallies Against Pot

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Anchorage

The Alaska Conference of Mayors has come out against a ballot initiative that would regulate marijuana like alcohol.

Senate Candidates Stake Ground In Unconventional First Debate

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Anchorage

Wednesday night the conservative umbrella group United for Liberty hosted the first Senate debate of the general election season. Democratic incumbent Mark Begich and Republican challenger Dan Sullivan squared off in an Anchorage auditorium and used the event to establish some of the themes of their campaigns.

New Study Sheds Light On How the Arctic Was Populated

Steve Heimel, APRN – Anchorage

Archaeologists have been arguing for decades about how human beings got to the new world, and genetic research released today deepens the mystery. An article published in “Science” magazine shows that there must have been at least four pulses of migration from Siberia through Alaska since the last Ice Age, and the Yupik and Inupiat people now in Alaska actually replaced an earlier population.

Investigation Finds 7 Juneau High Schoolers Responsible For Hazing

Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau

A Juneau School District investigation finds seven high school seniors responsible for the paddling of six incoming freshmen. The incident took place shortly after school ended in May.

ENSTAR Strike Ends Without A New Contract

Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage

The ENSTAR operating employees strike is over, but the workers do not have a new contract. After two and a half weeks they returned to work today Thursday.

Prince Of Wales Island Finds Success With A 4-Day School Week

Emily Files, KRBD – Ketchikan

The Southeast Island School District on Prince of Wales Island encompasses nine small, rural schools. Last year, the district implemented a four-day school week in all but one school. It worked so well that every school is running on a Monday through Thursday schedule this year.

New Tanana Rec Site Not Thwarted By Rain

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

It’s been one of the rainiest summer’s on record in Fairbanks, but that hasn’t hampered the debut of new recreation area.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska Mayors Group Rallies Against Pot

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-08-28 16:43

The Alaska Conference of Mayors has come out against a ballot initiative that would regulate marijuana like alcohol.

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The coalition passed a resolution opposing Proposition 2 out of concerns over cost and safety at their summer meeting on August 13, and signed the document on Wednesday. The organization is also donating $5,000 to the political action group Big Marijuana Big Mistake to help their campaign.

The Alaska Conference of Mayors represents nearly 100 communities across the state. The vote on the resolution was unanimous, but only a quarter of members were present for it. The Mat-Su Borough and the cities of Fairbanks, Kodiak, Bethel, Wasilla, and Sitka were the largest communities to give an affirmative vote on the measure.

Proposition 2 spokesperson Taylor Bickford called the decision “unfortunate,” given that alcohol is already sold in many of these communities.

Categories: Alaska News

Mom, Tot Injured In ATV Hit-And-Run

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-08-28 14:40

A Mountain Village woman was arrested Wednesday after driving an ATV into a woman pushing a toddler in a stroller.

Mountain Village, Alaska. Photo from Google Maps.

Wednesday afternoon, troopers say 22-year-old Georgianne Hanson was driving a 4-wheeler with a passenger. She began arguing with Jeanette Myre, who had a toddler in a stroller. Trooper spokesperson Megan Peters say Hanson allegedly told the woman she was going to hit her with the ATV.

“Hanson then drove a little distance away, turned around, came back at Myre and struck her and the stroller with the 4-wheeler. Hanson then left scene and did not render aid at all. Fortunately there was a good Samaritan who transported the woman and the child to the Mountain Village Clinic,” said Peters.

Their investigation indicated that Hanson did just that, by driving away, circling back to hit the woman and the stroller. She then left the scene. The woman and the toddler were medecaved to Bethel for non-life-threatening injuries.

Troopers arrested Hanson and expected charges for first and second degree assault and failure to render aid. Peters said it doesn’t appear alcohol was a factor.

Categories: Alaska News

Commercial Fishing Winds Down In Lower Cook Inlet

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-08-28 07:00

The season is wrapping up in the Southern, Outer, and Kamishak Bay districts.

“In general, things are winding down I would say,” says Glenn Hollowell, area management biologist for the Department of Fish and Game.

He says there may be a few areas that continue to produce.

“There might be some seiners interested in going over to Kamishak Bay to fish for coho, but the weather tends to get really nasty there in late August or early September,” says Hollowell. “I don’t know that we’re going to see a lot of effort over there at this time.”

Sockeye returns have not been consistent across lower Cook Inlet. In the Outer District, there was a system in McCarty Fjord that produced about 20,000 sockeye, which is very good for that area.

“Some of our other systems have just met escapement, like English Bay, for instance,” says Hollowell. “We have made our escapement goal pretty cleanly there. We’re right around the middle of the goal which is a good place to be. But, there was really not enough fish there to have a significant commercial harvest on them. The harvest went to subsistence users over in Port Graham, primarily.”

Pinks have been doing well overall. 2013 was a record-breaking year for pinks in lower Cook Inlet with 2 million picked up in the Outer District alone. It’s certainly not up to that level this year, but it’s been consistently good, with about average returns in the Outer District.

“Pink salmon are pretty much everywhere,” says Hollowell. “Most of the little streams and rivers around Kachemak Bay and other places on the lower Kenai have small pink salmon runs associated with them. But, right now in Kachemak Bay, I would say Humpy Creek has a good number of fish associated with it.”

Hollowell says Humpy Creek was a little slow to meet its escapement goal this year. He says Fish and Game held off opening it on the typical three-day-per-week schedule until returns were higher. He says he saw good numbers of fish when he walked the stream a few weeks ago, so it’s been opened for common property harvest.

The Kamishak Bay district was looking good for fishing early on, but has had some trouble following through. Hollowell says a trip there on August 20th shows it’s not for lack of pinks.

“Well, the weather’s been terrible over there, which unfortunately we can’t control,” says Hollowell. “That’s really limited harvest. I went flying there and counted about 60,000 pink salmon in the Bruin Bay River, which is a really nice return for there. Unfortunately, Bruin Bay is incredibly shallow and rocky. It’s a very difficult place to fish. The fleet has not been able to access them and catch them and bring them in to processors.”

The Bruin Bay area is open to commercial harvest now, but Hollowell says he doesn’t see the fishery making a particularly great turnaround.

“Early on in the season, it was looking like this was going to be a really, really nice return, like a good number of fish coming back,” says Hollowell. “So, we decided to open it up a little bit early to aggressive fishing. Unfortunately, the bad weather has precluded that. It’s been pretty slow over there. I believe we’ve taken about 45,000 or 50,000 pink salmon out of there so far.”

Pink and chum returns have been good overall in the Outer District. Hollowell says there’s been a lot of activity around Port Dick and Dogfish Bay this season. Chums have also turned out well in the southern district.

“Chums are a bit more scattered, I would say,” says Hollowell. “Port Graham has had a nice show of chums coming back to it.”

Coho has had a good showing this year, with strong returns to the fishing hole on the Homer Spit. The personal use fishery in that area closed after just 72 hours after meeting its guideline harvest level of 1,000 to 2,000 fish.

Overall, it’s been a decent season so far for a variety of salmon in each of the districts in lower Cook Inlet.

Categories: Alaska News

Meeting in Nome Attempts to Elucidate Arctic Policy Goals

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-08-27 18:48

The Alaska Arctic Commission has been working for more than a year and a half to write the state’s first comprehensive arctic policy—a policy the commission hopes will lay out not just Alaska’s future, but America’s future, in the arctic. But with priorities ranging from international to extremely local, Tuesday’s meeting in Nome saw lawmakers, researchers, and coastal representatives still working out just what that policy will be.

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The Alaska Arctic Commission is trying to balance far-reaching goals—from development and energy to international cooperation—to more immediate needs like ports, plumbing, and building strong rural economics and infrastructure for rural communities.

But with a four-page draft bill, a 15-page summary, and a 131-page report … the big question before the commission was summarized by Bethel co-chair, Representative Bob Herron.

“What should this policy commission say when we report to the legislature?”

Finalizing that message before the commission delivers its final report to lawmakers took up much of the meeting—with recaps of past meetings leading to passionate discussions on key issues … which often spiraled into broad discussions that rarely led to any clear conclusion.

What *is clear is that the commission will deliver 4 broad “strategic recommendations” to the legislature. They include a renewed focus on the state’s “infrastructure gap;” a boost to artic science and research; increased response capacity for a more active Arctic maritime environment; and a focus on sustainably developing arctic resources with an eye to Alaska’s unique cultural, social, and environmental needs.

Liz Qaulluq Moore, a community and government affairs director with NANA Regional Corporation who is the commissions’ ANSCA representative, says those 4 recommendations are necessarily broad.

“It is so big. It is really important. And I think we’ve been working towards this for many generations. The reason we’re seeing this bubble up to the surface now is because of the increased interest, right, we have a lot more marine traffic, all these larger questions. We talk a lot about resource development and the resources in the arctic. People want to be responsive to the immediate needs of marine transportation and offshore oil and gas development, we have to be prepared for those things.  So, you know, do we address those immediate needs? What are those longer-term visions? I think this is going to be a much longer-term discussion beyond just this commission.”

While the arctic policy will be far-reaching, residents of Nome addressed the commission to single out areas of specific concern. Melanie Bahnke, president of Kawerak, addressed concerns that the committee’s careful work could end up collecting dust on a bookshelf in Juneau—by urging lawmakers to take action.

“Many of your are in a position to ensure that some of your own recommendations are funded. So, fund it! Ensure Alaska Native people benefit economically. We bear the most risk with anything that’s going on in the arctic. So consider, what is the next 8-A opportunity? The next CDQ-like opportunity? When we’re provided with some opportunities we go from having a seat at the back of the bus, to learning how to drive the bus, to owning a fleet of busses.”

Senator Lyman Hoffman of Bethel sits on the commission, and admits the bill—and the report—won’t include any clear way to pay for the various projects the commission is recommending. But he says it *will give direction on how the state should spend its money down the road.

“It doesn’t open up the checkbook, it gives direction on how that checkbook can be spent. You know, so, if the legislature adopts the report, then they adopt the recommendations, then it’s incumbent upon the legislature to implement them.”

Commission members hope that implementation will have ramifications on the national and international scene. In 2015 the United States is poised to spend three years as chair of the international Arctic Council—a body of circumpolar nations focused on arctic issues.

Many commission members see Alaska’s plans for the arctic as the de facto plans for the nation—or at least influencing the nation’s arctic policy going forward. Here’s Anchorage Senator Lesil McGuire, the commission’s co-chair.

 “We’ve sat back and waited for the federal government, which arguably should have an interest to begin that investment, and we just haven’t gotten anywhere.”

The Alaska Arctic Policy Commission continues its meeting on Kotzebue on Wednesday, with one more meeting in November to finalize its extensive report—and its far-reaching recommendations for the future of the arctic—before submitting it to Juneau for the state of the legislative session in January.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: August 27, 2014

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-08-27 18:48

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 and on Twitter @aprn

Download Audio:

Meeting in Nome Attempts to Elucidate Arctic Policy Goals

Matthew Smith, KNOM – Nome

The Alaska Arctic Commission has been working for more than a year and a half to write the state’s first comprehensive arctic policy—a policy the commission hopes will lay out not just Alaska’s future, but America’s future, in the arctic. But with priorities ranging from international to extremely local, Tuesday’s meeting in Nome saw lawmakers, researchers, and coastal representatives still working out just what that policy will be.

Libertarian Senate Candidate To Withdraw, Leaving One Walker On Ballot

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Anchorage

There won’t be two Walkers on the November ballot after all. Thom Walker, the Libertarian nominee for U.S. Senate, announced he was dropping out of the race via Facebook on Wednesday.

Judges Weigh Yup’ik Religious Appeal

Daysha Eaton, KYUK – Bethel

Three judges with the Alaska Court of appeals are now weighing whether Yup’ik Fishermen, who targeted Chinook or king Salmon during a closure on the Kuskokwim River in 2012, were wrongfully convicted. Their attorney based their defense on a 1970s moose-hunting case.

DOT To Commence Herbicide Spraying In Southeast

Elizabeth Jenkins, KFSK – Petersburg

The Alaska Department of Transportation plans to spray herbicides on Prince of Wales Island. It will be the first time the DOT has applied herbicides in southeast Alaska since the state eliminated public review requirements in 2013.

Post-Ferguson, APD Stands By Civil Unrest Preparation Plans

Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage

The Anchorage Police Department says they are ready if civil unrest breaks out in Alaska’s largest city, like it did in Ferguson, Missouri earlier this month. But their main tactic is being as transparent and open as possible so that riots don’t happen in the first place.

Charges Filed In Haines Bear Shootings

Friedenauer, KHNS – Haines

Charges were filed against two Haines men for the shooting brown bears recently in cases that highlight the challenges of bear and humans coexisting.

Celebrating Recovery From Alcohol and Drug Addiction

Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau

Alcohol and drug abuse cost Alaska’s economy more than $1 billion every year. That includes millions in lost productivity, and millions more spent on health care, social services and the criminal justice system, according to a 2012 McDowell Group report.Shame and stigma can make it difficult to get help for substance abuse. But a group of Juneau residents is out to change that. They organized last weekend’s Recovery Fest to celebrate those seeking to overcome addiction.

Categories: Alaska News

Celebrating Recovery From Alcohol and Drug Addiction

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-08-27 18:45

Alcohol and drug abuse cost Alaska’s economy more than $1 billion every year. That includes millions in lost productivity and millions more spent on health care, social services and the criminal justice system, according to a 2012 McDowell Group report.

Shame and stigma can make it difficult to get help for substance abuse. But a group of Juneau residents is out to change that. They organized last weekend’s Recovery Fest to celebrate those seeking to overcome addiction.

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It’s a sunny afternoon at Sandy Beach in downtown Douglas, and a crowd is gathering around a dunk tank filled with several gallons of cold water. Dusty Dumont, a parole officer for the state Department of Corrections, sits on a platform above the water, dry for now. Then someone throws a ball that’s right on target and Dumont splashes into the water as the crowd lets out a cheer.

Dusty Dumont and Kara Nelson jump to celebrate a dunk tank bull’s-eye at a recent Juneau Recovery Fest event. (Photo by Casey Kelly/KTOO)

“I did get dunked quite a few times,” Dumont says later, wrapped in a towel and standing next to a picnic shelter.

“For a good cause,” she adds with a laugh.

The cause she’s talking about is addiction recovery. Programs like 12 step, Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous, professional counseling and peer-to-peer treatment.

“The majority of the people on my case load are struggling with addiction, and I would love to see more of this so that people feel like they belong and are part of a strong community that’s sober,” Dumont says.

Kara Nelson is one of the people on Dumont’s case load. The 40-year-old mother of three spent more than half her life abusing drugs and alcohol before sobering up in 2011.

“I never really had a drug of choice,” Nelson says. “Whatever you had I’ll take, whatever’s going to get me out of my right mind right now.”

Like a lot of addicts at Recovery Fest, Nelson says no one event led to her getting clean. Rather, it was a series of what she calls “bottoms.” She says her family, friends and members of her church help her stay sober. She also credits peer-to-peer therapy, where former users support each other.

“If you’re like me, I don’t like to feel like anyone is trying to tell me what to do,” she says. “I mean, I already have so much shame on me. So when I’m with someone who’s already been through that, I definitely can identify, and work through things a little better and get to that humbled spot that we need to get to to move forward.”

Carol McDaid pushed to get addiction services included in the Affordable Care Act as a Washington, D.C. lobbyist for treatment organizations. She’s also been in recovery for drug and alcohol abuse for 16 years.

“The thing that was my biggest mark of shame is now my biggest asset,” McDaid says.

A frequent guest speaker at events around the country, she talks about putting a face on addiction recovery.

“That’s why we’re out here today. So that people don’t have to think we’re these people under bridges swigging out of brown bags,” McDaid says. “We are tax paying, loving members of our family, and members of our community that add rather than detract. And I think if we do that enough, we will show that there’s a benefit to doing it.”

Katie Chapman, executive director of theNational Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Juneau Chapter, is celebrating four and a half years sober. NCADD helps organize the weekly Juneau Recovery Community meetings, where the idea for Recovery Fest first took shape. Chapman says the group hopes to hold more public events that shine a light on recovery and reduce the stigma for those struggling to overcome addictions.

“I’m happy to do that here today,” Chapman says. “I’m proudly wearing a shirt that says ‘I got recovery’ on the back of it, because I do and I’m proud of it. It’s something to be proud of.”

Categories: Alaska News

Libertarian Senate Candidate To Withdraw, Leaving One Walker On Ballot

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-08-27 18:41

There won’t be two Walkers on the November ballot after all. Thom Walker, the Libertarian nominee for U.S. Senate, announced he was dropping out of the race via Facebook on Wednesday.

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In a post left on the Alaska Libertarian Party’s page, Walker explains that his “work location and schedule” handling field operations for a University of Alaska research station requires him to be “out of town, out of contact, and off the campaign trail for too long.” It’s the first public statement Walker has made since unexpectedly winning last week’s primary and immediately going off the grid for a float trip in the Brooks Range.

Thom Walker, left, will no longer be appearing on the same ballot as Bill Walker in November. (UAF/Bill Walker for Governor campaign)

Walker took over 60 percent of the Libertarian vote in a race against two former Libertarian Party chairmen. Because the 35-year-old Fairbanks resident had only recently become a Libertarian and had not actively campaigned, party leadership and pollsters believe that Thom Walker pulled off an upset because he shared a last name with gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker.

The Libertarian executive committee has already selected primary runner-up Mark Fish as their replacement candidate. Fish says they’re now trying to coordinate the change with the Division of Elections, but the substitution is complicated by Walker’s inaccessibility. APRN was not able to reach Walker for comment on the matter, but Fish says the erstwhile candidate is only able to communicate his withdrawal via satellite phone.

“Usually that’s done in writing, but I just got off the phone with the Division of Elections and they’re going to check on it, because it’s kind of a unique situation,” says Fish.

The selection of Fish as a replacement happened within hours of Walker’s announcement. Throughout the primary season, the Libertarian Party was asked if it would consider running Republican Joe Miller as its Senate candidate in the event the Tea Party favorite lost. Party Chair Michael Chambers says that simply wasn’t going to happen.

“We’re not a rent-a-party,” says Chambers. “We’re a party of principles, and those principles are adhered to in the sense that we want to put forth candidates that adhere to the particular principles of the Libertarian party.”

The Libertarian Party has until September 2 to formalize its candidate substitution.

Categories: Alaska News

Charges Filed In Haines Bear Shootings

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-08-27 18:40

Charges were filed against two Haines men for the shooting brown bears recently in cases that highlight the challenges of bear and humans coexisting.

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Forty-eight-year-old Kevin Shove is charged with failure to salvage a bear he claims he shot in defense of life and property. Alaska State Troopers say Shove shot a large male brown bear on his Haines property on August 8th. Instead of reporting the death and turning the bear over to authorities to salvage as required by law, Shove instead used a backhoe to bury the bear on his property.

Twenty-three-year-old Dalton Huston was charged after killing a sow and two cubs near his home at 7 and a half mile. Troopers say Huston chased the bears off his property on August 10 and the bears left. Troopers allege Huston then pursued the bears and shot all three of them. He is charged with three counts of taking brown bear out of season and unlawful possession of game.

Both men will appear in Haines court in early September.

Stephanie Sell is a wildlife biologist with Alaska Department of Fish and Game. She says the bear shootings are “dishartening.”

Sell said from what she knows of the cases, they were both instances of bears getting into fruit trees or garbage. Sell says if a property owner wants to grow or have crops or stock, like chickens or cherry trees that are appealing to bears, it’s also the owner’s responsibility to keep them secured from bears.

“Chickens are like a beacon in the night and so are fruit trees. So, bears are going to target into that and keep coming back as long as there is fruit there.”

While brown bear sightings are common in the summer in Haines, this year has been particularly active, with the Haines Police Department blotter listing several calls each day about bear sightings or encounters. The bears seem to be taking advantage of a bumper crop of berries and tart cherries on trees around town, as residents have reported foraging bears throughout Haines and in outlying neighborhoods.

Sell says the encounters are not unusual, but that residents need to be vigilant about deterring bears, rather than waiting for a dangerous encounter to happen. She said some of the best deterrents are electric fences and bear proof containers.

“Bears are out. It’s something that happens every year and I don’t know how to many times I can stress this, but we need to keep garbage contained,  we need to keep attractants contained, whether that be in a bear proof containers, or out of sight or taking your garbage to the landfill.”

Sell also recommends noise-making devices, like air horns, clapping and even banging pots and pans to chase bears off. She says Fish and Game offices also have some Critter Gitter noise makers available for loan. They also have electric fences for short term loan for property owners to try out.

Fish and Game has more information about Living with Bears at their website at

Categories: Alaska News

Judges Weigh Yup’ik Religious Appeal

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-08-27 18:40

Three judges with the Alaska Court of appeals are now weighing whether Yup’ik Fishermen, who targeted Chinook or king Salmon during a closure on the Kuskokwim River in 2012, were wrongfully convicted. Their attorney based their defense on a 1970s moose-hunting case. The fishermen say state fisheries managers interfered with their religious rights and they want new regulations to insure it won’t happen again.

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AFN President, Julie Kitka talks with reporters at the Boney Courthouse.

Attorney James Davis with The Northern Justice Project, an Anchorage-based private civil rights law firm, represented the fishermen. He said that the state should have tried to accommodate the fishermen’s religious beliefs and that the state of Alaska had a duty under the free exercise clause to accommodate the Yupik fishermen’s spiritual practices.

The precedent Davis cited was Frank versus the state a case from the 70s in which a judge ruled an Athabascan man from the Minto area could take moose out of season for a funeral potlatch, on religious grounds.

One judge hearing the appeal, asked if Yup’ik people were consulted through the advisory working group. Davis said the working group did include some Yup’ik members, who recommended managers open the subsistence fishery, but the state did not listen to them.

“And you’ll see that whatever the working group says, if the state doesn’t like it the state says, ‘never mind we’re gonna keep it closed for another five days,’ so it’s another one of those advisory committees that the state doesn’t have to abide by,” said Davis.

Due to a reduced run of king salmon the state closed the lower Kuskokwim River subsistence fishery in June 2012. Davis argued that traditional Yup’ik fishermen believe their God, ‘Ellam Yua’, will be offended if they do not pursue kings and that fewer fish will return.

Dozens of people fished in defiance of the state closure. Many were given fines and some nets were confiscated. A few days later the state opened the area to fishing for other species of salmon, which allowed about 20-thousand king salmon to be caught as by-catch.

The trial court agreed that king salmon fishing is integral to the Yup’ik religion but convicted the fishermen and decided that Alaska’s need to protect king salmon overrode the fishermen’s religious rights. Thirteen decided to pursue an appeal.

Attorney Laura Fox with the State Attorney General’s Office argued that issuing citations for fishing during an ‘emergency closure’ was necessary to protect king Salmon.

Fox also argued the Minto moose case shouldn’t apply because subsistence fishing would result in unfettered taking of fish, which would prevent the state from managing the fishery. Fox addressed the decision to allow an opening.

“We have to be looking at this from the perspective of an in-season manger, who’s – you know, not with 20/20 hindsight about exactly, what would have been in hindsight the optimal way to manage the fishery, which might have been not to open it to six-inch gear, which wouldn’t have been helpful to these defendants or anybody else who needed to meet their food needs in 2012, but maybe in hindsight the state shouldn’t have allowed that opening,” said Fox.

Fox said there is not mechanism in state law for making a religious exemption for Natives to subsistence fish. Davis said that’s what the Yup’ik fishermen are asking for. Alaska Federation of Natives president, Julie Kitka, attended the hearing. She said that the state needs to begin taking other points of view into consideration.

“The pivotal role that this could play would be for the state to finally realize that you have to respect Native people and their cultural beliefs … and it is okay to adjust the regulatory system to accommodate that doesn’t have to destroy and turn the regulatory systems upside down, but that you can accommodate. That’s I think the pivotal issue of this case and other cases like this is that it’s okay to have flexibility in your system,” said Kitka.

This summer federal managers took over management of the Lower Kuskokwim River fishery at the request of tribes. Federal managers did allow a small cultural and social harvest of king salmon. The ACLU, the Association of Village Council Presidents and the Alaska Federation of Natives have filed amicus briefs in the case. A panel of three judges will weigh the arguments in the case of David Phillip v. the State of Alaska and issue a decision, likely sometime later this year or early next year.

Categories: Alaska News

DOT To Commence Herbicide Spraying In Southeast

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-08-27 18:35

The Alaska Department of Transportation plans to spray herbicides on Prince of Wales Island. It will be the first time the DOT has applied herbicides in southeast Alaska since the state eliminated public review requirements in 2013. This has some community members and environmental groups worried about chemicals leaching into nearby habitat.

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Mike Coffey, the DOT Maintenance and Operations Chief, says they’re spraying on Thorne Bay Road to combat miles and miles of invasive species, such as canary grass. The DOT plans to spray a single application of herbicides along 17 miles of the highway on the eastern side of Prince of Wales Island. “Vegetation in general blocks signs it causes sight distance on the inside of curves. You can’t see animals.”

He says there are a lot of reasons why the DOT does vegetation management. Most of the time, it’s done with tractors and brush cutters. “But in terms of invasive species a lot of times the mechanical methods just spread it.” The state drafts a plan to assess roadside conditions. For Thorne Bay Road, the DOT says they may use chemicals, like Garlon 4, Habitat, and Roundup. “The one thing I think a lot of people don’t understand is that many of the herbicides that we have approved are things that you could buy in Home Depot and Lowe’s.”

Pamela Miller, the Executive Director of the Alaska Community Action on Toxics, says she knows the herbicides are EPA approved for certain household uses, but that doesn’t mean she agrees with its application in the area. “The DOT would be using much stronger formulations than would be found on a hardware shelf.” She says herbicides, such as Roundup, have been scientifically linked to birth defects, certain forms of cancer and neurological problems. “Particularly it is not safe to be used in a place where people are subsistence harvesting fish in around wetlands and streams.”

Kasaan resident Rob Leighton agrees. He’s trying to organize community members against the DOT’s use of chemicals. “There’s a large percentage of people that pick berries, hunt and fish.” He says spraying herbicides could also be harmful to the Native community who harvest plants along Thorne Bay Road for medicinals. “I don’t exactly know about the public comment. I think they have to come through the various communities that have concerns.”

Actually, that’s no longer the case. In 2013, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation eliminated the permitting and public review requirements for most applications on state land. Agencies can spray after giving the public a 30 day notice which, on Prince of Wales Island, they did by notifying residents via the local newspaper on August 2 and 4.

Karin Hendrickson, the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Coordinator for the state’s Pesticide Control Program, says the state is doing everything lawfully. “You know people do have strong opinions about pesticides, but we make our decisions on risk analysis not just necessarily if people are uncomfortable or unhappy with the idea.”

Changes in regulations by the DEC last year sparked concern in other southeast communities like Petersburg and Skagway. On the Thorne Bay Road, The DOT says their environmental analysis still needs to be conducted, and they don’t know exactly when the spraying will happen. Alaska Community Action on Toxics says groups like theirs are examining legal options.

Categories: Alaska News

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