Alaska News

Cost, Avalanche Danger High On Juneau Access Opponents’ Concerns

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-10-15 17:41

A few dozen people participated in a rally the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council organized outside Centennial Hall. They were supporting ferries and opposing an extension of the Juneau’s main road. (Photo by Jennifer Canfield/KTOO)

At a public hearing Tuesday night in Juneau, locals spoke out nearly 4-1 against transportation officials’ effort to extend the capital city’s main road 48 miles farther north.

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More than 50 people testified on the latest version of a federally required environmental impact statement for the Juneau Access Improvements Project.

Mendenhall Valley resident Brandee Gerke summed up many of the opponents’ key concerns about the road-building option that transportation officials have favored for years.

“Perceived convenience is being prioritized over cost and safety,” she said.

Highway construction along the east side of Lynn Canal is estimated to cost $523 million. The new road would end at the Katzehin River where a new ferry terminal would make short connections to Haines, Skagway and the road system. The new terminal and ferries are estimated at another $51 million.

According to the EIS, the plan would also drive up the state Transportation Department’s operations and maintenance costs by about 30 percent compared to the status quo.

On safety, the document projects about 22 crashes per year on the new road and about one traffic death every six years, based on statewide data from similar roads.

But the safety concern folks repeatedly cited was avalanches. The proposed road crosses 41 avalanche paths.

“The fear of the road would probably eliminate a lot of people’s actual access out of as well as to Juneau,” said Larri Spengler, who lives on the avalanche prone Thane Road.

“Do we want our children on their school buses driving up that road to a ferry terminal? I’d much rather put them on the ferry in Auke Bay.”

The high risk would be driven down through engineering, explosive avalanche control and simply closing the road when avalanche risk is highest – forecast at about 12 days a year. Motorists would still face moderate avalanche risk, though; more than on Thane Road, but less than on Seward Highway, according to an avalanche risk index in the EIS.

Juneau Mayor Merrill Sanford, speaking for himself, ticked off what the upside would be.

“To be able to transport 10 times the number of vehicles, provide 5 to 7 times the number of ferry trips per week, cut travel time in half or more, and cut traveler cost up to 75 percent,” Sanford said.

And he added, 3 to 5 years of construction jobs.

Wayne Jensen said it’s incumbent on Juneau as a capital city to support the road and improve access for other Alaskans. Enhancing Juneau as a capital city is the mission of the nonprofit Alaska Committee that he chairs.

Another common thread in opponents’ testimony was skepticism toward cost estimates and traffic projections in the 694-page EIS. A few people even made outright accusations that officials cooked the books.

That wasn’t exactly what project manager Gary Hogins said he’d be listening for.

“Federal Highways and the department will respond to all comments, but the comments that are most helpful to us is constructive—did we make a mistake? Is there a gap in our information? You know, that sort of thing,” Hogins said before the hearing.

Tim Haugh is the environmental program manager for the Alaska division of the Federal Highway Administration. His agency would pay for much of the capital cost of the project and has the final say in which option is greenlit. He said the selection is based on “a balanced analysis of the transportation need with the environmental impacts, be they social, economic or natural.”

He said building the road best serves the overall public interest while improving transportation. At this stage,  he said politics aren’t a factor.

The public comments will become part of the Federal Highway Administration’s record and may lead to revisions in the final version of the EIS, expected next fall.

Categories: Alaska News

Great Alaska Shakeout Preps Alaskans For Future Quakes

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-10-15 17:40

This year was the 50th anniversary of the Great Alaska Earthquake. And, earlier this summer, a magnitude 6.2 quake shook Southcentral Alaska.

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This state has earthquakes on its mind. That’s why thousands of its residents have already signed up to participate in the largest earthquake drill in the world.

“On October 16th at 10:16, Alaska will be doing the Great Alaska Shakeout, but there’s many other states and nations around the world that will be doing a shakeout drill on the same day at the same time,” says Jeremy Zidek, who works with the state’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

He says to date, more than 20 million people are signed up to participate worldwide.

That includes more than 76,000 Alaskans. Of that number, 49,000 are from southcentral Alaska, including more than 10,000 from the Kenai Peninsula Borough.

“Alaska is the most active seismic region in the United States,” says Zidek. “We also have had the largest earthquake in North American history and three of the six largest earthquakes recorded in the world. So, it really is important that we prepare for earthquakes here.”

Participants of the Great Alaska Shakeout will simulate being in an earthquake and taking the necessary steps to protect themselves.

“Basically what we want people to do is drop to the ground before the shaking drops them, find some type of cover to protect themselves, and then hold on,” says Zidek.

He says his office found that groups that had regularly participated in earthquake drills were the quickest to act when the real quake struck earlier this year.

“Earthquakes are no-notice events,” says Zidek. “So, they’re going to strike and unless people actively practice what they’re going to do when that earthquake hits, there may be confusion, they don’t know what to do, they don’t remember drop, cover and hold and they try to run out or they expose themselves to other falling objects. So, we really want people to practice the drop, cover and hold, so when the shaking begins, and there’s a little bit of panic, they’ll know what to do.”

Many schools and medical facilities on the peninsula will participate in this year’s Shakeout.

For more information or to sign up, visit shakeout.org.

Categories: Alaska News

Judge Allows Gay Marriages To Continue In Alaska

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-10-14 18:00

A federal court judge has denied a request from the state of Alaska to put gay marriages on hold until an appeal is heard.

U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Burgess denied the state’s request for a stay on Tuesday, two days after he struck down the state’s ban on gay marriage as unconstitutional.

The state intends to appeal that decision to the 9th Circuit Court. The state could also ask that court to delay gay marriages from going forward but the court has allowed marriages to continue in other states within its jurisdiction.

A message left with the state attorney’s office after hours Tuesday wasn’t immediately returned.

Gay couples began applying for marriage licenses on Monday, triggering a three-day wait period. But in at last two cases, couples were granted waivers of the rule and were married in Barrow.

Categories: Alaska News

Feds Seek Dismissal of King Cove Lawsuit

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-10-14 17:59

Arguments have been scheduled on the federal government’s request to dismiss a lawsuit over the Interior Department’s refusal to allow for a road from King Cove to an all-weather airport at Cold Bay.

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Government attorneys say the decision by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell was reached after five years of environmental analysis and public outreach. They say Jewell wasn’t obligated to approve a road and her decision is owed deference by a federal judge.

The state joined the city of King Cove, tribal governments and individuals in challenging Jewell’s denial of a road through Izembek [EYE'-zem-bek] National Wildlife Refuge that could improve access to emergency flights.

Arguments on the motion to dismiss are set for Monday in Anchorage.

Categories: Alaska News

More Big Thorne Timber Sales Announced

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-10-14 17:56

Clear-cuts and old-growth forests are part of the view of Indian Valley on Prince of Wales Island. The Forest Service just announced three more timber sales in the Island’s Big Thorne area. (Creative Commons photo by Nick Bonzey)

The Forest Service plans three more timber sales in a part of Prince of Wales Island conservationists say needs to be protected. They’re much smaller than a recent sale in the same area.

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The sales are between Thorne Bay and Coffman Cove, on northeast Prince of Wales Island. They’re part of the larger Big Thorne sale area, which is tied up with court challenges.

Officials recently sold nearly 100 million board feet of Big Thorne timber to Viking Lumber, Southeast Alaska’s largest mill. Tongass National Forest Supervisor Forrest Cole says the three smaller sales total less than 5 percent of that amount.

“There’s a fairly significant number of small operators on Prince of Wales and these projects have been set up specifically for them,” Cole says.

The smaller mills have lobbied the Forest Service for sales they can afford to bid on. Cole says the goal is to help keep them operating.

“They are larger than typical sales that they deal with. But the concept for these projects is similar to the Big Thorne, to try to get a longer-term amount of wood to the smaller operators,” he says.

Several conservation groups have sued to block sales in the Big Thorne area. One is Greenpeace, where Sitka’s Larry Edwards is Alaska forest campaigner.

“We think that the whole Big Thorne sale needs to be set aside and legal matters decided before any sales are made at all,” Edwards says.

Others involved include the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, the Alaska Wilderness League, the Greater Southeast Alaska Conservation Community and the Center for Biological Diversity. They say Big Thorne sales will hurt deer and wolf populations.

Gov. Sean Parnell’s administration has filed to become involved in the legal battle. The state fears the Forest Service will not adequately defend its decisions.

While the sales are designed for smaller mills, Cole says there’s no guarantee they’ll get the trees.

“Everybody can put in a bid in on it. These are being put out as timber sales contracts, so the highest bidder wins. Given that the larger operator just picked up about 100 million [board] feet, we suspect there will probably be less interest there and more interest by the smaller operators,” he says.

Some small mills have expressed doubts about the bidding process for all the sales. Tongass officials won’t release contract details for the larger sale until it’s signed.

The Forest Service estimates the three small sales’ value at $750,000. They were advertised in the Oct. 4 Ketchikan Daily News. Bids are due in early November.

“These projects are all old growth and off the existing road systems. We’ve got about 2,300 acres of young growth that we intend to put up at a later date. It’s in a form of commercial thinning and we have not got to that point yet,” he says.

While the Forest Service is moving ahead with the sales, it’s promised to delay logging until next spring. Cole says that should be enough time to address the court challenges.

But Greenpeace’s Edwards says it’s not a done deal.

“We haven’t heard from the court yet if they’ve agreed to the April 1st date, so there’s still a question mark there. But if there’s no activity on any of these projects until a decision is made by the court, that’s certainly a plus,” he says.

The sales are the 500,000-board-foot Buck Rush, the 1.6-million-board-foot Last Stand and the 2.3-million-board-foot In Between.

For reference, Cole says about 10,000 board feet can go into a good-sized house. And 25,000 to 30,000 board feet of old-growth trees can be logged per acre, which about the size of a football field.

Categories: Alaska News

Groups Criticize State For Renewal Of Wishbone Hill Coal Mining Permit

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-10-14 17:55

A coalition of environmental organizations are criticizing the state for issuing a coal mining permit for a site near Palmer.

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Categories: Alaska News

Community-Based Solutions For Coastal Erosion Discussed In Anchorage

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-10-14 17:54

As climate change brings new threats to subsistence communities across Alaska’s coastlines, a conference held in Anchorage is advocating community-based solutions, and not waiting any longer for government assistance.

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Categories: Alaska News

Fish & Game Releases Commercial Salmon Fishing Summary

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-10-14 17:53

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has released its summary report for the 2014 commercial salmon fishing season. Continued low king salmon numbers and new management tools were at the heart of this year’s fishing.

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Categories: Alaska News

UAF Vice Chancellor Visits Bristol Bay Campus

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-10-14 17:52

The man who oversees all of the rural campuses of the University of Alaska Fairbanks has been touring those campuses since being appointed to the job back in July. Evon Peter visited the Bristol Bay Campus last week.

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Categories: Alaska News

Juneau Non-Profit Bridges Spanish Language Gap

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-10-14 17:51

About 5 percent of Juneau’s population identifies as Hispanic. Some are non-English speaking immigrants who need help translating official documents or government forms. Others require assistance navigating the Alaska Court System. A national nonprofit that started a Juneau branch last year now offers Spanish translation and interpretation services in Juneau. Piedra de Ayuda, or A Helping Rock, began as a homeless outreach program on the East Coast.

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A Latin American immigrant moved to Juneau recently with her boyfriend and met a local man who helped her get settled and find an apartment. She claims he asked to live with her family temporarily, and then things went downhill.

“Tuesday he was a good man, Wednesday he was a good man, Friday he was a good man, but Saturday he was a monster,” the woman says in Spanish.

We’ve omitted her name due to the ongoing nature of her case, which involves accusations of domestic abuse and sexual assault. She claims the local man was often drunk and abusive.

“I was afraid,” she says. “Because, I said, ‘What if he kills me? What do I do?’ Because he said he was going to make me disappear.”

She needed a protective order from the courts, but her English was limited.

“She didn’t know her way around and basically was harassed by this man because of the lack of the language,” says Wanda Peña. “She couldn’t communicate with anybody, so she ended up going to the courthouse and they provided her with our number and she immediately called.”

Peña is a volunteer with Piedra de Ayuda, a national nonprofit that started a Juneau branch last year and now offers Spanish translation and interpretation services. Peña helped the woman fill out paperwork and interpreted for her in court.

New Jersey native Eddy Reyes helped found Piedra de Ayuda, or A Helping Rock. It began as a homeless outreach program on the East Coast and is now based in Florida. After he moved to Juneau, Reyes started a local branch. He says government agencies like the Division of Motor Vehicles had not provided many language services in the capital city.

“Because there’s not maybe an interpreter or they don’t understand the language there to fill out a form, suddenly someone had to walk out of there without a picture ID,” he says. “Cause of course, if you’re gonna try to get a job, you have to identify yourself. Well, how do you do that if you have no ID?”

Reyes says Piedra de Ayuda is made up entirely of volunteers. Since last year, the local branch has added seven board members and helped about 20 different clients.

Although the law requires courts to provide interpretation to people with limited English proficiency, nonprofit and commercial organizations that offer language assistance are rare in Alaska. Neil Nesheim is court administrator for Southeast. He says 60 to 70 percent of interpretation is done over speakerphone, which is not always the best option.

“Obviously it’s more effective to do it in person only because you get to see subtleties such as facial language, hand language, intonation and those sorts of things,” Nesheim says.

About 5 percent of Juneau’s population identifies as Hispanic. Some, like the woman Peña helped, don’t speak English and need help translating official documents and government forms, or navigating the Alaska Court System.

The woman says she’s grateful to Piedra de Ayuda.

“She came to help me so quickly,” the woman says. “They didn’t charge me anything. They were wonderful people.”

Categories: Alaska News

Arctic Native Ice Testing Stick Will Be Used On National Research Vessel

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-10-14 17:50

Two people stand on the ice with their testing sticks, hooks visible at the top. The hook could be used to grab onto an article of clothing if someone fell into the water. (Photo courtesy of Gay Sheffield)

Conducting research at sea in Arctic, ice-filled conditions is a tricky endeavor, requiring a host of high-tech gear. But, on the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ new, ice-capable research vessel Sikuliaq, at least one piece of equipment dates back generations.

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In a few months, the ice-classed research vessel Sikuliaq, owned by the National Science Foundation, will be equipped with about a half dozen Arctic Native ice testing sticks as part of the ship’s safety outfit.

“It’s a multi-tool. Sometimes there’s a hook on the end for retrieving things, and the other end is used for poking the ice. It could be a harpoon with a rib bone, or some type of bone sticking out on the other end to test the ice,” said Brandon Ahmasuk, subsistence director at Kawerak. “Obviously, if it goes through, you don’t want to step there.”

Ahmasuk said it’s a highly valued safety tool for Alaskans who live in coastal communities and venture onto the ice for hunting in the winter. By testing the ice in their path with the stick, they can prevent accidentally falling through the weaker patches. He said his family always takes this tool with them on the ice because of its many functions.

“If you do happen to fall through, hopefully you can catch yourself before you fall past your waist and pull yourself back out,” said Ahmasuk. “If you do happen to fall all the way through, it’s still there, so you can pull yourself up like you’re doing a pull up. It’s a safety tool. They almost always have a dual function—whether it’s a harpoon, a retrieving hook, or a mooring hook.”

Ahmasuk said, fortunately, he has never fallen into the water, but he’s seen it happen to others, and it can be pretty terrifying.

“One of my brothers did fall in, and he said immediately it just took his breath away. He couldn’t breathe,” said Ahmasuk. “I mean, within a second he was able to pull himself out. A lot of times, individuals are out seal hunting or walrus hunting, and they’re miles and miles from the nearest town or village. So, if you do fall in, you’re going to be soaking wet. More than likely, you’re not going to make it back to wherever you came from because, within a matter of minutes, hypothermia is going to set in, and you’re going to freeze to death.”

The Sikuliaq is not an icebreaker, but it is an ice-classed vessel capable of breaking through up to two-and-a-half feet of ice. The vessel will operate in ice during some of its research missions in the Arctic—and scientists may be walking out on to the ice to collect data samples, which means they must be prepared for potentially dangerous situations.

Daniel Oliver is the marine superintendent at UAF’s Seward Marine Center. Oliver was in the U.S. Coast Guard before taking his current job at the Seward Marine Center, and he said it was through visits to coastal communities aboard Coast Guard icebreakers that he realized how functional and necessary the tool is. After consulting with Gay Sheffield, Marine Advisory agent in Nome, he decided to request those ice testing sticks as safety tools for the Sikuliaq.

“I found it was a pretty universal tool within the coastal communities, [with the people] that spend a good portion of their lives out on the ice with subsistence hunting,” said Oliver. “From talking with a number of folks from the villages, it certainly made sense to me. Which is why, when we were looking at what we were going to carry on board Sikuliaq for equipment, having this capability aboard made sense to me.”

Perry Pungowiyi is a craftsman in Savoonga, a member of the National Science Foundation Sikuliaq Oversight Committee and alternate commissioner on the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission for Savoonga. Pungowiyi will be making the sticks with materials Sheffield and Oliver have sent over to St. Lawrence Island. He said the tools are “time-tested by ice walkers of Alaska.” In Siberian Yupik, the name for the ice testing stick is “unghaq.”

Oliver said he hopes someone from Savoonga who is part of the ship’s science oversight committee will be able to join theSikuliaq crew at some point during ice trials, to share knowledge about the ice testing sticks and Bering Sea ice conditions.

The Sikuliaq, which is home-ported in Seward, will be used by U.S. and international scientists. Its first funded science trip this fall will be in the western Hawaiian island chain.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: October 14, 2014

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-10-14 17:09

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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Judge Denies Stay On Same-Sex Marriage Decision

Alaska Dispatch News

U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Burgess Tuesday denied the state of Alaska’s request for a stay in his decision overturning Alaska’s same-sex marriage ban. The Alaska Dispatch News reports Burgess’ denial means same-sex marriages in Alaska can continue.

Feds Seek Dismissal of King Cove Lawsuit

The Associated Press

Arguments have been scheduled on the federal government’s request to dismiss a lawsuit over the Interior Department’s refusal to allow for a road from King Cove to an all-weather airport at Cold Bay.

More Big Thorne Timber Sales Announced

Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau

The Forest Service plans three more timber sales in a part of Prince of Wales Island conservationists say needs to be protected. They’re much smaller than a recent sale in the same area.

Groups Criticize State For Renewal Of Wishbone Hill Coal Mining Permit

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

A coalition of environmental organizations are criticizing the state for issuing a coal mining permit for a site near Palmer.

Community-Based Solutions For Coastal Erosion Discussed In Anchorage

Zach Hughes, KSKA – Anchorage

As climate change brings new threats to subsistence communities across Alaska’s coastlines, a conference held in Anchorage is advocating community-based solutions, and not waiting any longer for government assistance.

Fish & Game Releases Commercial Salmon Fishing Summary

Shaylon Cochran, KDLL – Kenai

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has released its summary report for the 2014 commercial salmon fishing season. Continued low king salmon numbers and new management tools were at the heart of this year’s fishing.

UAF Vice Chancellor Visits Bristol Bay Campus

Mike Mason, KDLG – Dillingham

The man who oversees all of the rural campuses of the University of Alaska Fairbanks has been touring those campuses since being appointed to the job back in July.  Evon Peter visited the Bristol Bay Campus last week.

Juneau Non-Profit Bridges Spanish Language Gap

Kayla Deroches, KTOO – Juneau

About 5 percent of Juneau’s population identifies as Hispanic. Some are non-English speaking immigrants who need help translating official documents or government forms. Others require assistance navigating the Alaska Court System. A national nonprofit that started a Juneau branch last year now offers Spanish translation and interpretation services in Juneau. Piedra de Ayuda, or A Helping Rock, began as a homeless outreach program on the East Coast.

Arctic Native Ice Testing Stick Will Be Used On National Research Vessel

Jenn Ruckel, KNOM – Nome

Conducting research at sea in Arctic, ice-filled conditions is a tricky endeavor, requiring a host of high-tech gear. But, on the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ new, ice-capable research vessel Sikuliaq, at least one piece of equipment dates back generations.

Categories: Alaska News

Same-Sex Marriage is Legal in Alaska

APRN Alaska News - Sun, 2014-10-12 21:01

A federal judge legalized same-sex marriage in Alaska on Sunday. Governor Sean Parnell said in a press release he will appeal the ruling in order to “defend and uphold the law and the Alaska Constitution.”

Judge Timothy Burgess found that the same-sex marriage ban was a violation of both due process and equal protection under the 14th amendment. He ordered the state to immediately start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples and to recognize legal marriages from other states.

Same-sex marriage bans in Nevada and Idaho were overturned last week by the Ninth Circuit Court, which oversees Alaska. The Supreme Court declined to hear appeals for other rulings legalizing same-sex marriage.

The Division of Public Health says they will not waive the three-day waiting people for getting a marriage license, however they will start accepting applications from same-sex couples immediately.

Same-sex marriage is now legal in a majority of the country.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Alaska News

Judge to rule on same-sex marriage in Alaska “soon”

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-10-10 16:59

Same-sex marriage supporters stand in the rain outside of the federal courthouse after the hearing. Hillman/KSKA

Same-sex marriage is not legal in Alaska — yet. The US District Court judge chose not to make a decision today after hearing oral arguments from both the state and a group of couples who are fighting the marriage ban.

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The arguments were complicated by the recent 9th District Court decision in the case Latta v. Otter that overturned the same-sex marriage ban in Idaho. Alaska is within the 9th Circuit, so that decision holds here as well.

The Idaho decision says that same-sex marriage bans violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment because straight couples have the right to marry but same-sex couples do not. The plaintiffs argue that same-sex couples don’t have the same rights when buying property, visiting each other in the hospital, or even seeking a divorce.

The state tried to argue that Idaho decision could be overruled by a higher court especially since marriages there were put on hold because of a stay. That stay was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court as today’s oral arguments were concluding in Alaska.

The judge and the attorneys all referenced and joked about the complex, fast changing legal landscape surround same-sex marriage.

Alison Mendel argued the case on behalf of the couples. She says she’s been working on this issue for 25 years, and she sees this as a done deal.

“It was very enjoyable. You know we came into this pretty confident we were gonna win. When the Latta decision was decided, we knew we were gonna win. So this was just an argument about the details, but it’s still very satisfying anyway.”

The State declined to make comments on the case beyond what they argued in front of the judge, which could not be recorded.

Many of the people who packed the courtroom and spilled into an overflow room gathered in front of the courthouse after the hearing.

Josh Hemsath is with the Pride Foundation in Alaska. He said he’s hopeful.

“As an Alaskan, I think it’s really exciting that we’re not being left behind. we’re not the last state to get heard, with the momentum on our side and being on the right side of history.”

Judge Thomas Burgess said he would issue a decision soon.

Categories: Alaska News

Elections Chief: Parties Say What They Want in Voter Pamphlet

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-10-10 16:58

The Division of Elections voter pamphlet is arriving in mailboxes across the state. Way in the back is a page that caught some voters by surprise. It’s a negative ad against Sen. Mark Begich. The ad itself is standard fare in this election. But Mary Toutonghi  a retired speech pathologist from Soldotna, says it has no place the voter pamphlet, which she thinks of as a source of non-partisan information.

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“The idea of actually attacking somebody — Doing an attack ad in neutral pamphlet is just absolutely egregious,” she says.

The Republican Party of Alaska paid for the ad.  Alaska Elections Director Gail Fenumiai says state law lays out the rules for ads in the pamphlet.

“The parties are allowed to purchase two pages and there’s nothing in law that limits what they can include in their materials,” she says.

State law even sets the price:  Political parties pay $600 per page. She says she doesn’t know whether the pamphlet has ever carried negative ads before.

Most parties run a one-page ad staking out their platform. The Republican Party does that, but in recent years has also bought a second page, showing children running a lemonade stand or holding puppies. This year, it decided to devote the second page to the Senate race. State party chair Peter Goldberg says it went negative because it had to prepare the ad before the Primary election, before they knew Dan Sullivan would be the Republican nominee.

“(It) had to be kind of a generic ‘let’s attack Begich but we don’t know who to support,’” Goldberg says

The pamphlet cost the state about $200,000 to print. This year, the state paid an extra $45,000 for a supplemental because the original publication left out gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker. The Elections Division says, due to administrative oversight,  it failed to send him a follow-up letter with details about how to submit his statement.

 

 

 

Categories: Alaska News

Begich Campaign Believes Race Comes Down To Rural Alaska

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-10-10 16:57

Just weeks before voters decide the future make up of the U.S. Senate, Bethel residents heard what might be the start of the final push by the incumbent Senator.

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Begich is trailing Republican challenger Dan Sullivan in several polls and is gambling on gaining an edge off the beaten path.

“So I make it very clear that rural Alaska and more specifically Alaska Native people will determine the outcome of this election, no question about it,” said Begich.

Begich’s campaign repeats that statement over and over, including in a friendly reception at the annual Association of Village Council Presidents Convention in Bethel Thursday. He hopes delegates and volunteers there will bring his pitch to 56 villages, but he’s also banking on a small paid staff. Begich stopped at his Bethel field office, one of 16, which are responsible for delivering votes in the Y-K Delta and the Aleutian chain.

A couple dozen supporters eat chili and sign up volunteers for door knocking calling at a table full of berry buckets with his logo on them. Bethel resident Betsy Taguchi signed on to help.

“I think the race might be close, we could be the tipping point we’ve been a little, sit back about things over the years, and haven’t gotten out the vote the way we could have, and I think this year needs to be different,” said Taguchi.

Republican challenger Dan Sullivan is slated to make his first campaign stop in the Delta in the next couple weeks. His wife, Julie Fate Sullivan attended the AVCP convention and campaigned locally.

As Begich leaves his campaign office to catch the jet back to Anchorage, he contrasts his ground presence with his opponent’s and lists his visits over the years

“I was out here when I was [Anchorage] mayor, I was out here as an assembly member almost 25 years, ago, it’s a great community. I’ve been in the great parade on the 4th of July parade that starts on one end and it ends in the same place,” said Begich.

Begich did well on the Kuskowkwim in his 2008 election, winning over Senator Ted Stevens by a two-to-one margin in the region. He stands to gain from more turnout and is pushing hard for early voting, which starts October 20th. He says his ground game for election day is high tech and low tech.

“Our people who work for us and volunteers will be working the vote and the people every single day as soon as early voting starts. It’s not as simple as dial up and call people, that will be part of it, some will physically go to their doors and remind them, especially in small communities.”

Election day is November 4th.

Categories: Alaska News

Former Juneau Resident Sets New Pre-Teen Book Series In Alaska

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-10-10 16:56

“Carly Keene, Literary Detective: Braving the Brontes” is the first book of writer Katherine Rue. Rue now lives in North Carolina but often visits Juneau, where her parents, Sally and Frank Rue, still live. (Photo courtesy of Katherine Rue)

Born and raised in Juneau, writer Katherine Rue used her childhood as fodder for a recently published book for middle school readers.

“Braving the Brontes” is the first in a series that introduces “Carly Keene, Literary Detective” – a Juneau girl whose adventurous spirit allows her to brave time travel, ghosts and Victorian England.

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Any Southeast Alaskan who picks up “Braving the Brontes” will notice what footwear the protagonist is wearing on the cover – XTRATUFs.

Katherine Rue made sure the book’s New York illustrator had an idea of where 12-year-old Carly Keene is from.

“I sent him a picture of my XTRATUFs. Then I sent him a picture of a tent set up in the marsh in Alaska. ‘Here’s the kind of mountains I’m talking about. Here’s what the water and the mountains and islands look like together. And just so you know, people from Juneau don’t use umbrellas. We all make fun of them. She needs a raincoat on the front’ – that kind of thing,” Rue says lightheartedly.

Published by New York-based In This Together Media, the book begins and ends in present day Juneau. It takes an interesting turn when Carly is walking downtown with her best friend Francesca.

“They go into a bookshop they’ve never seen down a little alleyway they’ve never seen when they’re walking home from getting hot cocoa downtown. And she’s reading a first edition of ‘Jane Eyre’ and falls asleep, and wakes up in 1846,” Rue says.

Carly finds herself in the home of the Bronte sisters in England as Charlotte Bronte is trying to write the classic “Jane Eyre.” Carly is stuck there until she can solve a mystery involving the literary family.

Rue mirrored the fictional Carly after herself as a young girl – someone who read a lot of books, spent a lot of time outdoors and romanticized the past. She says it was important to have Carly be an adventurous, independent Alaskan girl.

“Challenges that Carly faces are things that she feels better prepared to deal with because she is Alaskan, like how they approach situations, like a chamber pot,” Rue says.

Braving the Brontes is geared for kids ages 9 to 14. Rue warns there is some challenging vocabulary that parents may need to decipher. The book also references many other great works of literature besides those written by the Bronte sisters. But Rue doesn’t expect her readers to have read “Jane Eyre” or to know who the Bronte sisters are.

“The goal with this was to sort of say, ‘Hey, you’ve probably read ‘Anne of Green Gables’ or the Narnia books, ‘Harry Potter’ and you’re looking for something else to read. Here’s what’s coming up and it’s really fun.’ Sort of introduce readers to the possibilities that they’re going to get to in a few years,” Rue says.

In the next book of the series, Carly and best friend Francesca find themselves in 1862 during the Civil War Battle of Fredericksburg where Louisa May Alcott is a nurse.

Writing the series allows Rue to explore a childhood fantasy. She was always waiting for her turn to walk through the wardrobe into Narnia. She says she’s still waiting.

Categories: Alaska News

Upper Valley Residents Remember Barbara Washburn

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-10-10 16:55

Recently, Barbara Washburn passed away at the age of 99. She was the first woman to set foot on the summit of Denali, but her legacy in the Talkeetna area has as much to do with who she was as what she did.

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Barbara and Brad Washburn’s adventure together began in New England.  Ken Pauley, who worked with the Washburns at the Museum of Science in Boston, explains how they met.

Barbara Washburn/ (Photo: Museum of Science, Boston)

“She was his secretary.  Needless to say, over time, there was a relationship developed.  They spent a lot of time together, and became husband and wife…”

After Brad and Barbara were married in 1940, Ken Pauley says it was not common to see them apart.

“They were inseparable. Whither he or she went, they went together.”

That led to shared adventures around the world, from the Grand Canyon to Mt. Everest.  One such adventure occurred in 1947, when the Washburns were part of an expedition on Denali.  RKO films documented the expedition in the short, “Operation: White Tower.”

Not only had no women summited North America’s highest peak as of 1947, but Mountaineering Ranger Roger Robinson says that Barbara Washburn may have been the first to even try.

“Essentially, she was the only woman along, and one of the first women, probably ever, to venture into the Alaska Range on a climbing trip.”

The expedition was a success, and Barbara Washburn was the first woman to set foot on Denali’s summit.  Mountain guide Brian Okonek says that her fortitude went even further, however.

“She must have been tough as nails on the trail, because she not only did Denali…but she did both summits, and did the first summit of Mt. Hayes…”

Being the first woman to summit Denali cemented Barbara Washburn’s place in mountaineering history.    The fame that earns someone in a place like Talkeetna is self-evident, but Diane Calamar-Okonek says that didn’t translate back on the East Coast.

“They enjoyed their notoriety here, which Barbara said they didn’t have at all at home.  They were just regular people, and her friends didn’t particularly know that she had been a climber or done all of these amazing things in Alaska.  They had no clue.”

A big part of the reason that Barbara Washburn’s fame was somewhat subdued outside of the mountaineering community is that she didn’t talk about it much, as former Denali National Park Ranger Daryl Miller explains.

“She was so understudied.  She was always so gracious, and accomplished so much, but never really said much about anything she did as a climber.  If she did, or was asked about it, she would always downplay it.”

More important than fame to Barbara Washburn were individual relationships. Diane Calamar-Okonek says that people were a big part of what drew Barbara to climbing.

“One thing she really enjoyed was the camaraderie of climbing.  When we had a woman here who soloed Denali, her first reaction was, ‘Oh, what’s wrong?  Doesn’t she have any friends?’”

That sense of friendship and camaraderie extended well after Barbara Washburn’s relatively brief climbing career. Roger Robinson says that the Washburns made a priority of befriending many people in the Talkeetna area.

“The people that lived here were like family to her.  When she would come, they were always keen on looking up a lot of people and making connections.”

That sense of family holds especially true for Taras Genet.  Taras is the son of Ray Genet, an accomplished climber who died while descending Mt. Everest in 1979. Taras says his relationship with the Washburns was very close.

“My dad had passed away when I was only a year-and-a-half old, and they were kind of surrogate grandparents in some sort of way, because they gave my mom a lot of support, and they always connected with us when they did come up…”

In addition to helping his family after the loss of Ray, Taras Genet says the Washburns served as an inspiration.

“They were just so full of energy.  The things they were doing, most people just don’t have that kind of energy, especially in their older age.  They just never slowed down.”

Taras would go on to summit Denali at the age of twelve, making him, at that point, the youngest person to do so.

Brian Okonek also says that the Washburns’ sense of adventure never seemed to fade, and that, during conversations, they were, “always watching over their shoulder at the weather, because they never, ever skipped an opportunity to go on yet another flight around the mountain.”

Barbara Washburn passed away on September 25th in Lexington, Massachusetts.  November 10th would have marked her 100th birthday.  Here, in the shadow of Denali, she won’t be soon forgotten.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: October 10, 2014

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-10-10 16:48

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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Judge Hears Oral Arguments In Lawsuit Challenging Same-Sex Marriage Ban

Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage

Same-sex marriage is not legal in Alaska – yet. The U.S. District Court judge chose not to make a decision Friday after hearing oral arguments from both the State and a group of couples who are fighting the marriage ban.

Elections Chief: Parties Say What They Want in Voter Pamphlet

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington DC

The Division of Elections voter pamphlet is arriving in mailboxes across the state. Way in the back is a page that caught some voters by surprise. It’s a negative ad against Sen. Mark Begich. The ad itself is standard fare in this election.

Begich Campaign Believes Race Comes Down To Rural Alaska

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

Just weeks before voters decide the future make up of the U.S. Senate, Bethel residents heard what might be the start of the final push by the incumbent Senator.

Legislation Planned To Strengthen Alaska’s Public Records Act

Mike Mason, KDLG – Dillingham

A vocal critic of the current administration of Alaska Governor Sean Parnell plans to introduce legislation next year to strengthen the Alaska Public Records Act.

Upper Valley Residents Remember Barbara Washburn

Phillip Manning, KTNA – Talkeetna

Recently, Barbara Washburn passed away at the age of 99.  She was the first woman to set foot on the summit of Denali, but her legacy in the Talkeetna area has as much to do with who she was as what she did.

AK: Bodybuilding

Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage

The sport is usually associated with steroids, spray tans, and bizarrely bulging muscles. But for some competitors in Alaska, drug-free body building isn’t about vanity, it’s about therapy. After 24 years as an army ranger and a grueling tour in Afghanistan, Frank Loomis retired, joined the police, and started having a mid-life crisis. His solution? Start training with Mr. Alaska.

300 Villages: Igiugig

This week, we’re heading to Igiugig, a community of just 69 people on Lake Iliamna. Alexanna Salmon is President of Igiugig Village Council in Igiugig.

Categories: Alaska News

300 Villages: Igiugig

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-10-10 16:36

This week, we’re heading to Igiugig, a community of just 69 people on Lake Iliamna. Alexanna Salmon is President of Igiugig Village Council in Igiugig.

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Categories: Alaska News

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