Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: February 27, 2014

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-02-27 18:22

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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Bill Restricting Medicaid Payments For Abortions Passes Committee Review

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

A bill that puts restrictions on Medicaid payments for abortions passed its final committee of review in the State Legislature on Thursday. It advanced without any money for family planning services.

Magnuson-Stevens Act Up For Reauthorization

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington DC

The Magnuson-Stevens Act, the 1976 law that governs fishing in the Bering Sea, Gulf of Alaska and other federal waters, is up for reauthorization in Congress. In past revisions, sectors of the Alaska industry squared off against each other. This time, the industry is mostly united in praising the law. But, Alaska’s non-commercial fishermen say their needs aren’t getting enough attention.

3 OK After Vessel Sinks Near Valdez

Tony Gorman, KCHU – Valdez

Three men are okay after their vessel sank near Valdez while participating in an oil spill response drill.  The Coast Guard Sector Anchorage Command Center received a report Wednesday night that the landing craft Belltech 5 was taking on water and sinking near Valdez Arm.

4 Snowmachiners Rescued By Alaska Air National Guard

Phillip Manning, KTNA – Talkeetna

On Tuesday afternoon, four snowmachiners were rescued by the Alaska Air National Guard in the Talkeetna Mountains.

Turning The Tide Against Marine Debris

Brianna Gibbs, KMXT – Kodiak

It’s been about three years since the tsunami in Japan washed away entire towns, sending thousands of tons of debris out to sea. Less than eight months after the tsunami, items started showing up in Alaska and have continued to do so in the months and years since. It will still be a few months before clean up crews take to Kodiak’s beaches, but the planning process for those clean ups is already well under way.

Cost Overruns Add Up To A Bigger Bill For Blue Lake Dam

Rachel Waldholz, KCAW – Sitka

Sitka’s Blue Lake dam expansion project will cost about $3.6 million more than expected. The total project – not including new backup diesel generators – was originally estimated to cost about $142 million. Utility director Chris Brewton told the Sitka Assembly on Tuesday night the cost is now $145 million.

Fairbanks Polaris Building’s Owner Optimistic About Renovation

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The owner of the Polaris building is optimistic about financing renovation of the long vacant downtown Fairbanks high rise. Anchorage developer  Marc Marlow reported to the Fairbanks city council Monday that he planned to file a federal loan guarantee application with the Bureau of Indian affairs this week.

Bristol Bay Forever Initiative Survives Challenge in Court

Dave Bendinger, KDLG – Dillingham

The Bristol Bay Forever Initiative, which seeks to add a layer of legislative approval to any future hard rock mining within the Bristol Bay Fisheries Reserve, has survived a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality. Backers expect the initiative to still be on the primary ballot this August.

Categories: Alaska News

Cost Overruns Add Up To A Bigger Bill For Blue Lake Dam

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-02-27 15:32

Sitka’s Blue Lake dam expansion project will cost about $3.6-million more than expected.

The total project — not including new backup diesel generators — was originally estimated to cost about $142-million. It is now up to about $145-million, Utility Director Chris Brewton told the Sitka assembly Tuesday night (2-25-14).

Blue Lake overflows its spillway Monday morning. Photo by Ted Laufenberg.

Brewton later told KCAW that this is the only major cost overrun the project has seen so far.

Most of the overrun will pay for construction of a temporary water filtration plant at Indian River. Sitka will rely on water from Indian River for about two to four months, starting in late August, when work on the dam will shut off access to Blue Lake, the city’s regular water source.

The city had originally budgeted $2-million for the temporary filtration system at Indian River — but, Brewton said, they always knew that number was a rough guess. As the project engineers completed the final design over the last several months, he said, it became clear that the final cost would be much higher. The city now estimates the total cost for the filtration system will be $4.7-million, or $2.7-million higher than expected.

The other unexpected cost is for debris removal. When the dam expansion is complete, Blue Lake will inundate over 360 acres of currently dry land, Brewton said, drowning trees, shrubs and undergrowth that will eventually die and bob up to the surface. That debris then has to be removed.

The city originally budgeted about $1.5-million dollars for the task, but both contractors who bid on the project estimated that it would take longer than the city thought. The total cost is now estimated to be $2.3-million, or about $800,000 more than originally expected.

The assembly approved a contract with Sitka-based ASRC McGraw Constructors LLC,  to handle the debris removal.

The assembly voted to approve the increased project cost. Assembly member Mike Reif said he felt fortunate that the cost overrun was so small, given the overall size of the project.

Chris Brewton said he felt city staff — especially public works director Michael Harmon — were keeping a particularly close eye on expenses:

“We’ve got a big hairy guard dog on the project,” Brewton said. “He’s doing a masterful job.”

The assembly authorized the administration to apply for a low-interest loan from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation to cover the additional expense.

Categories: Alaska News

Bethel Man Up For National Environmental Health Award

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-02-27 11:41

A YKHC employee is up for the national Indian Health Service Environmental Health Specialist of the Year. Brian Berbube is representing the Alaska region.

He’s worked in Bethel since 2008. Some of his accomplishments include critical response to flooding in Crooked Creek and a new design for of honey bucket hoppers. He’s also investigated lead exposure, and revamped the Water Plant Operator Training Program.

Berube is competing with environment health officers from all around the country.

Categories: Alaska News

Man Pleads Guilty to Reduced Charges in Date Rape Case

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-02-27 11:39

Ryan H. Sligh, 29, was arrested in October after Dillingham police investigated an allegation he had given Xanax pills to a woman and then had sex with her after she passed out.

Xanax, a drug commonly prescribed to treat anxiety, is used as a substitute for rohypnol (“roofies”) in drug-facilitated sexual assaults, according to the US Dept. of Health and Human Services.

Sligh was never indicted on the original felony charge of delivering a schedule IV controlled substance, and he was never charged with any crime relating to sexual assault.

Instead, prosecutors reduced the charge to attempted delivery of a schedule IV controlled substance, a misdemeanor. Sligh pleaded guilty to that charge on Wednesday, and was sentenced to 49 days in jail and fined $1000.

Categories: Alaska News

Legislation Introduced to Compensate Victims of Wrongful Imprisonment

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-02-27 11:35

A State Representative from Fairbanks has filed legislation intended to protect Alaskans who are wrongfully convicted of a crime and serve time in prison. House Bill 352 was put forward by Representative Scott Kawasaki.

The Bill would create a process that would allow victims of overturned criminal convictions to request compensation from the State for the time they served in prison. The compensation could be up to $50,000 a year with a cap of $2 million. To qualify the wrongfully convicted person must have served time in prison and then been exonerated. That can come in the form of a retrial, dismissed charges, or an executive pardon because the person was innocent.

If the bill is ultimately approved, Alaska would become the 13th State to have some form of compensation for wrongfully convicted persons. House Bill 352 has been referred to the House State Affairs Committee and the House Judiciary Committee.

Categories: Alaska News

Buccaneer, CIRI Heading Back To Court

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-02-27 11:33

Buccaneer Energy is going back to the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to try and settle issues at the Kenai Loop well site in Kenai.

One hearing has already been held to find some resolve to ownership disputes between Buccaneer and Cook Inlet Region Incorporated, or CIRI. Natural gas is draining from property near the Kenai Loop site that isn’t controlled by the field’s operator, and the two sides are at odds over what to do about it.

Kristen Nelson of the Petroleum News reports that at the January 30th hearing, Buccaneer officials said they didn’t know their wells would have an impact on other wells that were already producing in the area until after they had drilled what they believed were new reserves.

A CIRI official told the commission that work to find a solution with Buccaneer has been brief and not very productive. One idea for how to settle was to create an escrow account for the gas that currently has no legal owner. But lack of a formal unit recognized by the state complicates that.

The two sides will go back to the Commission again for another hearing on April 8.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska Gets $21 Million In Federal Disaster Funds

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-02-26 18:48

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration today announced it is sending Alaska $21 million in federal disaster funds for poor king salmon returns in three regions.

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The money covers government-declared disasters for the 2011 and 2012 Chinook runs on the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers, plus the 2012 season in Cook Inlet.

NOAA says it will disperse the money through the federal grant process for projects aimed at restoring the fishery, preventing a future disaster or helping the fishing community.

The funds are from a $75 million appropriation Congress approved last month for fisheries disasters nationwide.

Categories: Alaska News

Smooth Trails Help Iditarod Trail Invitational Competitors

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-02-26 18:47

Cyclists have set new speed records in the Iditarod Trail Invitational. Smooth trail is credited with helping athletes in the 350 race human powered race between Knik and McGrath.

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Categories: Alaska News

Alaska Bases Make Short List For F-35

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-02-26 18:47

Anchorage and Fairbanks are on a shortened list of bases being considered by the Air Force for the stationing of its new F-35 fighter jets. Eielson Air Force Base near North Pole and Joint Base Elemendorf Richardson in Anchorage are among 5 Pacific region bases announced by the Air Force today to Alaska’s Congressional delegation Tuesday.

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Categories: Alaska News

Medical Marijuana Resolution Passed In Fairbanks

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-02-26 18:47

The Fairbanks city council passed a resolution Monday pleading with the state to provide better access to medical marijuana. Resolution sponsor member Lloyd Hiling emphasized that it’s aimed strictly at supply side of the issue.

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Categories: Alaska News

Pollock Fleet Holds Out For Fish Roe

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-02-26 18:47

Walleye pollock is the Bering Sea’s biggest and most valuable fishery. But that doesn’t mean that the trawl fleet was ready and raring to go when the harvest opened in late January.

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In their first week of A season, fishermen brought in just 11,000 metric tons of pollock. That’s 75 percent less fish than last year.

Krista Milani has been monitoring the catch for the National Marine Fisheries Service in Unalaska.

Milani: “It’s not quite up to where it was last year, but it’s comparable. They had a little bit of a slow start.”

That was intentional, says Randy Rothaus. He’s a deckhand on the Gun-Mar. Rothaus says they and other vessels in UniSea’s fleet were holding out for roe.

Rothaus: “That’s really what we’re looking for. As we get closer to March, where the roe is started to get watered out and higher quality roe, is really why we’re pushing to start later than we really normally do.”

Last winter, the fleet didn’t have much luck finding pollock with lots of roe. Those little eggs help fishermen get a higher price from Japanese buyers. So this year, some vessels chose to wait. A few fished for Pacific cod for a while instead of going after pollock when the season opened.

Rothaus says the fleet is seeing more roe now — and he’s hoping it will bump up their earnings. It also helps that the fishing is starting to go faster.

For the Gun-Mar:

Rothaus: “Here we are into our sixth trip and it was our best, our quickest, and our least fuel consumption.”

Several crew members in the pollock fleet say they’re expecting to wrap up their season by mid-March or April.

About a half-million metric tons of pollock are up for harvest this winter. The total allowable catch between the A season and the summertime B season, which starts in June, is 1,267,000 metric tons of fish.

Categories: Alaska News

Northwest Tribes Oppose Marijuana Legalization

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-02-26 18:47

An organization representing 57 Northwest Indian tribes has announced its opposition to marijuana legalization, specifically in Alaska and Oregon.

The Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians announced a partnership Tuesday with the Smart Approaches to Marijuana project, which supports a treatment, health-first marijuana policy.

The tribal group says it supports efforts to reduce marijuana use, especially among young people.

The group represents tribes in Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Montana, Nevada, Alaska and Northern California.

Categories: Alaska News

First Nations Students Learning Mining Skills At UAF

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-02-26 18:47

First Nations students from the Yukon Territory are learning mining skills through a University of Alaska program. An agreement between UA and Yukon College is enabling the 20 students to take underground mining courses at the Delta Mine Training Center.

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Categories: Alaska News

USCG’s Cold Bay Crews Conduct 5th Rescue In Two Weeks

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-02-26 18:47

It’s been a very busy couple of weeks for Coast Guard rescue crews in Cold Bay. On Tuesday, they conducted their fifth medevac of crewmen from floating processors in the Bering Sea.

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The Tuesday hoist was a return visit to the 680-foot Ocean Phoenix, which was 85 miles northwest of Cold Bay. A man in his late 20s suffered a severe injury to his left hand, and a Coast Guard duty flight surgeon concurred with the ship’s skipper that he needed to be medevac’d. The unidentified young man was transported back to Cold Bay where he was met by a Life Flight and brought to Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage. Weather at the time of the rescue included 35-knot winds and 10-foot seas.

Adam de Rocher, a search and rescue coordinator at the Coast Guard 17th District command center, said the MH-60 Jayhawk crew that conducted the recent medevacs is deployed to Cold Bay from Air Station Kodiak for just such incidents in the winter Bering Sea and Aleutian Island fisheries.

Categories: Alaska News

Glacier Bay’s Bears A Remnant Of The Ice Age

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-02-26 18:47

Where glacial ice has most recently retreated, Glacier Bay’s bears rely on the intertidal area for food. Photo by Tania Lewis.

Brown bears are one of the most intensively-studied species in Southeast Alaska. Much of the focus is on population management for hunting. But one scientist studies bears for their sake and not ours. Tania Lewis is the terrestrial wildlife biologist at Glacier Bay National Park. She’s made some breakthroughs in both behavior and genetics, and she can’t help but sing about it.

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I have to admit that in my years as a reporter not many stories — well, make that no stories whatsoever — have ever had a banjo component.

Lewis singing

But there’s more to Tania Lewis than her banjo. The song is also an important part of her story. We’ll get back to it in a moment.

When Tania Lewis started her work in Glacier Bay thirteen years ago, there were many instances of not-very-pretty encounters with the brown bears in the northern part of the bay.

“Like 10-20 per year of people getting their tents squished, their kayaks trashed.”

Lewis says it wasn’t a food issue. Campers are required to use bear cans. It seemed to her as if the bears just liked messing with people’s gear. She gathered some of the state’s top bear experts and came up with a new strategy.

“Stand your ground and not let bears destroy your stuff. We hit that safety message hard, and we continue to, and last year we had almost no incidents.”

This is different from the usual advice about brown bear encounters in the rest of Southeast Alaska. Group together, back away slowly, is more common. But Glacier Bay is a little bit different, and so are its bears. Besides rewriting the park’s bear plan, Lewis is also involved in biological time travel.

“It’s pretty cool to look at the genetic consequences of the Little Ice Age.”

The glacial maximum in Southeast Alaska was 18,000 years ago. But the mouth of Glacier Bay opened as recently as 260 years ago. The animals that inhabit the area — biologically speaking — have been isolated in time. By sampling DNA in the fur of brown bears, Lewis has discovered three distinct populations of animals: bears from the Chilkat region around Haines, bears from the Yakutat Forelands, and bears that are unique just to Glacier Bay

“So what that tells us is that this small group that’s only found in Glacier Bay is sort of a remnant population. A population that was isolated at some point, most likely from a small number of individuals that underwent genetic drift and over time developed their own genetic signature. Now, bears from the east and the west — since the ice has moved back from other places they’re able to get in there — they’re all present in northern Glacier Bay.”

Lewis says the Glacier Bay brown bears are smaller than their cousins, bold but not aggressive. Because the land is new, they rely heavily on intertidal areas for food, which is why they so often stroll through the beachfront campgrounds of visitors to the park.

“I’ve just felt, since I’ve been in Glacier Bay, that the bears in the recently de-glaciated areas are just a little bit unique, and it’s pretty cool to find it genetically.”

Lewis thinks a lot about these bears. She was driving to the university in Fairbanks to defend her dissertation, and wrote a song about the two bears who first found each other in one of the small, habitable areas of Glacier Bay thousands of years ago. She signed up to sing it at the Fairbanks Folk Festival, where this recording was made.

Lewis singing.

Think of it as an ode to the very large, furry Adam and Eve brown bears of Glacier Bay.

Categories: Alaska News

Arctic Ambitions: ‘Doing Business In The Arctic’

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-02-26 18:47

Thursday, the World Trade Center Alaska will host the third Arctic Ambitions gathering in Girdwood. The theme for this year’s two-day event is ‘Doing business in the Arctic.’ Greg Wolf is the World Trade Center Alaska executive director. He says this year’s event is larger and the first day will feature speakers from other arctic nations and industries.

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Categories: Alaska News

Assembly Moves Election to November

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-02-26 02:32

Chris Birch crafted the ordinance that will change elections from April to November. The Ordinance passed 9-2, with Assembly Member Bill Starr the only ‘no’ vote and Assembly Member Patrick Flynn abstaining due to a conflict of interest.

The Anchorage Assembly has voted to move municipal elections from Spring to Fall. Proponents argued it would increase voter turnout, which has been low. Critics say local issues will be lost amongst state and national ones.
Assembly member Chris Birch crafted the ordinance changing the election to November to coincide with state and national ones, saying it will keep special interest groups from influencing elections, be more efficient and increase voter turnout.

“I know there’s been some concern voiced at the election polls. I think it’s a good thing. I mean I think if we had 40-thousand people turn out last April and I would think if we had 100-thousand people turn out for an election, that’s good for the community.”

Municipal Clerk Barbara Jones warned the Assembly that changing the election from April to November could have unintended consequences. She thought the issue deserved more consideration but the Assembly approved the change 6-4.

In 1988 the election moved from October to April. The rational was the same as moving it to the fall, higher voter turnout. Since the early 90s voter turnout has averaged around 29 percent. During public testimony people expressed concern that voters would only check a box for the president and leave the rest of their ballot blank. Others said it would be impossible to find enough poll workers to run multiple elections at the same time. Barbara Jones who runs the Clerk’s office agreed. She said the body needed to slow down.

“The Assembly needs to make sure that it’s taking the time to study this issue, to understand the issue, to avoid any unintended consequences. And I would recommend taking some time to look at it. The Clerk’s office hasn’t even been able to express an opinion because it’s during election season and we are trying to plan the April 1st 2014 election. We would like to request that the Assembly take what we believe is prudent action to delay this item until after the election.”

But that didn’t happen. The ordinance moving elections to November passed six to four with Assembly members Tim Steele, Dick Traini, Elvi Gray-Jackson and Paul Honeman the ‘no’ votes and Patrick Flynn absent. The change won’t go into effect until 2017.

Categories: Alaska News

Assembly Okays CH2M Hill to Lead Troubled Port Project

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-02-26 02:21

Tegan Hanlon, with the Anchorage Daily News, interviews CH2M Hill Vice President Stacey Jones outside Assembly chamber Tuesday evening.

The Anchorage Assembly approved awarding the engineering firm CH2M Hill a 30-million dollar contract to get the Port of Anchorage Project back on track at Tuesday’s meeting. But assembly members had some questions.
Stacey Jones, a vice president with the Colorado-based engineering firm CH2M Hill stood before thee Assembly to insure them they were making the right choice.

“Our team has been carefully selected to include individuals with local experience, relevant port and maritime facilities expertise and an understanding of local permitting and conditions.”

CH2M Hill will provide project and construction management the the Port intermodal Expansion Project.
The project was started back in 2003 under Mayor George Wuersch and Port Director Bill Sheffield. The Design was approved in 2006 Under Mayor Mark Begich. The municipality has been investigating problems with the port project since they arose 2009. That’s when the ‘open-cell sheet pile’ design crumpled and separated during construction. The Sullivan administration has led the push to get the Municipality reimbursed for it’s losses. The U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administration managed the previous project. CH2M Hill purchased the now defunct Veco Corporation, which was involved in the work that had problems and is now party to a lawsuit by the city. Assembly member Adam Trombley asked Jones about that:

“Is it typical of CH2M Hill to do business or to enter into new contracts with an entity public or private that you’re currently in litigation with on the exact same project that you just bid on?”

Jones said it wasn’t typical but did happen from time time and nobody from Veco who worked on the former project would work on the new one.
The contract with CH2M Hill is for 30 million dollars over five years with the option for two extensions at 12 more million dollars each. Design and and engineering work is anticipated to take 18-months to two years with construction likely beginning again in 2016. The municipality has spent upwards of 300 million public dollars on the project so far and are requesting 100 million more from the legislature this year.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: February 25, 2014

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-02-25 18:38

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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Pebble Mine Opponents Urge EPA To Kill Project

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington DC

About 30 opponents of the proposed Pebble Mine met in Washington today with White House and high-ranking EPA staff. They came armed with a new EPA study that found a mine of Pebble’s size would pose a significant risk to Bristol Bay and its valuable salmon fisheries. Now they’re asking the Environment agency to take the next step and kill the project. They didn’t get a definite answer.

Quinhagak Man Arrested For Murder of 25-year-old Woman

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

Troopers have made an arrest in the death of a woman in Quinhagak.  Troopers had been silent in the three weeks since Lisa’s Johnson’s body was found covered in brush.

Glacier Bay Land Slide Excites Scientists

Margaret Friednauer, KHNS – Haines

A massive landslide in Glacier Bay National Park more than a week ago is exciting scientists around the world for the way it was the detected, the images of the slide and the sheer magnitude of it. It’s also near a similar slide that occurred in 2012 on Mount Lituya.

House Democrats Confirm Kito To Downtown Juneau Seat

Rosemarie Alexander, KTOO – Juneau

Sam Kito III is now at work as the newest member of the Alaska Legislature.

He replaces Juneau Rep. Beth Kerttula, who resigned her House seat last month for a Stanford University fellowship.

Bill Limiting Medicaid Abortion Payout Back In Discussion

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

After being shelved for nearly a year, a bill meant to limit Medicaid payouts for abortion is back – and it’s missing a component that made it more agreeable to the Legislature’s social moderates.

Peter Tony Pleads Guilty To 3 Counts Of Child Sexual Abuse

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

Former Bethel foster parent Peter Tony has pleaded guilty to three counts of child sexual abuse in a plea deal.  In the agreement with prosecutors, the 70-year-old pleaded guilty to charges of sexually abusing a 4-year-old in 2012 his wife had in day care at their home. Those charges carry sentences from 5 to 99 years each.

Political Solution Sought For China Geoduck Ban

Leila Kheiry, KRBD – Ketchikan

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski and members of the Southeast Alaska Regional Dive Fisheries Association talked last week about the possibility of a political solution to China’s ban on Alaska and Washington State geoducks.

Pro-Union Delta Western Workers Press On

Lauren Rosenthal, KUCB – Unalaska

Last week, a handful of Delta Western fuel supply employees in Unalaska kicked off an effort to unionize by going on strike. As KUCB’s Lauren Rosenthal reports, they’re pressing ahead — even after a visit from the company president.

Former Alaskan Appearing On ABC’s ‘Mind Games’

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

A new ABC television show called Mind Games premieres tonight and one of the weekly series actors is a former Anchorage resident and East High School graduate. Cedric Sanders says his role is an accountant named Latrell.

Categories: Alaska News

Pebble Mine Opponents Urge EPA To Kill Project

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-02-25 18:20

About 30 opponents of the proposed Pebble Mine met in Washington today with White House and high-ranking EPA staff. They came armed with a new EPA study that found a mine of Pebble’s size would pose a significant risk to Bristol Bay and its valuable salmon fisheries. Now they’re asking the Environment agency to take the next step and kill the project. They didn’t get a definite answer.

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Katherine Carscallen came representing 1,800 commercial fishermen. She is part of the delegation that urged the EPA to use a section in the Clean Water Act to block the mine’s construction.

“We’re thanking them for the time they’ve taken to study this issue an now we really need to see an action that will give our industry certainty into the future,” Carscallen said.

Executives at Pebble Partnership say it’s far too soon for the EPA to take any kind of action. They haven’t even applied for permits yet. The say last month’s watershed assessment is flawed, in part because it’s based on a hypothetical project. U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski and Congressman Don Young also say the EPA shouldn’t butt in now, before the state has a chance to review permit applications.

But Alannah Hurley, from Dillingham, says it’s not too early at all. She says the mine has been a threat hanging over her community for a decade, her entire adulthood. Hurley is in Washington to represent United Tribes of Bristol Bay.

“To spend a ginormous portion of my life worrying about the future of our watershed is horrible,” Hurley said. “It’s stressful; it’s terrifying to think that everything that makes you who you are could be taken away.”

The group was hoping to meet with the head of the EPA, Gina McCarthy, but she couldn’t attend. Heather Kendall Miller, an attorney with the Native American Rights Fund, said an EPA official assured them the agency would soon announce its next step, which she took to mean within weeks. But no one from the Administration indicated what that action would be.

Categories: Alaska News

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