Alaska News

First Musk Ox Killed in Early Hunt While Dog Attacks Continue

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-08-07 07:53

Muskox grazing near the airport in Nome. (Photo by Matthew Smith, KNOM – Nome)

Over the weekend, a hunter in Nome killed the first muskox since the Alaska Department of Fish & Game opened the hunt on August first.

Tony Gorn, wildlife biologist for Fish & Game, said the department received a call about an animal in town and alerted the five permit holders in Unit 22(C) that a bull was available for harvest.

“We responded to a musk ox that was close to town, and it was just a unique opportunity—now with the regulation change that we made—for the hunter to harvest this animal,” said Gorn. “The hunter became aware that it was there and went out and got it.”

Gorn did not release the name of the hunter, but said the hunter used a shotgun to take the animal—a mature, lone bull—in lower Dry Creek. Some Nome residents have attributed much of the recent violence to one old bull, but Gorn said this musk ox wasn’t displaying aggressive behavior when it was killed.

Kona, with 13 stitches in her backside, is resting up on a mattress outside Monica Gomez’s house in Nome. (Photo by Jenn Ruckel, KNOM – Nome)

Four permit holders are still eligible for a muskox take until the season closes in mid-March. But Gorn said he’s skeptical about how effective the hunt will be in shifting the distribution of the herd.

“It’s going to be very difficult to identify. With or without hunting, we’ve had muskox in the Nome area for several years and they come and they go all by themselves,” said Gorn. “It’s going to be very difficult to say we killed one muskox bull and now our problems are over, or we killed five muskox bulls and all our problems are over now.”

While the hunt may be an opportunity to eliminate the immediate nuisance if permit holders target specific ‘problem bulls,’ Gorn said the true challenge is finding a long-term solution.

“This idea—and I know there’s a lot of frustrated people in town but—this idea that Fish and Game can somehow create a muskox free zone around Nome—it’s going to be difficult, if not impossible, to do,” said Gorn.

Gorn said keeping the herds completely out of Nome means having greater threats in town than they would face in the wild with their natural predators, like bears and wolves. For now, he said there’s no overnight fix to the muskox problem.

Meanwhile, another dog is recovering after being gored by a muskox, this time on Anvil Mountain. Monica Gomez’s dog Kona is recovering from the attack that came late last week during a run on the iconic Nome hilltop.

Gomez said her children and their friend Taylor McDaniel were taking the dog on a run when the dog ran into the fog. McDaniel said the kids piled into the truck to go looking for their pet.

“About ten minutes later we heard yelping, and we were just honking, figuring she would come to the truck if she heard it,” said McDaniel. “About five minutes later, she came up to the truck limping with blood coming down her rear thigh.”

Gomez said Kona got 13 stitches but seems to be recovering well. Now, she’s urging her children to take extra precautions since the muskox have been behaving unpredictably.

Categories: Alaska News

One Dead After Mountain View Stabbing

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-08-07 07:25

Anchorage police report there was an alcohol-related stabbing death in Mountain View on Wednesday night.

The identities of the person taken into custody or the male victim who was declared dead of multiple stab wounds at the hospital have not been released.

Categories: Alaska News

Litigation Blamed For Port MacKenzie Rail Spur Delays

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-08-06 17:47

Construction of the railroad link between the Matanuska-Susitna Borough city of Houston and Port MacKenzie is over budget and way behind schedule. Borough officials blame litigation for the delays.

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At Tuesday night’s Mat Su Borough Assembly meeting, Joe Perkins, the Borough’s executive for the rail extension project, updated earlier financial data on the cost overruns beyond the initial $272 million  pricetag.

“When you add all this up, it totals about $31 million. So if you take $ 272 .5 and add $31 (million) to it,  you get a total project cost now of  $303. 5. (million)”

 The project linking Port MacKenzie with the AK Railroad main line near Houston started in 2008, and Perkins said the way it has been funded, by legislative appropriations over the years, has not helped keep costs down.

 ”We had intended to have the train running by now, had we received sufficient funding to do that. So, we have had some impacts from delays in funding. Our construction management people are having to stay a considerable number of years past what we have anticipated, same thing with our engineering people. So, again, the way this thing has been funded with eight different appropriations and some more to come, has certainly increased our costs.”

 He told the Assembly that work on some of the six construction segments of the railroad spur are done or near completion. Segment 1 at Port MacKenzie, segment 3 in the middle and segment 6 near Houston are finished. Segment 4 should be done next year, but segment 5, which crosses privately owned land, is being put off until negotiations for a Right of Way are complete. The money appropriated for that segment will be put into producing “ballast” or rock bed material for the entire rail spur.

 Possibly a major cause of the cost overruns, according to Perkins, are delays caused by litigation against the spur’s construction by environmental organizations Cook Inletkeeper and Sierra Club. The lawsuits caused the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to issue a stop work order on the spur, which added to the contractor and engineer costs.

 ”The number on the ongoing construction, which we can prove, is $5  million. The legal costs were somewhere around $1.5 million. We were represented by DC attorneys, and they’re expensive. “

 

The Ninth Circuit has since given the go-ahead for the project.

 Federal Surface Transportation Board regulations regarding the relocation of trails in the area added an additional one million dollars to costs, and a five percent Borough finance administration charge also upped the total  of building the railroad spur.

The additional costs will add about three and a half million dollars to the Borough’s request for a legislative appropriation of $116 million  for next year to complete work on the spur. Perkins told the body that nearly $120 million is needed to finish the project by late 2017.

 

I’m Ellen Lockyer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Alaska News

Assembly repeals AO-37, adopts new ordinance but Mayor considering a veto

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-08-06 17:46

The Anchorage Assembly voted 7 to 4 to repeal AO-37 on Tuesday night and replace it with a compromise ordinance negotiated by Assembly Members and union representatives. However, the mayor still has seven days to veto the new ordinance and the repeal.

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The new ordinance passed by the Assembly was based on member Jennifer Johnston’s adaptation of the municipality’s original labor law. After discussions with union members, Dick Traini amended Johnston’s version.

An Anchorage Assembly meeting in December 2012. Photo by Daysha Eaton, KSKA – Anchorage

The ordinance contained some elements favored by the unions, like giving them the ability to set their own schedules. Other provisions were requested by the administration, such as giving management the right to distribute overtime on a rotating basis in order to save money.

Chairman Patrick Flynn made the final comments.

“I think we’ve ended up with a unique piece of legislation in that probably everyone in the room has at least one thing they disagree with in here,” he told the Assembly and the packed auditorium. “And now is one of those very challenging votes where each of us has to decide whether it’s best to vote for what you absolutely believe in or vote for something that’s not perfect but maybe demonstrates some pragmatism and moves us forward.”

Both the repeal and the new ordinance passed but with only seven votes. Mayor Dan Sullivan said he will look over the new version with the municipality’s lawyer then make a decision whether or not to veto by the end of the week. He said he still stands by AO-37 and asserts its tenants were part of all seven union contracts that were negotiated this year.

“So I think really it boils down to there’s sometimes a bit of a power struggle between management and labor,” Sullivan said after the meeting. “They had a very comfy relationship with the previous administration and I think sometimes they don’t like that balance of power to shift. I think that’s what this is all about.”

Sullivan said his administration created AO-37 to save the taxpayers money. Municipal staff say negotiating contracts based on the tenants of the controversial law saved the city about $6 million.

Union representative Gerard Aslin said that with the mayor’s veto still a possibility, no one is celebrating yet.

“I’m cautiously optimistic that we have stepped in the right direction both for the employees — you heard a lot of testimony, a lot of statements from Assembly members about how damaging this has been for the workforce here in Anchorage — and I’m cautiously optimistic that this is a step in the right direction to start that healing process.”

If the mayor vetoes the decision there will be a special meeting to reconsider and try to override the veto on August 12. The municipality needs to tell state election officials whether or not the repeal will be on the November ballot by August 18.

The Assembly also voted to use $350,000 of the funds originally budgeted for a special election on AO-37 to hire more paramedics for the fire department instead.

Categories: Alaska News

AFCA Responds to State’s Challenge of Setnet Ruling

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-08-06 17:45

In July, Alaska Fisheries Conservation Alliance president Joe Connors was very pleased that the group’s effort to get commercial setnetting banned in the state’s urban areas, was going to move forward.

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Categories: Alaska News

Children’s Home Featured at Bethel Cultural Center

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-08-06 17:44

The view of the Children’s Home near Kwethluk, as seen from the river earlier this summer.

A multimedia show on the Moravian Children’s Home near Kwethluk is on display at Bethel’s Cultural Center. The show profiles the demise of the orphanage which was home to many of the regions Native children after epidemics of the early and mid- 20th century and captures oral histories of the people who remember growing up there.

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The show profiles the demise of the orphanage which was home to many of the regions Native children after epidemics of the early and mid- 20th century and captures oral histories of the people who remember growing up there. Leaving Bethel and heading up the Kuskokwim River, we turn into the Kwethluk River and go several past Kwethluk. We pull up to the muddy curving bank below the falling down buildings with peeling paint and broken windows surrounded by chartreuse tundra bursting into summer.

The abandoned Moravian Children’s Home campus has become somewhat of an attraction, with local tour boats and occasional berry pickers stopping by. Dorms, classrooms and a church, served as a home for many of the regions orphaned children between 1926 and 1973. Founded by Moravian missionaries, the home provided care and education to children, most of whom were Alaska Native. Diane Chaney Coffman is one of them. She was here in the 50s.

“I was here twice. The first time my dad was in the National Guard and he got stationed in Texas so they put us here. And then later my mom had TB so they put her in Anchorage in the TB ward. And so my brother and I were here then,” said Coffman.

It’s a story that is all to familiar in the Y-K Delta, children separated from parents because of difficult circumstances, often related to epidemics that swept through the region for years after contact, even into the 1950s.

After the 30 minute boat ride, Coffman steps into one of the old buildings where she spent those early years. She notices things have changed.
“Wow a pool table,” said  Coffman.

Apparently visitors set up a makeshift game room in the abandoned building.

“So we’ve just entered … There’s a lot of broken glass on the floor,” said Eaton.

Clyde Pavil was at the home in the mid-50s when he was 11. He was born in Kongigigok and raised at Clark’s Point in Bristol Bay. His single mother drowned during fishing season he says and that’s how he ended up at Children’s home. He says he got into trouble a lot, which meant spending time at the woodpile.

“Being on the woodpile all the time. Haha. Do something wrong and you get to chop extra blocks of wood. Did you chop a lot of wood? Yeah. That’s why we were good on the baseball field, softball field. Hit a lot of homers,” Pavil.

He spent two years there. He eventually went to live with his sister in Bethel where he went to high school and became an airplane mechanic. He also remembers being quarantined with the measles in a room on second floor of the boys dorm. It was lonely and scary.

Katie Basile, a photographer who grew up in Bethel says she always wanted to know more about the mysterious place she’d grown up visiting.

“It’s kind of a remarkable place. It’s out literally in the middle of nowhere your know you’re driving down the river in your boat and all of the sudden these buildings just rise out from the Alders and it’s very mysterious. And I can remember going there as a kid – I think we camped out there a few times and there was just always something so intriguing and haunting about it,” said Basile.

And Basile’s photographs of the Home do capture that haunting feeling. Everyday things out of place, some destroyed by the elements – others remarkably in tact. A vintage vacuum cleaner photographed in different places around the home now sits outside in a puddle … books on speaking good English and citizenship rest inside a window without mold or dust.

Before we take off Jeff ‘Buffy’ Pavil, Clyde’s son, says he thinks more people should know about the Children’s Home. Hopefully, he says, Basile’s projects brings light to a painful but important chapter of history that’s nearly losts.

“I would say, know where your heritage came from, that who lived up here – listen to what kind of stories they had to say,” said Pavil.

Photographs of the Children’s Home, portraits of former residents and recordings of their oral histories will be on display at the Bethel Cultural Center through the end of August.

Notes: The show will be on display at the Alaska Humanities Forum in Anchorage, which funded the project, in the new year. 

Katie Basile’s multimedia project on the Children’s Home also exists online at www.nunapitsinghak.com. Nunapitsinghak is the Yup’ik name for the land that the Moravian Children’s Home was built on, it means great little land.

Categories: Alaska News

One Company Bids In Sealed Bid Lease Sale

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-08-06 17:43

Only one company bid for a single exploration lease this morning at a state division of oil and gas sale. Bill Barron, division director said the exploration area is on state land on the Iniskin Peninsula area of southwest Cook Inlet near Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. He said the first exploration of the area started in 1902 near Oil Bay and continued through the 1950s.

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Barron said the idea with this first ever sealed bid for competitive exploration was to encourage exploration outside of current state oil and gas lease sale areas.

“Far from existing infrastructure, with relatively low or unknown hydrocarbon potential and where there is a higher investment risk to the operator,” Barron said.

As he described the more than 168 thousand acre lease site, he opened the bid.

“Bidding company is Cook Inlet Energy LLC, minimum work commitment dollar amount, $1,501,000.”

Barron says the lease term is 4 years. The licensee will pay a one time fee of one dollar per acre.

Categories: Alaska News

RFP Released For Alaska Class Day Boat Construction

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-08-06 17:42

The Alaska Department of Transportation has released a Request for Proposals to the Ketchikan shipyard for construction of the Alaska Class day boat.

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Categories: Alaska News

Four-Day Southeast Troll Closure Starts This Weekend

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-08-06 17:41

Southeast Alaska’s commercial troll fishing fleet will have to stand down for a few days, starting this weekend.

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The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced today (8-5-19) that the Southeast troll fishery for all salmon will close for four days, starting at midnight on Saturday, August 9. It will reopen at 12:01 AM on Thursday, August 14.

The fishery typically shuts down for several days in August to allow coho salmon to escape back into their home streams to spawn.

Fish & Game also announced that trollers will get a second king salmon opener next week. Trolling for kings will re-open on August 14. The opening will last three days, and close at midnight on August 16.

Fish & Game estimates there are about 36,000 kings left to catch before the fleet reaches this year’s target harvest. Trollers caught nearly 200,000 fish during the first summer king opening, which ran from July 1st through the 7th.

Trollers may still target chum salmon in certain areas throughout the troll closure, including in much of Sitka Sound. Trolling for all species will also remain open in select terminal harvest areas, including Deep Inlet near Sitka, so that fishermen can target salmon returning to hatcheries.

Categories: Alaska News

Crew OK After Seiner Capsizes In Prince William Sound

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-08-06 17:40

The crew of a seiner is okay after their fishing vessel capsized in the Prince William Sound earlier this week. The Auriga was seeking at shelter from a storm at the time of the incident.

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Categories: Alaska News

Seldovia Tribe Awarded $40,000 For Cultural Preservation

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-08-06 17:39

The Seldovia Village Tribe was awarded a $40,000 grant from the National Park Service for cultural preservation.

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Categories: Alaska News

Autopsy Reveals No Answers In Sea Lion Death

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-08-06 17:38

A dead sea lion that washed up on the beach near Ketchikan was dissected last Thursday in hopes of finding out what caused the death. The necropsy took several hours, and attracted many observers. But it didn’t provide any clear answers.

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Categories: Alaska News

Mat Su Borough Looks Ahead to 2015 Legislature

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-08-06 12:28

The Mat Su Borough Assembly met, not to take action on the list, but to discuss the priorities printed out in the form of a resolution. Borough manager John Moosey told the panel that the list held nothing new.. most of the projects on it had been on the table for some time, many of them are partially complete, or near completion

“By establishing our legislative priorities for 2015, it allows staff to get everything together, because we are trying to be more professional more concise on a request, because I feel that is what is demanded, but also, too, because I think that is what leads to success in getting needed funds back from the state. “

 The Port MacKenzie rail extension project, now underway, will take another 116 million dollars before it is finished. Moosey told the body that the project is behind schedule and over budget, mainly because of delays due to lawsuits lobbed against it by certain environmental organizations. Three of the six segments are under construction, but not for the original price of 272 million dollars. Moosey said the project is now 25 million dollars over budget and about two years behind. Moosey says the railroad spur could be done by 2016, if the state funding request is successful.

 Assemblyman Jim Sykes, with his eye toward the Borough budget, asked if the Borough would have to contribute a matching amount to any of the requests on list.

 ”The agenda item didn’t restrict the discussion to legislative priorities, and I think that it would also be useful to consider some of the priorities, like, if we are missing tax revenues by a proposal that comes forward, where are we going to get the money to pay for them. And, how is it that we are going to better forecast our revenues so that we don’t get in a jam in case the federal and state government don’t contribute to us. “

 

Moosey replied that for the most part, the projects rely on state funding, with the exception of a school access project which would be a fifty – fifty split with the state. He told the body that completion of a Seward Meridian Parkway extension would best be paid for with 30 million dollars of Borough funds, to expedite it’s completion.

Another project,  a 13 million dollar interchange between the Borough side access road to the Knik Arm Bridge and a road to Port MacKenzie,  would come from state funds. Sykes asked why an interchange is considered before a bridge is even built. Moosey replied that Borough officials are confident that federal loans to build the bridge are to be secured.

Other Borough projects that may make the final five are 2 point 2 million dollars for land acquisition and design of a leachate treatment facility in the Borough. Moosey said that the city of Anchorage may stop accepting septage and leachate from the Borough before treatment and discharge into Cook Inlet.

The Borough Assembly will make its final decision on the top five projects in meetings to come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Mat Su Borough Assembly met, not to take action on the list, but to discuss the priorities printed out in the form of a resolution. Borough manager John Moosey told the panel that the list held nothing new.. most of the projects on it had been on the table for some time, many of them are partially complete, or near completion

 

 

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["By establishing our legislative priorities for 2015, it allows staff to get everything together, because we are trying to be more professional more concise on a request, because I feel that is what is demanded, but also, too, because I think that is what leads to success in getting needed funds back from the

state. "]

 

 

The Port MacKenzie rail extension project, now underway, will take another 116 million dollars before it is finished. Moosey told the body that the project is behind schedule and over budget, mainly because of delays due to lawsuits lobbed against it by certain environmental organizations. Three of the six segments are under construction, but not for the original price of 272 million dollars. Moosey said the project is now 25 million dollars over budget and about two years behind. Moosey says the railroad spur could be done by 2016, if the state funding request is successful.

 

Assemblyman Jim Sykes, with his eye toward the Borough budget, asked if the Borough would have to contribute a matching amount to any of the requests on list.

 

 

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["The agenda item didn't restrict the discussion to legislative priorities, and I think that it would also be useful to consider some of the priorities, like, if we are missing tax revenues by a proposal that comes forward, where are we going to get the money to pay for them. And, how is it that we are going to better forecast our revenues so that we don't get in a jam in case the federal and state government don't contribute to us. "]

 

Moosey replied that for the most part, the projects rely on state funding, with the exception of a school access project which would be a fifty – fifty split with the state. He told the body that completion of a Seward Meridian Parkway extension would best be paid for with 30 million dollars of Borough funds, to expedite it’s completion.

 

Another project .. a 13 million dollar interchange between the Borough side access road to the Knik Arm Bridge and a road to Port MacKenzie would come from state funds. Sykes asked why an interchange is considered before a bridge is even built. Moosey replied that Borough officials are confident that federal loans to build the bridge are to be secured.

 

Other Borough projects that may make the final five are 2 point 2 million dollars for land acquisition and design of a leachate treatment facility in the Borough. Moosey said that the city of Anchorage may stop accepting septage and leachate from the Borough before treatment and discharge into Cook Inlet.

 

The Borough Assembly will make its final decision on the top five projects in meetings to come. I’m EL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Alaska News

Is the Mine Tailings Dam Failure in B.C. a Warning for Alaska?

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-08-05 17:42

Muddy water from the breached Mount Polley Mine tailings dam floods a downstream creek and road Monday. Fishing and environmental groups say the same could happen at new B.C. mines near the Southeast border. (Photo courtesy Cariboo Regional District Emergency Operations Centre)

Monday’s tailings-dam break at a British Columbia copper and gold mine could threaten Southeast Alaska salmon fisheries. That’s according to critics, who say similar dams closer to the border could suffer the same fate, polluting Alaska waters.

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Monday morning’s dam break took place at the Mount Polley Mine, about 400 miles southeast of Ketchikan.

Scroll down or click here for a video showing the damage.

Observers estimate enough water, mud and rock to fill 2,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools escaped. Emergency officials warned downstream residents against drinking from affected waterways.

This aerial image from a British Columbia emergency office video shows the Mount Polley dam break and some of the damage downstream.

That includes salmon-rich tributaries of the Fraser River, which empties into the Pacific Ocean at Vancouver, B.C.

Brian Lynch of the Petersburg Vessel Owners Association says some of those fish swim north.

“The United States has a harvest-sharing arrangement for Fraser sockeye and pink salmon through provisions of the Pacific Salmon Treaty. So any problem associated with salmon production on the Fraser will affect U.S. fishermen,” he says.

Imperial Metals, the Mount Polley Mine’s owners, did not respond to a request for comment. That’s been the case with requests on other issues too. The corporate website says the mine is not operating and they don’t know how long repairs will take.

A half-dozen or so similar mines are planned for northwest British Columbia, closer to the Alaska border.

Guy Archibald of the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council says they all plan to store tailings, which contain acidic rock and toxic metals, behind dams similar to the one that broke.

“They’re all basically the same systems. They have to comply with the same regulations and design criteria,” he says.

Archibald and Lynch are especially concerned about the Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell project, under development about 20 miles from the Alaska border.

KSM will store tailings behind dams upstream from the Nass River, which ends just south of Alaska’s border with British Columbia.

Environmental Affairs Vice President Brent Murphy says it’s not the same as the Mount Polley dam.

“The design of the tailings management facility is such that water will not be standing up against the crest of the dam. Any ponds will be at least kilometers away from the crest of the dams,” he says.

The Mount Polley break may have been caused by heavy rainfall and increased production added pressure to the dam.

The KSM also plans a water treatment storage dam upstream from the Unuk River, which enters the ocean northeast of Ketchikan. It would be part of a system treating acidic water from mine pits and tunnels.

Murphy says it’s designed to spill extra water rather than hold it beyond capacity.

“That contact water would have characteristics very similar to the water that is currently flowing naturally within the Suphurets-Unuk river system,” he says.

KSM’s dam plans have been OK’d by Canadian provincial and federal officials. Murphy says they also passed muster with independent engineers.

Lynch of the Petersburg Vessel Owners Association says the Mount Polley dam had the same approval.

“This was not only obviously a tailings dam failure but it appears to be a regulatory oversight failure as well. And that’s what we want to prevent on any mines going into the transboundary systems,” he says.

The Mount Polley mine owners, Vancouver-based Imperial Metals, plans to open the Red Chris Mine, in the Stikine River watershed this fall. Like Mount Polley and KSM, it’s an open-pit copper and gold mine.

Categories: Alaska News

Tanana River Bridge Eases Training Area Access For Military

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-08-05 17:41

The Alaska Railroad Corporation hosted a ribbon cutting Tuesday at the Tanana River Crossing bridge and levee. It’s the first phase of the Railroad’s Northern Rail Extension project.

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Categories: Alaska News

APD arrests alleged serial rapist

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-08-05 17:40

Clifford Lee, 35, is charged with 10 counts of sexual assault. Photo – APD.

Anchorage police have arrested an alleged serial rapist and charged him with 10 counts of sexual assault. Thirty-five year old Clifford Lee of Anchorage was apprehended on Thursday evening.

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The five known victims were all women who were intoxicated and walking alone in the downtown or midtown areas. Lee allegedly offered them rides then took them to secluded areas in south Anchorage and assaulted them. Some times he used a stun gun.

Lt. Anthony Henry with the special victims unit says the victims provided a general description of an Asian male in a dark colored SUV, but it took investigators over a month to link the cases.

“What you have is a fact set that never clearly identifies itself early. So what you do is you have these crimes that are reported and there are similarities in some of the cases but they are rarely exact. So it usually takes time before that pattern is actually recognized. And in this case, there were a lot of descriptions that were vague.”

This series of reported assaults began in late June. Police think there may be other victims, and Henry urges the women to come forward. He says it will both help the women find resolution and help the case against Lee.

The police believe that Lee acted alone. Henry says serial rapists who target strangers are rare. Most rapists know their victims.

The investigation is on-going. Lee is being held on a $750,000 bail.

Categories: Alaska News

Conservationists Line Up For Izembek Lawsuit

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-08-05 17:39

When the Interior Department axed a proposal last winter to build a gravel road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, conservation groups cheered.

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Now, eight of them are stepping up to defend the government’s decision in court.

The Sierra Club, the Audubon Society and Wilderness Watch are among those joining Interior Secretary Sally Jewell in a federal lawsuit. According to a recent filing, the groups will focus their arguments on “protecting the exceptional wilderness and wildlife values of Izembek.”

The lawsuit was originally brought forward by local governments, tribes and residents of King Cove and Belkofski.

They’ve been fighting to construct a road through the refuge for decades. When the Interior Secretary turned it down, they argue that she violated her trust responsibility to Alaska Natives — and federal law.

The court has agreed to let the State of Alaska join the lawsuit and help King Cove make its case for road access.

Categories: Alaska News

VA Stand Down Brings Benefits To Kuskokwim Veterans

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-08-05 17:38

Veterans and family members pick out their gear from a wide selection. (Photo courtesy Samuel Hudson)

This weekend, several hundred veterans turned out for the first ever ‘VA Stand Down’ in Bethel. The event, put on by the Veteran’s Administration, helps connect veterans with services and benefits.

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The most visible benefit to veterans was the several container vans full of military surplus gear. But Rick Epperson, Rural Health Program Manager for the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, says the gear was intended to connect veterans with bigger benefits they’ve earned.

“Our main purpose is to talk with veterans about many of the benefits that they, many of them don’t even know that they qualify for. Many of em are eligible for compensation for things that happened to them while they were on active duty,” says Epperson.

Francis Utteryuk was an Acting 1st Sargent for the 143rd airborne, serving in Kuwait and Iraq in 2006 and 2007. He says signing up for benefits is important.

“They taught me since I came back I have more visits, privileges and benefits from being disabled,” says Utteryuk.

Some of those benefits are geared towards health care for veterans, which they can now get closer to home. Susan Yeager is the director for the Alaska VA Healthcare System.

“In May 2012, we were able to sign 26 contracts sharing agreements with 26 different native organizations across Alaska. YKHC was the first organization to sign that agreement, and so what that agreement says, ‘any eligible veteran, native veteran or non-native veteran that’s seen at YKHC, is eligible, then we the VA will reimburse for that care,’” says Yeager

Yeager says over a hundred veterans from the Y-K Delta signed up for the VA healthcare plan during their visit last week.

Mike Frueh, Director of the VA Home Loan Program in Washington DC, was also in Bethel for the Stand Down. In addition, he traveled to Y-K Delta villages to work on memorandums of understanding that will help Alaska Native Veterans get direct home loans from the VA.

“I hope it helps a lot of veterans. I know that the home loan program we’ve had for 70 years, we’ve helped 21 million veterans and their families purchase homes, and raise their children and live a life, and own a part of the American Dream,” says Frueh.

The MOU’s will make low-interest home loans available to Alaska Native veterans. The loans will have better rates than the standard VA home loans and can be used for remodeling. Last week the first MOU was signed for Metlakatla in southeast Alaska, the states only official reservation. Frueh says ten Y-K Delta villages have already signed their intent to sign an MOU.

And for veterans in surrounding villages who did not make it into Bethel, more military surplus gear is currently being shipped by a local airline cargo company, Ryanair.

Categories: Alaska News

Saxman Files Lawsuit Over Non-Rural Status

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-08-05 17:37

The Organized Village of Saxman filed a lawsuit on July 25th in federal court over the Federal Subsistence Board’s 2007 decision to designate the Native village as non-rural.

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Calling the decision, and the criteria used to reach it, “arbitrary and capricious,” the complaint asks the court to reverse that 2007 Subsistence Board decision, declare it invalid and award court costs to the Village of Saxman.

According to the complaint, residents of Saxman have continually engaged in traditional subsistence gathering since the community first was settled in the late 1800s.

And until 2007, the U.S. government considered the village rural, at least for subsistence purposes. In 1990, the Federal Subsistence Board ruled that Saxman was a rural community, even though the village and its residents have close ties to non-rural Ketchikan.

The board initiated a review of rural designations in 2000, and six years later published a proposed rule that kept Saxman rural. Here is Matthew Newman, an attorney with the Anchorage Native American Rights Fund, which is representing Saxman.

“They had a public comment period on that rule. They received overwhelming public testimony in support of that rule. In fact, their own staff at the office of Federal Subsistence Management supported maintaining Saxman as a rural community,” he said. “Then, somewhat unannounced and immediately, the board decided to vote and go in the opposite direction.”

That decision became final on June 6, 2007. Newman said the board didn’t offer an explanation for voting against the proposed rule.

Within a month of that decision, Saxman officials asked for reconsideration.

“The board took the request under advisement. They reviewed it for a full year,” he said. “But then their final denial of the request for reconsideration also didn’t contain any reason or any plausible argument as to why they took the action they did.”

The lawsuit argues that the criteria used to group Saxman with the larger community of Ketchikan denies Saxman residents the ability to continue customary and traditional harvests, and fails to account for the economic, social and communal independence of Saxman.

Newman said that Saxman waited until now to file the lawsuit in hopes of an administrative solution. And the subsistence board just a couple of months ago indicated it could reverse that ruling for Saxman.

However, Newman said, this year marks the deadline for the community to legally challenge that 2007 ruling. If the Subsistence Board does reverse it, the lawsuit could be dropped. But, “given Saxman’s experiences with the administrative process so far, the board will have to take some very affirmative steps.”

David Jenkins, policy coordinator with the Federal Subsistence Management Service, also noted that the Federal Subsistence Board is in the process of recommending changes. It would then be up to the federal government whether to accept those recommendations.

The case has been assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason. The defendants named are Federal Subsistence Board chairman Tim Towarak, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

The defendants have 60 days to file a response.

Categories: Alaska News

Fishermen Receive Fine, Probation For Fishing Violations

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-08-05 17:36

Two fishermen recently learned that commercial trolling out of season – even by a single day – can be expensive.

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The captain and crewman of the fishing vessel Chief Joseph pleaded guilty in a Sitka courtroom last week to charges of fishing during closed season and unlawful possession of fish. Judge Leonard Devaney sent the vessel owner – 49-year-old Jeffrey Angelo of Samoa, California – to jail for five days and ordered him to pay over $6,000 in fines. The crewman, Alec Hurst, received a suspended jail sentence and a $1,500 fine. Alaska Trooper Sgt. Aaron Frenzel said that cases of pre-season fishing such as this are relatively rare.

On June 30, Alaska Wildlife Troopers came upon Angelo and Hurst at anchor in Still Harbor, on the southwest corner of Baranof Island, with evidence of recent fishing on deck. According to the Troopers’ report, Angelo and Hurst knowingly fished 12 king salmon in Whale Bay the day before the king season opened on July 1.

Wildlife troopers escorted the Chief Joseph back to Sitka and ordered Angelo to deliver the caught salmon to a processor, forfeiting $691 in proceeds to the state. Both men were then allowed to fish in the opening.

Angelo was also cited for failing to display his commercial numbers on the boat and sentenced to three years’ probation. 29-year-old Hurst – a resident of Fort Bragg, CA – was placed on probation for two years.

The same day he sentenced the Chief Joseph crew, Judge Devaney ordered 23-year-old Douglas McNamee to pay $1,500 in fines by August 8th for tampering with someone else’s shellfish pots and furnishing sport-caught shellfish to a client.

Categories: Alaska News
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