Alaska News

Wildfire Threat Increases As Snow Melts

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-04-28 17:29

As snow melts, wildfire is becoming a threat. Red Flag warnings are in effect for areas of South Central and Interior Alaska, including Fairbanks, Delta Junction and Tok.

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Receding snow has exposed grasses and other dead vegetation, and National Weather Service meteorologist John Lingas says persistent high pressure is allowing them to dry out quickly.

“It [has] really inhibited substantial moisture from getting into it, so we get a little bit of cloud in,” Lingas said. “But the dry conditions near the surface persist and, as each day goes on, they just get a little drier and that’s prompted relative humidity at or around 15 percent here over the last couple of afternoons and we expect the same today.”

Lingas says a weak system is expected to provide some relief for the Fairbanks area tomorrow, with a chance of a little rain, or even snow at higher elevations, before things warm up and dry out again later in the week.

“High pressure over the Alaska Peninsula now is gonna get shoved northward into the Interior and it’s gonna grow and get stronger, so we are looking for even warmer temperatures at the end of the week and then a return also to dry conditions,” Lingas said.

Categories: Alaska News

River Watch Teams Prepare For Breakup

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-04-28 17:28

Feeling lucky #akriverwatch is calm today. Prayers for recovery in #tupelo and those in the path of #tornado. pic.twitter.com/02pmv0xGvC

— Alaska DHS&EM (@AlaskaDHSEM) April 28, 2014

Teams are heading out to keep an eye on breakup conditions along Alaska’s largest river systems. The National Weather Service is predicting below average flooding this year, but the state wants villages to be ready just in case.

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Even though flooding caused by this spring’s breakup should be less severe than normal, the State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management spokesman Jeremy Zidek says Interior communities could still see some flooding.

Click to find the most recent National Weather Service breakup maps.

“Generally, when we see the below-average years and we do experience flooding, it’s one community, not a series of communities like we saw last year with the flooding all along the Yukon River,” Zidek said.

Galena was devastated last year after an ice jam caused a massive flood, keeping much of the town underwater for days and forcing most residents to evacuate. Once the waters receded, residents returned to largely unsalvageable homes and other problems from lack of power, to spoiled food.

The village of Circle and several other Interior communities were also hit by flooding.

Zidek says the first river watch team has already been deployed to the Upper Yukon River and is stationed in Circle Hot Springs.

“Generally, we do launch our river watch program a little bit later in the year,” he said. “There’s been higher than normal temperatures in the Interior and there’s a lot of reports of ice moving early in the sloughs and small tributaries that feed into the major rivers.”

Keep an eye in the sky for our #akriverwatch teams. Please tweet your #akbreakup pictures and reports. pic.twitter.com/vh0qAYfZHO

— NWS APRFC (@NWSAPRFC) April 28, 2014

Each river watch team consists of three people: a local pilot, a National Weather Service river forecast center hydrologist, and a Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management emergency manager. Zidek says each team monitors a particular section of the river, tracking the breakup process.

“For the most part it is aerial observations,” Zidek said. “The river forecast center takes those aerial observations, past models, and also other observations that have been made along the river system where people just provide their own feedback, put that all together and make their flood potential forecasts, and if there’s any issues, they can issue the flood warnings and advisories.”

If the teams do spot something that might be troubling for nearby communities, the emergency manager will land and consult with the local residents and coordinate with the state emergency office.

Click here for more information on flood preparedness.

Five river watch teams will be deployed – three to the Yukon River and two to the Kuskokwim River.

Categories: Alaska News

Whale Earwax Offers Opportunity For Unique Insight

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-04-28 17:27

A biologist from Baylor University in Texas has discovered a unique way to determine changes in hormone and contaminant levels in baleen whales – through their ear wax. Stephen Trumble is a whale biologist who studied at UAF. He says museums have collected these earwax plugs for a century and the Smithsonian alone has more than 500. They are commonly used to determine a whales’ age – like tree rings.

But three years ago an environmental chemist suggested to Trumble the wax plugs were also like sediment cores. It was a moment of insight.

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Categories: Alaska News

Bethel’s Megan Leary Takes First Runner-Up At Miss Indian World

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-04-28 17:26

Bethel’s Megan Leary is the 2014 first runner up of the Miss Indian World competition, which concluded Saturday night at the Gathering of Nations in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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The contest brings together young, indigenous culture bearers from all over North America. Leary won the competition for best speech and best talent for her skin sewing.

Arriving at the Bethel Airport to cheers from family and friends, Leary, says it was them who made it possible for her to compete.

“Knowing that they were here at home watching me and I was a role model for them, and I was a leader for them When I there I was saying Win or lose, I came here to represent people back home, just thinking of them,” Leary said.

Twenty-three-year-old Leary is Yup’ik and Athabascan. She grew up in Kalskag and Napaimute, and graduated from Bethel Regional High School. She was Miss Cama-i 2013 and went on to become Miss World Eskimo Indian Olympics, or Miss Weio. The Miss Indian World competition involved a personal interview with judges and an impromptu public speaking competition.

“It was a funny question, my question was describe traditional food from your tribe,” Leary said. “So I described akutak, stinkheads, blackfish, stuff like that people were kind of grossed out the things we eat,”

For a traditional talent presentation, Leary showed off traditional skin sewing, which was done with the help of people all along the river. She was also judged on a dance performance in front of 20,000 people. Leary says she was thinking of all those she represents.

“You know, it made you so proud of who you were and what you’re representing,” Leary said. “You’re not going down there as yourself, you’re going down as everybody in your family, everybody in the Kuskokwim, everybody in the state of Alaska, because I was representing my title of Miss World Eskimo Indian Olympics, I’m going as an ambassador of Alaska Natives, I went down there for everybody, and all my ancestors.”

Taylor Thomas, a 21-year-old member of the Shoshone Bannock tribe, was crowned Saturday night as Miss Indian World.

Categories: Alaska News

Forestry Trainees Brush Up On Essential Fire Suppression Skills

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-04-28 17:25

Photo by Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage.


It’s only April, and already a dozen brush fires have erupted in the Matanuska Susitna area. State foresters are looking ahead to a busy fire season, and fire suppression trainees are brushing up on essential skills – including driving the fire truck.

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Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: April 28, 2014

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-04-28 17:07

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

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Crews Work To Refloat Skagway Ferry Dock

Margaret Friedenauer, KHNS – Haines

The community of Skagway in northern Southeast remains cut off from ferry service as the state works to figure out why the dock sank late last week.

Wildfire Threat Increases As Snow Melts

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

As snow melts, wildfire is becoming a threat. Red Flag warnings are in effect for areas of South Central and Interior Alaska, including Fairbanks, Delta Junction and Tok.

River Watch Teams Prepare For Breakup

Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage

Teams are heading out to keep an eye on breakup conditions along Alaska’s largest river systems. The National Weather Service is predicting below average flooding this year, but the state wants villages to be ready just in case.

Breaking Ice Pack Sets Kwigilngok Hunters’ Snowmachines Adrift

Charles Enoch, KYUK – Bethel

Earlier this month, about a dozen snowmachines drifted off into the Bering Sea near the village of Kwigilngok when a large chunk of ice broke off and drifted to sea.

Whale Earwax Offers Opportunity For Unique Insight

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

A biologist from Baylor University in Texas has discovered a unique way to determine changes in hormone and contaminant levels in baleen whales – through their ear wax. Stephen Trumble is a whale biologist who studied at UAF.  He says museums have collected these earwax plugs for a century and the Smithsonian alone has more than 500. They are commonly used to determine a whales’ age – like tree rings.

But three years ago an environmental chemist suggested to Trumble the wax plugs were also like sediment cores. It was a moment of insight.

Bethel’s Megan Leary Takes First Runner-Up At Miss Indian World

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

Bethel’s Megan Leary is the 2014 first runner up of the Miss Indian World competition, which concluded Saturday night at the Gathering of Nations in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Forestry Trainees Brush Up On Essential Fire Suppression Skills

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

It’s only April, and already a dozen brush fires have erupted in the Matanuska Susitna area.  State foresters are looking ahead to a busy fire season, and fire suppression trainees are brushing up on essential skills – including driving the fire truck.

Alaskan Brewing Co. Now Selling Beer In Cans

Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau

Alaskan Brewing Co. is entering the growing canned microbrew market. Starting Monday, the Juneau-based beer maker will sell its flagship Amber Ale and its Freeride American Pale Ale in 12-ounce cans. In recent years, consumers have become more accepting of craft beer in cans. But is it as good as bottles?

Categories: Alaska News

Alaskan Brewing Co. Now Selling Beer In Cans

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-04-28 11:58

Juneau-based Alaskan Brewing Co. is now selling its flagship Amber Ale and its Freeride American Pale Ale in 12 ounce cans. Initially they’ll be available only in Alaska. (Photo by Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau)

Alaskan Brewing Co. is entering the growing canned microbrew market.

Starting Monday, the Juneau-based beer maker will sell its flagship Amber Ale and its Freeride American Pale Ale in 12-ounce cans.

In recent years, consumers have become more accepting of craft beer in cans. But is it as good as bottles?

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Alaskan Brewing Co. co-founder Geoff Larson stands next to cans of Amber Ale stacked in the Juneau-based brewery’s warehouse. (Photo by Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau)

I set out to answer that question on a recent sunny afternoon. I grabbed six-pack of Freeride APA bottles and a can of the same beer supplied by the brewery, and got together with a few friends for some grilled halibut and a side-by-side taste test.

Before we started there were a lot of theories about the differences between bottles and cans. My girlfriend, Kate, thought there might be a change in the level of carbonation. Our friend Quinn thought the can itself might affect the taste of the beer.

Ultimately, we decided there wasn’t much difference. None of us are beer snobs, and to our untrained palettes, the stuff from the can tasted a lot like the stuff from the bottle.

In light of that, Quinn brought up the next logical question, at least to our group of friends: “If you were to hike to a cabin, would you grab a six pack of cans or a six pack of bottles?”

Everyone answered cans.

Bottles vs. cans

Alaskan Brewing Co. co-founder Geoff Larson is banking on a lot of beer drinkers being into cans. They’re lighter and more portable than glass, especially when empty, making them great for outdoor activities. Larson says the company had numerous requests for cans, and wants to provide its beer in places where customers want to drink it.

“Backpacking, boating, fishing, being on the beach,” he says.

But Larson says Alaskan isn’t willing to sacrifice quality for convenience. While some small breweries like Colorado-based Oskar Blues have had success with canned beer for more than a decade, Alaskan took its time getting into the market. Larson says the company researched several canning lines before finding the right one at a brewing festival in Germany. The line reduces the amount of oxygen picked up during the canning process.

“That’s the key. Anytime you’re dealing with filling bottles of beer, or cans, or kegs, it’s exposure to air, exposure to oxygen that can lower the life,” Larson says. “And this canning line is right now packaging the cans at the same quality as our bottling line.”

He says the biggest difference between cans and bottles is that you’re drinking from a different vessel.

“Just the way the beer comes out of the can. It comes out in these little gurgles,” he says. “In that way you’re actually getting a different kind of experience. But as far as the quality of the beer, it’s spot on.”

Plant expansion

The Alaskan Brewing Co. plant is a maze of staircases and narrow walkways. As the company has grown over nearly 30 years, the footprint of its operation has stayed relatively small, even for a craft brewer. The new canning line is wedged in near the bottling line and a packaging area in the main brew house.

Alaskan Brewing Co. co-founder Geoff Larson (left) and Plant Manager Curtis Holmes stand next to the brewery’s new canning line. (Photo by Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau)

“When we made the commitment to go ahead and put the line in, we knew exactly what size we had and it had to fit only in here,” Larson says from a platform above the new line. “It looks like it fits perfectly, but it took a little bit of effort.”

Initially the cans will be available only in Alaska, because the company doesn’t have enough space to produce canned beer for its markets in the Lower 48.

The brewery recently broke ground on a multi-million dollar expansion that will link its two buildings in Juneau’s Lemon Creek area. The larger facility will allow the cans to be more widely distributed.

While it’s too soon to say what new beers Alaskan might produce, Larson says the expansion will let the company grow comfortably over the next decade.

You can’t really know what’s going to happen 12 months down the road. But now I think we’re looking at five to 10 years with a lot more certainty and clarity,” Larson says.

The expansion project is scheduled to be complete by early next year.

In addition to the new canning line, Alaskan recently started distributing its beers in two new states — Michigan and South Dakota. Alaskan Brewing Co. beer is now available in 17 states nationwide.

Categories: Alaska News

Breaking Ice Pack Sets Kwigilngok Hunters’ Snowmachines Adrift

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-04-28 10:39

Thin ice caused a scare for many seal hunters from Kwigilngok when about a dozen snowmachines began floating into the Bering Sea after a large chunk of ice broke off and began drifting away.

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The snowmachines were roughly three miles from shore before the hunters discovered what had happened.

“Those who went home ahead of us spotted them, we called them on the VHF’s to ask if they got home, then we hurried home once alerted that the snowmachines were 3 miles from shore,” Johnny Andrew Jr., one of the hunters from Kwigilngok, said. “Then we brought them back to shore by boat.”

Village rescuers pulled one snowmachine out of the salt water.  Another machine had already disappeared under the ice.

Andrew says both machines that were attached to sleds were dragged into the water when the ice was drifting in the currents.

Andrew speculates the incident was caused by increased wave activity causing the ice to break off.

Seal hunting in the spring is known for its many hazards. The most significant considered the unpredictable nature of the sea and wavy conditions – even in calm weather. Those conditions can get the best of even the most experienced of hunters, according to Kwigilngok elder Roland Phillip.

“Since I’ve been hunting and traveling as a boy, I was repeatedly told that in the spring, the sea is wavy even when there’s no wind, breaking the ice even though it’s thick,” Phillip said. “The sea doesn’t tell you what it’s going to do, even on a good day, there are many dangers, even the most experienced hunters run into hardships from time to time.”

“We talk about it but you can’t completely avoid hardships, that’s the way it’s always been.”

Since the incident, the Kwigilngok River opened up, giving hunters a safer, more direct approach to seal hunting.

Categories: Alaska News

Court Rules In Favor Of Same-Sex Couples In Property Tax Case

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-04-25 17:45

State Supreme Court on Friday justices decided in favor of two same sex couples in a property tax case that could have wider implications for the state.

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Categories: Alaska News

Jury Convicts Alaska Man In Coast Guard Killings

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-04-25 17:45

A federal jury in Alaska has convicted a man of murder in the shooting deaths of two of his co-workers at a Coast Guard communications station on Kodiak Island.

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The jury returned its verdict on Friday in the case of 62-year-old James Wells. He was charged with killing Coast Guardsmen Petty Officer 1st Class James Hopkins and retired Chief Petty Officer Richard Belisle in April 2012.

Prosecutors had alleged Wells, a civilian, was unhappy that his position was increasingly irrelevant on the job because of the advancement of the victims.

The jury convicted Wells of six felony charges: two counts each of first-degree murder, murder of a U.S. officer and use of a firearm in a violent crime.

Federal prosecutors said earlier they would not seek the death penalty if he was convicted.

Categories: Alaska News

Surprise Inspection Finds High Radiation Levels At Acuren Facility

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-04-25 17:45

A testing and inspection company with facilities in Kenai is in trouble with the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission. A surprise inspection of Acuren’s facility earlier this month revealed high levels of radiation outside the building.

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Categories: Alaska News

Alaska Legislature Gavels Out

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-04-25 17:45

Friday, the Alaska State Legislature gaveled out, five days after they were supposed to. It’s the end to a grueling session that involved legislation on education and a major gasline project.

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So, first off, what took them so long?
Gutierrez: Honesty? Politics. The most obvious fight was education funding. In the background, minimum wage.  Major personal bills from leaderships were held up, especially on the House side. We saw Knik arm bridge fail on Wednesday night.

What caused the breakthrough?
Gutierrez: Well, once people have dug in their heels, there’s no point in dragging out a stalemate that will be unpopular with voters. Basically went down the middle with the education compromise. Plus staying long is unpopular with legislators themselves. Chenault in launchair, golf, John Wayne movies. They’re sitting around doing nothing and unhappy about it, and so are voters.

Are there any consequences for going longer than 90 days?
Gutierrez: Probably not. In the past when they’ve gone a little long, laws still stand. Constitutionally, can go until 121. But they are ignoring the statute and that was passed by voters. Spoke with the governor and he says he’s worried about the precedent, but was simply glad to be done. And quite frankly, everyone’s pretty glad to be out of here, including the press corps.

Categories: Alaska News

Three To Try Out For Juneau Symphony Conductor

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-04-25 17:45

The Juneau Symphony and Juneau Symphony Chorus performed the Mozart Requiem, April 5 & 6, 2014. (Photo by Glen Fairchild)

Three different conductors will direct the Juneau Symphony next season. They hope to replace Kyle Wiley Pickett, who will lead the Topeka Symphony and the Springfield Symphony Orchestra, after 14 years in the capital city.

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The search began at the end of the 2013 symphony season, when musicians and board members gathered to answer three questions:

What are you looking for in the next conductor? What role does the symphony play in your life? What role do you think the symphony plays in the Juneau community?”

Search committee chairwoman and violinist Kristin Garot says the questions were asked again in the summer and fall.  The answers helped the 15-member committee come up with traits the orchestra wants in a new conductor.

Garot says lessons learned from the last recruitment, in 1999, and the Music Director’s Search Handbook from the League of American Orchestras morphed into a blueprint for the current search.

In October, the job was announced on the Conductors Guild website.

Nearly 70 applications rolled in. Only 28 made the first cut. That list was reduced to 13 conductors, who were interviewed over Skype, resulting in a list of nine. Committee members voted on each person to get to the remaining three.

Though the job pays only about $35,000 a year, Garot says the volunteer Juneau orchestra demands a lot of its conductor.

“Not only are they there to lead the musicians but they’re also kind of the face of the orchestra to the community,” she says. “We want someone who’s dynamic, who can energize an audience and speak to them about what they’re listening to. We also want someone who can connect with our youth audience and our youth organizations and help build that part of our program.”  

That means music director, long-range planner, fundraiser, and grand communicator.

The three finalists claim to be adept at all.

Categories: Alaska News

AK: Cats

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-04-25 17:45

Ten years ago, Wrangell was crawling with feral cats. They roamed the streets, getting into trash and nesting in condemned buildings. Now, it’s hard to even find a cat downtown. That dramatic turnaround is due to the hard work of one woman who noticed the problem and decided to fix it. Dolores Klinke runs the St. Frances Animal Rescue, a non-profit that has saved hundreds of strays.

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Dolores Klinke is in her late 60s. She has salt and pepper hair and a big smile. As a kid growing up in New Mexico she had all sorts of pets (as a child.) Now, she’s Wrangell’s most prominent cat lady.

Klinke operates St. Frances out of two shelter locations. One is a forested lot for feral cats and the other is for adoptable cats, housed in her own garage. The first thing you notice when you walk inside is that it’s spotlessly clean and doesn’t smell like cats. That’s surprising as it’s currently home to about 20 rescues that live in kennels and cardboard boxes lining the walls.

“This is Jack. That’s Benjie;  that’s Iji, that black and white one; and that’s his brother, Lasty,” Klinke said, introducing some of the cats.

Some have been turned over by past owners. Many have been live trapped around town. She works patiently with the wild ones, like Kiki, to get them socialized.

“And at first she was very aggressive but she was scared, you know,” Klinke said. “She didn’t want to be any place else but her own home, but slowly she’s getting better and better.”

It’s this unflappable faith in these little animals that led Klinke to start St. Frances in 2008.

She says she was disturbed by all of the unwanted cats in Wrangell.

At first, she picked up one or two strays at a time. Then she started rescuing entire stray cat colonies. She never predicted it would turn into a full-blown animal rescue.

“I think I stopped counting at 600 cats that we’ve, you know, handled through the rescue program so, that’s a lot of cats,” Klinke said. “And that was what, a year and a half ago that I stopped counting?

“I just don’t have the time…just too busy.”

Once she brings a stray in, she cares for it indefinitely.

Every rescue gets a full lineup of shots and any other medical attention it needs. She’s adamant that each one gets spayed or neutered, preventing accidental pregnancies and litters of stray kittens. Fixing the cats is fixing the problem.

“It seems like it’s been a little over a year that I haven’t had any kittens come in at all,” Klinke said. “That tells me something – there are no kittens to be found in Wrangell I guess.”

It takes a lot of money to care for all of the rescues. Klinke says she goes through countless bags of kitty litter and cans of wet food. She gets enormous community support. The city chips in $5,000 a year. And in 2013, Klinke raised another $14,000 through rummage and bake sales and private donations. But she says it’s still not enough.

“Every 28 days we go through six bags of cat food,” Klinke said. “We have the other shelter that we have cats that we have relocated. Over there we go through another maybe four bags a month.”

We drive out to the other shelter about five miles out of town.

This gated outdoor colony holds the feral cats that are not socialized enough to be adopted out. Klinke says the cats here often hunt for their own food.

Cats appear left and right when they hear her walking around. She greets each of them by name. One cat, Clown, follows us around. Klinke says she was an especially difficult rescue.

“And the vet was coming into town so we got her ready to go in to get spayed, you know,” Klinke said. “And I grabbed her and that was the wrong thing to do. Boy, she tore my hands all up and bit. We got her though and took her in, got her fixed and I headed for the emergency room.”

But that antisocial behavior doesn’t keep her from pampering them.

Dolores Klinke truly loves her rescues.

“They’re appreciative.  That’s my favorite part of the job, I guess you’d call it. But I love doing it. It’s unconditional love,” Klinke said. “They don’t ask for anything, you know. They really don’t. They just want food and somebody to love them.”

And that’s why she puts in the countless hours and money, and doesn’t really mind those trips to the emergency room—to give these cats a place to call home.

Categories: Alaska News

300 Villages: St. Michael

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-04-25 17:45

This week, we’re heading to St. Michael, a primarily Yup’ik community of almost 450 people near Nome in Western Alaska. Bobbi Ann Andrews is the mayor of St. Michael.

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Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: April 25, 2014

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-04-25 17:00

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

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Jury Convicts Alaska Man In Coast Guard Killings

The Associated Press

A federal jury in Alaska has convicted a man of murder in the shooting deaths of two of his co-workers at a Coast Guard communications station on Kodiak Island.

The jury returned its verdict on Friday in the case of 62-year-old James Wells. He was charged with killing Coast Guardsmen Petty Officer 1st Class James Hopkins and retired Chief Petty Officer Richard Belisle in April 2012.

Prosecutors had alleged Wells, a civilian, was unhappy that his position was increasingly irrelevant on the job because of the advancement of the victims.

The jury convicted Wells of six felony charges: two counts each of first-degree murder, murder of a U.S. officer and use of a firearm in a violent crime.

Federal prosecutors said earlier they would not seek the death penalty if he was convicted.

Court Rules In Favor Of Same-Sex Couples In Property Tax Case

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

State Supreme Court on Friday justices decided in favor of two same sex couples in a property tax case that could have wider implications for the state.

Surprise Inspection Finds High Radiation Levels At Acuren Facility

Aaron Selbig, KBBI – Homer

A testing and inspection company with facilities in Kenai is in trouble with the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission. A surprise inspection of Acuren’s facility earlier this month revealed high levels of radiation outside the building.

Alaska Legislature Gavels Out

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

Friday, the Alaska State Legislature gaveled out, five days after they were supposed to. It’s the end to a grueling session that involved legislation on education and a major gasline project,

Three To Try Out For Juneau Symphony Conductor

Rosemarie Alexander, KTOO – Juneau

Three different conductors will direct the Juneau Symphony next season. They hope to replace Kyle Wylie Pickett, who will lead the Topeka, Kansas Symphony, and the Springfield, Missouri Symphony Orchestra, after 14 years in the capital city.

AK: Cats

Shady Grove Oliver, KSTK – Wrangell

Ten years ago, Wrangell was crawling with feral cats. They roamed the streets, getting into trash and nesting in condemned buildings. Now, it’s hard to even find a cat downtown. That dramatic turnaround is due to the hard work of one woman who noticed the problem and decided to fix it. Dolores Klinke runs the St. Frances Animal Rescue, a non-profit that has saved hundreds of strays.

300 Villages: St. Michael

This week, we’re heading to St. Michael, a  primarily Yup’ik community of almost 450 people near Nome in western Alaska.

Bobbi Ann Andrews is the mayor of St. Michael.

Categories: Alaska News

Seward’s Icebox

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-04-25 12:00

What was William Seward thinking when he pushed the purchase of Alaska from Russia? What would most surprise him if he could see Alaska now? Seward’s Day is a state holiday; a town and a highway are named after him; but who was he? Two historians will help us understand why we’re not part of Russia, on the next Talk of Alaska.

HOST: Steve HeimelAlaska Public Radio Network

GUESTS:

  • Walter Stahr, author, “Seward, Lincoln’s Indispensable Man”
  • Steve Haycox, Professor Emeritus of History, University of Alaska Anchorage, author of“Alaska, an American Colony”
  • Callers Statewide

PARTICIPATE:

  • Post your comment before, during or after the live broadcast (comments may be read on air).
  • Send e-mail to talk [at] alaskapublic [dot] org (comments may be read on air)
  • Call 550-8422 in Anchorage or 1-800-478-8255 if you’re outside Anchorage during the live broadcast

LIVE Broadcast: Tuesday, April 22, 2014 at 10:00 a.m. on APRN stations statewide.

SUBSCRIBE: Get Talk of Alaska updates automatically by e-mailRSS or podcast.

TALK OF ALASKA ARCHIVE

Categories: Alaska News

Southcentral Foundation Reaches Historic Settlement With IHS

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-04-24 17:41

Anchorage based Southcentral Foundation announced a settlement with the Indian Health Service over contract payments that at $96 million represents the largest IHS settlement in history.

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Lloyd Miller is one of the attorneys who brought suit against the IHS on behalf of tribes. Miller says after the U.S Supreme court in 2005 ruled the federal government was liable for underfunding tribal contracts, tribes filed hundreds of suits, but the IHS still refused to pay or settle, until the Supreme court reaffirmed their ruling in 2012.

“That signaled the beginning of a very long and very arduous settlement process because by late 2012, the agency was facing claims by over 200 tribes and inter-tribal organizations totaling in excess of $2 billion,” Miller said.

Miller says no claims were settled until 2013. But he says over the last 3 or 4 months, the logjam of disagreement over how to proceed with settlements has broken. Other payments in Alaska have happened in recent weeks, and Miller says the Yukon Kuskokwim settlement in December was the second largest in history behind Southcentral.

“Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation settled in December for $39 million and also settlements have been achieved for the Manillaq Corp, the Ketchikan Indian Corp, the Arctic Slope Native Association and the Bristol Bay Health Corporation,” Miller said. “All of those have been resolved and there are many more in active negotiations right now.”

Miller says the money will have great impact for Alaska tribes.

Katherine Gottlieb is the President and CEO of Southcentral Foundation. She says signing the agreement was a relief.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska Food Policy Council Hosts Bethel Town Hall Meeting

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-04-24 17:41

Members of the Alaska Food Policy Council hosted a town hall meeting in Bethel last week to gather information they’ll use to guide statewide food policy.

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Categories: Alaska News

More Tourists Expected In Petersburg This Year

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-04-24 17:41

More tourists are expected to visit Petersburg this summer than in recent years. Located on Mitkof Island, the small town cannot accommodate large cruise ships because of the shallow channels. But that’s just the sort of thing that some visitors are looking for.

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It’s tough to put an exact number on how many tourists come to Petersburg every year, but it’s definitely in the thousands. The closest figure might be from the Alaska Visitor Statistics Program, which shows about 14,000 came in 2011. That number includes visitors by plane, cruise ship and ferry.

Dave Berg looks over a spread sheet of this year’s visitors at Viking Travel, Inc. (Photo by Angela Denning, KFSK – Petersburg)

Dave Berg has operated Viking Travel, Inc. in Petersburg for 31 years.

“It looks like it’s going to be a better year for us,” Berg said. “We’re seeing a great increase in the number of independent visitors than we’ve seen in the past.”

“Independent travelers” is an industry term that means people who visit on their own outside of the large cruise ships.

“Most of the time they have Petersburg as part of an overall Alaska experience,” Berg said.

The phone lines in Berg’s office are busy these days. He’s dealing with people from all over the world. He says the increase in tourists is partly due to his business buying out Alaska Ferry Adventures in Homer. They were doing the same line of work—setting up travel packages for visitors. He’s now trying to get those people to come to Petersburg.

The main local draw is whale watching. There are also kayaking trips, the Bella Vista garnet mine, and the nearby Anan Bear Observatory. But Berg says it doesn’t have to be that adventurous. People just appreciate walking around the harbors and talking to fishermen.

“Just the small town atmosphere, the village that we have, the village feel of Petersburg versus places with the large cruise ships,” Berg said. “There’s a big difference in the experience that people have by coming to small towns.”

Marilyn Menish-Meucci runs the Petersburg Visitors Information Center.

“The independent traveler loves Petersburg,” Menish-Meucci said. “All the businesses here are locally owned. The only chain we have that is a national chain is Wells Fargo. And so that is huge to people because every time they buy an item in this town, the money stays in this town.”

Menish-Meucci says keeping it local is not only good for attracting tourists but also for local businesses.

Petersburg’s Chamber of Commerce Director, Cindi Lagoudakis, agrees.

“There’s more fuel sales, the gift shops see an increased business and I think some pretty steady clientele in the summertime from independent travelers,” Lagoudakis said. “The food businesses certainly see an uptick and in part that’s why some businesses are only open in the summertime as we have more people coming through town and can support those additional businesses and those dollars flow through town.”

It didn’t hurt that Yachting Magazine recently designated Petersburg as one of the best small towns in the country to visit.

“So, we’ve had a lot of people calling on the phone asking more questions about what Petersburg is like what we have to offer, questions about our harbors, and some really increased interest in what we have to offer here in Petersburg,” Lagoudakis said.

She says it’s often the small town charm that they’re after.

“What I hear again and again from folks that are visitors to town is how friendly the community is,” Lagoudakis said. “I think in part is because we don’t have so many people. There’s enough new people but not so many that you feel bombarded by it. And people will say hi to people in the street or they will offer to help you find something or tell you a little bit about why they like Petersburg and it makes it a very desirable place to visit and to live.”

Petersburg’s tourist season runs roughly from May 15 through September 15.

There will be one large ship– the Caledonian Sky—which is scheduled to be here twice but won’t be able to dock at the harbors because of its size. It carries about 150 passengers and will have to anchor out in Scow Bay or Frederick Sound.

A Gold Rush theme ship is scheduled to be here 12 times. Last year, it came up twice.

Categories: Alaska News
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