Alaska News

Stedman Says Hydro Funds Tight, Otter Bill Will Change

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-01-16 18:14

Sitka Senator Bert Stedman says he’ll continue pursuing legislation to aid sea otter hunters. But this year, it will be different.

Download Audio

Categories: Alaska News

With Loss Of Dock, Gustavus Residents Worry About Tourist Season

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-01-16 18:13

The floating breakwater dislodged from its pilings Tuesday afternoon and landed on the beach. (Photo courtesy of Pep Scott)

Tuesday’s storm in Southeast caused a state-owned breakwater in Gustavus to dislodge from its pilings and wash ashore on the beach. The 200-foot steel structure also serves as a popular floating dock facility for local residents running charter fishing and whale watching boats. Gustavus residents are wondering what this means for their tourist season.

Download Audio

“I didn’t want to watch but I couldn’t look away. It was pretty intense,” says Gustavus resident Pep Scott.

She was at the Gustavus dock facility Tuesday from noon to 6 p.m. watching the floating breakwater and pilings rock back and forth. Workers with the state Department of Transportation had tried to secure it with heavy line, but it didn’t work. The floating structure eventually broke loose and landed on the beach.

Scott calls the breakwater, which also serves as a dock, Gustavus’ livelihood. “I run a fish processing plant so I rely on the charter boats and the commercial fishing boats and without a float for anybody to come and put their boat in or for any goods to come in and go out, we’re just kind of stuck,” she says.

As the breakwater dislodged, it swung into city-owned wooden floats causing damage to those as well and leaving Gustavus residents without many options for docking, especially during the busy tourist season coming up in May.

“At this point in time, if we go with what’s left, it looks like we’ve got about a 40-foot section of dock that 20 to 30 boats would have to use every day,” says Mike Halbert.

Halbert has owned Glacier Bay Sportfishing for almost 30 years. Between the end of May and September, he takes up to eight tourists out on the water every day. Boats use the state-owned breakwater and the city-owned wooden floats for whale watching, charter and commercial fishing, kayak transport, and recreation. Halbert says the community with a year-round population of 450 relies heavily on tourism, “It’s life or death. If it’s not there then none of us can operate.”

The breakwater went into service in 2012 and cost the state just under $1.4 million. It’s located in the same facility as Gustavus’ ferry dock, which was not damaged during Tuesday’s storm.

Al Clough is Southeast Director of DOT. He says a storm in December had previously damaged the floating breakwater. At the time, the state conducted surveys and determined that it had to be removed due to unstable pilings. “Unfortunately, before we could get a crew, to get a barge and a crane mobilized out there to remove that breakwater, another storm came in,” he explains.

Clough says he has no idea when the breakwater will be repaired but it’s not going to be put back in the near future:

“We have to redesign a new structure and then we have to permit it and secure funding and everything else. There is not a quick fix, and obviously that breakwater, the way it was installed is not robust enough to handle this major storm event we had so we’re not just going to be put the same thing back in there.”

According to the National Weather Service in Juneau, the maritime wind in Gustavus Tuesday was at least 40 miles per hour.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: January 16, 2014

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-01-16 18:13

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

Download Audio

Senate Passes $1.1 Trillion Spending Bill

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington DC

The Senate this evening passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill that includes substantial funds for programs important to Alaska, including fisheries disaster relief and military spending.

Fewer Kids Going to Preschool in Alaska, Waiting Lists Long

Daysha Eaton, KSKA – Anchorage

The number of children attending preschool in Alaska is on the decline, according to a recent study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Researchers say Alaska now ranks nearly last in the nation for preschool enrollment.

Tribal Councils Express Opposition To Permitting Bill

Alexandra Gutirrez, APRN – Juneau

More than 30 tribal organizations have come out in opposition to a permitting bill championed by Gov. Sean Parnell.

Despite Pipeline Progress, State Proceeds with Two Lines

Anne Hillman, APRN – Anchorage

Yesterday the state released details about the new deal that will replace the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act. It makes the state a partner in the development of a natural gas export line from the North Slope. But the government is also still moving ahead with their back-up plan, the Alaska Stand Alone Pipeline.

Railbelt Electric Companies May Undergo Changes

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

Alaska’s Railbelt electric companies are the sole users of the state’s main transmission lines that carry energy from the Bradley Lake hydropower project in Homer north to Fairbanks.  But changes are coming.  Managers of the state-owned portion of the line – called the Alaska Intertie – want to give independent power producers access to the system and some power company officials want to bring the entire grid under a single owner – operator model.

60-Foot Tug Sinks Near Wrangell

The Associated Press

State conservation officials say a 60-foot tug sank in about 120 feet of water near Wrangell.

Authorities say the Silver Bay II was found missing Tuesday during a routine dock check by representatives of the Silver Bay Logging facility about five miles south of Wrangell.

The tug was estimated to have about 3,500 gallons of diesel fuel on board. The tug had been tied to the dock for five years, and much of the fuel had been removed during that time.

There’s a light sheen in the area, but no reported impact to wildlife. The Coast Guard is investigating.

Stedman Says Hydro Funds Tight, Otter Bill Will Change

Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau

Sitka Senator Bert Stedman says he’ll continue pursuing legislation to aid sea otter hunters. But this year, it will be different.

With Loss Of Dock, Gustavus Residents Worry About Tourist Season

Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau

Tuesday’s storm in Southeast caused a state-owned breakwater in Gustavus to dislodge from its pilings and wash ashore on the beach. The 200-foot steel structure also serves as a popular floating dock facility for local residents running charter fishing and whale watching boats. Gustavus residents are wondering what this means for their tourist season.

Cameras Capture Northern Migration

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

Scientists using time lapse photography have documented the migration of caribou and ptarmigan in northern Alaska. The project employed automated cameras to capture thousands of images of spring in the northern foothills of the Brooks Range.

Categories: Alaska News

Cameras Capture Northern Migration

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-01-16 18:12

Scientists using time lapse photography have documented the migration of caribou and ptarmigan in northern Alaska. The project employed automated cameras to capture thousands of images of spring in the northern foothills of the Brooks Range.

Download Audio

Photo courtesy Ken Tape.

University Of Alaska Fairbanks Ken Tape and fellow ecologist David Gustine with the U.S. Geological Survey set up cameras at sites along a 65 mile stretch off the Dalton Highway in the spring of 2012. Tape says the digital cameras were programmed to snap shots of the sprawling landscape every 15 minutes over about a month beginning in late April.

“It’s pretty fascinating,” Tape said. “What I’ve effectively got to do is watch spring happen in the Arctic from 14 different places sitting behind my computer.”

Tape spent hundreds of hours pouring over 40 thousand images of the view shed, and whatever passed through it.

“I wasn’t really sure that it was gonna work, it was kind of a pilot project, and when I got the data back and I first downloaded a couple cameras I realized that it was a bit of a gold mine,” he said.

Tape describes a landscape changing with the weather, wind bending bushes and drifting snow, but there’s also occasional more lively punctuation, like a curious wolf peering into the lens, or a hungry bear taking center stage.

“[The bear] attacked a caribou outside of the frame; drug the caribou into the frame; and sat there and ate it,” he said. “So things like that you just wouldn’t necessarily, I wasn’t expecting to see.”

Photo courtesy Ken Tape.

What Tape was anticipating is also there.

“Over 5,000 ptarmigan and over 6,000 caribou,” he said.

Scientists typically used GPS collars and aerial surveys to track migration, but cameras offer a less invasive alternative. Tape also points to telling context provided by the photos, images that illustrate not only the volume and location of caribou and ptarmigan, but the surrounding environment.

“The study offers an opportunity to document environmental condition along alongside that migratory pulse,” Tape said.

If conducted over multiple years, Tape believes the time lapse photography technique could help sort out whether and if so, how environmental factors affect Arctic wildlife behaviors like migration, big questions as climate change alters their northern home.

Categories: Alaska News

Assembly Passes Election Law Rewrite, Weighs Ethics of Election Date Change

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-01-15 19:15

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

The Anchorage Assembly passed a rewritten version of Anchorage’s election law last night (1/14 Tues). But some other election issues went went to the Ethics Board for review.
The Anchorage Assembly worked on several election-related items at Tuesday night. They updated the city’s election law after making a handful of amendments. One amendment that drew a lot of attention limits poll watchers use of electronic devices. They are not allowed to make or receive phone calls in the polling area or to photograph or record confidential information there. Additional amendments removed references to the Accu-vote election system and replaced them with the more general term optical scan system. The Assembly also added language to insure that poll watchers could observe during setup and tear down at polling places. And they extended the time for a recount from five to nine days. Officials began reviewing the law after problems with an election in 2012.

The Assembly also referred a new version of an ordinance crafted by Assembly member Chris Birch to the Municipal Board of Ethics. The ordinance would change the election date. The substitute version includes a new section that would allow Assembly members to participate in official actions on matters in which they have a substantial financial interest. They scheduled a public hearing on both of those for February 11th.

Categories: Alaska News

EPA Releases Watershed Assessment For Bristol Bay

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-01-15 18:20

The EPA has released the final version of the document they will use to make future regulatory decisions about whether or not to allow large scale mining to go forward in the Bristol Bay Region.

Listen Now

The agency has been working on the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment for the last 3-years and Region 10 Administrator Dennis McLerren says the document is finished and won’t be update if and when the Pebble Limited Partnership or other entities file for permits to conduct mining. Under questioning during a press conference Wednesday McLerren asserted that the Assessment shows impacts to the commercial fishery in Bristol Bay is a large mine like the Pebble Mine is developed.

“We have identified many direct impact on the habitat and on the fishery that include the loss of streams and wetlands.”

The final version of the watershed assessment includes an estimate that the Pebble Mine would destroy between 24 to 94-miles of salmon-supporting streams and between 1.3-thousand to 5.3-thousand acres of wetlands, ponds, and lakes.

The process of putting together the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment got started after a 2010 request by several tribes in Bristol Bay for the EPA to step in and use authority granted the agency by the Clean Water Act to stop the issuance of dredge and fill permits that would be required to develop a large mine. Rather than start that process, called 404-C for a section of the Clean Water Act, the EPA decided to assess the potential impact of mining on the Nushagak and Kvichak River watersheds. McLerren says the Assessment does not spell out any forthcoming regulatory decisions form the EPA.

“This assessment is a scientific document that provides the basis for EPA and other decision makers to look at the science gathered and make decisions going forward.”

McLerren says that process will soon get underway. However, he couldn’t provide any information on a timeline.

Categories: Alaska News

Mixed Reaction to EPA Assessment

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-01-15 18:14

There was mixed reaction to the EPA’s release of its Bristol Bay watershed study. For the tribes, fishermen, and environmental groups who’ve lobbied the EPA to involve itself in the Pebble Mine debate, Wednesday’s announcement came as an reaffirmation of long-held beliefs:

Listen Now

Bob Waldrop: “The assessment is absolutely clear, and now is unimpeachable: mining in critical salmon habitat will severely impact salmon in Bristol Bay.”

Bob Waldrop is the executive director for the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association which represents all of the driftnet fishermen in the Bay.

The groups who’ve aligned themselves against the Pebble Mine have not always been allies, and certainly have not always seen eye-to-eye with the federal government. But the Bristol Bay tribes who requested the EPA to issue a 404c veto of the mine back in 2010 say they’ve appreciated the agency’s partnership:

Alannah Hurley: “We are so happy with the job the EPA has done in Bristol Bay of making sure that tribal governments and their memberships have been involved.”

That’s Alannah Hurley of the United Tribes of Bristol Bay, which represents 12 watershed tribes. Aside from taking in more than a million public comment letters, Hurley says it was the agency’s time on the ground that has so far proved the Obama administration’s commitment to trust responsibilities with tribal governments:

Alannah Hurley: “They had public hearings in nearly every community in Bristol Bay, numerous tribal consultations to ensure that traditional ecological knowledge and the impacts to our Alaska Native people in the Bristol Bay region were included in the assessment.”

To the disappointment of many, the EPA stopped short of issuing any regulatory decisions with the release of the watershed assessment Wednesday. Hurley says the tribes are in constant contact with the Obama administration, making clear that the original request was to put a preemptive veto on the Pebble Mine:

Alannah Hurley: “This is President Obama’s opportunity to leave quite a legacy. The people of Bristol Bay, the tribes of Bristol Bay, are tired of this cloud of Pebble hanging over us, suffocating our region. The time to act is now.”

Sport and commercial fishermen are part of the chorus asking that the EPA not just study the watershed, but use its authority to protect it from mining. The well-managed Bristol Bay salmon fishery produces more than half of the world’s wild caught sockeye and is worth an estimated half a billion dollars annually.

Katherine Carscallen skippers a drift boat out of Dillingham:

Katherine Carscallen: “It’s been a really long time that we’ve had this threat of large scale mining right at the top of our watershed, and it’s hard to see the future of our economy which entirely depends on a sustainable and pristine environment. I think we’ve all been pretty anxious to see this report come out, and see some actual action.”

The $2.4 million assessment is now over 1300 pages in length, and it’s safe to say that most commenting Wednesday hadn’t had time to read far past the 40 page executive summary.

Still, environmental groups from the Natural Resources Defense Council to the World Wildlife Fund are praising the EPA’s work as scientifically sound. Tim Bristol is the Alaska program manager for Trout Unlimited, which has helped lead the fight against Pebble:

Tim Bristol: “I think they’ve done a tremendous job. Two rounds of analysis, two rounds of peer review, and incorporating all the information they possibly could from every source.”

Others disagree, including Pebble Limited Partnership CEO John Shively. After a very cursory review of the assessment Wednesday, Shively said he wasn’t convinced anything had improved from the draft version:

John Shively: “And we have the same kind of criticisms. We don’t think it’s science-based. For instance, we have a lot of science, and they used none of it.”

Shively was referencing the $150 million dollars’ worth of environmental studies done by Pebble over nearly a decade, which has produced some 30,000 pages of data.

John Shively: “We have brought in some of the top experts in the world to help us, some of the top fishing experts, some of the top mining and engineering experts. All of that’s going into our work, and we’re still not done with it, after basically over a decade. EPA certainly didn’t take anywhere near that time, and didn’t spent nowhere near that money. They basically rushed through this, and I think they had a predetermined outcome.”

Shively says the hypothetical mining scenarios used by the EPA are not based on the 21st century technology being implemented in Pebble’s design. He also says the EPA process itself has been flawed, rushed, and often done in secret.

At the heart of the EPA’s watershed assessment is the conclusion that a mine like Pebble would present significant risks to Bristol Bay salmon and the people who depend on the resource.

John Shively:  “The EPA’s analysis of how much damage we would do I believe is way overstated, and I think they did that on purpose. But I will tell you this:  if they’re correct, this mine will never be permitted.  I mean we have to show that we can protect that fishery. If our mine plan comes along, and the permitting agencies think we cannot protect the fisheries, cannot co-exist with the fisheries, we will not get the many permits that we need.”

Others weighed in Wednesday as well. Senator Mark Begich ambiguously stated that he would rely on science before taking a position, while both Senator Lisa Murkowski and Governor Sean Parnell were critical of the EPA’s assessment, suggesting it was setting up the agency to issue a premature veto of the Pebble Mine.

Categories: Alaska News

Begich Introduces Izembek Road Bill

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-01-15 18:04

U.S. Senator Mark Begich today introduced a bill to allow a road from King Cove to Cold Bay, just weeks after Interior Secretary Sally Jewell rejected the idea because it would run through a wildlife refuge. Begich says he picked one of the options scrutinized in a recent environmental assessment.

“We picked the one that we believe is the most reasonable. And it’s access limits any, mitigates signicant concerns that people had.”

Alaska’s delegation to Congress has been sponsoring similar legislation for decades, saying King Cove residents need a road for emergency evacuations.

Listen Now

Categories: Alaska News

Superior Court Confirms Anchorage Mayor’s Veto Power

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-01-15 18:03

Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan

The Superior court of Alaska has ruled that Mayor Dan Sullivan’s Veto of the Anchorage Assembly’s ordinance putting a referendum repealing a controversial labor law, also known as The Responsible Labor Act or AO-37 on the April ballot shall stand.
Municipal Attorney Dennis Wheeler argued the case in Superior Court. He says he is not surprised by the decision.

“Prior Supreme Court case said that the Mayor’s veto power is sweeping and that unless there’s an express exception written into the charter, the Mayor can veto ordinances and we made that argument to this court and this court relying on that prior decision said that yes, the Mayor’s veto is sweeping and there’s no exception for moving a referendum.”

Assembly and Municipal attorneys disagreed whether the veto was legal and the issue was sent to court in December. In another case, The Supreme Court of Alaska ruled last week that the referendum to repeal the labor law can go forward. The Mayor contends that voter turnout will be larger at the later date and that will prevent special interest groups from influencing election results. The referendum could be scheduled for a special or regular election.

Categories: Alaska News

State Releases Terms Of Pipeline Deal

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-01-15 18:03

Last week, Gov. Sean Parnell announced he was cutting a deal to make the state a partner in a large-diameter gasline. Now, the terms of the agreement with the North Slope producers and TransCanada have been released. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez reports.

Listen Now

The document that was signed yesterday is the contract-version of a promise ring. It’s like getting engaged to be engaged, except with maybe a pipeline at the end of it instead of a wedding.

Basically, the State of Alaska, Alaska Gasline Development Corporation, Exxon, BP, Conoco, and TransCanada have all agreed to work together on a natural gas megaproject so long as 20-odd pages of conditions are met. It would give Alaska up to a 25-percent stake.

“You arrive at that number by taking our royalty interest, which between Prudhoe Bay and Point Thomson, is somewhere north of 13 percent. You add to that a production tax number, and that production tax number is something that we need the Legislature to fix in statute,” says Natural Resources Commissioner Joe Balash. “That number, we hope, is going to fall somewhere between 7 and 13 percent.”

The Big Three would split the rest of the pie amongst themselves. Meanwhile, TransCanada would get a chunk of the state share. That’s because according to this agreement, TransCanada would fund the development work on a pipeline. The agreement signed yesterday also lays out terms for TransCanada to eventually exit the project.

“They will get a share of the equity for the initial contract term, but at the end of that 25 years, we can buy them out at their net book value,” says Balash.

The company had originally been brought in as a partner during the Palin administration under the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act (AGIA). That law envisioned a pipeline that would stretch from the North Slope through Canada and down to the Lower 48, but hit roadblocks when a boom in shale oil made the project uneconomic.

The memorandum of understanding between TransCanada and Alaska also addresses the reimbursements to the company that the state committed to paying. AGIA contained a provision where the state would cover up to $500 million in TransCanada expenditures to develop a pipeline, and about $300 million of those funds have already been spent. Balash says the state would be released from the rest of that obligation if the Legislature approves the terms of yesterday’s agreement.

In addition to laying out how much the Alaska could get from the project, the larger agreement between all of the parties also address just how the state should be compensated. The State of Alaska has the option of getting paid in money or simply getting a portion of the natural gas itself. A study commissioned by the Department of Natural Resources addressed some problems with the state taking the gas in kind — namely, that the state would have a hard time getting a good price for the gas because of its inexperience selling the product on the global market. With the agreement, the state could implement a ninja-like accounting move where they take the gas in kind, but have the Big Three operate as brokers.

“They’ve agreed to market our LNG, so that we get the same price that they get,” says Balash. “So as long as they’re prepared to solve our problem, and it certainly appears that they are, then we’re prepared to take in-kind.”

Balash adds that the producers now plan to court buyers for North Slope gas with the new agreement in place.

“The fact they’re going to get started on the marketing is a really big deal here,” says Balash.

For the parties to all follow through on the agreement, state lawmakers need to pass legislation this session that would allow the executive branch to negotiate confidentially with the other parties while working out contracts related to the project and let the state enter gas shipping agreements. They’ll also have to enact a statute that would give the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation authority to be involved in the project. While AGDC became an independent public corporation this year to pursue a smaller gasline, last week they created a subsidiary to participate in this bigger project as well.

The Legislature will also have to take on the issue of gas taxes to meet the terms of the agreement. Right now, natural gas is taxed the same way oil is, despite the differences in the way they’re priced and marketed. Revenue Commissioner Angela Rodell says a simpler gross tax of up to 13 percent would make more sense if the state is an equity partner. She thinks it will be a less contentious discussion than the bruising battle over oil taxes that occurred over the past few years.

“The conversation about the state being an equity partner already leads us to a much more positive discussion about what the possibilities are for the state’s take,” says Rodell.

State lawmakers will be asked to consider equity terms during the 2015 legislative session. If the terms of yesterday’s agreement are then met, they will then be in a position to ratify a final contract between the involved parties.

Legislators from both chambers and both sides of the aisles largely welcomed news of the announcement. Members of the House and Senate Majority issued glowing statements about the agreement. The Democratic minority was slightly more subdued, commenting that they view an equity arrangement favorably but want to there to be safeguards for the state in whatever deal is made.

Larry Persily, who is the federal coordinator for an Alaska gasline, also says it’s a step in the right direction, even if it’s not quite yet time to break out the champagne bottles.

“There’s a lot of information in here, and there’s a lot that Alaskans still want to know. Alaskans want to know, ‘When are you going to build it, and when am I going to start seeing steel pipe come over the dock?’” says Persily. “We’re not there yet, but that’s a piece that’s got to be there before you get to that decision.”

While that construction would be a ways off even if everything does go as planned, field work on the project is expected to take place this summer if the Legislature takes the actions required by the agreement.


Categories: Alaska News

State Selects North Slope Gas Partner

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-01-15 17:47

The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority has selected a business partner for development of a natural gas processing plant on the North Slope. At a meeting yesterday (Tuesday) the AIDEA board chose a group lead by MWH Americas to construct the plant that will liquefy gas for trucking to Fairbanks. KUAC’s Dan Bross reports.

Listen Now

Categories: Alaska News

“Irregularities” Found in State Crime Lab Drug Samples

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-01-15 17:46

It looks as if somebody tampered with drug samples at the state crime laboratory in Anchorage. The state Troopers put out a short press release today saying that new equipment has shown small amounts of foreign materials in the so-called “reference” samples used to compare with and estimate evidence in drug cases.

Listen Now

The release goes on to say that this discovery does not compromise the validity of past drug tests, or the lab’s ability to continue testing drugs. It says a criminal investigation has begun. It refers all questions to the state’s head prosecutor, John Skidmore, who would not give many more details
about the probe:

“I’m going to decline to predict how long it will take. But I can tell you that it is a top priority both of the Alaska State Troopers Bureau of Investigations as well as the Department of Law’s Office of Special Prosecutions, so there are very experienced and dedicated people who are going to be working very this intensively until we have the answers.”

The drugs involved were codeine, opium, morphine, amphetamine, oxycodone and hydrocodone. Skidmore said the size of a reference sample can vary, as can the length of time a laboratory uses it:

“How long any given standard has been in the lab or timing of when any foreign matter made its way into those standards are all subject to the investigation and so I wouldn’t comment any further than that.”

It’s not clear when the adulteration of the drug samples was detected. Skidmore says the lab began using improved drug analysis equipment when it moved into its new facility last year:

“And they, with the new instruments, detected some other readings that previously nobody had seen, and those other readings caused them to examine their known substances further and find some irregularities with them.”

The press release goes on to say that investigators will be notifying attorneys who may have had cases involving the lab’s drug testing standards.

Categories: Alaska News

$500 Tickets to be Issued for Spice, Bath Salts

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-01-15 17:45

Anchorage has a new law that fines people in possession of the designer drug spice. It’s the city’s second try at cracking down on the drug…after failed attempts with a narrow law that focused on contents that manufacturers change quickly. The Anchorage Assembly acted quickly Tuesday after hearing public testimony on the damage that spice has been doing.

 Listen Now

Municipal Prosecutor Cynthia Franklin shows the difference between real incense and the drug Spice disguised as incense.


The drugs, marketed as synthetic marijuana, with names like brainfreeze and trainwreck are sometimes disguised as potpourri, bath salts or incense but are sold by the ounce. Law enforcement experts say Spice makes people act more like their on PCP or Meth, than smoking pot. They develop superhuman strength, euphoria and violent mood swings. Officials have been looking for a way to stop Spice since it showed up in the city a few years back. But manufactures, mostly in Asia don’t list ingredients on packaging and lab tests can’t keep up with drug manufactures changing recipes, so it’s been hard to address through the legal system.
About half a dozen citizens spoke out in support of the new Spice ordinance.
Shawn Williams who owns a business blocks from a downtown smoke shop said one day he looked out his window and saw a man passed out on the sidewalk.

“We called 9-1-1. AFD and APD shows up. After about 15 minutes the guy comes around and immediately reaches in his pocket – the officer was trying to figure out what was going on – and he pulls out this little glass case and the guy says, ‘it’s Spice. I just bought it a few minutes ago.’”

Sometimes designer drugs like Spice are disguised as Potpourri.

Williams says incidents with Spice are all-too-common in the downtown business district where he works. David Rittenberg, a program manager at the Brother Francis Shelter says over the past year he and his staff have seen a sharp increase in drug related offences at the shelter because of homeless people who are using Spice.

“It’s a very, very dangerous drug mainly because how inconsistent it can be with the affects that it has on people. We have witnessed people using this drug exhibit uncontrollable rage, belligerence, rapid and extreme mood swings, uncontrollable outbursts all the way to seizures, unconsciousness.”

Tom McGrath who worked on the Spenard Action Committee to drive massage parlors out of the neighborhood says now the Spice shops are bringing in more problems.

“Now the same type of people are coming back with these spice shops, the same type of element that we drove out in the 80s and 90s. The Spenard Action Committee, we’ll reconstitute if we have to cause we’re not going to accept this type of thing in our community.”

After hearing the testimony on Spice, the Assembly voted in a new law. It’s allows police officers to issue something akin to a traffic ticket, but for drugs. If Anchorage police officers find a person or business in possession of Spice they can now write a ticket per vial, tube or packet. Municipal Prosecutor Cynthia Franklin says the new law identifies the substances without actually naming their chemical compounds or makeup.

Packets of the drug spice found in smoke shops are packaged like candy with names like Brainfreeze.

“They identify it by it’s packaging, by it’s price point, by it’s claims. By the fact that it says on its package that it’s not a controlled substance even though it says it’s potpourri. That makes no sense. Potpourri is not a controlled substance so why would it say on it’s package that it’s not a controlled substance. What this ordinance says is that if it says it’s not a controlled substance then it’s an illicit synthetic drug and it’s illegal.”

The new law is based on one that was passed in Maine and will make laboratory tests less necessary. Anchorage Police Chief Mark Mew is pleased with the new law and says says it’s a step in the right direction.

“It’s a low level crime, it’s handled low, it’s handled in an inexpensive way for the public. And while it’s not the total solution, it is a simple solution that we can put to use right a way while the more complex law starts developing.”

The tickets are $500 per item. Officers could begin issuing them as early as this week.

Categories: Alaska News

New Study Shows Alaska Natives Are More Vulnerable To Flu

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-01-15 17:44

Indigenous populations in Alaska and Australia are more vulnerable to flu. That’s according to a study published last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. As KUAC’s Emily Schwing reports, scientists are using their finding to help native populations fight flu in the future.

Listen Now

Categories: Alaska News

Cook Inlet Fishermen Want Federal Fisheries Oversight

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-01-15 16:34

The 300 driftnetters that belong to United Cook Inlet Drift Associaion,  or UCIDA , say the state’s current Cook Inlet salmon management plan violates the Magnuson Stevens Act, and they are suing.

Listen Now

 The suit was filed by UCIDA   just a year ago in federal district court in Washington DC. It challenges the validity of Amendment 12 of the Fisheries Management Plan [FMP] for salmon fisheries in the federal Exclusive Economic Zone [EEZ] off the coast of Alaska. Amendment 12 essentially eliminates the EEZ waters in three areas of Alaska: in Prince William Sound, Cook Inlet and the western end of the Alaska Peninsula.

Dr. Roland Maw heads Soldotna – based UCIDA

“Half the area where we fish is in the federal EEZ. These are in federal waters and they are federally owned fish at that point. And, as such, we felt that the federal government has a piece of legislation called Magnuson Stevens Act that has certain requirements concerning the biology and management of those stocks. “

 The state of Alaska has  intervened in the suit, on the side of the defendants, because Amendment 12 removes federal oversight from the three areas and allows the state to manage salmon in those areas as it has since statehood. Cora Campbell is commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and testified Tuesday at a finance subcommittee hearing on the issue in Anchorage.

“If you talk to federal managers, they will tell you why they are so ill -suited to manage salmon fisheries. Salmon fisheries management requires responsive in-season management. We respond to what we’re seeing on the ground on at least a daily, if not hourly, basis. If you talk to a federal lmanager, they will tell you, ‘well we can’t close fisheries on weekends, because we have to publish a notice in the Federal Register, it takes several days.’ Most people that I know that rely on fisheries don’t want to be managed on the rigid, inflexible schedule. “


Campbell has a voting seat on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. She says Amendment 12 was crafted in 2011, specifically to keep state management of salmon in the three areas.

The UCIDA suit defies the very intention of statehood, according to Chugiak Representative Bill Stoltze, who chaired Tuesday’s hearing

“They [UCIDA] wanted the obscurity of a DC courtroom, and now, they’ve lost that. Now it’s in an Alaskan venue, with the state agressively asserting the rights of state management.”

 But Maw points out that Southeast Alaska has a federal FMP  for salmon, something that applies to fish stocks that require conservation. And UCIDA is not asking for anything different.

“Both of these governments need to be at the table deciding what will be the management strategy. We’ve got, I think, five or six chinook stocks in Cook Inlet that are in trouble. We have stocks, that are now, if people would make the application, could qualify for Endangered Species.”

 Maw says that UCIDA only wants the state and federal government to manage the stocks as they move into Alaska waters, because what goes on in the EEZ affects what goes on in state waters.

The plaintiffs had filed for summary judgement in August of 2013, and the state filed it’s cross motion in October of last year.  UCIDA must reply by Wednesday.  An assistant attorney general for the state says the arguments could be heard in a month, and a decision could come by early summer.

Categories: Alaska News

Anchorage Assembly Passes Spice Ticketing Law

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-01-15 07:44

Prosecutor Cynthia Franklin holds an empty container labeled potpourri which once held the drug Spice. The new law allows police officers to issue $500 tickets based on the packaging, price point and claims of the drug rather than it’s chemical composition.

Anchorage has a new law that fines people in possession of the designer drug spice. It’s the city’s second try at cracking down on the drug…after failed attempts with a narrow law that focused on contents that manufacturers change quickly. The Anchorage Assembly acted quickly after hearing public testimony on the damage that spice has been doing.

It’s just like a traffic ticket, but for drugs. Anchorage police officers can now write anyone a ticket per vial, tube or pack in possession of a spice or bath salt product. Municipal Prosecutor Cynthia Franklin says the new law identifies the substances without actually naming their chemical compounds or makeup.

“They identify it by it’s packaging, by it’s price point, by it’s claims. By the fact that it says on its package that it’s not a controlled substance even though it says it’s potpourri. That makes no sense. Potpourri is not a controlled substance so why would it say on it’s package that it’s not a controlled substance. What this ordinance says is that if it says it’s not a controlled substance then it’s an illicit synthetic drug and it’s illegal.”

Prosecutor Cynthia Franklin holds a packet of Spice labeled Brainfreeze. The new law passed by the Anchorage Assembly Tuesday allows police to issue tickets based on the name and claims on the packaging and on it’s cost.

Franklin, who helped pass the first spice ordinance in 2010, says manufacturers of drug change its composition quickly. The new law is based on one that was passed in Maine and will make laboratory tests less necessary. Anchorage Police Chief Mark Mew says the new law gives police a way to immediately to get the drug off the streets, through ticketing.

“You pay a fine. That fine, if you don’t pay it will go to your permanent fund. It’s quick. Because it’s quick, because it’s not criminal you don’t get a free attorney from the government, you don’t get a right to jury trial. It’s a low level crime, it’s handled low, it’s handled in an inexpensive way for the public. And while it’s not the total solution, it is a simple solution that we can put to use right a way while the more complex law starts developing.”

The tickets are $500 per item. Officers could begin issuing them as early as this week.

Categories: Alaska News

Former DNR Commissioner Dan Sullivan Raises $1.2 Million For Senate Race

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-01-14 18:24

The U.S. Senate campaign of Dan Sullivan announced today how much money he collected in his first three months of fund-raising – $1.2 million.

Download Audio

It’s a fast start for the former Natural Resources Commissioner, who is in a three-way race for the Republican primary.

None of the other candidates has released a fourth quarter total yet, but judging by previous reports, Sullivan is likely to have raised a lot more than his Republican rivals, Mead Treadwell and Joe Miller. Even incumbent Sen. Mark Begich hasn’t raised $1.2 million in a single quarter so far, although he raised more than twice that in the first nine months of last year. Sullivan campaign spokesman Mike Anderson says it’ll take serious money to go against Begich.

“We are honored and thankful for the support that we’ve received from Alaskans and people across the country,” Anderson said.

The campaign isn’t saying how much of that money is from Alaskans. Sullivan has held multiple Lower 48 fundraisers. His spokesman says the details will be in the report they file with the Federal Election Commission, and that isn’t due until the end of the month.

Anchorage Political consultant Art Hackney, who is raising money for a pro-Sullivan PAC, says posting an impressive number puts Sullivan on the map.

“I think the biggest thing people have been saying is they’re not quite sure who he is,” Hackney said. “This will get him exactly what he needs, is people saying now I’m going to pay attention, I’d like to know more about him.”

A survey by Ivan Moore published last month shows Treadwell leading with 34 percent of the vote in a three-way Republican primary, but Sullivan was close behind, nearly within the margin of error. The survey showed Joe Miller winning in much of the Railbelt, including Fairbanks, Mat-Su and the Kenai Peninsula, and Treadwell ahead in Anchorage and Southeast.

Categories: Alaska News

Shishmaref Delegation Meets With Climate Change Task Force

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-01-14 18:23

A delegation from Shishmaref is visiting Congress to explain how their world is changing. Shishmaref Native Corporation President Tony Weyiouanna told lawmakers at a climate task force meeting the village used to have so much beach they played baseball on it. Now, with the water level rising and the island eroding, they don’t have enough shore to dig clams. They’re finding tumors and hair loss on the marine mammals. The ice isn’t thick enough for safe travel.

Download Audio

Categories: Alaska News

Juneau Businesses Take The Bitcoin Lead

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-01-14 18:22

Bitcoin is a digital currency not backed by any country’s government. The currency only exists on the Internet and has been growing in popularity over the past year and a half.

Now, a few businesses in the capital city are starting to deal in bit coin and accept it for payment.

Download Audio

In the Alaska Robotics shop in downtown Juneau, shelves are lined with comic books and graphic novels, local art hangs from the walls, and kids talk about Minecraft.

“Do you have any comic books about Minecraft?” a young customer asks shop owner Pat Race.

“Oh, that’s a good question. I don’t think we do… ” Race replies checking his inventory, but he sees that such a comic book does exist and says he’ll order it.

“It’s kind of sciencey,” the customer explains. “You put sand in a furnace and make glass”

Besides Minecraft, another hot topic at the shop is bitcoin. Owner Pat Race got his first bitcoin last spring. “I sent a MoneyGram off to some Eastern European country and then my bitcoin appeared in some account.”

Race bought $150 worth, which, at the time, equaled one bitcoin. Since then, the value of bitcoin has fluctuated. “Back at the beginning of 2013, the price was about $18-$19 for a bitcoin and it peaked at about $1,242 in mid-Nov. and then immediately crashed down to almost $500 in Dec. and is back up to about $800-$850,” Race explains.

Race wants to incorporate bitcoin into his business.

“I would like to adopt bitcoin here at the store just because I think it will emerge as a global currency. And I don’t know if specifically it will be bitcoin but I think some kind of cryptocurrency is in our future,” he says.

Alaska Robotics recently advertised its first item selling for bitcoin – a limited edition print of Miley Cyrus riding a bitcoin with drones flying overhead. It costs .04 bitcoin. That’s the equivalent of roughly $30, and Race is only accepting bitcoin.

He’s not the only business owner in Juneau embracing cryptocurrency. In the window of Gold & Silver Exchange at Nugget Mall, a sign reads, “bitcoin – BUY/SELL”

“It’s only been there three weeks but it’s gotten a lot of attention, ” says owner Dylan Hammons. He’s only sold bitcoin to one person, but he’s not worried. He considers his shop the hub of the bitcoin community. “There’s a lot of talk about bitcoin. I’ve been talking about bitcoin pretty much nonstop for the last month and a half since it shot through the roof, so I’m chatting everybody up about it. There’s a lot of people that are showing interest. People are aware of it now.”

Hammons says some people who got into bitcoin a couple years ago are now bitcoin millionaires.

“From what I hear, there’s actually a bitcoin millionaire walking around town here, so that’s pretty big news,” Hammons says.

When asked if he was the bitcoin millionaire, Hammons replies, ”No, it’s not me. I wish it was.”

Hammons hopes to capitalize on educating others about bitcoin, specifically other Juneau businesses. “The more people get bitcoin into their head, the more they’re going to want to spend it. So, as time goes on, more people are going to be coming into their shops and asking, ‘Hey, do you guys take bitcoin?’ And then the businesses are going to be like, ‘Oh hey, wait a minute, we better figure this thing out.’ So then they’re going to be calling people and that’s where I come in and I go and show them how to do it.”

Northern Economics Senior Economist Jonathan King is surprised with the bitcoin activity in Juneau businesses. “Wow,” he says, “they’re starting to accept bitcoin, huh?”

He doesn’t know of other Alaska businesses doing it, but thinks those that are may be ahead of the curve.

“It’s really interesting and definitely puts those businesses out on the leading edge of a new frontier,” King says.

With that, he says, comes inherent risk, “If you end up in a volatile currency that changes value rapidly, you could end up a big winner or you could end up a big loser.”

The idea of alternatives to traditional currency has been around for a while, but King says bitcoin is something different:

“You can get online, you can do business with somebody in India, you can do business with somebody in China, or you can do it locally if you can find somebody who’s willing to take them, and I think that’s what makes it different. It’s probably one of the first internationally exchangeable alternative currencies.”

King anticipates regulatory hurdles when it comes to taxes. “The U.S. Treasury is probably going to be want an accounting of the exchanges that occurred with bitcoin and they’re probably going to want to get paid in dollars.”

Alaska Robotics owner Pat Race isn’t too worried about that yet. He admits the concept of accepting bitcoin is a bit gimmicky at this point, “but it’s also a technology that I want to support. I think that tourists that come in and say, ‘Oh wow, I found this shop in Alaska that took bitcoin’ – I think it will be a very limited – but those people will be excited to see it.”

This summer, Race plans to accept bitcoin for everything in the store, which means soon you can go into Alaska Robotics and buy a Minecraft comic book with a simple  scan of your smart phone.

Categories: Alaska News

Fairbanks Militia Leader Holding Anti-Gun-Control Rally

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-01-14 18:21

A local militia leader is organizing an anti-gun-control rally that’ll be held next month in downtown Fairbanks. The rally is one of five to be held around the state on Feb. 23 to show support for the Second Amendment and other right-wing political causes.

Download Audio

Categories: Alaska News

KBBI is Powered by Active Listeners like You

As we celebrate 35 years of broadcasting, we look ahead to technology improvements and the changing landscape of public radio.

Support the voices, music, information, and ideas that add so much to your life. Renew here or visit KBBI by April 21 to enter to win one round-trip airfare with Era between Homer and Anchorage. Thank you for supporting your local public radio station.

BBC World Service
Next Up: @ 05:00 am
Democracy Now


Drupal theme by ver.1.4