Alaska News

Earthquake swarm hits Yakutat

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-08-14 16:11

About 30 earthquakes have hit the Yakutat area this week.

The Gulf of Alaska city, about 250 miles northwest of Juneau, is in a fault zone and quakes aren’t unusual.

Two glaciers flow into Yakutat Bay. Glacial calving causes regular, but small, earthquakes. The Hubbard Glacier, right, sometimes surges, blocking off an arm of the bay. (Photo courtesy Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve)

But this swarm is caused by calving glaciers in a nearby bay, not movement of the Earth’s crust.

Alaska Earthquake Information Center Seismologist Natalia Ruppert says it happens all the time. But she says at least one of this week’s quakes were stronger than usual.

“Maybe the size of this particular ice chunk was very large and as it fell into the water it created lots of energy,” Ruppert said.

She says there’s no connection to the Yakutat Fault, and a block of the Earth’s crust that’s slowly moving under that part of Alaska.

Most glaciers are retreating and thinning as climate change increases melting.

Seismologist Ruppert says that could eventually lead to more quakes from moving blocks of crust.

“If the glaciers keep melting and if they keep losing the mass, the pressure on the surface of the Earth becomes less,” Ruppert said. “And so, on a very long time scale, the lessening of this pressure might actually influence the tectonic forces and the pressure on the faults in that area.”

Since Monday morning, 28 glacial quakes have hit the Yakutat Bay area. Another 11 hit Cape Yakataga, about 100 miles to the northwest. That’s as of midday Thursday.

Categories: Alaska News

LGBT discrimination claims still not valid in Alaska despite federal ruling

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-08-14 15:54

The U.S. Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission ruled in late July that sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace is illegal because it is a form of sex discrimination, which is already prohibited.

Some of the most common types of discrimination LGBT people face are in the workplace and in housing. Despite this, Alaska’s statewide and Anchorage anti-discrimination commissions don’t offer protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people. The commissions are not legally required to do so, and some activists see that as an injustice.

“Just imagine if you couldn’t call the fire department because you were LGBT. I mean, that’s an analogy to make. If you are LGBT you should be able to call any state agency and get the same service,” says attorney Caitlin Shortell. She represented the same-sex couples that sued the state for the right to marry. “I mean this is an injustice that needs to be corrected.”

The Rainbow Flag is a symbol of LGBT pride. (Creative Commons photo by torbakhopper)

In December, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Department of Justice would treat gender identity as protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In early February, the U.S. EEOC Director of Field Programs sent a memo saying that complaints of discrimination based on gender identity should also be accepted under the Civil Rights Act. Federal and state employees already have these workplace protections.

And late last month, the federal commission ruled in a 4-2 vote that sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace was illegal, too.

But the Alaska State Commission for Human Rights and the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission refer LGBT discrimination complainants to a toll free number for the federal EEOC.

When I called the toll-free number, I was directed through nearly three minutes of call options. To speak with a federal EEOC employee, on one particular day the wait was approximately 60 minutes.

Both the state and Anchorage commissions have work-sharing agreements with the EEOC and receive a portion of their budget from the federal agency. However, the funding does not require commissions to enforce civil rights laws as the EEOC interprets them.

“There’s a basis and a duty to already be taking these complaints and the commission should be doing that, without even amending our state and municipal human rights law,” Shortell said.

In initial interview requests for this story, the commission’s directors — Paula Haley for the state and Pamela Basler for Anchorage — both refused to be recorded and would not answer questions directly. Neither director responded to subsequent interview requests.

Gov. Bill Walker says he “[doesn’t] like any form of discrimination, at all.”

But disliking discrimination doesn’t mean he’s willing to change up the state commission members and director, who serve at his pleasure.

“At this point we don’t intend to address this issue. That shouldn’t be a surprise,” Walker said.

Walker says his administration will not introduce legislation on this issue or any other social issue. He says he’s not reviewed the priorities of the state’s human rights commissioners or the commission’s executive director.

“I don’t want to be judgmental about what the Human Rights Commission is or isn’t doing, but I will say that we are working on that issue ourselves,” Walker said. “It’s come up in the past, the issue of them having some venue to report, record circumstances where they feel they have been discriminated against.”

In an earlier written statement the governor said he’d leave it to the commission to decide whether to accept LGBT discrimination complaints, or complaints from any other class.

In other words, the state commission is actively choosing to not provide coverage.

Only two of the seven board members on the state Human Rights Commission could be contacted. Although neither would agree to be recorded, one stated that discussion surrounding LGBT discrimination protections has only come up a few times in the past few years.

The federal EEOC canceled an interview and declined to reschedule. In a written statement, an agency spokeswoman says neither the state or Anchorage commissions are required to accept claims that they don’t have jurisdiction over. And jurisdiction is based on their own assessment of the law, independent of the EEOC’s positions.

In an interview with KYUK’s Elllie Coggins in May, state commission director Paula Haley didn’t include LGBT people in her organization’s duties.

“So we have a very broad area of coverage and we protect people from discrimination based on race, sex, disability, age, marital status, so there’s a lot of coverage. Pretty much everyone in Alaska is protected by our laws,” Haley said.

Later in the interview, Haley said most of the complaints the agency receives deal with employment discrimination—a type of discrimination transgender people are most at risk for, according to a 2012 Anchorage survey on LGBT issues.

In a previous story for KTOO, Paula Haley said she’s only seen a handful of cases over the years.

“Very few people contact us because they’re concerned about discrimination based on lesbian, gay, transgender, queer issues, because they know we don’t cover those. So they don’t reach out to us because we don’t have the ability to help them.”

In the Human Rights Campaign’s 100-point 2014 Municipal Equality Index,Anchorage scored the highest at 35, Juneau at 33 and Fairbanks the lowest at 24.

Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz says he, “everyone who lives in Anchorage has equal protection under the law.”

But later in the interview, Berkowitz said he was unsure of how the Anchorage commission currently handles these complaints and didn’t mention any specific plans to address the issue.

Categories: Alaska News

Doyon Announces New Oil & Gas Prospect Near Nenana

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-08-14 15:49

Doyon corporate logo.
CREDIT: DOYON

Doyon plans to drill another oil and gas exploration well in the Nenana area.  It will be the third the company has sunk into the oil and gas-rich basin. The Interior Regional Native Corporation is looking for a commercially developable deposit to supply local and broader energy demand.

 

Doyon CEO Aaron Schutt announced the new exploration well project at a press conference at the corporation’s Fairbanks headquarters.

“Last winter we ran an extensive 3D seismic program just west of the community of Nenana — about 50 square miles — to process the data. (We) got recommendations on next steps, and we’re very excited to announce the well.”

Schutt says the drilling, planned for next summer on land leased from the state about 7 miles west of Nenena, is between the 2 earlier Doyon explorations wells. The new well is being named after the Nenena Village Corporation: Toghotthele which draws its moniker from a local hill, something Doyon Board Chairman Orie Williams believes may benefit the project.

“Chief Peter John used to say that mountains are just something floating in the distance. And back in the old time days when they traveled the rivers they could see that Toghotthele hill floating out in the distance — a good place to camp. That was a major landmark, so there will be some spirituality to this well and some good luck coming with it.”

Doyon and other companies have explored the Nenana Basin for decades, but have yet to find a commercially viable oil and gas deposit.  Schutt says geology at the latest drill site looks promising.

“Looking at the structure in this location, we’re very, very optimistic. And you can see that we and our experts in particular put a one in two chance of a produceable gas field in this next well.”

Schutt says natural gas from the project could serve the local area and other parts of the state, noting Nenana’s location along the Tanana River, on which gas could be barged to villages.  Schutt won’t put a price tag on the project, but says state of Alaska oil and gas exploration tax credits are instrumental in pursuing it.

“Wild cat exploration is not for the faint of heart, and the state’s program is certainly a big part of Doyon’s efforts in the Nenana-Minto basin.”

Citing the state’s budget deficit, earlier this summer, Governor Walker cut $200 million in oil industry tax credits from the state budget, leaving another $500 million in tact.  State Representative Steve Thompson says the cut hurts smaller energy company projects.

Representative Thompson of Fairbanks says the credits are paid out on a first come first serve basis.

Categories: Alaska News

Governor Nominates Elizabeth Peratrovich As The Face of the $10 Bill

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-08-14 15:33

Elizabeth Peratrovich was a Tlingit civil rights activist. Photo courtesy Governor Walker’s office.

The Walker-Mallott administration has nominated a Tlingit civil-rights leader to be on the new $10 bill.

The governor and lieutenant governor say Elizabeth Peratrovich fits the bill well. The U.S. Treasury is collecting nominations of women who were champions for democracy to put on the redesigned note.

Peratrovich and her husband Roy were leaders in the campaign for equal rights for Alaska Natives.

She’s most famous for her 1945 speech to the Territorial Senate during debate on a bill to prohibit racial discrimination in the state.

Speaking as an Alaska Native Sisterhood representative, Peratrovich addressed those referring to Natives as “savages.”

She said, quote, “I would not have expected that I, who am barely out of savagery, would have to remind gentlemen with 5,000 years of recorded civilization behind them of our Bill of Rights.” The Alaska Civil Rights Act passed.

Walker, in his nomination, wrote that Peratrovich helped make Alaska, quote, “the nation’s first organized government to end legal discrimination.”

Categories: Alaska News

Overhauling Alaska’s Aviation Maps

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-08-14 12:00

Flying blind. No Alaska pilot wants to, but sometimes it happens. And sometimes it’s not on an established flight corridor. A new terrain mapping effort for aviators is underway.

HOST: Steve Heimel

GUEST:

  • Kevin Gallagher, USGS Core Science Systems
  • Nick Mastrodicasa, Alaska-DOT, project lead
  • Chris Noyles, BLM, Civil Applications Committee, Alaska liaison

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LIVE Broadcast: Tuesday, August 18, 2015 at 10:00 a.m. on APRN stations statewide.

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Categories: Alaska News

Warm water, low rivers killing fish in Anchorage, Mat-Su

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-08-14 09:36

Uncharacteristically warm water temperatures and low river levels are killing salmon and Arctic char in Anchorage and the Matanuska and Susitna valleys.

The Alaska Dispatch News reports that Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists have recorded water temperatures as high as 74 degrees in Jim Creek, which is a tributary of the Knik River. Dead salmon have been found near the river’s weir.

In Anchorage, officials say last week about 500 recently-stocked Arctic char died at Little Campbell Lake when water temperatures went above 70 degrees.

Biologists say the combination of high temperatures and low water levels have created almost perfect conditions for fish die-offs, though they doubt the dies offs will have lasting effects on fish numbers in the area.

Categories: Alaska News

14-year-old taken to Fairbanks hospital after shooting

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-08-14 09:29

A 14-year-old boy is being treated for non-life threatening injuries at a Fairbanks hospital after he was accidentally shot.

KTVA-TV reports that Alaska State Troopers were notified of a gunshot wound victim Thursday.

Officials say their initial investigation shows the teen was shot when he grabbed a pistol by the barrel while his 17-year-old brother was manipulating the gun.

No foul play was suspected. Officials did not say if any charges would be filed.

Categories: Alaska News

Climate change, not Arctic drilling, drives Obama trip to Alaska

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-08-14 09:28

Whitehouse.gov video screenshot

President Barack Obama is coming to Alaska later this month.

The White House released a video Thursday morning to explain why he will be the first sitting president to visit Alaska’s Arctic.

The folksy video (it starts with the President of the United States saying, “Hi, everyone”) features dripping glaciers, raging wildfires and Alaska Natives hanging salmon to dry.

“As Alaskan permafrost melts, some homes are even sinking into the ground,” Obama says in the video. “The state’s God-given natural treasures are all at risk.”

In the video, the president says he’s coming to Alaska because it’s on the front lines of climate change, with lives and communities already being disrupted.

“What’s happening in Alaska isn’t just a preview of what will happen to the rest of us if we don’t take action. It’s our wake-up call,” Obama says. “The alarm bells are ringing. And as long as I’m president, America will lead the world to meet this threat — before it’s too late.”

In Anchorage, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski said she hopes President Obama will keep his eyes open during his visit rather than come to Alaska with a predetermined agenda.

“I think we’re all looking forward to welcoming the President of the United States to Alaska, his first official trip to see our state,” Murkowski said. “It is somewhat disappointing, though, that he apparently intends to use this as nothing more than a backdrop for climate change.”

Murkowski’s fellow Republican, Rep. Don Young, used less diplomatic language in his press release.

“It is my hope that the president will use his visit as an opportunity to learn about the many challenges we face and not as a platform to pander to extreme interest groups using Alaska as a poster child for their reckless agenda,” Young’s statement said.

Young’s statement described that agenda as locking up critical resources like oil, gas and minerals.

The White House video does not mention the administration’s Alaska- and climate-related policy that has been making national headlines this summer: its approval of exploratory drilling in the Arctic Ocean.

With the Obama administration’s blessing, Shell Oil began drilling last month in the Chukchi Sea. The company is hoping the Interior Department will approve deeper drilling into oil-bearing rocks any day now.

Environmental groups say the administration’s green-lighting of Arctic drilling just doesn’t square with Obama’s stated aim of leading the world in fighting climate change.

“It’s a pretty evident contradiction,” Margaret Williams with the World Wildlife Fund in Anchorage said. “It is absolutely clear that greenhouse gases are driving change in the Arctic, and to solve the climate problem, we have to be stemming the source of greenhouse gases.”

Greenhouse gas emissions come primarily from burning fuels like coal, oil and natural gas.

International climate negotiators will meet in Paris in December. They’ll try to agree on how fast to reduce those emissions. Their aim: keeping the earth’s climate from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius.

A study this year by British energy researchers in the journal Nature found that climate change can only be kept under 2 degrees Celsius by leaving Arctic oil in the ground.

Sarah Erkmann with the Alaska Oil and Gas Association said the group has no reaction to Obama’s trip yet, with the details of his agenda still being worked out.

“We’ll have a reaction if he has any announcements that would impact the industry in Alaska specifically,” she said.

Erkmann said AOGA has no position on climate change, though individual oil companies that make up its membership do.

Last week, Shell announced it was ending its membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council. A Shell spokesman said the energy giant would be leaving the anti-regulatory group because ALEC’s opposition to action on climate change was inconsistent with Shell’s approach to the issue.

Categories: Alaska News

Video: Great Pyrenees prove their mettle against a Dillingham brown bear

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-08-14 08:27

Tens of thousands watch video of Ivy and Hazel stand ground as brown bear comes roaming onto Aspen Drive this week. 

The Fox family on Aspen Drive in Dillingham had an unwelcome visitor one evening this week. Annie Fox filmed as their 2-year-old Great Pyrenees held their ground. Since Annie’s mom Starla posted the video to the facebook page of the Kansas breeder they bought the dogs from, it’s been viewed by tens of thousands of people, many of them great pyrenees owners.

Ivy and Hazel as puppies. Photo shared via KDLG.org.

Categories: Alaska News

Emergency Call from Wrecked Pilot Believed to Be From Sat Phone

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-08-14 08:15

Seth Fairbanks. (Facebook photo)

Alaska State Troopers say they believe pilot Seth Fairbanks made an emergency call with a Satellite phone when his Supercub crashed into Cook Inlet around midnight August 6. They also say their investigation reveals he called the non-emergency number for the Alaska State Trooper Post in Bethel, not 9-1-1.

As of July 1st, after-hour phone calls in the Bethel region are automatically routed to the Alaska State Trooper dispatch center in Fairbanks. Fairbanks dispatch center received the call and it lasted approximately 69 seconds before the call dropped off, say troopers.

No other calls were made from the satellite phone, according to Troopers. There was no caller identification or number for a call back.

A minute after the initial call, the Fairbanks trooper dispatch contacted a Wasilla Police Department dispatch center. They called troopers and tried to confirm some information. Seven minutes after the call, at two minutes past midnight, they called the Rescue Coordination Center (RCC) who rerouted C-17 aircraft. RCC also contacted a helicopter crew to prepare for a flight, which launched at approximately 1:18 a.m.

Troopers launched an investigation into the initial call after receiving scrutiny about the timeline of the call and response.

Twenty-nine-year-old Fairbanks, and 23-year-old Anthony Hooper, both of McGrath, are still missing and presumed dead. The two men were on their way to a wedding reception in Anchorage from McGrath.

A service for Fairbanks is set for Bethel today [Friday 8/14].

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: Thursday, August 13, 2015

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2015-08-13 17:44

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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Mayor Pulls the Plug on A Slow and Spendy Software Project

Zachariah Hughes, KSKA – Anchorage

A massive software project that’s run millions of dollars and years over original expectations was halted today by Anchorage’s new mayor. The move is meant to reexamine the city’s path forward, but won’t totally shut off money for the project.

University of Alaska Defines Consent in New Student Conduct Code

Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau

The University of Alaska system has defined “consent” for the first time when it comes to sexual misconduct terminology.

Child Porn Suspect Arrested in South Carolina

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

Authorities have arrested the former computer network manager at the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation who is accused of possessing and distributing child pornography.

70 Years After WWII, Two Nations’ Militaries Jump Side By Side

Zachariah Hughes, KSKA – Anchorage

Seventy years ago this month, the U.S. dropped two atomic bombs on Japan, prompting it’s surrender and the end of World War II. Now, the two nations’ armed forces are collaborating in Alaska.

Anchorage Assembly Seeks to Add LBGT Clause To Anti-Discrimination Code

Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage

The Anchorage Assembly is trying again to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the city’s anti-discrimination ordinances.

Bethel Council Nixes City-Run Liquor Store Vote in October

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

There will not be a vote this October for Bethel to go into local option status and pursue opening a city-run liquor store. The Bethel City Council by a vote of 5 to 1 rejected sending the vote to citizens.

Permafrost Carbon Takes A Trip to Davy Jones’ Locker

Monica Gokey, KSKA – Anchorage

It’s been widely accepted in the science community that melting permafrost means more carbon in the atmosphere. But a new study has just identified a quirk in that process.

After More Than 30 Years, The Mendenhall Valley Library Moves Out Of the Mall

Elizabeth Jenkins, KTOO – Juneau

Friday was the last children’s storytime at a Juneau library branch that’s been in the Mendenhall Mall for over 30 years. The days of checking out books and grabbing a slice of pizza are over because the branch is moving to a new location at the end of the month.

 

 

Happy 40th, Kupreanof! All 24 Residents Celebrate A Remote Alaska Lifestyle

Joe Sykes, KFSK – Petersburg

Most people in Petersburg don’t give much thought to the handful of houses which sit on the other shore of the Wrangell Narrows. But to the people who live there it’s a place they are proud to call home. It’s name is Kupreanof.

Categories: Alaska News

Happy 40th, Kupreanof! All 24 Residents Celebrate A Remote Alaska Lifestyle

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2015-08-13 17:30

Most people in Petersburg don’t give much thought to the handful of houses which sit on the other shore of the Wrangell Narrows.

But to the people who live there it’s a place they are proud to call home. It’s name is Kupreanof and with just 24 residents it’s Southeast’s smallest, and Alaska’s second smallest, city. And this week it turns 40. It’s a community still proud of their little piece of Alaskan independence and unified against their older brother across the water.

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The view over to Kupreanof from Sharon Sprague’s house on Sasby Island. (Photo by Joe Sykes/KFSK)

When Sharon Sprague and her husband Dick moved to Sasby Island, in the middle of the Wrangell Narrows in 1975, they had to build a life from scratch.

“We started with nothing. There was no electricity, there was no water here. Nothing,” Sprague said.

Since then they’ve created what some might call a homestead. They have their own hydroelectric power system, chickens run around in the garden, and plump fruit hangs off trees ripe for picking.

They came here to get away and live out on their own. And together with a group of other isolation inclined individuals they helped found the city of Kupreanof, the smallest city in Southeast Alaska.

It sits on the shore of Kupreanof island just next to the Sprague’s house and on the opposite side of the narrows from Petersburg.

Sharon Sprague picks vegetables in her garden on Sasby Island. (Photo by Joe Sykes/KFSK)

It began when residents who lived on the island decided they were sick of Petersburg and so organized themselves into an independent city. And the Spragues went with them.

And Sharon Sprague says Petersburg and Kupreanof are separate for a good reason.

“The two communities are so opposite,” she told me.

That opposition still simmers and boiled over in 2013 when Kupreanof fought the establishment of the Borough of Petersburg. They lost that battle meaning they had to pay more money into Petersburg’s coffers but retained their status as a city.

At a recent council meeting, jokes at Petersburg’s expense flew over breakfast of watermelon slices, sausages and eggs.

Kupreanof Mayor, Tom Reinarts, heads up a meeting of the Kupreanof City Council. (Photo by Joe Sykes/KFSK)

“Has the assembly over there every provided you with breakfast?” Kupreanof Mayor Tom Reinarts quipped as he offered me my share of their Saturday morning spread. In a city so small the mayor is not just the mayor.

“I’m also the police chief and the fire chief,” he said.

Everyone has to play a hand in Kupreanof.

Butch Anderson’s been living here for about eight years. He turned up to the council meeting one day just to see what was going on.

“There was an extra seat open. So they voted. I got one vote,” he said. “I got in by a landslide, one vote was all it took.”

He likes it here because he can kind of do what he wants.

“I’m a hermit. I live alone and enjoy life. I don’t like heat. In my house, it will get down to 25 inside. Then I’ll go light the fire,” he said.

They’re idiosyncratic. They keep to themselves and because of that sometimes it’s hard to remember just how many people actually live here.

“Our official population is 24, I think,” Tom Reinarts said.

“I thought it was 25. I read 25,” Butch Anderson jumped in.

“Maybe 25, I concede,” Reinarts replied.

Either way, their six-member council makes up about a quarter of their population. And while they say they’ve not always seen eye to eye, they do have a common bête noire: The Borough of Petersburg.

“We’re like Petersburg’s red-headed step-child. They’re like ‘we want you guys to follow our rules. So we can tell you how to live your life over here, ” Anderson said.

So now it’s their 40th anniversary and they’re determined to show Petersburg they’re here, they’ve been here for a long time and they are here to stay.

“I think we need to make a big splash for our friends across the bay in Petersburg East,” Reinarts announced at the meeting.

He says he calls them Petersburg East because people in Petersburg often refer to Kupreanof by its original name, Petersburg West.

They’re proud to be Kupreanof and they know with so few people it will always be a struggle to survive. But Sharon Sprague, standing on her dock looking out over both communities has the answer.

“If you’ve got a group of people and they have one goal and they all feel the same and they’re a unit, they have strength,” she said.

I ask her what she thinks that goal should be:

“To keep it as it is,” she says. “This is a jewel.”

And it’s a jewel that will always be a bugbear to Petersburg.

“They hate us, they hate us. We’re a thorn in their side. They just wish we’d go away. But we’re not going to,” Sprague tells me with a glimmer in her eye.

They’re not going anywhere and if it was up to Sharon Sprague they’d be a thorn in Petersburg’s side for another 40 years to come.

Categories: Alaska News

After More Than 30 Years, The Mendenhall Valley Library Moves Out Of the Mall

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2015-08-13 17:30

Friday was the last children’s storytime at a Juneau library branch that’s been in the Mendenhall Mall for over 30 years. The days of checking out books and grabbing a slice of pizza are over because the branch is moving to a new location at the end of the month.

About 15 kids are sitting crisscross applesauce listening to Amelia Jenkins read a picture book. She works at the Mendenhall Valley Library.

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Amelia Jenkins reads a book for the last storytime at the Mendenhall Mall library location. (Photo by Elizabeth Jenkins/KTOO)

Her audience is sometimes captive, sometimes not. But she knows how to handle the crowd by breaking into song and dance.

“There’s some weeks when everybody wants to sit on a lap and listen quietly and these other weeks like today when everyone wants to do the hokey pokey straight for half an hour,” Jenkins says.

Kids can check out the books at the end of storytime, which is exactly what library staff want. Left behind materials have to be transported to the new location so patrons are encouraged to check out up to 40 books.

You can check out all the Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, Hunger Games and Fifty Shades books and you’d only be halfway.

M.J. Grande, the youth services librarian, has worked for the library for 15 years and is excited about the new 20,000-square-foot space at Dimond Park.

It cost $14 million to build, paid for by a grant from the state and city sales tax. Another million was contributed by the Friends of the Juneau Public Libraries.

Of all the perks, there’s one Grande says she’s looking forward to the most.

“Space. We are almost doubling our footage here so the kids programing is a really dominant part of the library,” Grande says.”We have these wonderful reading cubicles that are extra padded and cozy.”

There’s also wheelchair accessible reading nooks and a room that has its own teen advisory committee to decide function and decor. But probably the biggest difference is it won’t be sandwiched between a restaurant and a tanning salon.

Grande says not too long ago, it wasn’t uncommon to see a library in a mall.

“You know, kind of in the 70s when malls were really getting established as a one-stop shop, you can do your shopping, you can do your library, you can do your other business. That role in the evolution of malls has changed.”

For Letha Bethel, the old location has been convenient. She’s a stay-at-home mom with two kids and another one she watches during the day.

The new library at Dimond Park is expected to open in November. (Photo courtesy of Friends of the Juneau Public Libraries)

She says the kids love dancing and singing at the reading circle, the toys in the children’s section and of course the books.

They walk to the Mendenhall Mall on sunny days and Bethel says she’s sad the library will be closed for a few months as it moves to its new location.

“It’ll be nice though that it’ll be bigger hopefully and more space to run around. They’re excited to see it and it’s right by the pool,” Bethel says.

But will she check out 40 books?

“For their sake, probably not. Because I don’t know if they’d last at our house.”

Bethel says she might consider checking out one or two before the Mendenhall Valley Library closes on Aug. 31, opening back up at Dimond Park sometime in November.

Categories: Alaska News

New proposed Anchorage anti-discrimination ordinance to protect LGBT community

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2015-08-13 17:05

The Anchorage Assembly is trying again to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the city’s anti-discrimination ordinances. Assembly member Bill Evans filed the amendments Thursday. The ordinances prohibit discrimination by the municipality, employers, businesses, and renters.

The new amendments include exemptions for religious organizations and say that no person should be forced to participate in an event that conflicts with sincerely held religious beliefs.

Another provision says that people will be required to use restrooms and locker rooms appropriate to their gender presentation regardless of their assigned sex at birth.

In a press release, Evans wrote ““The ability of every person in society to be judged based upon their skill, accomplishments, and talents, and not because of some immutable characteristics, is a result we should encourage.”

The Assembly will take public comments on the ordinances on September 15. Previous attempts to pass a similar ordinance were vetoed by former mayor Dan Sullivan and rejected by voters.

Categories: Alaska News

Permafrost Carbon Takes A Trip to Davy Jones’ Locker

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2015-08-13 16:40

Mackenzie River delta. Photo: NASA Visible Earth; Credit: Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA/GSFC Satellite: Terra Sensor: MODIS Image Date: 08-29-2001

It’s been widely accepted in the science community that melting permafrost means more carbon in the atmosphere. But a new study has identified a quirk in that process.

Permafrost is a layer of subsurface soil that stays frozen year-round. And it’s generally understood that melting permafrost in the north means more methane and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere — bad for global warming.

But a new study published in Nature suggests that some of the carbon stored in permafrost meets its bitter end like Bootstrap Bill Turner in “Pirates of the Caribbean” — Davy Jones’ Locker.

In other words, it gets buried at the bottom of the ocean.

Dr. Valier Galy of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is one of the study’s authors.

“The burial of permafrost carbon in marine sediments offshore of the river is something that matters in terms of fluxes when it’s taken for several thousands of years,” he says.

Down in Davy Jones’ Locker, that carbon is sequestered; It becomes a carbon sink as opposed to a carbon source. And it’s in a format that won’t contribute to climate change or ocean acidification.

“That’s correct… as long as permafrost carbon reaches marine sediments and is being buried in marine sediments. It is then stable for really long periods of times,” Dr. Galy says. “We can be talking hundreds of thousands of years. Millions of years.”

High-latitude rivers are the engines at work here. Dr. Galy and his colleagues did their study on the Mackenzie River in Canada:

“So what we did is, we took samples from different places of the river system… and we took samples offshore — sediment core — and then we looked at the organic carbon concentrations, but also its composition using geochemical tools. And what this shows is that a lot of these carbons are pretty old and come from the permafrost.”

Finding those permafrost carbons offshore was somewhat of a surprise.

It was previously understood that these carbons made their way back into the atmosphere when permafrost melted — and that’s still the fate of the majority of the carbon stored in permafrost. Year to year, what’s buried at sea is fairly insignificant, but it adds up over thousands of years.

The Mackenzie is a massive river (the second largest on North America behind the Mississippi) — and the study estimates it buries more than 2 million metric tons of permafrost carbon per year. The power of the Mackenzie is what makes the river so good at burying permafrost carbon.

“The Mackenzie has very high physical erosion rates, and that’s what makes it very efficient at burying permafrost carbon at sea.”

Dr. Galy says some version of this carbon burial process likely happens in most watersheds at high-latitudes. More so with big rivers, including Alaska’s Yukon:

“In the Yukon the physical erosion rates are also very high. And so it’s pretty likely that we’ll find the same things that we’ve been finding in the Mackenzie system.”

Even though some permafrost carbon is being cycled to the bottom of the ocean, it’s a process that takes thousands of years — much slower than the rate at which greenhouse gases are being emitted.

Categories: Alaska News

70 Years After WWII, Two Nations’ Militaries Jump Side By Side

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2015-08-13 16:21

Seventy years ago this month, the U.S. dropped two atomic bombs on Japan, prompting it’s surrender and the end of World War II. Now, the two nations’ armed forces are collaborating in Alaska.

As part of the Alaskan Command’s Red Flag exercises this summer, two dozen Japanese paratroopers are training with Army soldiers based at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. After 10 days of exercises, the group flew north in cargo planes before jumping into the Donnelly Training Area near Fort Greely.

It’s not the first time the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force have partnered with Alaskan troops. Lieutenant Colonel Alan Brown says in the past, soldiers have gone through cold weather training at the Army’s Black Rapids site.

“The airborne capability is something that Japan has been developing in recent years. Our first experience with it recently is jumping with them over in Japan as part of an exercise this February.”

Brown says the goal is building a firmer partnership with one of the U.S.’s most important Pacific allies.

“The deeper the foundation, the more readily we’ll be able to integrate with them in an emergency situation–a contingency like a human disaster, where we need to assist in concert with that country for Recovery operations, or Search and Rescue, those types of things.”

The U.S. is increasingly shifting it’s military focus to the Pacific.

According to the Army, Tuesday’s jump was a success, with no reports of injuries.

Categories: Alaska News

Troopers Look For A Bear Impersonator Caught Approaching Cubs Near Haines

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2015-08-13 16:05

Photo: USDA.

A man dressed in a bear costume was reported to state troopers this week for harassing a sow and bear cubs on the Chilkoot River.

Mark Sogge with Fish and Game in Haines says their weir technician witnessed and wrote a report about the incident.

Technician Lou Cenicola reported that around 7:30 p.m. on Monday, a man in a ‘realistic-looking’ bear costume ran through a group of people standing on the side of the road bear-watching. The man ran ‘waving and jumping’ up to the weir gate, apparently trying to get the attention of a sow with cubs. Cenicola says the man in the costume got within 5 to 10 feet of the cubs.

Cenicola reported that he ran toward the man to stop him, telling him he could be cited for wildlife harassment. The man then left without identifying himself. Cenicola did get the man’s license plate number, and he reported the incident to state troopers.

Troopers spokesperson Megan Peters says they know about the incident and are investigating. No charges have been filed.

Sogge, with Fish and Game, says getting that close to bear cubs when their mother is present could have ended tragically. He says wearing a bear costume will not deter a mother bear from attacking a person if she thinks her cubs are threatened.

Categories: Alaska News

Sled Dog Fatally Gored By Muskox Outside Nome

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2015-08-13 15:56

A grimly familiar sight to Nome dog owners returned with the fatal goring of a local musher’s dog by a bull muskox Wednesday.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game wildlife biologist Bill Dunker said Nome police called his office Wednesday afternoon to report two dogs were injured—one fatally—in the attack before the bull muskox was killed in what Dunker calls a clear case of “defense of life or property.”

“Everything appears to be a justifiable DLP,” Dunker said.

A bull musk ox. Photo: Tim Bowman, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The dogs belonged to musher Rolland Trowbridge, who ran the Kuskokwim 300 earlier this year. He also ran the Yukon Quest in February—withdrawing near the race’s midpoint. Daughter Janelle Trowbridge also ran dogs from the family kennel in her 2014 Junior Iditarod run.

Trowbridge declined to comment on the incident.

Dunker said it’s the first fatal clash between muskox, and Nome residents and their animals, so far this summer. That’s a far cry from the multiple gorings and dog fatalities seen last year, including a DLP kill of a muskox harassing a dog and a similar DLP kill in the community of Wales.

“This summer has been much better with regard to conflicts with muskox,” Dunker said. “We’re still having them on occasion, but certainly last year was kind of the ‘perfect storm’ of muskox conflicts in the Nome area. It’s certainly been the case that this year has been much less active with regard to muskox conflicts.”

But just what makes up that “perfect storm” isn’t fully understood. Dunker said “anecdotal” observations on brown bear predation may have pushed muskox into the Nome area last year. But so far this summer, that’s not the case.

“We haven’t made those same observations this year,” he said, “so we can’t say one way or the other that it was brown bear predation that was the smoking gun that ultimately drives them into the Nome area.”

Dunker said Fish and Game’s muskox mitigation is ongoing. Failed attempts last year included everything from rubber bullets to bear decoys and the spraying of bear urine. This year he said ADF&G is trying an experimental electric fence installed at the Nome airport. Biologists are still waiting to see if the fence is effective.

“But to be honest,” Dunker said, “we haven’t had a muskox bump into the fence yet. So we’re still investigating its effectiveness.”

As for the DLP kill, salvage requirements include surrendering the meat from the animal, but in this case, the meat will stay local: its been donated to the Nome Covenant Church. The animal’s hide and the skull were salvaged and turned over to the department.

Pastor Harvey Fiskeaux with the Covenant Church said the muskox in currently hanging in a church member’s shed, and a group from the church will be processing the meat tomorrow and putting it into the church’s freezer.

Fiskeaux said they’ll be serving musk ox roasts and stew at their Friday soup kitchens beginning in September.

Categories: Alaska News

Mayor Pulls The Plug on A Slow and Spendy Software Project

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2015-08-13 15:45

Photo: Zach Hughes/KSKA.

A massive software project that’s run millions of dollars and years over budget was halted today by Anchorage’s new mayor. The move is meant to reexamine the city’s path forward, but won’t totally shut off money for the project.

Implementing the SAP software across the municipality’s offices is–to put it mildly–a pretty giant mess. There are a lot of unflattering numbers associated with the program’s over-runs. When former mayor Dan Sullivan’s administration announced the project in 2011 it was forecast to cost around $11 million ($10.6 million, to be exact), and take just a year-and-a-half to come online. But Assembly Member Elvi Gray-Jackson ran through a much different timeline at a the start of a committee meeting.

“September 2014: project now two years behind schedule. Budget is $31.4 million, tripling the projected cost.”

Currently, it costs the city $50,000 a day to pay for employees, consultants, and office space–all without a clear end date. So, Mayor Ethan Berkowitz announced his administration has decided to take what he’s calling “a pause.”

“At this juncture the responsible course of action for us to follow is to take a pause, assess where we are, make a determination what options we’re going to have moving ahead.”

The length of that pause has yet to be determined. It will cost the city several hundred thousand dollars just shutting down current operations–that is, paying consultants as their jobs wind down, keeping up with rent payments, and other obligations. No city employees are losing work, they’ll all be reassigned internally.

This is the third time the SAP project has been put on hold. And Assembly member Amy Demoboski–who was critical of the last administration’s spending on the project–reminded the new administration that the longer the pause, the more costly it is to resume operations down the line. Asked whether full termination was a possibility, Berkowtiz replied:

“We’re gonna be reviewing all options.”

The administration has recruited a team of seven Alaskans mostly from the private sector to review the project.

Categories: Alaska News

Man accused of distributing child pornography arrested in South Carolina

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2015-08-13 11:48

Gene Geisler. Photo from LinkedIn.

Authorities have arrested the former computer network manager at the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation who is accused of possessing and distributing child pornography.

An Anchorage grand jury indicted Gene Geisler Wednesday and authorities said in the afternoon that the man’s whereabouts were unknown after he had fled the state.

He was arrested the Wednesday around 9:30 p.m. in Goose Creek, South Carolina and booked in the Berkeley County jail. He’s held on $200,000 bail.

Categories: Alaska News

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