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Get Alaska statewide news from the stations of the Alaska Public Radio Network (APRN). With a central news room in Anchorage and contributing reporters spread across the state, we capture news in the Voices of Alaska and share it with the world. Tune in to your local APRN station in Alaska, visit us online at APRN.ORG or subscribe to the Alaska News podcast right here. These are individual news stories, most of which appear in Alaska News Nightly (available as a separate podcast).
Updated: 1 min 1 sec ago

Begich Bill Would Shush Political Calls

Thu, 2014-11-20 14:32

After losing an election that was the most expensive — and some say annoying — in state history, outgoing Sen. Mark Begich has proposed a bill that would curtail political calls to voters’ homes.

Begich proposes to expand the “Do Not Call” registry to superPACs and political non-profits. Americans have registered more than 217 million phones on the “Do Not Call” list, but that only keeps commercial telemarketers at bay. The Begich bill would require political groups that can raise and spend unlimited amounts of cash to abide by the same rules that apply to telemarketers. It would also prohibit robocalls to any phone on the registry and ban telephone push-polling in general. It does not cover candidates or political parties.

More than $57 million was spent on Alaska’s 2014 Senate race, most of it by outside groups of the sort Begich is targeting in the bill. Although Begich lost to Republican Dan Sullivan, the outside money favored Begich. Some $22 million was spent on behalf of Begich, compared to about $18 million to help Sullivan.

Categories: Alaska News

Community gives input on Anchorage plan to end homelessness

Wed, 2014-11-19 23:58

The municipality is developing a new community plan to end homelessness in Anchorage. During a listening session held Wednesday evening, about 20 people gathered to discuss possible solutions to the decades old problem.

http://www.alaskapublic.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/19-homelessness.mp3

Darrel Hess was the former and only homeless coordinator for the Municipality of Anchorage from 2009 to 2012. He said during that time he read through 40 years of studies and plans about homelessness in the city, and end results were typically the same. They suggested that agencies try to solve it with little cost to the local government. Hess, speaking as a citizen, said that needs to change.

“I’m hoping with the next plan there is a robust commitment from local government. Without that commitment, the plan will once again not be nearly as successful as it could be.”

Hess suggested that the municipality could do things like speed up the permitting process or adjust some zoning rules to enable affordable housing developments.

Brian Shelton-Kelley from Anchorage Neighborworks agreed with these suggestions. He said developers need incentives to build property for low income households. But Shelton-Kelley said the problem is two-fold. It costs at least $500 just to maintain, insure and keep the lights on for a rental unit — that’s too much for people on very small, fixed incomes to pay. And even if properties could be subsidized and built, community members have to be open to projects in their areas.

“While there’s general overall support for affordable housing, when we go to communities or neighborhoods to suggest a project or suggest that a project will be located on a particular site, no one wants it in their backyard.”

Ron Alleva owns property by the Brother Francis Shelter and Beans Cafe. He said those services and others hurt businesses, enable substance abuse, and cause more harm than good.

“It’s a disaster economically. It’s a disaster health-wise. You wouldn’t know the things I put up with — unsanitary conditions.”

Carmen Springer is the Executive Director of the Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness and she chaired the listening session. She said the new 5-year community plan will incorporate the input of everyone who is impacted by homelessness. For her, that’s everyone in Anchorage.

“We all interact with the homeless community everyday, whether its because we know someone who may be part of the community or whether we’re trying to decide how it fits with the larger framework of the Anchorage community.”

Springer says the plan aims to solve the problem even when agencies are receiving less and less funding.

“So if we can come together as a community and look at the services that are needed and how we can provide them in a more strategic way, so that it’s more economically feasible and it’s reaching all of the people with the appropriate services at the appropriate time, then it’s going to be better for everybody.”

Some participants suggested consolidating services across agencies to make them more efficient.

The plan committee will hold a large summit in the early spring to discuss their ideas and present the data they gathered, including results from a recently completed community-wide survey. The new plan will come into effect this summer.

Categories: Alaska News

Anchorage Will Talk With Uber on Ride-Share Regulations

Wed, 2014-11-19 17:50

More than a hundred people attended Tuesday’s Assembly meeting. Photo: KSKA.

The ride-share service Uber won an important battle in last-night’s Anchorage Assembly meeting, and will be allowed to keep operating in the city as they work out a short-term memorandum of understanding with the municipality.

Uber is a smart-phone app that lets users arrange for a private driver to chauffeur them around for a set price. Sounds like a cab, right? Well, that’s where it gets complicated.

The Assembly voted 8 to 3 to begin developing an MOU with the company. That will set up the terms the company is allowed to operate on in the municipality. In the mean-time, they can keep doing what they are already doing, which is providing the service while not charging passengers a fee. They still pay a small fleet of drivers, but as long as they do not charge riders then they are not violating any of the city’s laws, or the cease-and-desist letters issued by the municipality since they first started operating in September.

During two hours of public testimony at last night’s meeting, the majority of those who spoke were drivers and company owners who say Uber is expanding their business but not playing by the same strict rules that regulate cabs under Title 11 of the Municipal Code.

Sussie Smith runs a taxi business and says Uber has found a way around the insurance requirements and equipment standards she and her drivers are required to follow.

“These drivers are operating in a commercial manner, operating daily around our city, and risking the public safety for our citizens,” Smith said after the Assembly meeting.

On the other side of the issue are advocates like Sam Moore, who says the city should not, and cannot stop innovative business models from appearing, especially when the current model is far from perfect.

“I can’t see well-enough to drive, I take taxis, buses, and now Uber,” Moore explained. “It’s a transportation option that should be available to all users in the market place.”

Assembly member Amy Demboski challenged many of the public comments made, saying this ordinance does not settle anything, it sets up a mechanism for figuring out how the municipality will regulate Uber, if it allows it at all.

“This is not throwing out the rules of Title 11, no matter how you cut it,” said Demboski, who voted in favor of the measure. “This is saying that Uber’s going to have to play by the rules. This is just an opportunity to start the discussion.”

There’s no set time table for when the city attorney will have a memorandum of understanding ready for the Assembly.

Categories: Alaska News

Charlo Greene Facing Subpoena Over Campaign Finance Questions

Wed, 2014-11-19 17:14

Information regarding an IndieGoGo funding bid, along with other web-based promotion are at the heart of the challenge to the state’s subpoena.

The Alaska Public Office’s Commission held a hearing involving Charlene Egbe, better known as Charlo Greene. The case has less to do with Egbe’s very public support of legalizing access to marijuana than it does with campaign finance rules, and the specifics of how the state enforces transparency in elections.

The commission heard testimony that will help them decide to pursue a subpoena for information on whether Egbe violated state rules by using money collected by her business, Alaska Cannabis Club, to support Proposition 2 in this year’s election. Paul Dauphinais, APOC’s executive director, said  the case may hinge on whether Egbe acted as an individual, or on behalf of a business group.

“There’s differences in the definition, there’s nuances of when one thing happens and one thing doesn’t,” Dauphinais explained after the hearing. “For us, ‘group’ is kind of an all-encompassing term. An individual, under the definition, is a ‘natural human being’–a person can be a corporate entity.”

Those definitions are drawn from the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision.

Egbe was present but did not speak during the hearing. However, she was represented in testimony by Don Hart, who described himself as a friend of Egbe’s, and told commissioners she never spent any of the Cannabis Club’s money on Prop 2. Rather she pursued broader campaigns for legal access to marijuana and voter enrollment.

“Everything she did in support of Prop 2 herself was individual support,” Hart explained. “But her whole purpose of providing any kind of support at all was providing support for people to get them to register to vote.”

The total amount of money in question is $11,000. Hart and another person testifying on Egbe’s behalf, Ronda Marcy, say she is being disproportionately scrutinized. But Dauphinais with APOC says deciding whether or not to enforce the subpoena has more to do with transparency for the public in election spending.

The commission will release its decision on whether or not to proceed within the next ten days.

Categories: Alaska News

Senate Committee Holds Hearing On High Violence Levels In American Indian, Alaska Native Communities

Wed, 2014-11-19 17:07

The trauma American Indian and Alaska Native children experience due to the high levels of violence in their communities was the subject of a hearing today in the U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee. Both Alaska senators pressed for solutions, in law and federal dollars.

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Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: November 19, 2014

Wed, 2014-11-19 17:06

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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Senate Committee Holds Hearing On High Violence Levels In American Indian, Alaska Native Communities

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington DC

The trauma American Indian and Alaska Native children experience due to the high levels of violence in their communities was the subject of a hearing today in the U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee. Both Alaska senators pressed for solutions, in law and federal dollars.

Platinum Creek Mine Operator Indicted For Alleged Illegal Mine Waste Water Discharges

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

XS Platinum and five of its employees and corporate officers have been indicted by a federal grand jury for alleged illegal discharges of mine waste water at the Platinum Creek mine in Southwest Alaska and for making false statements to authorities.

Charlo Greene Facing Subpoena Over Campaign Finance Questions

Zachariah Hughes, KSKA – Anchorage

The Alaska Public Office’s Commission – or APOC – held a hearing involving Charlene Egbe, better known as Charlo Greene.

What’s Next For Sen. Mark Begich?

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington DC

Sen. Mark Begich finally conceded that he lost the election this week, but for now, until Jan. 3, he’s still a U.S. senator, and he’s back in Washington.

Japan Eyes Port MacKenzie LNG Facility

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

A Japanese company, Resources Energy Incorporated, has plans to beat other, larger companies to the punch when it comes to shipping LNG from Alaska to Japan. The company is courting Mat Su’s Port MacKenzie as a site for its gas plant project.

Tongass Advisory Committee meets in Sitka

Rachel Waldholz, KCAW – Sitka

Representatives from across Southeast and the country will meet are meeting in Sitka this week to hash out timber issues on the Tongass.

Weatherization Program Brings Energy Savings and Safety

Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage

The state’s weatherization program began in 1978, during the energy crisis, and continues to help families deal with ever-rising energy costs. Weatherizing means making heating systems more efficient and plugging up the holes in a home to keep the heat inside. But, it’s not just about economics, it’s about safety.

Warm Weather Allowing Expanded Use Of Salt On Fairbanks Roads

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

Warmer than normal temperatures this fall are allowing expanded use salt to combat icy roads in Fairbanks. Salt is more effective in some conditions and less expensive.

Alaska Ocean Observing System Celebrates 10th Anniversary

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

The Alaska Ocean Observing System is celebrating its 10th anniversary of aggregating information about ocean conditions and sharing that data with a wide range of partner organizations and other ocean users. Molly McCammon is the executive director of AOOS. A former director of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill trustee council, she was asked to head up a new ocean observing organization in 2003. McCammon says Congress wanted a better system to integrate ocean research and in 2004, AOOS was launched. She says traditional research looks at what needs to be learned, but AOOS starts with who the users are and what they need to know to make decisions.

Categories: Alaska News

Platinum Creek Mine Operator Indicted For Alleged Illegal Mine Waste Water Discharges

Wed, 2014-11-19 17:06

XS Platinum and five of its employees and corporate officers have been indicted by a federal grand jury for alleged illegal discharges of mine waste water at the Platinum Creek mine in Southwest Alaska and for making false statements to authorities.

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Categories: Alaska News

What’s Next For Sen. Mark Begich?

Wed, 2014-11-19 17:04

Sen. Mark Begich finally conceded that he lost the election this week, but for now, until Jan. 3, he’s still a U.S. senator, and he’s back in Washington.

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“Very proud of the folks that worked on my campaign,” Begich said. “Unbelievable honor to serve Alaska and be able to do the work that I’ve done the last six years. But we are here today, and business has to go on.”

Begich’s Alaska priorities for the lame duck include passing the Coast Guard bill, which calls for expanded activities in the Arctic and a land trade at Port Clarence aimed at building a deep-water Arctic port.

National Journal and other publications have speculated he’s plotting to run against Alaska Congressman Don Young in the future, or maybe against Sen. Lisa Murkowski. Begich isn’t saying.

“We’ll let them speculate and for now I’m just going to re-evaluate and see what I want to do but also I know I’m going to continue to contribute back to the community of Alaska in many ways that I’ve done, in and out of politics,” he said. “I’m going to continue that.”

Begich says he’s not ruling out a return to the Capitol some day.

Categories: Alaska News

Tongass Advisory Committee meets in Sitka

Wed, 2014-11-19 17:02

Representatives from across Southeast and the country will meet are meeting in Sitka this week to hash out timber issues on the Tongass.

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It’s the fourth meeting of the Tongass Advisory Committee, which is working with the U.S. Forest Service as it tries to switch its focus from old-growth logging to harvesting smaller, younger trees.

Remains of a Tongass clear-cut and logging road north of Ketchikan. New growth in parts of the forest could be cut to jump-start a modern timber industry, a report says. (Photo by Ed Schoenfeld/CoastAlaska)

In 2010, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced the “transition” on the Tongass, to phase out old-growth timber sales in the nation’s largest national forest. The goal is to build a timber industry focused on second-growth trees, and provide an economic boost for the region.

But that transition has not moved as a fast as some hoped.

The advisory committee was created this year to help move the process forward. That is no easy task, said Andrew Thoms, a committee member and the executive director of the Sitka Conservation Society.

“The major sticking points are that the Forest Service, and I think most people in Southeast Alaska, want to see some sort of a timber industry that uses the timber resources that we have in the Tongass,” Thoms said. “But figuring out how to do that in a way that creates a sustainable long-term yield, and is economical, without causing environmental damage, is really a difficult mixture to figure out.”

There are 15 committee members, including representatives from the timber industry, commercial fishing, tribal groups, and local governments, as well as conservationists like Thoms.

They are being asked to reconcile the needs of those warring factions into a set of recommendations for the Tongass Land Management Plan. That’s the document that governs who can do what, and where, on the Tongass.

Regional Forester Beth Pendleton says those recommendations are due soon.

“They are working under a pretty tight time frame,” Pendleton said. “With the expectation of providing those recommendations to the Forest Service, [in] late winter, early spring.”

Committee members will hear from Tongass Supervisor Forrest Cole. They will also present their work to Department of Agriculture Undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment Robert Bonnie.

The committee will meet at Sitka’s Sheet’ka Kwaan Naa Kahidi on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, Nov. 19-21, starting at 8 a.m. The meetings are open to the public, and there is a public comment period on Friday, at 8:15 a.m.

The three previous meetings were held in Juneau, Ketchikan and on Prince of Wales Island.

Categories: Alaska News

Warm Weather Allowing Expanded Use Of Salt On Fairbanks Roads

Wed, 2014-11-19 17:00

Warmer than normal temperatures this fall are allowing expanded use salt to combat icy roads in Fairbanks. Salt is more effective in some conditions and less expensive.

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Categories: Alaska News

Weatherization program brings energy savings and safety

Wed, 2014-11-19 12:45
http://www.alaskapublic.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/19-weatherization.mp3

Fifty nine-year-old Benita Lozano wants to keep her 37-year-old mobile home warm, so last summer she applied for Anchorage’s Weatherization program through RurAL CAP. The state’s weatherization program began in 1978, during the energy crisis, and continues to help families deal with ever-rising energy costs. RurAL CAP replaced her aging furnace and sealed the areas around her windows, doors, and other places that could leak. And though Lozano was happy, she wanted to make sure the house was air-tight. She taped extra strips of foam to the bottom of her doors to seal the tiniest gap.

Benita Lozano shows off her new heater. Hillman/KSKA

“You have a gap in here,” she said pointing to the sliver of space at the bottom of her door.  ”Did you see this? This is just like the car wiper,” she said pointing to the two inch wide foam strip. “It’s gonna be warm. Because when you close it, it’s gonna close.”

Lozano’s trailer was one of the 375 low-income homes RurAL CAP weatherized in Anchorage this year. That includes houses, trailers, and even apartments. The program focus on seniors, disabled people, and families. Program manager John Simpson said they spend on average $6,000 – $8,000 per unit to make improvements. The average project reduces energy usage by 20 to 30 percent. One of the most common upgrades is air sealing.

“If you have a loose window, door, attic hatch, etc, you have your good warm air escaping out and heating up Alaska for us. That’s a bad thing.”

But 10 to 15 percent of the cost goes towards state-mandated safety improvements, like installing smoke alarms and ventilation systems.

“Some folks don’t realize it but water, moisture from your breath, from your cooking, from your aquariums from your plants, can cause negative effects on your home if you don’t properly ventilate,” Simpson explained.

He added that sealing up ducts can also prevent contaminated air from being pulled into the house.

One of those systems was installed in Lozano’s trailer. She enthusiastically pointed to a label in the bathroom which read “Whole Building Ventilation Control.”

“This is first time that I have in my house.”

A few moments later a fan controlled by a sensor automatically turned on, pulling moisture and contaminants out of the air.

“I really like it,” she said.

Lozano has lived in her three-bedroom home since 2009. She says it used to be filled with dust and cobwebs.

“You see if you move this…” and she banged a roll of toilet paper down on the counter. “You should have dust burst out. But no, you have no dust. That’s why I really believe this is work[ing].”

As her new furnace flipped on, Lozano said she loves the program. “It’s not leaking. Can you see here? It’s warm. And also there are no cobwebs.”

Warm air gushes up from the vents, and Lozano settles into her chair at her kitchen table.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Alaska News

Japan Eyes Port MacKenzie LNG Facility

Wed, 2014-11-19 11:51

Natural gas -hungry Japan is eyeing the short distance between Alaska and Japan as one reason to build an LNG processing plant here. Resources Energy Alaska CEO Mary Anne Pease says the plan for a mid size plant is small, compared with other projects. If constructed, the plant could produce one million tons of LNG a year for shipment overseas. So far, Nikiski’s LNG plant is the only one in Alaska.

“A one million ton facility is about the same size as the Conoco Phillips plant, and you expand, evenutally, when North Slope gas becomes available.”

Pease, who just returned from an LNG conference in Japan, says that country’s need for cheap energy after the Fukushima disaster creates an opportunity for Alaska producers.

“Timing is so very critical. There are so many projects world wide that are on the horizon, that making sure that that relationship and focus on Alaska is there early on, is critical.”

She says the independent oil and gas producers in Alaska can benefit from the project. Resources Energy won’t wait for North Slope gas. Pease says, the company is eyeing Cook Inlet for supply, although no contracts are in place yet with those producers.

“The one million ton facility requires about one hundred and sixty million cubic feet a day of gas, and that would come from the Cook Inlet. We’ve done a reservoir analysis, and a very robust model that shows that after all the instate demand has been met, there’s still surplus gas of about one hundred and sixty million cubic feet a day for the next twenty to thirty years for export.”

Resources Energy is working with the Houston TX firm, KBR on a technical and feasibility study for the project. Pease says that the cost of the entire project could be between one and two Billion dollars.

Port MacKenzie would be used as a staging area to bring in materials, although Resources Energy would have to build it’s own dock, since federal law does not allow LNG to be shipped from the existing dock.

The proposed plant would be constructed on a mix of private and lease property. Matanuska Susitna borough manager John Moosey says negotiations are underway.

“We think Port MacKenzie would be a perfect spot for them. We’re early into discussions. We have been providing information to them so they can do their due diligence and make the correct decision. We have been working for well over a dozen years for these types of opportunities, and the REI project fits right into our wheel house.”

 

The LNG plan has to be approved by the federal Department of Energy and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission before it can move ahead. Although that process is lengthy, Pease says she’s confident that the plant can be operable by 2020.

Funding would be handled by Resources Energy’s parent company in Japan,

“Japanese money will definitely be the bulk of the ownership. They will have the majority share of this project. And they will utilize Japan Bank financing, and that is very low cost financing. Sure we’re going to open the doors to US investors as well, AIDEA as well. That’s what they do. They invest in export projects using Alaska natural resources.”

 

Resources Energy Alaska and AIDEA already have a cost reimbursement agreement to pay for AIDEA’s work in determining if the project is bankable.

According to Pease, the plant, if constructed, could play a huge part in ensuring Cook Inlet ‘s Renaissance continues

“Why would you continue drilling for gas in the Cook Inlet, if there is no market opportunity. The market drives it ”

Although the Resources Energy project is focused on export, Pease says the company would be quite comfortable in providing LNG “at the gate” for Alaska utilities which want it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Alaska News

Anchorage Museum Stays Up Late to Reach New Members

Tue, 2014-11-18 23:30

A couple takes in Sydney Laurence’s “Mt. McKinley” on Friday night in the Gallery of the Far North. Photo: Zachariah Hughes, KSKA.

As cultural institutions across the country struggle to stay relevant in a changing financial landscape, many are testing new ways to raise funds and expand membership.  And the Anchorage Museum is trying to recruit the next wave of museum buffs in some unconventional ways.

In a brightly lit gallery, Kim Kloecker stood in front of a giant framed painting of Denali. She wasn’t there just to enjoy the picture: she was marrying it.

“Do you Kim take this painting to love it, comfort it, honor it and keep it in health and in sickness, forsaking all others, be faithful to it, as long as you both shall exist?” asked Rayette Sterling, who presided over more than 20 such ceremonies during Friday’s second annual Lights Out!, described as a “late night creative blow-out.”

“I do,” Kloecker replied ahead of a round of applause.

Sterling, a volunteer, was beaming, hopeful that the faux marriages to sculptures and canvases could turn party-goers into card-carrying museum members.

Lights Out! opened up permanent galleries as well as visiting exhibits like the popular “Brick by Brick” on the Museum’s third floor. Photo: Zachariah Hughes, KSKA.

“The art is so important and the idea that people can actually kind of have a silly symbol of something they love, and to bring that art into their heart and into their lives is just sort of special and fun,” Sterling explained.

That was certainly true for Kloecker, the bride, who renewed her museum membership that night shortly before exchanging vows with the 13-foot wide Sydney Lawrence landscape. The piece is her favorite in the museum’s permanent collection.

“It’s not often that you see canvases of this size, and so you’re drawn into the picture, it’s like you’re part of it rather than observing art,” Kloecker said, looking over her shoulder at the splashes of purple, blue and gray. “I’m a traditionalist at heart, and in the Anchorage museum it’s doesn’t get any more traditional than Sydney Lawrence.”

Kloecker herself is closer to the museum’s traditional target for fundraising: she has a stable career, disposable income, and is enthusiastic about  familiar models of fine arts, like oil-on-canvas landscapes in a curated gallery.

By contrast, 20-something Tamra Cornfield is closer to who the Lights Out! event aims to pull in.

“There’s older people,” Cornfield said on a balcony overlooking the dance floor, “but there’s also [people] all the way down to 21, who I wouldn’t normally think would want to go to the museum on a Friday night. But everyone’s here, and there’s dancing, upstairs a band, and then this DJ’s killing it.”

The dance floor was crowded until the event ended at midnight. Photo: Zachariah Hughes, KSKA

Nearby was a photo-booth between art installations for party-goers to take pictures, and maybe post them to social media. Tickets for Lights Out! were $30 at the door, but Cornfield says the open access to galleries, music, and such an excited crowd made the price worth it.

“This is really fun, so I would pay to come back,” said Cornfield. “And I’d bring friends.

That’s exactly what Lindsay Garette wants to hear. She works on visitor engagement for the Museum, and came up with a lot of the ideas spread across all four floors of the building. Including a live, loud concert by The Sweeteners, a rock band on the fourth floor Chugach Gallery.

Rock bands, DJ’s, and novelty weddings are a far cry from the formal affairs people think of when it comes to museum fundraising parties–if they think parties at all. And that’s exactly what Garette is going for.

“I think one of the things that we’re really hoping to do is find different ways to engage people that might not necessarily think of themselves as museum people,” Garette said in her office, away from most of the night’s hubbub. “And I think we’re trying to change people’s ideas of what goes on here.”

The Sweeteners played, while on the sides of the gallery attendees competed in Wii videogame tournaments. Photo: Zachariah Hughes, KSKA.

That doesn’t mean the museum can afford, or has an interest, in moving away from the wealthy individual and corporation donations that make up the lion’s share of it’s funding base. But testing unconventional programming like nimble pop-up exhibits, and late-night parties that bring new patrons into the galleries is an effort to keep the museum relevant and truly contemporary.

Gain that support, Garette believes, and dollars will follow.

 

Categories: Alaska News

American Indian, Alaska Native Children Suffering High Rates Of PTSD

Tue, 2014-11-18 17:10

American Indian and Alaska Native children see so much violence in their homes and communities that they suffer Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder at triple the rate of the general population, akin to veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s one of the starting points of a new federal task force report on indigenous children and their exposure to violence.

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Categories: Alaska News

BOEM Drafting Environmental Impact Statement For Proposed Cook Inlet Oil, Gas Lease Sale

Tue, 2014-11-18 17:09

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is in the process of drafting an Environmental Impact Statement on a proposed Cook Inlet Oil and Gas Lease Sale. It’s could open up the federally-managed waters of Cook Inlet to oil and gas exploration. BOEM held a series of public scoping meetings on the Kenai Peninsula last week.

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Categories: Alaska News

Heavy Lift Ship Prepares To Tow Drilling Rig Endeavour To South Africa

Tue, 2014-11-18 17:08

A heavy lift ship dropped anchor in Kachemak Bay last Tuesday. The Zen Hua 15 is making preparations to tow offshore drilling rig Endeavour Spirit of Independence to South Africa.

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The rig has been parked in storage in Port Graham since last winter. Homer Harbor master Bryan Hawkins says the Zen Hua will begin loading the Endeavour could head to sea as soon as Wednesday.

“There’s a lot of components that have to be completed before they can load it. A lot of work on the ship getting the deck prepared. If everything goes as planned and the weather cooperates then they’ll bring it in,” Hawkins said.

The Endeavour was leased by Buccaneer Energy before the company filed for bankruptcy.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: November 18, 2014

Tue, 2014-11-18 17:08

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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American Indian, Alaska Native Children Suffering High Rates Of PTSD

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington DC

American Indian and Alaska Native children see so much violence in their homes and communities that they suffer Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder at triple the rate of the general population, akin to veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s one of the starting points of a new federal task force report on indigenous children and their exposure to violence.

BOEM Drafting Environmental Impact Statement For Proposed Cook Inlet Oil, Gas Lease Sale

Quinton Chandler, KBBI – Homer

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is in the process of drafting an Environmental Impact Statement on a proposed Cook Inlet Oil and Gas Lease Sale. It’s could open up the federally-managed waters of Cook Inlet to oil and gas exploration. BOEM held a series of public scoping meetings on the Kenai Peninsula last week.

Heavy Lift Ship Prepares To Tow Drilling Rig Endeavour To South Africa

Quinton Chandler, KBBI – Homer

A heavy lift ship dropped anchor in Kachemak Bay last Tuesday. The Zen Hua 15 is making preparations to tow offshore drilling rig Endeavour Spirit of Independence to South Africa.

State Releases Plan To Improve Fairbanks Air Quality

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The state has released a long in the works plan for improving Fairbanks air quality. The community regularly falls short of federal fine particulate pollution standards in the winter, but many residents rely on wood burning for heat. There’s opposition to any sort of burn ban, and that’s not part of the plan.

Employee Complaints, Tests Flag Air Quality In State-Leased Office Building

Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau

Air quality testing shows high levels of carbon dioxide and dust in Juneau’s Bill Ray Center, an office building the state is leasing for about 160 employees. For more than a month, the state has fielded complaints from employees about headaches and diesel fumes.

Mine Critics Target Investors, Government Officials

Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau

Transboundary mine opponents are trying a new tactic in their opposition to a project northwest of Ketchikan. They’re telling investors, and anyone else who will listen, that the KSM mine is a bad place to put their money.

Kuskokwim 300 to Run as 12-Dog Race

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

The Kuskowkim 300 Sled Dog race is now a 12-dog event.  The race committee decided this fall to lower the dog limit from 14 to 12.

Anchorage Museum Trying New Ways To Recruit New Museum Buffs

Zachariah Hughes, KSKA – Anchorage

As cultural institutions across the country struggle to stay relevant in a changing financial landscape, many are testing new ways to raise funds and expand membership. The Anchorage museum is trying to recruit the next wave of museum buffs in some unconventional ways.

 

Categories: Alaska News

State Releases Plan To Improve Fairbanks Air Quality

Tue, 2014-11-18 17:07

The state has released a long in the works plan for improving Fairbanks air quality. The community regularly falls short of federal fine particulate pollution standards in the winter, but many residents rely on wood burning for heat. There’s opposition to any sort of burn ban, and that’s not part of the plan.

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Categories: Alaska News

Employee Complaints, Tests Flag Air Quality In State-Leased Office Building

Tue, 2014-11-18 17:06

The Bill Ray Center houses up to 160 state employees from the Department of Fish and Game and the Department of Corrections.

Air quality test results show high levels of carbon dioxide and dust in Juneau’s Bill Ray Center, an office building the state is leasing for about 160 employees.

For more than a month, the state has fielded complaints from employees about headaches and diesel fumes.

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Julie Bednarski’s desk is at the Bill Ray Center, but she hasn’t been there for more than a week. Her supervisor gave her permission to work from home due to the air quality at the office.

Bednarski is a research biologist for the Department of Fish and Game. In mid-October, she says she started smelling diesel exhaust fumes in the office.

“One day it was pretty heavy and I was starting to feel sick,” Bednarski says.

First National Bank Alaska bought the Bill Ray Center from University of Alaska Southeast in September 2013. Since March, the state has been leasing it for $49,500 a month while the Douglas Island state office building is being renovated. Employees of Fish and Game and the Department of Corrections started moving into the Bill Ray Center last April.

Sunny Haight, administrative director of Fish and Game, started hearing about air quality issues in September.

“Our employees were complaining for quite a while about headaches and other physical symptoms and difficulty in their work environment,” Haight says.

Complaints varied.

“Sometimes they’d say it was fumes and sometimes it smelled like there was something burnt. Sometimes they’d say it was a chemical smell,” Haight says.

She reached out to the State Department of Administration, which handles leasing and facilities. The state first contacted First National Bank Sept. 15 about potential problems with the Bill Ray Center’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning system. It asked the bank to conduct an air quality test, which the bank didn’t do.

Cheri Gillian, the bank’s communications senior vice president, says the bank has responded in good faith.

“When we started getting the complaints, we engaged with various contractors to ensure that all the equipment in the building was operating at peak efficiency to ensure that all equipment was working and those contractors reported they did not recognize any smells inside the building. Conducting an air quality survey was not off the table; we just hadn’t arrived at that point,” Gillian says.

The state hired environmental engineering firm NORTECH to perform an air quality test in the building in mid-October. Haight says it cost around $8,000. Results came back Nov. 5.

The NORTECH report shows higher than normal levels of carbon dioxide associated with “headaches, sleepiness and stagnant, stale, stuffy air.” Those levels could also lead to increased heart rate, slight nausea, poor concentration and loss of attention. But, they fall below what islegally acceptable.

“What has people concerned is the level that it’s at is very close to unacceptable,” Haight says.

Results also show elevated levels of dust in a part of the Bill Ray Center. First National Bank is constructing a new branch in an adjacent lot. Forklifts, cranes and other heavy machinery have been operating near the building’s fresh air intake.

The NORTECH report indicates inadequate ventilation for the 160 employees. It recommends improving the old HVAC system.

Department of Administration spokesman Andy Mills says the air quality test was done as quickly as possible.

“Unfortunately that was delayed by the owner of the building not acting faster, but the state does not want employees working in areas where they don’t feel that they’re most productive or that there may be any associated health concerns on the employees’ part,” Mills says.

He adds, to speed things up, the state requested NORTECH skip its normal routine of interviewing employees in the building.

On Nov. 10, the state sent a letter to First National Bank stating it was out of compliance with the lease. The state requested a written plan of action by Nov. 14. The bank’s reply reached the state on the 17th.

Gillian says the bank has hired its own consultant, Modern Mechanical, to evaluate the Bill Ray Center this week and doesn’t plan to act until reviewing the consultant’s work.

In the meantime, the state has offered space at the downtown State Office Building to Bill Ray Center employees affected by the air quality.

The state plans to move employees back into the Douglas Island Building this summer.

Full disclosure: The reporter’s husband works in the Bill Ray Center.

Categories: Alaska News

Mine Critics Target Investors, Government Officials

Tue, 2014-11-18 17:05

The KSM project’s mine site layout during the operation phase, from its environmental assessment certificate application. (Image courtesy Seabridge Gold)

Transboundary mine opponents are trying a new tactic in their opposition to a project northeastof Ketchikan. They’re telling investors, and anyone else who will listen, that the KSM mine is a bad place to put their money.

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The group Salmon Beyond Borders just released a study detailing its opposition to the Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell, or KSM, mine.

It’s a copper, gold and a silver deposit upstream of two rivers that enter the ocean within about 50 miles of Ketchikan.

The report claims the mine is too remote, too expensive and too dangerous to the environment.

“We’re trying to make sure people understand the risks and uncertainty of KSM,” says Chris Zimmer, who works with Salmon Beyond Borders, a coalition of environmental, tribal and fisheries organizations.

“The company’s put out a very rosy prospectus and environmental assessment and is probably going to be starting looking for major investors and development money … And part of our task here is to make sure that observers and folks interested in the KSM project understand the risk,” he says.

That’s not how mine developers see it.

“We’re confident that the risks are actually decreasing, not increasing,” says Brent Murphy, vice president for environmental affairs for Seabridge Gold, the KSM’s parent corporation.

He says Seabridge won’t build or operate the proposed $5.3 billion mine on its own. And it’s already talking to investors, which he wouldn’t name.

“We have confidentiality agreements with major mining companies and discussions are ongoing. We have people who are going through our files,” he says.

The Salmon Beyond Borders report mostly repeats earlier statements made by mine opponents. But it cites more sources and includes more details. And its impact could be different because the press release about the report was distributed on MarketWired, a business-oriented public relations website.

Zimmer says it targets government officials and the general public. But he hopes it will also be read by potential investors.

“People need to take a second look at this thing and hopefully look at information not just from the company,” he says.

Among his group’s claims: KSM is not economically feasible.

“Several analysts have looked at this and said, ‘Boy, the price of gold needs to be quite a bit higher to make a project like this economical,’ given the low grade of the ore and the overall expense here,” he says.

KSM’s Murphy says that’s not the case. The numbers are getting better and continued drilling has found more and better deposits at two of its four proposed mining sites.

“We’ve extended the Deep Kerr to both the north and south. And we’ve also identified a higher-grade core at depths associated with the Iron Cap,” he says.

KSM’s ore will be extracted from one valley, then transported through tunnels to another, about 15 miles away. That’s where it will be processed and leftover rock stored.

Salmon Beyond Borders’ report points to others with competing claims in the tunnel area.

“These companies, American Creek and Teuton Resources, have said very clearly and very publicly that Seabridge does not yet have the rights to be granted access to claims. And therefore (it) doesn’t have the right to begin to construct that tunnel,” he says.

Murphy says British Columbia officials issued a permit in October allowing a transportation corridor through the tunnel area.

“The province, when they granted that, was well aware of the fact that there were other land tenure-holders and they have rights to the minerals. And it doesn’t prevent access by other parties to their properties,” he says.

The world economy could have more impact on mine investments than the critics’ PR effort.

British Columbia Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett says that includes the value of minerals.

“I think commodity prices are dampening the spirits of investors. Companies that would typically invest in mining projects are investing in other things. And I don’t think it’s just B.C. I think it’s everywhere,” he says.

Bennett says the provincial government hopes mine owners find investors. But they face many other hurdles.

“We support mining in the province. It brings good jobs to the people in B.C. But they have a lot of government process to go through yet before they’ll ever be digging a hole in the ground,” he says.

The British Columbia government OK’d KSM’s environmental-protection plan last summer. The next major step is similar approval from Canada’s federal government.

Categories: Alaska News

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