Sponsors of a petition to repeal the changes the Anchorage Assembly made to labor laws say they have repaired technical flaws in their ballot measure and resubmitted it. The previous version was rejected by the Municipal Clerk because of those technical flaws, but also because of an opinion by the Municipal Attorney that it was, “administrative,” and would encroach on the authority of the mayor.
Listen to the full story
Sunday, furloughs of Federal Aviation Administration employees due to the Congress’s sequestration process began to hit. All air traffic controllers are required to take one unpaid day off per pay period. If you are an air traveler be prepared for delays, because the furloughs will reduce the number of landings per hour at hub airports. It’s not known yet exactly how this will affect the airports in Alaska.
Listen to the full story
A liberal group is running ads against Senator Mark Begich for his votes against expanded background checks for gun sales.
Adam Green is the co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. Green says his group, and its 2,800 members in Alaska, normally support Senator Begich and his work on entitlements like Social Security.
But his gun votes this week drew the ire of liberals
Green’s Political Action Committee raises money for candidates and mobilizes the liberal base. He says that running ads shaming Begich will not make him more vulnerable in his reelection bid.
Begich may face Joe Miller in the 2014 Senate race. And if Miller does decide to run, voters can expect the same brand of fiery rhetoric he used to try to unseat Senator Murkowski in 2010.
Listen to the full story
With many early mornings in the below zero temperatures this spring, you would think it would be impossible to grow crops at this time in Western Alaska, but at Meyers Farm in Bethel they are doing just that. In fact they have 10 rows of spinach that have just started to sprout.
Listen to the full story
A large seafood processing plant will be constructed this summer in Naknek and it’s expected to be processing herring and salmon by next year.
Listen to the full story
The state Fish and Game department slapped restrictions on sports-fishing for King Salmon on many rivers that pour into Cook Inlet on Thursday. Their press releases say the fisheries will be, “conservatively managed” this year.
Affected are all the rivers in the Susitna River basin and some on the Kenai Peninsula. In the Mat-Su valley, there will be a total two-fish limit for the Susitna and Little Su drainage. A number of days will be catch and release only, though some retention will still be allowed on the Deshka, Talkeetna, Upper Susitna and Chulitna.
Also affected by the order as of May first are Kenai Peninsula rivers, though not the Kenai itself, including the Anchor, Ninilchik, Kasilof and Deep Creek. They are aimed at the early Chinook run. The Upper Inlet restrictions start on May 15 and are aimed at spreading effort over the entire season to avoid mid-season closures such as were imposed last year, says the Fish and Game department.
The Southeast Alaska sea otter population well-more than doubled over the past decade. That’s according to an estimate from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which released a draft of its revised stock assessment this week(4/18). As Matt Lichtenstein reports, the numbers have been out for a while but the public now has a formal chance to comment on them.
The draft estimates a total of 25, 712 otters in the region. The number is based on aerial surveys done by researchers in 2010 and 2011. That compares with 10,563 otters in 2003. The latest numbers won’t come as a surprise to many who have been following this issue. Federal scientists had already presented results from their population studies in public presentations and news reports over the past couple years. The revised stock assessment formalizes the numbers and provides a 90 day opportunity for public comment.
According to Fish and Wildlife Service spokesperson Bruce Woods, the agency will consider and incorporate public input before the draft is finalized,“Any input on habitat degradation or improvement of habitat, any additional information be it traditional ecological knowledge or personal observation that might help us refine our numbers. Any additional information on human caused mortality or injury that we may not be taking into account.”
The Russian fur trade wiped out the southeast sea otter population by the early 20th century. The state of Alaska re-introduced about four hundred of the animals to Southeast in the 1960’s and they have thrived. According to the draft assessment, the regions otter population appears to be growing at a rate of 12 to 14 percent per year.
The assessment allows for a Potential biological removal of nearly 2200 animals. Basically, that means the number of animals that can be killed, intentionally or unintentionally, before the Fish and Wildlife Service has to impose regulations to limit the take. According to the draft document, it’s never gotten close to that point.
From 2006 to 2010 around 450 otters were taken each year for subsistence by coastal Alaska natives, who are the only people allowed to hunt the animals under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
The report says sea otters have –quote- “occupied appreciable new habitat in southern southeast since 2003”. That’s something fishermen and others out on the water have witnessed for years. In particular, the report goes on, -quote- “otters have moved in large numbers along the northwest coast of Kuiu Island up into Keku Strait and then animals from this area have crossed Frederick Sound to the southern tip of Admiralty Island, and finally otters have expanded northward from the Barrier Islands (off southwest Prince of Wales)through Tlevak Strait”.
“What we’re seeing is an indication of a population that is recovering and that is continuing to move into habitat that it formerly occupied and has probably not finished the process of recolonizing habitat that it once occurred in,” says Woods.
The otter’s rapid population growth and voracious appetite for shellfish has been a major concern for commercial crabbers, dive fishermen and subsistence harvesters. They’ve seen once-productive fishing grounds for dungeness crab, sea cucumbers and other species depleted after the otters move in.
Petersburg assembly member and commercial fisherman Kurt Wohlheuter chairs a local committee that’s drafted a resolution on the issue for the rest of the assembly to consider. It takes the federal government to task for not developing a current plan to manage the otter population.
“There is no management plan for the sea otters and, you know, they’re out of control at this point because they’re eating some of the crab fishermen out of house and home, as evident by fewer and fewer participants every year and, you know, without that management tool for the sea otters I’m afraid that at some point, that there will be no dungeness fisheries and that’s the thing that concerns everybody here,” says Wohlheuter.
Fishing industry advocates have called for more aggressive efforts to reduce otter numbers. Opponents of that approach emphasize that otters benefit other fisheries by eating sea urchins. Urchins destroy kelp forests that serve as shelter for juvenile salmon, herring and other fish.
The Fish and Wildlife Service’s last conservation plan for Alaska Sea Otters dates back to 1994. At the time, the federal agency set the goal of determining an optimal sustainable population for the animals. That has not happened yet. Woods says they are working on developing a formula to estimate that number by March of 2015.
Meanwhile, the draft population assessment is available through a link on the US Fish and Wildlife Service Website.
The Senior Executive Producer of a long-running and popular science documentary series on public television was in Fairbanks this week. Paula Apsell is in the Golden Heart City as part of a weekly research showcase hosted by the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.
Every Wednesday night at 9p.m. eastern time, science lovers tune their televisions to PBS for an hour-long television show called NOVA. It’s a science documentary program that recently took viewers on a journey to explore the natural history of Australia. The show has also taken its audience on a quest to locate the mines of the bible’s famous King Solomon. Viewers have learned about medieval cathedral construction and they’ve cracked the genetic code.
“We saw the Quatum world, a world of things that are teeny, and it operates by different rules from our everyday world,” explains Paula Apsell, the senior executive producer of NOVA. “And by using computer graphics, we’re able to bring the Quantum world up to our size and you can see how weird it really is.”
She has a wealth of subject matter to choose from for every episode she produces.
“NOVA is an anthology series and that means we have the world of science, technology, engineering, medicine, natural history, the environment,” says Apsell. “We have a lot of different aspects of science to choose from and our programs can be different form week to week.”
At any given time, Apsell is working on 20 different episodes all in different stages of production. She says one of the challenges is finding a unifying quality in all of them.
“We want them to have a level of quality and distinction that says ‘this is a NOVA,’ and not some other show,” Apsell said.
Science can be intimidating to the general public. That’s why Apsell says it’s important to find a unique way to tell a science story.
“I think the key thing is to tell the story and have it unfold like a detective story,” she says. “So you ask a big question at the beginning, a mystery. And you follow the clues just as you would follow the clues in a forensic case.”
Apsell admits her audience can be fickle.
“The audience is not patient enough to wait for the end, so you have to keep revealing little bits of tantalizing bits of information along the away,” she says. “People want to know now at the beginning of the show what it’s about. They want to know if they should spend their time.”
Public Broadcasting competes with hundreds of cable television channels, and fast-moving superficial content on commercial networks. Even Apsell herself indulges in a little trashy TV once in a while.
“You know we all have our guilty pleasures,” she laughs. “I would be lying to you if I said I never watched Here Comes Honey Boo Boo or Hoarders. I mean people who hoard things including dead animals.”
“You’re sort of sitting there with your mouth hanging open. But after you watch three or four of the shows, you never have to watch it again. It sort of satisfies, but that’s just for me. These shows have an appropriate amount of viewers to suite the advertisers.”
But NOVA doesn’t have any advertisers. Funding for the program comes from the National Science Foundation and a wide-ranging list of underwriters from Exxon Mobil Corporation to Corporation for Public Broadcasting. However Apsell says that doesn’t mean she hasn’t had to find ways to innovate.
“The pace of information has increased enormously,” she says. “I mean if you look at programs from 30 years ago, they’re so slow, you just think you’re gonna fall asleep. So, NOVA’s not just television anymore. We’re online, we have to stream our stuff, we have to make short form videos of it, we do stories on radio. One of things I’ve learned over the past decade or so, it’s just become extremely important to extend to other platforms. ”
Apsell says she’ll continue to find ways to change how NOVA delivers rich and complex science stories to the public. The program has won every major broadcasting award, some more than once. NOVA’s website is the most visited among those hosted by PBS.
Dozens of kids in Anchorage got the chance to fly off the ski jumps at Hilltop ski area this winter. The ski jumping program has expanded rapidly in the last three years. And the U.S. Ski team is now eyeing Anchorage as a spot to develop young athletes for their successful Nordic combined program, a sport that mixes ski jumping and cross country skiing. A U.S. ski team coach was in the city last week to offer his guidance and encourage young kids to give the sport a try.
Listen to the full story
This week, we’re heading to the community of Diomede, in the middle of the Bering Strait between Alaska and Russia. Michele Kulukhon is from Diomede.
Listen to the full story
The small local publisher VP and D House has published Jim Sweeney’s second book. Sweeney was a climber who was severely injured by an avalanche in the Alaska Range in 1989, and turned to writing. He became a regular contributor to the APRN program “AK,” and turned out a book of essays largely based on those radio pieces. Now he has written a highly-praised account of the accident that nearly cost him his life.
HOST: Steve Heimel
- James P. Sweeney, author, “Alaska Expedition: Marine Life Solidarity”
- Callers Statewide
- Post your comment before, during or after the live broadcast (comments may be read on air).
- Send e-mail to talk [at] alaskapublic [dot] org (comments may be read on air)
- Call 550-8422 in Anchorage or 1-800-478-8255 if you’re outside Anchorage during the live broadcast
LIVE Broadcast: Tuesday, April 9, 2013 at 10:00 a.m. on APRN stations statewide.
Whooping cough is on the rise in Alaska. It’s been moving up the coast from California, and in March, caused the death of an infant in Western Alaska. But there are ways to avoid catching the highly contagious bacterial infection.
Ellen Daly is a nurse who works at the Public Health Center in Sitka. She says the best way to combat whooping cough is by getting immunized.
She says whooping cough is quickly spreading through Alaska and that babies and small children are the most vulnerable to the bacteria.
Whooping cough, or pertussis, might resemble a common cold at first, with a sniffle and a cough. But if the cough sticks around for longer than 7 days and progresses to violent fits of hacking that sound like this: (Sounds of a baby with pertussis, coughing).
…it’s a good sign it’s pertussis, especially if the coughing ends with vomiting.
The highest rates of infection are in places where groups of kids congregate, like schools and daycare facilities.
The good news is, it’s easy to protect against. Infants as young as two months old can be immunized, and it’s a part of the regular series of vaccinations that all kids receive. Daly says adults who are around kids should also be immunized.
Daly says first, you should go to your healthcare provider for your shots. But if you can’t, because you’re uninsured or underinsured, you can visit the Public Health Center, and receive a vaccination.
“We’re here to serve those who can’t get the service anywhere else. Someone who doesn’t have Medicare, or they’re not employed…they don’t have money to go the doctor.”
She says everyone can receive an immunization to pertussis if they want one.
To learn more about pertussis, and to listen to the sound of its accompanying cough, you can go to the State of Alaska’s Public Health webpage. For more information about the Sitka Public Health Center’s vaccination program, you can call 747-3255.
Closing arguments were heard today in a Bethel courtroom in the trial of 22 subsistence fishermen accused of fishing for king salmon during closures. The trial began on Monday and included testimony from expert witnesses on both sides.
Listen to the full story
Ever since voters decided to shorten the legislative session to 90 days, there’s been an expectation that lawmakers will call special sessions to add more time to the clock. This year, they didn’t. It was only the second time that’s happened since the initiative passed. But even though legislators met the deadline this year, not all of them are convinced it’s a good system. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez reports.
If you want to find an issue that everyone in the Capitol can disagree upon, regardless of party, it’s the length of the legislative session. You might not even find consensus within a single office, as Sen. Mike Dunleavy, a Mat-Su Republican, learned.
DUNLEAVY: “How do you guys feel about the length of the session? Should it be longer or shorter?”
STAFFER #1: “Thirty days!”
STAFFER #2: “120 was good.”
DUNLEAVY: “You’re the worst staff. One said thirty, one said 120, and one said nothing at all.”
Dunleavy has his own opinion.
“If you’re asking if it should be longer or shorter, I think it should be shorter to be honest with you. I think the committee meetings, um, we should probably hold them throughout the year. Throughout the summer, spring, fall, and condense the session even more, and just hear bills on the floor.”
The 90-day session came about in 2006, when voters narrowly passed an initiative to cut the amount of time lawmakers spend in Juneau down by a month. The idea was that it would force the legislature to save money, enable people with families and outside jobs to run for office, and get work done faster. There isn’t evidence that the initiative has succeeded in the first two things, but it’s definitely put the legislature on hyperdrive.
Rep. Lynn Gattis, a Wasilla Republican, is okay with that.
“You had to get up early in the morning. You had to work late in the evening. You definitely had to work on weekends. But 90 days is enough.”
As a freshman legislator, Gattis says she’s had to cram to get caught up on all of the policy debates going on in the building. It’s been tough, but she thinks that if she can do it, then lawmakers who have been there for years should be able to handle it, too. For example, she points out that an overhaul of the state’s oil tax structure isn’t just something the legislature took up in January — it’s been going on for years. She says you can also do work in the interim.
But even though Gattis is a fan of the 90-day rule, she was kind of amused by all of the speculation that comes with the prospect of a special session.
“So, I’m walking down the hallway, ‘You guys, are we going to have a special session?’ Some of the people who had been here twenty, thirty years: ‘Yeah, we’re going to have a special session!’ I said, ‘Well, for how long?’ Some said 10, some said 20, some said 30. Even had kind of miniature bets in regard to it. Clearly, even the folks who had been here forever were unable to determine what it is.”
Because the legislature has gone into special session more often than not, a lot of legislators from both sides of the aisle have come to a different conclusion than Gattis. They think the 90-day limit just isn’t working.
In 2011, Sen. Gary Stevens, a Republican from Kodiak, introduced a bill that would allow for a 90-day session one year and then a 120-day session the next. While the bill died in the House, it passed in the Senate with bipartisan support. And the handful of senators who opposed it? Well, they were a mix of liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans.
Sen. Johnny Ellis, an Anchorage Democrat who has held office since the 1980s, was among those who supported that bill.
“My perspective as a long-time serving legislator — and seeing the ups and downs, the vagaries and the process — the 90 days does not serve the public well.”
Ellis has a lot of issues with the shorter session: it means less time for constituents and more power for the governor’s office. Smaller issues that are still important are more likely to be tossed by the wayside. Ellis also says that shrinking the session allows — and may even encourage — bad process, like limiting time for public testimony and holding committee hearings and floor votes long past midnight.
“Things were rammed through that deserved more time and attention.”
But even though he has a lot of problems with the shorter session, and even though he’s not alone in that, Ellis doesn’t see much will to override the voter initiative. He thinks it’ll take a few more years before voters or lawmakers will want to reconsider how long politicians should be in Juneau. For now at least, the 90-day session looks like it’s here to stay.
Scientists at the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy (ACCAP) discussed new regional projections for snowfall in Alaska during a webinar presentation Tuesday. Climate change could significantly change the amount of snow that hits the ground and sticks throughout the state.
Climate change in Alaska is likely to bring warm temperatures over the next 50 to 100 years. With the heat wave, patterns of precipitation are also likely to change.
Stephanie McAfee is a researcher at Scenarios Network for Alaska and Arctic Planning (SNAP). She gathered more than 30 years-worth of climate data from weather stations across the state.
Using five different well-known climate models, she came up with different scenarios to explain potential effects on both snowfall and snow accumulation in the future.
“The fact that we can do this for multiple models and multiple scenarios is actually one key benefit,” she told fellow researchers. “We can look at the diversity of future potentials and see how much diversity there is from model to model.”
McAfee used models that ranged in severity of predicted climate change effects in Alaska. One of the more aggressive models could mean big changes for Southeast Alaska.
“Southeast might as early as the 2040′s start looking a lot like Washington,” she explained. “Where there’s very little snow along the coast on any sort of regular basis, but up in the mountains, quite frequently, quite a lot of snow.”
McAfee says that same model predicts significant changes in the middle of winter for the Southwest region and Alaska’s West Coast.
“As early as the 2040s in some places and certainly by the 2090s large portions of this region are going to receiving almost exclusively rain, including Anchorage and even as far north as Nome and Kotzebue a significant proportion of the precipitation could be coming as rain,” says McAffee.
North of the Brooks Range Range McAfee says models show temperatures will stay cold enough that precipitation will fall predominantly as snow, but the same region could also see more rain-on-snow events during the spring and fall shoulder seasons.
McAfee’s data are now available through the SNAP website for use among members of the research community.
An impulse of sympathy by a Sitka couple in Boston has gone viral on the Internet as a symbol of people pulling together in the face of violent tragedy. Monday after the bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon, police stopped the race. Those who could not finish didn’t know if their families waiting at the finish were okay.
Laura Wellington was one such runner. She was sitting in tears when a woman put a space blanket around her and a man who had finished the race gave her his medal. Later she reached out through Facebook, and was soon in touch with Brent Cunningham of Sitka, who had finished the race, and his wife Karin.
Listen to the full story
A new book out this month tells the incredible story of bear attack survivor Dan Bigley. In “Beyond the Bear” Bigley and co-author Debra McKinney recount the horrific mauling 10 years ago near the Russian River, which blinded Dan and changed his life forever.
Dan and a friend were fishing on the Russian River. Returning to their car at the parking lot, they encountered an angry brown bear, who huffed at them, hair raised on end. Dan says they slowly backed away and decided to take a longer way back to their car.
Listen to the full story
The U.S. Senate voted down a host of new gun regulations, including a new assault weapons ban. Senators bucked public opinion and voted against expanding background checks to online sales and gun shows. And it nixed a plan to limit the size of ammunition magazines.
Alaska Senators Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski voted against those three provisions.
Immediately following the vote, a liberal group, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, blasted an email saying it will run ads opposing Senator Begich in his reelection campaign next year.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid canceled the vote on the overall bill, a maneuver that technically keeps it alive. But today’s vote effectively killed any attempt to reform the nation’s gun laws, 124 days after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school.
Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Hayes told an Arctic energy conference the federal government has been explicit in its demands of companies planning to drill in the Arctic Ocean.
He said every company will need a capping stack and containment system in case of a spill.
“There really is not much of a question about what our expectations are folks drilling in the Arctic. We’ve laid it out with Shell. We’ve told the rest of the industry these are our expectations,” he said Wednesday at the Brookings Institution “They’re common sense expectations. Number two, we learned last summer, it’s hard to pull this off in the Arctic.”
Secretary Hayes was referencing Shell’s bungled summer. The company hoped to drill to oil producing depths, but repeated errors, and government punishments, prevented that from happening.
Instead, Shell drilled two pilot wells, then grounded its drilling rig Kulluk on the way home to Seattle.The Department of Interior followed with a report mapping guidelines for all future Arctic drilling. Companies must now oversee subcontractors and every aspect of the drilling operation, from marine transit, to drilling, to closing the well down for the season.
Secretary Hayes made clear to the international audience that the United States should lead in sensible standards on Arctic operators.
“We are setting together a menu of expectations that can provide the blueprint for what other companies should do, or what other countries should expect their companies to do throughout the Arctic,” he said.
Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell disagreed with Hayes’s assessment, saying every plan is unique.
“There are big prospects in the Arctic, and there are small prospects in the Arctic,” he said.
Treadwell said he met with Conoco executives who say the federal government’s rules are too unclear to decipher.
He’s advocating for a case-by-case set of regulations for each operator not an Arctic wide policy.
“If two companies can’t say ‘hey we’re going to go about this in a different way’ you’ve got a problem,” he complained.
Treadwell says he’s worried undue federal regulations will force oil companies out of Alaska, leaving the Trans Alaska Pipeline in peril. To Treadwell, that’s just one reason the recently passed tax cuts make the state more enticing.
Treadwell said Governor Sean Parnell will soon sign the bill into law; welcome news to Secretary Hayes.
“That’d be great. That in the near term is the way to continue that pipeline,” Hayes said.
For the foreseeable future, the oil filling that pipeline will come from land, not the Arctic Ocean.