As federal agencies are beginning to furlough employees because of sequestration, the long-term unemployed in Alaska are about to see a reduction in their unemployment benefits.
Some invasive species of bark beetles, if they make it to Alaska, could pose a serious threat to our trees and forests. In ten years of surveys, none have been detected, but state and federal forestry officials are coming to rely on volunteers to help monitor for them across the state. KDLG’s Dave Bendinger reports on one such volunteer who’s keeping an eye out the beetles around Dillingham.
Two people are safe after a massive landslide destroyed the cabin they were camping in Sunday morning (5-13-13) near Sitka.
An air taxi pilot rescued the pair from a debris field estimated to be 20 feet deep. All their belongings were buried in the slide. Their dog remains missing.
Kevin Knox, 41, and his girlfriend Maggie Gallin, 28, were staying at Redoubt Lake, a popular Forest Service recreation cabin about 15 miles southeast of Sitka.
The cabin is located at the head of the valley, and is surrounded by steep mountain slopes and rocky cliffs that climb 4,000 feet above the surface of the lake.
Knox says the mountainside behind the cabin was showing signs of instability the previous evening.
“There’d been a lot of rock activity from this slide that was off back behind the cabin, all night on Saturday night. I was just kind of watching it. It was just small rocks kind of tumbling off and making a lot of racket.”
The next morning, Knox and Gallin went out on the lake in the rowboat provided by the Forest Service, to do a little fishing. The mountainside came down as they returned to shore at about 11 AM.
“We had just tied the boat up and Maggie was in the cabin, and it just let loose — a huge piece off of the side of the mountain. I yelled for Maggie to run, to get out of the cabin. We started running down the beach.”
Redoubt Lake is a glacier-carved fjord. It’s just a few feet above sea level. What passes for a beach there is a narrow strip of pebbles. Knox and Gallin did not have much room to make their escape as old growth timber, mud, and rock began to press down the valley.
“We were running along the lakeshore and got thrown into the water, trees kind of toppling on top of us. We both popped up three or four feet from each other. Then we got our wits about us and just tried to hunker down.”
Knox and Gallin were soaked to the skin. The cabin — and all their belongings — were under a debris field Knox thinks is about 20 feet deep. They wrung out clothes and tried to shelter as best they could until their scheduled pick up three hours later.
They also spent time calling for Luna, Knox’s ten-year-old Border Collie.
“She was in between Maggie and I as we were running down the beach. I think she thought it was a little bit of a game because I was shouting, Run run!, Go! and she jumped up and nipped at my sleeve. So I know she was right there. I kept laying in bed last night thinking, How did we get through it, and she didn’t.”
The couple flew back to look for Luna on Monday morning, but there was no sign of her. Because of the instability of the slide area, the pilot chose not not to land the float plane. The slide originated 600 feet up the mountainside and is about 200 yards wide. The lake’s inlet stream — Knox says — is beginning to carve a new channel through the debris field.
Knox is grateful to Harris Air, and pilot Mark Hackett in particular, for putting his plane down and looking for them on Sunday in marginal conditions. Knox says he signalled Hackett by waving his bright yellow raincoat.
Alaska’s most active volcano appears to be erupting. Mount Pavlof, on the Alaska Peninsula, started rumbling Monday morning, according to Alaska Volcano Observatory scientist-in-charge John Power.
“This type of pattern — weak seismic activity, along with a great deal of heat at the summit — has characterized past eruptions of Pavlof, and we believe that’s what’s occurring now,” Power says.”
Power says while scientists haven’t been able to get a good look at the volcano, he suspects it’s oozing lava, or perhaps even shooting jets of it into the air in what’s called a stromboli fountain. So far, the Observatory hasn’t detected any ash clouds associated with the eruption, although in the past, Pavlof has produced significant plumes.
“In 2007, during that eruption, there were ash clouds up to 15-18,000 feet, and certainly we’ve had much larger ones out of Pavlof in the past, although this type of activity we’re seeing today is not uncharacteristic of Pavlof — to have lower level, less energetic eruptions of lava as well.”
Unlike Cleveland Volcano, which started erupting last week, Pavlof has a real-time monitoring network, which Power says the Observatory will be keeping a close eye on in the days and weeks to come.
“In the past, eruptions of Pavlof have gone on for four, six, eight weeks, and if this follows the same pattern, it may go on for some time like that, or it could be a very short lived event.”
King Cove and Cold Bay are the nearest communities to the 8,000-ft volcano.
A fatal accident that took the life of a bulldozer driver near Stephan Lake Lodge north of Talkeetna on Friday occurred only hours after a state Department of Natural Resources team had flown over the site on an inspection tour. The work is being done to build an airstrip to support studies on the Susitna Dam project.
Alaskans who make an annual habit of digging for razor clams on the Kenai Peninsula may have noticed something odd over the last few tears – there just doesn’t seem to be as many clams on the beaches as there used to be. Scientists have also noticed the trend.
The federal government is predicting a normal wildfire season in Alaska this year, but it could be later than normal.
The nation as a whole is below normal for fire activity thus far this year. That’s because most early fires rage through the Eastern U.S.
Frequent precipitation here in the East has downgraded the threat.
In parts of Alaska, the late snowfall is having the same effect.
“As we move through May, there’s below normal conditions in Southern Alaska because of the late snowpack,” Jeremy Sullens, an analyst with the government’s National Interagency Fire Center, said.
Sullens says the snow pack will melt away fairly soon, but it could delay the typical start of the fire season.
Last August, a fire south of Fairbanks torched more than 40,000 acres.
A Canadian mining company is pulling out of an exploration project near Tok. The move comes as the price of gold has fallen about 15 percent from unprecedented highs in recent years, and may signal a slowdown in the mining industry.
Break up will slow down this week as cold air returns to the Interior. National Weather Service meteorologist Scot Berg says a cold front is rapidly moving across the region.
The start of the tourist season in Interior Alaska is coming up, and Denali National Park will be ready, despite lingering snow cover.
Some people crave ice cream or fresh vegetables or pasta. Others prefer dried fish or caribou. As part of our series exploring culture in rural and urban Alaska, APRN’s Anne Hillman found out how strong links between food and culture are common throughout the state.
Paul Wilkins stands in his tiny kitchen in his East Anchorage home, chopping herbs to spread on his homemade breadsticks.
“It’s buffalo wing sauce with jalapeños and cilantro and mozzarella cheese,” Wilkins said.
He’s testing a new recipe to share with his friend for her birthday.
“Cooking is one way to make people happy, to make people enjoy things,” Wilkins said.
Food brings people together. He says cooking, and food, are also part of his identity.
“I guess I define myself by what I like to do and food is part of that because I like to cook different things and taste different things and eat different things,” Wilkins said.
It’s also part of his cultural identity. He cooks lasagna and manicotti because his Italian mother prepared it throughout his childhood. He’s learning more about southern foods from his father’s side of the family. But not everyone has that family connection.
“There’s tons of kids that grow up just eating at strip malls and McDonald’s and Red Robin,” Wilkins said. “They’re great restaurants but I’m sure a lot of that in some families, some of that home-cooked meal history is lost in a lot of ways. I would guess.”
That can happen even in areas of Alaska without restaurants.
“When I was a teenager, in high school, I was going away from my food. Like any other teenager going for the candy and the chips. All that,” Dorcas Nesoluk said.
Dorcas, from Nuiqsut, says she stopped eating whale and caribou, traditional Inupiaq foods, and eventually she started feeling less healthy. It was a mantra repeated by Inupiat of all ages – “if we eat too much food from the Outside instead of local native foods, we get sick.”
When Nesoluk had her baby, four years ago, she decided to go back to eating traditional foods.
“I give it to my daughter, my little three-year-old. I grew up with it so I’m letting her grow up with it. She loves it. She can’t get over it. That’s how we all are raised – eating off the land,” Dorcas said.
Nesoluk and others stressed that for the Inupiat, food is directly tied to culture. And like all cultures, it’s constantly evolving and being influenced by outside sources. Hazel Kunakanna says that people certainly don’t just eat raw maktak, they incorporate food traditions from outside of Alaska.
“You know, like my grandma, she used to like it fried with onions and stuff. And then some people like fry it and fry their maktak like a stir-fry with rice.” “And you put soy sauce on it?” “Yeah, you could put soy sauce on it,” Kunakanna said.
And just because she’s committed to eating and teaching about native foods, it doesn’t mean she’ll eat everything, like caribou head.
“My grandma used to always like eating tuk-tuk head. They cooked the brains with the tongue and you know you boil it. I never tried it before but most of my kids like it because my husband grew up with it.” “But you don’t do it?” “uh-uh! I don’t even.” laughter “How come?” “I grew up with my grandma, with all my Inupiaq food, but me, I just don’t eat it,” Kunakanna said.
April Philip, a student at Ilisagvik College in Barrow, says she would love to eat more of her native foods from Bethel. Her Yupik family sends her dried fish and akutaq, but she often only has time to microwave a Hot Pocket and get to class. And though eating her native foods ties her to her family, it’s not the same.
“My Yupik family for instance, they’re not around. And you don’t hear the normal words you would hear at the dinner table. But I do feel, I do feel like closer to home,” Philip said.
Back at Wilkins’ home, he pulls the breadsticks out of the oven and turns on his friend’s favorite music. Just like Philips and others around Alaska, he feels the same relationship between culture and food.
“The food that people eat partially defines the way their culture has evolved over millennia, really,” Wilkins said.
He says that it’s already helped define the culture for many Alaska Natives and only time will tell how it will define Alaska’s urban areas.
It’s a chilly spring in the Anchorage area. National Weather Service Meteorologist Chris Burling says temperatures in recent days have been just a few degrees below normal, but that comes after a winter and early spring with lower temperatures than usual.
“We’ve really been colder than normal here throughout most of the winter,” Burling said. “The only months we were actually above normal a little bit temperature-wise was January and February, I believe.”
“We’ve been below normal since March and dating back into the fall and last summer even.”
The National Weather Service shows Anchorage area temperatures in October were 1.6 degrees below normal. During November and December, average temperatures were 4.5 degrees below normal, and March and April temperatures were 7 degrees below the statistical norm.
Burling says a low pressure system over mainland Alaska will hold for several more days.
“It does look at least through the short term here, at least through next week, we are going to be remaining in this colder pattern,” Burling said.
Burling says the forecast for Southcentral Alaska shows temperatures in the 40s and 50s,with a chance of late-season snow and temperatures in the high 20s or low 30s Friday or Saturday.
A man’s body was discovered in a van that was burning in the parking lot of a mid-town Anchorage restaurant Thursday night.
Karl Leroy Cox. Junior, 28, was reportedly living in the van. The van was not street legal. The investigation continues.
A child visiting a sled dog lot in Big Lake is hospitalized after a dog got loose and attacked her. The lot was Jake Berkowitz’s but there were other dogs boarding there as well.
Two-year-old Elin Shuck was with her mother tending to their dogs when another dog reportedly came after the child. Elin is reported in stable condition with serious injuries.
There was a fatality Friday on the Cat-train bringing supplies for the Susitna Dam studies at Stephan Lake Lodge.
A D-6 bulldozer fell through the ice and the driver died in the accident. He is identified as Donald Kiehl, 72, of North Pole. Kiehl was retrieved from the lake and individuals on scene attempted CPR on Kiehl but he was unable to be resuscitated.
Wayne Dyok of the Alaska Energy Authority, says the decisions about transportation were up to the contractor, Alaska Diversified Services.
“You have a very capable crew here, and bottom line here is it’s their expertise, and I believe they felt it was safe to do so,” Dyok said. ”So, we need to take a step back here, look at the investigation, let that unfold and then go from there.”
State Troopers got in by helicopter. Investigation continues.
The eleven page document frequently mentions the Arctic as a region free of conflict and the country’s desire to keep it that way.
The plan lays out three arcing “lines of interest” – to advance U.S. security, pursue responsible Arctic stewardship and to strengthen international cooperation.
Luke Coffey, a fellow at the D.C. based Heritage Foundation, called the strategy welcome news, albeit a bit late.
He cautioned the strategy is very forward looking; it lays out guidelines for future oil and gas exploration and shipping lines.
He said only46 vessels traversed the Northern Sea Route last year.
“Compare that to the 20,000 ships that traveled through the Gulf of Aden off the Horn of Africa,” he said Friday afternoon. “So we are still a long before we start seeing the maritime volume that we’re seeing in some of the warmer climates around the world.”
The strategy says the United States needs to accede to the United Nations Law of the Sea Treaty; something Coffey disputes. He said the country can operate in the Arctic, alongside other sovereign Arctic nations, without signing on to the international agreement.
The U.S. is the only Arctic nation that has not agreed to the treaty.
While the strategy explicitly says security is the number one priority, much of the text focuses on future energy exploration.
Michael LeVine, a lawyer with Oceana in Juneau,said both this administration and the previous one led by President George W. Bush have prioritized oil exploration over the environment.
And while he welcomed commitments to combat climate change, LeVine said it’s tough to balance those promises with promises to continue oil drilling.
“We hope, that moving forward, this administration will stick to its commitment of getting good science and to be prepared before industrial activities are allowed,” he said.
That’s a dig at Shell, which was allowed to proceed with some of its drilling plans despite not having working spill prevention measures.
The strategy says the federal government will cooperate with the state and consult with tribes – which is already policy.
“If they don’t I’m going to be raising a little bit of noise here,” said former North Slope Borough Mayor Edward Itta.
Itta, now a member of U.S. Arctic Research Commission, said the new guidelines are a good first start, but it’s just that. There still needs to be concrete plans developed.
“I’m still somewhat skeptical – until the funding is going to accompany whatever priorities or programs are identified,” he said.
Government officials will travel to Alaska this summer to hold listening sessions and to ask for input on the new policies.
One policy may get lots of attention in the state: Without listing any country in particular, the strategy says the United States should work with other non-Arctic countries that show an interest in the region.
No doubt those countries will have an interest in the vast resource supply.
The Pribilof Islands of St. Paul and St. George are just 45 miles apart, but getting between them can be challenging because of limited flight service, and the area’s notoriously foggy weather. This summer, a regional community development group is hoping to solve that problem by contracting a ferry to run between the islands. But, finding a suitable vessel has proved challenging.
The oldest school in the Copper River School District is officially closing down. The Copper River School Board voted unanimously this week to shutdown the Copper Center School due to low enrollment. The District is seeking approval from the Alaska Department of Education to move forward with its closure plan.
Two Anchorage lawmakers stood outside Barnes & Noble in Midtown Anchorage today, gathering signatures for the referendum to repeal Gov. Sean Parnell’s oil tax overhaul. The bill narrowly passed at the end of this year’s legislative session. It’s expected to lower taxes on oil companies by hundreds of millions of dollars each year.
…Thank you…Hollis, I’ll talk to you about that resolution, OK? Yeah, OK?”
French is optimistic the referendum will make it on the ballot and pass. He says Alaskans should be able to decide whether the bill is a good idea.
“I believe they’ll say lets go back to the drawing board. And pass a bill that stimulates development in new fields, stimulates heavy oil development but doesn’t give away the farm on the legacy fields. That’s the basic idea, we think there’s a smarter way to do oil tax reform,” French said.
The referendum effort needs 30,000 signatures by July 13. They have about 8,000 so far.
Students, staff, coaches, politicians and other onlookers gathered at the construction site for the “topping out” ceremony at the Alaska Airlines Center at the University of Alaska Anchorage on Friday. Now, the final piece of steel for the structure has been hoisted into place.
For months, those driving though the U-Med district in Anchorage have probably noticed the arena taking shape. Now, another stage of the construction is complete.
Before the ceremony, workers installed the final piece to make sure everything fit correctly, but before the “topping out” became official, a piece of ironworker tradition needed to take place.
“We always elect one piece, we pull it back down so we can sign it and put it back up,” Mark Palmatier, senior project manager with Cornerstone Construction, said. ”It’s just more of a tradition than anything else.”
He says that even though the basic building structure is complete, there is still a lot left to do. Things ranging from basic infrastructure, like lighting, plumbing, and electrical work, to finishing touches like the seating and scoreboards.
The construction is budgeted to cost around $86 million. So far, about $35 million worth of it is done.
For those who pass by the building site, the next major exterior construction process will be installing a special zinc siding, which Palmatier says Alaska hasn’t seen before.
“It’s kind of silver, it’s kind of like an unfinished aircraft or something. That’s what it’s gonna look like. Kind of like an unfinished aircraft, it’s gonna look really nice. And if it got scratches, it kind of heals itself over time, so it’s kind of a neat siding to put up. It’s extremely durable, and it’s gonna look really good,” he said.
Palmatier says despite all the work left to do, he is still anticipating an on-time opening in August 2014.
The new arena will house at least some of the facilities for all of UAA’s sports. The hockey team will continue to play games at the Sullivan Arena and practice at the Wells Fargo Sports Complex, but most of their off-ice training facilities will be in the new sports center.