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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: 22 min 46 sec ago

National Archives departure impacts broad community

Tue, 2014-06-10 17:39

The National Archives in Anchorage is closing its doors to researchers in less than two weeks, despite impassioned pleas by historians and researchers. But they aren’t the only ones who use the stacks of historical records. http://www.alaskapublic.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/10-NARA-closing.mp3

The National Archives building in downtown Anchorage

Playwright Peter Porco sits in the white-walled research room of the National Archives in Anchorage. He’s searching through stacks of old papers from Adak in the 1940s.

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“I mean here’s another one, hand-written,” he says as he holds up an old work memo. “I’m gonna take a picture of this because I just think it’s so neat… oh wow! A cigarette burn.” He’s quickly distracted by the pale green paper with a memo about chow passes. “We got a cigarette burn in a piece of paper! I mean that’s so silly… but now you really get a picture of this guy sitting at a desk…”

Porco is looking for information for his series of plays on life in the Aleutians during World War II. He says the archives do more than just store history, they inspire creativity. “I’m trying to get as a clear a picture of what it’s like to live and be there at that time.”

The National Archives and Records Administration officials say they’re closing the facility’s doors because of low numbers of visitors — only 352 per year on average since 2009. More than half of the reference requests are written. Closing the facility and transferring about 75 percent of the holdings to Seattle will save NARA about $500,000 per year.

At the request of the state’s Congressional delegation, the other 25 percent of the records will go to the state archives in Juneau. Among them are most of the territorial court records that are held at NARA. They include everything from civil and criminal court dockets to coroner’s inquests.

Kip Knudsen with the governor’s office says they looked into many options for keeping all of the records in Alaska, like moving them to the archives in Juneau. “I have a feeling that’s probably outside our budget desires, but we looked at all options. The federal employees were not really very enthusiastic about all of them, quite frankly, and they were even a little bit resistant to leaving the territorial court records.”

Knudsen says the governor’s office even did a survey of all of the state agencies to see how they would be impacted by the Archives closing. He says it will be an inconvenience, but it’s not devastating.

Other organizations in the state, like the Alaska Federation of Natives, say moving the Archives is more than just an inconvenience. The Archives include everything from village census records from before statehood to histories of fur seal hunts in the Pribilof Islands.

“Well it’s going to create a huge void and vacuum in the native community,” says Nicole Borromeo, AFN’s general counsel. “I’ve personally been down to the archives, doing research, and the information there is just phenomenal. It’s a living history. And to have that removed from our community is going to leave an impact.”

Borromeo says her organization is still working with Alaska’s Congressional delegation to try to get more records to stay.

NARA plans to eventually make all of the records available online. But the agency does not have any money set aside to digitize Alaska’s history. They are accepting recommendations for what should be prioritized until the end of the month. State Historian Jo Antonson says she prefers the records stay in Alaska, but digitization could work if Alaskans participate in the process.

“It’s so important for Alaskans to speak up, speak out, about what records they need to have access to,” she says. “And after the list is compiled we need to keep vigilant to make sure that plans become action to make things digitized and become available.”

NARA is considering having citizen archivists, like Peter Porco, help with the process.

Back in the research room he leans over the table with his digital camera and portable scanner, capturing what he can. But he says it doesn’t work for everything.

“This is a 1941-43 blueprint or something,” he says referring to his find from earlier in the day. “It filled the entire table plus and no, there’s no way you’re going to digitize that.”

He has until June 20th to try.

Categories: Alaska News

AIDEA Briefs Federal Commission On Ambler Road

Tue, 2014-06-10 17:38

The state says it will cost as much as $400 million to build a controversial proposed mining road to Ambler. But some opponents of the road think that figure is too low.

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A conference call about federal polices on Alaska lands became part of the ongoing debate about a proposed mining road to Ambler, with the total cost of the road officially projected to be as high as $400 million—a number that’s interesting as much for what it leaves in as out.

On Friday, the Citizens Advisory Commission on Federal Areas–CAFCA– met in Anchorage for one of it’s three meetings each year. The Ambler Road project was discussed due to plans which call for a portion of the road to pass through the Gates of the Arctic National ark.

Mark Davis, a deputy director with the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, or AIDEA—which is handling the project for the state—gave an overall cost prediction for the project.

“I gave you the potential estimates of this road,” Davis told the CACFA members, “which would be first brought in as a pioneer road and then maybe expanded, so between $190 million and $300 million.”

That’s optimistic. And other AIDEA representatives are quick clarify that is a very rough estimate, one which will likely be revised once the EIS study is completed. Maryelen Tuttle works for Dowl HKM, the company contracted to manage the road project, and says a more conservative range is $200-$400. And that’s just for construction—it doesn’t include all the preliminary studies or permitting, which has so far cost the state just under $13 million, and could be as high as $60 million by the time ground is broken.

“The idea that the road costs $100-$300 million dollars is totally, totally fallacious,” Ron Yarnell, a wilderness lodge owner near the road’s proposed route, told board members.

“The bridges on this road are huge. I mean, the bridges on this job alone are gonna be $100-$200 million dollars,” Yarnell continued.

Yarnell also questions AIDEA’s claim that the industrial road will be closed down and remediated once operations have stopped in the mining district the road would service. It was a point picked up by Jill Yordy, a researcher with the Northern Center in Fairbanks, too.

“Today it was mentioned that the road could possibly be reclaimed, and yet I’ve heard no mention about the cost of reclaiming the road. And who would pay for those—who’s shoulders would that financial burden fall on?” Yordy asked. “If it is going to be AIDEA or the private entity that pays for and maintains the road then those costs should be included in the road proposal and considered from the beginning.”

In his response to the public’s testimony, Davis explained that costs for road reclamation will be figured during the EIS process. After the meeting Tuttle clarified that the eventual financing model will use tolls to collect repayment from the road’s private users. Reclamation, as well as maintenance and preliminary costs, will be built into how much the tolls charge.

Investigations into feasibility and design options for the Ambler Road have a phased funding structure, meaning appropriations happen year-to-year depending on which phase development is in. So far the project has spent just under $13 million, though the cost for preliminary work could get up to $60 million before ground is broken.

Categories: Alaska News

Utah Official Advocates For Land Transfer In Alaska

Tue, 2014-06-10 17:37

Alaska is not alone in its conflicts with the federal government over land management. Leaders in some Lower 48 western states want Alaska to join an effort to gain control of federal lands within their borders.

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“All of the states need to dialogue with one another and to expand the conversation so that we have a coalition of states that have a voice in Washington,” says Kathleen Clarke, director of Utah’s Public Land Policy Coordination office.

Clarke, a former National Director of the Bureau of Land Management, was in Fairbanks Friday at the invitation of Alaska’s Citizen’s Advisory Commission on Federal Areas. Clarke says Alaska has a lot in common with Utah and other western states.

“What we perceive to be overreach of federal government, and the challenge of getting some balance in that management that respects local citizens, tradition, culture, economics and all of those things that contribute to a good quality of life,” she said.

Clarke provided the state commission with an update on an American Lands Council initiative supported by Utah and several other states, aimed at getting some BLM property turned over to them.

“If we work together and transfer title and ownership, it would free the federal government of a whole lot of burden and expense, as well as allowing the western states to, for example, contribute to the issue of national energy security, so I think there’s a lot of positive that could come,” she said.

Clarke said the effort does not target national parks, refuges or other wilderness areas. Clarke and fellow land transfer advocate Montana State Senator Jennifer Fielder cited economic studies that show states making money by managing BLM lands for resource development.

Citizen’s Advisory Commission on Federal Areas Chair, Alaska State Representative Wes Keller says the commission regularly hears about federal overreach from Alaskans, and emphasized the broader issue is not unique. “We have a tendency, I think, in Alaska to think we’re the only one, but other western states are experiencing the same thing, so I see it as just a sharing of information and getting together with other states,” he said.

Keller was clear that the state of Alaska isn’t formally supporting land transfer at this point, and the commission is just gathering information.

Categories: Alaska News

Wells Fargo Donates Land To Eklutna

Tue, 2014-06-10 17:36

Wells Fargo is donating sacred land to the village of Eklutna.

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Categories: Alaska News

Sitka wood carver Tommy Joseph comes to the Anchorage Museum

Tue, 2014-06-10 17:35

Last week Tommy Joseph, a Tlnigit wood carver from Sitka, came to the Anchorage Museum to refurbish a totem pole he carved 15 years ago. “We’re just cleaning the surface, and then I’m going to refresh the paint, put new paint on it, and treat the wood,” Joseph said to a crowd of about a half dozen that came to the museum last Friday.

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The totem pole was recently donated to the Anchorage Museum by Alaska grocery store owners Larry and Wilma Carr. At roughly 10-feet in length, the red, black and green carving has a crow adorning the bottom half. A man with his arms crossed is carved onto the top. It’s one of a handful of totem poles on display at the Anchorage Museum, but Joseph’s work is exhibited all over the world.  “I’ve got them in California, Washington, Ohio, Chicago, Iowa, Pennsylvania, London, Germany, New Zealand,” he said.

In a way Joseph is a cultural ambassador for the Tlingit, and he’s excited to bring his carving to Anchorage. “It’s all about educating and sharing our culture with people,” he said. “It gives me the opportunity to go to places I probably wouldn’t have gone before and tell their story but the way we do in a totem pole.”

Joseph will be working on the totem pole through the week. Once restored it will be displayed inside the museum. In Anchorage, I’m Joaquin Palomino.

 

Categories: Alaska News

Almost All Alaska Vets Seen Within 30 Days At Anchorage VA

Tue, 2014-06-10 10:36

Ninty-nine percent of veterans seeking medical appointments from the Anchorage VA are seen within 30 days.

That’s according to a Veterans Affairs audit released Monday. The audit found an established patient could schedule a primary care appointment within two days, on average. The average wait time was less than three days to see a specialist, and less than a day for mental healthcare. New patient wait times were closer to 30 days.

The auditors interviewed staff at hundreds of VA hospitals and clinics across the country. Nationwide, 13 percent of schedulers reported they were told to falsify appointment schedules to make wait times appear shorter. Sen. Mark Begich says the Anchorage numbers reflect great improvement. Sen. Lisa Murkowski calls them encouraging but warns they represent a snapshot in time and require commitment to maintain.

Categories: Alaska News

State To Fight Challenge To Same-Sex Marriage Ban

Mon, 2014-06-09 17:37

Alaska Attorney General Michael Geraghty plans to fight a lawsuit challenging the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

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The Department of Law, in a statement, says the attorney general’s office has a duty “to uphold and defend the Alaska Constitution, which it intends to do.” The department says the state’s position will be more fully laid out in future court filings.

Alaska voters, in 1998, approved a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

Five same-sex couples – four married outside Alaska and one unmarried couple – sued in federal court last month, seeking to strike down the ban on gay marriage. They say the ban violates their right to due process and equal protection under the U.S. Constitution.

Categories: Alaska News

As Festival Season Kicks Off, So Does Campaign Season

Mon, 2014-06-09 17:36

Volunteers for Lt. Gov. candidate Dan Sullivan march in the Colony Days parade on June 7, 2014. (Alexandra Gutierrez/APRN)

Now that the filing deadline has passed, campaign season in Alaska has started in earnest. That means a lot of TV ads, a lot of yard signs, and a lot of glad-handing. For the next few months, politicians are going to be swarming fairs and festivals in an effort to win voters. The Colony Days parade held in Palmer this weekend was the first stop on the circuit.

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The Colony Days parade lasted two whole hours this year.

In between the floats from sports teams, churches, and the local utility, there was a lot of this:

PARADE MARSHALL: All right. Dan Sullivan for Lt. Governor. Here’s Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan, hello, and his wife Lynnette.

It was a literal parade of political candidates, where it felt like just about every other participant was asking for your vote. Sullivan had a volunteer wearing a green wig and propped up on stilts for his float. Members of Palmer Rep. Shelley Hughes’ entourage formed a kickline. Her opponent, Democrat Peter LaFrance, had a guy dressed as a yeti.

Out of 86 floats, 20 were manned by political candidates or organizations. Because it’s good advertising, political floats are each charged $100, while all other entries go free. All the major candidates for governor participated, and so did most of the U.S. Senate candidates. But events like these are especially important for first-timers running for office, like Cathy Tilton.

“It’s important to show up at the parades to get your name out there and to meet with the constituents and talk to them and make sure they know you’re in the race,” says Tilton.

Tilton is a Republican running for an open House seat in the Chugiak area. She’s been to Colony Days before, and she says the difference between an election year and an off year is pretty obvious.

“During a non-election year, the parade is not as full of floats and people,” says Tilton. “I’ve heard there’s 85 this year, and I think there’s been years where there’s been maybe 30? So, it’s a little more robust this year we can say.”

This isn’t the only event Tilton will go to before the August 19th primary. There are Fourth of July events, and the state fair, and plenty more. That’s a lot of marching to do, and a lot of fried food to consume.

“Well, it’s all going to depend on how many doors I walk to how many funnel cakes I’m allowed to have,” Tilto jokes.

Tilton’s not the only one to see a difference between parades in odd years and even years.

“From when we were younger till now, there’s a lot more political [campaigning] now,” says spectator Stacie Queripel. “It’s become very political.”

Queripel grew up in Palmer, and she’s been attending Colony Days for years. She has some misgivings about all the campaigning. She says the parade now feels more like political event than a community celebration.

“The kids don’t really get into it as much anymore,” says Queripel. “You don’t see the 4H groups in it as much anymore, and it’s kind of sad.”

About a block away from Queripel, Jim Daggett of Wasilla is hanging out by the orchestra. He’s got a “Sean Parnell for Governor” sign that he picked up during the parade, and he doesn’t have a problem with all the candidate appearances.

“They gotta shake hands and kiss babies, right?” Daggett laughs.

Daggett says it’s nice to see everyone out in person. It gives him a sense of whether the candidates are taking the campaign seriously and if they have popular support – something you can’t really tell from a campaign ad.

Rose LeCuche, also of Wasilla, is standing next to him, and she agrees. Appearances like these aren’t driving her decision on election day, but it gives her a sense of who’s running and what a candidate is like.

“It’s a time for them to actually look people right in the eye, and to shake their hands,” says LeCuche. “You can’t completely judge a person’s character by what you see for a few seconds, but you sure can get an impression.”

And between the signs they wave and all the bags of candy they hand out, the candidates marching are hoping it’s a good one.

Categories: Alaska News

New Effort To Repeal SB21 Kicks Off Around State

Mon, 2014-06-09 17:35

A grassroots effort to repeal Senate Bill 21 kicked off last week. Meetings of the “Vote Yes! Repeal the Giveaway” campaign took place from Anchorage to Unalaska, where organizers are struggling to convince residents that oil taxes matters in their community.

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Categories: Alaska News

Justice Department To Work With Tribes To Enhance Voting Access

Mon, 2014-06-09 17:34

The National Congress of American Indians is holding their mid-year conference in Anchorage this week. Titled-Claiming our Rights and Strengthening our Governance, the conference started yesterday and runs through Wednesday.

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(Photo by Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage)

U.S Department of Justice Assistant Attorney General Tony West adhered to the theme as he said DOJ would work with tribes to enhance access to voting.

“And so the Attorney General announced today that we would engage in consultation with tribal leaders to come up with legislative proposals that would hopefully at the end of the day would result in polling places in local Native communities, on reservations, in Native villages as well as ensuring that election materials, ballot materials are being presented and offered in those Native languages,” West said.

State Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai says remote precincts have a polling place in the most populated part of the precinct and other areas are designated ‘permanent absentee voting areas’. Voters in these areas can apply to have an absentee ballot mailed to them.

West said there are no legislative efforts being crafted yet, because tribal governments need to weigh in on what an equitable plan would look like.

West made it clear that Justice Department officials strongly support tribal government sovereignty and will work to help clarify jurisdiction issues in Alaska, particularly as it relates to domestic violence and sexual assault.

“In US Attorneys’ office, we’re making sure there are funds and resources available to try to deal with sex trafficking, to try to deal with violence against women,” West said. “We strongly support the repeal of section 910 of Violence Against Women Act which took Alaska Native villages outside of this ability of tribes to exercise special criminal jurisdiction and pursue, in certain instances, domestic violence perpetrators.”

Speaking earlier to a large group at the Dena’ina Convention center, West said DOJ filed a “statement of interest” last week in case called Toyukuk vs. Treadwell. Plaintiff Mike Toyukuk of the village of Manokotak, is suing the state over a failure to provide oral language assistance for citizens who speak Yu’pik as their first language.

“Because, if remote geography, or the inability to speak English, do not free any of us from the obligations and responsibilities of citizenship, then they should not impede the exercise of rights to which we are all entitled,” West said.

Categories: Alaska News

State Challenged On Native Translations Of Election Materials

Mon, 2014-06-09 17:33

Before the District Court’s ruling on Wednesday directing the state to translate all election materials into Native languages for voters with limited English skills, another effort to reach the same goal was in the works.

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U.S. Senator Mark Begich was working to turn back to what he calls protections that were in place until a year ago. That’s when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it’s unconstitutional to require nine states with a history of discrimination, including Alaska, to get federal pre-clearance on election changes. Begich recently introduced the Native Voting Rights bill in Congress.

“This will do a couple of things that I think are pretty important in ensuring ballots are translated into all written Native languages, and the state can’t close down polling booths and deciding where election booths should go without the Justice Department participating and reviewing those,” Begich said. “And also consultation between DOJ and tribes.”

Native American Rights Attorney Natalie Landreth says the Native Voters Rights bill would reinstate federal scrutiny of some election changes:

”Not as to all election changes,” Landreth said. :Only for specific kinds of things that are inherently suspect such as taking away early voting, removing the only polling place in a village, combining polling places in villages that are separated, that kind of a thing.”

“So you wouldn’t have preclearance for all voting changes, just for that small subset of them.”

Landreth says the legislation is needed because Alaska has a duel system for elections – one for urban areas and a less accessible, less convenient one for rural Alaska.

“Those of us who live in cities were unaware of some of the existing voting barriers in rural Alaska. Most of rural Alaska does not have early voting. A lot of villages have no polling places. There are more than 70 that have no polling places at all,” Landreth said. “A lot of places, the majority, where Native languages are spoken are not receiving adequate language assistance so voters understand what they are voting for. There are some serious, serious problems.”

In the 1960s, Alaska was tagged for pre-clearance because it provided English-only election materials and ballots to voters. The state has argued translations into Native languages were useless because the languages were spoken, not written, and few Natives read their language.

Lt. Gov. Mean Treadwell, a Republican candidate for Begich’s Senate seat, says the state sided with Alabama in the Supreme Court case because Alaskan elections are fair and pre-clearance is an unnecessary waste of time.

“We entered the Shelby county case to try and bring decision-making home,” Treadwell said. “Federal overreach on our elections had gotten so absurd that I could not even put an email address on a voter registration form without getting DOJ permission.”

Treadwell says he’s kept every polling place open that was there when he was elected. And he’s taken steps to have more.

“But getting good people to work on elections, we’re very interested in seeing that expanded,” Treadwell said. “We’ve done a number of things, from working to pay people more, to offering training for people who want to be election workers, to sending people out to villages to actually run elections when we can’t find people in a community.”

Treadwell says he’s open to a dialogue about how to improve elections.

“Elections are a sacred right and I don’t want this to become a political football,” Treadwell said. “It’s very, very good that we do everything we can to expand access to elections.”

Begich’s Native Voting Rights Act also would allow people to register using tribal identification cards, which are based on documentation and genealogies maintained by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Other Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate, Dan Sullivan and Joe Miller, did not respond to email requests for comments on the Native Voting Rights bill in time for this broadcast.

Categories: Alaska News

First Sport Fishing Restriction For Any Targeted King Salmon Fishing in The Kuskokwim

Mon, 2014-06-09 17:32

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has issued an emergency order prohibiting sport fishers from targeting king salmon on the Qanirtuuq River.

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It’s the first time sport fishers have been restricted from catching kings there, but many locals are doubtful that guide companies will comply.

“Division of Sport Fish closed the entire Kuskokwim drainage and the Kuskokwim bay drainage to sport fishing for king salmon effectively Thursday May 1, and that precludes any catch and release. If they accidentally catch a king salmon while their fishing for another species, that king salmon may not be removed from the water and must be released immediately,” Alaska Department of Fish and Game Sport Fish Division Area Biologist John Cythlook said.

He said this restriction was the result of an emergency order issued around the end of April.  Like rivers all over Alaska, King escapement has been dwindling in recent years on the Qanirtuuq River.

The emergency order states that only one un-baited, artificial lures may be used in the Kuskokwim-Goodnews area.

There are four guide companies operating on the Qanirtuuq River. They provide guided fishing trips among other wilderness services. There is a history of friction between subsistence fishers there and the guiding operations.

At a meeting held in Quinhagak on May 30, local fisher Willard Church said he’s doubtful that the guide companies stop targeting king salmon as they try to cater to their clients.

“If I came up from New York for a float trip for the very first time with a group of twelve, I’d want my King. Especially if I could get it up there,” Church said.

Of the four guiding outfits operating on the Qanirtuuq River three are currently advertising king salmon as a species anglers can expect to catch. Alaska West, which has the largest operation on the Qanirtuuq according to local residents, has this on their website regarding king salmon, “At Alaska West we have honed and refined our fly angling skills and collective knowledge to a point where we consistently hook and land these behemoth masses that more resemble chrome plated sea lions than fish.”

Brian Burke, a sales representative for Alaska West declined to be interviewed but said that their website is up to date.

Owner of another sport fishing guide company called Reel Action, Paul Jacob, said his company will be complying with the restrictions. He says he makes that clear to all his potential customers. But Jacob’s says sport fisher’s must purchase stamps from Fish and Game, and that revnue goes towards things like salmon research.  He says taking down the king salmon advertising on his website would be counter productive.

“I don’t believe that there is a good reason to do that, because it throws fear into the general public about coming to Alaska, and the research that is done to figure out why these salmon are crashing. It’s not just the Kuskokwim it’s all across all of Alaska, and when you scare people away by having them not come up to Alaska you take away the funding that it takes to figure out why the salmon are not doing well in the ocean,” Jacob said.

Meanwhile, Paul Hansen owns another guide operation called Alaska Rainbow Adventures. Hansen says he’ll be moving king salmon anglers to the Alagnak River near King Salmon where sport fishing for king salmon are allowed through king salmon stamps.

While the guide companies around the area appear to comply to recent restrictions, in Quinhagak many aren’t convinced, like John T. Roberts.  Roberts lives in the village and once worked as a sport guide.

Department of Fish and Game says wildlife troopers will be making unannounced visits to sport fishing sites to ensure these restrictions are not violated.

For more information in the emergency order, click here.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: June 9, 2014

Mon, 2014-06-09 17:32

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

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State To Fight Challenge To Same-Sex Marriage Ban

The Associated Press

Alaska Attorney General Michael Geraghty plans to fight a lawsuit challenging the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

As Festival Season Kicks Off, So Does Campaign Season

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

Now that the filing deadline has passed, campaign season in Alaska has started in earnest. That means a lot of TV ads, a lot of yard signs, and a lot of glad-handing. For the next few months, politicians are going to be swarming fairs and festivals in an effort to win voters. The Colony Days parade held in Palmer this weekend was the first stop on the circuit.

New Effort To Repeal SB21 Kicks Off Around State

Annie Ropeik, KUCB – Unalaska

A grassroots effort to repeal Senate Bill 21 kicked off last week. Meetings of the “Vote Yes! Repeal the Giveaway” campaign took place from Anchorage to Unalaska, where organizers are struggling to convince residents that oil taxes matters in their community.

Justice Department To Work With Tribes To Enhance Voting Access

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

The National Congress of American Indians is holding their mid-year conference in Anchorage this week. Titled-Claiming our Rights and Strengthening our Governance, the conference started yesterday and runs through Wednesday.

State Challenged On Native Translations Of Election Materials

Joaqlin Estus, KNBA – Anchorage

That case will go to trial later this month. A federal judge has said the constitutional right to vote requires the state of Alaska to translate all election materials into Native languages for voters lacking English proficiency. A Congressional effort to reach the same goal is also in the works.

First Sport Fishing Restriction For Any Targeted King Salmon Fishing in The Kuskokwim

Charles Enoch, KYUK – Bethel

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has issued an emergency order prohibiting sport fishers from targeting king salmon on the Qanirtuq River.

Graduation Marks 10th Anniversary Of Dental Health Aide Therapist Program

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

A group of six dental health aide therapists graduated from training Friday in Anchorage. The ceremony also marked the 10th anniversary of the innovative program that places mid-level dental practitioners in under-served rural communities across Alaska. 81 villages in the state now have therapists.

Anchorage Museum Becomes Smithsonian Affiliate

Joaquin Palomino, APRN Intern

This week the Anchorage Museum reached a new level of recognition when it became a Smithsonian Affiliate, making it the only institution in Alaska that’s part of the Smithsonian’s network of 160-museums.

Categories: Alaska News

Graduation Marks 10th Anniversary Of Dental Health Aide Therapist Program

Mon, 2014-06-09 17:31

(Photo by Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage)

A group of six dental health aide therapists graduated from training Friday in Anchorage. The ceremony also marked the 10th anniversary of the innovative program that places mid-level dental practitioners in under-served rural communities across Alaska. 81 villages in the state now have therapists.

Former Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Louis Sullivan spoke at the graduation. Sullivan says the American Dental Association has strongly opposed the program from the beginning. But he says dental health aide therapists help expand the reach of dentists.

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Categories: Alaska News

Anchorage Museum Becomes Smithsonian Affiliate

Mon, 2014-06-09 17:30

This week the Anchorage Museum reached a new level of recognition when it became a Smithsonian Affiliate, making it the only institution in Alaska that’s part of the Smithsonian’s network of 160-museums.

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Categories: Alaska News

Unalaska’s Wildlife Troopers To Remain Short-Staffed

Mon, 2014-06-09 12:02

(Courtesy: Alaska Wildlife Troopers)

A recently vacated Wildlife Trooper post in Unalaska is staying empty for now. It means staffing levels will be unconventionally low in the town that’s home to the patrol vessel Stimson.

Being an Alaska Wildlife Trooper in Unalaska means having two jobs: working on land with local law enforcement, and going out to sea aboard the Stimson.

The boat patrols commercial fisheries in the Bering Sea and Western Alaska year-round. It’s been homeported in Unalaska since 1998. Trooper sergeant Robin Morrisett has been with it off and on since its second voyage.

“For the longest time we’ve had three people” in Unalaska’s trooper office, he says. “Prior to the Stimson being out here, we had one and two positions. Then when the Stimson got out here, we’ve always had three.”

The state considered moving the Stimson to Kodiak this year, but Unalaska lobbied to keep it, saying the town is in the best location to keep tabs on all the region’s fisheries.

So the Stimson is staying put – but not all its troopers are.

Trooper Jason Ball left Unalaska with his family last weekend. He’s taking a new position as a pilot in Anchorage. And with resources tight across the state, his position will be left open indefinitely.

“Now it’ll just be the sergeant and one trooper that’s out here,” says Sergeant Morrisett.

In the past, he says two troopers have gone out on the Stimson’s patrols, while another has stayed back in Unalaska.

“Now with not having three people here in town, that’ll leave two troopers for enforcement on the boat, and then zero people here in town,” he says. “Which, you know… sometimes we leave, and the guy in town just keeps on doing his work and then picks up work as it comes in. Sometimes … it just kind of all depends.”

Morrisett isn’t too worried about the deficit. He says local police share in their workload of traffic stops and warrant arrests, anyway.

And if an Unalaska trooper ever did need to stay behind while the Stimson went out to sea? Trooper spokesperson Megan Peters says the state plans to fly in substitute troopers from Anchorage or Kodiak to go on the boat as needed.

Of course, it costs money to make that happen – but Peters says that’s something they have to balance against the cost of filling vacancies full-time.

“They just need to be looked at and analyzed and see where our greatest needs are,” Peters says. “And [we] also look at other resources on our abilities to get troopers out to places when they’re needed, versus whether we need somebody there on more of a regular basis.”

So the deficit in Unalaska isn’t necessarily permanent. But with 10 total wildlife trooper vacancies statewide, Peters says it’s something the town will have to deal with for now.

Categories: Alaska News

Earthquakes Swarm the Brooks Range

Mon, 2014-06-09 10:09

Map for April and May 2014 Earthquakes in Northwestern Alaska. (Image: Alaska Earthquake Center)

An “earthquake swarm” is hitting the Brooks Range. Seismologists do not know why it is occurring or if it will continue.

Friday night a 5.5 magnitude earthquake struck 20 miles northeast of Noatak. This is the third 5.5 quake that has struck the same area in the past two months.

Michael West is the Director of the Alaska Earthquake Information Center and said, “We are now referring to this as an ‘earthquake swarm.’ That is there’s something in the earth that is causing a whole series of earthquakes of similar size. It really is quite unusual to have this in that kind of setting.”

West said earthquake swarms are common around volcanoes. But with no volcanoes in the Brooks Range, this seismic swarm is raising questions for seismologists nationwide.

“At the moment,” West said, “we are not aware of a similar kind of sequence like this that has ever really occurred in the Brooks Range or in Western Alaska.”

West says the Earthquake Center does not know what is causing the swarm. But it does know the quakes all ruptured from the same type of fault and are all moving in the same direction.

“All of these are the same type of motion. And that certainly tells us that there is a weak zone. There is clearly a fault system that we have previously not been very aware of in this area,” West said.

Last month, technicians installed temporary seismic stations in Noatak and Kotzebue after the second major quake hit the area. West says the data will allow seismologists to “see inside the fault,” and the stations are recording hundreds of aftershocks, helping seismologists better understand what is happening beneath the Brooks Range.

No injuries or damage has been reported.

Categories: Alaska News

Critics Question Sealaska Ballot

Mon, 2014-06-09 10:06

Four Sealaska board of directors candidates say the regional Native corporation’s balloting process violates a recent court ruling.

Sealaska says it’s not a problem.

Sealaska Plaza, the corporation’s headquarters.

The Alaska Supreme Court decision came in a case involving CIRI, the regional Native corporation for the Cook Inlet area.

The group 4 Shareholders for Sealaska says Native corporations must now disclose how discretionary votes will be counted in board elections.

Discretionary votes are turned over to the board, which casts them for its slate. Shareholders authorize such voting by checking a box on their ballots, also called proxies.

Randy Wanamaker is spokesman for the 4 Shareholders group.

“Sealaska’s proxy does not contain that language. They have some language in their proxy booklet, but not on the proxy itself. And the state Supreme Court said you must put it on the proxy,” Wanamaker says.

Sealaska officials say election attorneys have reviewed the issue.

Corporate Secretary Nicole Hallingstad says the ballots are legal, as-is.

“The outside group misinterprets the CIRI case and is designed to confuse shareholders. Sealaska’s proxy statement, proxy card and bylaws all state clearly that discretionary votes will be allocated to elect the board slate candidates,” Hallingstad says.

Thirteen people are seeking four seats on the regional Native corporation’s board. There are three incumbents, the four-shareholders slate and six independents.

This year’s proxy also includes a resolution to limit discretionary voting.

Balloting is underway and winners will be announced at the June 28th annual meeting near Seattle.

Sealaska is the regional Native corporation for Tlingits, Haidas and Tsimshians with roots in Southeast Alaska. More than half its almost 22,000 shareholders live outside the region.

The 4 Shareholders candidates are Karen Taug, Ross Soboleff, Carlton Smith and Margaret Nelson.

The independent candidates are Myrna Gardner, Mick Beasley, Michelle McConkey, Will Micklin, Edward Sarabia Jr. and Ralph Wolfe.

The board incumbents are Sidney Edenshaw, Ed Thomas and Rosita Worl. Incumbent Bryon Mallott is not seeking re-election so he can focus on running for governor.

Sealaska4′s press release:Based on a recent Alaska Supreme Court decision, the four independent candidates for the Sealaska board – Karen Taug, Ross Soboleff, Carlton Smith, and Margaret Nelson — are questioning the rules governing Sealaska’s annual meeting voting process.

“It appears Sealaska failed to make changes to this year’s corporate ballot as required by a recent Alaska Supreme Court decision,” said the group’s spokesman, Randy Wanamaker. “On the advice of counsel, the Sealaska4 sent letters on May 22 to Sealaska’s corporate secretary and the independent inspector of elections. The correspondence pointed out Sealaska’s failure to properly disclose how discretionary votes will be distributed.”

Two weeks later, the Sealaska4 candidates have not received a response nor has Sealaska issued a corrected ballot. With only three weeks to go before the regional corporation’s annual meeting on June 28, the Sealaska4 candidates are pressing Sealaska for a response.

The Alaska Supreme Court’s decision in Rude v. CIRI now requires Alaska Native corporations to disclose on proxy ballots how discretionary votes will be allocated. Wanamaker says that Sealaska’s proxy ballot does not include the necessary explanation.

“It appears that Sealaska’s ballot advisors failed to adequately consider the new voting rules,” said Wanamaker. “The result may be that Sealaska will have to assign discretionary votes equally to its board slate candidates.”

According to Wanamaker, discretionary voting is a controversial practice long used by Sealaska to distribute votes in unequal amounts to elect as many of the board slate candidates as possible. “This practice often results in the election of incumbent directors who may have weak shareholder support,”
Wanamaker said.

A shareholder petition forced the question of discretionary voting practice onto the 2014 Sealaska ballot. If shareholders support the initiative, discretionary voting will not be allowed in subsequent elections. Wanamaker said that considering the new court decision, and Sealaska’s apparent failure to incorporate and disclose the required discretionary voting instructions on the ballot, the corporate bylaws are open for challenge.

Sealaska’s press release:

“The press release by the outside group misinterprets the CIRI case and is designed to confuse shareholders. Sealaska’s proxy statement, proxy card, and bylaws all state clearly that discretionary votes will be allocated to elect the board slate candidates. It is the duty of the Independent Inspectors of Election and Voting to determine the effect of each proxy. The Inspectors of Election has independent legal counsel, and verbally advised Sealaska that the proxies are valid as written. We expect written confirmation of this conclusion. Any Sealaska shareholder voting on Sealaska’s blue proxy can be assured their votes will be counted.

The press release issued by the outside group further confuses shareholders by wrongly representing the shareholder resolution. It is a resolution to reduce the use of discretionary voting on the Sealaska proxy unless an independent slate is present and also using discretionary voting. To claim that support of the initiative would disallow discretionary voting in all subsequent elections is simply not true.”

Categories: Alaska News

Coast Guard Sector Juneau Gets New Leadership

Mon, 2014-06-09 10:05

U.S. Coast Guard Sector Juneau has a new commanding officer.

Capt. Shannan Greene took over for Capt. Scott Bornemann in a ceremony Friday at Centennial Hall.

Rear Admiral Thomas Ostebo (right), commander of the U.S. Coast Guard’s 17th District recognizes outgoing Sector Juneau commander Capt. Scott Bornemann at a change of command ceremony on Friday. (Photo by Casey Kelly/KTOO)

Bornemann led Sector Juneau for the past three years. He said the men and women under his command during that time are the best the Coast Guard has to offer.

“I’d match them with any crew in the country,” he said, before listing some of their accomplishments.

“You sank a derelict Japanese fishing vessel,” Bornemann said, referring to the Ryou-Un Maru, which sailed across the Pacific Ocean without a crew following the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami.

“You planned and conducted multiple unified command-based exercises that broadened stakeholder and tribal engagement and group participation with key agencies in search and rescue, security and natural disaster scenarios,” he said. “You also ensured the safety of the pristine marine environment in Southeast Alaska.”

Bornemann is staying in Juneau as Chief of Prevention for the Coast Guard’s 17th District. He’ll oversee maritime safety, maritime security and environmental stewardship for the entire state.

Greene most recently served as Deputy Chief of Incident Management for the Coast Guard’s 1st District in Boston, where she supervised hazard response and search missions for eight Northeast states. According to a Coast Guard biography, highlights of her tour there include coordinating responses to Hurricane Sandy and the Boston Marathon bombing.

Greene said she was impressed by all aspects of Sector Juneau during her transition week working with Bornemann.

“To our many partners throughout Southeast Alaska, we could not be successful without your expertise and involvement,” she said. “I look forward to continuing the robust relationship that already exists today.”

Greene’s husband is a Coast Guard commander. They have three young sons.

Coast Guard Sector Juneau has about 250 active duty, reserve and civilian employees.

District 17 Commanding Officer Rear Adm. Thomas Ostebo presented Bornemann with a citation for meritorious service to Sector Juneau. Ostebo has been promoted to a position in Washington, D.C. His change of command ceremony is June 12.

Categories: Alaska News

Local Researchers Find New Home As Japanese Agencies Leave

Mon, 2014-06-09 10:02

The University of Alaska Board of Regents gave their formal approval for a $4.4 million project to re-purpose the Syun-Ichi Akasofu Building on the campus of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks during a regular meeting last week.

The project comes after two Japanese agencies vacated the buildings. Their absence means a loss of funding that would otherwise pay to maintain the building.

(Credit International Arctic Research Center)

How the university will make up the deficit remains a mystery as the UA system continues to struggle with an anticipated $12 to $14 million budget shortfall in the coming year.

The Akasofu building, home of the International Arctic Research Center (IARC) was constructed in 1999 as a joint venture between UAF, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology. But after 15 years, the Japanese have decided to refocus their polar research efforts and vacate the building.

“We’ve had an incredibly strong partnership with the Japanese and they’ve been giving us between $3 and 5 million a year in research support,” Larry Hinzman, IARC’s Director, said. “And they’ve been paying for half of the lease on the building, so it’s been a tremendous boon for the university and we’ve had some huge research accomplishments through our partnerships with them.”

With the Japanese agencies gone, Hinzman says other research units directly associated with the University will move in. One of those organizations is the Scenarios Network for Alaska and Arctic Planning (SNAP).  For the last five years, SNAP has been paying more than $180,000 to lease offices off campus. Director Scott Rupp says moving into the Akasofu building means more than financial savings.

“SNAP was set up by the university as sort of a bridging entity to take a lot of our high latitude research, get it more applied and to cultivate collaboration across the institutes and schools,” Rupp said. “So we’ve been doing a lot of that already, but the really big boon is just going to be the ability to walk next door to researchers and not have to get in a car or walk.”

But savings on SNAP’s lease won’t make up for a revenue loss.  The Japanese paid for a lease that covered 60 percent of the annual upkeep costs for the Akasofu Building. In fact, they paid extra over the last decade and a half.  The unspent money was held in a reserve account that now totals more than $5 million. More than half of that will pay to renovate offices for SNAP personnel. The rest will be reimbursed.

Hinzman says IARC will have to find other ways to cover maintenance in the future.

“Our researchers have been focusing on getting other external research funds, so we’ve been doing a lot more proposals to NSF, a lot more proposals to the department of energy, and NASA and the USGS, and so we are seeking other ancillary funds through external funding agencies,” he said. “So yeah we are making it up. And it is going to hurt us, we’re losing, just this year we’re going to lose $3.5 million from the Japanese support for research. And so that’s hard to absorb. It’s going to hurt us but it’s not going to kill us.”

The renovation is scheduled to start in September, with completion slated for early 2015. Once moved, SNAP will join three other research organizations that focus on climate assessment, policy and fire science in the Akasofu building.

Categories: Alaska News
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