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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: 34 min 42 sec ago

Residents protest home demolition, Knik Arm Bridge

Tue, 2014-07-15 17:33

Residents protest in front of a home slated for removal for the proposed Knik Arm Bridge. Hillman/KSKA

More than 50 people gathered in the Government Hill neighborhood this afternoon to protest the demolition of two homes. The state is clearing the land to make way for the proposed but not yet funded Knik Arm Bridge.

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“Stop the demolition now! Stop the demolition now!” chanted a group of Anchorage residents from across the city standing in front of a blue house in Government Hill. They waved signs reading “Haste Makes Waste” and “Save our Homes.” Anne Reddig was with them.

“This is my neighborhood,” she said. “I live three houses this way. I don’t want a big gaping hole waiting for something that’s not funded. They’re taking away my neighborhood. They’re ruining where I live.”

Two houses and the old Sourdough Lodge are being demolished in preparation for the proposed $1.6 billion dollar Knik Arm Bridge. So far the state has only secured about $150 million for the project. The protesters say the state is moving too hastily — why should the state remove homes when it’s unclear if the project will actually happen? Most of the federal funding the state is trying to secure has historically gone toward projects in much larger, congested urban areas.

96-year-old Margery Ellis built her home in Government Hill in 1950. It’s set to be demolished during another phase of the project. ”We don’t need terrorists when we have KABATA,” she said, referring to the project’s previous name. “Everything they’ve done is to destroy Government Hill, which is the oldest community in Anchorage.”

Before the protesters gathered, Department of Transportation spokeswoman Jill Reese and the property manager led a tour of the buildings.

“You probably just want to just wait,” the crowd of reporters at the bottom of the wooden stairs was told. “Have three people come up at a time. Because these are not very sturdy.”

The upstairs portion of the blue house was filled with sun from the skylights and soaring windows. But the musty ground floor had ripped up carpet and asbestos ceiling tiles. DOT’s Reese pointed out damage.

“Practically everything in the whole house would need to be redone. And as you’ll see there’s broken bathroom fixtures and those sorts of things.”

Reese said all three buildings are in the way of the bridge project. She explained the state moved quickly to purchase the buildings and relocate the tenants because that process can take a lot of time.

“You can’t wait until you’re ready with the financing to start building the bridge. You might be three or four years down the line just to get properties purchased. Also, especially in the Anchorage Bowl, prices aren’t going down.”

Reese said the state will pay for the removal of the buildings, which could cost between $500,000 to $1 million. Then they’ll be reimbursed if they get the federal grant. And the houses don’t have to be destroyed. Reese said they can also be moved to other parts of town. That’s what happened to some condos when Dowling Road was built.

Jill Reese talks about the project inside one of the homes slated for removal. Hillman/KSKA

“What we say is the market will speak. If there’s a dollar to be made on these properties in their whole form then I’m sure that is the route that will be taken. And if not then they will be demolished.”

All of the contractors who were walking through the properties during the protest declined to comment. They were examining the project before submitting bids by the 25th.

Some of the protesters said that it doesn’t matter if they tear down or relocate the buildings — it still leaves a hole in the neighborhood. And Lance Powell from Mid-Hillside said not only people in Government Hill should be concerned.

“Well if it can happen here, it can happen in any neighborhood in Anchorage.”

Powell says empty lots deter businesses and new residents from coming into the area. Others say large roads divide communities and cause deterioration, and that’s not what they want.

“What do we want?” cried a man over a bull horn.

“Homes!” responded the crowd.

“What do we need?” “Homes!” “What will we save?” “Homes!”

DOT has scheduled for the properties to be cleared by November and planted over with grass. They do not have a set schedule for when the bridge would be funded or built.

Categories: Alaska News

House Considers Bill To Provide Advance Funding To IHS

Tue, 2014-07-15 17:32

The CEO of Kotzebue-based Maniilaq Association on Tuesday urged a U.S. House subcommittee to pass a bill that would provide advance funding for the Indian Health Service.

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Tim Schuerch says the uncertainty and delays in federal funding makes it hard to run a hospital and hire health care professionals. He spoke in favor of legislation that would have Congress appropriate money a year in advance for the IHS, as it does now for the Veterans Health Administration.

“If I don’t know where the money is gonna coming from in October, November, December, how can I make those commitments to those health professionals, to hire them?” Schuerch said. “Our doctors have to know that they’re gonna get a paycheck.”

One way or another, the bills must be paid. And if the federal funds aren’t there yet, Schuerch says he must pursue other options…like asking a bank for a line of credit or a bridge loan.

“Inevitably, what’s gonna happen in that discussion is the bank is gonna ask me, “So, what is your plan to pay the money back? When are you gonna get the money and what is your plan to pay back the amount borrowed with interest?’” Schuerch said. “And the answer is generally, ‘I don’t know. It’s up to Congress.’”

Without concrete answers, Schuerch says borrowing is difficult, and advanced federal appropriations would help alleviate many of the current problems.

The Maniilaq Association provides health, tribal and social services to 12 federally recognized tribes and 8,000 people in Northwest Alaska.

Categories: Alaska News

Sullivan Reports Almost $1.2M In Donations In 2nd Quarter

Tue, 2014-07-15 17:31

In the U.S. Senate race, it appears Republican candidate Dan Sullivan is sustaining his fundraising momentum.

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He reports nearly $1.2 million in donations for the second quarter of the year. That makes three straight quarters for him where contributions exceeded $1 million.

Incumbent Senator Mark Begich reports raising only slightly more for the quarter. Sullivan’s contributions come primarily from out-of-state, but his campaign says he raised almost $200,000 of his money in-state during the previous three months.

Tuesday is the federal deadline for campaign finance reports covering April through June. Republican challengers Joe Miller and Mead Treadwell have not yet announced their totals.

Categories: Alaska News

World Eskimo Indian Olympics Start Wednesday

Tue, 2014-07-15 17:30

The Nulukataq event at WEIO in Fairbanks. Photo: Ronn Murray Photography, WEIO.

The World Eskimo-Indian Olympics start Wednesday in Fairbanks, with qualifiers for events like one-armed reach and the Race of the Torch ahead of opening ceremonies at 6 p.m. inside the Carlson Center.

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WEIO started in 1961 as a way to bring athletes and dancers from across Alaska together for competitions and celebration. Since then it has grown into a days-long event, comprised of tournament-style athletic competition, as well as pageantry showcasing skills like skin-sewing, and recognizing ongoing achievement in cultural practices.

WEIO has also served as an organizational body for establishing uniform standards for native games from around diverse parts of the state. It is one of the reigning authorities in the world on records for events played across the circumpolar North, like one-foot high kick, knuckle hop, and ear-pull–games rooted in testing and strengthening abilities necessary for subsistence.

This year’s WEIO tournament through Saturday, with the full schedule of events available here.

Categories: Alaska News

In Fight Over Marijuana, Alcohol Becomes Taboo

Tue, 2014-07-15 17:29

While alcohol is usually a fixture of most political fundraisers, there will be no wine or cocktails at events focused on the marijuana initiative.

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The opposition group Big Marijuana Big Mistake is hosting its first fundraiser Tuesday, and the only beverages available will be “delicious lemonade, sparkling waters, all kinds of fun pop and soda,” says Deborah Williams.

Williams is the former Democratic Party Chair, and she’s co-hosting the event alongside former Govs. Frank Murkowski and Bill Sheffield. Because the ballot initiative they’re fighting would allow the sale of marijuana, organizers decided weeks ago that they should make the event substance free.

“Former Rep. Alyce Hanley recommended that we make this event alcohol-free, and we all enthusiastically agreed,” says Williams.

But the group didn’t originally make it clear that their event was going to be dry. On Tuesday morning, sponsors of the marijuana initiative sent out a press release advising people who attend the fundraiser to “exercise caution” if offered alcohol because it is “more harmful” than marijuana. The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol also pointed out that Murkowski received nearly $20,000 in political contributions from the beverage industry during his last decade in the U.S. Senate.

Williams believes the attack was uncalled for, and described implication of hypocrisy and the comments on Murkowski as “nasty.”

But Chris Rempert, who is the political director for the pro-marijuana campaign, still believes the criticism of his opponents is merited, even if they’re not serving hard drinks at their event.

“Alcohol is frequently a major part of political events, and since their invitation was touting refreshments and since the event was being hosted by an alcohol friendly governor like Murkowski, we felt it was important to convey the message,” says Rempert.

For their part, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol does not plan on serving alcohol at any future events they host.

Categories: Alaska News

Hazardous Material Containers Cleaned Up In Galena

Tue, 2014-07-15 17:28

A state report on the response to the 2013 flooding in Galena says more than 5,000 containers of hazardous material scattered throughout the area during the disaster were collected.

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The containers ranged from aerosol cans to 55-gallon drums, with the hazardous debris strewn within a 15-mile radius of the Yukon River village.

An environmental program specialist with the agency estimated the cleanup cost at well over $1 million, costs that will be included as the state seeks reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Categories: Alaska News

Sunken Barge Irks Kuskokwim Residents

Tue, 2014-07-15 17:27

The barge, Shanks Ark, sitting in Steamboat Slough.

Residents of fish camps along ‘Steamboat Slough’ near Bethel are calling for an abandoned barge to be removed. The barge has been sitting half submerged in the middle of the slough for more than a year.

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Barbara Anvil is furious the barge has been left in the slough, which serves as a highway for boats in summer and for snow machines and four wheelers in winter. She says the barge is right in the middle of that highway and it’s a safety hazard.

“This winter somebody got hurt with a four wheeler … In fact, my brother’s the one who came across his four wheeler over there by the barge. There was lots of blood and stuff around it,” said Anvil.

That blood was, then 28-year-old, Jason Fisher’s. He says he was driving his 4-wheeler around 10 o’clock on December 16th on his way home from Bethel to Kwethluk, when he hit the barge. He doesn’t remember much because the impact knocked him out. He had a head injury and was in the hospital for about a month. He had to have surgery to amputate nine and half of his fingers. Bethel Police and Search and Rescue officials confirm Fisher’s story.

The barge, named ‘Shanks Ark’, sunk in 2012 or 2013. Officials with the Alaska Department of Natural Resources say the barge is owned by Bethel-based Kuskokwim Lighterage and Trucking and was being leased and operated by Faulkner Walsh Constructors, also of Bethel.

Ana Hoffman is CEO of Bethel Native Corporation. She also has a family fish camp on the slough. She wrote to the Coast Guard, which she says identified the barge as a navigational hazard that requires no action on their part.

“I was pretty alarmed that the barge really is left there sunken in the middle of the slough. It seems to be a real hazard,” said Hoffman.

She called on Alaska’s Senators for help. Senator Lisa Murkowski met with residents about the problem. Murkowski’s office says they’ve been monitoring the situation and in touch with state officials about the barge. Still, nothing has been done.

Harry Faulkner, an owner of Faulkner Walsh Constructors says State Department of Environmental Conservation and the DNR have their facts wrong. He says he was done leasing the ‘Shanks Ark’ barge, which he was using to haul fish, by the time it was moored in Steamboat Slough.

“We put it away for the year and it decided to float itself out in the Spring of the following year. (Daysha Eaton: They said it happened while it was moored and you were still leasing it.) Faulkner: That is not correct. We had it leased for the year and we were done with it. (Daysha Eaton: Okay, can you send me the documents that show the time period for which you were leasing it?) Faulkner: No. (Daysha Eaton: Why not?) Because it was a verbal agreement between the fish manager and Dave Ausdahl, the owner of the barge,” said Faulkner.

Dave Ausdahl refutes Faulkers claim and says Faulkner Walsh failed to secure the vessel when they put it away after fishing season.

“I provided the barge to Faulkner Walsh for their fishery operations in exchange for them fetching and returning to storage each year and keeping it floating. So it was under their care, custody and control through the 2012 season when they were to put it away properly,” said Ausdahl.

But they didn’t put it away properly, claims Ausdahl, which caused it to float out into the middle of the Slough and get stuck. Neither Faulkner nor Ausdahl said they’d heard about Fisher’s terrible crash last winter.

Anvil says she’s not sure who is responsible for removing the barge, but she hopes it happens before someone else gets hurt.

“It’s gonna start getting dark pretty soon and at nighttime you can’t see that there’s a barge there … so I’m sure somebody’s gonna get hurt,” said Anvil

‘Shanks Ark’ is one of several rusting vessels that make the slough look like a graveyard for river going barges. At last count, state officials say there were 22 abandoned vessels in the Bethel area, 13 of them in Steamboat slough.

DNR officials say the company operating the barge when it broke loose is responsibility for removing it.

Faulkner Walsh has submitted a plan to remove their sunken barge near Kwethluk, and two vessels in Steamboat Slough, but never removed any of them. They have not submitted a plan to remove ‘Shanks Ark’ which remains in the middle of the channel.

Categories: Alaska News

Healy Frees Sailboat Trapped in Arctic Ice

Tue, 2014-07-15 17:26

The Coast Guard cutter Healy made a detour from its science mission in the Arctic last Saturday to rescue a sailboat trapped in ice near Barrow.

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The Healy broke through Arctic ice to reach the S/V Altan Girl near Barrow on Saturday. /Credit: USCGC Healy

The Altan Girl is a 36-foot steel boat, trying to sail the Northwest Passage from Vancouver to eastern Canada.

The vessel is Turkish-Canadian, according to The Nome Nugget. The newspaper says the boat’s skipper, Erkan Gursoy, plans to sail across Canada all the way to Turkey.

But the boat got stuck in sea ice Saturday, 40 miles northeast of Barrow. Weather conditions meant search and rescue couldn’t fly in from the North Slope — so the Coast Guard diverted the Healy to help out.

The Healy towed the Altan Girl through 12 miles of Arctic ice before they reached open water. The cutter’s crew did a safety check. Then they sent the sailboat back to Barrow to resupply and wait for better conditions.

The Healy is now back on track with its Arctic research mission, funded by the National Science Foundation.

Categories: Alaska News

Commercial Fishing Season Ramping Up In Cook Inlet

Tue, 2014-07-15 17:25

In the Southern District, the Port Graham Subdistrict opened July 14 to commercial set gillnetting for the first time this season. Returns haven’t been especially high, so that fishery has been closed so far, says Glenn Hollowell, Fish and Game Finfish Area Management Biologist for the Lower Cook Inlet.

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“We’ve been tracking the sockeye return to English Bay Lakes,” says Hollowell. “It’s been what I’ve called modest this year. We’ve just barely made our escapement goals with a subsistence fishery but no commercial fishery. Had we had a commercial fishery, I think it would have depressed escapement to the lakes below the level that we want to see. So, we’ve kept the commercial fishery closed and the subsistence fishery open.”

The sustainable escapement goal is 6,000 to 13,500 sockeye. As of July 11, about 6,700 fish had returned. Beginning at 6 a.m. July 14, it is open for regular 48-hour Monday and Thursday commercial fishing periods. The subsistence fishery will remain open.

Set gillnetting opened in portions of the Barabara Creek, Tutka Bay, Halibut Cove, and Seldovia Bay Subdistricts in early June. Those areas will remain open for two 48-hour fishing periods per week. Hollowell says it’s still early in the season to tell, but this harvest doesn’t seem to  match up to last year’s.

“It seems like we’ve been running slightly ahead of the 10-year average,” says Hollowell. “But last year was just an amazing year. We were way ahead of the 10-year average last year and we seem to be trailing that a little bit this year.”

The 10-year average for sockeyes is about 21,000 fish. The 2013 harvest was more than 29,000. So far this season, 22,000 reds have been caught by set gillnetters in the Southern District.

The purse seine fisheries in the Tutka Bay, Halibut Cove and Humpy Creek Subdistricts and the China Poot and Neptune Bay Sections are also open.

“Typically, those are very, very slow fisheries until about now and then they start to pick up as pink salmon come back through and as we start seeing coho and sockeye salmon,” says Hollowell. “And the sockeye salmon harvest has picked up quite a bit in the purse seine fishery in the last week and a half I would say.”

As of July 3, only 373 sockeye had been caught. By July 7, that number had jumped to more than 1,300.

In the Kamishak Bay District, the Chenik Subdistrict had its first purse seine opening July 12 through 14.

“Usually they go into Chenik Lake during high tide cycles,” says Hollowell. “But, apparently, they got in during a moderate tide cycle. So, we’ve got about 6,000 fish in the lake, which is within the sustainable escapement goal of 3,500 to 14,000. So, we’re doing okay there.”

Finally, in the Outer District, there are openings in Port Dick, and the Windy Bay, Rocky Bay, and Nuka Island Subdistricts.

Hollowell says as it is still early in the season, it will still take some time to identify this year’s trends in the commercial salmon harvest throughout Lower Cook Inlet.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: July 14, 2014

Mon, 2014-07-14 18:04

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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 Scientists Use Satellites to Track Polar Bears

Joaquin Palomino, APRN – Anchorage

With sea ice in the Arctic melting, the region’s most iconic animal—the polar bear—is in peril.  Researchers have monitored the threatened predator for decades, but tracking bears in remote and harsh climates can be costly and dangerous.  Which is why federal scientists have started using a new tool to study polar bears: satellites.

At Democratic Lt. Gov. Debate, Differences In Style Over Substance

Alexandra Gutirrez, APRN – Juneau

When voters go to the polls in August, there will be just two statewide primary contests on the ballot. There’s the Republican Senate primary, which is attracting national attention and millions of dollars to match. And then there’s the Democratic lieutenant governor’s race. The two candidates for the Democratic nomination debated Monday at a lightly attended Anchorage Chamber of Commerce event. The pair differed more in style than substance.

Flooding Cleanup Starts in Juneau

Matt Miller, KTOO – Juneau

A handful of homes in Juneau are cleaning up after a river flooded over the weekend. The unusual event has become a regular, almost expected occurrence in the Capital City.

Entrepreneurs Get Second Chance for Awards

Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau

Southeast Alaska entrepreneurs are getting a second chance to win $40,000 to develop regional businesses. It’s part of a partnership involving a Native corporation and a conservation group that made its first awards last year.

Calista Looking to Expand

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

Facing federal budget slashing and continued pressure on 8(a) contracting, the Calista Regional Native Corporation is continuing to look beyond federal contracts. The company acquired STG, a major construction company last year and is hoping to grow across the economy.

Memorial Dedicated to WWII Internees

Jeremy Hsieh, KTOO – Juneau

After Pearl Harbor was attacked, Juneau’s Japanese population was forced from their homes and sent to internment camps in the Lower 48. Teenager John Tanaka was among those shipped out. He was the valedictorian of Juneau High School in 1942, but didn’t get to graduate with everyone else. An empty wooden chair was put on stage in his place. Now, a bronze replica of that chair will remain at the Capitol School Park permanently. The sculpture was dedicated at a memorial to the interned on Saturday.

“Key Ingredients” Highlights Local Foods

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

Eating is, by nature, a social activity. But these days, with the frenetic pace of American living and a disturbing reliance on fast food, it’s hard to get the whole family together for a meal. Now a traveling Smithsonian exhibit at the Palmer Museum attempts to get people connected to their local foods. A sampling of old time Palmer colonists’ recipes is helping to highlight the use of native grown produce.

 

 

 

Categories: Alaska News

At Democratic Lieutenant Governor Debate, Differences In Style Over Substance

Mon, 2014-07-14 16:08

From the very beginning, it was clear that there weren’t going to be fireworks at the lieutenant governor’s debate.

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The event had a capacity of 150, but just over 40 people showed up and a couple of tables were entirely empty. And then, Anchorage Chamber of Commerce President and debate moderator Andrew Halcro introduced the office of lieutenant governor like this:

“The lieutenant governor’s position is commonly referred to as simply watching over the state seal, or waiting for the governor to die,” said Halcro.

After State Sen. Hollis French and Wasilla teacher and political newcomer Bob Williams established that, yes, serving as lieutenant governor is a worthwhile job, they laid out their positions on everything from energy to education. And over and over again, their answers echoed each other.

They both expressed concern that the state wasn’t spending its money on the right things, both calling out the expensive and controversial renovation of the Anchorage Legislative Information Office. And one place where they would like to put more money? Well here’s French.

FRENCH: One area where we’re failing to make the adequate amount of investments is in education.

And here’s Williams.

WILLIAMS: We need to think about what is an adequate and reasonable amount for education.

They both support increasing the minimum wage. But they have reservations about allowing the sale of marijuana in the state, even if neither of them think possession of the drug should land someone in jail. Again, here’s French.

FRENCH: The ballot initiative I think goes too far. It legalizes not only marijuana but the derivatives and the condensed products, and you end up with storefronts. And I don’t think Alaska’s quite ready for that.

And Williams.

WILLIAMS: That idea of criminalizing and spending a lot of money to put people in prison for recreational drug use I think is wrong. But I will be voting no.

And as far as the new tax ceiling on oil production goes, both French and Williams want to go back to a higher profits tax. If anything, they ended up debating moderator Andrew Halcro more than each other on the oil tax question, given that the Chamber’s taken a position against the referendum. Halcro repeatedly pressed them on their arguments before the business-friendly audience.

When it came time to ask each other questions, neither one focused on substantive differences. Williams asked French how he planned to try to work across the aisle and why he wanted to be the running mate of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Byron Mallott, given that French has for governor before. French didn’t even ask Williams a combative question, instead asking him to talk about his experience teaching during years of flat funding.

The primary election is August 19. The Republican Party already has its nominee, as Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan is in an uncontested race to be Gov. Sean Parnell’s running mate. Independent candidate Craig Fleener, who is running alongside Bill Walker, will not appear on the primary ballot and will instead be submitting signatures to get his name on the general ballot.

Categories: Alaska News

Scientists Use Satellites to Track Polar Bears

Mon, 2014-07-14 16:08

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Studying polar bears in the Arctic can be difficult. Scientists rely on boats, helicopters, and low flying planes, which can’t access many remote regions where polar bears live.

An adult female polar bear and her two cubs travel across the sea ice of the Arctic Ocean north of the Alaska coast (photo courtesy of US Geological Survey).

The U.S. Geological Survey, though, recently started tracking polar bears from space, using high resolution satellites. “The advantage that we see for the satellite imagery is we don’t have to put people in helicopters and fly them over the sea ice,” says Todd Atwood, research leader for the USGS Polar Bear Research Program. “It’s [also] completely non-invasive to polar bears.”

Atwood is currently analyzing satellite images from Rowley Island in Nunavut, Canada, where polar bears amass in large numbers during the summer. Researchers have used the images to complete a bear count on the island, which seems to be accurate. As an end goal, Atwood hopes to better understand how the threatened animal is responding to climate change.

The new tracking method could also produce information about a predator that’s not very well understood. “We lack sufficient data, we lack sufficient information for nearly half of the polar bears range,” says Geoff York, director of conservation for polar bears international. “I think one thing we need to do straight away is fill in those blank spots on the map.”

York and other researchers are particularly eager to use satellites to study the predator in the arctic sea ice: an environment that’s rapidly changing.  But spotting white bears in a sea of snow has its challenges. “It’s a great target to shoot for, but I don’t think the technology is there yet,” York explains. “You’re looking for white on white, and that’s next to impossible.”

More immediately, USGS researchers plan to use polar-bear spotting satellites in coastal Alaska, and other parts of the Arctic.

 

Categories: Alaska News

Flooding Cleanup Starts in Juneau

Mon, 2014-07-14 16:06

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A handful of homes in Juneau are cleaning up after a river flooded over the weekend. The unusual event has become a regular, almost expected occurrence in the Capital City.

Categories: Alaska News

Entrepreneurs Get Second Chance for Awards

Mon, 2014-07-14 16:05

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Southeast Alaska entrepreneurs are getting a second chance to win $40,000 to develop regional businesses. It’s part of a partnership involving a Native corporation and a conservation group that made its first awards last year.

Categories: Alaska News

Calista Looking to Expand

Mon, 2014-07-14 16:03

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Facing federal budget slashing and continued pressure on 8(a) contracting, the Calista Regional Native Corporation is continuing to look beyond federal contracts. The company acquired STG, a major construction company last year and is hoping to grow across the economy.

Categories: Alaska News

Memorial to WWII Internees Dedicated

Mon, 2014-07-14 16:02

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After Pearl Harbor was attacked, Juneau’s Japanese population was forced from their homes and sent to internment camps in the Lower 48. Teenager John Tanaka was among those shipped out. He was the valedictorian of Juneau High School in 1942, but didn’t get to graduate with everyone else. An empty wooden chair was put on stage in his place. Now, a bronze replica of that chair will remain at the Capitol School Park permanently. The sculpture was dedicated at a memorial to the interned on Saturday.

Categories: Alaska News

“Key Ingredients ” Highlights Local Foods

Mon, 2014-07-14 16:01

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“What we’d better do is fortify you with a glass of our lovely vintage punch.”

 Janet Kincaid presides over a punch bowl on white cloth – trimmed table spread with sweets made from 1930s recipes. Kincaid owns the Old Colony Inn in Palmer, a vintage building where she’s hosting a recipe sampling.. most made from local produce.

“This building was built in 1935 as a dormitory for single teachers and nurses for the Colony. They found they could not get teachers and nurses to come up here an live in a tent. “

 Barb Thomas with the Palmer Historical Society and Kincaid came up with the recipe swap idea, featured at last weekend’s Palmer Midsummer Garden and Art Fair

“I love nutmeg with rhubarb. Anything rhubarb”…”And the swap means I get to take one of those recipes.”… “You can taste”..”Can I taste? Theses are your cookies?.. Yummy!”

 Kincaid directs me to a long table with elaborate place settings for six, and explains the proper etiquette in preparing a table for dinner. Even the doughty first colonists in Palmer brought along their sets of china, colorful “depression glass” plates and silverware.

“This china is Bavarian china, and it was my mother’s who got married in 1930. And in those days, they had silverware that matched. What I think is interesting, is how many of the glasses were goblets. You had goblets instead of solid glasses. And many pieces. They used a lot of dishes.”

Elegant stemware and a special dessert fork are rarely seen nowadays. But at one time, supper was the glue that drew the family back together at day’s end. And a traveling exhibit from the Smithsonian traces how American eating habits influenced our society through the years. Selina Ortega-Chiolero is the director of the Palmer Museum.

“Every country has a very clear distinction of what their food is.. their native food. But when you think of America, where such a combination of different cultures, it’s really hard to define what American food is. So the Smithsonian did a lot of research, they compiled this wonderful exhibit, and it explores that question.. what is American food culture in the United States. ” ..”So, let’s step in.”.. “Sure”

Inside the tiny log structure that houses the museum, the Key Ingredients exhibit literally stretches floor to ceiling. The panels trace American food festivals — think Thanksgiving — from their earliest start in pre-Revolutionary times, through corn huskings, lobster bakes, and the advent of the frankfurter right up to our current eating habits. One thing food trends of the past had in common.. they brought people together.

“And it explores that idea of sharing food in a more social gathering. So, food festivals, like state fairs. When they started to commercialize and had restaurants. The whole idea of eating out is considered a special thing, a special occasion event. The exhibit explores that idea as well. One of my favorites is actually this one over here, the Art of Hospitality.. especially the younger generation that comes in here.. they don’t know what a table setting is. “

 We walk through the exhibit, which is eclectic, to say the least. Two little girls in sun bonnets are marveling at a model of a Wisconsin cheese head hat. One panel shows the evolution of the roadside diner. There are photos of the Washington Apple Queen and of New Mexico Indian women grinding corn. Selina says Key Ingredients has special resonance for Palmer, because it is a farming community

“It really did start with the fact that we were a fertile land. And the fact that we can have a lot of things produced here, locally. We’re very self-sustaining that way.”

 She says when mass food production and marketing entered the scene in the 1950s, people were influenced to buy a certain way.. leading to eating packaged and frozen foods.

“Even though that’s what took off, because it was convenient and fast. At least here in Alaska, we are starting to see a return back to eating fresh, eating local.”

 And that’s something Janet Kincaid says the original colonists took for granted. They made their own fun, and food was central to their social networking.

“The entertainment was social. And we are just kind of reproducing that, and letting people know how important is is to connect. “

 The Key Ingredients exhibit has traveled state to state, with Alaska it’s last stop. It’ll be at the Palmer museum until July 20, then it moves to Talkeetna for it’s final run.

Categories: Alaska News

Denali Commission Money Survives House

Fri, 2014-07-11 16:32

Fiscal conservatives are again gunning for the Denali Commission. This week they tried to eliminate the bulk of its funding — $10 million, tucked into a federal appropriations bill for energy and water programs. Ohio Congressman Steve Chabot argued, as others have for years, the Denali Commission is an unnecessary middle man.

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“American taxpayers would be better served if federal funds were distributed directly to the State of Alaska or to Alaskan communities,” Chabot said on the House floor. He has a separate bill to kill the Denali Commission altogether, which is officially called the “Eliminate the Commission to Nowhere Act.”

Alaska Congressman Don Young, though, argues the Denali Commission provides more direct service because it cuts government agencies out of the picture.

“It’s money well spent,” Young said, arguing against Chabot’s amendment. “If we don’t spend it on this type thing to cut out the middleman — they keep saying there’s other agencies. This is not true! Those agencies do not function!”

The Commission is a relic of Alaska’s big money days. Sen. Ted Stevens created it in 1998 to spur rural development, modeling it after the poverty-busting Appalachian Regional Commission. But that commission coordinates projects across 13 states. The Denali Commission serves only Alaska. A slew of auditors and watchdogs have claimed it does administrative work the state could do for itself. Oklahoma Congressman James Lankford picked up those arguments this week.

“We as a nation have to find ways to be able to eliminate duplication and this is one of those moments,” he said. “Are we going to listen to the inspector general, the Congressional Budget Office, the GAO, two different presidents’ Office of Management and Budget, or will we ignore all of those?”

Young reminded his colleagues that dozens of Alaska villages lack running water and other infrastructure their constituents take for granted. He says the Denali Commission is doing its job.

“It’s time we accept the fact that this system works as the other commissions do, for those communities that are less fortunate than those communities that most people live (in) in this body,” Young said.

The amendment to cut $10 million from the Denali Commission failed, 243-176. Young was one of 69 Republicans who joined most of the Democrats in voting no. The Denali Commission these days focuses mostly on bulk fuel storage and other energy projects.

It expects a total budget of $14 million next year, of which $2.3 million is compensation for its 10 full-time employees.  At its peak in 2006, the commission’s budget was $140 million.

Categories: Alaska News

Fairbanks Wind Energy Battle Continues

Fri, 2014-07-11 16:31

A Fairbanks based alternative energy company continues to push Golden Valley Electric Association to buy more of its wind power. Alaska Environmental Power operates a wind farm in Delta Junction, and recently teamed with an Anchorage law firm on a report it hopes will sway utility members.

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Categories: Alaska News

Rep. Guttenberg Looks To Jumpstart Fairbanks LNG

Fri, 2014-07-11 16:29

State Representative David Guttenberg wants to jumpstart Fairbanks’ conversion to natural gas heating. The state is pursuing a public private project to process North Slope gas and truck it to Fairbanks, but Gutenberg says it faces a familiar problem.

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Categories: Alaska News
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