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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: 52 min 7 sec ago

Board of Fisheries Chairman Resigns

Wed, 2015-01-21 13:49

Alaska Board of Fisheries Chairman Karl Johnstone resigned Tuesday after Gov. Bill Walker said he would not submit his name to the legislature for reappointment.

Rather than wait for his term to expire in June, Johnstone resigned immediately.

His resignation came after the Board of Fisheries blocked a candidate for Fish and Game commissioner from being interviewed for the position.

Gov. Walker’s press secretary, Grace Jang, said only one of four job candidates was interviewed by the Board of Fisheries and Board of Game.

“Well, Governor Walker was very disappointed that the process wasn’t allowed to play out and that only one name was advanced to him,” Jang said. “While he’s very confident that Sam Cotten will make an excellent commissioner and has been doing an excellent job in the past couple of months, he wanted to make sure that the public process was respected.”

Gov. Walker’s office also announced Tuesday that it appointed Cotten as Department of Fish and Game commissioner.

Jang said the governor wants to make sure the public is involved in all processes.

“Gov. Walker thanks Mr. Johnstone for his service. He wants new ideas on the board, essentially,” Jang said.

Johnstone could not be reached for comment.

His resignation is effective Jan. 27, after the Board of Fisheries finishes a meeting in Wrangell to consider Southeast shellfish proposals.

Governor Walker nominated Roland Maw, the candidate rejected by the Board of Fisheries, to fill the vacancy left by Johnstone. Maw’s appointment must be approved by the state legislature.

Johnstone has served on the Board of Fisheries since 2008.

Categories: Alaska News

Bering Sea Pollock Fishery Casts Off

Wed, 2015-01-21 13:47

Ron Mitchell drops nets onto the deck of the F/V Seadawn. (Lauren Rosenthal/KUCB)

The Bering Sea’s largest fishery opened up on Tuesday afternoon. Pollock crews are gearing up for a potential increase in their harvest — while still keeping an open mind about what the winter has in store.

Within hours of arriving in Unalaska on Tuesday morning, the crew of the Seadawn was back to work.

“We’ll just get everything on the boat and then we can start organizing it,” Ron Mitchell yelled as he stacked extra nets on deck using a crane.

Once they start fishing, the Seadawn and the other vessels in the UniSea cooperative will have a little extra pollock to work with, too.The catch limit increased about 3 percent this year to 1.3 million metric tons.

But one of the fleet’s biggest expenses has been getting cheaper.

“We were hoping to make a little more money since fuel prices are down,” Mitchell says. “But then we heard the fish prices are down, too.”

Up in the wheelhouse, captain Richard Wyatt is a little more optimistic.

“Initial reports on prices aren’t so exciting to us,” Wyatt says. “But you can make up a little bit of that if fishing’s good, so we’ll just see where it goes.”

According to studies from the National Marine Fisheries Service, the amount of pollock in the Bering Sea is on the rise. That’s part of the reason why this year’s catch limit went up.

But other fish aren’t faring so well. Halibut have been getting smaller and harder to find. And the harvests have been shrinking, too.

That’s prompted some Alaska’s acting fish and game commissioner and others to file an emergency petition. They want a stricter limit on the amount of halibut that trawlers are allowed to take on accident — while they’re pursuing other fish, including pollock.

NMFS is still considering that request. But in the meantime, biologist Krista Milani says the same bycatch limits will apply.

“Everything’s managed by sectors and coops,” Milani says. “And so they kind of self-manage their caps. We definitely are looking at any kind of incidental catch that they’re coming across — prohibited species that they’re catching. And we’ll be watching their reports when they come in.”

The first round — and the first deliveries of pollock — are expected early next week.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska’s Kink Community Readies its New Home After Years of Unique Hurdles

Wed, 2015-01-21 10:51

Sahra Shaubach in the room she and volunteers extensively rehabbed inside the basement of the 225 E. 5th Ave property, holding a poster from the The Eagle, a renown Baltimore leather bar. Photo: Zachariah Hughes, KSKA.

Alaska has a tightening kink community made up of people living alternative lifestyles that range from discomfort with mainstream society to unconventional sex practices. But they have struggled to find spaces in which to gather. Now, after a lengthy tenant dispute and thousands of dollars worth of property damage, the Alaska Center for Alternative Lifestyles–ACAL– is ready to open it’s doors.


“Our stairwell, when we finish staging, will be full of pride-flags from across the lower-48,” explains Sahra Shaubach as she shows off the staircase leading into the 2000 square-foot basement she rents in downtown Anchorage, formerly the site of the Kodiak bar. ”Those will include Bear pride-flags, and GBLT pride flags, of course the Leather pride flag, the Trans pride flag and so on and so forth.”

ACAL is meant to solve a years-long problem of where people interested in unconventional sex can get together for events.

 ”You name it, we’ve rented it,” Shaubach explains.  ”We’ve done this out of restaurants after they’ve closed, we’ve done this out of convention halls, we’ve done this out of hotels–we’ve rented entire floors of hotels and done theme rooms. We’ve rented basements, we’ve rented empty houses. And we’ve been doing it with the respect of the greater community in Anchorage, I believe. We haven’t had anyone call the cops and say ‘Oh my god the perverts are screaming next door.’”

“Kink community” is the umbrella term covering everything from bondage and leather aficionados to erotic artists and exotic hoola-hoopers. Though Alaska’s kink community is dwarfed by cities in the Lower-48, it is far more widespread than the uninitiated may realize. In the last two decades, different groups like The Norther Lights Dungeon Society and Alaska Dark Realms organized coffee meet-ups and dinners nicknamed “munches.”

“It was just amazing to realize that people across the board–young, old, fat, ugly, educated, not, your doctors, your lawyers, your school teachers, your single mothers, your college students–everybody shows up to those munches,” Shaubach recalls from when she began getting involved eight years ago.  ”If you saw us sitting at a restaurant–20, 25, 30, 40 of us–you would have no idea we are Alaska’s alternative community. We look like the people you’d see at Fred Myers.”

Shaubach pounced on the opportunity to rent out the basement in the old Kodiak, even though it meant cleaning up years of broken furniture, trash, and remnants of people crashing when they had nowhere else to go. Upon seeing the space for the first time in two years, the landlord wept. Shaubach and volunteers organized “work frollicks”–a borrowed Amish term–to haul trash, paint, clean, and disinfect the industrial kitchen on the top floor. It took months, but the results are impressive. The rambling chambers of the basement are primed for activities: a tiny stage surrounded by tables, studded leather straps to hang donated art, and “playrooms” holding a few daunting apparatuses.

“There’ll also be a large padded table here that also has a cage that goes underneath it,” Shaubach explained, pointing inside her favorite room. It was filled with supplies and equipment, including an X-shaped St. Andrew’s Cross and wooden stocks affixed to a spanking bench.

“Forgive me if this is a little bit Suburban,” I asked, “but what is the table and what are the cage for?”

“Umm,” Shaubach paused, a smile spreading over her face, ‘there’s so many options for a table and a cage!” 

Alaska’s kink community numbers in the hundreds, and is committed enough that Shaubach can finance the costs of rent and upkeep by collecting membership fees.

“It’s like having a Sam’s Club Card,” said Shaubach, “you don’t get the groceries for free, but you definitely get a discounted rate for being a member.”

$120 s a year buys access to the space, along with priority rates on workshops and educational events on eclectic topics like knot-tying.

Shaubach stands in a corner of the industrial kitchen she says had been left in a state of disarray by the time she returned to the space for the first time since December. Photo: Zachariah Hughes, KSKA.

ACAL was set to open in December, but a high-profile tenant dispute disrupted those plans. The top-floor was leased to Charlene Egbe, who runs the Alaska Cannabis Club, and was evicted last week. By the time Egbe and her business partners vacated the premise the top floor was a mess, documented extensively by a local blogger with an interest in the case, who has since publicly archived photographs documenting the state of the property. The kitchen was filled with trash and flat-screen TVs, fixtures, and furniture were gone.

Egbe says that she and associates poured money and time into improving the space beyond its condition from when she first  signed the lease.

“We’re disappointed that our former landlord continues to attempt to assassinate the character of the Alaska Cannabis Club,” Egbe said by phone. “We are taking legal action against our former landlord, and other parties involved, for defamation of character, amongst other things.”

Shaubach is not eager to dwell on what happened, or on the pending civil case. Instead, she is planning more work frollicks to get the ACAL space ready in the weeks ahead. She knows where she’ll put a small library and has already picked a name (The Back Door) for the modest boutique that will sell leather accouterments. Mostly, she’s ready for the Alaska Center for Alternative Lifestyles to finally become a gathering place.

“We’ve built this center, and created it with a vision of our community having a place to foster our foundations and elevate our education past what we’ve already done. And we just need a home,” Shaubach said, a sad note creeping into her voice. “We need a place that’s safe, sane, secure so that we can practice what it is that we do.”

The Center’s public premier is slated for the first Friday in February.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: January 20, 2015

Tue, 2015-01-20 17:38

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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Alaska’s 29th Legislature Gavels In

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

The state legislature began the 29th session this afternoon. House Speaker Mike Chenault gaveled in at 1 p.m. The State Senate followed an hour later. Senate President Kevin Meyer is a Republican from Anchorage. He says the caucus has several priorities this year – the gas line, education, arctic policy and development and federal overreach, but he says the state budget will – of course – need the most attention.

Walker Adds More Commissioners To Cabinet

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

Gov. Bill Walker has decided to keep two acting commissioners, and appoint one new one.

Senate Finance Considering Bringing On Former Commissioners As Consultants

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

The Senate Finance Committee is considering hiring two former state commissioners to help lawmakers review state spending and address massive budget deficits.

Sen. Sullivan Weighs In On Potential State of the Union Topics

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington DC

President Obama’s State of the Union address to Congress was Tuesday night, but the White House has been offering previews of his main proposals for weeks. Alaska’s new Republican senator, Dan Sullivan, said before it began he was expecting to hear an overly rosy depiction of unemployment.

Murkowski Named Chairman Of Interior Subcommittee Of Appropriations Panel

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington DC

Sen. Lisa Murkowski already chairs a full committee, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. But today she was also named chairman of the Interior subcommittee of the Appropriations panel. That subcommittee essentially sets the budget for the Interior Department, as well as the Forest Service and the Indian Health Service.

Bill Would Set Up Compensation Program For Wrongfully Convicted

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

Fairbanks Democratic State Representative Scott Kawasaki has pre-filed a bill that would set up a system for compensating people wrongfully convicted of crimes.

Alaska Center for Alternative Lifestyles Prepares To Open Its Doors

Zachariah Hughes, KSKA – Anchorage

Alaska has a kink community made up of people living alternative lifestyles that range from discomfort with mainstream society to unconventional sex practices. But they’ve struggled to find a space to gather. Now, after the group has weathered a lengthy tenant dispute and thousands of dollars worth of property damage, the Alaska Center for Alternative Lifestyles, or ACAL is ready to open its doors in Anchorage.

Walker Halts Demolition In Anchorage Neighborhood

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

Governor Walker has put the demolition of an Anchorage property on hold. Walker told reporters on Monday that he was halting further action on the demolition of a building that houses a Subway sandwich shop in the city’s Government Hill neighborhood because the demolition is part of the Knik Arm Bridge project.

Lack Of Snow Could Again Send Iditarod Start To Fairbanks

The Associated Press

Southcentral Alaska’s lack of snow and uncertain weather is again pushing organizers of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race to ponder moving the start of the race from Willow to Fairbanks.

Eaglecrest Suspends Lift Operations Due To Lack Of Snow

Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau

Juneau’s Eaglecrest Ski Area is halting lift operations until it receives enough snow to open at least part of the upper mountain.

People With Disabilities Find Independence Through Skiing

Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau

Earlier this month, Juneau did get some snow and Eaglecrest had its smallest chairlift going. This allowed ORCA to run its Adaptive Ski and Snowboard program, which has been teaching people with disabilities how to ski for 18 years.

Categories: Alaska News

State Prosecutors Target Range of Child Sex Abuse Offenses in Round of Convictions

Tue, 2015-01-20 17:20

The Department of Law closed four child sex abuse cases last week. The charges are part of the state’s efforts to go after more offenders for a wider range of abuses.

Two of the cases were brought against a Sand Point resident sentenced to a total of 23 years, with 15 more on probation.

“James Griffith was sentenced on two different cases involving sexual abuse of a minor,” said Adam Alexander, assistant district attorney in the office of special prosecutions. “In the older of the two cases, Griffith was sentenced for sexually abusing a developmentally developed child.”

The other two convictions involve Anchorage residents possessing and distributing sexually exploitative images and videos. Alexander believes many people think of viewing child pornography as a lesser offense than direct abuse, but the Department of Law and the state Legislature are aggressively prosecuting those they see as driving the illegal market.

“In situations where those images of the child being victimized are trafficked on the Internet, it’s important to note that first and foremost these aren’t victimless crimes,” said Alexander.  ”When somebody possesses, downloads, or distributes child pornography in Alaska they’re directly contributing to that victimization, and creating a market which drives the creation of those images.”

The state has strict sentencing guidelines as part of its deterrence strategy. Conviction in a first-time offense carries a minimum of 2 years in prison with two more on probation.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska’s 29th Legislature Gavels In

Tue, 2015-01-20 17:10

The state legislature began the 29th session this afternoon. House Speaker Mike Chenault gaveled in at 1 pm.

The State Senate followed an hour later.

Senate President Kevin Meyer is a Republican from Anchorage. He says the caucus has several priorities this year,-the gas line, education, Arctic policy and development and federal over-reach. But he says the state budget will – of course – need the most attention.

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Categories: Alaska News

Walker Adds More Commissioners To Cabinet

Tue, 2015-01-20 17:09

Gov. Bill Walker has decided to keep on two acting commissioners, and appoint one new one.

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The newest face is Chris Hladick, who will direct the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development. Hladick *has* served as Unalaska’s city manager since 2001, and before that he worked in Dillingham and Galena.

The governor will also submit Sam Cotten’s name to the Legislature for confirmation as head of the Department of Fish and Game. Cotten is a former Speaker of the House, and served in the Alaska State Legislature as a Democrat for 16 years. Cotten has led Fish and Game on an acting basis since Walker’s inauguration, and the Board of Fisheries and the Board of Game approved his nomination last week.

Walker also intends to keep acting Corrections Commissioner Ron Taylor in the position on a permanent basis. Taylor was previously a deputy commissioner in the department, and focused on prisoners’ re-entry to society.

Walker’s Cabinet appointments must be confirmed by the Legislature.

Categories: Alaska News

Senate Finance Considering Bringing On Former Commissioners As Consultants

Tue, 2015-01-20 17:08

The Senate Finance Committee is considering hiring two former state commissioners to help lawmakers review state spending and address massive budget deficits.

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The committee’s co-chairs have proposed contracts with former Revenue Commissioner Angela Rodell and former Health Commissioner Bill Streur. The committee is expected to consider the proposals later this week.

Co-chair Anna MacKinnon says she and co-chair Pete Kelly spoke with Gov. Bill Walker and told him they are just looking for the best advice on issues that are major cost drivers, such as Medicaid and debt service.

“I want to be absolutely respectful,” says MacKinnon. The governor should absolutely have a team that he wants at his side to implement his policies and his strategies. But having someone who has been in the trenches I think will be helpful for Alaskans.”

Rodell and Streur served under the previous governor, Sean Parnell. Parnell resisted expanding Medicaid coverage, citing concerns with costs. Walker campaigned on expanding Medicaid and says he thinks it will save the state money.

Categories: Alaska News

Sen. Sullivan Weighs In On Potential State of the Union Topics

Tue, 2015-01-20 17:07

President Obama’s State of the Union address to Congress is Tuesday night, but the White House has been offering previews of his main proposals for weeks. Alaska’s new Republican Senator Dan Sullivan, said before it he was expecting to hear an overly rosy depiction of unemployment.

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“The vast majority of that decrease in unemployment has been Americans dropping out of the work force,” Sullivan said. “The labor rate participation is at the lowest rate in 30 years, so to me that’s not progress.”

Obama is also proposing tax reform. He wants a tax credit for middle class families. The president also wants to increase the tax on capital gains, which are now taxed at a lower rate than regular income, for wealthy Americans. Sullivan says it’s not good policy.

“You know, when you raise the Capital gains tax, you’re inhibiting investment, and I don’t think that’s what the country needs right now,” he said.

Democrats who support the proposal say it would affect very few taxpayers, since the vast majority have no capital gains and fewer still have incomes higher than $465,000 a year, the threshold for triggering the increase.

Sullivan is also skeptical of Obama’s proposal for free tuition at community colleges.

Categories: Alaska News

Murkowski Named Chairman Of Interior Subcommittee Of Appropriations Panel

Tue, 2015-01-20 17:06

Sen. Lisa Murkowski already chairs a full committee, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, but Tuesday she was also named chairman of the Interior subcommittee of the Appropriations panel.

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That subcommittee essentially sets the budget for the Interior Department, as well as the Forest Service and the Indian Health Service. Murkowski says it means she’ll lead the panel that writes the laws related to resource agencies, review their work and hold their purse strings.

“This is a level of oversight, a level of control and a level of authority that’s somewhat unprecedented,” Murkowski said.

The Interior Department includes agencies that are hugely important in Alaska, from the Park Service and the BLM to the Bureau of Indian Affairs and BOEM, which manages off-shore energy resources.

Vanderbilt Political Science Professor Bruce Oppenheimer has researched Senate process and its impact on energy policy. He says the subcommittee assignment on Appropriations adds a great deal to Murkowski’s power as chairman of Energy and Natural Resources.

“That’s double barrels..I mean yeah. That’s probably almost as important,” Oppenheimer said.

Oppenheimer says the budget control gives Murkowski leverage over administration appointees who run the subdivisions of Interior.

“That puts the chair in a very useful position because there’s every reason that people in the Interior Department want to stay on the good side of the chair of that subcommittee,” Murkowski said.

Murkowski, in a written statement listed several priorities she intends to pursue on the Appropriations subcommittee. They include contract support funding for Indian health, cleaning abandoned wells and removing EPA authority for certain air quality permits.

Categories: Alaska News

Bill Would Set Up Compensation Program For Wrongfully Convicted

Tue, 2015-01-20 17:05

Fairbanks Democratic State Representative Scott Kawasaki has prefiled a bill that would set up a system for compensating people wrongfully convicted of crimes.

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Wrongful conviction is a hot topic in Fairbanks as a decision is pending on key evidence in a long contested murder case.The Fairbanks Four case involves 4 local men convicted of the 1997 beating death of Fairbanks teenager John Hartman. The four maintain they didn’t do it, and the Alaska Innocence Project is working the case, seeking the release of incriminating statements made by a Fairbanks man convicted of an unrelated murder, to his attorney about the Hartman killing.

State Representative Scott Kawasaki says his bill, which would provide up to 2 million dollars to an exonerated individual, is not just about the Fairbanks Four.

“The Fairbanks Four is a very sensational issue in Fairbank, but the facts are out there that there were a record number of exonerations last year in the United States,” Kawasaki said. ”And, of course, there’s no way to turn back the time, but in a small way, I think compensation for those who have been wrongfully convicted, this is a way to help heal.”

Kawaskai says the legislation is modeled after similar compensation programs in other states.

“We worked closely with the Alaska Innocence Project and with innocence groups across the U.S. that have introduced legislation like this,” Kawasaki said. ”I think currently half the states have some sort of compensation statutes in place.”

Kawasaki submitted a similar wrongful conviction compensation bill late last session that did not move, but says the reception was generally favorable, and he’s working with the judiciary committee to address issues, including provision that would prevent a wrongfully convicted individual who accepts compensation, from suing the state.


Categories: Alaska News

Lack Of Snow Could Again Send Iditarod Start To Fairbanks

Tue, 2015-01-20 17:02

Southcentral Alaska’s lack of snow and uncertain weather is again pushing organizers of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race to ponder moving the start of the race from Willow to Fairbanks.

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A ceremonial start for the 1,000-mile race is scheduled for March 7 in Anchorage.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports in 2003, the Iditarod Trail Committee started the race in Fairbanks north of the Alaska Range because of poor snow.

Race marshal Mark Nordman says one big storm could improve trail conditions but starting the race in Fairbanks is an option.

Categories: Alaska News

Eaglecrest Suspends Lift Operations Due To Lack Of Snow

Tue, 2015-01-20 17:01

Besides man-made snow on Porcupine it’s been a pretty dismal year at Eaglecrest Ski Area so far. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

Juneau’s Eaglecrest Ski Area is halting lift operations until it receives enough snow to open at least part of the upper mountain.

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General Manager Matt Lillard announced the decision in blog post on the ski area’s website.

Director of Sales and Marketing Jeffra Clough says it was not an easy decision, but so far this winter Mother Nature has not delivered enough snow to Juneau. But she says the season isn’t over yet.

“For the past several years she’s been great and given us a lot of snow, and this year, unfortunately, she’s just slow to giving us that snow,” Clough says. “But we feel certain that there’s still a lot of winter to go.”

Clough says Eaglecrest will look at ways to add skiing opportunities should the snow arrive this year.

“This isn’t the first time this has happened. It’s just unfortunate that it’s the first time in recent years that it’s happened,” Clough says. “So we’re looking at, you know, being open on Friday nights, possibly extending our hours in the spring time, closing 5 o’ clock or 6 o’ clock in the evening on weekends or holidays.”

The city-owned ski area has a long-established no refunds policy for season pass holders. Fortunately, Clough says, they’ve rarely had to use it.

For now, the mountain will be staffed by a skeleton crew. The ticket office and equipment repair shop will be open Thursday through Monday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

For the latest conditions on the mountain go to skijuneau.com.

Categories: Alaska News

Wasilla Fire Contained

Tue, 2015-01-20 13:58

A massive fire in Wasilla has destroyed a two story commercial building. There are no injuries reported due to the blaze, but the building, which housed a business and a family, is a complete loss, according to Matanuska Susitna Borough safety officials.

The fire was called in about 5 am Tuesday morning. The four family members living in the building escaped unharmed.

Dennis Brodigan, the Borough’s emergency services director, says the second floor was engulfed when firefighters arrived.

“Being a very very large building, and with the types of items that were in the building it was a difficult fire to fight. Two adults and two children made it out and were uninjured. But the fire load was in the building an and it was a very diffucult building to extinguish. We got the call just before 5 am and we didn’t get it under control until about 12:15 this afternoon.”

He says Borough – wide firefighting resources were called in due to the danger of the fire spreading into tinder dry trees. Fire units from as far away as Willow responded.

Brodigan says the cause of the blaze is not known.

“Part of the mopping up and the continuation is for the fire code officials to do a complete investigation and they will determine the area of origen and perhaps even how it was ignited.”

The building on Wasilla Fishhook Road housed an electrical supply business – Crescent Electrical Supply Company. The fire affected a power line to the building, causing Matanuska Electric Association to shut down power to the area for a time to help firefighters supress the stubborn blaze. At first, the firefighting crews were unable to douse the roof of the building. The fire caused huge clouds of smoke to be visible over Wasilla.

Wasilla Fishhook Road was shut down temporarily, and school busses on their way to Iditarod ElementarySchool this [tuesday] morning were diverted to Wasilla Middle School, as the fire caused Iditarod to shut down for the day. Mat Su School District spokeswoman Catherine Esary says Iditarod school was not threatened by the fire.

The commercial building also housed a thrift shop and the offices of Hope For Heroes, a veteran’s non-profit.

Brodigan says a “wealth of synthetic products ” on site helped fuel the fire. So far, there is no estimate of the cost of the blaze.Two hundred MEA customers were without power during the blaze. The displaced family is being assisted by the Red Cross.

Categories: Alaska News

Four Rescued As F/V Eyak Sinks Near Sitka

Tue, 2015-01-20 09:52

Sitka search and rescue volunteer Jake Denherder took this photo of the sinking F/V Eyak from the Alaska State Trooper vessel Courage, early on January 19, 2015. (Photo courtesy of Jake Denherder.)

Four people were rescued from the F/V Eyak early Monday morning after the boat went aground near Calligan Island, just north of the Goddard hot springs.

The Coast Guard received a call from a crew member on board the Eyak just before 5:45 a.m., stating that the boat was taking on water. The Coast Guard dispatched a helicopter from Air Station Sitka and requested assistance from the Sitka Police and Fire Departments and the Alaska State Troopers.

By the time Sitka Police Det. Ryan Silva arrived on the scene at about 7 a.m. in the city’s Emergency Response Vessel, the Eyak was already partially underwater: the 80-foot boat was listing so hard that “the deck was at the water’s edge,” Silva said. All four people on board were wearing survival suits, and they had a life raft inflated and in the water.

The four were safely brought on board the ERV, Silva said, along with their dog. Within about forty-five minutes of the rescue, the Eyak rolled off the rocks and started to sink.

The State Troopers identified the four people on board as 48-year-old David Castle of Sitka, the Eyak’s owner and captain; and 29-year-old Anna Zallau, 23-year-old Charles Wlaslewski, and 49-year-old Debra Rose, all of Port Alexander. All four were uninjured and did not require medical attention, according to the Trooper report.

The Coast Guard reported that the Eyak had about 500 gallons of fuel on board when it sank, and is being monitored.

The Eyak has for years served as the regular mail boat for Baranof Island’s small communities, including Port Alexander, transporting U.S. mail, groceries and supplies.

By Monday afternoon, friends had started a fundraising campaign on the site GoFundMe to help Eyak captain David Castle get back on his feet. As of midnight, it had raised more than $5,000.

Categories: Alaska News

APU Student Killed In Climbing Accident On Mt. Yukla

Tue, 2015-01-20 09:42

A young man fell to his death on Sunday while climbing Mount Yukla, above Eagle River. 

Dasan Marshall, 24, of Portland, Oregon was a student at Alaska Pacific University. College spokeswoman Eeva Latosuo says his climb was not part of school.

“He was on a personal climbing trip with his climbing partner,” Latosuo said. ”He was attempting the north face of Mt. Yukla when he slipped and fell 1,000 feet.”

Lagosuo says Marshall had been living in Alaska since 2012. His climbing resume included ascents of Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Baker. In Alaska, Dasan had completed the West Buttress of Denali and multiple routes around Kahiltna Base Camp and Pike Glacier, as well as many other technical peaks and routes in the Western Chugach.

Marshall had been attending his last semester at APU to complete his Bachelor’s degree in Outdoor Studies and working on his senior project that involved starting an alpine club for the student community at APU.

Categories: Alaska News

Zaukar Sentenced to 61 years for 2012 Rape, Kidnapping

Tue, 2015-01-20 09:38

Colten Zaukar (center) visits with his brother and father after his sentencing Friday. (KYUK photo)

On Friday, a judge sentenced 24-year-old Colten Zaukar, of Sleetmute to spend what could be rest of his life behind bars for a violent 2012 rape. Bethel Superior Court Judge Charles Ray sentenced Zaukar to 61 years, with another 10 years suspended.

“There is good reason to isolate Mr. Zaukar for a substantial period of time, both for the safety of the community, the safety of the particular victim in this case and hopefully some deterrence to himself and others in his community and particularly to me the condemnation of the conduct involved,” Ray said.

Zaukar will be required to serve at least 55 of those years.

(Google map image – Sleetmute)

In June, a Bethel jury found Zaukar guilty on 10 counts in the case. Zaukar was found guilty on several sexual assault charges, kidnapping and assault. The jury found him not guilty of attempted murder and one sexual assault charge.

Court documents say that at about 2:00 a.m. on September 26, 2012, Zaukar broke down a door with an ax. He came back disguised in a blanket and attacked a woman. Authorities say he pushed her on a dark trail and raped her near the river. A family member later helped Zaukar hide for two-and-a-half days from troopers.

The victim of Zaukar’s attack spoke over the telephone at his sentencing saying she did not want him out of jail while she was still alive. The prosecuting attorney called Zaukar a sociopath with little hope for rehabilitation. The defense attorney argued his client has been diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. He noted outside court that there are questions about the jury makeup in the case and an appeal is possible.

Sleetmute is around 150 miles miles northeast of Bethel and has approximately 100 residents.

A 2012 Alaska State Troopers report says the rate of sex crimes in Western Alaska is the highest in the state.

Categories: Alaska News

Yukon Quest Officials Consider Alternate Route

Tue, 2015-01-20 09:25

Open water on both the Yukon and Tahkini Rivers in Canada has Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race Officials considering alternative routing for this year’s race, which starts in Whitehorse, Yukon and finishes 1000 miles later in Fairbanks.

With three weeks before dog teams leave the Canadian city, rumors are circulating about where the start line might be placed. The race organization is keeping quiet until a more comprehensive trail report becomes available next week. According to a press release Monday, trail crews are out working on both sides of the Canada-United States border.

There are currently 26 teams signed up for the 32nd annual race, which starts Feb. 7.

Categories: Alaska News

Dillingham Aims To Reimpose Raw Fish Tax

Tue, 2015-01-20 09:17

Driftnet vessels in the Dillingham Harbor waiting on another push of sockeye.
(Photo by Mike Mason, KDLG – Dillingham)

Dillingham will try again on the fish tax. The City Council voted last week to send an annexation petition forward to the Alaska Local Boundary Commission to annex the Nushagak River Commercial Fishing District. The annexation was adopted by a local vote in 2012 but overturned by a court ruling.

The city hopes to reimpose a 2.5 percent raw fish tax on the district, which is the only commercial fishing district in Bristol Bay that does not currently collect a tax for local use.

Critics say Dillingham needs to find a way to share the tax with other Nushagak drainage communities, or focus on forming a borough.

The city’s annexation petition will now be sent to the LBC for review. The city hopes it ends up in Juneau for a legislative review in 2016.

Categories: Alaska News

Delta ‘Subsidizes’ Landfill – and Wonders Where’s the Missing 400 Tons of Trash?

Tue, 2015-01-20 09:13

Delta’s landfill got nearly a third less trash – and revenue – in 2014 than city officials were expecting. (Photo by Tim Ellis, KUAC – Fairbanks)

City of Delta Junction officials are worried about the rising cost of operating the city’s landfill. And they’re  wondering what happened to the 400 tons of trash they were expecting to be dumped there.

How do you lose 400 tons of trash? That’s a question Delta Mayor Pete Hallgren is trying to answer after finding out the city got one-third less tonnage of solid waste dumped into the city landfill last year than expected.

“The amount of garbage that’s come in has dropped – fairly dramatically,” he said. “Which means we’re taking in less revenue now than we were four years ago.”

Hallgren says landfill use has been slowly declining over the past four years. But he says the dropoff of tipping fees last year is putting pressure on the city budget.

“Somewhere along the line, we’ve got to at least recognize the fact that the landfill is just not paying its way right now,” he said.

The City Council intended the landfill to be self-supporting after it was built in 2005. But Hallgren says the city has been “subsidizing” the operation over the past few years with money coming out of a $300,000 state grant. But he says that can’t continue, because the remaining money is needed to expand the facility.

“It’s looking like we are out over a $100,000 out of that grant,” he said. “And we’re going to have to use the grant to build a new cell. We don’t need it quite yet, but you’ve got to build them before you need them. So, the grant is not going to be available.”

Delta Sanitation management and owners declined to talk about the company’s problems, despite several phone calls and a visit to their office earlier this month. (Photo by Tim Ellis, KUAC – Fairbanks)

Last month the city council hiked landfill tipping fees by 28 percent, from $125 to $160 per ton. It was almost enough to close the revenue gap. Hallgren says closing the landfill is not an option.

Meanwhile, the question remains: where’s the missing 400 tons of trash?

The mayor, and others, says some is getting dumped at Fairbanks North Star Borough transfer sites in Salcha.

“Let’s face it – Delta people go to Fairbanks. And there’s transfer stations on the way to Fairbanks from Delta.”

Data from the borough’s hauling contractor shows trash dumped at Salcha and other borough  transfer sites increased last year, but there’s no way to determine how much of that came from people from outside the borough.

City officials also are concerned at least some of the missing trash has been burned or buried in unregulated dumps, though there’s been no report of that around Delta.

But one area resident did report tons of trash being stored on the property of the local trash-hauling company.

“You could very definitely smell rotting garbage,” said Stacy Petersen, who lives down the road from Delta Sanitation in a mainly residential area.

Petersen says she’d been complaining to the company for storing trash in big rolloff-type dumpsters on its property for weeks. One day last fall she and her husband, Jamie, came across an overwhelming stench wafting from the property while they were out walking their dogs.

“The smell was so bad we could only go halfway and then we turned around and came back,” she said.“That’s when I told Jamie I said ‘That’s it. I’ve had enough.’”

Petersen took her complaints to the Regulatory Commission of Alaska, which launched an investigation. Delta Sanitation officials told the agency they’d run into financial problems and had to store trash on their property until they could catch up on payments to the city so they could start using the landfill again. The city had started turning away Delta Sanitation trash trucks early last year after the company racked up thousands of dollars in unpaid fees.

In October, the agency ordered Delta Sanitation to fix its finances and pay the city.

Meanwhile, the state Department of Environmental Conservation ordered Delta Sanitation to remove the trash and take it to the landfill.

Company officials declined to talk to KUAC. But last month they did haul seven tons to the landfill.

City officials admit they still can’t account for what happened to the other 393 tons of trash.

Categories: Alaska News