APRN Alaska News

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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: 23 min 3 sec ago

Alaska News Nightly: September 3, 2014

Wed, 2014-09-03 16:58

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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Court’s Says State Needs To Provide Assistance To Yup’ik, Gwich’in Speaking Voters

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

A federal district court judge has sided with plaintiffs who say the state is not doing enough to help non-English-speaking voters. A “partial decision” Wednesday in a case against the state division of elections is aimed at protecting  the voting rights of Alaska Natives.

Alaska Natives Wait… And Wait, For Health Law Exemption

Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage

Most Americans are supposed to have health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. But up to 50,000 Alaska Natives and American Indians in Alaska will are excused from the requirement. They have to apply for that lifetime exemption though. And the federal government is mishandling many of those applications.

Politifact Rates Begich Ad “Pants on Fire”

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington DC

The fallout continues after U.S. Sen. Mark Begich aired a campaign ad blaming his opponent for a sentencing error that freed a sex offender now charged in a double homicide. The independent website Politifact gave the ad a rating of “Pants on Fire” – its lowest score.

Initiative Revives Air Regulation Debate

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

Sides are lining out their positions is the long running battle over who should be in charge of cleaning up Fairbanks air. A twice-passed citizen initiative, which bans the North Star Borough from regulating wood and coal burning stoves and boilers, is up for renewal in next month’s municipal election.

Only Arkansas Has Slower Internet Than Alaska

Sarah Yu, KTOO – Juneau

Alaska’s internet speeds are up 33 percent from last year, but we’re only up one spot ahead of Arkansas for the slowest internet in the nation, according to a pending study. For the first quarter of 2014, Alaska had the slowest internet in the U.S. That’s according to Akamai Technologies, an internet content delivery company based in Massachusetts.

New UAS Dorm Provides Housing for About 100 Freshmen

Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau

Classes for the fall semester started Tuesday at University of Alaska Southeast. More than 2,000 undergraduate and graduate students are currently enrolled at the university’s Juneau campus.About a hundred freshmen have settled into campus life at UAS’s new residence hall. The $14.3 million facility opened at the end of August.

Not My Town! ‘Grizzly Trade’ Ambles Through Places, Personalities of Southeast

Robert Woolsey, KCAW – Sitka

It’s got a Vietnam vet with a big heart and anger management problems, a small-town newspaper reporter, and a hippie radio station.

Throw in some meth-fuelled wildlife crime and a few cruise ships and you have the makings of an adventure mystery set in Southeast Alaska.

Dale Brandenburger is a former biologist with the state who has a new novel called Grizzly Trade.

Categories: Alaska News

Politifact Rates Begich Ad “Pants on Fire”

Wed, 2014-09-03 16:58

The fallout continues after U.S. Sen. Mark Begich aired a campaign ad blaming his opponent for a sentencing error that freed a sex offender now charged in a 2013 double homicide. The independent website Politifact gave the ad a rating of “Pants on Fire” – its lowest score.

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The website, sponsored by the Tampa Bay Times, sided with Republican Dan Sullivan, a former state attorney general. Sullivan says the mistake leading to the sex offender’s short sentence occurred before he was appointed to be the state’s top lawyer.

The Begich campaign pulled the ad after the victims’ family complained, and Sullivan also took down his rebuttal ad.

A Begich spokesman alleged Sullivan is responsible because a prosecutor working under him signed a plea deal in 2010 for an inappropriately short sentence.

A later Department of Law review of the case said the state lawyers, the judge and the Corrections Department all failed to see the suspect had a prior felony from 2007, which would have increased the presumptive sentence in 2010 to at least eight years. Instead, the man was freed and, in 2013, accused of killing an elderly couple in Anchorage and sexually assaulting a toddler.

Politifact called it highly unlikely that Sullivan was personally involved in the plea agreement. It also concluded he was not responsible because the sentence was based on an inaccurate state record created before Sullivan became attorney general.

Though the ad is no longer on air, national pundits and Republican political operatives continue to draw attention to it, calling it a blunder that could damage Begich’s re-election bid.

Categories: Alaska News

Initiative Revives Air Regulation Debate

Wed, 2014-09-03 16:57

Wood stove pipe on a Fairbanks home.
(Credit Dan Bross / KUAC)

Sides are lining out their positions is the long running battle over who should be in charge of cleaning up Fairbanks air. A twice passed citizen initiative, which bans the North Star Borough from regulating wood and coal burning stoves and boilers, is up for renewal in next month’s municipal election.

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Categories: Alaska News

Only Arkansas Has Slower Internet Than Alaska

Wed, 2014-09-03 16:56

Alaska’s internet is the second slowest in the country. (Photo by Sarah Yu/KTOO)

Alaska’s internet speeds are up 33 percent from last year, but we’re only up one spot ahead of Arkansas for the slowest internet in the country, according to a pending study.

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For the first quarter of 2014, Alaska had the slowest internet in the U.S. That’s according to a report by Akamai Technologies, an internet content delivery company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Alaska’s internet is about half as fast as the top three states: Virginia, Delaware and Massachusetts. Akamai’s studies and rankings are based off of actual content, such as websites and videos, delivered to users from their servers.

David Belson wrote the study. He’s senior director of industry and data intelligence at Akamai.

“The speeds that we do see, even in the slower states, are still pretty good,” says Belson.

The United States ranked 12th globally in internet speeds, with an average of 10 Mbps. Libya has the slowest internet speed worldwide, with an average of 0.5 Mbps.

Economy, population density and geography play a large part in how fast local internet is.

“If you can bring high speed connectivity to a city and you can hit a large percentage of the population there, that’s a good thing. But if you have to be running it along, you know, roads and over hills and across rivers, that all gets really expensive,” he says.

GCI and Alaska Communications are Alaska’s largest internet providers. They had to run fiber optic cable underwater more than 1,000 miles from Anchorage to the lower 48.

“We’re more similar to an international carrier that’s connecting continents, rather than a lower 48 provider that is connecting on land,” says ACS spokeswoman Hannah Blankenship.

She says Alaska’s large landmass and low population contributes to slower speeds. Communities off the road get internet via satellite, which is slower than cables and fiber.

David Morris, a GCI vice president, says sometimes large organizations such as the State of Alaska, hospitals or schools will pay to build infrastructure for faster internet to offer vital community services.

For example, the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp. used USDA Rural Development grant funding to upgrade 65 rural communities in southwest Alaska from satellite internet to GCI’s land-based network. That meant paying for a combination of line-of-sight microwave dish relays and fiber optic cables.

The health care provider needed faster internet to keep up with changes in a federal health insurance privacy law that limited certain health care communications, but allowed for specific types of live video conferencing.

“You’ve got the village health clinic that is connected to a regional hospital and then in turn those hospitals are connected in to Anchorage, as well as to lower 48 hospitals,” Morris says.

Once the infrastructure was there, the internet provider could offer faster internet to locals.

GCI itself has spent $150 million dollars to improve internet in rural communities, in addition to having a $44 million grant and $44 million loan in Federal Broadband Stimulus Funding.

ACS just announced it will offer 30 and 50 Mbps home internet for Anchorage residents. And GCI is in the process of making 1 Gbps internet connections available in Anchorage.

Akamai Technologies’ next Internet study is due out this month.

Categories: Alaska News

New UAS Dorm Provides Housing for About 100 Freshmen

Wed, 2014-09-03 16:55

UAS’s new $14.3 million residence hall opened August 27. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

Classes for the fall semester started Tuesday at University of Alaska Southeast. More than 2,000 undergraduate and graduate students are currently enrolled at the university’s Juneau campus.

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About a hundred freshmen have settled into campus life at UAS’s new residence hall. The $14.3 million facility opened at the end of August.

UAS student Matt Magnusson is helping his friend move into the new freshman residence hall.

“We just went upstairs and they’re so nice. There’s an actual refrigerator and freezer and there’s just so much more room and everything’s so clean,” Magnusson says.

His friend Delaney Jones drove two days from Delta Junction. She didn’t want to go to University of Alaska Fairbanks because it was too close to home.

On the fifth floor of the new dorm, Jones marvels at her new Juneau home.

Delaney Jones is from Delta Junction. She’s in UAS’s pre-radiology program. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

“I have my bed and it has drawers underneath, which is really convenient because the closets are not as big as I thought they would be. And then I have such a nice view of Auke Lake and, like, the rest of the campus,” Jones says.

UAS’s new residence hall can house up to 120 students in suites that feature a shared kitchen area and bathroom. Construction started May of 2013 and finishing touches were completed just before students moved in at the end of August.

Two floors below, Samantha Ferguson walks into her dorm room for the first time. The 18-year-old from central Indiana flew to Juneau by herself and traveled light – she’s moving to college with only one suitcase.

“It’s got clothes. I had to bring travel size hygiene because my suitcase had to be 50 pounds or less. And I’ve got blankets and here I’ve got a couple of shoes and I actually have food and laundry stuff in there,” Ferguson says.

She’s studying marine biology and figured being in Juneau would be a perfect fit. She says it took her a year of working at a McDonald’s in Indiana to afford moving to Alaska.

The view of Auke Lake from freshman Delaney Jones’ fifth floor dorm room. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

“I saved more than half of every paycheck. I worked part-time when I was in high school and then during the summer I went to a full-time and got a raise. So, I definitely saved up a lot of money,” Ferguson says.

While other students arrived at college with a carload of belongings, Samantha Ferguson moved with only one suitcase. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

She also took out loans and got a housing scholarship, so she doesn’t have to worry about the $5,000 it costs to live in the new freshmen dorm for nine months.

Upperclassmen living on campus are housed in Banfield Hall or in one of seven apartment buildings and pay up to $6,800 for two semesters.

Director of Campus Life Eric Scott says cost is part of the incentive of living on campus.

“In terms of being in the Juneau community, we’re very competitive,” Scott says.

It’s been about 20 years since the campus opened a new dormitory. UAS can now house about 380 students, but only about 60 percent of the beds are filled. About half living on campus are from Southeast. A quarter comes from elsewhere in Alaska, with another quarter from 23 other states. One international student from Japan calls the UAS campus home.

Scott hopes the number of students living on campus will grow.

“We were close to capacity every year prior to opening this new residence hall. And so now we have the ability to add some more students on campus. We’re hoping that some of those folks who have gone off campus for a variety of reasons will come back and join us now that we have this brand new residence hall and a really great program to surround it,” Scott says.

The university has staff members living in the new residence hall. Scott says there are several common areas for studying and meeting in groups, “so that students can spend time outside of their rooms but still in the residence hall. One of the other great things – up on our fourth floor, we have a conference/classroom where folks can meet, folks can host classes. And that’s really the way that we’re moving, is bringing the academic programs back into the residence halls.”

As students steadily move into the new freshman residence hall, they unpack suitcases and boxes of belongings, quickly filling up the empty rooms and bare walls.

Categories: Alaska News

Not My Town! ‘Grizzly Trade’ Ambles Through Places, Personalities of Southeast

Wed, 2014-09-03 16:54

It’s got a Vietnam vet with a big heart and anger management problems, a small-town newspaper reporter, and a hippie radio station.

Throw in some meth-fuelled wildlife crime and a few cruise ships and you have the makings of an adventure mystery set in Southeast Alaska.

Dale Brandenburger is a former biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish & Game who’s combined decades of journaling and a knack for storytelling into a new novel called Grizzly Trade.

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Author Dale Brandenburger will read from his novel Grizzly Trade 5 PM Wed Sep 3 at Old Harbor Books in Sitka.

To speak to Dale Brandenburger, first you’ve got to find him. For the past six weeks he’s been working on a research cruise for the Sitka Sound Science Center.

‘Grizzly Trade’ is Brandenburger’s second novel, but the first to see print.

We finally established a scratchy connection via satellite phone as the boat he’s working on, the Sitka-based Surveyor, motored out of Rodman Bay.

“You know a lot of things you read about Alaska, it’s always man-versus-nature struggling. And I don’t really see people striving so much to survive, as thriving up here. I wanted to include Alaskans’ sense of humor and have some fun with the book. Hopefully, it’s a fun read.”

And Grizzly Trade, despite it’s dime-novel cast of cops, reporters, petty criminals, and other ne’er do-wells, is a fun read. The protagonist is a Vietnam veteran named Red who grows frustrated when law enforcement is unable to stop the poaching of brown bears, whose paws and gall bladders are then trafficked on the Asian aphrodisiac market.

Red’s decision to track the poachers leads him through a series of episodes — most of which are based on events that actually happened and many remember — like a cruise ship spill involving dry cleaning and photo chemicals.

Brandenburger worked for ADF&G for 28 years, both in Juneau and in Sitka, and was a diligent journal-writer. He’s seen a lot. Maybe too much, according to his wife.

“Two of the incidents in the book, she was like, No one would believe that! They were true incidents as well. And I had to cut them from the book, otherwise my credibility would have been shot, I think.”

Although the character of Red is based on a friend of his in Ketchikan — a “big guy with a red beard and anger-management problems” — most everyone else is an amalgam of folks he has met over the course of his career. There is a newspaper reporter, however, from a town north of Sitka whom Brandenburger says may see a bit of himself. And that hippie radio station? That could be anywhere.

Brandenburger set his story in the fictional town of Alkoot, rather than pin all this strangeness on a specific locale.

“Yeah, it gives you a little more freedom than trying to write a bunch of facts about Alaska. And it makes for more of a page-turner, I think, for certain readers.”

Brandenburger has written one previous unpublished novel, which he says was good experience for this book, plus changed his approach to writing. He’s decided to not be quite so serious, and to follow the lead of authors like…

“Carl Hiaasen, who’s written a lot of satirical-type stuff about environmental issues in Florida. David James Duncan who wrote The Brothers K and The River Why. And I was a fan of John D. MacDonald, too — and author who hasn’t been around for a while but has written some great stuff.”

Brandenburger says he has mined his journals of the last thirty years for material forGrizzly Trade. So much happens, readers may wonder if there’s anything left for the little town of Alkoot.

Brandenburger says he’s already well into his next story.

“It’s in the same town ten years later and they’re trying to put in a hydroelectric dam, and there’s also a reality TV show that comes to town. So that’s going to be fun as well. I’m having a good time writing it.”

Hydroelectric dam and reality television? Now, that really could be anywhere.

Categories: Alaska News

Walker, Mallott form Unity Ticket to oppose Parnell

Tue, 2014-09-02 17:55

Bill Walker (rt) addresses a press conference about his decision to join Byron Mallott (lft) on a Unity Ticket.

The Bill Walker and Byron Mallott campaigns have joined forces to defeat Governor Sean Parnell in November. They’re calling their combined campaign the Alaska First Unity ticket. The pair announced their decision at a packed press conference Monday afternoon. Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell approved the ballot change late in the afternoon.

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Walker agreed to drop his Republican affiliation to run for governor with Democrat Byron Mallott as his running mate. Walker previously ran as an Independent. Both Hollis French and Craig Fleener, who were candidates for lieutenant governor, will step aside.

Mallott said it was not an easy choice to make, but he didn’t think either of them could beat Parnell on his own. Mallott said he does not feel like he’s abandoning the people who voted for him in the primary.

“It’s hard in political life to ask for this because of recent — of a long history. But we’re trying to change that! And I ask you to trust me. Look at my record. Look at what I say. At the actions I take. I cannot do anything more,” Mallott told the crowd.

The pair’s main message is that they are working together to build Alaska and to go against partisan politics. ”Our vision for Alaska was part of the problem in the campaign,” Mallott said. “They overlapped so much that there was little differentiation between us.”

Walker said he is still socially conservative, but they are not running the campaign on social issues. Instead they have agreed to focus on improving the economy and the education system. He said one way to do that is to actually decide which mega-projects the State wants to complete, like the Alaska LNG Project.

“We need to stop doing some of the crazy studies we do. We spend billions of dollars on studies and we don’t actually do something. We just study the studies of the studies. We need to decide to what we can do, what we’re going to do, and we can do it and stop studying everything else.”

Walker said he does not have other specific ideas for budget cuts. He assured the group that Mallott would be an active part of the decision making process and would have a place in the governor’s office if they win, not next door.

Luke Miller with the Parnell campaign said they are not surprised by the move. ”They’re both — the way we see it — two peas in a pod. They’ve both supported these liberal Obama policies in Alaska, whether it’s expanding Obamacare, raising taxes, or growing government.”

Miller says the Parnell campaign is still waiting to hear specifics from the new Unity Ticket on their actual policy proposals.

Department of Law statement: “Nothing in Alaska Law prohibits the changes to the ballot requested by Bill Walker and Byron Mallott. The Constitution and statutes are silent on this particular issue, but constitutional principles of equal protection and ballot access favor allowing approval of these changes, and we think a court would likely agree. The Lieutenant Governor is following past and current guidance of the Attorney General’s Office in adopting an emergency regulation to ensure that an appropriate procedure is in place for replacing a non-party lieutenant governor candidate who has withdrawn.”

Categories: Alaska News

Begich Campaigns Removes Controversial ‘Crime Scene’ Ad

Tue, 2014-09-02 17:54

The campaign of Sen. Mark Begich has taken down a controversial TV ad entitled “crime scene” that began airing Friday. The ad featured a retired Anchorage police officer who says Republican Senate candidate Dan Sullivan let sex offenders off with light sentences.

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“One of them got out of prison, and is now charged with breaking into that apartment, murdering a senior couple and sexually assaulting their 2-year-old granddaughter.”

It essentially blames Sullivan for the 2013 crime, because he was attorney general when the suspect cut a plea deal for a prior crime that resulted in a short sentence. Sullivan immediately responded with a rebuttal ad, calling the Begich ad shameful and unfounded.

“The failure that led to Active’s release occurred before I even became Attorney General,” Sullivan said.

The double murder case hasn’t yet gone to trial, but the Department of Law previously acknowledged the suspect would probably still be in prison if it were not for a mistake when he was sentenced for a prior crime. The department found a state prosecutor in 2010 relied on an inaccurate report of the suspect’s criminal history, resulting in a deal and a four-year sentence. Because the suspect had a prior felony, the sentence, by state law, should have been at least double that.

Sullivan’s campaign says he bears no responsibility for the erroneous report.

The Begich campaign counters by circulating an image of the 2010 plea deal that resulted in the short sentence. Sullivan was AG then, and his name is on the bottom of the document.

Both campaigns took down their ads after a request by the victims’ family.

Categories: Alaska News

UA President Pat Gamble Asks Regents To Review Retention Incentive

Tue, 2014-09-02 17:53

Pat Gamble.

University of Alaska President Pat Gamble has requested the Board of Regents review a $320,000 retention incentive the board approved for him in June.

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The request comes amid a surge of public criticism as the university works to address budgetary issues as state funding decreases.

Kate Ripley is the public affairs director for the University of Alaska.

“I think it just felt like the 800-pound gorilla in the room. He just thought that he needed to talk about it,” she said. “And he has told the board, ‘I would like you guys to consider this, because I think that there’s a lot of negativity going on right now, right at a time when we really need everybody to pull together.’”

The retention incentive would be awarded at the end of Gamble’s three-year contract in May of 2016.

The Board of Regents is expected to address the request at a Sept. 8 meeting in Anchorage.

Categories: Alaska News

Southeast ‘Trashwood’ Finds New Markets

Tue, 2014-09-02 17:52

Southeast residents will be able to buy locally milled lumber in the future—as small scale timber sales begin on Mitkof Island. The trees are mostly from young growth stands, comprised of what some would call “trashwood.”

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Categories: Alaska News

Brown Bear Hunting Suspended In Kenai National Wildlife Refuge

Tue, 2014-09-02 17:51

Last month, the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge announced it was thinking about temporarily suspending brown bear sport hunting on the Refuge until late next spring. This week, they held two public meetings to see how people felt about the proposal and on Friday, they made their decision.

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Categories: Alaska News

Former UAA Athletic Director Steve Cobb Passes Away

Tue, 2014-09-02 17:50

Former University of Alaska Anchorage athletic director Steve Cobb, age 55, passed away Monday night in Florida.

The cause of death is currently unavailable.

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Former UAA Athletic Director Steve Cobb. (Photo courtesy UAA Athletics)

UAA Sports Information Director Nate Sagan worked with Cobb during his entire 13-year tenure. He says Cobb constantly worked to improve the lives of student-athletes by striving for excellence both in athletics and in classroom.

“The goal was always to get the student-athletes to a 3.2 combined GPA, and towards the end of his tenure, I think we actually, we finally did reach that goal,” Sagan said. “And I know that was one of his proudest days as a Seawolf, seeing that 3.2 on the final printout.”

Cobb made several changes around the department, including moving the gymnastics program to the Division 1 level, and pushing for the creation of the Seawolf Hall of Fame.

Sagan says Cobb was instrumental in the creation of the Alaska Airlines Center.

“It is ironic that this week, when we’re opening this brand new, beautiful building which he has so much influence in having built,” Sagan said. “You know, it’s kind of sad that he’s not around to witness it, even from a distance.”

Cobb was the athletic director at UAA from 2000 to 2013.

He was fired during a tumultuous off-season when questions arose over his handling of an incident where former hockey coach Dave Shyiak was accused of hitting a player with his stick.

Categories: Alaska News

British Adventurer Begins 6,000 Mile Bike Ride Across North America

Tue, 2014-09-02 17:49

A British adventurer is making her way around the world in human-powered craft. She’s rowing, kayaking, and biking from London to London. She arrived in Homer two weeks ago after kayaking up the Aleutian Chain. Over the weekend, she started the next phase of her journey – a 6,000-mile bike ride from Alaska to the East Coast.

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Categories: Alaska News

Upper Valley Agriculture: Bare Hands Farm

Tue, 2014-09-02 17:47

The average farmer in the U.S. is nearly 60-years-old. Three young and idealistic Alaskans are defying that trend with a new farm near Talkeetna. Bare Hands organic Farm is only one acre, but its owners have big plans.

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Bare Hands farm, like much of the Upper Valley’s farm land, is a little out of the way.  After leaving the Talkeetna Spur Road and driving a few miles over gravel, then through a series of private driveways, I made it there while only getting lost once.  I was met by two of the three people who operate the farm.

KNAPP: “I’m Graham Knapp.”
SYKES: “I’m Mindy Sykes.”

The third partner in Bare Hands Farm is John Sargent, who works in Bethel, but is planning on spending more time on the farm in future seasons.  In a time when the federal government says the average age of a farmer is fifty-seven, the trio represent an infusion of youth to the agriculture industry.

Graham Knapp says that he sees what Bare Hands Farm is doing as part of a larger trend within his generation.

“I think there is a movement out there with young people who want to diversify a little bit and create farms that are more community oriented, and where you typically wouldn’t find other small farms.  They just want to infuse the community with fresh, local food.”

Mindy Sykes’ reasons for getting involved in small-scale farming are rather similar to what Graham describes.

“For me, it’s probably just my love for food, and good food, and becoming more aware of how my food was grown and not wanting to partake of that, and choosing to take part in how food, in my opinion, can be and should be grown.”

While Bare Hands Farm does produce a variety of vegetables, including zucchini, turnips, and leafy greens, one of the ways that the owners have found to break into the market is by thinking small, as I discover when we walk into the greenhouse.

“Primarily, we’ve been using this for our micro-greens operation.”

Micro-greens are basically exactly what they sound like, as Graham Knapp explains.

“When a plant first comes up, it’s got it first two leaves, called the cotyledons, and when the first true leaves come in you can harvest them, and that’s considered micro-greens.”

The micro-greens are grown from a number of edible plants, and it’s possible to substitute them as ingredients in a salad, but that takes a lot of them, so Graham says that restaurants like to use them as a garnish or to add an edible visual element to a meal.

“We like to add color and find the ones that have some color to it, and we find the restaurants like that as an aesthetic quality to their plates.”

Bare Hands Farm currently sells to two local restaurants, Twister Creek and the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge.   Mindy Sykes says that there has been interest from other businesses, but the growing capacity will have to expand in order to take on additional customers.

“Other restaurants are interested in buying our micro-greens and using them as well, but the brewery and the lodge, with our little greenhouse, was enough for us.  In the future, with our larger greenhouse and dialing it in a little more, we’d love to be able to provide that to more people.”

After looking at the greenhouse, Graham and Mindy took me to the vegetable rows, where they have a mix of leafy greens, root vegetables, and even one pumpkin that  produced fruit.  Graham Knapp says that selling the vegetables to restaurants is something that might happen in the future, but it’s not the primary goal right now.

“Our main goal is to feed the residents of Talkeetna, and anything on top of that is good too.”

For now, feeding Talkeetnans largely means selling at a local farmers market during the summer.  While expansion is definitely being considered, Graham Knapp says that

it doesn’t necessarily take a lot of land to get a large yield.

“It’s amazing how much food you can grow in a small area.  We’re putting out a lot of food on under an acre.  We tossed around some numbers.  How big to we want to get?  Two, or three, or five acres?  But that is so much food when you’re growing right.”

One of the biggest challenges that faces Alaskan farmers is the short growing season. Graham Knapp says he wants to try different methods for extending that season to provide vegetables later in the year.

“I really want to experiment with growing into the fall a little more with the high tunnels we have coming in, and starting things really early, and really extending the seasons a lot more.”

My tour of Bare Hands Farm ended at the chicken enclosure, where more than two dozen birds were hiding from the drizzle that had begun.  Some of the birds have recently begun laying eggs, and many more will start soon.  Graham and Mindy are also raising chickens for meat, both for nutritional and ethical reasons.

KNAPP:  “Mindy and I have kind of sworn off industrial meat, because we know it’s not treated very well…”

SYKES: “And it’s not good for you.  The omega-three to sixes are off, because they’re eating food they’re not supposed to be eating, so it’s really not the best.”

KNAPP: “Yep.  We like to know that any meat that’s going to be consumed by us had a good life, ate well, lived well, and was well taken care of.”

As I got into my truck and drove away, Graham Knapp and Mindy Sykes went immediately back to work, making the most of what’s left of the Alaskan summer at Bare Hands Farm.

- See more at: http://ktna.org/2014/08/26/upper-valley-agriculture-bare-hands-farm/#sthash.IhfYLiy3.dpuf

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: September 2, 2014

Tue, 2014-09-02 17:17

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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Walker, Mallott Form Unity Ticket To Oppose Parnell

Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage

The Bill Walker and Byron Mallott campaigns have joined forces to try to defeat Governor Sean Parnell in November. They’re calling their combined campaign the Alaska First Unity ticket. The pair announced their decision at a packed press conference today in Anchorage.

Begich Campaigns Removes Controversial ‘Crime Scene’ Ad

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington DC

The campaign of Sen. Mark Begich has taken down a controversial TV ad entitled “crime scene” that began airing Friday. The ad featured a retired Anchorage police officer who says Republican Senate candidate Dan Sullivan let sex offenders off with light sentences.

UA President Pat Gamble Asks Regents To Review Retention Incentive

Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage

University of Alaska President Pat Gamble has requested the Board of Regents review a $320,000 dollar retention incentive the board approved for him in June.

Southeast ‘Trashwood’ Finds New Markets

Elizabeth Jenkins, KFSK – Petersburg

Southeast residents will be able to buy locally milled lumber in the future—as small scale timber sales begin on Mitkof Island. The trees are mostly from young growth stands, comprised of what some would call “trash wood.”

Brown Bear Hunting Suspended In Kenai National Wildlife Refuge

Shaylon Cochran, KDLL – Kenai

Last month, the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge announced it was thinking about temporarily suspending brown bear sport hunting on the Refuge until late next spring. This week, they held two public meetings to see how people felt about the proposal and on Friday, they made their decision.

Former UAA Athletic Director Steve Cobb Passes Away

Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage

Former University of Alaska Anchorage athletic director Steve Cobb, age 55, passed away Monday night in Florida. The cause of death is unknown.

British Adventurer Begins 6,000 Mile Bike Ride Across North America

Shady Grove Oliver, KBBI – Homer

A British adventurer is making her way around the world in human-powered craft. She’s rowing, kayaking, and biking from London to London. She arrived in Homer two weeks ago after kayaking up the Aleutian Chain. Over the weekend, she started the next phase of her journey – a 6,000-mile bike ride from Alaska to the East Coast.

Upper Valley Agriculture: Bare Hands Farm

Phillip Manning, KTNA – Talkeetna

The average farmer in the U.S. is nearly 60-years-old. Three young and idealistic Alaskans are defying that trend with a new farm near Talkeetna. Bare Hands organic Farm is only one acre, but its owners have big plans.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska Democrats Vote To Support Independent Candidate for Governor

Mon, 2014-09-01 22:42

The Central Committee of the Alaska Democratic Party voted Monday evening to support an Independent party ticket for Governor and Lieutenant Governor comprised of Bill Walker and Byron Mallott. Mallot has been the Democratic nominee for Governor but would run as Lieutenant Governor with Walker on the Independent ticket. The vote was 89 to 2.

Democratic Party spokesman Zack Fields says Democrats believe the state is in trouble under Sean Parnell’s leadership and Walker and Mallott share similar beliefs about how to address the state’s problems.

“Byron Mallott and Bill Walker were both talking about the need to balance budgets, fix the school cuts that Sean Parnell has promoted and stand up for Alaska fisheries, so it made sense for them to team up.”

Fields says Democrats are pragmatic and if a strong Independent ticket will serve the needs of Alaskans, the party will support it.

“A lot of Alaskans, Republicans and Democrats recognize we all need to work together as a team to beat Sean Parnell and elect a Governor and Lt. Governor who finally will put Alaskans first.”

Fields says it is unprecedented for the Alaska Democratic Party to not have a candidate on the ballot for Governor.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: September 1, 2014

Mon, 2014-09-01 16:25

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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Mallott, Walker Talk of Joining Forces

Steve Heimel, APRN – Anchorage

The deadline for making candidacy changes for the November general election ballot is tomorrow and talks have reportedly been going between Democrat Gubernatorial nominee Byron Mallott and independent candidate Bill Walker about a possible unity ticket. Just how that would be done and what would become of running mates Craig Fleener and Hollis French remains to be seen. The Mallott campaign said the media can expect some sort of availability Tuesday.

Change Coming to Lower Kuskokwim School District

Daysha Eaton, KYUK – Bethel

Students returned to classes recently across the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.  Lower Kuskokwim School District Superintendent Jacob Jensen says change is on the horizon for the district with the largest number of rural students in the state.

Freedom Summer Marks 50th Anniversary

Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer, when civil rights activists from across the United States joined together to register black voters in the Deep South. It was a summer marred by violence and filled with hope for much of the country. But in Alaska,things were different.

Forecasters Keeping Eye Out for an El Nino

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

Weather forecasters have their eye out for an El Nino this fall and winter. The equatorial Pacific Ocean warming has been observed in its early stages this summer.  National Weather Service Alaska region climate science and services manager Rick Thoman is tracking conditions that signal El Nino.

Complaints Filed Against Statewide Public Officials

Shady Grove Oliver, KBBI – Homer

Three Kenai Peninsula residents have filed complaints with the Alaska Public Offices Commission against statewide public officials for failure to disclose gifts.

Heat Pumps Tap Ocean’s Thermal Energy

Robert Woolsey, KCAW – Sitka

Using seawater to heat large buildings in Alaska is no longer a pipe dream.

Andy Baker, an engineer with YourCleanEnergy LLC, helped design an ocean-sourced heat pump system for the Alaska Sealife Center in Seward which will pay back the community’s investment in less than nine years — just in fuel savings. Baker spoke to the Sitka Chamber of Commerce this week about practical applications for a technology that has quickly moved from theory into reality.

Ketchikan Welcomes New US Citizens

Leila Kheiry, KRBD – Ketchikan

Eighteen Ketchikan residents became U.S. citizens a few days ago. The ceremony took place in the courtroom of Ketchikan’s historic downtown federal building.

 

Categories: Alaska News

Mallott, Walker Talk of Joining Forces

Mon, 2014-09-01 16:10

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The deadline for making candidacy changes for the November general election ballot is tomorrow and talks have reportedly been going between Democrat Gubernatorial nominee Byron Mallott and independent candidate Bill Walker about a possible unity ticket. Just how that would be done and what would become of running mates Craig Fleener and Hollis French remains to be seen. The Mallott campaign said the media can expect some sort of availability Tuesday.

Categories: Alaska News

Change Coming to Lower Kuskokwim School District

Mon, 2014-09-01 16:08

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Students returned to classes recently across the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. Lower Kuskokwim School District Superintendent Jacob Jensen says change is on the horizon for the district with the largest number of rural students in the state.

This year, the Lower Kuskokwim School District has new leadership at several schools. Superintendent, Jacob Jensen, says of the five schools in Bethel, three have had principal turnovers. Jensen.

“So we have three new principals. So the principal at Gladys Jung is the principal that’s been with LKSD for quite a long time at LKSD, I believe he’s on year 12, Chris Carmichael. The principal over at Immersion is a longtime LKSD employee, Mike Smith, who had retired and decided it did not suit him and came back. And then the new principal at BRHS has been a principal in Alaska for, I think nine years, her name is Elizabeth Balcerek,” Jensen said.

The district is looking to reorganize behind the scenes. Right now, the district does a lot of what’s called site-based management, which means schools and principals have a lot of autonomy to do things like, set their own calendar, run their own lunch programs and hire their own staff. But Jenson said LKSD, for a number of reasons, is looking at more centralization.

“Possibly looking at things like having a centralized food service, as opposed to having each individual site kind of run their own, centralizing a lot of our technology has already happened,” Jensen said.

“We’re looking at possibly maintenance, you know centralizing that. You know purchasing. We try to order the same types of vehicles and snow machines and four wheelers but we don’t really have any policies about that. So kinda looking at all those type of things.”

Jensen said LKSD is one of a handful of school districts in rural Alaska that still allows schools such autonomy. He says while local input and control are important for the district, officials may have to make serious budget changes in response to pressure from limited state and federal funds. He says the district can be more efficient with some centralized services.

Besides consolidating management of LKSD, Jensen says, district-wide accreditation is another major goal he hopes to accomplish this year.  Jensen says, also new this year, students will take fewer tests. That’s a result of the state’s waiver from No Child Left Behind.

“As far as the waiver, it doesn’t do a whole lot different other than listeners should know that it was by this year all of our students had to be 100 percent proficient, which was an unrealistic goal,” he said. “So the state got a waiver and now we’re working on what is called a growth model so we’re making sure that kids are growing each and every year.”

In addition, the state high school graduation exam is no longer being given due to a proposal by Governor Sean Parnell that was approved by the state legislature this past year.

“It made it difficult for some students that could not pass that high school graduation exam,” Jensen said.

“It caused some difficulties for some students who wanted to get into the military and go on to post-secondary options. I thinking it was a good idea when they put it in place. It was a little bit difficult in implementation. So, what’s happening now is that kids just have to meet the qualifying criteria of the school district.”

Jensen says two other state tests have also been eliminated, the ‘Terra-Nova’ and the State of Alaska Standards Based Assessment test also known as the SBA, which is being replaced with the Alaska Measures of Progress Test, or AMP. Students will take the AMP online. Jensen also notes that all children in the district can now eat breakfast and lunch for free. Studies show that kids who eat breakfast do better in school, and Jensen says he’s hopes the meals will help students excel.

The Lower Kuskokwim School District stretches about 100-thousand square miles and is about the same size as the state of Ohio. The district, made up by 28 schools with more than 4,000 students, has an operating budget of about $80 million.

Categories: Alaska News

Freedom Summer Marks 50th Anniversary

Mon, 2014-09-01 16:06

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This year marks the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer, when civil rights activists from across the United States joined together to register black voters in the Deep South. It was a summer marred by violence and filled with hope for much of the country. But in Alaska,things were different.

Rosa Foster darts around her small kitchen making oatmeal. Formal china is on the table, family photos line the walls and shelves. The hyperactive 81 year old jumps –from story to story as she puts away the tub of margarine and box of sugar.

We settle onto the couch in her crowded den, the TV constantly on in the background. She alternates between telling more stories and answering her phone as her oatmeal grows cold.

Foster moved to Anchorage from Virginia in 1961 with her husband, who was in the military, and their two young children. She says she met her neighbors, who were all welcoming.

Foster recalls the intricate details of getting her first job as a third grade teacher at Fairview Elementary. The way she tells it, she went to the school district administration and demanded exactly where she would teach and what level.

She was one of the first black teachers in the city but she says she didn’t feel like any of the other teachers or the students treated her any differently, not like in Virginia.

Foster says when they bought a house in Airport Heights in 1963, some of her friends were a bit concerned.

But her friend thought the Fosters might be okay since they both had white-collar jobs. Foster says she became fast friends with her neighbors and taught them about her family’s way of doing things.

Williams says he decided to join them and he did find a place where people of different colors were friends.

He says there were black-owned construction companies building for the government and black-owned clubs serving the community. But not everyone agrees that Anchorage was a relative utopia in terms of race relations. Richard Watts Jr. moved to Anchorage as a small boy in 1949.

In 1951, the home of a black family in Rogers Park was torched. After that, Watts’ parents helped start the Anchorage NAACP. Watts says the black community was only allowed to live in certain parts of town.

No one would sell them a house in west Anchorage, so his family bought a home in the eastern part of Nunaka Valley. To shop, they drove to the Carrs Brothers on Gambell in Fairview because the store sold things like pigs feet and chitlins for cooking southern soul food.

So in 1963, when Watts was 16, the NAACP started a boycott. For three weeks Watts joined others picketing in front of the store. And when the boycott ended, he was hired as a bagger.

Watts says it was a comfortable place to work, and he was quickly promoted. Within a few years he was a store manager, then a director of groceries. Now he’s in charge of the beverage and tobacco divisions.

But Rosa Foster says not all of the stores were as progressive as Carrs. She recalls trying to buy shoes at JC Penny’s for her children and being ignored by the sales clerk.

She hurries off to answer another call, her cold breakfast long forgotten.

Categories: Alaska News
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