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: 32 min 30 sec ago

Yaakoosgé Daakahídi Alternative High School Graduate Profile

Tue, 2014-05-27 18:01

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High school graduation is an accomplishment worth celebrating for all students. But for some the achievement is that much sweeter, because of the obstacles they had to overcome. KTOO profiles profiles a graduate of Juneau’s Yaakoosgé Daakahídi Alternative High School, who has been living on her own for about a year.

Categories: Alaska News

Bill Encourages Tribes to Work With State on Jurisdiction

Tue, 2014-05-27 16:04

The sponsor of the Safe Families and Villages Bill, U.S. Senator Mark Begich, said the bill encourages tribes to work with the state of Alaska to develop agreements on tribal court jurisdiction. But he said it also gives tribes a way to take on added responsibilities through an agreement with the federal government.

Begich, a Democrat, says that takes away the state’s veto authority over tribal jurisdiction that was in an earlier version of the bill.

“What I tried to is to make sure that the law was stronger in the sense of the relationship it would have with the Department of Justice vs. the state of Alaska because the state of Alaska, as you know doesn’t recognize tribes,” he said. “They wanted total control over making the decision. And we felt that was not appropriate.”

Native American Rights Fund staff attorney Natalie Landreth said another important part of the bill is it amends the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) to delete section 910, which had been inserted by Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican.

“It had this ridiculous way that it was formed where it said we’re going to add a savings clause, meaning you can do everything that you were doing before, but then it said ‘except Alaska.’ and that ‘except Alaska’ muddied the waters so heavily that someone like me who litigates could not have explained to a court in a coherent way ‘your honor, there’s a savings clause and an exemption and here’s what it means.’ you cannot have both,” Landreth said.

Landreth said tribes need the added authority because the state provides inadequate law enforcement in dozens of villages.

“Previous to the VAWA reauthorization, in 2012, tribes have been exercising a lot of civil authority over domestic violence in their villages” Landreth said. “Because people often forget, they’re often the only entity there, the only government entity for hundreds if not thousands of miles.”

Attorney General Michael Geraghty said the goal of the Safe Families and Villages bill is laudable.

“I certainly agree with the goal which is to try to reduce crime and improve public safety in these communities,” Geraghty said. “And the state’s working on that in conjunction with tribes and has been for several months. So I agree with the goal but I disagree with the means by which this bill tries to accomplish that.”

Geraghty said the state has been working with Tanana Chiefs Conference for the past couple of months to create an agreement that would accomplish the same goal, with one caveat.

“It does empower tribes to deal with offenses, certain offenses, enumerated offenses within their communities if the offender has agreed to be diverted to tribal court,” Geraghty said.

Murkowski had supported an earlier version of the bill but didn’t sign on as co-sponsor of this version. The Safe Families and Villages Act now awaits scheduling on the Senate floor.

Categories: Alaska News

Evacuation Order Lifted for Funny River Road Residents

Tue, 2014-05-27 14:45

Updated at 2:45 p.m.

Residents of the Funny River Road community were allowed to start returning to their homes as state fire officials lifted the evacuation order at 9 a.m. Tuesday morning.

Although all evacuation orders have been suspended at this time, residents of the community were cautioned that there is still an evacuation advisory in place which could result in another evacuation order should conditions change.

A NASA satellite image of the Funny River Fire from 1:45 p.m. on May 26th. Active fire areas are outlined in red. Photo courtesy: NASA

The fire is burning on more than 182,200 acres and is considered 30 percent contained. Firefighters will focus attention Tuesday on the northeast end of the fire near the Kenai Keys subdivision, where Monday, the blaze jumped the Kenai River at the west end of Skilak Lake.

Fire breaks and bulldozer lines have been completed for much of the western end of the Funny River fire.

Kasilof is not currently under immediate threat. Fire officials say cooler temperatures, diminished winds and rain are assisting their efforts, but it is estimated that rain would need to fall for three days resulting in at least a half an inch of rain before it would start to impact the fire.

Six-hundred-eighty-nine firefighters are battling the fire. No major injuries have been reported.

Two community meetings will be held this evening. An information gathering at 6 p.m. will be held at the Tustumena School and at 8 p.m., locals can attend a meeting at the Soldotna High School.

Smoke from the Funny River wildfire is being reported as far north as Fairbanks.

Earlier story below—-

The fire was pushed by winds again yesterday, but those winds were diminishing. The fire has turned back on itself and away from Kasilof. It has expanded northwards towards Skilak Lake.

Some people have been able to return to their properties after evacuations from the Funny River and Kenai Keys areas.

A number of facilities were being used as shelters.

The fire has taken something more than 175,000 acres and there are hundreds fighting it.

Categories: Alaska News

Tyonek Fire Almost Contained

Mon, 2014-05-26 17:05

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The Tyonek fire, which started a week ago Monday, is currently burning at just over 1,900 acres. The blaze is between the villages of Tyonek and Beluga. Tyonek fire incident commander Bob Allbee reports the fire is now 85% contained with full containment expected by tomorrow, May 28th. 

 

Categories: Alaska News

Feds Updating Development Scenarios for Chukchi

Mon, 2014-05-26 17:02

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The federal government on Friday released a status update on the court ordered revision of an Environmental Impact Statement for Lease Sale 193 in the Chukchi Sea. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found in an April ruling that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) had underestimated how much oil may be recoverable in Arctic Ocean development.

The Wilderness Society’s arctic program director Lois Epstein said it appears BOEM is approaching the work of revising the development scenarios for the EIS in a thorough manner, but she said BOEM should not set a limit such as the 10 month time frame that was proposed to the court.

“As an engineer I know these analysis take quite a bit of time” she said. “The modeling takes a long time to get it right. And we think they should just take the time that’s needed. If anything, they should give the court a longer time frame and then back off should they finish it sooner.”

Epstein said BOEM officials had indicated that overtime may be needed to get the report finished within the 10 months. BOEM will issue the next status report on July 22nd.

Categories: Alaska News

New Fisheries Might Be Headed to Unalaska

Mon, 2014-05-26 17:01

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Next year will likely bring new fisheries to the western Aleutian
Islands, now that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has issued its
final report on the way commercial fishing affects an endangered population
of Steller sea lions.

The agency came out in favor of allowing more fishing in its environmental
impact statement, or EIS, on Friday morning.

This is a major move for the service. As recently as 2010, the agency was
trying to close fishing grounds in the Bering Sea and Aleutians. Biologists
didn’t want the Steller sea lions to have to compete with fishermen for
pollock, Atka mackerel, and Pacific Cod.

But the fishing industry argued there wasn’t enough scientific proof
that commercial harvests were putting pressure on the endangered species.

The issue went to court, and a federal judge ordered NMFS to go back to the
drawing board. The agency was required to come up with the new
environmental impact statement, which looks at the scientific and economic
implications of different protection plans.

Last year, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council told biologists
they preferred an option that would relax some bans on commercial fishing.

The service has been studying that plan ever since. The agency ruled more
fishing — at certain times of year, in certain areas — is not likely to
jeopardize sea lions.

Now, NMFS will start turning that into a federal regulation. It could go
into effect as early as January 2015.

Categories: Alaska News

Label Certifies Much of AK Salmon

Mon, 2014-05-26 17:00



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The leading global seafood sustainability label currently certifies much of Alaska’s salmon harvest as sustainable. But only a few companies can use the label.

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Categories: Alaska News

Crews Continue to Battle Funny River Fire; Rain Forecasted

Mon, 2014-05-26 16:57

May 25 video by Sonya Wellman – Alaska Public Media

The Funny River Fire continued to burn the central Kenai Peninsula this week. As of Monday afternoon, it’s estimated to have burned more than 158,000 acres with 30% containment. Funny River Road from Mile 7 to the end was evacuated on Sunday afternoon. The Kenai Keys area was put on evacuation alert.

The fire is mainly burning within the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, though it has pushed outside those boundaries over the last few days.

The Funny River Fire forced homeowners to seek shelter over the weekend. Photo by Sonya Wellman – Alaska Public Media

Sarah McAlpin said she lives on the Funny River side of the Kenai Keys. She and her husband and their dog left home with only some medications, documents, and a few valuables.

She and other evacuees attended one of the many public information sessions at Redoubt Elementary School in Soldotna. It’s serving as a Red Cross shelter for people displaced by the fire.

Kris Ericksen is a public information officer with the Alaska Incident Management Team. She’s helping get the word out to residents about the most recent fire updates.

She says there have been no injuries. And, at this point, there are no structures known to have been destroyed.

She also said there is no known structural damage in the Funny River area.

However, Ericksen said it’s hard to determine if there has or has not been damage to more rural cabins without being able to get on the ground and check.

She said crews have are focusing their efforts on the northern edge of the fire.

Michelle Weston is an information officer for the fire management team. She says the wind has been a major factor in the fire so far.

She says it has pushed the fire deeper into the wildlife refuge.

Weston said there are about 600 people involved in the firefighting effort. That includes Army National Guard Black Hawk helicopters, water scoopers from Canada, management officials from the Yukon, and teams from the Lower 48.

Kenai Borough Mayor Mike Navarre said it’s been a community, statewide and regional effort. And, he said he hopes the weather will help over the next few days.

The National Weather Service said it could begin raining about midnight Monday night and continue through Tuesday. Scattered showers were expected Wednesday and Thursday.

But for now, residents like Sarah McAlbin will wait, watch, and hope for some news that the fire is moving away from their homes.

The Red Cross shelter in Soldotna has open cot space and is providing some meals and snacks for people displaced by the fire.

Alaska DNR – Division of Forestry released this map of the Funny River Fire Monday morning .

 

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: May 26, 2014

Mon, 2014-05-26 16:38

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.

Funny River Fire Burns More than 158,000 Acres
Shady Grove Oliver, KBBI – Homer

The Funny River Fire continued to burn the central Kenai Peninsula this week. As of Monday afternoon, it’s estimated to have burned more than 158,000 acres with 30% containment. On Sunday afternoon, Funny River Road from Mile 7 to the end of the road was evacuated. The Kenai Keys area also was put on evacuation alert.

Anchorage Air Quality Affected by Funny River Fire
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

Smoke from the Kenai Peninsula wildfire drifted into Anchorage and Eagle River this weekend. The Anchorage Municipal air quality hot line reported Monday afternoon that conditions in Anchorage are considered moderate, but for Eagle River residents, the index is 110, which means the air quality is unhealthy for sensitive groups. Providence Hospital pulmunologist Dr. Mark Martynowicz said people with sensitive respiratory systems should be cautious about spending time outdoors.

Tyonek Fire Almost Contained
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

The Tyonek Fire, which started a week ago Monday, is currently burning at just over 1,900 acres. The blaze is between the villages of Tyonek and Beluga. State fire information officer Sam Harrel said the fire is considered to be 70% contained with full containment expected by Wednesday.

China Lifts Ban on AK Shellfish
The Associated Press

China has lifted a five month-long ban on live shellfish from U.S. West Coast waters. U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA) released a statement Friday saying the ban had been lifted. The ban had particularly affected the Washington and Alaska shellfish industry.

Feds Updating Development Scenarios for Chukchi
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

The federal government on Friday released a status update on the court ordered revision of an Environmental Impact Statement for Lease Sale 193 in the Chukchi Sea. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found in an April ruling that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) had underestimated how much oil may be recoverable in Arctic Ocean development.

New Fisheries Might Be Headed to Unalaska
Lauren Rosenthal, KUCB – Unalaska

Next year will likely bring new fisheries to the western Aleutian Islands, now that the National Marine Fisheries Service has issued its final report on the way commercial fishing affects an endangered population of Steller sea lions.

Label Certifies Much of AK Salmon
Mike Mason, KDLG – Dillingham

The leading global seafood sustainability label currently certifies much of Alaska’s salmon harvest as sustainable. But only a few companies can use the label.

StoryCorps:  Paratrooper Justin Hayward Connaher

StoryCorps traveled to Alaska in February to record the voices of our service men and women. At five, Justin Hayward Connaher knew he was going to be a paratrooper.  At 38, he considers himself a survivor.  As part of StoryCorps at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Justin spoke with his friend John Pennell about one of his earliest jumps.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Alaska News

Anchorage Air Quality Affected by Funny River Fire

Mon, 2014-05-26 16:10

Smoke from the Kenai Peninsula wildfire drifted into Anchorage and Eagle River this weekend. The Anchorage Municipal air quality hot line reported Monday afternoon that conditions in Anchorage were considered moderate, but for Eagle River residents, the index was 110, which means the air quality is unhealthy for sensitive groups.

Providence Hospital pulmunologist Dr. Mark Martynowicz said people with sensitive respiratory systems should be cautious about spending time outdoors.

“Those patients who have underlying asthma, in terms of children or among adults, asthma or COPD [Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease], emphysema, also those who have significant allergic problems such as allergic rhinitis for example,” he said. “These would be the type of persons that would be at higher risk for complications related to smoke exposure.”

Dr. Martynowicz said limiting exertion in smoky conditions is best for those with respiratory conditions.

He said simple particle masks such as those used for wood sanding will not help guard against smoke.

“This would be more specialized masks such as those used for example in preventing TB exposure or some particulate exposure, viruses for example,” he said. “These would be the kinds of masks that could potentially help patients like that.”

Air quality ratings between 101 and 150 are unhealthy for vulnerable people.

Categories: Alaska News

Crews Fighting to Keep Funny River Fire Away from Homes

Mon, 2014-05-26 08:51

Firefighting crews battled to keep the Funny River fire from expanding toward homes and cabins on the Kenai Peninsula. People evacuated from about 1,000 households waited it out through Sunday night at shelters, and homes of friends and relatives. The fire has been spotted at times across the Kenai River.

The Sterling Highway corridor in the Soldotna area, and parts of Kasilof
are being defended, along with buildings along the Funny River Road
and subdivision. Governor Sean Parnell flew over the area on Sunday and Alaska National Guard resources were called out to help fight the blaze, now at an
estimated 243 square miles.

Firefighting crews began pulling out of the Tyonek fire on the
western side of Cook Inlet on Sunday to work on the Funny River
fire. That does not mean the danger is over there, especially with
winds.  The Tyonek Fire is at about 1,900 acres and has consumed five
buildings, none occupied.  There will be a town meeting in Beluga
Monday night.

Categories: Alaska News

Conditions Challenging As Funny River Fire Grows to More Than 140,000 Acres

Sun, 2014-05-25 19:46

Amid strong winds and dry conditions the Funny River fire has continued to advance through the weekend. State Fire Information officer Michelle Weston said this evening that the fire has grown well past 140,000 acres although she did not have a new estimate. Weston said the Funny River Road community has been under an evacuation order since 2 p.m.

State Troopers and fire crew workers went door to door in the Funny River community to alert residents of the evacuation. Weston did not know how many residents lived in the area but said there are at least 1,000 structures there, mostly cabins and the homes of retirees. Weston did not know if homes have been affected but said there have been no reports of injuries. The Fueding Lane Road area is also included in the evacuation order.

Weston said the Lower Skilak lake campground is currently being evacuated. State park officials are conducting that evacuation.

Spot fires have jumped the Kenai River prompting an evacuation watch for the Kenai Keys area. Weston said starting at Mile 103 of the Sterling highway to the Kasilof River is under evacuation watch for residents on the east side of the road. An evacuation watch means residents should prepare to leave if an evacuation order is necessary. Weston said Kenai Peninsula Borough officials are using a reverse 911 system to alert residents of  evacuation plans.

About 450 people are working on the fire. Weston said crews with water scooping planes from Canada and fire crews from the Lower 48 are assisting, as is the Air National Guard, bringing in two Black Hawk helicopters.

“We’ve thrown everything we have at this fire at this time but the wind is strong and erratic .We have fire crews from the lower 48 but conditions are challenging.” Weston said.

 

Categories: Alaska News

DNA sample leads to arrests for sexual assault in 2003 cold case

Fri, 2014-05-23 16:30

The Anchorage Police Department arraigned two suspects on Thursday in a sexual assault case from 2003. They say they re-opened the case after a DNA sample from one of the suspects matched the sample taken from the victim nearly 11 years ago.

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According to the police department, in November of 2003 a woman was leaving a bar in midtown Anchorage. Her ride had left the bar already, so she accepted a lift from an unknown male. Instead of taking her home, she says she was taken to an east Anchorage apartment. She reported she was brutally sexually assaulted by at least seven young men. The men eventually left her at a shopping center. Within a few hours she reported the incident to the police and was examined.

Detective Bret Sarber speaks about recent arrests in a cold case from 2003.

Detective Bret Sarber said in 2003, the survivor was unable to provide details about the suspects or where the attack happened. The case went cold until 2011. Then, Orlin Sutliff was convicted of a third degree felony and his DNA was entered into a database. In Alaska, DNA samples are taken from people who are convicted of misdemeanor crimes against other people and of all felonies. Sutliff’s DNA matched with one of the samples collected off of the woman.

“We got one lead off a DNA hit that lead to multiple interviews and hundreds of hours of investigation,” said Sarber during a press conference. “And here we are with two people who have been indicted and we have other people we believe to have been involved in the case.”

He said without the survivor reporting early, they could not have pursued the case. “Early reporting is critical for getting DNA evidence off a person’s body. So I would highly encourage that.”

The detectives explained that when people who are allegedly sexually assaulted are examined, forensic nurses collect samples that are sent to the crime lab to extract different DNA profiles. Victims are also given counseling and treated for other medical concerns, like potential sexually transmitted diseases from the assault.

31-year-old Orlin Sutliff and 29-year-old Antwon Archibale were arrested and arraigned earlier this week. The police do have “persons of interest” under investigation.

 

 

Categories: Alaska News

Funny River Fire Hits 67,000 Acres

Fri, 2014-05-23 16:24

(NASA photo)

The Funny River fire on the Kenai Peninsula has topped 67,000 acres.

The combination of Memorial Day weekend and extreme fire conditions have firefighters concerned.

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Jim Schwarber, a public information officer with the Alaska Incident Management Team on the Funny River fire, says the fire has been growing gradually in nearly every direction, and is within a few miles of some communities along the Sterling Highway and the Bear Creek subdivision on Tustumena Lake.

“We have folks working on all those areas to work towards securing that line to try to hold the fire back,” he said.

So far, the fire hasn’t caused any structural damage, but Schwarber says as part of the fire creeps west, firefighters are growing more concerned.

“That’s where the larger communities are is on the west side of the fire, and we’re putting a lot of effort into slowing and holding the fire so that it doesn’t cause any damage,” Schwarber said.

There are around 375 personnel working on the Funny River fire, with more crews expected in the coming days.

Schwarber says this fire is burning a lot hotter than fires normally do this early in the season, which makes it particularly dangerous.

“The fire has been burning very active in typical fuels, but it’s also been spreading and burning in mixed hardwoods, which is an area that typically slows a fire,” he said.

Certain fuels, like black spruce, tend to burn more actively later in the summer, but this year it’s happening early.

As the annual influx of campers make their way down to the Peninsula for Memorial Day weekend, Schwarber says they need to be cognizant of the dangers.

“The Kenai is a tinderbox right now, and we need to behave appropriately,” he said.

Red Flag warnings are in effect for the western Kenai Peninsula and the Matanuska-Susitna Valley.

Until further notice, all open fires are prohibited on the Kenai Peninsula. The term “open fires” refers to any flame source not immediately extinguishable or controllable and applies to any form of wood or charcoal-based fire, even in established fire rings. Gas grills, backpacking or camp stoves using fuel or compressed canisters which can be regulated and shut off are still permitted for use.

Categories: Alaska News

Tyonek Fire Holds At 1,800 Acres

Fri, 2014-05-23 16:23

The Tyonek fire on the western side of Cook Inlet is holding steady at just over 1,800 acres.

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Sam Harrel, a public information officer with the Alaska Division of Forestry, says winds Thursday pushed the fire back onto itself.

“We’re still seeing a lot of smoke and activity, but that’s inside the perimeter of the fire where it’s blowing back on itself, and that’s a good thing to clean-up those fuels out there,” Harrel said.

Harrel says infrastructure around Beluga at the north end of the fire remain undamaged.

No evacuation orders are in effect for Tyonek or Beluga.

Categories: Alaska News

Ousted GOP Leader Plans Run For Governor

Fri, 2014-05-23 16:22

Russ Millette, who was ousted as leader of the state Republican party following a contentious election, plans to run for governor.

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Millette spokesman Matt Millette, Russ Millette’s son, said his father was filing a letter of intent to run Friday.

Millette plans to challenge Gov. Sean Parnell for the Republican nomination in August. Millette is running under the auspices of the Alaska Republican Assembly, which Matt Millette described as the “conservative” wing of the party, as opposed to the “establishment” wing.

Russ Millette was elected chairman of the state GOP, with the help of fellow Ron Paul supporters, during a tumultuous 2012 convention. But party leaders voted to oust him last year before he took over.

The party, at its most recent convention, changed its rules, making future attempted takeovers more difficult.

Categories: Alaska News

Union Leader Files Complaint Against Anchorage Mayor Sullivan

Fri, 2014-05-23 16:21

The head of the state’s biggest labor union has filed a complaint against Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan, who is running for lieutenant governor.

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Alaska AFL-CIO President Vince Beltrami argues that Sullivan inappropriately used government resources for the purposes of his campaign.

Earlier this month, Sullivan came under fire for likening mandatory union dues to slavery at a lieutenant governor candidates forum, and subsequently issued an apology through his spokesperson in the mayor’s office.

Beltrami holds that the apology should have not have been delivered by municipal staff, and that it amounts to a violation of statute.

Sullivan told the Anchorage Daily News he believes there is no merit to the complaint.The Alaska Public Offices Commission will review the matter within 30 days.

Categories: Alaska News

Pebble Partnership Files Suit To Stop EPA’s Halt On Development

Fri, 2014-05-23 16:20

The Pebble Limited Partnership filed suit Wednesday in Federal Court seeking to halt to the process underway by the EPA to stop development of the proposed Pebble Mine.

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Categories: Alaska News

Discretionary Voting Before Sealaska Shareholders

Fri, 2014-05-23 16:19

A measure before Sealaska shareholders could alter the way board elections are held. And that could bring leadership changes.

The measure comes as 13 shareholders compete for four board seats in the Southeast Alaska regional Native corporation’s annual election.

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The measure is a resolution proposing limits to what’s called discretionary voting.

That’s an option on Sealaska’s proxy ballot, which lists candidates for the board of directors.

When shareholders check a box, they give the board the power to cast their ballots for whomever they see fit. And the board votes for its slate of incumbents seeking re-election.

“It’s an unfair document because of the discretionary voting and that is what has kept all our directors in all of these years,” says Mick Beasley.

He’s a Juneau carver who’s campaigned against discretionary voting. He’s also one of this year’s six independent board candidates.

Beasley authored the resolution that would largely eliminate that ballot option. Then, shareholders would pick and chose from the full list of candidates, including incumbents and their challengers.

“If this resolution passes and we amend our bylaws, it will make it equal voting rights for all shareholders,” he says.

Sealaska’s board opposes Beasley’s measure.

“They would wipe out what Sealaska believes would otherwise be a valid vote,” says Nicole Hallingstad.

She is Sealaska’s communications vice president and corporate secretary.

“Those shareholders understand exactly what discretionary voting means and are offering their shares in support of the corporation. To remove that discretionary voting option would remove a choice that at least a quarter of our shareholders select on a regular basis,” she says.

The resolution does not completely eliminate discretionary voting.

Beasley says it would be allowed when an independent group challenges the board and issues its own ballot.

“If there are two slates, two proxies, then discretionary voting is fair game. When there is only one proxy, and that’s Sealaska’s, they cannot use discretionary voting,” he says.

Shareholders are rarely faced with two slates – and proxies. But this year, they are.

A group calling itself 4 Shareholders for Sealaska has sent out its own ballot and posted it online.

Margaret Nelson, Carlton Smith, Ross Soboleff and Karen Taug say their combined business experience could help make Sealaska profitable after several years of operational losses.

The corporate ballot lists board incumbents Sidney Edenshaw, Edward Thomas and Rosita Worl.

Spokeswoman Hallingstad says the three bring knowledge and history to Sealaska management.

“The stability of any corporation’s board is something that’s reviewed regularly by business partners (and) financial institutions. So, board stability is something that is of value outside of our shareholders,” she says.

Longtime board member Byron Mallott is not seeking re-election because he’s running for governor. That leaves an open board seat, with no incumbent, a rarity for Sealaska.

Six independent candidates, running outside of a slate, are also listed on the corporate ballot.

They’re Myrna Gardner, Michelle McConkey, Will Micklin, Edward Sarabia Jr. and Ralph Wolfe, in addition to Beasley.

“Everybody was trying to keep it to one or two independents this year. But we’re back to six or seven independents. It’s just the nature of our shareholders,” Beasley says.

The four top vote-getters will win  three-year terms on the 13-member board.

Results will be announced at Sealaska’s annual meeting June 28th in Seattle.

Categories: Alaska News

Kito: Will There Be Enough Return On Juneau Access To Justify Investment?

Fri, 2014-05-23 16:18

Last summer a ribbon-cutting opened three more miles of Glacier Highway and construction continued to improve existing stretches. (Photo by Heather Bryant/KTOO)

The draft supplemental environmental impact statement for a road out of Juneau is now under review by the Federal Highway Administration. That’s the last step in the process before federal highways names a preferred route and issues a Record of Decision.

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State transportation department spokesman Jeremy Woodrow said the final SEIS, as it’s called, is expected sometime in the next six weeks.

“If it gets the blessing and we don’t need to do anymore revisions on it, we’ll stamp ‘draft’ on it and we can release it for public review.”                       

Once that happens, DOT would hold hearings in Juneau, Haines and Skagway.

Federal highways issued a Record of Decision in 2006 to build a road between Juneau and Katzehin, where motorists would board a state ferry for the rest of the trip north.

Conservation groups immediately filed suit. In 2009, the U.S. District Court ruled the environmental impact statement was invalid, because it didn’t consider improved ferry service in Lynn Canal. That decision was upheld in 2011 by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, requiring the supplemental study.

Little by little, however, the road north has grown, completed last summer to Cascade Point. This year $35 million is in the state’s budget for another extension. Woodrow said federal funds account for $30 million dollars and $5 million comes from the state.

“The talking point was that that would help us begin constructing the road toward Kensington (mine),” Woodrow said. “And really how this road’s going to be built, no matter what, is it’s going to be constructed in phases. It’s just such a large project.”

It’s one of those mega projects the state may not be able to afford, according to  Juneau Rep. Sam Kito III. He told the Juneau Chamber of Commerce Thursday that Juneau Access has a lot of competition for funds statewide.

Kito is a civil engineer and said he likes big projects. But he wondered about the return on the estimated $500 million investment.

“Do we receive 500 million dollars’ worth of commerce or revenue back to the state or the city? I think that’s a tough one to support.”

Kito didn’t curry much favor with the chamber audience. The business organization and most of its members have long been road advocates.

He said he didn’t have strong personal feelings on building or not building the proposed road, which would not replace ferry use for the trip to Haines or Skagway.

“There may be some savings because the ferry is operating as a day boat as opposed to a 24-hour ferry, but there’s still ferry costs. Which means you still have 12-hours’ worth of fuel, you’re not going to be running full all the time, there may be ferries that are running mostly empty, and then you’re going to have an additional 65 miles of road to maintain,” he said.

Kito’s questions and concerns should be answered when federal highways releases the final SEIS and Record of Decision sometime this summer.

Categories: Alaska News
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