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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: 24 min 2 sec ago

Pitch-on-a-Train brings out Alaskan

Fri, 2014-08-08 09:18

Local Alaskan organizations are trying to promote entrepreneurship to diversify the economy. Last week, the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation hosted the second annual Pitch-on-a-Train competition. Five Alaskan start-ups tried to convince a panel of judges that their ideas could make money. 

Listen here

Traveling down the railroad tracks toward Whittier, five teams prepare to sell their ideas. They’re pitching business plans that could work in Alaska in a setting that doesn’t let them forget the uniqueness of where they live. Without Power Points and graphics they have to both maintain their balance on a moving train, and distract the panel of nine judges from the rugged scenery of Turnagain Arm. All but one of the judges is from the state.

SwipeAPI pitches to the panel of judges. Hillman/KSKA

Among the competitors is Duane Halverson. He’s pitching a product he developed for his hunting camp called Roving Blue. It’s a portable water purification system that uses ozone to kill pathogens. Ozonated water can be used as a disinfectant, too. He says the unit runs on batteries or solar power and can clean enough water for about 250 people.

“So you can see the applications worldwide are enormous. FEMA, hurricane, tornado disaster, anywhere where your water supply is interrupted. Galena, for example. There you go. So it’s something that can really contribute greatly to mankind,” he said.

But is it marketable? A good investment? Judge Terry Jones, who founded Travelocity, says these are the questions the judges are asking.

“A good pitch and a good idea are different because the pitch is more than the idea,” he said. “The pitch is about putting it to work. Remember, creativity is about thinking up new things. Innovation is about doing them.”

That was what the Anchorage Startup Weekend winners wanted to do — to turn the hard-to-grasp idea of Bitcoins into something people see as functional. Bitcoins are money that’s mined on the Internet using mathematical algorithms. At the moment, one Bitcoin is worth about $580. But Travis Krause says they aren’t easy to spend.

“Right now it takes over three days to take Bitcoin and turn it into US dollars so you can go buy a taco. Now we take that three day process and turn it into a three second card swipe.”

In the five days since the team formed, they created a credit card called SwipeAPI that can be used anywhere in the world to buy things with any type of cyber currency. And it already works.

“Well, I bought coffee with it this morning,” Krause said languidly. “And then I bought espresso with it later on this morning again.”

Krause’s team says that if Bitcoin was easy to use, then maybe the 99 percent of the population that doesn’t even really understand it, might start.

So did the judges think they had a great pitch? The best of the five? They announced the winners during lunch.

SwipeAPI pitches to the panel of judges. Hillman/KSKA

“Fifth place,” said the announcer, “is SwipeAPI.”

The team says they didn’t expect to win, but they didn’t expect to be last either. Team member Lance Ahern says it was still a positive experience.

“That experience of going through, putting our information together, getting out in front of the judges, presenting our idea. I think it’s good. We need to go through that.”

Ahern says Anchorage Bitcoin users are already paying to be part of the trial.

As the for the water treatment idea, it faired a bit better. They came in second. Judge Jones says their product could go somewhere with some work.

“I think the water cleaning system is awesome. I think they need marketing help to understand how to price it and where to go with it,” he said.

Other pitches included a time-share luxury jet and software to control drones for everything from fighting fires to cleaning gutters. But the ultimate winner? A tried and true idea — expanding a Juneau homemade ice cream business that features rhubarb sherbet to include an ice cream truck by the cruise ship docks.



Categories: Alaska News

Alaska Edition: Friday, August 8

Fri, 2014-08-08 07:03

The Anchorage Assembly okays a compromise labor law. The three major candidates for the GOP Senate nomination debate in Fairbanks. Shell and North Slope Native groups reach a drilling agreement. The bridge across the Tanana opens, the bridge to somewhere. Alaska LNG project buying land. Fishermen complaining about Gov. Parnell’s choice of fisheries adviser. Gov. Parnell is disturbed the federal government sent five refugee children to Alaska. Forty years ago, Richard Nixon resigned as president.

Listen now:

HOST: Michael Carey


  • Dermot Cole Alaska  Dispatch/ADN.
  • Paul Jenkins Anchorage Daily Planet.
  • Tim Bradner Alaska Journal of Commerce.

KSKA (FM 91.1) BROADCAST: Friday August 8 at 2:00 p.m. and Saturday, August 9 at 6:00 p.m.

Alaska Public Television BROADCAST: Friday, August 8 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday August 9 at 4:30 PM.

Categories: Alaska News

Treadwell, Sullivan Assail Each Other’s Ties To L48 Companies

Thu, 2014-08-07 18:11

The two leading Republican U.S. Senate candidates are increasingly turning on each other. Last week, Dan Sullivan sent mailers to Alaska voters alleging Mead Treadwell benefitted financially from the Obama stimulus package, a bill he denounces on the campaign trail. This week Treadwell is fighting back, and he’s taking aim at the Ohio paint conglomerate Sullivan’s family runs.

Listen now:

Sullivan, in his mailer, says Treadwell was on the board of a Maryland dredge-building company that took $6 million from the Obama stimulus bill. Disclosure documents show Treadwell sold shares of Ellicott Dredges for $1.1 million in 2009. As the mailer puts it: “Treadwell used Obama’s stimulus to line his own bank account, and Alaskans are footing the bill.”

Treadwell says Sullivan is overstating his connection to the dredge company. He wants Alaskans to take a hard look at RPM International, the paint company Sullivan’s grandfather founded and Sullivan’s brother runs. According to a government database of stimulus spending, RPM International got contracts worth more than $15 million from the stimulus bill, mostly through its roofing division, called Tremco. Treadwell points out that Dan Sullivan owns shares of RPM worth up to $1 million.

“So, I’d say, examine thyself, Mr. Sullivan,” Treadwell says.

This is a case of parallel accusations. Both Sullivan and Treadwell decry the Obama Administration’s spending. Each candidate is linked to a different Lower 48 company that does a lot of business with the government, a bit of it funded with Obama’s stimulus money. Each says he had no sway over the company’s decision to take that money, but says the othe guy’s ties to the company are significant and relevant to the campaign.

Sullivan holds no position at RPM, and has no legal say in the business, which includes brands like Rust-oleum and DAP and has 10,000 employees around the world. Treadwell says Alaskans should still care how RPM makes its money because executives of the company have contributed heavily to Sullivan’s campaign.

“But, you know, I don’t have the money to do a mailer to 50,000 people.”

Campaign finance reports show RPM employees and their spouses have given $130,000 to Sullivan’s campaign, helping make Ohio Sullivan’s No. 1 state for contributions. Also, Sullivan’s brother, Frank, the CEO of RPM, their father, and an ex-RPM board member contributed a combined $125,000 to a super PAC running ads to support Sullivan and tarnish rivals. Aside from the stimulus money, Treadwell points out RPM was sued in 2010 over its business practices.

“I just would say, take a look at where his money is coming from, both his personal wealth, his ability to take a year off from any employment to run for office, his ability to come in with so much money to begin with and most of it comes back to a company called RPM which settled last August for $65 million for overcharging the U.S. government,” Treadwell says.

In that case Tremco, RPM’s roofing division, was accused under the False Claims Act of price-gouging and selling the government defective products. The claims involved roofs on 150 public buildings including schools, post offices and more than a dozen veteran’s hospitals.

In a press release about the settlement a year ago, RPM CEO Frank Sullivan said the company sometimes charged the government the wrong price. The Sullivan campaign wouldn’t speak on tape for this story, but issued a statement saying Sullivan had nothing to do with the activity in question and that he’s proud of the company his brother and grandfather built.

Treadwell says the Sullivan mailer against him is wrong. He sold most of his stock in Ellicott and resigned from the board before the company won its largest chunk of stimulus money — $4 million for a dredge it sold the government. He WAS on the board when the company applied for a $1.75 million grant to upgrade machinery but says that wasn’t a board decision. Sullivan campaign spokesman Mike Anderson said last week the mailer was accurate because Treadwell didn’t sever his ties to Ellicott. According to his financia disclosure form, Treadwell still owns a six-figure stake in the company and receives board compensation. Treadwell says he’s paid $1,000 to attend board meetings as a non-voting advisor.

While the front-running Republican candidates go after each other, Democratic operatives working to re-elect Sen. Mark Begich, are enjoying the fireworks and taking notes.

Categories: Alaska News

Anchorage lifeguard charged with distributing child pornography

Thu, 2014-08-07 18:06

Jonathan Daniel Sabet

A former Anchorage lifeguard has been arrested for possessing and distributing child pornography. Twenty-two-year-old Jonathan Daniel Sabet worked at the East High School Pool. A Parks & Recreation press release says he passed two FBI background checks before he was hired in 2010.

The Anchorage Police Department started investigating Sabet in April. Investigators worked undercover and received videos from the suspect that showed the sexual exploitation of children. Special agents with the FBI also received videos from him in July. The police searched his house on Wednesday and found more child pornography. He was arrested and is being held on a $15,000 bail.

The APD says this is an ongoing investigation. They encourage anyone who might have more information or who thinks their child might have had an inappropriate interaction with Sabet to contact them at 786-8500.

Categories: Alaska News

Eielson A Frontrunner to House F-35 Fighters

Thu, 2014-08-07 17:39

There’s good news for the Fairbanks business community today. The secretary of the Air Force called Alaska’s congressional delegation this morning to announce that Eielson Air Force Base is the only candidate selected to house two squadrons of F-35 fighter planes. The final decision won’t be until the fall of 2015, after a study of the environmental Impact, but Sen. Lisa Murkowski says she’s confident.

Listen now:

An F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter banks during a test flight at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, where pilots will eventually train on the aircraft. Photo by Senior Airman Julianne Showalter/U.S. Air Force via NPR.

“Eielson clearly is the front-runner. There was no reasonable alternative which was identified, they moved straight to the preferred alternative, which I think is really quite compelling for Eielson,” Murkowski says.

The Air Force cited Eielson’s strategic position on the globe, the wide-open air space and training range, and the support of the local community. Sen. Mark Begich says he expects the 48 planes will bring several hundred jobs and, all told, some 2,000 people, including family members. Begich gave credit to the Tiger Team, the Fairbanks and Interior leaders who promote Eielson.

“They came out in droves. They had information, they had data. They went to every public hearing. They made sure the Department of Defense, the Pentagon heard from Alaskans first-hand why this base location in Alaska was the right decision, especially at Eielson.”

The F35A is a single-seat, single-engine fighter with stealth technology that can also carry heavy bombs.

Categories: Alaska News

As Primary Nears, House Candidate Attacks Rival’s Residency Status

Thu, 2014-08-07 17:39

Last election cycle, state legislator Mia Costello’s opponents falsely alleged that she didn’t actually live in the Sand Lake neighborhood of Anchorage that she represents. Now, it’s déjà vu in the district, with similar charges being levied against a new candidate.

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There’s a pretty lengthy paper trail suggesting that Republican candidate Sherri Jackson may not live in District 22. The Casper Court house she owns is located on the wrong side of Jewel Lake Road, putting it in a neighboring district. The senior housing facility where Jackson works is listed as her place of residence. Her 2013 fishing license has Casper Court on it, and so does the absentee ballot she cast in November 2012.

Jackson’s opponent in the Republican primary, Liz Vazquez, is so convinced that Jackson can’t run in the district that she hired a lawyer to pursue the claim and handle inquiries on the residency matter.

“The thought that she actually lives at her employer’s house, which is a half mile from her actual residence that she’s owned for 15 years, is farcical to say the least,” says attorney Scott Kendall.

The Vazquez campaign alleges that Jackson changed her voter registration to her employer’s address after redistricting maps were finalized last July, and her Casper Court home was sliced out of that area – the idea being it would be easier for her to run in for office in that neighborhood. Rumors to that effect began circulating on Facebook this week.

Vazquez complained to the Division of Elections in June, but they missed the deadline to challenge Jackson’s candidacy at that point. Elections Director Gail Fenumiai dismissed their complaint, and Vazquez chose not to appeal the decision in court because of the cost.

But had Vazquez submitted the complaint in time, Fenumiai would have initiated an investigation and judged Jackson’s residency by this metric:

“What we ask somebody who say is — like I’m going to use a homeless person for this example – we say, ‘Where do you sleep at night?’ And they tell us where they sleep,” says Fenumiai. “That is where we consider their residence is for voter registration.”

So, I went to find out where Sherri Jackson sleeps. Jewel Lake Plaza is right at the edge of District 22. It’s got more than a dozen apartments for low-income seniors with Section-8 vouchers. To enter, you have to be buzzed in, and Mark and Sherri Jackson’s names are at the top of the directory.

GUTIERREZ: Hi, is this Mark Jackson?
GUTIERREZ: Hi, My name is Alexandra Gutierrez, and I am looking for Sherri.
JACKSON: Well, she’s working tonight.

Even though his wife’s out, Mark Jackson invites me in for a look. The place is furnished; the refrigerator is covered in magnets and photos; and there are “Sherri Jackson for State House” signs in the window.

“I don’t know how you would assume that we don’t live here from having a stack full of books, plants, and everything else that goes in a house. This is where we live,” says Mark. “But I do own a house over on Casper, but my children live there.”

Mark explains that Sherri is the on-site representative at Jewel Lake Plaza, and that they moved there two years ago as part of the job. Their kids are in their twenties, so they let them occupy the Casper Court home.

As I’m about to leave, Sherri arrives. She says she’s aware of the residency complaint, but doesn’t put stock into it.

“I’m not going to put myself or my family in a situation that is under such scrutiny that you make a fool of yourself,” says Sherri Jackson. “It’s not worth it.”

She shows me a letter from September 2012 documenting their move, and we talk to a Jewel Lake Plaza resident who vouches for the Jacksons as neighbors.

Jackson admits that her paperwork could raise some eyebrows. She says that because the Casper Court property is still in her name, she would sometimes use it instead of her post office box. She adds that she used the Casper Court address on the 2012 absentee ballot because she had just moved and she and her husband were traveling for a family illness.

“I guess it could look bad in a way, but that’s the reality of my situation,” says Jackson. “You know, a lot of time people don’t put addresses in until they settle down.”

House District 22 is currently represent by Republican Mia Costello. Costello is vacating the seat to run for the State Senate, but when she was up for reelection last year, she also had her residency questioned.

“Maybe it’s in the water! Yeah, Mia went through hell on that, too,” says Jackson. “I remember sharing with her, ‘Just hold your head up.’”

Jackson believes her situation is comparable to Costello’s and sees the residency allegation as a politically motivated attack.

“I don’t really know how she could really be confused. I mean, I would never have stepped out and run for public office not living in the district. So, I’m not sure what that really means – that she’s concerned maybe? It smells as if there’s maybe a concern in the air around her race.”

Jackson does not plan to withdraw from the Republican primary. While state statute does not allow people to claim “temporary work sites” for their residency, Jackson thinks her situation qualifies as permanent.

Vazquez attorney Scott Kendall still believes that Jackson shouldn’t be eligible to run.

“I guess I’m far from convinced based on the fact that she was simply there and had stuff there. Certainly, since filing in May of this year she’s had plenty of time to occupy a unit there. Again, she’s not entitled to live there but for working there, so it is her work site.”

This isn’t the first controversy over election rules in District 22 this campaign cycle. The Republican primary was initially supposed to be a three-way race, but David Nees’ candidacy was rejected because of paperwork problems.

Categories: Alaska News

Mat-Su Asked to Return $12.3M in Federal Grants for Ferry Project

Thu, 2014-08-07 17:38

Listen now:

The Federal Transit Administration wants the Matanuska Susitna Borough to pay back 12 point 3 million dollars in grants related to the ferry MV Susitna.

Matanuska Susitna Borough manager John Moosey made the announcement today [thursday] at a press conference in Palmer.   He said

 ”We have been working diligently the last 2 and a half years to resolve this issue. We have not been successful yet. “

 Moosey said that Borough Assembly members will meet in a special meeting next week to decide what to do.  He said it is not clear what will happen if the Borough fails to pay.

 ”We hope not to find out. But we at this point in time, are looking for an alternative solution other than paying 12 point 3 million dollars back”.

 The Federal Transit Administration letter, received this week, indicates that there is a 30 day deadline on the payment.

 Moosey said that a delegation from the Borough visited Washington DC last December to speak with the secretary of the FTA to present everything the Borough has done to resolve the issue of the ferry, albeit unsuccessfully.

“So at that time, we talked about many options we could do. And really threw out some discussion items, so essentially this action, this letter really allows us now to sit down and talk turkey and work out how this is going to be resolved.”

 Moosey said that the Borough will respond to the FTA within the 30 day time frame.  He says the amount of the money is not in dispute.  The Borough has been trying to sell the ferry for years, for about 6 million dollars, with no success, to try to recover costs the Borough has spent on it.

The Susitna is berthed in Ketchikan, which initially cost the Borough about  30 thousand dollars a month, although in recent months that cost has been reduced.

“And that has been part of our challenge, is that we have the boat, which we have in Ketchikan, which we have monthly costs on, and at the same time we have this grant from the FTA that needs to be resolved. So we are getting pinched both ways on this issue.”

 Mat Su Port Director Marc Van Dongen says about four million of the 12 point 3 million dollars was spent on the Port MacKenzie terminal building, and engineering and design costs ate up the remainder of the money.

“It was also used for the studies, we had to do environmental studies, route studies, passenger surveys. We did a design for the ferry landing at Port MacKenzie.”

 The ferry was paid for by the US Navy, but was given to the Borough with certain provisions tied to the millions of dollars in grants that went with it.

 Moosey said the Borough’s plan to use the ferry between Port MacKenzie and Anchorage fell apart when the Borough failed to get a second influx of money to build ferry landings on both sides of Knik Arm.

Categories: Alaska News

Murkowski Demands Begich Stop Using Her Image in Campaign Ads

Thu, 2014-08-07 17:36

A lawyer hired by Sen. Lisa Murkowski‘s re-election committee today sent a cease-and-desist letter to the campaign of Sen. Mark Begich. She is demanding that he quit using her name and image in his political ads.

Listen now:

Begich is currently running a TV spot called “Great Team” that says they vote alike 80% of the time, a statistic that holds true for 2014 so far. Murkowski says she doesn’t support Begich’s re-election because she wants a Republican to win.

“The concern that I had was two-fold:  A misrepresentation from Sen. Begich’s campaign that somehow I had endorsed his re-election efforts,” Murkowski said in an interview with KHNS in Haines today, “and the use by the campaign of an official photo taken in my office without my permission.”

The letter accuses the Begich campaign of misusing Senate resources because of that photo, which shows the two senators in Murkowski’s Senate office. A spokesman for the Begich camp, though, says it wasn’t an official photo. The campaign says it purchased the 2008 picture from the Associated Press. Sen. Begich said today the ad is accurate and he will continue to air accurate ads.

See a copy of Murkowski’s letter here: 2014-08-07 Ltr to Begich Campaign

Categories: Alaska News

Teen charged with manslaughter for killing Anchorage cyclist

Thu, 2014-08-07 17:35

The 17-year-old who hit and killed bicyclist Jeffery Dusenbury, 51, in July is being charged with manslaughter, a class A felony. Alexandra Anne Ellis is being tried as an adult. She’s also charged with driving under the influence and leaving the scene without rendering assistance to Dusenbury. She will be arraigned on Friday.

Dusenbury was biking up 84th Avenue on Saturday, July 19 when he was struck by Ellis as she was backing up her pickup truck. He died shortly after. Neighbors witnessed the event.

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Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: August 7, 2014

Thu, 2014-08-07 17:34

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.

Listen now:

Eielson A Frontrunner to House F-35 Fighters

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington, D.C.

There’s good news for the Fairbanks business community today. The secretary of the Air Force called Alaska’s congressional delegation this morning to announce that Eielson Air Force Base is the only candidate selected to house two squadrons of F-35 fighter planes. The final decision won’t be until the fall of 2015, after a study of the environmental Impact, but Sen. Lisa Murkowski says she’s confident.

Mat-Su Asked to Return $12.3M in Federal Grants for Ferry Project

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

The federal government wants the Matanuska Susitna Borough to pay back $12.3 million in grants related to the ferry MV Susitna. Mat Su Borough manager John Moosey made the announcement Thursday at a press conference in Palmer.

Mud-Slinging Ratchets Up In U.S. Senate Republican Primary

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington, D.C.

The two leading Republican U.S. Senate candidates are increasingly turning on each other. Last week, Dan Sullivan sent 50,000 mailers to Alaska voters alleging Mead Treadwell benefited financially from the Obama stimulus package, a bill he denounces on the campaign trail. This week Treadwell is fighting back, and he’s taking aim at the Ohio paint conglomerate Sullivan’s family runs.

Murkowski Demands Begich Stop Using Her Image in Campaign Ads

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington, D.C.

A lawyer hired by Sen. Lisa Murkowski‘s re-election committee today sent a cease-and-desist letter to the campaign of Sen. Mark Begich. She is demanding that he quit using her name and image in his political ads.

Teen Who Allegedly Struck, Killed Anchorage Cyclist Will Be Tried As An Adult

Anne Hilleman, KSKA – Anchorage

The 17-year-old who hit and killed bicyclist Jeffery Dusenbury in July is being charged with manslaughter, a class A felony. Alexandra Anne Ellis is being tried as an adult. She’s also charged with driving under the influence and leaving the scene without rendering assistance to Dusenbury. She will be arraigned Friday. Dusenbury was biking up 84th Avenue on Saturday, July 19 when he was struck by Ellis as she was backing up her pickup truck. He died shortly after. Neighbors witnessed the event.

Anchorage Candidate Stares Down Residency Dispute

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Anchorage

Last election cycle, state legislator Mia Costello’s opponents falsely alleged that she didn’t actually live in the Sand Lake neighborhood of Anchorage that she represents. Now, similar charges are being levied in the same district — but against a new candidate.

Alaska Entrepreneurs Host Pitch Slam Aboard A Moving Train

Anne Hilleman, KSKA – Anchorage

Local Alaskan organizations are trying to promote entrepreneurship to diversify the economy. Last week, the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation hosted the second annual Pitch-on-a-Train competition. Five different Alaskan start-ups tried to convince a panel of judges that their ideas could make money.

New Geotags May Shed Light on Auklet Migration

Annie Ropiek, KUCB – Unalaska

Every summer, thousands of tiny auklets flock to the Aleutian Islands to nest. But scientists don’t know where the seabirds go in the winter. That’s about to change, thanks to a group of researchers who’ve just returned from Buldir Island, east of Attu, and Gareloi, near Adak. They’ve been camped on the uninhabited islands since late May, outfitting crested and parakeet auklets with tracking tags for the first time.

Juneau Whale Watching Captain Arrested for Allegedly Driving Boat Intoxicated

Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau

A text message from a whale watching boat in Juneau has led to the arrest of the captain on board. Lawrence Dupler, 67, was arrested today for allegedly driving a 52-foot tour boat while intoxicated. A breath sample revealed his blood alcohol level to be .115 percent, about 45 percent over the legal limit.


Categories: Alaska News

Why the FAA is Paying for New Hiking Trails In Juneau

Thu, 2014-08-07 17:32

The Southeast Alaska Land Trust plans to donate about 128 acres of land to the City and Borough of Juneau this fall for preservation and natural recreation. The deal is technically an airport project—most of the money the land trust used to get the land in the first place traces back to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Listen now: 

The land is in the Mendenhall Valley, bounded by residential subdivisions to the north, city-owned land that hugs the Mendenhall River to the east, public land to the south and Montana Creek to the west.

“It’s mostly really rich wetlands, and they would just be left alone,” says Greg Chaney, Juneau’s lands and resources manager.

The trust’s donation will be contingent on the preservation of the land as open space and for natural recreation. The plan is for new hiking trails, and possibly an overnight campsite and community garden.

“Basically, the west bank of the Mendenhall River will be an entire network of city trails….For a community of our size, it’s an incredible trail network. And this is the capstone, I mean, this has been years in the making,” Chaney says.

The reason this is connected to the FAA has to do with years of runway safety improvements at Juneau’s airport, which wrapped up in December. Basically, the FAA required more flat land around the runway, which meant filling in the surrounding wetlands.

Frank Rue, executive director of the Southeast Alaska Land Trust, explains what happened next.

“The Army Corps of Engineers required that they mitigate those wetlands’ impacts. And they chose to do it through the in-lieu fee program,” he says.

The FAA paid for more than 90 percent of the roughly $85 million runway safety work. Then, the airport paid the land trust $5 million to deal with its wetlands debt. Rue says approximately 86 acres of wetlands were lost, which translated into an obligation to preserve 227 acres of wetlands.

Federal law discourages destroying wetlands because they’re ecologically prized for their ability to naturally filter man-made pollution, provide flood relief and support unique ecosystems.

The land deal in the Mendenhall Valley will knock out about half of the mitigation debt. The details aren’t set, but it’s consistent with the city’s long-term land use plans for the area, which includes improving a rough trail that follows Montana Creek. The Juneau Assembly must finalize the transfer.

The Juneau Assessor’s database lists the property’s value at $20,000.

“That because for the city’s purposes, it’s a conservation lot,” Rue says. “They don’t value it as a lot that’s available for development.”

Rue won’t disclose how much the trust paid for the parcel–just that it was a much higher market rate before development was off-limits.

Categories: Alaska News

Coho limits Loosened in the Mat-Su

Thu, 2014-08-07 17:17

Coho salmon are running so strong in three Matanuska Valley creeks that the state department of fish and game has upped the bag and possession limit for the species in three Knik Arm streams.

The change starts August 9, this coming Saturday. Sam Ivey, a sportfish biologist with the Palmer office, says Fish Creek, Wasilla Creek and Cottonwood Creek bag limits for coho 16 inches or greater, have been increased from two to three fish and with possession also increased from two fish to three.

“We’ve had weirs on these three systems in the past. When one system’s done well, the other two have fared pretty well as well, so we’re looking at a weir that we have on Fish Creek, and we have an escapement goal, and we reached that goal here on August 3rd. We’re at about 2,000 fish after yesterday’s count of about 400. So things are looking pretty good there; it’s not gangbusters or anything, but it’s enough to support a liberalization to those three fisheries,” Ivey says.

In addition, a third day, Monday, has been added to the formerly weekend – only sports fisheries.

“You know, overall the run has been fair to good — even above average success rates in some areas of the Mat-Su so far. We’re kind of in the early part of the season, approaching the middle part of fishing — August is the month for fishing Coho — all the way through the beginning to the end, even into September. But these are fairly restricted fisheries to begin with and so when we see pretty good numbers we can take a step to increase the harvest. It doesn’t amount to more than several hundred fish or so for the season but it provides more opportunity to get out there and fish,” Ivey says.

He says Coho salmon runs to certain Knik Arm streams are way better than anticipated. Since August 4 (monday ), more than 1500 fish have passed a weir at Fish Creek. Fish and Game estimates a total escapement of more than 9 thousand fish, far beyond the escapement goal of 1200 to 4400 fish.

The increase only affects the three creeks mentioned. The Little Susitna River, Jim Creek and Eklutna Tailrace are not affected by the new  bag limits.



Categories: Alaska News

Alaska Dispatch News to Open Bureau in Bethel

Thu, 2014-08-07 17:00

Lisa Demer. Photo by Alaska Dispatch News.

The Managing Editor of the Alaska Dispatch News says a Western Alaska Bureau should be up and running by the end of the month. The new bureau will be based in Bethel and will be staffed by veteran reporter Lisa Demer.

“Lisa’s been a reporter in Alaska for 20 years and has covered a lot of different topics. And the thing about Lisa, I’d say that whatever she’s covered politics, she covered social issues, extensively, she’s covered, you know, lots of different kind of stories. And she does it with accuracy, nuance, depth – she listens. She’s very enthusiastic about doing it,” said Hulen.

Editor David Hulen. Photo by Alaska Dispatch News.

She worked for the Anchorage Daily News until the online news outlet, Alaska Dispatch, bought the paper from McClatchy Newspapers for 34-million dollars in April. The organizations combined and changed the name to, ‘Alaska Dispatch News’ in July. Hulen says basing a reporter in Bethel is part of an overall shift in strategy for the news organization.

“You know when the two staffs combined we essentially had double the number of reporters/photographers as either operation had on their own. And so we’re really able to cover things that we could not have done before, separately. And one of the things that we’re really committed to doing is just better and deeper statewide and rural coverage,” said Hulen.

The Alaska Dispatch News is considering setting up additional bureaus in remote Alaska, Hulen says. He could not confirm locations but discussed Barrow and Nome as potential locations for future bureaus.

Categories: Alaska News

Juneau Whale Watching Captain Arrested for Allegedly Driving Boat Intoxicated

Thu, 2014-08-07 15:33

Lawrence Dupler, known as Captain Larry, is listed on the company’s website as captain with Orca Enterprises. In this photo taken July 2013, Dupler is on board the Orca Odysea. (Photo by Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau)

A text message from a whale watching boat in Juneau has led to the arrest of the captain on board.

Lawrence Dupler, 67, was arrested today for allegedly driving a 52-foot tour boat while intoxicated. A breath sample revealed his blood alcohol level to be .115 percent, about 45 percent over the legal limit.

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Juneau police Lt. Dave Campbell says the U.S. Coast Guard received a tip which originated from a text.

“Somebody on board the boat texted a friend that the boat captain appeared intoxicated and that friend contacted the Coast Guard and that’s what initiated the Coast Guard to do a stop of the whale watching boat,” says Campbell.

There were 12 tourists and two other crew members on board. When the Coast Guard detained Dupler, the boat was turned over to another crew member.

Dupler was brought to Auke Bay harbor around noon where Juneau police arrested him.

Known as Captain Larry, Dupler is listed  on the company’s website as a captain with local tour company Orca Enterprises. He’s been a whale watching captain since 1994 and started working for Orca in 1997.

Dupler is being lodged at Lemon Creek Correctional Center on $1,500 bail.

Categories: Alaska News

First Musk Ox Killed in Early Hunt While Dog Attacks Continue

Thu, 2014-08-07 07:53

Muskox grazing near the airport in Nome. (Photo by Matthew Smith, KNOM – Nome)

Over the weekend, a hunter in Nome killed the first muskox since the Alaska Department of Fish & Game opened the hunt on August first.

Tony Gorn, wildlife biologist for Fish & Game, said the department received a call about an animal in town and alerted the five permit holders in Unit 22(C) that a bull was available for harvest.

“We responded to a musk ox that was close to town, and it was just a unique opportunity—now with the regulation change that we made—for the hunter to harvest this animal,” said Gorn. “The hunter became aware that it was there and went out and got it.”

Gorn did not release the name of the hunter, but said the hunter used a shotgun to take the animal—a mature, lone bull—in lower Dry Creek. Some Nome residents have attributed much of the recent violence to one old bull, but Gorn said this musk ox wasn’t displaying aggressive behavior when it was killed.

Kona, with 13 stitches in her backside, is resting up on a mattress outside Monica Gomez’s house in Nome. (Photo by Jenn Ruckel, KNOM – Nome)

Four permit holders are still eligible for a muskox take until the season closes in mid-March. But Gorn said he’s skeptical about how effective the hunt will be in shifting the distribution of the herd.

“It’s going to be very difficult to identify. With or without hunting, we’ve had muskox in the Nome area for several years and they come and they go all by themselves,” said Gorn. “It’s going to be very difficult to say we killed one muskox bull and now our problems are over, or we killed five muskox bulls and all our problems are over now.”

While the hunt may be an opportunity to eliminate the immediate nuisance if permit holders target specific ‘problem bulls,’ Gorn said the true challenge is finding a long-term solution.

“This idea—and I know there’s a lot of frustrated people in town but—this idea that Fish and Game can somehow create a muskox free zone around Nome—it’s going to be difficult, if not impossible, to do,” said Gorn.

Gorn said keeping the herds completely out of Nome means having greater threats in town than they would face in the wild with their natural predators, like bears and wolves. For now, he said there’s no overnight fix to the muskox problem.

Meanwhile, another dog is recovering after being gored by a muskox, this time on Anvil Mountain. Monica Gomez’s dog Kona is recovering from the attack that came late last week during a run on the iconic Nome hilltop.

Gomez said her children and their friend Taylor McDaniel were taking the dog on a run when the dog ran into the fog. McDaniel said the kids piled into the truck to go looking for their pet.

“About ten minutes later we heard yelping, and we were just honking, figuring she would come to the truck if she heard it,” said McDaniel. “About five minutes later, she came up to the truck limping with blood coming down her rear thigh.”

Gomez said Kona got 13 stitches but seems to be recovering well. Now, she’s urging her children to take extra precautions since the muskox have been behaving unpredictably.

Categories: Alaska News

One Dead After Mountain View Stabbing

Thu, 2014-08-07 07:25

Anchorage police report there was an alcohol-related stabbing death in Mountain View on Wednesday night.

The identities of the person taken into custody or the male victim who was declared dead of multiple stab wounds at the hospital have not been released.

Categories: Alaska News

Litigation Blamed For Port MacKenzie Rail Spur Delays

Wed, 2014-08-06 17:47

Construction of the railroad link between the Matanuska-Susitna Borough city of Houston and Port MacKenzie is over budget and way behind schedule. Borough officials blame litigation for the delays.

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At Tuesday night’s Mat Su Borough Assembly meeting, Joe Perkins, the Borough’s executive for the rail extension project, updated earlier financial data on the cost overruns beyond the initial $272 million  pricetag.

“When you add all this up, it totals about $31 million. So if you take $ 272 .5 and add $31 (million) to it,  you get a total project cost now of  $303. 5. (million)”

 The project linking Port MacKenzie with the AK Railroad main line near Houston started in 2008, and Perkins said the way it has been funded, by legislative appropriations over the years, has not helped keep costs down.

 ”We had intended to have the train running by now, had we received sufficient funding to do that. So, we have had some impacts from delays in funding. Our construction management people are having to stay a considerable number of years past what we have anticipated, same thing with our engineering people. So, again, the way this thing has been funded with eight different appropriations and some more to come, has certainly increased our costs.”

 He told the Assembly that work on some of the six construction segments of the railroad spur are done or near completion. Segment 1 at Port MacKenzie, segment 3 in the middle and segment 6 near Houston are finished. Segment 4 should be done next year, but segment 5, which crosses privately owned land, is being put off until negotiations for a Right of Way are complete. The money appropriated for that segment will be put into producing “ballast” or rock bed material for the entire rail spur.

 Possibly a major cause of the cost overruns, according to Perkins, are delays caused by litigation against the spur’s construction by environmental organizations Cook Inletkeeper and Sierra Club. The lawsuits caused the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to issue a stop work order on the spur, which added to the contractor and engineer costs.

 ”The number on the ongoing construction, which we can prove, is $5  million. The legal costs were somewhere around $1.5 million. We were represented by DC attorneys, and they’re expensive. “


The Ninth Circuit has since given the go-ahead for the project.

 Federal Surface Transportation Board regulations regarding the relocation of trails in the area added an additional one million dollars to costs, and a five percent Borough finance administration charge also upped the total  of building the railroad spur.

The additional costs will add about three and a half million dollars to the Borough’s request for a legislative appropriation of $116 million  for next year to complete work on the spur. Perkins told the body that nearly $120 million is needed to finish the project by late 2017.


I’m Ellen Lockyer










Categories: Alaska News

Assembly repeals AO-37, adopts new ordinance but Mayor considering a veto

Wed, 2014-08-06 17:46

The Anchorage Assembly voted 7 to 4 to repeal AO-37 on Tuesday night and replace it with a compromise ordinance negotiated by Assembly Members and union representatives. However, the mayor still has seven days to veto the new ordinance and the repeal.

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The new ordinance passed by the Assembly was based on member Jennifer Johnston’s adaptation of the municipality’s original labor law. After discussions with union members, Dick Traini amended Johnston’s version.

An Anchorage Assembly meeting in December 2012. Photo by Daysha Eaton, KSKA – Anchorage

The ordinance contained some elements favored by the unions, like giving them the ability to set their own schedules. Other provisions were requested by the administration, such as giving management the right to distribute overtime on a rotating basis in order to save money.

Chairman Patrick Flynn made the final comments.

“I think we’ve ended up with a unique piece of legislation in that probably everyone in the room has at least one thing they disagree with in here,” he told the Assembly and the packed auditorium. “And now is one of those very challenging votes where each of us has to decide whether it’s best to vote for what you absolutely believe in or vote for something that’s not perfect but maybe demonstrates some pragmatism and moves us forward.”

Both the repeal and the new ordinance passed but with only seven votes. Mayor Dan Sullivan said he will look over the new version with the municipality’s lawyer then make a decision whether or not to veto by the end of the week. He said he still stands by AO-37 and asserts its tenants were part of all seven union contracts that were negotiated this year.

“So I think really it boils down to there’s sometimes a bit of a power struggle between management and labor,” Sullivan said after the meeting. “They had a very comfy relationship with the previous administration and I think sometimes they don’t like that balance of power to shift. I think that’s what this is all about.”

Sullivan said his administration created AO-37 to save the taxpayers money. Municipal staff say negotiating contracts based on the tenants of the controversial law saved the city about $6 million.

Union representative Gerard Aslin said that with the mayor’s veto still a possibility, no one is celebrating yet.

“I’m cautiously optimistic that we have stepped in the right direction both for the employees — you heard a lot of testimony, a lot of statements from Assembly members about how damaging this has been for the workforce here in Anchorage — and I’m cautiously optimistic that this is a step in the right direction to start that healing process.”

If the mayor vetoes the decision there will be a special meeting to reconsider and try to override the veto on August 12. The municipality needs to tell state election officials whether or not the repeal will be on the November ballot by August 18.

The Assembly also voted to use $350,000 of the funds originally budgeted for a special election on AO-37 to hire more paramedics for the fire department instead.

Categories: Alaska News

AFCA Responds to State’s Challenge of Setnet Ruling

Wed, 2014-08-06 17:45

In July, Alaska Fisheries Conservation Alliance president Joe Connors was very pleased that the group’s effort to get commercial setnetting banned in the state’s urban areas, was going to move forward.

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Categories: Alaska News

Children’s Home Featured at Bethel Cultural Center

Wed, 2014-08-06 17:44

The view of the Children’s Home near Kwethluk, as seen from the river earlier this summer.

A multimedia show on the Moravian Children’s Home near Kwethluk is on display at Bethel’s Cultural Center. The show profiles the demise of the orphanage which was home to many of the regions Native children after epidemics of the early and mid- 20th century and captures oral histories of the people who remember growing up there.

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The show profiles the demise of the orphanage which was home to many of the regions Native children after epidemics of the early and mid- 20th century and captures oral histories of the people who remember growing up there. Leaving Bethel and heading up the Kuskokwim River, we turn into the Kwethluk River and go several past Kwethluk. We pull up to the muddy curving bank below the falling down buildings with peeling paint and broken windows surrounded by chartreuse tundra bursting into summer.

The abandoned Moravian Children’s Home campus has become somewhat of an attraction, with local tour boats and occasional berry pickers stopping by. Dorms, classrooms and a church, served as a home for many of the regions orphaned children between 1926 and 1973. Founded by Moravian missionaries, the home provided care and education to children, most of whom were Alaska Native. Diane Chaney Coffman is one of them. She was here in the 50s.

“I was here twice. The first time my dad was in the National Guard and he got stationed in Texas so they put us here. And then later my mom had TB so they put her in Anchorage in the TB ward. And so my brother and I were here then,” said Coffman.

It’s a story that is all to familiar in the Y-K Delta, children separated from parents because of difficult circumstances, often related to epidemics that swept through the region for years after contact, even into the 1950s.

After the 30 minute boat ride, Coffman steps into one of the old buildings where she spent those early years. She notices things have changed.
“Wow a pool table,” said  Coffman.

Apparently visitors set up a makeshift game room in the abandoned building.

“So we’ve just entered … There’s a lot of broken glass on the floor,” said Eaton.

Clyde Pavil was at the home in the mid-50s when he was 11. He was born in Kongigigok and raised at Clark’s Point in Bristol Bay. His single mother drowned during fishing season he says and that’s how he ended up at Children’s home. He says he got into trouble a lot, which meant spending time at the woodpile.

“Being on the woodpile all the time. Haha. Do something wrong and you get to chop extra blocks of wood. Did you chop a lot of wood? Yeah. That’s why we were good on the baseball field, softball field. Hit a lot of homers,” Pavil.

He spent two years there. He eventually went to live with his sister in Bethel where he went to high school and became an airplane mechanic. He also remembers being quarantined with the measles in a room on second floor of the boys dorm. It was lonely and scary.

Katie Basile, a photographer who grew up in Bethel says she always wanted to know more about the mysterious place she’d grown up visiting.

“It’s kind of a remarkable place. It’s out literally in the middle of nowhere your know you’re driving down the river in your boat and all of the sudden these buildings just rise out from the Alders and it’s very mysterious. And I can remember going there as a kid – I think we camped out there a few times and there was just always something so intriguing and haunting about it,” said Basile.

And Basile’s photographs of the Home do capture that haunting feeling. Everyday things out of place, some destroyed by the elements – others remarkably in tact. A vintage vacuum cleaner photographed in different places around the home now sits outside in a puddle … books on speaking good English and citizenship rest inside a window without mold or dust.

Before we take off Jeff ‘Buffy’ Pavil, Clyde’s son, says he thinks more people should know about the Children’s Home. Hopefully, he says, Basile’s projects brings light to a painful but important chapter of history that’s nearly losts.

“I would say, know where your heritage came from, that who lived up here – listen to what kind of stories they had to say,” said Pavil.

Photographs of the Children’s Home, portraits of former residents and recordings of their oral histories will be on display at the Bethel Cultural Center through the end of August.

Notes: The show will be on display at the Alaska Humanities Forum in Anchorage, which funded the project, in the new year. 

Katie Basile’s multimedia project on the Children’s Home also exists online at www.nunapitsinghak.com. Nunapitsinghak is the Yup’ik name for the land that the Moravian Children’s Home was built on, it means great little land.

Categories: Alaska News
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