Throwing out visitors who overstay their welcome is a common late night practice in downtown bars. But one guest last night was particularly unwelcome at the Alaskan Hotel & Bar.
Around 9:15 p.m., C. Scott Fry, the hotel and bar manager, watched the black bear walk down the sidewalk past the hotel lobby.
“And as soon as he got to the bar door, it made a left and walked in like he wanted to have a beer,” Fry said.
Ariel Svetlik-McCarthy was tending bar last night. She says it had been quiet up to that point. She realized the bear was inside and freaked out.
She yelled, “No bear! Get out! No! You can’t be in here!’”
Within seconds, the black bear obliged. It looked underage, too, she quips.
Area management biologist Ryan Scott with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game recalls bears visiting Bartlett Regional Hospital and private homes. But, he says, bears going inside buildings is rare.
“Sounds to me like they did great, and it’s good news the bear did oblige,” Scott said.
Alaska wildlife officials have put down two nuisance bears in Juneau this summer.
If you’re an average Alaskan, odds are you fly the SeaTac-based company’s jets from time to time. (Yes, SeaTac is the name of a city, not just an airport.)
Maybe you’ve memorized your town’s flight schedule. But did you know all this?:
1) Two-thirds of Alaskans belong to the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan.
2) We earned 530 million miles this summer during a double-mileage promotion, the equivalent of 21,000 roundtrip saver tickets.
3) Half of us are members of the airline’s Club 49 plan, which offers additional discounts, including checked-luggage deals, for Alaskans.
4) The airline has nearly 1,700 in-state employees.
5) 275 staffers are in Southeast.
6) The mileage and Club 49 plans have saved Alaskans $10.7 million so far this year.
7) $8 million of that is from the two-free-checked-bags program for travel in and out of the state.
And here’s one you may have heard of, but decided to forget:
1) Baggage fees raise from $20 to $25 for the first two bags starting Oct. 1. Click here to read more about fare and ticket-change fees.
Source: Marilyn Romano, Alaska Airlines in-state vice president, during last week’s Southeast Conference annual meeting in Sitka.
Karen Olson, along with Kyle Beus and Rob Wells, owned Valley Dairy, the Matanuska Creamery’s parent company. Olson’s charges stem from the fall of 2008, when federal prosecutors say, she executed a scheme to illegally obtain 430 thousand dollars from the state of Alaska by covering up Valley Dairy’s shaky finances. Olson is also charged with submitting false statements to the US Department of Agriculture Rural Development program, which convinced it to allow the state to take a first lien position on dairy equipment bought with Valley Dairy’s federal grants.
Federal prosecutor Retta Randall says a November trial date has been set, but would not comment on the case other than that. Olson’s attorney Steve Wells, says federal prosecutors presented some evidence in court, but there is a lot more evidence that has not been examined yet
”The government announced that it has a lot of evidence that it has seized. I don’t know how much of it it will be using, but the government announced yesterday in court that it has roughly 30 to 40 boxes of materials and certainly I’m gonna have to sit down and go through that and look at that as we prepare for trial. “
Olson’s partner in the dairy business, Kyle Beus, [Bee YOOSE] pleaded “guilty” to six federal fraud charges earlier this week. Beus had secured a federal grant in 2007 to start a dairy business in the Matanuska Valley after the state – subsidized Matanuska Maid dairy folded. Beus had been charged last year with using federal money for his own expenses.
Last December, a federal grand jury indicted Beus with three counts of wire fraud and three counts of making false statements. Bues is accused of falsifying paperwork to get the grant money. Beus had originally pleaded not guilty to the charges, but this week changed his plea to guilty to avoid a jury trial.
Beus claimed in a statement Monday “All of the funds involved ultimately went to the building of Matanuska Creamery.”
According to prosecutor Randall, Olson could face a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a one million dollar fine, if convicted. Olson’s attorney, Wells, says it is likely that the defense will file a motion to push back the trial date, due to the amount of evidence he has to review.
“Based upon that volume of discovery I am going to be asking the court to declare this complex. We discussed this yesterday in court and I think that the court and the government are in agreement. So I imagine that that court date will be vacated and continued.”
Wells says Olson disputes the charges and is looking forward to her day in court.
The onset of wintry weather in Fairbanks on Monday brought with it a number of vehicle accidents.
State Troopers say one person is dead following a two-vehicle collision on Badger Road just before 1 p.m. involving a pickup and sport-utility vehicle.
There was one driver in each of the vehicles, one killed and the other apparently unhurt.
Wasilla’s planning commission has voted to allow MEA to build a 115 kilovolt transmission line east of the city, with the caveat that the line be underground, instead of on towers.
MEA spokesman Kevin Brown says burying the line will quadruple the cost of the project. MEA had planned to use 80 – 100 foot towers for the lines. He says towers would cost MEA 10 million dollars, while burying the line would cost about 40 million dollars. Brown said the costs would be passed on to MEA’s customers.
MEA has filed an appeal with the city of Wasilla challenging the commission’s decision on 17 points
“The appeal was actually filed with the city of Wasilla, in request that they appoint an appeals officer, per their code, who would review all the evidence, review the complete record, and render a decision or not as to whether or not their planning commission acted properly.”
MEA claims the Wasilla planning commission’s decision against using power poles for the lines was based on a comprehensive plan that lacks reference to major energy projects.
”What we are hoping for is that the appeals officer will review the points of our appeal and say that the planning commission did not follow it’s own guidelines when it rendered its decision. That it based its decision on emotion rather than on its own comprehensive plan which holds out as a key priority commercial development. And this certainly is part of that commercial development necessity.”
Wasilla’s City Council is expected to appoint a hearing officer for the case later this month
In June of this year, MEA’s board of directors approved a resolution against the city of Wasilla’s actions against MEA’s plan. Brown says that it is possible that MEA could appeal to the courts or go to the Regulatory Commission of Alaska for some form of relief if
Brown says MEA is following the city of Wasilla’s appeals process. He says it may take two months or more to resolve the issue.
The British woman attempting a solo crossing of the North Pacific arrived today in Adak. 28-year-old Sarah Outen left Japan this April in a one-person partially enclosed boat. This afternoon she was being towed by a small boat around the island, into Adak’s Harbor. She saw a person face to face today for the first time in 150 days.
After 3,700 miles and four months at sea, Outen is the first person to row solo from Japan to Alaska. She’s faced gale force winds along the way and a stressful final stretch into the Aleutians. She was almost hit by a cargo ship last week because her vessel tracking unit was not working. She’s also struggled with health issues. The journey has had its high points: she became engaged with her girlfriend over satellite phone.
Outen plans to fly home to England and train over the winter before resuming the trip. Next spring, she will join adventurer Justin Curgenven and kayak to mainland Alaska. From there she will jump on her bike and go across Canada. She’ll then get back in the rowboat and cross the Atlantic alone to England.
The Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is reviewing a set of regulations aimed at alleviating public concerns about hydraulic fracturing – or fracking – in the state.
Hydraulic fracturing is also known as fracking. It’s the process of pumping pressurized fluids into oil and gas wells.
The fluids include fine particles, like sand, that prop open the new cracks allowing more petroleum products to be released.
Companies have been fracking in Alaska for decades. One of the major concerns about the process is how the chemically enhanced fluids could affect groundwater.
AOGCC’s proposed regulations aim to ease some of these concerns. Companies would have to notify all landowners within a half a mile of the drilling well of their activities. They would also have to sample the water in all of the water wells before they started fracturing.
Kara Moriarty of the Alaska Oil and Gas Association says this requirement will lead to higher costs for the companies.
“And whenever there’s increased cost there could be ramifications on overall production and resource extraction,” Moriarty said. “And from our standpoint that’s a risk that could be associated with these proposals.”
Moriarty says they could just sample four wells instead of all of them.
She and other industry representatives also find fault with requirements to let the public know all of the chemicals used in the fracturing fluids. She says they are fine with disclosing most of the chemicals, but they don’t want to give away the exact mixture.
“If they can’t get their recipe protected, as they continue to evolve and make their practices better, AK may miss out on the opportunity to have the latest and greatest recipe out there for enhanced recovery and environmental protection,” Moriarty said.
But Barrett Ristroph of the Wilderness Society says that the new regulations don’t go far enough, especially since Alaska may eventually be home to unconventional oil shale fracking. Though she supports the new water sampling rules and full chemical disclosure, she says the regulations also need to address flaring. That’s the burning of gases, like methane, that are released during the drilling process.
“It’s an issue here in Alaska. The regulations are very general about flaring. They just say something along the lines of “we need to prevent waste” but it doesn’t give any specifics about, say, we need to install this kind of technology on the well so we won’t be letting all this gas into the air,” Ristroph said.
But Commissioner Cathy Foerester says that the tough parts of the regulations that protect ground water, like ensuring well integrity and controlling underground injections, are already in place.
“We aren’t reviewing our regs because we feel they are inadequate, we’re reviewing them primarily to ensure that we’re up with current technology and operating practices. But the big thing we’re doing to address public concerns is that we’re creating a new section titled hydraulic fracturing,” Foerester said.
That way people know where to look to see if their concerns are addressed.
The commission will review the comments submitted during the hearing and within 30 days will either create the new regulations or ask for another round of comments on their revisions.
The State has released draft fine particulate pollution regulations. They’re designed to be part of an overdue implementation plan the DEC is required to submit to the Environmental Protection Agency, which designates Fairbanks as a non attainment area due to wintertime emissions from wood and coal burning.
The Southeast Conference wants to change the way the Tongass National Forest is managed. The regional development-advocacy organization is working on a strategy to grow the timber industry and create jobs, while maintaining environmental protections.
High winds and rough seas drove the F/V Chaos onto the rocks outside Unalaska Friday night — and delayed a Coast Guard air rescue of the ship’s crew.
Coast Guard Petty Officer Sara Mooers says the Chaos’ four crew members had to spend the night on the beach. They weren’t airlifted to town until 9 a.m. on Saturday, after the winds died down.
The Homer-based, 54-foot longliner had pulled into Unalaska Bay to ride out the storm.
“They were at anchor and the high winds actually broke their anchor and pushed them ashore,” Mooers says.
The crew alerted Unalaska’s harbor office, which asked the Coast Guard for help. The Coast Guard sent an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from its forward base in Cold Bay, along with an MH-60 from Kodiak.
The pilots tried to pick up the Chaos crew from Eider Point on Friday night, but Mooers says the storm turned them back.
“The winds we were dealing with last night were 50 miles per hour sustained, with gusts to 83 and rain,” she says. “It was just more than we could hoist safely in.”
The helicopter crews were able to confirm that the vessel was intact on the rocks, and not leaking fuel. They asked the fishermen to stay put and wait for calmer weather.
But around midnight, the Chaos crew decided to spend the rest of the night on land. Mooers says the fishermen notified the Unalaska harbor office that they were swimming to shore and hiking to a protected cove.
“They took some flares with them to be able to signal the helicopters at first light, so we were able to find them quite easily,” Mooers says.
The MH-60 Jayhawk successfully retrieved the fishermen this morning. There were no reports of injuries among them, but an emergency medical crew met them at the airport as a precaution.
Meanwhile, the boat is still on the rocks near Eider Point.
Unalaska’s Coast Guard marine safety detachment is monitoring the F/V Chaos for signs of a spill. Petty Officer Jamie Testa says the vessel is holding up to 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel.
Magone Marine has been contacted about a potential salvage operation, Testa says.
Should parents pay for a state required physical exam for new students entering a public school in Alaska? That was the question raised by a member of Petersburg’s School Board this summer.
The dual management structure that exists in Alaska to govern subsistence hunting and fishing was among the issues raised last week during a committee hearing in the U.S. Senate.
Dr. Steve Fabes from London is in the midst of a six-continent bicycle ride. While cycling the length of North America, Fabes took time off to fly to Juneau and Anchorage last week to talk about his epic trip.
By 2015, every ship that operates on Alaska’s southern coast will be required to drastically cut their sulfur emissions. The State has been fighting that policy in court, and this week a federal judge threw out their case. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez reports.
For years, the international community has been trying to lower the amount of sulfur that ships put into the atmosphere. It’s nasty stuff that causes acid rain and damages human health.
“It causes all sorts of heart and lung diseases. It causes asthma,” said Sarah Burt, an attorney for Earthjustice who worked on the case. “It’s one of the most significant pollutants in poor air quality.”
Back in 2009, the 152 countries that are part of the MARPOL convention — short for “marine pollution” — agreed that Alaska’s coast should be part of a large ocean zone where emissions are tightly regulated. Ships would have to start using expensive low sulfur fuels, or they would have to invest in upgrading their exhaust systems.
That troubled the State of Alaska, which held that the regulations weren’t necessary because Alaska already has good air quality. The State, along with the Resource Development Council, sued the federal government on the grounds that treaty didn’t get proper approval from Congress or the review by the Environmental Protection Agency. They also argued that the new rules could hurt Alaska’s economy by lowering ship traffic and keeping cruises lines away.
The United States District Court didn’t buy it. On Tuesday, Judge Sharon Gleason dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction. In her decision, she explained that executive decisions made by the Secretary of State are not up for judicial review.
Burt, who intervened in the case on the side of the federal government, said it’s a matter of protecting America’s international credibility.
“If a court then turned around and said, “Well, actually, no. For whatever reasons, we decide that we don’t want to actually implement the treaty that we have signed,’ it sends mixed messages to the international community and could potentially be very embarrassing for the United States.”
Department of Law attorneys were unavailable to speak to the case, but Gov. Sean Parnell’s office said in a statement they still believe Alaska was improperly included in the “emissions control area.” They may appeal the ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court.
In the meantime, the cruise industry is already preparing for the new standards. Earlier this month, Carnival Cruise Lines announced it plans to outfit 32 of their ships with new air-pollution “scrubbers” as a way of lowering their sulfur output.
As cold weather dips down into Southcentral Alaska, word comes that the Arctic Ocean has begun freezing up. The sea ice low was hit on Friday the 13th of September, according to a press release today from the National Snow and Ice Data Center.
The ice stopped melting back and began refreezing when it still covered 1.97 million square miles of the Arctic Ocean late last week – much more ice than last year’s record low of 1.32 million.
National Snow and Ice Data Center head Mark Serezze says the ice cover is still on a downward trend compared to the average of 2.4 million between 1981 and 2010.
“It was still a very low year compared to the longer term record,” Serezze said. “It was just considerably higher than last year.”
And that is a relief. But this ice is thin; it was protected from the sun by a lot of cloud cover. Scientists are not forecasting any sort of reversal of the long term decline toward ice-free summers, for a number of reasons.
“When we say we had a recovery this year, you have to put this in a little bit of context, and take it with a grain of salt,” Serezze said.
There’s a new European Union satellite that can sense ice thickness. While it hasn’t been up long enough to make comparisons between years yet, it is showing the thinness of this summer’s ice, due in part, Serezze says, to storms.
“Also with this stormier pattern you kind of spread the ice out a little bit more, and that’s why we saw big areas of really a lot of open water, low concentration ice very, very far up in the pack this year, even near the North Pole,” Serezze said.
Last year after the record melt-back, the ice was so thin that a January storm spread a pattern of huge leads of open water across the Beaufort Sea in the dead of winter. This time there is 650,000 square miles more ice than last year going into freeze-up and much of that will become thicker, multi-year ice:
“By definition, the fact that we ended up with some more ice than we did last year means that that ice that survives now can maybe age through the winter,” Serezze said. “So, you know, could this be something that could increase our prospects for a little more recovery last year, maybe, but I wouldn’t hold my breath about it.”
Six years ago scientists were stunned at how far the sea ice melted back and some predicted it would be the new normal. This year’s withdrawal is in the high end of that range, but still within it.
In the village of Chevak on the Bering Sea Coast, dozens of Cup’iq artifacts, including masks, harpoons and dance regalia, ended up in the village dump. They’d been kept in a traditional sod house that was owned by the Kashunamuit School District, a one-site district. The school had built it in their cultural heritage program to show students the traditional ways of living.
Superintendent Larry Parker says in recent years the sod house had become a safety concern and a liability issue.
“We had at least one student that had fallen through it,” Parker said. “Fell through the roof of it and the police had to come and get him out.”
The sod house was erected on the school’s softball field and when the school tried to relocate it, they found out it had a lot of mold inside. Parker says the school district talked to the tribal council and the city of Chevak but neither one wanted the sod house, so the school decided to trash it and all its contents.
Chevak resident Earl Atchak says he didn’t know that was the fate of what was in the sod house. He helped retrieve some of the objects from the dum, including written stories from elders about being Cup’iq. He says that knowledge is invaluable: They described “How to do anything,” Atchak says. “How to be a Cup’iq. Who are you? Who am I? Where do I come from and where am I going?”
But Parker says the community had notice. Over a year ago, the school principal and new cultural director went through the sod house, removed the school’s belongings and notified a man named John Pingayak of the dilapidated state of the house. Pingayak had retired after being the cultural director for decades and had collected the artifacts over the years.
Pingayak did not want to interview with KYUK because he used to work for the school.
Atchak says even though Pingayak had gathered the artifacts over the years for the cultural program, they belonged to the whole community. To Atchak, it was clear that the artifacts should not have been trashed no matter what the situation. He says they included videos of elders, ivory carvings, books and drawings that are one-of-a-kind and irreplaceable.
He wasn’t able to salvage all the items but did retrieve a written interview with an elder who had passed away.
“There were pages and pages of hand written notes,” Atchak says. If it was ruined and burned, how can we get those things back? Those were historical and those were the very who I am and where I come from.”
School Board member, Ignatius Chayalkun, says that he’s heard only a few complaints from the community about the school’s decision. He says the residents had time to do something about it if they wanted to.
“They had plenty of opportunity to address this, address this matter,” Chayalkun says. “Now, after neglecting all this stuff, totally forgetting about them all this time, they suddenly want to make noise about this whole thing and try to blame the school district for the demise when they themselves should be blamed for this whole thing.”
Superintendent Larry Parker issued a partial apology: “I’m sorry if we destroyed somebody’s property but the school cannot be responsible for abandoned property and we can’t keep something unsafe around.”
Atchak says he’s asking the Alaska Commissioner of Education to come to Chevak to address the issue. He would like to see a community-wide meeting that includes the school board and all residents.
Dozens of people displaced by a fire Thursday in the Mountain View neighborhood of Anchorage will sleep at a shelter tonight.
The fire burned a 38-unit apartment building, which is a total loss.
Sixteen-year-old Sarah Mesik returned to Glynwood Manor with her parents to see if they could salvage anything from their former home, but fire officials wouldn’t let them in. Mesik says her family of 10 had lived in the apartment since May when they moved to Anchorage. With five kids in school, Mesik says, they need clothes and school supplies.
“I feel really bummed because I have a lot of school supplies inside, especially clothing,” Mesik said. ”Because it’s very cold in the shelter, but we’re still hoping for the best and hopefully everything will turn out good for everybody who lives here, in Mountain View.”
Fire officials say flames spread quickly through the 38-unit apartment complex. It was built in 1963. The building is still standing, but officials say it’s a total loss.
Laura Spano is a spokesperson for the Red Cross of Alaska. She says 37 people displaced by the fire stayed at a shelter at the Fairview Recreation Center Thursday night.
“Everybody is without a home right now,” Spano said. ”So we’ve opened the shelter to make sure that we get everybody’s immediate needs taken care of and work to give them referrals for long-term housing and long-term care.”
“In any disaster like this, almost everything in your home has been lost so we’re gong to provide assistance for them to be able to replace their clothing and those basic necessities.”
Spano says the shelter will remain open through the weekend.
The best way to help the victims of the fire, she says, is to make a donation to the Red Cross of Alaska.
There’s been another twist in the saga of Anchorage’s controversial labor law.
It looks like the ordinance passed by the Anchorage Assembly earlier this year, is headed to the highest court in Alaska.
Friday, the Municipality of Anchorage filed an appeal to the decision of a Superior Court judge allowing a referendum that would repeal the labor law, also known as AO-37, to go forward.
The law takes away municipal workers’ right to strike and restricts collective bargaining rights.
The Assembly passed it last March despite a public outcry.
City attorneys say the issue is administrative not legislative and should not be decided by voters. They also say only the Assembly has the authority to set labor relations and personnel rules.
Opponents of the labor law say the city charter supports the public’s right to reverse a decision made by the assembly via initiative.
University of Alaska Fairbanks Chancellor Brian Rogers warned of budget constraints in his annual fall convocation address Thursday.
The University of Alaska Anchorage’s incoming athletic director addressed the media on Friday for the first time. He made clear that he views his job as being about more than just athletics.
Arriving in Anchorage for the first time ever on Tuesday evening, Keith Hackett has already spent a lot of time reaching out to community members, ranging from alumni to the media, even taking part in an open house this afternoon where he got a chance to meet the public.
Hackett says his community outreach efforts will continue because, as he puts it, a significant portion of his job is to be the face of Seawolf athletics.
“That’s gonna be a critical role for me, because it’s one of the things that people told me, that we need to get more involved in community events and community activities,” Hackett said.
Hackett comes from an extremely varied background with 37 years of experience in higher education and athletics; including time as a coach, a dean of students, a provost, an executive vice president and – for the past nine years – the senior associate athletic director at the University of Nevada.
Even though he isn’t officially a “coach” anymore, Hackett says he hasn’t stopped coaching.
“I coach my staff now; and I coach young men and young women that aspire to work in our profession; I coach our coaches,” Hackett said. “And I think that we’re all coaches because we do this on a daily basis.”
“We may not be coaching kids that are wearing helmets or wearing cleats, or wearing soccer shoes, but we’re coaching people to help them to get better at the specific skills they have.”
Hackett replaces Steve Cobb, who was fired in May after questions arose about his handling of a 2011 incident where former hockey coach Dave Shyiak struck a player with a stick during practice.