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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: 49 min 31 sec ago

Seismologist: Quake’s Depth Helped Minimize Damage

Thu, 2014-09-25 17:44

A magnitude 6.2 earthquake hit Southcentral Alaska at 9:51 this morning. Michael West directs the Alaska Earthquake Center in Fairbanks. He says the epicenter was about 60 miles Northwest of Anchorage and 60 miles underground.

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“That’s pretty deep for Alaska and the reason for that is that’s where the Pacific plate dives under North America in a process we call subduction but because of that we are well accustomed to seeing a line of progressively deeper earthquakes as we move north from the coast. So in that sense, this earthquake is not a surprise at all.”

No major damage has been reported.

But the shaking caught the attention of residents across a large swath of the state, from Fairbanks down to Homer. In Anchorage, residents posted pictures on Facebook and Twitter of messy aisles in Fred Meyer, with shampoo bottles scattered across the floor, and tiles missing from ceilings in midtown buildings.

West says it’s difficult to gauge the length of the earthquake. The Earthquake Center took reports from residents saying it lasted anywhere from several seconds up to a full minute. He says the deep basin of Cook Inlet may explain the difference:

“The analogy we use is it shakes like a bowl of Jello so certainly our hypothesis right now is that this earthquake set the basin shaking and that because of that people close to Cook Inlet may have felt this for a much much longer time than other places. And that’s kind of exciting because we see this in data sometimes, but we don’t often have on site reports from people confirming that kind of observation.

West says events like this one are a reminder of what earthquakes are capable of in Alaska. He says a strong earthquake like this one that was more shallow and centered closer to a city would be capable of causing widespread damage and even death. A 6.3 magnitude earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2011 killed 185 people. West says he worries Alaskans have been lulled into thinking that big earthquakes are no big deal.

“So it’s quite easy to think, oh there’s another magnitude six or seven that didn’t do anything and that is not in any way a predictor that magnitude six or seven earthquakes don’t hurt us, it just means we’ve been lucky yet again.”

West is in Washington, D.C., right now to make the case for long term funding for an expanded seismic network across Alaska to monitor earthquakes.

Categories: Alaska News

Quake Shakes Anchorage-ites and Visitors Alike

Thu, 2014-09-25 17:43

No major damage or injuries were reported in Anchorage after this morning’s quake, but community members said they were still shaken.

Listen now:

Ken Baitsholts was walking on the Chester Creek Trail during the windless morning when the trees began moving and a flock of geese suddenly flew off. He says he followed suit and started running.

“Because I was frightened. I had no idea exactly what it was. I just thought I would get out of that clump of trees where I was. Cause a whole, like, flurry of leaves started to fall. It was very peculiar.”

Up the road at New Sagaya’s Market, Erin Wade Hemphill was working at the coffee shop. She said the quake was obvious.

“We saw the signs shaking and then the aisles started moving. And we kind of all three of us were just standing around like ‘umm…’ And when things started falling and flying off the shelves, we decided to get out of the building because there’s a lot of stuff that can come down on us here. Usually you tell everyone don’t go outside, but we made the decision to go outside,” she said.

Some guests at the downtown Marriott fled the building as well. Valet Corey Roybal was outside when it happened and people started evacuating the building. He said he tried to calm down the out-of-town guests.

“It just sort of alarmed a lot of people. You get people asking if we knew if there were aftershocks coming. We just told them, ‘They’re earthquakes. You just don’t know. Nothing like that.’”

Karen Gaborik from Fairbanks said she’s felt plenty of quakes before, but being in Anchorage made it different. “When you’re in a larger city, and near the coast, and on silt, it’s a little more concerning.”

Gaborik was in the basement of the Dena’ina Center at the time, and she said she stayed put but wasn’t sure it was the safest place to be.

Up on the surface, Bill Speir was driving and because of that, he was one of the few who said he couldn’t feel a thing.

“Unless it’s severe, like in the 1964 earthquake, where it was actually tossing cars around, no, there’s no apparent indicators that there’s an earthquake going on.”

Speir said he only knew the quake was happening because he heard about it on the radio.

But ten stories up in a glass-walled corner office of the ConocoPhillips Building, Elizabeth Lopez took cover under her desk.

“I mean, the building rolled back and forth. We swayed to the left and right and other jolt came in, and I started grabbing my cell phone and my bag.”

Lopez is a floor warden and followed up with her officemates to make sure they were safe. She said it’s important to be prepared.

“Be ready to be sure you have your correct footwear, and coverage, and then you follow what the exercise we’re supposed to do — duck, hide, and cover. And that’s the best way. And do not ever leave the building unless somebody tells you it’s safe to leave the building.”

Others reported lampposts swaying, figurines breaking, and dogs crouching to the ground near their owners.

Categories: Alaska News

State To Defend Merged Gubernatorial Ticket

Thu, 2014-09-25 17:41

The state says a lawsuit challenging the mechanism that allowed two Alaska gubernatorial candidates to merge their campaigns would derail the November election and potentially disenfranchise voters if it succeeds.

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The state’s position is detailed in court documents filed this week ahead of oral arguments set for Friday in the lawsuit against Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and elections director Gail Fenumiai.

The lawsuit filed last week by an Alaska Republican Party district chair, Steve Strait, challenges an emergency ruling that allowed Democratic gubernatorial nominee Byron Mallott to join campaigns with independent gubernatorial candidate bill Walker and run as Walker’s lieutenant governor.

Strait maintains that Treadwell erred in his Sept. 2 decision.

The combined ticket is seen as a stronger challenge to Republican incumbent Gov. Sean Parnell than a three-way race.


Categories: Alaska News

JBER F-22s Scramble To Intercept Russian Jets Near Alaska Air Space

Thu, 2014-09-25 17:40

U.S. and Canadian air forces have scrambled jets twice over the past week to intercept Russian aircraft that have buzzed the Alaskan and Canadian coastlines twice in the past week.

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A U.S. F-15 out of Elmendorf Air Force Base (before it was re-named Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson) escorts a Russian Tu-95 Bear bomber out of Alaska airspace in 2006. Credit Wikipedia.org

The latest round in the cat-and-mouse game between U.S. and Russia aircraft played out a week ago over the waters off Alaska’s northern coast. Late Wednesday, the Air Force scrambled two F-22s from the 3rd Wing at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson to intercept six Russian military aircraft that were flying within 55 nautical miles of the Alaska coastline.

The two Mig-31 jet fighters, along with two long-range bombers and two refueling tankers, didn’t enter U.S. airspace, only the U.S. Air Defense Identification Zone.

A few hours later, another pair of the long-range bombers Russian bombers flew within 40 nautical miles of Canada northern land mass on Thursday. The pair of turned back after being intercepted over the Beaufort Sea by two Canadian F-18s.

Both times, the Tupolev bombers didn’t enter either U.S. or Canadian airspace during what Moscow has long referred to as “training flights.” The aircraft only entered the Air Defense Identification Zones, or ADIZ, which extends about 200 miles north off the coast of both the United States and Canada.

“Russian long-range aviation flights have, for instance, have entered our ADIZs, but not our sovereign airspace. These flights are perfectly legal, and we do not consider them threatening or provocative. When we intercept and identify their aircraft, both sides have exercised professional airmanship in all cases.”

Nahom talked about U.S. and Russian aircraft encounters during a visit in May by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. He left the 3rd Wing at Joint Base Elemendorf-Richardson last summer to take a new position back in Washington, D.C.

Based on Nahom’s comments, the Wednesday’s interdiction played out as it usually does, the Russian bomber pilots execute a turn away from the mainland after the U.S. warplanes show up.

“They seem to be pretty constant. Over the past few years you average 10-12 of such flights inside of our ADIZs per year. We have F-22s that sit alert here at JBER and when someone starts approaching the ADIZs we do scramble out to meet ‘em and make sure they don’t go any further in approach to U.S. airspace.”

The Toronto Globe and Mail says U.S. and Canadian warplanes have intercepted about 50 Russian aircraft over the past five years.

But the Christian Science Monitor reports that a North American Aerospace Defense Command spokesman said Friday that the flights are part of an increase in such activity near the Alaska air defense identification zone.

The Globe and Mail, the Monitor and several other news media noted that U.S. officials believe the two incidents were linked to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s visits last week to the United States and Canada.




Categories: Alaska News

Landslide Destroys Restoration Projects Near Sitka

Thu, 2014-09-25 17:39

High rainfall this month is being blamed for a major landslide near Sitka. The U.S. Forest Service reports that a 100-acre slide came down in the Starrigavan Valley, about ten miles from town. Although there was no structural damage in the event, hundreds of thousands of dollars of watershed restoration projects in the valley have been wiped out. The slide, and water damage to an ATV trail in the valley and other hiking trails elsewhere in Sitka — all add up to a tough month for the agency.

Listen now:

The main area of the slide encompasses an area of roughly 100 acres. (USFS photo)

The scale of the Starrigavan slide has unfolded slowly. A Fish & Game biologist was in the area — apparently the morning after the slide — on Friday, September 19, and noticed that Starrigavan Creek had been diverted onto the old logging road that is now being used as an all-terrain vehicle trail.

Marty Becker is the watershed program coordinator for the Sitka Ranger District. He and other staff went to check on the problem Monday morning.

“It wasn’t until we actually climbed through the front of the slide that we saw the magnitude of it.”

Read the USFS Preliminary report on the Starrigavan Landslide here.

A bridge, three fish ponds, and two new culverts were buried by debris. (USFS photo)

There was not one slide, but three. Two smaller slides across the both the north and south forks of Starrigavan Creek…

“And then one main slide that came down off the north-facing slope. Came down and ran about a third of a mile down the main channel, and ended up at the log stringer bridge, which hung up the main slide.”

Becker estimates the area of main slide to be in the neighborhood of 100 acres, starting in the old growth timber high on the valley slope and running down through the second growth to the valley floor.

Becker says the Sitka district hasn’t seen a cluster of slides like this since the mid-1990s, in Nakwasina Sound and the Katlian area, which he says are more dynamic systems. The Starrigavan slide, Becker says, is “pretty extraordinary.”

“Boy those freaky events keep us on our toes…”

The log stringer bridge in the Starrigavan Valley is a lost cause. At the other end of town, USFS recreation manager Mike Mullin is on the Herring Cove Trail, next to a footbridge that his crew is working hard to save.

“These guys will get a gap opened up under it and get a lot of that material flushed through, and we might end up jacking the bridge by a couple of feet. I’m hoping once we uncover the rocks and debris that there’s not some big chunks out of it. So I’m hoping it can be saved.”

Hikers on the Herring Cove Trail footbridge. Flood waters pushed rocks under most of the span, turning it into a dam. (KCAW photo/Robert Woolsey)

This is the second time this year that the trail has sustained major water damage. All the repairs from last January’s flooding have been washed out, two minor slides have cut the trail, and this footbridge over the stream — while it hasn’t moved — is more or less sitting on dry land. Heavy rains over two consecutive weekends in September pushed rocks under the bridge and turned it into a dam.

It doesn’t look like it will survive another high rainfall event. Mullin says the Forest Service is basically between a rock and a hard place.

“The couple of events we’ve had this summer have been a little out of the ordinary for sure, but yeah, we’re not even in the rainy season, and we lose our seasonal crew in a couple of weeks. And obviously Forest Service budgets for maintaining trails are on the decline. So we’ve got a lot of things working against us.”

Mullin says the agency will likely have to consider realigning the trail away from the alluvial fan at the base of Bear Mountain Falls, into a less dynamic area.

Both the Herring Cove trail and the Starrigavan Valley were probably affected by what Marty Becker calls a “micro-burst.” Meteorological data for Sitka doesn’t indicate rainfall amounts too extraordinary for this time of year, but the rain came hard and fast. What was officially recorded as three-and-a-half inches of rain at the Sitka airport on the day the Herring Cove Trail was damaged, Becker says filled rain gauges in some parts of town to nearly seven inches.

In the Starrigavan Valley, the mitigation strategy is uncertain. Three of the Forest Service’s coho-rearing ponds were lost in the slide; a fourth was almost completely filled with sediment. Two fish culverts have been blown out, and a half-mile of stream, several forest test plots, and 300 meters of the ATV trail are just gone.
The Forest Service has invested several hundred thousand dollars in restoration work in this valley. Becker is not sure to what extent the agency will attempt to undo some of the damage.

“Yeah, that’s the big question. We’re going to be sitting down the next couple of days assessing what we know right now. Getting some aerial reconnaissance to see if there are more slides that we haven’t seen, and then getting out there in the next week or so after we let things stabilize — it’s pretty dangerous, things still shifting around — to get a full inventory of what’s been damaged, where the main problem areas are, and then to see what we can actually do.”

The last slide of this magnitude around Sitka happened at Redoubt Lake in May of 2013, and two people staying at the Forest Service cabin there managed to escapemoments before the mountainside came down. Becker says both slides are comparable in size, but he says the resource damage here is greater, because the Redoubt slide was stopped by the lake, and in Starrigavan it just “ran right down the valley.”

Categories: Alaska News

College Student Wants To Make Voting Easier For Cellphone-Using Peers

Thu, 2014-09-25 17:38

Alaskans 18 to 24 are the age group least likely to vote. About a third of them aren’t registered – and of those who are, fewer than half actually come out on Election Day. But a college freshman from Juneau would like to change that by making the whole process a little more convenient for those in school. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez reports on a new voter registration site for cell phone users.

Listen now:

Stephen Mell is in his first weeks at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. His list of priorities is pretty typical for a freshman.

“Number one is definitely Spanish class. Next one, I dunno, is probably getting enough sleep, which I never seem to manage, and then the rest of my classes,” says Mell. “And somewhere over there is the rest of the world, but it’s pretty small.”

Even though what’s going on in the rest of the world — and back in Alaska — isn’t a top concern in his daily life, Mell still cares enough to vote. To do that, he’s got a few options. He could fly back …

“Uh, no. That would be very expensive,” Mell laughs.

He could scan his vote and e-mail it to the Division of Elections, or submit an absentee ballot via fax machine …

“I might be able to figure it out, but it would be stressful.”

Or he can request an absentee ballot by mail.

“I don’t have any envelopes except the ones my mom mailed to me with my grandmother’s address on them so I can send letters to her.”

That whole process feels like a chore to Mell, and like something that could end up discouraging students away at college from voting. Mell thinks more students would vote if they could just register or request absentee ballots from their cell phones. So, he built a mobile website that will let them to do exactly that.

“The entire idea was to make it as easy as possible,” says Mell.

And it is. Testing out the site from a smart phone, registering to vote takes about five minutes. You go to Vote-AK.us, fill out your vitals, swipe your signature on the screen, and that’s pretty much it. With the push of a button, your form gets submitted to the state for processing.

“It’s not officially endorsed by the Division of Elections, but it’s been working, and they haven’t had any problems with it so far,” says Mell. Elections Director Gail Fenumiai confirms the division is accepting forms submitted through the site.

Vote-AK.us isn’t fancy. Mell says developing it took about 20 hours. He chose to build a mobile site instead of an app partially because it was easier for him to program. Plus, a slick design and bells and whistles might actually make it less user friendly and require people to spend more time registering.

Mell also acknowledges that some people might be a little wary about trusting what’s essentially a student side project, but he says he doesn’t get access to any sensitive information.

“I see the name of the person who registered, but I do not get their Social Security number,” says Mell. “That is discarded immediately. It is never stored to a hard drive.”

Every time someone signs up, Mell gets an alert. So far, only 10 people — mostly his friends — have used the site to register. But he’s hoping the idea will take off, and that more people will use it once they learn about it.

“Maybe someday I won’t be able to put up with having that many notifications,” says Mell.

The final day to register to vote is October 5.

Categories: Alaska News

Juneau Police Officer Takes On Criminal Justice Reform

Thu, 2014-09-25 17:37

Juneau Police Lt. Kris Sell has been appointed by Gov. Sean Parnell to serve on the Alaska Criminal Justice Commission. Sell is the only active police officer to serve on the commission, which was created by a bill that passed the legislature earlier this year. Its purpose is to evaluate sentencing laws and law enforcement practices, and to make recommendations for improving the system, which may include changes to criminal rehabilitation and restitution policies.

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Sell says she was asked to apply after Department of Corrections Deputy Commissioner Ronald Taylor recommended her for the appointment.

Sell says she’s never served on a commission like this before, but is looking forward to the challenge. She returned to Juneau earlier this week after the commission’s first meeting in Anchorage.

“We’re kind of spending this first month trying to get our arms around this issue as to how do we really do corrections better? How do we make the public safer and get the most impact out of our corrections dollars and really chart a course for the future?”

Alaska has the nation’s highest rate of criminals who reoffend. Senate Bill 64, the omnibus crime bill that created the commission, was aimed at lowering that rate and preventing the state from having to construct another prison in the near future. The bill was modeled after so-called Smart Justice policy reforms and initiatives that have shown up in states like Texas, Florida, California and Washington. Sell says she’s familiar with some of the reform models.

Kris Sell testifying in March on behalf of the Alaska Peace Officers Association. (Image courtesy Gavel Alaska)

“I’m still learning a lot of what’s out there and I’m not willing to say I’ve come to a lot of conclusions at this point,” Sell said. “I would say that I am the last person who would agree that someone who is dangerous should be out on the street”

Sell is married to former state prosecutor Patrick Gullufsen. When asked if she and her spouse discuss policy issues, Sell said yes, but that she consults with many people in her work. She’s also vice president of the Alaska Peace Officers Association.

“I have a lot of connections; there are also prosecutors that I work with almost every single day,” Sell said. “I’m sure we’ll discuss things but I will discuss things with other prosecutors as well. I can tell you that we don’t always see things the same way.”

Sell said of all the reform ideas she’s heard, one she’s not keen on is lessening punishment for drug crimes. While she definitely sees a need for increased rehabilitation services, she says drug sentencing should stay as it is. She even testified during the last legislative session against a bill introduced by Sen. Fred Dyson, R-Eagle River, which would have significantly changed how certain drug crimes are prosecuted. Dyson’s intent with the bill was to keep non-violent offenders out of Alaska’s jails. Sell now works with Dyson on the commission.

“It came up when I was interviewed for this position that I did come out against Sen. (Fred) Dyson’s bill and testified against (lessening the consequences for certain drug crimes),” Sell said. “And Sen. Dyson is involved in this committee so this committee was not built to service one viewpoint.”

Sell says she hopes to bring the law enforcement perspective to a commission that will be discussing at times intangible ideas about how to reform the criminal justice system in Alaska. She says that while she appreciates and supports some creative solutions to criminal justice problems, the commission will need to consider the perspective of the law enforcement officers who are often first responders to violent or dangerous situations.

“Lofty academic ideas can sometimes be a disaster in the middle of the night in a dark alley or inside a home filled with terrified children and a traumatized spouse,” Sell said. “My job is to bring to some of these discussions that real world view.”

Others on the commission include retired and current state judges, commissioners from the Departments of Public Safety and Corrections, Attorney General Michael Geraghty and representatives from various social service organizations across the state.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: September 25, 2014

Thu, 2014-09-25 17:37

Stories are posted on the APRN news page. You can subscribe to APRN’s newsfeeds via emailpodcast and RSS. Follow us on Facebook at alaskapublic.org and on Twitter @aprn

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Seismologist: Quake’s Depth Helped Minimize Damage

Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage

A magnitude 6.2 earthquake hit Southcentral Alaska at 9:51 this morning. Michael West directs the Alaska Earthquake Center in Fairbanks. He says the epicenter was about 60 miles Northwest of Anchorage and 60 miles underground.

Quake Shakes Anchorage-ites and Visitors Alike

Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage

This morning in downtown Anchorage it was hard to find someone who didn’t have a story to tell about their earthquake experience.

US Chamber of Commerce Pledges ‘Full Weight’ To Sullivan

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington, D.C.

A new Dittman Research poll shows Republican Dan Sullivan is six points ahead of Democrat Mark Begich in the U.S. Senate race. The research was funded by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It ran a pro-Sullivan ad in April and today officially announced it’s endorsement of Sullivan.

State To Defend Merged Gubernatorial Ticket

The Associated Press

The state says a lawsuit challenging the mechanism that allowed two Alaska gubernatorial candidates to merge their campaigns would derail the November election and potentially disenfranchise voters if it succeeds.

US Jets Scramble to Meet Russian Aircraft Near Alaska Airspace

Tim Ellis, KUAC – Fairbanks

U.S. and Canadian air forces have scrambled jets twice over the past week to intercept Russian aircraft that have buzzed the Alaskan and Canadian coastlines twice in the past week.

Landslide Destroys Restoration Projects Near Sitka

Robert Woolsey, KCAW – Sitka

High rainfall this month is being blamed for a major lanslide near Sitka. The U.S. Forest Service reports that a 100-acre slide came down in the Starrigavan Valley, about ten miles from town. Although there was no structural damage in the event, hundreds of thousands of dollars of watershed restoration projects in the valley have been wiped out.

College Student Wants To Make Voting Easier For Cellphone-Using Peers

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Anchorage

Alaskans 18 to 24 are the age group least likely to vote. About a third of them aren’t registered – and of those who are, fewer than half actually come out on Election Day. But a college freshman from Juneau would like to change that by making the whole process a little more convenient for those in school.

Juneau Police Officer Takes on Justice Reform

Jennifer Canfield, KTOO – Juneau

Juneau Police Lt. Kris Sell has been appointed by Gov. Sean Parnell to serve on the Alaska Criminal Justice Commission. Sell is the only active police officer to serve on the commission, which was created by a bill that passed the legislature earlier this year.

Categories: Alaska News

Monofil Project On Hold, Again

Wed, 2014-09-24 18:38

Eklunta, Inc. wants to use land it owns within the bounds of the Municipality of Anchorage for what the Alaska Native corporation calls an “inert monofil.” or a non-toxic waste dump. In April of 2013, Eklutna had filed a two part application with the Muni’s community development department: a master plan for a rezone of 68 acres, and a conditional use permit for 17  acres, which would be used for the monofil.

But Maria Rentz, president of Chugiak’s Community Council, says the community is fighting the plan, because the land Ekluna wants for the project is adjacent to a park, and close to residences.

 Amost a year ago, the Anchorage planning commission voted down the master plan, and recommended that the Assembly reject the plan, as well.  But Eklutna appealed that decision,  triggering a long series of postponements that has kept an Assembly vote on the Planning commission’s resolution of rejection off the Anchorage Municipal Assembly agenda. Finally, it was scheduled for a public hearing next month, but, just as Tuesday night’s meeting began, Rentz got a message: 

“There is an official request, I’m looking at it, that was sent from Eklutna today, asking for a minimum sic month postponement.”

 The issue was to have come up for an opening vote on the public hearing, at the request of Assemblyman Dick Traini, who moved it forward, he says, because ” the issue of a monofil site affects not just one part of our community, but the entire municipality.”

Rentz says she got  early word of the change last week, late on Friday. But it came with more disturbing information:

“Eklutna will be asking for a postponement on the opening of the public hearing, because there has been substantial contamination found”   Rentz says she’s been told the contamination is from a “municipal source.”

 Rentz say, if there actually is pollution, the issue will drag on. She says she wants Eklutna’s plan killed, entirely, and to postpone it again and again, thereby postponing a final vote, is not fair to the community.

The item was pulled from Tuesday night’s Municipal Assembly meeting agenda  at the request of Assemblymembers Bill Starr, who represents Eagle River and Amy Demboski, who represents Chugiak.   Assemblymember Demboski said she’s concerned about the turn of events.

“I do have serious concens about how we got here today… Because this has been such a delicate issue in our community, and because the Community Council has been very engaged, and they have a very specific timeline, I think it would be more prudent to give the municipality thirty days to evaluate the new informatin , and then we can always come back in a month and potpone it, if need be. “

 But  Assemblyman  Starr held out for another six month postponement.  Starr said
“Some information was brought to light based on water sampling which involved a municipal landfill that we closed some time ago. It adjoins the 85 acres (of Eklutna’s project).”

Starr says the new information is so new, that it will take at least six months to get all parties together to evaluate it.

“Nothing wrong with how we got here, I think it’s where do we go from here. “

Starr’s move prevailed, with a nine to two vote. Maria Rentz says she’s disappointed


 ”This case has been dragging for two years, and now this significant postponement, of six month minimum, I think that significant postponement is very troublesome. I think if the site has been bound to be contaminated, I think that puts a whole different perspective on the entire project. “

So the public hearing is off, at least for another six months, while the source, and the type, of the contamination is determined.








Categories: Alaska News

Studies Predict Peril for Alaska’s Feathered Migrants

Wed, 2014-09-24 17:42

America’s birds are in trouble, according to two reports out earlier this month from the National Audubon Society and the Department of Interior.  Both documents suggest climate change could have dire effects for many of the birds that migrate to Alaska each year.

Listen now:

The Boreal owl lives in boreal forests and muskegs across Alaska and the northern parts of he continent. According to a new report, it could lose all of its winter habitat by 2080.
Credit John Grahame Holmes/VIREO / National Audobon Society, http://birds.audubon.org/birds/boreal-owl

The North American Bird Conservation Initiative’s U.S. committee calls their report for the Department of the Interior a “collective call for action.” It came out alongside a second report from the National Audubon Society that looks at the effect of climate change on the ranges of nearly 600 bird species in North America.  Models used in that study show that more than half those birds could lose up to 50 percent of their habitat as a result of climate change by 2080.

“You know all models are wrong but some models are useful,” says Nils Warnock, executive director of Audubon Alaska.

“If the models are good based on good data, then the trends that we’re seeing should reflect reality to a certain degree.”

Scientists at Audubon used 30 years worth of data collected by citizens from Christmas Bird Count Surveys and a survey of breeding birds in North America too look at various climate factors that impact bird survival. The models include temperature range, precipitation and seasonal changes as well as internationally recognized predicted scenarios for future greenhouse gases.

“There’s different things that could happen,” Warnock explains. “I’ve always loved the analogy that you’re flying on a plane and you see a rivet pop out and are you so worried, well maybe not, but eventually enough of those rivets pop out that’s going to be holding together something pretty critical on that airplane and that’s going to cause that airplane to crash and that’s of course what everybody worries about.  We don’t know exactly what’s going to happen if we lost the Boreal owl.”

According to the Audobon report, the Boreal owl could lose 100 percent of its winter habitat in the next 66 years.  The Bohemian Waxwing stands to lose all of its summer habitat.  Other well-known Alaskan birds that could be affected by a changing climate include those that rely on sea ice, like the spectacled Eider and long-distance migrant shorebirds, like the Bar-tailed godwit.

“They show us and tell us that even though we may have a lot of really fantastic wild habitat in Alaska, our bird populations can easily decrease because of things going on elsewhere in the flyway,” Warnock says.

But the Audubon report also leaves out information about Alaska.

Warnock says that’s because the state lacks a standardized monitoring program mostly due to logistics.

“We have a long history of Christmas bird counts in Alaska, but a lot of our state has no towns, it has no villages,” Warnock says, “and so doesn’t have Christmas bird counts.  The same with breeding bird surveys. They are based on roads and people go out and drive these roads, but Alaska has holes in coverage.”

Warnock says it’s not too late for Alaska’s birds and the larger ecosystem, but he agrees the reports are both “calls to action.”

Categories: Alaska News

Pilot Program Helps Bethel Farm Ship Produce to Cordova Schools

Wed, 2014-09-24 17:41

Meyers Farm in Bethel recently shipped about 500 pounds of vegetables to the Cordova School District. The order was made possible through a program that reimburses Alaska school districts that buy food grown in state.

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Freshly harvested Potatoes at Meyers Farm in Bethel. Photo by Daysha Eaton/KYUK.

The potato harvest is underway at Meyers Farm in Bethel. Farmer, Tim Meyers uses a machine to dig up the big, golden tubers, and now he’s dropping them into totes. He loads the totes equaling about 800 pounds of potatoes onto a tractor and drives them over to a machine he built to wash them.

The organic farm has been operating in Bethel since 2002. They sell hundreds of pounds of vegetables that they grow on the 15-acre farm at a stand along with organic produce that can’t be grown in Bethel,

that’s flown in from a Seattle supplier. Large orders have not taken off because of pricey shipping costs. But a state of Alaska program aimed at providing Alaska-grown produce to schoolchildren is changing that. Meyer just got his first big order of the year.

Meyers Farm sells vegetables at a small roadside shop in Bethel. Photo by Daysha Eaton/KYUK.

“Got a big order going to Cordova: 100 pounds of cabbage, 100 pounds of carrots, 100 pounds of onions, 50 pounds of beats and 50 pounds of cauliflower,” said Meyers.

The order is from the Cordova School District. And it’s happening because of a state program called Nutritional Alaskan Foods in Schools, a pilot program that reimburses districts for buying locally grown food and pays to ship it. Through the program, schools can purchase Alaskan fish, shellfish, livestock, poultry, grains, milk, fruits and vegetables as well as Native Produce and berries. Debi Kruse administers the grant program for the state.

“This is a 3-million dollar appropriation that the legislature has made. Each school district, the 54 school districts of the state are allocated a percentage of those 3-million dollars and then awarded a grant agreement for that amount of money. So it varies by size and region,” said Kruse.

 The program has a dual purpose, Kruse says.

“First of all, it’s to help school districts fund their food programs and it’s one way the state can contribute to the funding for healthy nutrition for students in the state. The other aspect of it I think is equally as important, it allows for the commerce side for producers to have somebody new to be able to sell to,” said Kruse.

The Cordova School District gets about $26,000. Sandie Ponte runs the meal program for the District. She says she orders about 20 percent of the food she serves students from around the state.

“I get a lot of lettuce from Chena hot springs. We get beef, chicken, pork and then we get all our fish here local – but we get halibut and salmon here from Cordova. And it’s just now starting to come in,” said Ponte.

Produce for sale at Meyers Farm stand in Bethel. Photo by Daysha Eaton/KYUK.

It’s about 500 air miles from Bethel to Cordova, but that beats the nearly 1,300 air miles to Seattle, where a lot of the produce used in the Cordova District cafeterias originates, says Pontie. She says something about using fresh, local foods feels good.

“I love it. I don’t know of any school district that doesn’t. It’s just been so nice to give our kids fresh Alaska-grown foods,” said Ponte.

Back at the farm stand, Meyers says he hopes the program spurs more orders from school districts and he’s prepared.

“We’ve got at lease 5-6-thousand pounds of cabbage in storage now. We’ve got about 4-5-thousand pounds of carrots, a couple thousand pounds of turnips, at least a thousand pounds of rutabagas; there should be a thousand or two of beets. And we’ll have 15-20-thousand pounds of potatoes that we’ll be able to keep and sell ‘til next year at this time,” said Meyers.

The Nutritional Alaskan Foods in Schools pilot program is in its third year. And Meyers says he hopes it continues because it took schools districts and farmers a while to form partnerships, and they’re just getting started.

Categories: Alaska News

Petersburg Considers Changes to Senior Sales Tax Exemption

Wed, 2014-09-24 17:40

If you’re 65 or older, you don’t have to pay Petersburg’s 6 percent sales tax.

Municipal Finance Director Jody Tow says that means local government is losing out on a lot of money.

“We’re estimating, conservatively, $270,000 in lost tax revenue for senior exemptions,” she says.

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Petersburg voters face seven ballot measures in the Oct. 7 municipal election. Four propose changes to the senior citizen sales tax exemption. (Photo illustration, CoastAlaska News)

The borough’s annual sales-tax take is about $3 million. So eliminating the exemption would boost revenues by about 10 percent.

Borough figures show seniors make up a little more than 15 percent of the population. Sue Flint, who chaired the committee examining the exemptions, says it could almost double by 2020.

“And that just leaves young families to bear the burden of running the fire department, the snowplows, the roads [and] the police. So mostly, we just wanted to see if there was a more fair way to do this,” she says.

Not everyone believes the senior population boom will come. Lee Corrao, who also served on sales tax committee, questions the prediction.

And even if it’s right, he says it’s way too early to make such changes.

“So the justification for doing this at this time seems at best premature and possibly ill-advised all together,” he says.

Four ballot measures before Petersburg voters in the Oct. 7 municipal election detail different ways to cut back on the exemption.

The one with the most impact calls for sunsetting, or phasing out, the tax break, starting in about five years. Those eligible would have to apply for and get an exemption card by the end of 2019. After that, no one could apply.

Borough Clerk Kathy O’Rear wants to make sure seniors know if they already have the exemption, they won’t lose it.

“This five-year period would give people time to adjust to it. And ones who are getting close to that age of 65, to still have opportunity to obtain that exemption,” she says.

Two other ballot measures would tighten the rules.

One would make seniors just passing through Petersburg ineligible. Another measure requires seniors to be in town at least 185 days a year.

Flint says that’s the same as for Alaska’s Permanent Fund dividend.

“We really want it for our year-round residents, who support the community in many other ways,” she says.

Yet another ballot measure would continue the tax exemption, but limit how it could be used.

“We have estimated that senior citizen exemptions are 50 percent comprised of all fuel and groceries,” she says.

“Not all needs are groceries and oil,” says tax committee member Corrao.

“I believe the end result would be to drive people more to the internet, where the city can’t tax them. … Six percent is a big deal right now,” he says.

Petersburg is not alone in its search for new revenues.

Alaska Municipal League Executive Director Kathie Wasserman says communities want local control of the state-mandated property tax break for seniors.

“Residents, as they should, want services for the taxes that they do pay. So, with payroll going up and fuel going up, many municipalities feel they don’t have many options,” she says.

Wasserman says senior sales tax exemptions are not getting much scrutiny elsewhere, though Juneau is considering that option.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska Power & Telephone Buys Gustavus Electric Co.

Wed, 2014-09-24 17:39

Alaska Power and Telephone has purchased the Gustavus Electric Co. The 32-year-old homespun utility is the life’s work of Gustavus local Dick Levitt and his wife Linda.

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The hydroelectric plant at Falls Creek. (Photo courtesy of Alaska Energy Authority.)

AP&T President Bob Grimm says he has no plans to significantly change how the utility is operated. The one change Grimm mentions is that soon customers will be able to pay their bill with a credit card.

Regarding the sale of the utility, Grimm says he was first approached by Dick Levitt over a year ago.

“Eventually we came to an agreement and it included the hydro. Then we had to get all the regulatory approvals,” Grimm said. “We just finalized things up in July.”

Dick and his wife Linda made the choice to sell the utility because of Dick’s health. He suffered a stroke two years ago and hasn’t been able to manage the utility the same since.

“When the sale closed it was definitely mixed emotions for me,” Levitt said. “It was like giving up a child that I had raised. On the one hand I knew I had to give it up and get out of the business because of my health. And on the other hand I was still giving up something that was my life’s work. In that respect it was hard to see it go.”

Levitt is a trained electrical engineer, so when he saw an opportunity in Gustavus to start an electric utility, he went for it. The utility was created in 1982 and was diesel-based at first, but Levitt says he knew from the beginning that wasn’t going to be sustainable. Leavitt needed access to Falls Creek to bring hydropower to Gustavus and to do that he needed and act of Congress.

“Of course it was in Glacier Bay National Park which made it difficult,” Levitt said. “Probably in the mid-80s I started approaching the congressional delegation about legislation that would allow that to happen and it took close to 20 years to get that to come together. It was a long arduous process but we eventually got it done.”

Congress’s stamp of approval allowed the State of Alaska and the National Park Service to swap land, giving Leavitt access he needed to Falls Creek. Levitt prevailed when the Sierra Club protested the hydroplant during the Federal Energy Regulatory Commision’s approval process. The 800 kW hydroplant was finally completed in 2009.

Levitt says he hired AP&T as consultants on the design of the hydroplant, so he feels confident about their ability to maintain the facility.

The next hurdle for Gustavus Electric is to get the National Park Service in Glacier Bay as a customer. The park service still runs its facilities on diesel, despite efforts by Levitt to get them to switch. Grimm says convincing the park service to step away from fossil fuels is a priority.

Categories: Alaska News

Rethinking The Asphalt Parking Spot

Wed, 2014-09-24 17:37

Imagine a parking spot. Typically a slab of asphalt waiting for the next vehicle to roll on by. Now imagine that spot transformed into a green oasis among the urban jungle for an entire day. That’s what happened recently when the national event, Parking Day, came to Anchorage. The event was hosted by the Anchorage park Foundation, the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation, and Anchorage Downtown Partnership. 

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Add some marshmellows, coffee and some tunes and you get an asphalt makeover. Photo by Ashley Snyder/APRN.

Instead of cars, parking spaces all over town were occupied by tents, turf, volunteers, and booths offering a variety of activities for people passing by to participate in. Smoke rolled out from the fire pits and barbeques, music floated down the sidewalks, and the green of plants and trees strategically placed in each location added some color to the otherwise gray backdrop.

Beth Norland, executive director of the Anchorage Park Foundation, led the effort to bring the project to Anchorage.

“I don’t know when parking day was originated, but we have someone who used to live in New York City and has seen it really done up and wanted to see if we could be the most northern site in the country for parking day, and I think we are. We’ve been thinking about it and dreaming about it for a few years and this year someone decided to make it happen.”

Companies from around Anchorage set up and sponsored the parking lots. SPAWN Ideas and Snow Goose Cafe teamed up to provide hotdogs and live music. Intrinsic Landscapes built a 20 foot long wooden structure with stairs and benches for people to relax and enjoy. Some, like Anna Brawley, an associate with Agnew Beck Consulting, took a warm camp-style approach on the damp and slightly chilly day.

“You guys want a s’more? Yeah, we thought we’d have a real homey camping set up. We have a fire pit and a tent if it starts raining again and just kind of inviting people in from the street.”

Many people walking by couldn’t help but stop and see what was going on. As the rain lightened up and lunch time rolled around more people ventured outside to the booths. Groups stopped by to grab a snack and others huddled under the tents close to the fire pits to warm up. Bree Kessler, who visited all of the booths downtown, enjoyed the change in scenery.

“I thought it was a really great way for people to think about how might we use parking spaces in a different way.”

While the parking spots are now back to serving their original purpose, the idea that a dull space can be temporarily transformed into something exciting, could stick around for a while. In Anchorage, I’m Ashley Snyder.


Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: September 24, 2014

Wed, 2014-09-24 17:34

Stories are posted on the APRN news page. You can subscribe to APRN’s newsfeeds via emailpodcast and RSS. Follow us on Facebook at alaskapublic.org and on Twitter @aprn

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Forrest Dunbar: The Millennial Who Aims to Unseat Don Young

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington, D.C.

Alaska Congressman Don Young is running for re-election. He is 81 and his Democratic challenger is a Yale-educated attorney, an adult of the Millennial-generation who is young enough to be the Congressman’s grandchild.

Studies Predict Peril for Alaska’s Feathered Migrants

Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks

America’s birds are in trouble, according to two reports out earlier this month from the National Audubon Society and the Department of Interior. Both documents suggest climate change could have dire effects for many of the birds that migrate to Alaska each year.

Pilot Program Helps Bethel Farm Ship Produce to Cordova Schools

Daysha Eaton, KYUK – Bethel

Meyers Farm in Bethel recently shipped about 500 pounds of vegetables to the Cordova School District. The order was made possible through a program that reimburses Alaska school districts that buy food grown in state.

Petersburg Considers Changes to Senior Sales Tax Exemption

Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau

Senior citizens in the Southeast Alaska city of Petersburg may see significant changes to their local sales-tax exemption. Four measures on the Oct. 7th local ballot would reduce the age-based tax break.

Alaska Power & Telephone Buys Gustavus Electric Co.

Jennifer Canfield, KTOO – Juneau

Alaska Power and Telephone has purchased the Gustavus Electric Company. The 32-year-old homespun utility is the life’s work of Gustavus local Dick Levitt and his wife Linda.

Downtown Stores Called Upon to Keep Juneau Attractive Year-Round

Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau

The last cruise ship to visit the capital city pulls out of Juneau on Thursday night. As stores in the tourist district pack up and shut down for the fall and winter season, the Juneau Economic Development Council wants to make sure downtown remains an inviting place to be.

Rethinking The Asphalt Parking Spot

Ashley Snyder, APRN – Anchorage

Imagine a parking spot. Typically a slab of asphalt waiting for the next vehicle to roll on by. Now imagine that spot transformed into a green oasis among the urban jungle for an entire day. That’s what happened recently when the national event, Parking Day, came to Anchorage.

Categories: Alaska News

Downtown Stores Called Upon to Keep Juneau Attractive

Wed, 2014-09-24 15:49

The last cruise ship to visit the capital city pulls out of Juneau at 9 p.m. Thursday.

As stores in the tourist district pack up and shut down for the fall and winter season, the Juneau Economic Development Council wants to make sure downtown remains an inviting place to be.

As the cruise ship season ends, tourist shops are asked to keep their window displays attractive throughout the winter. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

 If you walked by the clothing store Alpaca International on Admiral Way last winter, what you would have seen in the store windows was black curtains “and a sign that said, ‘Thank you, Juneau,’” says owner Zia Boccacio.

When the business reduces its hours this fall and eventually closes this winter, she says the main window display will remain looking “nice, bright and lively.”

“We’re going to leave, like, an alpaca image in the window surrounded with beautiful wraps and capes and we’re going to leave the lights on,” Boccaccio says.

Throughout the winter, Boccaccio says an employee will be in charge of checking on the window display every few weeks.

Her change of off-season plans is a result of a Juneau Economic Development Council initiative, Winter Windows. Executive Director Brian Holst says it’s an effort to address how Juneau’s downtown looks, “especially in the wintertime when many of our stores in the far end of town are closed.”

Roughly 40 retail stores that thrive during the summer tourist season shut down after the cruise ships leave at the end of September. Many of these businesses are located in Juneau’s Downtown Historic District and are required by city code to “provide window displays that offer year-round interest.”

Alpaca International owner Zia Boccaccio says, unlike previous winters, she’ll keep her store window display “nice, bright and lively.” (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

“Some businesses just put up a piece of dark paper to cover their window,” Holst says.

This common practice does not meet the city’s standard.

Holst says it’s also just not attractive.

“What we want to see is a bright window, so there’s some light on the streets and people feel comfortable walking by, and a pleasantly decorated window,” Holst says.

Window suggestions include scenes of Juneau’s natural beauty or historic past. Holst says JEDC can connect seasonal businesses with local artists.

Winter Windows is part of JEDC’s downtown revitalization effort supported by the Alaska Committee, Downtown Business Association, Tourism Best Management Practices, Princess Cruises and the City and Borough of Juneau. Volunteers with these organizations went door to door and talked to business owners and managers about their window displays during the off-season. They did this once in July and then again earlier this week.

“It’s really to encourage them to do something positive for Juneau this winter,” Holst says.

Boccaccio says she’s on board with the idea and thinks it’s the least summer businesses can do.

“It’s a moral obligation as a business owner that we should cooperate and support this initiative,” Boccaccio says.

JEDC plans to visit areas of downtown this winter, take pictures and highlight the best winter windows.

Categories: Alaska News

Forrest Dunbar: The Millennial Who Aims to Unseat Don Young

Wed, 2014-09-24 14:11

Forrest Dunbar is barely out of his 20s. He’s never run for elected office before. And yet he’s running for Congress, against 21-term incumbent Don Young. You might think Dunbar isn’t a serious candidate. Until you meet him. Dunbar is earnest. Focused. He speaks at warp speed. He turned 30 just this month and he’s well prepared for questions about his relative youth.

Democratic challenger Forrest Dunbar is running against 21-term House Rep. Don Young in the November election.

“So Aaron Schock was elected at 26, Paul Ryan was elected at 28,” he says, from memory. “Joe Biden was first elected to the U.S. Senate at 29, then he turned 30 before the swearing in — under the Constitution you have to be 30 — and I’m going to be older than all those people.”

Dunbar’s early life is … well, if Hollywood were writing a screenplay about an Alaskan Congressman, they might choose Dunbar’s bio. (Actually, a TV producer wanted to make a reality TV show of his campaign but he rejected the idea.) He spent his pre-school years in the Yukon River town of Eagle, cutting his teeth on caribou while his father worked as a Fish and Game biologist.  After the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the family moved to Cordova, where Dunbar says they had running water for the first time.

Zachariah Kopchak, a former Marine now living in Anchorage, has been Dunbar’s friend since they were in elementary school in Cordova. As a kid, Dunbar was “a fun-loving little nerd,” Kopchak says. “We all were.”

They shared an interest in video games and “Star Wars,” but Kopchak says Dunbar was more athletic.

He was actually willing to go and play basketball and be physical and hang out with all the jocks and stuff. He was really kind of comfortable doing anything and being with any crowd, it seemed,” Kopchak recalls.

Dunbar spent summers working on a commercial fishing boat and was an exchange student in Japan. A high school teacher, Tim Walters, remembers him as determined.

“Forrest was intense. And he was serious,” Walters says.

He says it was obvious, even then, that Dunbar was going places.

“In a teacher’s career, there’s usually a handful of students that really kind of stand out, that ‘Some day,’ you say to yourself, ‘they’re going to be on the cover of Time magazine.’ And Forrest was one of those kids,” Walters says.

Dunbar went on to an East Coast education:  Undergrad at American University in Washington. Harvard for a Master’s in public policy, Yale for law school. He fought wildfires out of Fairbanks for a summer and served in the Peace Corps in Kazakhstan. He was an intern for then-Sen. Frank Murkowski in Washington. He worked for Guam’s delegate to Congress. He worked in the Alaska Office of Public Advocacy. Last year, he joined the Alaska National Guard, as an officer and an attorney — a JAG.

But a first-time candidate challenging Don Young? Congressman Young has vanquished far more experienced candidates, some with piles of money, starting a decade before Dunbar was born.  Dunbar, though, alleges Young is past his prime.

“So it’s true that there was a time when he was very powerful and effective. He chaired the Transportation Committee, chaired the Natural Resources Committee. But he was stripped of his ability to do so in 2008. And that power is never coming back. He’s no longer influential for the state,” Dunbar says.

Young had to give up his committee gavels because of Republican term limits for chairmen. Young points out that he still is a chairman – not of a full committee but of the subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs. Young says Dunbar, as a freshman Democrat, wouldn’t be chairman of anything.

Among his priorities, Dunbar lists gay marriage equality, reducing the cost of college and resource development.

“I disagree with the National Democratic Party on a lot of things, but when it comes to some big issues like Medicare, like Social Security, like women’s rights, I’m more aligned with them than I am with the National Republican Party,” he says

Like the current Alaska delegation, Dunbar supports oil development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and favors a road for King Cove. He also says the Alaska exception to the Violence Against Women Act should be removed to empower tribes and combat abuse.

Ethan Berkowitz, a Democrat who lost to Young in 2008, has known Dunbar since he volunteered on that congressional campaign. He describes Dunbar as highly intelligent with an ability to distill complicated information to a perfect nugget. But Berkowitz says Young is formidable opponent.

“There will come a time where he’s just not the answer for Alaska’s representative in Washington, D.C.,” Berkowitz says.  ”For someone like Forrest,  the more he can make his case, whether it happens this cycle or the next election cycle or the one after that, I think it’s an important stage for Forrest to be on.”

Rep. Young has raised more than $600,000. When the current reporting period started in August, Dunbar hadn’t yet reached $100,000. He says he won’t have enough for TV spots but is making the most of online ads and social media.

Categories: Alaska News

Five Arrested in Connection With Medication Theft from Shishmaref Clinic

Wed, 2014-09-24 08:13

Shishmaref. (Photo: KNOM file)

Five people, including two adults, have been arrested in connection to a break-in at the Shishmaref clinic and the theft of more than 100 painkillers—a theft Alaska State Troopers say was accomplished using tools the group stole earlier from the community school.

The theft was discovered by the Shishmaref Village Public Safety Officer just before 9 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 12.

Court documents allege 18-year-old man Ned Ahgupuk and three 15 year-old boys used a crowbar to pry open a door to the medication room, and then used the crowbar to pry open a locker containing the painkilling medication. Community health aides reported 101 tablets of Tylenol with Codeine, as well as five syringes of morphine, missing from the locker.

Investigators say the group of four first slipped the lock to the clinic with a butter knife, but found the door quickly closed behind them. In a sworn affidavit, Alaska State Trooper Tim Smith writes Ahgupuk and the three minors then went to the Shishmaref school “to find a tool to break in.”

Trooper Smith writes that Ahgupuk and two of the minors climbed through a window into the school as one of the minors and another man, 18-year-old Ryan Nayokpuk, waited outside. The three returned with a crowbar and several propane torches.

Court records say the original group of four returned to the clinic with the crowbar, as “[Nayokpuk] remained outside the school,” and smashed the window with the crowbar before breaking into the medication locker.

With the medication in tow, Trooper Smith writes the group “reunited with [Nayokpuk] … and ‘did lines’ of crushed … pills.” Smith writes the Nayokpuk took the crowbar because, “according to the other boys … he wanted to throw it away.”

Troopers responded that day and arrested the three minors, as well as Ahgupuk and Nayokpuk. Smith’s affidavit states “[Nayokpuk] and the [three] juveniles admitted to the burglaries of both the school and the clinic” and that “[Ahgupuk] returned a bag of Tylenol … pills and a single morphine syringe” which he said came from the clinic. Nayokpuk admitted to “consuming” the pills.

Troopers say two morphine syringes and “a majority” of the pills remain unaccounted for. Smith writes in his affidavit that “investigation is continuing into the whereabouts of the remaining drugs” and that the community “is concerned for their children due to the dangerous nature of Opioids.”

The minors were taken to the Nome Youth Facility and are being held on charges related to burglary, theft, and misuse of a controlled substance.

Ahgupuk faces six charges—including four felony charges of burglary, misuse of a controlled substance, and criminal mischief for property damage. He also faces two misdemeanor theft charges.

Nayokpuk faces fewer charges—three in all—including felony charges of burglary and distribution of a controlled substance. He also faces one misdemeanor theft charge.

Both men were taken to Nome’s Anvil Mountain Correctional Center and arraigned in mid-September. They’re now awaiting preliminary hearings at the end of the month.

Categories: Alaska News

Assembly delays decision on Chugach Access Plan

Wed, 2014-09-24 00:36

After more than 40 people testified before the Anchorage Assembly, the body voted to postpone making a decision on the Chugach State Park Access Plan.

Most of the people spoke overwhelmingly in support of the Access Plan saying that the park enhances the quality of life in the city. Resident Gary Snyder said it’s a public resource that people have the right to easily access, just like other parts of the city.

“I own a home in midtown. It’s also near some public resources, such as libraries, sports arenas, the university, as well as hospitals and publicly zoned business areas,” he told the Assembly. “While I don’t appreciate traffic, parking noise, and garbage from visitors to my part of town from outlying areas, I understand that people have a right to access these areas that I choose to live near.”

Most of the dissenting voices came from property owners and community councils that could be required to provide access in the future. They said the access points could reduce property values and increase crime in the area, like vandalism and fires.

Chugach superintendent Tom Harrison said the plan gives recommendations for access points but that not all of them would necessarily be developed.

“All that’s really being asked is that the public lands be afforded the same access that would be afforded to any other private developer that would be adjacent. And that’s kind of the guts of it.”

Assembly member Bill Starr asked to delay the decision because he wants more time to research. He plans to request to remove some of the suggested access points. Assembly members agreed that they needed more time to review the 40 possible amendments to the ordinance.

The plan has already been adopted by the state. If the municipality incorporates it into their comprehensive plan, then the suggested access points would have to be considered when developing new subdivisions or diving up certain plots.

Categories: Alaska News

Anchorage Assembly says no to legalizing marijuana

Wed, 2014-09-24 00:31

The state’s largest city is publicly speaking out against Ballot Measure 2, which aims to legalize marijuana. But the Anchorage Assembly’s vote was not unanimous.

The Assembly resolution argues that part of the problem of locally legalizing marijuana is that banks can’t accept money from pot-related businesses. It’s considered money laundering because selling the drug is illegal according to federal law. The resolution cites an increase in robberies in Colorado because so many businesses now have cash sitting around.

But the opposition was not supported unanimously. Chairman Patrick Flynn said the municipality should not weigh in on state issues.

“I don’t think, frankly, the voters care what we think,” he told the rest of the Assembly. “And to the extent that we take actions like this, I think it’s more of an irritant than an attractant for the position we take.”

Most others voted in favor saying they were urged by their constituents and the ballot measure endangers public safety.

Categories: Alaska News