APRN Alaska News

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Get Alaska statewide news from the stations of the Alaska Public Radio Network (APRN). With a central news room in Anchorage and contributing reporters spread across the state, we capture news in the Voices of Alaska and share it with the world. Tune in to your local APRN station in Alaska, visit us online at APRN.ORG or subscribe to the Alaska News podcast right here. These are individual news stories, most of which appear in Alaska News Nightly (available as a separate podcast).
Updated: 16 min 19 sec ago

Alaska News Nightly: May 29, 2014

Thu, 2014-05-29 17:22

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

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Committee Moves Bill Updating Magnuson-Stevens Act

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington DC

The U.S. House Natural Resources Committee today moved a bill to update the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the primary fisheries law in federal waters. Alaska Congressman Don Young amended the bill to allow subsistence fishermen a voice on the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council.

Kuskokwim Inter-Tribal Fish Commission Comes Together In Bethel

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

Tribal representatives took the first steps on Wednesday towards establishing the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. The group intends to push for co-management of salmon stocks and more direct involvement for tribal fisherman.

Begich Speaks On VA Care In Alaska

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

Amid national outrage over the Veterans’ Administration’s handling of medical services for veterans and congressional calls for the resignation of VA secretary General Erik Shenseki, Senator Mark Begich today stopped short of calling for a resignation, but Begich said officials from the top down will be held accountable when Shenseki’s report comes out.

Rain Helping Firefighters Maintain Containment Lines

Shady Oliver, KBBI – Homer

The Funny River fire continues to burn the central Kenai Peninsula this week. Light rains have helped firefighters maintain their containment lines.

The fire is estimated at around 193,000 acres with 46 percent containment.

All evacuation advisories were lifted this week and the Skilak Lake campground and boat launch reopened today.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Funny River Residents Meet After Evacuation Order Lifted

Shady Grove Oliver, KBBI – Homer

Funny River residents met Wednesday night at the local community center for the first time since the evacuation orders were lifted. Fire management officials were there to update them on continuing operations and to help the community move forward.

Alaska Zoo Caring For Orphaned Wolf Pups

Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage

It will take time to determine the full impact to wildlife from the massive fire on the Kenai Peninsula but thanks to the acts of a group of fire fighter medics and wildlife biologists, a group of orphaned wolf cubs is safe.

2-Year State Predator Control Program Claims 153 Interior Bears

Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game shot 64 black and brown bears from helicopters in the Western Interior in May. That brings the total number of bears shot during a two-year effort to 153. The Board of Game approved the program following requests from Kuskokwim River-area hunters, who were concerned about a declining moose population.

Secretary of Defense Visits JBER

Monica Gokey, KSKA – Anchorage

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel stopped by Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson on Wednesday at the outset of a 12-day tour abroad. Hagel talked with Army and Air Force personnel about the changes ahead as the U.S. transitions out of 13 years of war.

Categories: Alaska News

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel Visits JBER

Thu, 2014-05-29 17:14

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel stopped by Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson on Wednesday at the outset of a 12-day tour abroad. Hagel talked with army and air force personnel about the changes ahead as the U.S. transitions out of 13 years of war.

Hagel brought tidings from the military’s commander in chief, President Obama, and the message that times are changing.

“What is the role of America in today’s world?” Hagel asked. “With the kind of challenges we face — it’s complicated, more complicated than we’ve ever seen.

“We’ve got budget challenges. But this is not unusual in our history. When you come out of wars, you do transition, and you do restructure, and reposition, and reposture.”

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel visited Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson May 28 at the start of a 12-day tour overseas.

As the U.S. removes itself from Afghanistan other parts of the world are emerging as priorities — including the Arctic, Hagel said.

“The Arctic is opening. It will continue to open. That is going to make possible many new opportunities for many countries and many people. It’s going to present also new challenges. And new dangers,” Hagel said.

After Hagel’s speech, those in attendance were invited to tell the defense secretary what was on their minds.

A staff sergeant asked Hagel about care for veterans transitioning to civilian life.

“In recent events we lost a veteran paratrooper from the 501st (Infantry Regiment) family. He suffered from PTSD and he tried to seek help at the VA hospital. My question is what the DOD and the Dept. Vet. Affairs is going to do to mitigate cases like his and others — and what is going to happen to be able to ensure that service members that transition out of the military to make sure that if they’re suffering from PTSD that they’ll be taken care of after serving their country.”

“Preparing that active duty member for the next phase of his or her life is a big responsibility we have. We focus on that. It’s not perfect. We can do better. We will do better,” Hagel replied.

Airman first class Samantha Place said Hagel’s speech helped reassure her that the military is hardly redundant even as the country transitions out of war.

“When Secretary of Defense talked about reduction of force I kind of perked up a bit because I want to make this a career. It’s kind of frightening. But it’s comforting to know that the White House is here. They do care about us. And they are here for us. Just like we’re here for them.”

Hagel is headed onward to Singapore, Afghanistan and several destinations in Europe.

Categories: Alaska News

As Chinooks, Chums Enter the Yukon, Fishermen Chafe Under Tight Restrictions

Thu, 2014-05-29 14:12

Subsistence fishermen say they’re willing to back off the kings, but they want to be able to get their chums.

Both Chinook and chum salmon are starting to swim up the Yukon River, but with the worst king run on record expected this year, Fish and Game officials are implementing tight restrictions that subsistence users say are keeping them from getting chums.

“Chinook salmon, Yukon Delta NWR.” (Photo: Craig Springer, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)

“We do not want to be handling Chinook salmon unnecessarily when we have such a low run, and we’re concerned for the Chinook run, and we have some pretty big closures on subsistence,”  Fish & Game biologist Eric Newland said during the first in-season management call Wednesday. “We don’t want to kill any more kings than we need to.”

As of Monday, the northern Costal district and districts one through three — from the mouth of the Yukon to just north of Holy Cross — are closed to gillnets with mesh sizes bigger than 4 inches. Dipnets are also prohibited — for now. Fish & Game biologists say it’s to avoid Chinook bycatch, but many fishermen say it’s keeping them from catching anything at all.

“We got restrictions so early this year,” Ryan, a caller from Russian Mission, said. “I had about a week to get some salmon and here at Russian Mission we haven’t got any salmon, maybe I heard one chum salmon. We didn’t get a chance to get our sheefish.”

Others along the Yukon echoed Kenai fisherman Robert Gibson, who disagrees with fishery managers as to how much of a threat dipnetting poses to Chinook.

“I personally dipnet in the Russian River here for years, and I hardly see any damage or mortality at all when doing so,” Gibson said. “So, I would like to know what your concerns are not allowing dipnetting for chums for subsistence during the uh, the closure?”

And another caller — Eric from St. Mary’s — says the new, tight restrictions mean many don’t have the right equipment.

“We’ve got probably 75 percent of these subsistence don’t have the gear to harvest right now, it’s only a handful of the people who tried it last year in the commercial,” Eric said. “So I don’t know how we’re going to deal with that, fishery last year.”

“So, I don’t know how we’re going to deal with that, getting their subsistence needs met.”

Despite complaints, the restrictions remain in effect for Districts 1 through 3, with similar restrictions coming to other districts as the first pulse of Chinook makes its way upriver.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska Journalist Bob Tkacz Found Dead

Thu, 2014-05-29 12:06

Longtime Alaska freelance journalist Bob Tkacz has died. He was 61.

Reporter Bob Tkacz interviews U.S. Sen. Mark Begich following the senator’s annual address to the Alaska Legislature, March 3, 2014. (Photo by Skip Gray/Gavel Alaska)

Juneau police say they responded to a report of a death at Tkacz’s downtown office Tuesday morning and found his body. The death is not considered suspicious. The body was initially taken to Alaskan Memorial Park Mortuary & Crematory then sent to the state medical examiner’s office in Anchorage for an autopsy.

Tkacz was a fixture in the state capital press corps for years. His gravelly voice and dogged interviewing style needled a number of Alaska politicians. He had his own subscription news service, “Laws for the SEA,” which covered the commercial fishing and seafood industry. He also wrote for Tim and Mike Bradner’s “Legislative Digest” in recent years. He’d been published in the Alaska Journal of Commerce and once worked for KTOO.

In 1991, Tkacz was stabbed in an apparent mugging in Juneau that was highly publicized. A New York Times story about the incident is one of the top results when you Google his name.

His LinkedIn profile says Tkacz went to Ohio University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Newspaper and Magazine Editing. He lived on a boat in Aurora Harbor, and was a volunteer jazz DJ on KTOO’s sister station, KRNN.

Friends say he has family in Ohio. Services are pending.

Categories: Alaska News

Name Of Helicopter Pilot Killed In Crash Released

Thu, 2014-05-29 12:02

Anchorage police have released the name of the pilot of a helicopter that crashed at the Birchwood Airport in Chugiak.

Police say the pilot was 62-year-old Thomas Moore of Anchorage.

Moore was flying a Robinson R-44 Wednesday afternoon when the aircraft crashed and became engulfed in flames. A bystander was taken to a hospital for treatment of burns sustained while he was trying to rescue Moore.

The bystander’s name has not been released.

The cause of the crash is under investigation.

Categories: Alaska News

Lower Skilak Lake Campground, Boat Launch Reopens

Thu, 2014-05-29 10:47

(Courtesy Alaska Interagency Incident Management Team)

The Funny River fire is holding steady at just over 192,831 acres and is considered 46 percent contained.

Fire Information Officer Brigitte Foster says the continuing damp weather and low winds have slowed the spread of the fire.

The Lower Skilak Lake Campground and boat launch area will be reopening Thursday.

There are 760 personnel working on the Funny River fire.

Categories: Alaska News

Rain, Little Wind Helps Firefighters Combat Funny River Fire

Wed, 2014-05-28 17:45

(Image courtesy Alaska Inter-Agency Management Team)

The Funny River fire continues to burn the central Kenai peninsula.

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As of 9 p.m. Wednesday night, incident command estimated it had burned more than 192,000 acres, mainly within the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

Light rain and little wind slower the spread of the fire over the past two days. As a result, all of The evacuation advisories for the area were lifted Wednesday morning.

The cause of the fire is under investigation. Refuge manager Andy Loranger says officials are seeking any information about the cause.

It is 30 percent contained and as of Wednesday.

Categories: Alaska News

Fairbanks Team Leads Firefighting Efforts on Kenai

Wed, 2014-05-28 17:20



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Wednesday marked one week since the Funny River fire began burning on the Kenai Peninsula. Very early on in the fire, one group – Alaska Interagency Incident Management Team – from Fairbanks has been in control of the firefighting efforts.

Categories: Alaska News

Firefighters Shifting from Tyonek to Funny River

Wed, 2014-05-28 17:12



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Officials overseeing the Tyonek wildfire on the west side of Cook Inlet said today that most firefighting personnel were being released from the fire, with some of them headed to the Kenai Peninsula to work on the Funny River fire.

The Tyonek fire started May 19th and burned between the villages of Tyonek and Beluga.  It is currently mapped at 1,906 acres and is considered 100 percent contained.

A total of 112 personnel were still assigned to Tyonek this morning but most were scheduled to leave by the end of the day.

Categories: Alaska News

Parnell Signs Budgets, Spares Veto Pen

Wed, 2014-05-28 17:12

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Governor Sean Parnell signed the state operating and capital budgets Wednesday afternoon in downtown Anchorage, beginning with a speech to the Rotary Club, in which he said the Legislature met the spending targets he laid out for it.

Parnell noted that the Legislature had cut general fund spending by a $1 billion each year for the last three years, and by dipping into reserves, it has reduced future payments into the projected $12 billion deficit in retirement funds for teachers and state employees.

“Our administration, we, with the legislature, made sustainable, the single biggest cost driver in the budget” Parnell said. “I proposed paying down a portion of that debt, that 12 billion dollar debt and then lowering our annual payments.

Legislators approved that concept and they unanimously agreed, Republicans and Democrats, unanimously agreed to take, to move three billion dollars from the constitutional budget reserve into the retirement trust funds.”

The governor said that one-time payment will reduce future payments that were expected to rise to more than $1 billion a year, to more like $300 million.

The budget includes an education funding formula increase that will continue in future years. The total of all budgets, including federal funds, is $12.8 billion.

Categories: Alaska News

Oil Companies, Munis Have Window to Appeal Pipeline Evaluation

Wed, 2014-05-28 17:10

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Oil companies and Alaska municipalities have 30 days to decide whether to appeal a State Assessment Review Board decision to set the value of the trans-Alaska pipeline at $10.2 billion.

Categories: Alaska News

Anthony Mallott Named CEO of Sealaska

Wed, 2014-05-28 17:06

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A second generation of Mallotts is taking over the helm at Sealaska.

The regional Native corporation’s board of directors named Anthony Mallott as president and CEO during a shareholders’ meeting Tuesday night in Anchorage.

He’s the son of former CEO and long-time board member Byron Mallott, who’s running for governor as a Democrat.

The younger Mallott says he has a good relationship with his father. But they limit their conversations.

“We do not discuss business,” he said. “We’ve kept that outside our relationship. Of course, he’s offered fatherly advice my whole entire life.”

Anthony Mallott has been Sealaska’s treasurer and chief investment officer for the past eight years.

The 39-year-old says that, and his previous experience, got him the job.

“I’ve spent 18 years in the investment management field,” he said. “I have a very experienced background in that regard. And I really think the board saw that as one of the very important attributes that we need in a CEO as we move into this phase of acquiring new investments and operating entities.”

Sealaska is in the midst of changing some of its financial policies, with a goal of providing more jobs and higher dividends to shareholders.

To do that, it must recover from last year’s substantial shortfall.

Sealaska reported about $57 million of operating losses during 2013. Revenues from investments and other sources brought that down to around $35 million.

Mallott says the corporation is still financially strong.

“We have assets, that at a minimum, will provide a strong level of income in this coming year. So the turnaround’s already happening.”

He’ll take over the reins from current CEO Chris McNeil Jr. on June 28th, the day of Sealaska’s annual meeting.

Categories: Alaska News

Senate Passes Bill to Grant More Tribal Jurisdiction

Wed, 2014-05-28 17:05

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A bill that would give tribes greater jurisdiction over substance abuse, domestic violence and other misdemeanors was passed out of the U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee last week despite objections from the state.

Categories: Alaska News

Ferry Workers Approve Strike Authorization

Wed, 2014-05-28 17:04



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Alaska Marine Highway workers approved a strike authorization this week, meaning the Inlandboatmen’s Union could call for workers to strike within the next month if the union and state can’t agree on a new contract.

Categories: Alaska News

Funny River Fire Evacuees Back at Home, But Prepared to Leave Again

Wed, 2014-05-28 17:01



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Hooligan’s Lodging became one of Soldotna’s main hubs during the evacuation. Though most evacuees have returned home, the hotel is ready in case the fire moves toward the community again.

Categories: Alaska News

Searchers Continue Looking for Missing Hiker

Wed, 2014-05-28 17:00



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Volunteers spent a fourth day searching for missing hiker 48-year-old Sharon Buis. Tuesday’s efforts resulted in no new leads. Buis has been missing since Saturday.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: May 28, 2014

Wed, 2014-05-28 16:53

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

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Rain, Little Wind Help Firefighters Combat Funny River Fire
Shady Grove Oliver, KBBI Homer

Light rain and little wind has helped keep the Funny River fire from growing much for the past two days. It is 30 percent contained and as of Wednesday afternoon, it is estimated to have burned more than 183,000 acres on the central Kenai Peninsula.

Fairbanks Team Leads Firefighting Efforts on Kenai
Aaron Selbig, KBBI – Homer

Wednesday marked one week since the Funny River fire began burning on the Kenai Peninsula. Very early on in the fire, one group from Fairbanks has been in control of the firefighting efforts.

Firefighters Shifting from Tyonek to Funny River
Aaron Selbig, KBBI – Homer

Officials overseeing the Tyonek wildfire on the west side of Cook Inlet said today that most firefighting personnel were being released from the fire, with some of them headed to the Kenai Peninsula to work on the Funny River fire.

Parnell Signs Budgets, Spares Veto Pen
Steve Heimel, APRN – Anchorage

Governor Sean Parnell signed the state operating and capital budgets this afternoon in downtown Anchorage, beginning with a speech to the Rotary Club, in which he said the Legislature met the spending targets he laid out for it

Oil Companies, Munis Have Window to Appeal Pipeline Evaluation
The Associated Press

Oil companies and Alaska municipalities have 30 days to decide whether to appeal a State Assessment Review Board decision to set the value of the trans-Alaska pipeline at $10.2 billion.

Senate Passes Bill to Grant More Tribal Jurisdiction
Joaqlin Estus, KNBA – Anchorage

A bill that would give tribes greater jurisdiction over substance abuse, domestic violence and other misdemeanors was passed out of the U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee last week despite objections from the state.

Anthony Mallott Named CEO of Sealaska
Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau

A second generation of Mallotts is taking over the helm at Sealaska. The regional Native corporation’s board of directors named Anthony Mallott as president and CEO during a shareholders’ meeting Tuesday night in Anchorage. He’s the son of former CEO and long-time board member Byron Mallott, who’s running for governor as a Democrat.

Ferry Workers Approve Strike Authorization
Margaret Friedenauer, KHNS – Haines

Alaska Marine Highway workers approved a strike authorization this week, meaning the Inlandboatmen’s Union could call for workers to strike within the next month if the union and state can’t agree on a new contract.

Funny River Fire Evacuees Back at Home, But Prepared to Leave Again
Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage

Hooligan’s Lodging became one of Soldotna’s main hubs during the evacuation. Though most evacuees have returned home, the hotel is ready in case the fire moves toward the community again.

Searchers Continue Looking for Missing Hiker
Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau

Volunteers spent a fourth day searching for missing hiker 48-year-old Sharon Buis. Tuesday’s efforts resulted in no new leads. Buis has been missing since Saturday.

 

 

Categories: Alaska News

Tyonek fire 100% contained

Wed, 2014-05-28 12:11

The Tyonek Fire is now considered 100% contained. It burned about 1,900 acres. Most of the crews and resources are now being used on the Funny River Fire instead, though some personnel and equipment will stay behind to make sure the fire stays under control.

No one was injured in this fire. However, fire officials say locals should pay attention to standing trees that burned and may topple in strong winds. The fire started on May 19 and burned between Tyonek and Beluga villages.

A photo of the Tyonek Fire taken on May 19 by the Alaska Division of Forestry.

Categories: Alaska News

Rain, Lack Of Wind Slows Funny River Fire Growth

Wed, 2014-05-28 12:06

(Image courtesy Alaska Inter-Agency Management Team)

Fire crews Wednesday morning mapped the Funny River fire out to be nearly 183,300 acres.

Tom Lavagnino, with the incident management team, says the rain has helped a little bit, but it’s not the biggest reason the fire’s growth has slowed.

“The bigger factor, probably, is there’s lack of wind,” Lavagnino said. ”The first couple days and the aggressive growth period were due to wind-driven fire, and that hasn’t happened yesterday.”

Lavignino says the fire line along the western edge is well-established and secure. He also says a fuel break established by the community over the past several years has played a large role in containing the northern edge of the fire.

“Kudos to them,” Lavagnino said. “They’re very successful in stopping the fire and having retardant being able to reach the ground at that point and mitigate the fire so the hand crews can come in in the fire trucks and suppress the fire a little more – and safely.”

For now, most of the fire crews’ efforts will be on the northeast and eastern borders of the fire.

There are 713 personnel working on the Funny River fire.

All evacuation advisories in the area have been lifted.

There is a community meeting scheduled Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at the Funny River Community Center.

Categories: Alaska News

Funny River Fire Brings Community Together

Wed, 2014-05-28 10:00

Hooligan’s  Lodging became one of Soldotna’s main hubs during the evacuation. Though most evacuees have returned home, the hotel is ready in case the fire moves toward the community again.

The lobby of Hooligan’s Lodging and Saloon looks more like a garage sale than a hotel:

“We have like toothpaste and toothbrushes and shampoo and conditioner and lotion and soap.”

The hotel’s owner, Molly Poland, walks through the piles of things donated by community members. They’re for the people who were evacuated because of the Funny River Fire.

“So we have cat litter because there were lots of cats and they didn’t remember the cat litter, so I was like, “let’s get that handled.”

130 people and 30 animals stayed at the long wooden hotel over the weekend for free. Poland says she turned away paying customers because she just wanted to help.

“I didn’t expect for people to be so grateful… but one lady looked at me yesterday and said, ‘you’re going straight to heaven,’ and that made me tear up. And this morning when I went to my car and it was raining I started crying, and I was like, ‘why am I crying over rain?’ But I was just so happy because I know all these people are displaced and they want their homes.”

Other businesses and community members chipped in as well. People opened up their homes, offered free childcare, boarded dogs in kennels for free, gave away pet food—the list goes on.

Odie’s Deli was one of the restaurants that offered discounted and free food to evacuees and fire fighters. Owner Melody Symington says she just wanted to give back:

“I’m truly amazed by the outpouring of this community it’s just amazing how they’ve all pulled together and people just giving their own money and their own resources.”

Back at Hooligan’s, the evacuees have gone home but the work continues. April Fulk is scrubbing the floors of one of the hotel rooms to rid the place of dog smells.

“My mom always had me on the floor cleaning with my hands, so that’s what I’ve done.”

She says she’s volunteering to clean because Soldotna is her home. She says the fire has brought people together in a way she’s never seen.

“Wow. An amazing amount of support, encouragement, wisdom was shared. Everybody just came together. It was just amazing actually.”

Fulk says the community is trying to share another message as well.

“Thanks to all the fire fighters, the crew in the air. Just, thank you. It seems like that’s not enough to say, but I guess as long as we keep pulling together we can show them our gratitude.”

Hooligan’s owner Poland says she knows they aren’t out of danger yet. She says they’re holding on to the items people have donated until the fire is far away from the community.

 

http://www.alaskapublic.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/27-fire-donations-pkg.mp3

 

 

 

 

Categories: Alaska News
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