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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: 36 min 45 sec ago

Epidemiologists Confirm First Case Of PSP In 2015

Mon, 2015-05-04 10:19

State epidemiologists have confirmed the first case of paralytic shellfish poisoning in Alaska this year.

The case originated with recreationally harvested clams on a private beach near Ketchikan. The victim had typical, but not severe, symptoms within half an hour of eating the clams on April 24.

Leftover clams were tested for the PSP toxin and came back with levels more than 13 times over the Food and Drug Administration’s threshold for commercial shellfish.

“The real scary part of course is that death can result in a really short period of time,” Department of Health spokeswoman Dawnell Smith said.

Early paralytic shellfish poisoning symptoms include lip and tongue tingling. That can progress to fingers and toes, losing control of your arms and legs, and difficulty breathing. It can be fatal within a few hours.

Commercially harvested shellfish are tested and safe to eat. There’s no convenient way to know if recreationally harvested shellfish are safe.

“You know, every, every year this comes up. Somebody gets sick, or begins to feel ill and goes and reports it,” Smith said.

State epidemiologists’ last confirmed case of paralytic shellfish poisoning was in December.

Categories: Alaska News

Temporary Water Filtration System Installed At Alatna

Mon, 2015-05-04 10:10

A water filtration system has been installed in a tiny interior Alaska village where a fire damaged infrastructure last month.

Anchorage television station KTUU reports the temporary water filtration system is making potable water available in Alatna, a community of 27 about 190 miles northwest of Fairbanks.

Gov. Bill Walker a week ago declared a disaster in the village, days after a fire destroyed the village water treatment facility, washeteria and clinic.

Damage is estimated at $500,000.

Residents at first crossed the frozen Koyukuk River to haul water five miles from Allakaket.

The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium and the Tanana Chiefs Conference worked together to install the temporary treatment system at the Alatna well.

Categories: Alaska News

Governor’s Revised Budget Restores Some Funding For Sexual Assault Prevention

Fri, 2015-05-01 18:13

Alaska tops a lot of lists, like best whale watching and cleanest air quality. But the state also ranks highly in something else.

“Child sexual abuse, infant rape, domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking,” says Peggy Brown, the executive director at the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.

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  Earlier in the legislative session, a Senate subcommittee slashed all of the state funding for domestic violence and sexual assault prevention programs. It would have impacted projects like Girls on the Run and Choose Respect. Now, with the governor’s revised budget, some of that money has been put back.

Brown says when the network heard their 2016 state budget for prevention programs was being eliminated, it felt like being kicked in the rib.

“Not to use violent language. They got the breath knocked out of them a little bit,” she says.

In the five years the prevention programs existed in Alaska, there have already been signs of success. One program called the Fourth R was able to identify students who experienced sexual violence and role-play healthy relationships.

“And I think people really liked these programs. I think it gave people a certain amount of hope with these horrible numbers that maybe there were some normal simple things that normal simple folks could do rather than breaking up a fight or calling 911,” Brown says.

Now some of that lost funding might be reinstated. Gov. Bill Walker’s revised budget allocates $1.5 million for sexual assault prevention programs, about half of last year’s. Lauree Morton, the executive director of the Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, says she understands.

“The state’s in a difficult spot right now but that 1.5 is critical for projects moving forward,” she says.

Morton says 10 communities in Alaska currently have readiness prevention programs that help jump-start the bigger ones.

“If we have the $1.5 million restored, the number of those communities will be reduced to five,” she says.

Morton couldn’t say which locations would be cut. Projects like Green Dot, which teaches violence intervention skills, won’t be able to spread to other communities as quickly as the network hoped.

But most sexual and domestic violence prevention programs will still be able to function. Peggy Brown says for prevention work to actually be effective, it has to saturate an area for at least five years.

“And we were just at the five year mark and we were just getting data on a lot of these programs,” says Brown.

In 2011, the Alaska Victimization Survey in Juneau showed 55 out out every 100 women suffered from domestic violence or sexual assault. The network hopes that number is decreasing. A 2016 version of the survey could confirm that, but that’s contingent on the $1.5 million in the governor’s revised budget.

Categories: Alaska News

AK: A Forgotten Boat

Fri, 2015-05-01 18:05

Mitch Keplinger tightens twine. (Photo by Kayla Desroches, KMXT – Kodiak)

A group in Kodiak recently completed an Alutiiq boat that was last seen in the mid-19th century. Alutiiq people once used the angyaq to travel over long distances and through rough seas. It’s an open boat, like a dory, with a flat bottom and bulbous bow.

The artist leading the effort says the boat builders aren’t just recreating the past. They’re reviving a piece of Alutiiq history for use now and in the future.

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CJ Christiansen saws the curved edge of a seat he’ll install in his angyaq.

This is the first time Kodiak has seen an angyaq in about 150 years. Christiansen says the last record of it was from a stranded British sailor’s first-hand account of his rescue in 1850.

The boat’s 21-inch frame sits on supports in the back room of a former grocery store that’s now mostly used for storage.

CJ Christiansen (right) and Mitch Keplinger discuss what to do next on boat. (Photo by Kayla Desroches, KMXT – Kodiak)

Christiansen, who has carved everything from masks to harpoons, says his interest in building the angyaq came from his desire to recover a piece of Alutiiq culture. He says angyaqs were a big part of Kodiak life.

“Anybody should be able to do this. It’s not that hard,” Christiansen said. “It just takes a lot of dedication and pride in what you’re doing. Making sure everything fits. It’s really just taking art to the next level, going from one small art form to something bigger.”

Angyaq from above. (Photo by Kayla Desroches, KMXT – Kodiak)

Christiansen says kayaks were the everyman boat, but angyaq were special to Alutiiq people.

The flat bottom and rounded bow would have helped it float up strong waves.

“They had winter and summer habitations here,” Christiansen said. “So in the summer when they went to put up all their fish and all their food for winter supply, they would pack up the village in one of these boats and move it down to their summer habitation and then be able to bring back all the fish they put up and everything.”

Christiansen says villages took the boat hundreds of miles, from the mainland to Southeast, all around Kodiak and the Aleutians.

He says there are only a few sources that prove the angyaq’s existence, which makes building it a challenge. The group partially used the Yup’ik boat, the umiak, as a guide.

“Cause our people are related to the Yupik, we’d looked at their boat designs and had a book on how they were building their boats, and we kinda took their designs and modified them to what our boats looked like,” Christiansen said.

CJ Christiansen (left), Gary Knagin (center), and Mitch Keplinger. (Photo by Kayla Desroches, KMXT – Kodiak)

But, they also used one of the last remnants of the angyaq – wooden models Russian settlers took back home with them.

The models not only provide physical representations of the boat, but also reveal who might have owned them. Christiansen believes one family may have been responsible for the boat.

“Let’s see, there’s this picture of the boat, so you got the guy up there with the drum, the guy steering, and these guys all paddling, and then you see this guy here, see his hat?” Christiansen said. “Each one of these little rings is how many potlucks he gave. So, you know, three potlucks, he was a rich man, so he probably owned the boat.”

Christiansen says he and the other crafters put about 300 hours into the frame, but he says he was reluctant to track their progress from beginning to end. He didn’t want to fail.

But he says trial and error is the key to building a boat that hasn’t been seen for so many years.

“We might not got it 100 percent right, right now, but if more people start building ‘em and we start putting these in the water and taking them out and trying them, we’re gonna refine the design back to Russian time, pre-contact,” Christiansen said. “They were probably still   refining it when they had contact…”

Angyaq from side. (Photo by Kayla Desroches, KMXT – Kodiak)

Christiansen says he wants to make this a boat for Alutiiq people now, not just recreate a relic from the past.

“To be building one… it’s just… an amazing journey for me to see this thing come to life,” Christiansen said. “You know, I don’t want to be the only one who makes one of these. Ten years down the road, I want to see everyone building them.”

He says he hopes people will even race angyaqs.

But first, they need to find a place for this one.  Alisha Drabek is the Executive Director at the Alutiiq Museum. She says they’ll exhibit the boat outside the museum in mid May and then look for a permanent space. She says she’s proud to be able to showcase the boat.

“For the first one to be built in over a century, it’s amazing that it came together as quickly as it did, and they’re living the culture,” Drabek said. “They’re not doing this as part of a museum project. They’re doing it out of their hearts.”

Gary Knagin leans on side of angyaq. (Photo by Kayla Desroches, KMXT – Kodiak)

Back in the old grocery story, one of the group members is putting a finishing touch on the boat- securing part of the frame with twine.

Christiansen and his team are excited to see their work on display later this month. And eventually they hope to test out an angyaq in the waves around Kodiak.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: May 1, 2015

Fri, 2015-05-01 18:01

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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Urban Set Net Ban Proposed

Associated Press, Anchorage

A proposed voter initiative to ban setnets in urban parts of Alaska is making its way toward the ballot, while a lawsuit over its legality continues.

To Plan Port’s Future, City Looks To Current Users

Annie Ropeik, KUCB – Unalaska

Unalaska is getting ready to spend tens of millions of dollars to upgrade the aging Port of Dutch Harbor. The hope is to serve bigger ships and more of them.

Walker Restores Sexual Violence Prevention Funding After Senate Cut

Elizabeth Jenkins, KTOO – Juneau

Earlier in the legislative session, a Senate subcommittee slashed all of the state funding for domestic violence and sexual assault prevention programs.

Anchorage Senior Wins National Poetry Out Loud Competition

Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage

West Anchorage High Senior Maeva Ordaz won the national Poetry Out Loud competition this week in Washington DC.

Memoir Arctic Daughter, Re-released For A New Generation

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

Homer resident Jean Aspen has re-released her book Arctic Daughter, three decades after she first wrote about her adventures living off the grid in the Brooks Range.

National Maritime Refuge Considers All Options For Feral Cattle

Associated Press, Anchorage

Federal wildlife managers are still trying to determine the fate of feral cattle that have long gone without caretakers on an uninhabited Alaska island.

APOC Expediting Complaint Against Berkowitz

Zachariah Hughes, KSKA – Anchorage

The Alaska Public Offices Commission is looking into a complaint against an Anchorage mayoral candidate over an improper corporate donation.

AK: Long Distance Alutiiq Boat Restored From Past

Kayla Desroches, KMXT – Kodiak

A group in Kodiak recently completed an Alutiiq boat that was last seen in the mid-19th century. Alutiiq people once used the angyaq to travel over long distances and through rough seas.

Categories: Alaska News

Heroin in Alaska

Fri, 2015-05-01 12:00

Law enforcement officers say heroin use is on the rise in Alaska and communities are struggling to keep the drug out of their neighborhoods. How is it getting here and what’s being done to stop heroin from entering the state. It’s not just an urban problem. Rural residents are speaking out to try to stop it.

HOST: Lori Townsend


  • Byron Maczynski, Bethel City Council Member
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LIVE Broadcast: Tuesday, May 5, 2015 at 10:00 a.m. on APRN stations statewide.

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Categories: Alaska News

Anchorage senior wins national Poetry Out Loud competition

Fri, 2015-05-01 11:35


West Anchorage High Senior Maeva Ordaz won the national Poetry Out Loud competition this week in Washington DC. It’s the first time an Alaskan has both reached the finals and won. Ordaz won $20,000 for recitation of “Zacuanpapalotls” by Brenda Cárdenas. She also recited “Ode on a Grecian Urn” by John Keats.

The 18-year-old already has a full scholarship to Columbia University next year.

The program started ten years ago by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation and is run statewide by the Alaska State Council on the Arts.

“Poetry helps us sense and think differently about the world around us,” said Council on the Arts Executive Director Shannon Daut. “It encourages more abstract and creative thought, which is really crucial for kids to develop to help them be competitive in the workforce that is increasingly relying on creative thought and problem solving.”

You can watch Ordaz’s other recitation on here. Videos and photo courtesy of the National Endowment for the Arts.

Categories: Alaska News

Little – Known Alaska Musher Spurs Japanese Musical

Fri, 2015-05-01 11:28

A theater production coming to Anchorage this week honors the accomplishments of a little – known character in Alaska’s history.

Back around the turn of the twentieth century, one of the foremost dog drivers in Alaska was Jujiro Wada, a Japanese national who helped to blaze Alaska’s most famous trail 

If you mention the word Iditarod, images of racing huskies, dogsleds and the last of the Alaska mountain men come to mind.

Swenson, Buser, Seavey, Mackey are names that carved Iditarod history. But Jujiro Wada? Who’s he?  Well, he’s the man who built the Iditarod Trail.

University of Alaska  professor and Seward native Edgar Blatchford, says Wada faced incredible odds.

“It wasn’t like he had GPS or any food along the way. He carried a rifle, bullets and an empty sled, except for something to sleep in.”

Blatchford is helping the Asian American Cultural Center bring the musical, “Samurai Musher” to Alaska.  Back in 1909. Wada was renowned in what was to become the Alaska Territory, and his exploits were covered in newspapers of the time.

“The Seward Chamber of Commerce, it was called the Board of Trade at that time, hired him to find a way to connect Seward to the gold camps in the Interior and eventually Nome. Jujiro Wada was hired at a dollar a day and he hired what we like to think of as an international crew and they set forward to blaze the trial from Seward to Nome

Why Wada? Because he was considered the foremost musher in Alaska at the time. University of Alaska  professor Tony Nakazawa takes up the tale.

“Wada was credited from mushing forty to fifty thousand miles across Alaska.”

Nakazawa says Wada came from Hinodemachi in Ehime Prefecture. He was born in 1875 into a samurai family down on its luck, and left home early to seek his fortune in the U.S. He first arrived in San Francisco.

“One of the stories that is more prominent is that he was shanghaid by this Captain Norwood on the ship Ballena, and they were up in the Arctic waters, and their ship became icebound. And so Captain Norwood had Wada and a small group go on to shore and there he befriended the Brower family who mobilized the village and they came out and saved the people on the ship.”

Wada first worked at the Cape Smyth Trading post, with the legendary Charles Brower. It is was there, no doubt, that he learned his dog mushing skills. Later, he traveled with E.T. Barnette, the man who founded Fairbanks, and did his share of gold prospecting.

He was a man of many talents, sailor, prospector, dog driver — and quite the adventurer. And he was driven by the desire to make his fortune and send money back to his widowed mother in Japan.

A 1995 book published in Japan,  “The Samurai Dog Musher Under the Northern Lights”, is credited with spurring interest in Wada in that country.

The book was later translated into English by a Canadian who was documenting Wada’s travels for the Canadian Park Service.

Now the Mikan Ichiza Playgroup,  from Wada’s hometown in Ehime Prefecture, has produced a musical  based on Wada’s story

Nakazawa says the story captures public imagination, in part because of it’s theme of mother and son devotion.

“And there is a following among historians here in Alaska on Wada, but in terms of the communities, I don’t think it’s very well known. But one of the things that’s interesting about the Wada story is it was actually that he had written to his mother, sent money back to his mother from a distance, and this relation ship between a son and his mother.”

Wada’s fortunes did not always run smoothly.  Nakazawa says Wada was once almost lynched because of a misunderstanding.

“So one of the (newspaper ) articles that we looked at, had said that Wada was sent to much to Circle and Dawson City to build up Felix Pedro’s gold strike, and up to one thousand prospectors came to the Goldstream Valley area, and unfortunately, they didn’t find gold, as promised. And Wada almost met his demise, but fortunately, Mr. Barnett prevailed and Wada was spared.”

And, as World War 1 loomed, Wada was faced with discrimination because of mistrust of the Japanese in the US.

The stage production covers the triumphs and disappointments of Wada’s life from childhood in Japan to his adventures in Alaska, and through his declining years.

Edgar Blatchford says Wada’s story is exactly the kind of thing that fascinates tourists who are looking for something beyond the usual attractions.

“This is a major production, they are excited about it, they’ve put a lot of time into it. They are serious performers and they recognize the connection between Japan and Alaska which gives Alaska great avenue for more and more people from Japan coming to visit Alaska and getting off the beaten path.”

Wada eventually left Alaska. His later life is obscure, but we know he died in San Diego, without ever having struck it rich.  But the growing interest in his life is sure to enrich his memory in Japan and Alaska.


Categories: Alaska News

APOC Expediting Complaint Against Berkowitz Over Improper Corporate Donation

Fri, 2015-05-01 11:15

The Alaska Public Offices Commission is looking into a complaint against an Anchorage mayoral candidate over an improper corporate donation.

The complaint was filed against Ethan Berkowitz by David Nees, who has run unsuccessful campaigns for seats in the House and on the Anchorage School Board.

In the documents submitted to APOC Nees says that Berkowitz used images from a KTUU newscast in a campaign ad, but failed to disclose a corporate donation from the private company.

The Berkowitz campaign has not yet responded to a call for comment.

APOC is holding an expedited hearing on the issue today at 5:15pm.

Categories: Alaska News

To Plan Port’s Future, City Looks to Current Users

Fri, 2015-05-01 10:19

A diagram of the proposed upgrades includes wider crane rails (black dotted line), new piling and reshaping (blue shaded area) and larger vessels that might use the facility (outlined in water). (Courtesy: City of Unalaska)

Unalaska is preparing to spend tens of millions of dollars to upgrade the aging Port of Dutch Harbor. The hope is to serve bigger ships and more of them — but the companies that use the dock right now aren’t so sure that big changes are needed.

On Wednesday night, Unalaska’s city council chambers were full of the dock workers, fuelers and cargo companies that have worked in Dutch Harbor for 25 years, exporting seafood and importing freight.

They were there to weigh in as the city gets ready to remodel the port for the future. The $44 million plan involves replacing rotten pilings under the dock that serves container ships, barges and catcher-processors — and adding anything new that those companies want to see.

That might include a setup for a bigger cargo crane — one to reach further across wider ships. The current crane is on 50-gauge rails, meaning spaced 50 feet apart. Some ports, including Anchorage, have upped that to 100 feet.

Marion Davis is a vice president for Horizon Lines, the main domestic shipper in Dutch Harbor. They own the current crane, and Davis called into Wednesday’s meeting to say the 50-foot spacing works just fine.

“A lot of ports are huge ports. So they might have six, eight, ten lanes of trucks underneath the crane. Therefore, you need the room underneath the crane. Dutch will never have that,” he said. “So a 50-gage crane should be sufficient no matter what you do.”

He did suggest bringing in a new 50-gage crane built for a wider reach. But that’s not part of the city’s project — any new cranes would have to come from the users, like Horizon.

They were the city’s official shipping partner when the dock was first built. But that contract fell apart a few years ago. In March, the city council voted not to seek a new one — from Horizon, or anyone else.

Horizon still gets a guaranteed spot for their weekly mail and grocery delivery, according to a recent letter from the city. But otherwise, the dock space is up for grabs.

That means power is an open question, too. Right now, the port runs mostly on diesel — but Doug Leggett, the president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union in Unalaska, asked if the city’s electrical grid could handle more ships or cranes plugging in.

“I’ve spent plenty of time watching and breathing that exhaust, and I think most of us don’t realize how much pollution they pump into town when they’re sitting there,” he said. “The wind’s blowing, and you don’t see it, but it’s a lot.”

Other dock workers brought up cosmetic issues — like bad drainage, bumpy concrete and safety issues that need repairing. And they talked about the best spot for a new warehouse that barges and seafood companies could share.

All that helps the companies at the dock right now — but much of the plan still centers on the idea that more, bigger traffic is on the way. Longshoremen like Jeff Hancock were skeptical.

“I mean, you’ve got an outline of a gigantic, large, 1,200-foot vessel there at the dock,” he said, indicating a concept drawing showing different sizes of ships. “In what realistic thinking would we ever have a vessel of that size here, that we needed … to work the number of containers that that would be? … In what reality would we ever need that much capacity at this port?”

“No ice in the Arctic,” answered Dennis Robinson, a longshoreman and former city councilor.

Robinson is talking about the biggest unknown in upgrading Dutch Harbor: Will melting Arctic ice — and more Arctic infrastructure — really create that much demand from new shipping companies?

If it will, they didn’t show up on Wednesday to say so. But city ports director Peggy McLaughlin says she heard enough to move the designs forward — and to keep working on a funding plan. She needs to break ground by 2017 for permitting reasons.

“We’re building and replacing a deteriorating facility for the current users,” she said after Wednesday’s meeting. “And there certainly are users that are being turned away because of timing issues and dock schedules that will be able to utilize this proposed design.”

For now, the port’s oldest tenants will drive that design — and McLaughlin hopes it’ll leave room for those waiting in the wings.

The city and PND Engineers are taking public comment on the preliminary designs through May 29, and will hold a follow-up public meeting later this summer. You can catch a rebroadcast of Wednesday’s planning meeting on Channel 8 this Sunday, May 3 at 5 p.m. 

Categories: Alaska News

Mat-Su Begins Budget Process

Fri, 2015-05-01 10:15

Matanuska Susitana Borough officials got an early look at the Borough’s FY 2016 spending plan Thursday.  Borough manager John Moosey opened the discussion, saying the budget would be “very conservative”, compared with previous years. The Borough’s mil rate has remained relatively flat since 2010, but indications are that changes are coming, Moosey said.

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“We can’t continue this for this budget. If you look back at 2009 and what we were charging to taxpayers and where we are now, what other organization, business, can say we are doing more things, we’re growing and we’re still charging you less, charging taxpayers less, seven years later. My message today is, ‘we need to make some changes, especially revenue changes because some of the revenue that we are counting on and some of the things we have created are really making at a pinch point.'”

No individual department heads presented figures to the Assembly at Thursday’s worksession. The Assembly prioritizes spending and will deliberate the plan after a series of public hearings starting on May 4.

Moosey said, along with the budget debate, there needs to be further discussion regarding deficits in the funds that pay for select Borough operations.. namely, Port MacKenzie, Borough solid waste services, and the unused ferry Sustina.

Those so-called enterprise funds are supposedly supported by fees charged for services, but there wide gaps between costs and charges, Moosey said. Borough Finance director Tammy Clayton reviewed the latest figures on the enterprise funds:

“With regards to the Port, the budgeted deficit for June 30, 2015 is estimated at 6.8 million ($), the budgeted deficit for June 30, 2016 is estimated at 6.35 million ($).  The ferry, or what is approved to be transferred in for fiscal year 2016 is 460 thousand ($). “

Deficits in enterprise funds are covered by transfers from the Borough’s areawide fund.

The Borough’s Public Works director, Terry Dolan, told the panel that the solid waste enterprise fund is running a 1.6 million dollar deficit. He said increases in rates could close the gap.

State fiscal woes also are affecting the Borough’s budget for the next fiscal year. Moosey said a drop in revenue sharing, increases in school infrastructure needs and a drop in Borough revenue due to senior and disabled veteran tax exemptions are all contributing to the lean fiscal outlook.


Categories: Alaska News

Forestry Jobs Lost But Haines May Retain Part Of Office

Fri, 2015-05-01 10:15

Haines State Forest (Credit: Flickr/~dgies)

Two forester jobs in Haines and two in Ketchikan are wiped out in the state budget approved by the legislature earlier this week. Gov. Bill Walker’s proposed changes to that budget would add some money back into the Department of Natural Resources, but they wouldn’t bring back Southeast forester jobs. However, the two-person Haines State Forest office won’t be completely lost.

Budget reductions will likely force Director of Forestry Chris Maisch to cut 25 jobs and 10 internships around the state.

“It’s been probably my biggest professional challenge as a manager and as a forester,” Maisch said. “And I’ve been doing this type of work for over 33 years.”

In Haines, the two foresters make up the entire local office. They manage timber sales, maintain access roads, take charge of fire prevention. Losing both of those jobs would leave Haines State Forest management to someone in Juneau or Ketchikan.

“We know the community depends on a lot on the access, the firewood and the opportunity to have some economic development associated with the forest,” Maisch said. “We felt it was important to support residents in the community of Haines.”

Maisch says, out of all the towns and cities that are losing forestry staff, Haines has been the most outspoken.

“I want people to know that we were listening and paying attention to that,” he said. “It does mean that we dug a little deeper to try and improve the situation.”

Maisch didn’t want to leave Haines completely unmanned. So, DNR Forestry reallocated $106,000 to fund a seasonal, 9-month forester job in Haines. That money pays for salary and benefits as well as the office, utilities, fuel and a vehicle.

Along with losing about one and a third employees in Haines, starting in July, Ketchikan will lose two foresters. That downsizes their office to four – three foresters and one administrator.

“So we will obviously not have as much manpower as we once had to do forest management activity across Southeast Alaska,” Maisch said. “We will have enough to continue the program, but the remaining staff will be stretched thinner and have to travel more to do the work that needs to be completed across Southeast.”

It’s too soon to say whether one of the current Haines foresters will move into the seasonal job come July. Roy Josephson and Greg Palmieri more than 30 years of experience combined managing the forest in Haines.

Maisch thinks the seasonal position in Haines is sustainable. He says revenue from big timber sales like the 800-acre proposed Baby Brown sale would help, but it’s not necessary to keep the position.

However, if the state makes more cuts to DNR Forestry in coming years, Maisch says there are no guarantees.

Categories: Alaska News

Regulatory Board Reviews Proposed Marijuana Regulations

Fri, 2015-05-01 10:10

Communities could opt-out or limit commercial and retail marijuana sales much the same way they do alcohol under proposed regulations put forth by the state alcohol control board.

The board reviewed the first of three sets of marijuana regulations on Thursday, which included a system for community regulations.

When voters in November approved a ballot issue legalizing limited recreational marijuana, they directed the board to develop regulations for the commercial industry. A new marijuana board is expected to take over that work eventually.

The board directed the state Department of Law to open a public comment period on those regulations. The next meeting on the new regulations likely will be held in July.

The board also made permanent a temporary regulation that defines the public places where marijuana is prohibited.

Categories: Alaska News

UAF Satellite Imagery Helps Nepal Earthquake Response, Assessment

Fri, 2015-05-01 10:09

Alaska Satellite Facility dish. (Credit Alaska Satellite Facility)

University of Alaska Fairbanks scientists provided critical satellite observations following this past weekend’s big earthquake in Nepal. It took quick action to get out information vital to assessment and disaster response.

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Categories: Alaska News

UAF Chancellor Addresses Retirement, University’s Budget Woes

Fri, 2015-05-01 10:03

UAF Chancellor Brian Rogers. (Credit UAF)

Outgoing University of Alaska Fairbanks Chancellor Brian Rogers is dispelling rumors that illness forced his recent decision to retire this summer. Chancellor Rogers, who was also a candidate to become the new president of the University of Alaska system, spoke during a wide ranging campus forum Tuesday.

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Categories: Alaska News

Delving Into Anchorage’s Mayoral Runoff Election

Fri, 2015-05-01 09:00

With just a few days left before Anchorage voters head to the polls Tuesday for a runoff election to pick a new mayor the race is intensifying. On April 7th, Ethan Berkowitz and Amy Demboski took the most votes in the city-wide election.  For the most part the campaigns were cordial, with the candidates sparing on policy disagreements, but respectful of one another. But in the last week or so new issues have been quickly popping up—both personal and policy related. Today we’ll be sorting through the mayor’s race stories appearing online and in the news , getting a handle on what coverage is substantial, and what’s superficial.

HOST: Zachariah Hughes


KSKA (FM 91.1) BROADCAST: Friday, May 1 at 2:00 p.m. and Saturday, May 2 at 6:00 p.m.

Alaska Public Television BROADCAST: Friday, May 1 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, May 2 at 4:30 p.m.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: April 30, 2015

Thu, 2015-04-30 19:34

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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Legislature Votes To Allow Hearings Outside Of Juneau

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

While Gov. Bill Walker has ordered the Legislature hold its special session in Juneau, lawmakers may have found a workaround: He can’t control where they hold their committee meetings, or how often they have their floor session.

Mat-Su Gets First Look at Borough’s FY16 Budget

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Palmer

Matanuska Susitana Borough officials got an early look at the Borough’s FY 2016 spending plan  Thursday. Borough manager John Moosey opened the discussion, saying the budget would be “very conservative”, compared with previous years.

ASD’s revised budget cuts 57 filled positions

Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage

The Anchorage School District plans to cut 57 currently-filled positions next year because of a $16.7 million dollar budget cut from the state legislature. That includes 37 classroom teachers and 12 literacy coaches.

Death Toll Now at 2 in Shooting Near Talkeetna

Phillip Manning, KTNA – Talkeetna

Alaska State Troopers say that both men involved in a shooting on April 18th have died. Troopers say that 57-year-old Billy Kidd of Willow died of his injuries in an Anchorage hospital. Previously, Kidd had been listed in critical condition. The other man, 33-year-old Andre Lafrance died at the scene of the incident, and was identified shortly thereafter.

 U.S. House Panel Advances Fisheries Law

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Anchorage

In Congress Thursday the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee moved a bill to renew the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the nation’s bedrock fisheries law. The sponsor, Alaska Congressman Don Young, says the law has kept foreign fishing fleets off America’s shores and sustained healthy fisheries.

UAF Steps Into Spotlight Amid Arctic Council Transfer

Tim Ellis, KUAC – Fairbanks

Now that the United States has assumed chairmanship of the Arctic Council, UAF’s top two administrators say the University of Alaska Fairbanks will play a central role in carrying out the U.S. agenda in the region.

Kick The Bucket: With Fleeting Funding, Projects Die

Joaqlin Estus, KNBA – Anchorage

Even rural communities that have raised the money to build modern sanitation systems face the threat of their ultimate failure due to the lack of funding for operations and maintenance, wiping away whatever health gains were achieved.

Campaign Silent On Revelations Of Military Service, Divorce

Zachariah Hughes, KSKA – Anchorage

New documents are coming to light that complicate the biography of Anchorage mayoral candidate Amy Demboski.

Red Chris Mine Inches Forward After Settlement

Katarina Sostaric, KSTK – Wrangell

A British Columbia mine upriver from Wrangell and Petersburg is one step closer to full production after reaching a benefits agreement with a First Nation group.

YWCA Alaska Holds Summit On Gender Pay Gap

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

YWCA Alaska is holding a Gender Pay Equity Summit Friday in Anchorage to focus attention on the wage disparity between men and women in Alaska.

Categories: Alaska News

U.S. House Panel Advances Fisheries Law

Thu, 2015-04-30 17:36

The U.S. House Natural Resources Committee today passed a bill to renew the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the nation’s fundamental fisheries law. The sponsor, Alaska Congressman Don Young, says the law has kept foreign fishing fleets off America’s shores and sustained healthy fisheries.

“And we’re trying to maintain the integrity of the original act by adding some smaller changes, and (among) the smaller changes are flexibility,” he told the committee.

The bill has alarmed some fishermen and conservationists. They say the bill undercuts a key element of Magnuson-Stevens: That fisheries managers act on science. Several Democrats on the committee voiced that argument, too.

“H.R. 1335 would take us back to the dark ages by gutting science-based requirements to rebuild overfished stocks and to set annual catch limits,” said  Rep. Raul Grijalva of New Mexico, the committee’s top Democrat.

Among the new flexibilities, the bill removes the requirement of a 10-year stock assessment period for rebuilding depleted fisheries. Young says some regions of the country lack enough scientific data to adhere to rigid rules, and he says management councils should be able to respond more quickly to dynamic situations.

Another controversial measure Young added to the bill says the regional fisheries management councils are responsible for reviewing environmental impacts and no separate agency review is required. Critics say that would weaken a bedrock environmental law known as NEPA, the National Environmental Policy Act. Young says he’s trying to avoid duplicate reviews, and remove opportunities for lawsuits.

“I’m trying to keep the legal beagles out of the fishing industry, where they’ve used the legal beagles for the environmental community to impede the fishing process and the proper harvesting of the fish and healthy stocks. And they’ve done that,” Young said.

That provision is likely to disappoint tribal advocates in Alaska who claim federally managed fisheries are damaging salmon runs important to subsistence. Last year, the Association of Village Council Presidents, Kawarek, Tanana Chiefs Conference, and the Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association  wrote a letter asking Young to leave the NEPA process as it is because it gives tribes a stronger voice in fisheries management.

Chris Oliver, executive director of the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council in Anchorage, says he doesn’t think the bill would erode the fundamentals of the Magnuson Stevens Act, although he says his council is fine with the existing law.

“We don’t think the changes they put in the act are really likely to have any effect on how we manage fisheries in the North Pacific,” Oliver said. “I think it could allow for some legitimate flexibility  in other regions — and even perhaps in future situations in the North Pacific — without eroding the basic underlying conservation measures” of the law.

Young says he’s still working on additions to the bills concerning subsistence and the Community Development Quota program, so the bill is likely to be revised before the full House votes on it.

Categories: Alaska News

ASD’s revised budget cuts 57 filled positions

Thu, 2015-04-30 17:17

Superintendent Ed Graff discusses budget amendments due to $16.7 million funding cut. Hillman/KSKA

The Anchorage School District plans to cut 57 currently-filled positions next year because of a $16.7 million funding cut from the state legislature.

Superintendent Ed Graff presented the cuts to the media Thursday afternoon. They include 37 classroom teachers, 12 literacy coaches, and all of the pilot programs focused on early learning and updating science teaching tools.

Graff says they didn’t want to eliminate anything. “But when you get to this point of $17 million that you have to cut on top of the reductions that we already had to address the prior years, there’s no way around it. It’s going to have an impact on everything we do.” Especially students.

The school board must vote on the cuts on Monday even though the state’s budget has not been signed by the governor. They are required to inform tenured teachers about layoffs by May 15 and other staff by the end of the school year.

The revised budget also eliminates the 20 new positions the board added into next year’s budget to reinstate middle school elective teacher team planning time as well as three maintenance positions, supplies, and technology upgrades.

“So we’re going to have to reverse all of those things we planned for, and prepared for, and the students expected, and the community expected. We need to figure all of that out. We’re moving in the wrong direction.”

They will maintain the sports programs and instructional support for English Language Learners and Special Education.

ASD also plans to go forward with the school renovations funded by the recently approved school bonds, despite confusion over whether or not it will be partially reimbursed by the state. State Attorney General Craig Richards recently wrote a letter to the governor saying the bill passed by the legislature that ends school bond reimbursement is retroactive. That means no bonds passed after January 1, 2015 will be reimbursed even though the law doesn’t take effect until 90 days after it’s signed.

Graff says the district does not interpret the law that way and is still seeking reimbursement.

Categories: Alaska News

Military Construction Bill Has Money for F35s at Eielson AFB

Thu, 2015-04-30 17:12

The U.S. House today passed a military construction bill that includes $37 million  for buildings at Eielson Air Force Base to support  two squadrons of F-35s. They include an F-35 flight simulator and alterations to an operations and maintenance unit. A final basing decision for the F35 squadrons is expected next year.

Also included in the spending bill, according to Congressman Don Young, is  $34 million to demolish and replace a boiler at Eielson’s heat and power plant. In addition, the bill has $7.8 million to improve the fitness center at Fort Greely, a building that Young’s office says dates to 1956. The bill next moves to the U.S. Senate.

Categories: Alaska News