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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: 48 min 39 sec ago

Bristol Bay Salmon Camp: ‘Can We Eat The Fin?’

Fri, 2015-06-26 15:51

Every summer BBEDC holds salmon camps for middle school and high school kids from CDQ communities. It’s a mix of a little fun and little education on the region’s number one renewable resource, salmon. The junior camp kids paid a visit to the counting tower station on the Wood River.

Jamie Westnegee shows salmon camps students who Fish and Game measures and records salmon as they return upstream to spawn.
Credit Matt Martin/KDLG

“Now look at this fish, this is a sockeye salmon.”

Jamie Westnegee holds up the fish to a group of camp kids wearing chest high waders. They’re all standing around a live-box full of sockeye in the Wood River.

“Do you know if it a male or a female?”

“Female!”

Westnegee has been working at counting towers for three years. He gets help from his colleague Kim Powell as he show the kids how Fish and Game tracks salmon as they move upriver to spawn.

“So what we are going to do, hold that right there, we’re going to measure the fish and Kim’s going to pull a scale right off the back.”

He tells the kids the scales of a fish are like a birth certificate. It tells the biologist the age of the salmon and how long it’s been in the ocean.

Westnegee says the day the campers come to the counting tower is an important part of learning about the lifecycle of salmon.

“The education of very sustainable natural resource that we have here and emphasizing to the kids so as they grow older they can pass on these traditions of fishing and education to their young as well.”

Once Westnegee is finished measuring the fish, Powell cuts off a small fin towards the tail of the fish, known as the adipose fin. It’s a marker so the biologists make sure to not test the same fish twice. And that lead a few kids to ask a very scientific question.

Laci Andrew and Theresa Savo show off the adipose fins of some sockeye salmon they bravely tried to eat.
Credit Chloe George

“Can we eat the fin?”

“You have to eat it with me.”

With pinched noses, the two girls threw the fins in their mouths.

And as quickly as the fins were in their mouths, they were spit out on the ground.

This group is the youngest of three different age groups that make up the salmon camps. As the kids get older they learn more and more about salmon, leading to the high school kids working on research projects and cam get college credit for the camp.

“It’s not just a camp where you split fish all day. It’s a camp where you actually get out there and go do stuff, and have fun, and learn about marine biology which is pretty cool.”

Mackenzie Amay, an 11 year old camper from Dillingham, wants to be a marine biologist. She says knows a lot more about salmon than she did before the camp.

“I’ve learned where certain parts of the body are and what their names are. I can recognize all the five different salmon species in Bristol Bay now.”

Karl Clark is one of the camp supervisors and he says that is exactly the purpose of the camps.

“What we like to do with this younger group is to give them an overview of salmon all the way from art projects through the commercial industry, subsistence, sport fish, so we kind of give them little projects on each of them.”

Clark just wants to make sure that the kids get a full picture of ways they can interact with salmon in the region.

“We want to show them how many jobs are out there that they could do with salmon and different projects they could do with fish. So that’s what we look at and try to get them hooked into something they might want to do when they grow up.”

Back out by the live-box in the river, Westnegee and Powell have finished up all their measurements and are ready to help the kids release the fish to continue their upstream journey.

“Just touch it and let it go very gently into the water. And then it goes on its way.”

Little Mckenzie Amay is sold. She says she’ll be coming back to salmon camp every year for as long as she can.

Categories: Alaska News

Budget Cuts May Sideline 3 of Alaska’s 11 Ferries

Fri, 2015-06-26 14:56

The Alaska Marine Highway System plans to lay up three of its 11 ferries for most of the next year.

A draft schedule released Friday shows the Taku out of service all of fiscal year 2016, which begins in July. The fast ferries Chenega and Fairweather will be tied up for most of the fall, winter and spring.

Marine Highway spokesman Jeremy Woodrow says the schedule reflects state budget cuts, as well as vessel repairs.

“The main goal is not to cut off … some will see less frequency.”

But several Southeast communities will lose service for about six weeks.

Angoon, Tenakee, Gustavus, Metlakatla and Pelican will see no ferries from January to mid-February.

The ferry system is taking comments on the draft schedule. Teleconferences are planned for July 22.

Categories: Alaska News

AK: The journey to Bristol Bay’s fishing grounds

Fri, 2015-06-26 14:41

Chet Williams backs the F/V Eagle Claw into Pile Bay, on the eastern shore of Iliamna Lake, June 14, 2015.

Every year dozens of boats travel back to Bristol Bay. Some ride on tenders or cargo ships, and some steam themselves around False Pass, a journey of more than 1000 miles that can be treacherous.

But about 60 boats, most from Homer and Kodiak, take a different route across the Chigmit Mountains on the Alaska Peninsula.

KDLG’s Molly Dischner tagged along with a captain and crew bringing their 32-foot drift boat back to the Bay after a winter of maintenance in Homer.

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The F/V Solstice maneuvers in Pile Bay while rafting up with the F/V Independence and F/V Eagle Claw on June 16, 2015. The three Homer-based fishing vessels traveled the length of Iliamna Lake together as part of the trip from Homer to Bristol Bay.

After a round of hugs to family staying behind, the F/V Eagle Claw leaves Homer at 10 a.m. sharp on a recent Saturday morning.

We’re setting off on a five day journey. First we’ll cross Cook Inlet, then we’ll take a 15 mile road over a mountain pass to Iliamna Lake before navigating down the shallow Kvichak River.

Skipper Louie Flora, who has made the trip three times, says Cook Inlet is one of his favorite parts.

“This is pry the most beautiful spot I think along the trip,” he said.

Jonathan Flora makes a hammock from net bags onboard the F/V Eagle Claw June 17, 2015.

Flora has fished Bristol Bay since he was a kid in the 80s. His dad built the boat in the late 70s. Most years, the boat winters in King Salmon. But this year, he had it back in Homer so he could work on it.

By early evening, we’ve dropped anchor and joined a line of boats between Iniskin Bay and Iliamna Bay, waiting to get towed over the road. Flora’s not in a hurry. There aren’t any reports of big catches yet, just boat work waiting to be done.

A day will pass before the Eagle Claw is hauled out at Williamsport.

Louie’s brother- and fishing partner- Jonathan Flora is onboard as well.

“Yeah, another day of waiting, and roasting,” he said.

The boat is one of half a dozen in line here at the base of the Chigmit Mountains. While we wait we play card games – Jonathan’s least favorite pastime – and canoe to shore for hiking and swimming. I can’t get over how gorgeous our waiting spot is.

Eventually we’re hauled out. I climb in the cab with Ray Williams, who’s driving truck.

Molly: “How long have you been driving this?”

Williams: “That’s a good question that, right off the bat, I can’t answer. I think since ’72.”

This business is in Williams’ blood. His dad started hauling goods along this route 70 years ago, mostly groceries and mail from Cook Inlet to Iliamna Lake. Eventually, fishermen decided to see about getting towed their boats towed over the road.

Boats wait at Williamsport on June 15, 2015 for a ride over the 15-mile road that crosses the Chigmit Mountains.

Williams says he did 120 hauls last year, a record.

It’s an hour and a half up the bumpy, 15 mile dirt road.  We arrive in Pile Bay where the family offers hot showers, clean towels and internet.

“We got a router in the yard here now, and we looked out here the other night about one o clock, man the place was lit up,” Ray said.

Ray’s son Chet backs the Eagle Claw and another Homer boat, the Independence, into Iliamna Lake one at a time. The sun is setting across the lake by the time the boats are docked there.

We spend a full day waiting. Captains talk engines. Crew members enjoy wifi and swimming.

It’s one of the last slow moments before the fishery begins. But Independence crew member James O’Connor, says it’s hard to enjoy it.

“Well, it’s kind of tough to know that you’re going to start working soon, just kinda anxious I guess a little bit,” O’Connor said. “It’s kinda a weird medium between hanging out but getting ready also.”

The F/V Solstice travels down the Kvichak River on June 17, 2015.

Tuesday morning, the Eagle Claw rafts up with the Independence and another drifter for the 70-mile trip across Iliamna Lake.

We drop anchor late that evening just above the Kvichak River, near Iliamna.

The next morning, Louie points the boat down the Kvichak for the only white knuckle part of the trip.

A setnetter I meet in Pile Bay named Bryce tells me about the infamous Kvichak braids.

Bruce: “And sometimes you have to get out and push.”

Molly: “Did that happen last year?”

Bruce: “Yeah.”

Molly: “Yikes.”

Bruce: “Just one spot though.”

But like most boats, we won’t brave the braids alone.

Blueberry Island Lodge owner George Riddles brings his skiff alongside the F/V Eagle Claw June 17, 2015, before hopping on board to help gillnetters navigate the Kvichak River braids.

Our guide, George Riddles, jumps aboard before we reach the Kvichak’s braids. He takes over navigation.

“Right around the corner to the right, we’re going to give the corner a little bit of respect and then come in pretty tight on the bank,” Riddles said.

The shallowest reading is about 1.4 feet. The boats make it through with issue, but we see others traveling that morning that aren’t so lucky.

Then it’s another eight hours or so down the river.

The Kvichak River turns from clear green-blue to muddy.

As we near the mouth of the river, we travel past a shut-down cannery, and active setnet sites.

Eventually, we spot a line of boats on the horizon. The Kvichak tender line. We’re back in Bristol Bay.

Categories: Alaska News

49 Voices: Will Ross from Anchorage

Fri, 2015-06-26 14:25

This week, we’re hearing from Will Ross, an Anchorage resident who was born and raised in Alaska. From Mount Marathon to Johnson Pass, he’s constantly pushing himself in the state’s great outdoors.

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Categories: Alaska News

Alaska: On the Cusp of Recession?

Fri, 2015-06-26 12:00

With oil prices stuck in the gutter, Alaska is staring down the possibility of economic recession. Combine that with declining federal dollars and jobs, military reductions and a weakened fishing industry and it all adds up to a perfect storm. It’s an uncomfortable question: what will our economy look like without a booming oil sector?

HOST: Lori Townsend

GUESTS:

  • Gregg Erickson, economist, Erickson & Associates
  • Callers statewide

PARTICIPATE:

  • Post your comment before, during or after the live broadcast (comments may be read on air).
  • Send e-mail to talk [at] alaskapublic [dot] org (comments may be read on air)
  • Call 550-8422 in Anchorage or 1-800-478-8255 if you’re outside Anchorage during the live broadcast

LIVE Broadcast: Tuesday, June 30, 2015 at 10:00 a.m. on APRN stations statewide.

SUBSCRIBE: Get Talk of Alaska updates automatically by e-mailRSS or podcast.

TALK OF ALASKA ARCHIVE

mentary tells the story of the race through the perspective of several Mount Marathon legends.

Categories: Alaska News

Senator Calls On Governor To Expand Medicaid

Fri, 2015-06-26 11:12

A prominent Democrat in the state Senate is calling on Governor Bill Walker to expand Medicaid in Alaska without approval from the legislature. Anchorage Senator Bill Wielechowski says now that the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld insurance subsidies in Alaska there is no reason for the governor not to expand Medicaid.

“It’s time for the governor to exercise leadership and just do it. We’ve got legal opinions saying he can do that and I think he should do that. I think that’s where Alaskans are, and that’s what Alaskans want,” he said.

According to two separate legal opinions written in May, Walker likely has the authority to expand Medicaid without legislative approval.

During this year’s legislative session and the special sessions that followed, Republican lawmakers blocked Medicaid expansion from coming to a floor vote. In May, the House Finance Committee declined to advance the Medicaid expansion bill, saying the state needed to reform Medicaid before expanding the program.

Polls show a majority of Alaskans support expansion. Wielechowski says when he met with Walker privately during the session he asked the governor to make the decision on his own.

“During session I had suggested to him that we would probably never run out of excuses from those who oppose it not to do it,” he said. “I felt that at some time he was going to have to do it on his own and so I did express that to him.”

Through a spokesperson, Governor Walker declined to discuss the issue. When he took office, Walker said Medicaid expansion was one of his top priorities.

This story is part of a reporting partnership between APRN, NPR and Kasier Health News.

Categories: Alaska News

Tribe boycotts FedEx over ‘Redskins’ support

Fri, 2015-06-26 10:27

Central Council Tlingit Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska is boycotting FedEx.

The Juneau-based tribal organization announced Thursday that it has sent notice to all employees to stop using FedEx services, citing the national delivery company’s sponsorship of the Washington Redskins football team.

In a news release, Central Council says FedEx is a top sponsor of the football team, and economic pressure might encourage the delivery service to reconsider financial support of the Washington, D.C.-based team.

The issue is the team’s name. The word “redskins” dates back to colonial times, and refers to Native Americans. It is considered offensive by many with Native heritage.

Tlingit Haida Central Council President Richard Peterson says he understands that the team name has a long history.

“There’s debate even among Native Americans on whether it’s derogatory,” he said. “But I think most people feel like the name Redskins is derivative of racial slurs against Native Americans.”

According to the Central Council, other tribes and tribal groups also are boycotting FedEx, including the Native American Rights Fund and National Congress of American Indians.

Central Council Tlingit Haida is a federally recognized tribe with a membership of about 30,000, and Peterson says he hopes the membership will join tribal employees in the boycott.

“Who better to take a stand and to exercise our concerns and voice that through our spending?” he said. “Just saying, we’re not going to spend our dollars with folks that are going to be supportive of what we consider racism.”

Peterson stressed that this move isn’t an attack on FedEx or the Washington Redskins.

“We would just ask that they really take a look at what they’re doing,” he said. “If I’m doing anything that has a negative impact on people, I would certainly take a look at that and do some self-examination. I’d hope that the ownership of the Redskins would do that, and the corporate sponsors that endorse them would realize, it’s time to take down our Confederate flag, so to speak.”

A message sent to FedEx public relations resulted in a written email statement. It says “FedEx has closely followed the dialogue and difference of opinion regarding the Washington Redskins team name, but we continue to direct questions about the name to the franchise owner.”

Categories: Alaska News

3 Alaska Native corporations form business alliance

Fri, 2015-06-26 10:14

Three Alaska Native regional corporations whose business interests and lands would be affected by oil and gas and shipping expansions in the arctic are joining together in a formal partnership.

The Alaska Dispatch News reports that Arctic Slope Regional Corp., NANA Regional Corp. and Bering Straits Native Corp., all of whose lands are within or near the Arctic Circle, announced on Thursday the creation of the Inuit Arctic Business Alliance.

Bering Straits Native Corp spokesman Matt Ganley says the alliance will work at the state and national levels to ensure that arctic enterprises benefit communities in the area.

The alliance board, headed by ASRC president and CEO Rex Rock, has three representatives from each corporation. It met in Barrow this week and will meet in Nome next year.

Categories: Alaska News

Sealaska annual meeting Saturday, election results due

Fri, 2015-06-26 10:13

Sealaska shareholders meet Saturday in Juneau for their annual meeting.

The regional Native corporation has about 22,000 shareholders with roots in Southeast Alaska. Many live outside the region.

Sealaska Plaza, the corporation’s headquarters.

Board election results will be announced at the meeting, which starts at 9:30 a.m. in the capital city’s Centennial Hall. Shareholders will also be able to attend via a webcast.

Board candidates will have a chance to speak, though most shareholders have already voted. Five independent candidates are challenging the same number of incumbents. Sealaska’s financial performance is a major issue.

No resolutions are on this year’s ballot. Past years have seen votes on term limits, shareholders’ descendants’ stock and discretionary voting.

Incumbents on the board slate are Juneau’s Joe Nelson and Barbara Cadiente, Angoon’s Albert Kookesh, Haines’ Bill Thomas and Washington state’s Tate London.

The independent candidates are Juneau’s Karen Taug and Brad Fluetsch, New Mexico’s Ray Austin, California’s Catherine Edwards and Yakutat’s Ralph Wolfe.

No opposition slate formed this year. Four independents ran as a group in 2014.

Categories: Alaska News

Hip-hop bringing positive change to Anchorage

Fri, 2015-06-26 08:00

Hip hop is more than just music and dance. It’s a culture. And for some people in Alaska it’s a way to bring positive change to the community. Today, we are joined by George Martinez with Global Block. His organization coordinated a hip-hop youth summit earlier this year and is opening an urban arts center in the Northway Mall in Anchorage.  Also joining us is Gabe Gray-Harvey, co-owner of Underground Dance Studio.

HOST: Anne Hillman

GUESTS:

  • George Martinez, Global Block
  • Gabe Gray-Harvey, co-owner, Underground Dance Studio

KSKA (FM 91.1) BROADCAST: Friday, June 26 at 2:00 p.m. and Saturday, June 27 at 6:00 p.m.

Alaska Public Television BROADCAST: Friday, June 26 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, June 27 at 4:30 p.m.

Categories: Alaska News

Supreme Court Declares Same-Sex Marriage Legal In All 50 States

Fri, 2015-06-26 07:37

States cannot keep same-sex couples from marrying and must recognize their unions, the Supreme Court says in a ruling that for months has been the focus of speculation. The decision was 5-4.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, seen as a pivotal swing vote in the case, wrote the majority opinion. All four justices who voted against the ruling wrote their own dissenting opinions: Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.

The opinion includes more than 100 pages; we’ve embedded it near the bottom of this post.

Update at 11:15 a.m. ET: ‘Like A Thunderbolt,’ Obama Says

Speaking at the White House, President Obama praises the Supreme Court’s ruling, saying it arrived “like a thunderbolt” after a series of back-and-forth battles over same-sex marriage.

Obama says the ruling “will strengthen all of our communities” by offering dignity and equal status to all same-sex couples and their families.

The president calls the ruling “a victory for America.”

Update at 10:37 a.m. ET: More On The Ruling, And Obama’s Reaction

“The ancient origins of marriage confirm its centrality, but it has not stood in isolation from developments in law and society,” Kennedy wrote. His opinion sketches a history of how ideas of marriage have evolved along with the changing roles and legal status of women.

Comparing that evolution to society’s views of gays and lesbians, Kennedy noted that for years, “a truthful declaration by same-sex couples of what was in their hearts had to remain unspoken.”

“The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times,” Kennedy wrote after recounting the legal struggles faced by same-sex partners.

The Supreme Court said that the right to marry is fundamental — and Kennedy wrote that under the 14th Amendment’s protections, “couples of the same-sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty.”

In his dissent, Roberts wrote that the court had taken an “extraordinary step” in deciding not to allow states to decide the issue for themselves, saying that the Constitution does not define marriage.

Calling the ruling “deeply disheartening,” Roberts said that those on the winning side of the issue should celebrate a victory — “But do not celebrate the Constitution,” he wrote. “It had nothing to do with it.”

Welcoming the news on Twitter, President Obama wrote, “Today is a big step in our march toward equality. Gay and lesbian couples now have the right to marry, just like anyone else. #LoveWins.”

Our original post continues:

The justices ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges, which is linked to three other same-sex marriage cases that rose up through the court system. Together, they involve a dozen couples who challenged same-sex marriage bans in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee — the only states with bans on marriage between gay and lesbian couples that had been sustained by a federal appeals court.

Today’s ruling overturned that decision by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. As the Supreme Court’s summary states, “The history of marriage is one of both continuity and change.”

The justices had been asked to decide whether the 14th Amendment requires states to a) license same-sex marriages and b) recognize such unions that were made in other states.

The 14th Amendment, we’ll remind you, was ratified shortly after the Civil War. It has to do with U.S. citizenship — and with providing equal protection for all citizens.

Before Friday’s ruling, gay marriage had already been made legal in 37 states — by either legislative or voter action or by federal courts that overturned state’ bans.

As NPR’s Nina Totenberg reported when the Supreme Court heard the current case back in April, conservative justices had pointed questions for the attorneys:

“Justice Scalia asked whether ministers would be able to refuse to marry two gay men. The answer was that it has to be worked out under state laws. He said, but that could happen — it could happen that a minister would be forced to marry two gay men, in violation of his beliefs.

“Justice Alito asked, well then why not marry four gay men together? Why just two?”

The ruling announced Friday adds new definition to an issue that has remained controversial even as an increasing number of Americans say they support equal marriage rights for same-sex couples. A recent Gallup poll found that 60 percent of Americans — an all-time high — support extending the same rights and privileges to same-sex marriages as traditional ones.

That figure included “37 percent of Republicans, 64 percent of independents, and 76 percent of Democrats,” as we reported last month. And it included all age groups except for one: those 65 and over.

The court noted the change in thinking, stating:

“Well into the 20th century, many States condemned same-sex intimacy as immoral, and homosexuality was treated as an illness. Later in the century, cultural and political developments allowed same-sex couples to lead more open and public lives. Extensive public and private dialogue followed, along with shifts in public attitudes. Questions about the legal treatment of gays and lesbians soon reached the courts, where they could be discussed in the formal discourse of the law.”

For supporters of same-sex marriage, today’s ruling comes as a long-awaited bookend to the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling that struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act and required the U.S. government to provide the same benefits to both gay and heterosexual couples.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
Categories: Alaska News

9 Killed in Flightseeing Crash Near Ketchikan

Thu, 2015-06-25 22:17

Nine people died Thursday afternoon when the DeHavilland Otter floatplane they were traveling in went down near Ella Lake in Misty Fiords National Monument near Ketchikan.

The Promech Air floatplane was reported overdue at about 2 p.m. While rescue crews were getting organized, a Temsco helicopter located the plane on the side of a cliff.

Alaska State Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters says the plane was about 800 feet above the lake, against a rock face. She says rescue efforts were challenging.

“It’s a very difficult location. Terrain is exceedingly steep, it’s essentially a granite rock face. So, there are definitely some challenges. Due to fears of triggering some kind of rock slide, we were attempting to have helicopters lower people down to look inside the wreckage to see what the situation was.”

Peters says rescue crews were able to reach the crash site at about 6 p.m., and confirmed that everyone on board had been killed. As of Thursday night, crews were pulled from the scene. Weather conditions made recovery efforts unsafe.

“So, we’re just going to be assessing the situation tomorrow, seeing what resources are available, and doing our best to body recoveries, to let these people go home.”

Peters praised the efforts of the Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad.

“It really does come down to our local, trained volunteers that makes these things ultimately a success. And we will be relying on them to help us with the body recovery efforts. Their experience and their willingness to help us, is just above and beyond.”

The identities of the pilot and eight passengers won’t be released until next of kin have all been notified.

The passengers all were from the Holland America Cruise Lines ship Westerdam, which stopped in Ketchikan during a seven-day tour of the Inside Passage. A statement from the cruise line expresses condolences to the families and friends of those killed.

Peters says Troopers will be investigating the crash, in partnership with the National Transportation Safety Board.

Promech is a Ketchikan-based company that offers flightseeing tours and charters. An employee who answered the phone at Promech says the company is not commenting at this time.

Categories: Alaska News

Sparc! Gives Artists A Way to Communicate When They May Otherwise Be Silent

Thu, 2015-06-25 18:16

Brandon Fernandez draws at the Sparc! studio. Photo courtesy of Sparc!

Strolling down D Street in downtown Anchorage, the Sparc! studio blends in with the line of shops and galleries. But behind the displays of vivid paintings and sculptures, artists are learning more than just creative expression.

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Brandon Fernandez presses felting needles into his newest piece of art.

“This is the green, white, brown, red, and blue,” he says, pointing to the blocks of color on the fuzzy material. He picked them because he liked them.

Fernandez moved to Alaska 21 years ago, but Hawaii is still his home. His connection shines through the colors in his work, the bright blue skies and palm trees in his tile and glass mosaic, and the pictures of trees in his photography portfolio.

Debra Burt shows off her latest collage. Hillman/KSKA

Nearby, Debra Burt, known as DBurt, shows off her newest work, a massive collage. She’s been working on the two-foot wide piece for about a month and a half, pasting together tiny bits of paper and images of faces cut from magazines to create two people standing together outside. She started taking art classes from The Arc when she was just a teenager. Twenty years later, she’s still painting.

Like most artists, her work is a way to communicate. Sparc! program director Lacie Stewing says for some of the artists at the studio, it’s one of the only ways. Sparc! is more than an art space; it’s a service for people who experience intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“Art helps them communicate,” she explains. “We work with people who are non-verbal. We work with people who can’t use all of their extremities. We work with people who maybe can’t connect on a level that I take for granted. And so art gives them a way to express what they’re feeling.”

Stewing says the classes range from painting and drawing to stained glass and printmaking. But they go beyond just art. The lessons also focus on helping the students learn how to interact in safe and healthy ways. Each person has different goals for development. Stewing says that requires special training for her teachers.

Andre Hogg shows off note cards with his paintings. Photo courtesy of Sparc!

“You have to be a little more patient and non-verbally see what’s going on with the class. And if someone is getting kind of worked up, there can be an array of things happening. Maybe the music is too loud or the person next to them, they don’t like, or something. And those things manifest themselves different ways besides just ‘hey, can you turn the music down?’ because maybe you can’t speak.”

But mostly, her teachers are professional artists who are guiding other professional artists. For Stewing, it’s important that teachers understand the process and struggles of creating high quality art so they can pass that on to the students who have the same goals. Students like Andre Hogg.

Some of Hogg’s many drawings of cats on display in the gallery. Photo courtesy of Sparc!

Hogg doesn’t talk much, but he draws and paints prolifically. He opens a drawer and invites me to look inside. It’s filled with stacks and stacks of brightly colored paintings and drawings of cats with a few dogs and dinosaurs thrown in. Like the teachers around him, he’s had solo exhibits and sold his work around the community. He’s just another artist in another gallery in downtown Anchorage.

Categories: Alaska News

Plane With 9 On Board Crashes in Misty Fjords

Thu, 2015-06-25 17:40

A Promech float plane with nine people on board apparently went down near Ella Lake in Misty Fiords National Monument. The plane was reported overdue this afternoon, according to U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Kelly Parker.

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A Promech float plane with nine people on board apparently went down near Ella Lake in Misty Fiords National Monument. The plane was reported overdue this afternoon, according to U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Kelly Parker.

The Coast Guard received a request from Promech Air to assist in a search for an overdue aircraft. The Coast Guard was in the process of launching a helicopter from Air Station Sitka and a vessel from Station Ketchikan, when a Temsco Helicopter crew located the aircraft on the cliffside of Ella Lake. At this time, Alaska State Troopers are coordinating the response at the site with the Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad.”

Alaska State Troopers Spokeswoman Megan Peters says in a written statement that the plane was about 800 feet above the lake, against a rock face. The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board have been advised of the accident.

There was no information at deadline on the condition of the people on board. Names of the eight passengers and one pilot were not available.

KVRS representatives were unavailable for comment, and an employee who answered the phone at Promech says the company is not commenting at this time.

Promech is a Ketchikan-based company that offers flightseeing tours and charters.

This is a breaking news story, check back for updates.

Categories: Alaska News

‘Northern Edge’ Gets A Mixed Welcome In Alaska

Thu, 2015-06-25 17:39

For the last week and a half, the military has been conducting Northern Edge, the largest training exercise regularly held in Alaska.

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About 6,000 troops from all four branches of the military are in Anchorage and the Gulf of Alaska. Lieutenant Colonel Tim Bobinski says the price tag, around $11 million, goes towards getting soldiers experience with vital equipment in unfamiliar terrain.

“It sounds like a lot of people and a lot of assets to make that effort, but it’s truly worthwhile. And in a lot of ways it’s a bargain to make sure we’re prepared for anything we’re called upon to do.”

The exercise normally happens every two years, but was canceled in 2013 due to budget sequestration. That time gap is part of the reason critics say communication from the military has been inadequate, leading to protests in several southcentral communities last month.

Conservation biologist Rick Steiner says he started requesting information about the exercise in April, but didn’t get it until going through a Freedom of Information Act request.

“The miscommunication on Northern Edge has been extraordinary. And it’s caused a lot of concerns, unnecessary and some necessary, in coastal communities. So I think things just slip through the cracks. But my first query was to the Navy and they were not extremely forthcoming with exactly what was planned–which we finally determined through the FOIA process.”

Part of the controversy stemmed from confusion over environmental documents from 2011, which allow the Navy to use large amounts of ordinance in the Gulf of Alaska. After the protests, Capt. Anastasia Wasem says officials visited Homer, Kodiak and Cordova to explain the actual exercises would involve only a small amount of the munitions allowed.

“I think most people, once they heard what we were actually doing in Northern Edge verses what it stated was allowable in the EIS I think it did lessen their concerns a lot, it definitely did help, and especially having someone there in person.”

Wasem says community dialogues will begin earlier for Northern Edge 2017.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: Thursday, June 25, 2015

Thu, 2015-06-25 17:38

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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Plane With 9 On Board Crashes in Misty Fjords

Leila Kheiry, KRBD – Ketchikan

A Promech float plane with nine people on board apparently crashed near Ella Lake in Misty Fiords National Monument outside of Ketchikan. U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Kelly Parker says the plane was reported overdue this afternoon.

‘Northern Edge’ Military Exercise Returns to Alaska After 4-Year Hiatus

Zachariah Hughes, KSKA – Anchorage

For the last week and a half, the military has been conducting Northern Edge, the largest training exercise held in Alaska. About 6,000 troops from all branches of the military are in Anchorage and the Gulf of Alaska.

State Applauds Supreme Court Ruling on Subsidies

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington, D.C.
Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage

More than 16,000 Alaskans will keep their health insurance subsidies under a ruling issued Thursday by the United States Supreme Court. The Court ruled 6 to 3 in favor of the argument that the Affordable Care Act allows residents in states like Alaska to access federal subsidies on healthcare.gov.

E. Coli Detected in Haines’ Water Supply

Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau

Haines residents are being told to boil their drinking water after E. coli was found in the municipal water system.

Partial Evacuations Underway in Aniak and Chuathbaluk

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

Fires are growing quickly in the middle Kuskokwim. The North Aniak fire has reached the river below Aniak, threatening the Crow Village area.

Sled Dogs Safe, But Musher Stays To Protect Fire-Threatened Homestead

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

Yukon Quest champion Brent Sass remains at his wildfire-threatened compound in Eureka, but his dogs are safe in Fairbanks.

Soldotna Lodge Opens Doors to Fire Victims 2 Years Running

Shady Grove Oliver, KBBI – Homer

The Card Street fire near Sterling is diminishing and many evacuees are returning to their homes this week. Across the central peninsula, hotels and restaurants that helped with relief efforts are getting back to business as usual. But for one hotel in Soldotna, this isn’t the first time they’ve stepped up and the community now knows where to turn for help, year after year.

Ready.. Set… Sparc!

Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage

Strolling down D Street in downtown Anchorage, the Sparc! studio blends in with the line of shops and galleries. But behind the displays of vivid paintings and sculptures, artists are learning more than just creative expression.

Historic Juneau Park Becomes an Oasis for Alaska Artists

Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau

More than six decades later, the historic cabin is being used as an oasis for Alaska artists.

 

Categories: Alaska News

Soldotna Lodge Opens Doors to Fire Victims 2 Years Running

Thu, 2015-06-25 17:35

The Card Street fire near Sterling is diminishing and many evacuees are returning to their homes this week. Across the central peninsula, hotels and restaurants that helped with relief efforts are getting back to business as usual. But for one hotel in Soldotna, this isn’t the first time they’ve stepped up and the community now knows where to turn for help, year after year.

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Hooligan’s Lodging and Saloon is an unassuming, vaguely frontier-themed hotel off the Sterling Highway in Soldotna.

Frances DeLisle is sitting in the middle of a puffy couch in the lobby. She’s tall and thin and is being leaned on by an enormous, panting, scruffy black dog.

“This guy here is my service dog. His name is Maximoose. He’s a labradoodle with a bad hair day,” says DeLisle.

Normally, you’d find DeLisle and Maximoose in their converted schoolbus house in Sterling.

But for the time being, she’s calling Hooligan’s home. She’s one of more than a dozen people who found shelter here after the Card Street fire evacuations began.

She says she got the notice at 2 am. She grabbed all of Moose’s toys and food and her own medications.

“It was funny because I was packing stuff up and throwing it out the backdoor of the bus and I couldn’t believe it, I was going I gotta get my mom’s ashes and I just stopped for a minute and thought, that’s ridiculous,” says DeLisle. “Why do you get ashes to leave something that’s going to turn to ashes. But I just couldn’t leave her behind. But, yep. That’s the most important things in my life.”

She spent the first night at the emergency shelter at the Sterling Community Center. It was there that they heard about free rooms at Hooligan’s for evacuees.

“It was nice to know because I’m alone and that’s a scary feeling when something like this happens,” says DeLisle.

April Strand is the hotel manager. She’s been working here for almost 10 years and credits owner Molly Poland with the idea to open it up as an emergency shelter.

“She’s got a really big heart. I mean, I couldn’t ask for a better boss. She’s just got a really big heart,” says Strand. “She tries really hard to help everybody not just here but in our community. She’s awesome for the fact that if you look at all this woman does. She’s a home and hotel owner, raising a family, has a bar, has a restaurant, she supports motocross, her kids in their band. She does a lot of amazing things that I don’t think she gets enough credit for.”

Poland says she was raised to think of others.

“It’s such a blessing to me that I can help people when they need help,” says Poland.

Last year, she took in more than a hundred evacuees and put them up, free of charge, for days. She gave them meal vouchers for her restaurant and set up a collection point in her lobby for shampoo, deodorant, toothbrushes, books, kids’ toys, pet food.

She makes it a point to welcome pets.

“And I get it, they’re your family. So, you can’t leave your family behind. You have to bring your family with you when you go,” says Poland.

That led to some unexpected situations last year, including a pregnant dog who birthed a litter the day after she arrived and a litter of kittens.

“Someone had a goat and I was like no, that’s where I draw the line. The goat can hang out outside your room but the goat’s not going inside your room,” says Poland.

And it wasn’t easy. She says there were some damages that came along with the animals. She had to replace some carpets, shampoo many others, fix scratches on the walls.

This year, she lost quite a bit of potential income. Guests like DeLisle know what she’s giving up.

“This is peak season. She’s right here by the river. I mean, she could be making a lot of money off of our rooms and she’s letting us have them for free. And I think that’s just an amazing blessing for us. She’s got a heart of gold and I know god is going to watch over her and really help her for her helping us.”

Poland says she lets the little things go, because helping her community in times of trial is the most important thing and she says, maybe, it’s meant to be.

She’s been trying to sell Hooligan’s for years and hasn’t been able to. So, she says, maybe this is just what she’s supposed to do.

And she’ll do it again if there’s a need, though she and all of her guests hope she won’t have to.

Categories: Alaska News

Historic Juneau park becomes an oasis for Alaska artists

Thu, 2015-06-25 17:32

Juneau artist Constance Baltuck paints in the rocky shoreline of Lynn Canal. The legs of her easel are getting wet from the incoming tide. On the canvas, details emerge from the colors.

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Baltuck says she’ll leave an easel for other artists this summer. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

“This is the barnacles and the kelp and the mussels, they’re just so beautiful the way they interact and cling to the rocks,” Baltuck says.

Baltuck is the first artist of a pilot program at the cabin run by Alaska State Parks. Located 26 miles from downtown Juneau, the cabin is where former territorial Gov. Ernest Gruening wrote the book “The State of Alaska,” making a case for statehood several years before it would happen. The cabin started out as a summer getaway for the family and later became a year-round residence. More than six decades later, the historic cabin is now used as a retreat for Alaska artists.

The Gruenings moved to Juneau in 1939. The cabin, known by the family as Eaglerock, was built in 1947. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

Park Superintendent Mike Eberhardt says the Ernest Gruening State Historic Park received $30,000 to run an artist-in-residence program for two years. The artists are required to hold a community workshop and contribute a piece of art to the park. Eberhardt hopes the program will generate more interest in the site.

“Whatever art comes out of there, whether it be written or music or paintings, using that to publicize the state park system and with notoriety hopefully comes additional funding, comes additional support,” Eberhardt says.

Eight artists from across the state applied for the residency and all were admitted for this startup year. Each will stay in the cabin for up to two weeks through September.

For Baltuck, the park has been one inspiration after another.

“This place is just alive, everywhere you look, there’s something flowering, jumping, creeping around in the woods, flying past the window,” Baltuck says.

And she’s trying to capture as much of it as possible. Baltuck describes it as gathering starts — the beginnings of paintings she’ll finish later.

Inside the cabin, unfinished works are laid on a bench or leaned against walls. She counts how many there are out loud.

“Eleven this first week, plus I’m doing a series of little wildflower drawings,” Baltuck says. “This is supercharged for me. I’m going to have to go back to town and get more canvas because I’ve just about used up what I brought that I thought would last the whole 15 days.”

Baltuck has done other artist residencies. She’s been in the middle of the desert at Arizona’s Petrified Forest National Park, in sand dunes above the Arctic Circle in Alaska’s Kobuk Valley National Park and once spent three months in Norway. Baltuck says each has shown her windows into different lives.

As the tide comes in, Baltuck gathers her art supplies. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

For this residency, when she’s not on the rocks painting or at the easel inside the cabin, she’s on the deck sipping coffee. She watches people fishing and “the eagles,” Baltuck says. “They’re sometimes right up in the trees right over here and the evening is when they swoop back and forth, and I can see whales. And it’s always changing, whether it’s a beautiful sunset or just the clouds, how deep they settle on the mountains.”

More than once, Baltuck calls the residency a gift – a gift of no distractions, no internet, no phone ringing, nobody waiting on you. It’s also a gift of time.

“It’s so neat to settle into an experience of observing nature for hours, just looking at the same scene for hours and just knowing you have that time. There’s no rushing out here,” Baltuck says.

The only concern, she says, is the tide. When the water comes up by your feet, it’s time to move.

Baltuck’s work during the residency depict scenes of the park. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

Categories: Alaska News

Sled Dogs Safe, But Musher Stays To Protect Fire-Threatened Homestead

Thu, 2015-06-25 15:36

Silver, the lone dog left with Brent Sass in Eureka.
CREDIT BRENT SASS / WILD AND FREE MUSHING

The Sockeye Fire caused evacuation of hundreds of sled dogs from Willow area kennels earlier this month, and now new fires have forced movement of huskies from a remote kennel north of Fairbanks.

Yukon Quest champion Brent Sass remains at his wildfire-threatened compound in Eureka, but his dogs are safe in Fairbanks. The Baker and North Fork wildfires are burning in the Eureka area,  west of the Elliot Highway between mileposts 131 and 137. Dog handler Tim Muto says Sass was away working Tuesday as flames began advancing, and he had to scramble to get dog boxes on trucks and move the animals.

Muto says the group of dogs trucked to a property Sass has in the Goldstream Valley includes several young puppies.

Muto says he’s impressed with how all the dogs handled the hectic trip.

Muto says the dogs have settled in well in Fairbanks.  He says he has no phone connection with Sass in Eureka, but suspects he’s working to fire prep the property, Muto says the Eureka property has a creek and pond on site that can aid in firefighting. He adds that as of yesterday, neighbors and fellow mushers Rick and Kelly Swenson planned to stay put in Eureka with about 20 dogs.

Categories: Alaska News

E. Coli Detected in Haines’ Water Supply

Thu, 2015-06-25 15:10

Haines residents are being told to boil their drinking water after E. coli was found in the municipal water system.

Local officials issued the notice Wednesday after a routine test turned up the bacteria.

Haines Borough Manager David Sosa says officials think the contamination might come from a spring that feeds into the water system.

“There could be a septic system that’s leaking into it. There are a number of other options it could be. And we want to make sure we hit the right answer on this.”

He says the community’s main water source is a lake south of town. If tests show it’s clean, it can supply the whole community, without the spring-fed system.

“What we can do is cut off the water from that system, introduce more chlorine into the system, purge the entire system and then fill the system up. That would take time but that’s the safest and best action we can take  for the community.”

Residents are being told to boil their water for two minutes, which will kill off the bacteria. Some are also using bottled water.

E. coli can cause diarrhea, cramps and vomiting. Young children, older people and those with weak immune systems can experience kidney failure.

Borough Manager Sosa says informational fliers were posted around Haines and delivered door-to-door. He also informed the local clinic.

“I went over to SEARHC and I spoke with the administrator there and with the staff so I could advise them of the situation so they could be prepared to look for potential symptoms that might be associated with this.”

Officials are unsure how long it will take to drop the boil-water notice. But it could easily last through the weekend.

Categories: Alaska News

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