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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: 18 min 54 sec ago

Wildfire season in Alaska

Fri, 2015-06-12 12:00

Funny River fire rages in the Kenai Keys area of the Kenai Peninsula May 25, 2014

It’s wildfire season in Alaska and this year more than 50,000 acres have already burned. Is this the new normal? It’s been a hot and dry spring and climate conditions are changing. Even the tundra is burning. How will these changes impact wildfires and how we fight them?

HOST: Anne Hillman

GUESTS:

  • Tom Kurth, state fire program manager, Alaska Division of Forestry
  • Rick Thoman, climate scientist, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • 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 16, 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

Categories: Alaska News

AK: Ice Dance

Fri, 2015-06-12 11:53

New York Dancer and Choreographer Jody Sperling had a rare opportunity last year. She was “artist in residence” aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Healy while it was on a research mission in the Arctic. Alone on vast ice floes, she danced while no one watched. APRN’s Liz Ruskin reports on her experience, and what it’s become.

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Before she left New York, Sperling was worried about traction.

“And I had in my head that it would be like an ice skating rink, like slick,” she said. “So I got boots that had a real tread on them but they weren’t very high. But what I discovered the first time I went out is that the snow is kind of deep. The snow went right over, into my feet!”

Sperling made do. Twelve times during the six-week mission, she descended the Healy’s gangplank, and joined the teams of scientists on the ice.

“And while they were doing their research in a particular area,” she said. “I would have an area that was dedicated for dance, and I could do my research.”

She usually wore little more than a body suit and those low-top boots. Sometimes she wore a costume made of yards and yards of white silk, printed with a design suggesting ice floes. In videos she shot of herself during the voyage, you can see Sperling twirling and fluttering on the biggest, barest stage she’ll ever find. Last month, though, she was at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History on a more traditional stage.

With five dancers on deck at the Baird Auditorium, she worked on the lighting the afternoon before a performance. It was part of an Arctic festival the museum hosted.

“It can go from this more icy look to a more watery look …. And it can also start to be a little more intense.”

(Photo courtesy Jody Sperling)

Some of the dancers wore extra long silk robes, using sticks to control the distant reaches, like an extension of their wing span. Sperling says it’s the silk that’s her medium. She projects light and video on it. This isn’t her first dance project about natural phenomena. A scientist at MIT was drawn to a piece she did about turbulence. He later introduced her to another scientist who was selecting people for the Healy voyage to the Arctic. The main mission was to follow up on the discovery of a massive plankton bloom. They also wanted artists for public outreach about climate science. Sperling says she was already interested in the Arctic and climate change, but the offer caught her off-guard.

“When he first invited me – it was 43-day mission in the Arctic, and at that time my daughter was two and half,” Sperling said. “And I literally turned white, as white as snow, when he told me because I had these two conflicting urges: I have to go, I want to go, I want to go. And the other one was I can’t, I can’t be away for that long.

She declined at first – then reconsidered. So in May of last year, she flew to Dutch Harbor, caught the Healy and sailed to the Chukchi Sea, off Alaska’s northwest coast.

“Sometimes we had to break ice and it would be the most amazing sound when you’d be in the ship and you’d be going through the ice and you’d hear grhrhrhrhrh, you know, cracking through the ice. I love that,” she said.

After her Arctic experience, Sperling knew she wanted the sounds of sea ice for the performance. That led her to Matthew Burtner, a musician who considers snow and ice his instrument. Sperling quickly figured out she didn’t just want to buy a few of his recordings. She was hesitant to ask him, but Burtner says when you play a rare instrument, gigs don’t come along often.

“So if you make music out of ice and snow and someone call you up and says ‘I want to do a piece about ice and snow, would you be interested in collaborating?’” Burtner said. “Well yeah, of course! This is the best!”

Burtner spent part of his childhood in Nuiqsut, where his parents were teachers. He lives in Virginia now, and returns to Alaska annually to collect ice audio.

For Sperling’s project, Burtner says his composition uses data tracking the change in the Arctic ice extent over 16 years. He plays that as a 16-beat sequence, over real-time ice sounds. Burtner says listeners don’t necessarily know what they’re hearing.

“The idea is it should work as music but it has this other kind of secret game hidden inside it,” he said. “And if you discover it, than it works on another level, as well.”

Sperling also compresses time in her dance, showing what’s normally too slow to see. She says the warming climate is in effect doing the same thing, because as ice thins it becomes more dynamic, speeding up change across the Arctic. Burtner says that change defines our era, and his art.

“Like I think our lifetime is the time of ice melting. That we are in the time of ice melting,” he said. “Maybe when I was born there was lots of ice, and maybe when I die there won’t be any ice. That somehow, it’s like a life work.”

The Smithsonian show was a bit of a preview. Their work, called “Bringing the Arctic Home” premieres in New York this month.

Categories: Alaska News

NOAA investigating Steller sea lion deaths near Cordova

Fri, 2015-06-12 11:28

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is investigating the deaths of several Steller sea lions southwest of Cordova.

(L-R) Kate Savage (NOAA), Noah Meisenheimer (NOAA), Lt. Matthew Keiper (US Coast Guard), and Sadie Wright (NOAA) collect samples from a dead Steller sea lion near Cordova, Alaska. Credit: NOAA

Julie Speegle, spokesperson for NOAA Fisheries, Alaska region, says 15 dead sea lions were discovered in the area on June 1.

“Three to five of them had wounds that our biologists could definitely say were human-caused wounds,” Speegle said. “So that indicates that these Steller sea lions had been deliberately killed.”

Killing sea lions violates the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which only allows limited exceptions for subsistence hunting by Alaska Natives

These particular animals were from the western stock of Steller sea lions, which are also listed under the Endangered Species Act.

NOAA law enforcement is looking for information from anyone with details about the event…and are offering an award up to $2,500 dollars for information leading to a conviction.

Categories: Alaska News

Pollock B season opens in Aleutians, Eastern Bering Sea region

Fri, 2015-06-12 10:14

Pollock ‘B’ Season opened today in the Aleutian Islands and Eastern Bering Seas Region.

Mary Furness is a Fisheries Resource Specialist with the National Marine Fisheries Service in Juneau.

“The total allowable catch is up for the Bering Sea Pollock fishery this year, about 43,000 metric tons and the allocation is divided by the A season which gets 40% and the B season gets 60%,” she said.

According to Furness, there are about 19,000 more metric tons of Pollock available for harvest in this year’s B season.

Pollock numbers have been up in recent years.  Last year’s was the second largest biomass estimate on record since scientists started surveying the fish in 1982. But harvest levels for groundfish are not allowed to surpass 2 million metric tons, regardless of increased assessments.

Furness said federal managers expect the Pollock B Season to wrap up by early to mid-October.

Categories: Alaska News

9th Circuit Court rules in favor of Shell’s spill response plans

Fri, 2015-06-12 09:25

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Thursday in favor of the Department of Interior’s approval of two oil spill response plans for Arctic drilling put forward by Royal Dutch Shell.  The company plans to explore for oil in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas this summer.

A handful of environmental groups brought the suit.  They claim the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement didn’t do enough to review Shell’s plans.

In an email, shell Spokeswoman Megan Baldino said the 9th Circuit Court decision was “welcome news and validates that the Department of Interior complied with applicable laws and regulations in approving [Shell’s] plan for work offshore Alaska.”

Baldino wrote that the company remains “confident that the [Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement’s] approval of [Shell’s] plans meets all legal and regulatory requirements.”

But environmental groups are troubled by the decision.  Holly Harris is a Staff Attorney with the group EarthJustice, which was involved in the suit. She also declined to be recorded, but in an email she said the decision was “a troubling outcome for the Arctic Ocean.” She added that “despite [Thursday’s] decision, the administration has not yet given final approval to Shell’s dangerous and dirty drilling in the Arctic Ocean.”  Harris writes that EarthJustice “urges President Obama and his administration to protect the Arctic Ocean and act to prevent climate change by saying no to drilling.”

Meanwhile, Shell continues to move forward on its plans for this summer.  According to Megan Baldino, the first of a number of vessels that will be part of the exploratory drilling effort is heading north to Dutch Harbor.

The oil giant’s contracted oil spill containment vessel, the Arctic Challenger, has left Seattle. It’s not yet clear when the ship will arrive.

Baldino says a team will be in Dutch Harbor next Monday to brief city leadership on their plans for the summer.

Categories: Alaska News

Troopers cite man for running down, killing bald eagles

Fri, 2015-06-12 09:21

A 28-year-old Oregon man has been accused of running over several bald eagles feeding on a roadway in Dutch Harbor, killing two and injuring two others.

The Alaska Dispatch News reports that Alaska State Troopers cited the man after a witness reported the act to Unalaska police. The troopers took control of the case.

Witnesses say a Ford truck hit the eagles near the city’s landfill Sunday.

Troopers cited the man for using a motorized vehicle to harass or molest game and accused him of accelerating his truck through several bald eagles.

The man is scheduled to be arraigned in Unalaska District Court June 30.

Categories: Alaska News

Death of sea lions found to be caused by humans

Fri, 2015-06-12 09:20

Federal officials are saying several of the 15 Stellar sea lions found dead last week near Cordova had wounds indicating they had been “deliberately killed.”

The Alaska Dispatch News reports National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration spokesman Julie Speegle said Thursday that some of the deaths appeared to be caused by humans.

The agency received a report of the dead sea lions on June 1.

Biologist and enforcement agents visited the remote Alaska beach and found 15 of the endangered animals. The sea lions had been discovered in various stages of decomposition.

Speegle says samples from the animals have been taken and necropsies have been performed on some.

The sea lions were among the western stock of the population. The killing of sea lions in that population is illegal.

Categories: Alaska News

Youth decision making and healthy choices

Fri, 2015-06-12 08:00

Think back to being a high school student and navigating the social world. What made you happy or lonely? How did you decide if you wanted to play sports or study hard or drink alcohol? Nowadays fewer kids are drinking and making risky decisions than many people think. And we have data showing why. This week’s Alaska Edition focuses on youth decision making and how the community is supporting healthy choices.

HOST: Anne Hillman

GUESTS:

  • Deborah Williams, executive director, Anchorage Youth Development Coalition
  • Gabriel Garcia, associate professor of Public Health, University of Alaska Anchorage

KSKA (FM 91.1) BROADCAST: Friday, June 12 at 2:00 p.m. and Saturday, June 13 at 6:00 p.m.

Alaska Public Television BROADCAST: Friday, June 12 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, June 13 at 4:30 p.m.

Categories: Alaska News

Legislature Gavels Out

Thu, 2015-06-11 17:45

Legislators in the House listen to final thoughts on this session’s contentious budget. (Photo: Zachariah Hughes, KSKA)

Nearly two months after its regular deadline, the Alaska Legislature finally gavels out. Both chambers have approved a $5 billion operating budget and agreed on a way to pay for the deficit.

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There will be no government shutdown, or an eleventh-hour deal to avert one. If you’re a glass-half-full type, you could say the Legislature even brokered a compromise with a couple weeks to spare.

The big sticking point was the cost-of-living increases that public employees had negotiated in their contracts. During the House floor session, Finance co-chair Mark Neuman explained that the Legislature would pay for the raises this year, but there were conditions.

“Number one, that these are one-time increments. Two, that there be no cost-of-living pay raises beginning with collective bargaining agreements negotiated in 2015.”

The Legislature was also directing Gov. Bill Walker to make $30 million in agency cuts to offset the raises.

Neuman, a Big Lake Republican, also explained that the final version of the operating budget also restored some money for education, the ferry system, senior benefits, and public broadcasting.

While there was a deal, there was also grumbling from both sides. Mat-Su Republican Mike Dunleavy defended some the more contentious reductions that had been made by the Senate, noting that cuts will need to be even deeper next year.

“We’re looking at a $4 billion deficit. And if people thought it was difficult this year, it’s not going to be any easier next year. And some sacred cows that escaped a haircut this year — some of those sacred cows might actually be butchered coming into the next year.”

Meanwhile, Democrats expressed disappointment that the Legislature did not consider scaling back oil tax credit payments or accept federal money for Medicaid expansion. In both chambers, the minority was split on the budget for these reasons.

But they all voted to tap the state’s rainy day account. Senate Minority Leader Berta Gardner said the multi-billion-dollar draw was necessary to cover the state’s budget deficit, and prevent the government from grinding to a halt.

“My objections to the underlying budget are not strong enough to take us back to the brinksmanship. They’re not strong enough to endanger the Permanent Fund dividend, which is a proposal that’s been floated to this special session, and we remain committed to trying to protect the fund for future generations. Lastly, I don’t want to add even another single day to this special session.”

There was one area where there was unanimous agreement.

According to the Legislature’s accounting staff, the cost of the extended and special sessions exceeds half a million dollars [$668,000].

Categories: Alaska News

‘Erin’s Law’ Passes Unanimously In the Senate

Thu, 2015-06-11 17:44

As one of its final acts, the Legislature is advancing the Alaska Safe Children’s Act. After passing in the House during the regular session, the bill passed unanimously in the Senate today.

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The bill requires schools to provide age-appropriate education meant to prevent harm to children. The section known nationally as “Erin’s Law” teaches students about sexual abuse and lets them know there are resources if someone is hurting them. The second major component focuses on dating violence, and is being called “Bree’s Law.” It is named after Breanna Moore, who was killed last year. Her boyfriend is scheduled to be tried for the murder later this summer.

Over the course of its review, the bill was changed substantially from the original, and became a controversial vehicle for unrelated bills having to do with standardized testing and school contracts with Planned Parenthood. Those riders were ultimately removed, and the bill sponsors believe that the final version matches their original intent.

The governor is expected to sign the bill, and the program will be implemented beginning in 2017.

Categories: Alaska News

Murkowski Votes ‘Nay’ on Icebreaker Provision in Defense Bill

Thu, 2015-06-11 17:43

Drift ice camp in the middle of the Arctic Ocean as seen from the deck of icebreaker XueLong, July 2010. Photo: Timo Palo via Wikimedia Commons.

In Congress Thursday morning, a U.S. senator proposed adding nearly a billion dollars to a Defense spending bill to acquire an icebreaker – and that senator was not from Alaska. Sen. Lisa Murkowski is normally an ardent advocate for more icebreaking capacity, but she felt compelled to vote against the icebreaker amendment.

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In the Senate Appropriations Committee, it was Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, who talked up the need for an icebreaker.

“The amendment includes $940 million to accelerate a Coast Guard icebreaker. We all know the reality of climate change is having an impact on national security. And the Arctic is a contested region, with China and Russia asserting their interest there. The U.S. is falling behind in its Arctic capabilities.”

Durbin’s amendment also would have funded other high-priority ships and aircraft, by shifting money from a war fund to the regular budget of the Defense Department. Murkowski’s on a mission to convince the Senate — and all Americans — that Arctic infrastructure is a national imperative, and icebreakers are at the top of her list. She acknowledged feeling torn.

“I am in a very difficult spot. I will be voting against your amendment.”

In fact, all Republicans on the appropriations committee voted against Durbin’s amendment, and not necessarily because they oppose the priorities. The problem, Murkowski says, is the spending caps known as sequestration.

“What in effect Sen. Durbin’s amendment does is bust the caps.”

This is part of a larger fight in Congress over how to fund government for the next fiscal year. Republican leaders are trying to pass bills that stay under the sequestration caps. But a majority of the appropriations committee – including Murkowski – voted for a non-binding amendment calling the across-the-board cuts unreasonable.

Categories: Alaska News

Rep. Young Lobbies To Offer Land Allotments For Alaska Native ‘Nam Vets

Thu, 2015-06-11 17:42

Congressman Don Young’s subcommittee on Native affairs took testimony today on a bill to re-open land allotment selections for Alaska Natives who served in the military during the Vietnam War. The right of Alaska Natives to acquire allotments of up to 160 acres comes from a 1906 law. The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act ended that opportunity for most in 1971. But Native leaders have said for years that many Vietnam-era vets missed out because they were serving elsewhere when the application period closed.

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Young’s been making that argument in Congress for years, too.

“I mean how many time have I introduced this bill? I think five times. Passed it twice, or some crazy thing.”

In 1998 Congress passed a bill to re-open the selection period, giving certain Vietnam vets 18 months to apply. Young says, in hindsight, that bill was too restrictive; It only covered those serving for three years of the war.

Nelson Angapak, an Army vet and long-time Native leader, testified Thursday in favor of another open period for vets, this time with more land to choose from.

“Our research indicated that 49 of our veterans living in Southeast Alaska applied for our Native allotments and every one of those applications were denied, primarily because of the existence of the Tongass National Forest.”

Ditto, Angapak says, for applicants in the Cook Inlet, Chugach and Arctic Slope regions.

Young’s bill is sure to be controversial because it would allow selections within the state’s two national forests and in wildlife refuges.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: Thursday, June 11, 2015

Thu, 2015-06-11 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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Legislature Verges on Gaveling Out

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

Nearly two months after its regular deadline, the Alaska Legislature is poised to gavel out. Both chambers have approved a $5 billion dollar operating budget and agreed on a way to pay for the deficit.

‘Erin’s Law’ Unanimously Passes In the Senate

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

As one of its final acts, the Legislature passed the Alaska Safe Children’s Act. After passing in the House during the regular session, the bill passed unanimously in the Senate today.

Murkowski Votes ‘Nay’ on Icebreaker Provision in Defense Bill

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington, D.C.

In Congress this morning, a U.S. senator proposed adding nearly a billion dollars to a Defense spending bill to acquire an icebreaker – and that senator was not from Alaska. Sen. Lisa Murkowski is normally an ardent advocate for more icebreaking capacity, but she felt compelled to vote against the icebreaker amendment.

Rep. Young Lobbies To Offer Land Allotments For Alaska Native Vietnam Vets

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington, D.C.

Congressman Don Young’s subcommittee on Native affairs took testimony today on a bill to re-open land allotment selections for Alaska Natives who served in the military during the Vietnam War.

ACA Subsidies For Alaskans May Be In Jeopardy

Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage

The Supreme Court is expected to decide by the end of this month whether subsidies are legal in Alaska and 33 other states that use the federal health insurance exchange.

Orthodox Cathedral Desecrated During Vandalism Spree in Kodiak

Jay Barrett, KMXT – Kodiak

A 21-year-old man is under arrest for allegedly vandalizing one of Kodiak’s most historic buildings, the Holy Resurrection Russian Orthodox Cathedral, and many of its contents.

Low Oil Prices Haven’t Reached Dillingham

Matt Martin, KDLG – Dillingham

The drop in oil prices has been bad news for Alaska’s state budget, but good news for some Alaskans at the pump. But the gas price has been slow to drop in some Bristol Bay communities, especially Dillingham.

Flight Service from Alaska to Russia’s Far East To Resume

Zachariah Hughes, KSKA – Anchorage

If you’ve run out of isolated wilderness to explore in Alaska, there’s good news: flights from Anchorage to the remote interior regions of Russia are about to resume.

Feds to Investigate Groundwater Contamination in North Pole

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

State Study Shows 60% Wolf Decline on POW

Leila Kheiry, KRBD – Ketchikan

The number of wolves on Prince of Wales Island and nearby islands has dropped dramatically, according to a draft report from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Race To Alaska Competitors Close In On Ketchikan

Ruth Eddy, KRBD – Ketchikan

Race To Alaska organizer Jake Beattie is in Ketchikan preparing the finish line for the inaugural 750-mile engineless boat race through the Inside Passage.

Categories: Alaska News

Low Oil Prices Haven’t Reached Dillingham

Thu, 2015-06-11 17:38

The drop in oil prices has been bad news for Alaska’s state budget, but good news for some Alaskans at the pump. But the gas price has been slow to drop in some Bristol Bay communities, especially Dillingham. KDLG has been hearing from a lot of people unhappy about the gas prices.

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Photo of a pump in Dillingham from March 2015 when gas was 6.39 per gallon.
Credit Matt Martin/KDLG

“Here we are June, the first week, and we’re still paying top dollar. Hope we don’t get the screws put to us all summer here with the high gas price. Ok, that’s all I got,” says one caller to the station.

The current price of fuel in Dillingham is $6.15 down from about $6.33 a few weeks ago. Facility Manager of Delta Western in Dillingham Ken Reiswig says prices haven’t gone down yet because there is still a lot of left over fuel from the winter.

“Because there was no snow and warm winter we didn’t sell as much fuel as we had planned for, so we have fuel left over,” said Reiswig.

And until that fuel is used up, Reiswig says prices will probably hold steady were they’re at for now. But the cheaper fuel coming in may eventually lower prices.

“Whatever price fuel comes in we adjust our prices based on what’s in the tank,” added Reiswig.

Lawrence Sifsof spoke to KDLG at a pump in Dillingham Wednesday morning. He isn’t holding out much hope that prices will drop anytime soon.

“Because why would they go down now when they are keeping them this high this far,” questioned Sifsof.

Fuel prices in Ekwok are close to Dillingham’s at about 6.25. Koliganek and Togiak are a little cheaper at 5.75 and 5.33 respectively.

One person at the pumps in Dillingham told KDLG that there are some mysteries in life he chooses not to explore, he says the price of fuel in rural Alaska is one of them.

Categories: Alaska News

Feds to Investigate Groundwater Contamination in North Pole

Thu, 2015-06-11 17:37

A federal agency will conduct a study to determine the danger of drinking groundwater contaminated by the industrial solvent sulfolane in the North Pole area. The research was sought by the state of Alaska as it tries to set a clean up level for wells tainted by sufolane from spills at a local oil refinery. The new study will delay a determination on what constitutes safe water.

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There’s a lot riding on the clean up standard, which determines what’s entailed in addressing sulfolane groundwater contamination stemming from historic spills at the North pole refinery most recently operated by Flint Hills Resources.  Little is known about health impacts of consuming sulfolane tainted water, and Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation Spill Prevention and Response Director Kristin Ryan says a federal agency has agreed to undertake a 2 year study.

Last year Flint Hills challenged a very conservative 14 parts per billion preliminary clean up level.  The state promised a response by the end of 2014, and Flint Hill spokesman Jeff Cook says the company is disappointed with DEC’s decision to delay. He cites findings of a group of toxicologists the DEC assembled last year.

There’s been no laboratory research on long term health impacts of drinking sulfolane tainted water. The DEC’s Ryan says the two-year federal study will employ animal testing.

About 1,500 people living on North Pole area properties where wells have tested positive for sulfolane contamination have been provided alternative water sources by Flint Hills.  The company stopped operating the refinery last year citing costs related to the sulfolane issue as one of the reasons. Flint Hills, former refinery owner Williams and the state are embroiled in legal wrangling over responsibility for the contamination.

Categories: Alaska News

‘Race To Alaska’ Competitors Close In On Ketchikan

Thu, 2015-06-11 17:35

Race To Alaska organizer Jake Beattie is in Ketchikan preparing the finish line for the inaugural 750-mile engineless boat race through the Inside Passage. And he better be quick about it.

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“The first-place team is going so fast, that they might beat the banner that we mailed here. So the first -place team might be faster than UPS.”

The finish line, with or without a banner, will be at the entrance to Thomas Basin. The leading team, Elsie Piddock, which is 100 miles ahead of the second-place boat, is expected to arrive in Ketchikan as early as midnight Thursday.

Beattie says that the 25-foot trimaran has a three-man crew of experienced sailors who say that during this race, they have faced the worst seas they have ever been in.

“Forty knots of wind on the nose, 5 knots of currents behind them, so the seas were confused and steep and torturous.”

Broken masts, leaking hulls and other calamities have caused many boats to drop out. As of deadline 21 boats remain of the 29 that finished the qualifying leg from Port Townsend, Washington to Victoria, British Columbia.  All the boats are tracked virtually with a live satellite tracker.

The Fish House in Thomas Basin will serve as the gathering place for teams, race coordinators and supporters as teams finish sporadically through July 4th. Beattie says he’s looking forward to reconnecting with participants as they arrive in Ketchikan.

“Real people. That have, I already kind of liked, and now they’ve had this incredible experience, some of them good, some of them bad, usually a mix of    the two. Reconnecting with that hearing how it was. It’s the experience of a lifetime.”

There is a celebration scheduled for the winners on Monday at the Fish House, although it looks as though the first-place team will arrive well before that. To see exactly when teams are arriving, you can follow the live tracker, which is posted along with this report on our website.

Categories: Alaska News

ACA Subsidies For Alaskans May Be In Jeopardy

Thu, 2015-06-11 16:58

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide by the end of this month whether Affordable Care Act subsidies are legal in Alaska and 33 other states that use the federal health insurance exchange. More than 18,000 people in Alaska could lose subsidies if the court decides in favor of the plaintiffs in the King v. Burwell case. The plaintiffs argue the ACA only allows for subsidies in states that set up their own exchange.

Alaska’s insurance director, Lori Wing-Heier is paying close attention to the issue as she waits for a decision:

“In the meantime we continue to work on our contingency plan, refine our contingency plan, exploring all options and what will be the most feasible for the state and we’ll be able to discuss it in more detail once the opinion is released.”

Wing-Heier says Governor Bill Walker is committed to ensuring that Alaskans who are receiving subsidies won’t lose them. The average subsidy in Alaska is more than $500 each month.

Without the subsidies, the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates the cost of the premiums would spike by 500 percent.

Categories: Alaska News

Orthodox Cathedral Desecrated During Vandalism Spree In Kodiak

Thu, 2015-06-11 14:40

A 21-year-old man is under arrest for allegedly vandalizing one of Kodiak’s most historic buildings, the Holy Resurrection Russian Orthodox Cathedral, and many of its contents.

In a press release from the Kodiak Police Department, Arkimedes Garcia was arrested around 8:00 Wednesday night as he was exiting the church.

Northeastern side of the Holy Resurrection Church, a Russian Orthodox church in Kodiak, a city in the Kodiak Island Borough of the U.S. state of Alaska. Built in 1945, the church was added to the National Register of Historic Places on 12 December 1977. Photo by NPS.

Thursday morning, Father Innocent Dresdow, the Dean of the Holy Resurrection Church, said many holy items were damaged.

“It’s clear from the pattern of destruction that this dear soul is deeply troubled and his anger and his rage appeared to be directed at, frankly God. And from the perspective of the Church, he knew exactly which things were holiest. And those were the things that were in absolute disarray.”

He said the most holy items have been removed from the church to an undisclosed location and are being re-blessed.

Father Innocent said Garcia broke several windows and made his way into the church’s Sanctuary behind the Nave where he not only did damaged items, but desecrated them as well.

“You can see in the hand crosses fi you look carefully – they’re bent upward. All of the crosses that he just damaged are bent upward in the same pattern, including St. Herman’s Monastic Cross, which is the most priceless damage that was done last night. The tabernacle is where the reserve sacraments, the Holy Mysteries, body, blood of Christ are kept. Well, that was on the floor, with the Holy Mysteries and all the holy items that were on the alter were on the floor on both sides. He bled on the holy table, he bled on the back wall, he bled in the church in different places, and on the alter particularly is a major desecration.” “So he injured himself?” “He injured himself, yes.”

Father Innocent said that even though the church sustained physical damage in the attack, services will go on as planned.

“Scheduled services for tonight, at 6 p.m., the Akathist to St. Herman, will be held as scheduled. We have a clean up crew coming in at 1 p.m. People are welcome to join us from the community. They don’t have to be Orthodox if they want to come and help. We’re essentially trying to go over the floor, chairs, everything to make sure all, the minutest glass shards are out of the floor and items. We have lots of children here and we want to make sure nobody gets hurt.”

According to the Kodiak Police Department press release, Garcia emerged from the church “partially unclothed,” but did not explain further. Police Chief Ronda Wallace was unavailable for comment. Garcia was booked on four felony counts of burglary and criminal mischief.

Categories: Alaska News

Launch of Independent Ferry Service Delayed In Southeast

Thu, 2015-06-11 14:32

A new independent ferry service in Southeast Alaska is delaying the start-up of service that was planned for this weekend.

The Rainforest Island Ferry was scheduled this Sunday to start round-trip, four-day-a-week connections between Coffman Cove on Prince of Wales Island, Wrangell and Petersburg.

The independent ferry authority’s manager Kent Miller says the ferry has not yet received a certificate of inspection from the U.S. Coast Guard for the Rainforest Islander, a converted 65-foot landing craft. Miller says the authority expects to have that in place for start up of service, now planned for Sunday June 28th. He says the North End Ferry Authority will be contacting passengers who have booked service this month, offering to rebook those trips and have those passengers travel for free.

“That is the least we can do for people who’ve been interested in traveling on the boat right away. And of course have to add a really sincere apology for having to delay the start up again.”

Miller says “dozens” of people are impacted by the delay.

“We have had really excellent interest in using the service and have made quite a few bookings for that time. So it’s very painful for us have to tell people who really wanna use the service that we’re delayed.”

The North End Ferry Authority has been trying to restart a ferry connection based in Coffman Cove for over three years. That service was once offered on a larger vessel by the Inter-Island Ferry Authority based in Hollis.

Once it starts up service, the Rainforest Islander will be landing at Shoemaker Bay south of Wrangell and Banana Point south of Petersburg, with van service to bring passengers into those towns.

Miller says the new ferry service has hired a captain and deckhand, along with an office manager. The office will open on Tuesday, June 16. To rebook, or find out more information the email address is reservations@rainforestislandsferry.com.

The toll free number is 1.844.329.2031

Categories: Alaska News

Pioneering Rough Terrain Unicycling | INDIE ALASKA

Thu, 2015-06-11 12:28

George Peck began riding unicycles around Seward, Alaska in the eighties. Eventually moving on to riding the ultimate wheel – a unicycle with no seat – on mountains and beaches, George pioneered the sport of “rough terrain unicycling” and began a family tradition carried on by his children, Kris and Katie Peck.

Categories: Alaska News

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