Scientists are now able to monitor two remote volcanoes on the Alaska Peninsula after equipment came back to life this spring.
The Peulik volcano and Ukinrek Maars are located about 70 miles south of King Salmon. Scientists thought that sensors there died over the winter. Jeff Freymueller is a Professor at The University of Alaska Fairbanks and is the Coordinating Scientist for the Alaska Volcano Observatory.
“We know that those stations have suffered physical damage, we know that bears have ripped down doors off enclosures. It looked like they were down and not coming back. What actually happened over the last few weeks is that they’ve began coming back,” Freymueller said. “That really means that they were down because the power had failed. Now the snow is melting and the sun is out, those stations are actually on power and are transmitting data.”
It’s been decades since either volcano showed signs of activity. The Peulik volcano last erupted in 1814. But radar decades ago showed magma rising to within several kilometers of the surface. Ukinrek Maars has been quiet since only 1977 when the two vents erupted and formed deep craters. Scientists want to know what’s happening at the two volcanoes. Freymueller said they rely on that seismic data to provide early warnings.
“Quite often one of the first indications of volcanic unrest is small swarms of small earthquakes. Having the network there means that if those occur, we can see them and those are likely to among the first precursors to potential activity. If the volcano were to start to actually erupt, we’d see volcanic tremor and other sub signals just like we’re seeing now on Pavlof. We can see that if we have seismic stations close to the volcano, but we can’t if there’s not data from close in,” said Freymueller.
The observatory is used to remote stations periodically failing, but the network’s health has suffered over the past few years. Of the observatory’s 200 stations, almost half are out of commission this month.
“When we actually had everything properly maintained, it was not so much of a worry. It was pretty rare that the number of working instruments would get down to the threshold where you wonder if you’re able to catch things. It’s something we’re starting to have to worry about more and more. I expect that this time next year we’re going probably see higher percentages of things not working. Simply because the amount of maintenance we can do this summer is very limited. Limited maintenance now means more failures down the road,” said Freymueller.
The network relies on funding from Congress, which Freymueller said has not kept pace with maintenance needs.
“Either that changes because the budget goes up, or we’re have to pull back and reduce the number of volcanoes we monitor and fall back on the highest priority ones. Either because they’re the most dangerous, most eruptive or because they pose hazards to people on the ground,” said Freymueller.
The Alaska Volcano Observatory monitors more than 20 volcanoes across the state. Two are currently on watch alert: the Pavlof and Cleveland volcanoes.
To a lot of us, running seems like work, or at least exercise. But for a group of girls in Sitka, running is actually pretty fun.
They’re part of an after-school program that combines running with learning important life lessons. It’s encouraged one fifth-grader to dream about her future.
Nikkia Brazell is 10-years-old and loves to run.
“It feels really fun and sometimes when you get to run with your friend, you have fun, you get to laugh,” Nikkia said.
But she hasn’t always been into running. She started liking it a lot more when she joined Girls on the Run last year.
“Go go go go go, Lorrena!”
It’s a national program that began in North Carolina in 1996. It was created to inspire girls to be confident and healthy through running.
“Ready? Set? Go!”
Girls on the Run got its start in Sitka five years ago. Every spring, girls in grades three through five meet twice a week at Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary.
Nikka says running with a group of only girls makes her feel safer.
“Boys can, like, push you to the limit, but when girls are there, they don’t push you at all,” Nikkia said. “Like, you know how they throw the ball sometimes at you? Girls don’t do that.”
The ultimate goal of the program is to decrease domestic violence by giving girls tools that help build their self-esteem, making them less likely to become victims later in life.
There are 24 practices and each one teaches a different lesson. It might be how to stop bullying or resist peer pressure. Kym Johns is Nikkia’s coach and is leading today’s lesson.
“One very powerful idea that we are going to talk about today is the power we have to choose our friends,” Kym said.
The game encourages girls to choose friends who celebrate who they are just the way they are. Kym reads positive and negative messages, like, “Wow! That report you did was awesome!” or “Oh my gosh, you can do done better than that.”
And depending on the type of message, the girls either run in a circle with a bounce in their step or slowly drag their feet.
At practice, Nikkia is a bit quieter than a lot of the girls. And she says her favorite activity is an introspective one.
“Well, we tried running silently, and it was kinda hard for some girls, but I tried it and I started liking it,” Nikkia said.
She says the exercise gives her quiet time to think about what she wants to do and who she wants to be when she grows up.
“I thought about working as a teacher,” Nikkia said. “Yeah, I also want to learn how to speak Tlingit because I already know the Pledge of Allegiance in Tlingit.”
Brian Sparks is a domestic violence prevention specialist at the women’s shelter in town, Sitkans Against Family Violence, or SAFV. He organizes the local branch of the program and says he hopes Girls on the Run will help change social norms on a bigger scale.
“They spread these lessons. Let’s say the not gossiping lesson. Well, okay so now if somebody who’s not in Girls on the Run, you know, starts to gossip, there’s a critical mass of girls who have attended Girls on the Run who don’t accept that behavior anymore,” Brian said.
On a recent Saturday, all the girls’ hard work is put to the test. They’re running a 5K to celebrate the end of the season. They choose running teams and pose for a group photo.
Nikkia ran the 5K last year, and says that even though it was hard, she was proud that she set a goal and she stuck to it.
“Ready? Ready? 3, 2, 1, RUN! Wooooo!”
This year, she did even better. She says she plans to keep running and wants to become a girls on the run coach someday.
This week we’re heading to Anchor Point, a small community 14 miles north of Homer on the Kenai Peninsula. Bobby Ness lives in Anchor Point:
My name is Bobby Ness. I’ve been in Anchor Point since 2003.
Anchorage Point is kind of a quiet little community. It’s kind of a retired, it seems like it’s a little bit of a retired community, but there’s a lot of workers down here too. The senior center and the VFW are some of our big things that we do events with and, you know, different programs with and everything.
Anchor Point does have a hotel. It’s got bed and breakfasts around here. So it’s a great little community to come visit. It’s good for fishing. There’s Anchor River Inn is a great fishing area. They have campgrounds down there and a boat launch down there.
Yes, we do have a beautiful view of the mountains. It’s kind of cloudy today, but on a clear day you can see the volcanoes.
People go fishing, we have bingo, we have different activities at the VFW and the senior center.
At the senior center we have bingo and we have dinners and meals, like Thursday night dinners, breakfasts once a month, and special occasions.
I love living here because it’s just a nice little quaint, quiet community. Yes, we do have summer people, but the wintertime is very quiet.
It’s just a nice community. Everybody is friendly. I don’t know of any strangers around here, everybody seem to get along and we have a lot of good times together.
A Sitka man and his 14-year-old son are hoping to convince you that genetically modified organisms are bad for your health, and for the environment.
Agriculture companies modify the DNA of plants that enter the food supply, to help them grow faster or bigger, or be more resilient to pests. Brett and David Wilcox are channeling their opposition into a demonstration in Sitka this weekend.
The Sitka demonstration is called the “March Against Monsanto.” It coincides with other similar events around the world and is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday atop Castle Hill.
But Brett and David Wilcox also hope a big journey next year will help bring attention to their cause.
“We’re going to be running across the country,” says David Wilcox, 14. “We’re starting somewhere in California, and we haven’t really thought of an ending point yet.”
His father, 52-year-old Brett Wilcox, says they’ll include a stop in St. Louis, headquarters to the agribusiness giant Monsanto. The company has become a lightning rod for the debate over genetically modified foods. Among other things, it markets modified seeds to farmers. The seeds are patented and farmers who keep extra seeds for replanting can find themselves taken to court.
That bothers Brett Wilcox, but his bigger worry is about the environmental impact of genetically modified foods. He says his spiritual beliefs are opposed to modified organisms, but also that he has unanswered questions about their scientific safety.
“We’re going to gather seeds from the world, and we’re either going to have them in a backpack and we’re going to carry them as we cross the country, or if we get so many seeds that we put them in a trailer and pull them behind us, we will do that,” Brett Wilcox said. “Those seeds will be the symbol for the run, saying this is why we are running. This is the purpose. We are here to say that we honor these sacred seeds, and we don’t want people messing with them.”
Monsanto is no stranger to the criticisms. The company has an extensive websitebuilt entirely to respond to common arguments people make against its practices. One page is titled “Why does Monsanto sue farmers who save seeds?” The company says it’s simply protecting its patents. Another is titled “Farmer suicides in India,” and denies claims that the modified cotton has driven farmers on the subcontinent to kill themselves.
In a written statement, Monsanto spokesman Tom Helscher says the company respects the fact that people can have different points of view, but that the safety of genetically modified crops is well established. The crops undergo federal review by two, sometimes three, federal agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“Hundreds of studies in the peer-reviewed scientific literature support the safety of GM crops and there has not been a single substantiated instance of illness or harm associated with their use,” Helscher wrote in an e-mail to KCAW. “The National Academies of Science, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Health Organization and the American Medical Association – among others – have all concluded that GM foods do not pose any more risk to people than other foods.”
The history of agriculture is full of developments in technology — things that have increased the amount of food farmers were able to send to plates. Tractors replaced horses. Fertilizers boosted crops. But Brett Wilcox says what Monsanto and other companies are doing is different.
“What they are producing is not meant to feed the growing population,” he says. “It’s meant to feed cars and cattle. Very little of the research is designed to do anything that would provide any sort of enhanced nutrition. It’s all designed to give them a patent — a legal hold on seeds — so that farmers are then brought into a modern-day slavery system.”
Brett Wilcox says farmers have become too beholden to Monsanto. So, he and David are preparing for their run.
“David has done two half marathons and he’s going to do another half this summer,” he said. “He’ll do his first full marathon this summer for Sitka’s inaugural full marathon. We’re excited about that coming up on August 3rd.”
Brett Wilcox also runs marathons, although he didn’t come to running until his 40s.
“I kind of grew up with the belief that I didn’t have the heart to run,” he said. “That’s not true. I do fine running, and I enjoy it. I’ve done a couple of marathons, and it helps keep me relatively sane.”
The two Wilcoxes plan to leave on their journey sometime in January. They estimate it will take about eight months.
Alaskan singer songwriter Marian Call has a new album out called “Marian Call Live In Europe.” The album grew out of an enormously successful Kickstarter campaign that raised more than $60,000 and sent her to Europe to perform and record a new album. Now she’s finishing up a statewide tour and about to set out to play music in the western Lower 48.
A group of citizens on the Kenai Peninsula is trying to change the way voters cast their ballot in Borough elections.
Depending on where you live in the Borough, as few as six percent of the registered voters in a precinct could decide an election. James Price is one of 16 borough residents who are working to change that.
“The turnout has been getting lower year by year. (The proposal) will give people a more meaningful opportunity to elect the candidate of their choice,” Price said.
Last week, the Borough Clerk’s office received a proposal, co-sponsored by Price, called the Better Elections initiative. The ordinance that’s been drafted would change Borough elections in two big ways. Voters would receive their ballots in the mail, and that would work basically like casting an absentee ballot. The other change would be to introduce ranked choice voting.
So in something like a Borough mayoral election, if one candidate doesn’t get a majority, you start going down the rankings, eliminating the candidates with the least votes, until a clear winner is found. This would eliminate the need for run-off elections.
“In the last several (elections), the voter turnout for the run off election to determine who the mayor is, there’s been less people showing up than in the first part, which if it were a state wide election, you’d be calling that a primary. So you’re having a fall off in interest at a key time in the election,” Price said.
Besides getting more voters in on the action, the measure aims to lower the cost of administering elections, perhaps by as much as half.
I got some numbers from the Clerk’s office, and, in theory anyway, that math works out. The Borough has about $127,000 budgeted for elections for the next fiscal year. And there are not quite 42,000 registered voters on the rolls. Take that times the dollar ten the Clerk’s office estimates as the cost of mailing out a ballot, and you do get somewhere in the ball park of a fifty percent savings.
This policy isn’t set in stone. In fact, it hasn’t even been brought before the Assembly. The Clerk’s office will either certify or reject the initiative this week. If it is certified, it will have to go to a petition. And it will need 997 signatures to go before voters, who would decide in the booth if they want to vote from home in the future.
It is now up to Alaska again to leave no child behind. The federal government has turned education reform back to the state. We’ll learn more about what the state has promised in exchange for a waiver, on the next Talk of Alaska.
HOST: Steve Heimel
- Susan McCauley, Director, Division of Teaching and Learning Support, Alaska Department of Education and Early Development
- Callers Statewide
- 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, May 28, 2013 at 10:00 a.m. on APRN stations statewide.
Coast Guard Rear Admiral Thomas Ostebo is traveling to major coastal communities in Alaska this week – Kotzebue, Barrow and Dutch Harbor. Today he was in Nome explaining how the Coast Guard will implement the United States Coast Guard Arctic Strategy that was just released this month.
The Department of Commerce and its 40,000 employees deal with all sorts of seemingly unrelated issues.
West Virginia Democrat Jay Rockefeller, who chairs the Commerce Committee, told Pritzker what to expect.
The always-affable Rockefeller ticked off a few of priorities within those 12 bureaus.
“The Department of Commerce serves very different constituencies in all parts of our country,” he began Thursday’s hearing. “From the Arctic Ocean, to fish, to telecommunications. Everything.”
If confirmed, Pritzker will oversee the National Weather Service, the country’s broadband and spectrum sales, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, cyber security efforts and much more.
She seems up to the test.
“I attended college at Harvard and then received my MBA and law degree simultaneously from Stanford,” she told the panel in her prepared remarks.
But fancy degrees don’t get people too far in D.C.
“Then I began working with my grandfather, my uncle and my cousins in the family business,” she went on. “In the 27 years since, I have worked as an entrepreneur both starting businesses from scratch, and growing existing ones.”
That family business is Hyatt Hotels. So Pritzker has always been wealthy, but by all accounts, she’s made her billions on her own, through real estate development and senior housing.
Pritzker’s business acumen drew praise from everyone on the Committee. She hails from Chicago, the president’s home town. Illinois Republican Senator Mark Kirk introduced her, and told the panel she’ll play a pivotal role in the administration – an administration that’s been criticized for its iffy status in the business community.
“I see her as a voice for business that the president will have to heed,” he said of his constituent.
Senators peppered Pritzker with all sorts of questions, many on the airwaves the government owns and sells, many on home state issues.
Senator Mark Begich said her conversations with Congress will revolve around one key issue.
“The calls you get will be about fish. You’ll think they’re going to be about trade, and tourism, and agreements. They’re going to be about fish,” he joked.
The Commerce Department regulates the nation’s fisheries. Later this year, Congress will need to reauthorize the Magnuson Stevens Act.
Pritzker drew negative press recently for working conditions for hotel employees.
“The notion of subcontracting out to keep minimum wage jobs as a way to maintain jobs is not something you support,” asked Senator Maria Cantwell.
Pritzker replied she does not, and as she did dozens of red-t-shirt-clad hotel union workers nodded in disbelief. Unite Here opposes her nomination because of what it sees as mistreatment of low-wage service workers.
Senator John Thune, the committee’s top Republican saved the most publicized issue for last.
“Some have criticized that you are the beneficiary of some offshore tax avoidance schemes, and that’s it hypocritical for the president to nominate members to his cabinet when he’s criticized that practice for others,” he said.
A prepared Pritzker sat stone faced and answered earnestly.
“Well senator,” she began. “I am the beneficiary of family offshore trusts that were set up when I was a little girl. I didn’t create them, I don’t direct them, I don’t control them.”
After the hearing, Thune said there are some tax issues he still wants more answers on, but he praised Pritzer for handling the hearing well.
The Senate is on recess next week. When it reconvenes in June, the Commerce Committee is expected to pass her on to the full Senate.
Under questioning by US Coast Guard officials, chief tug engineer Carl Broekhuis told a chilling story of engine failure that shut down the Aiviq’s four main engines within hours of each other.
The Aiviq was about six days out from Dutch Harbor, where it had taken on fuel under the eye of inspectors. Although three samples of the fuel were taken – at the start, middle and end of the fuel load, there was no suspicion of anything amiss, until the late hours of Dec. 27, when one of the tug’s engines inexplicably went out.
Broekhuis told the Coast Guard panel that the fuel injectors on the engines quit, due to some kind of residue on the filters, eventually shutting down all four engines.
“Like I said I did find some of this jelly – like stuff, I guess you could say, and that was something new. I hadn’t seen it before. I’ve been doing this a long time. I’ve actually seen injectors fail by water. You might lose one, I’ve never lost twenty.”
[USCG] “And are you certain as to what about the fuel caused the engines to shut down?”
” I’m not a scientist, but I’m telling you, that I believe that it was something that was introduced to the fuel, and additive of some sort or something. I truly believe that, because I’ve eliminated everything else. ”
Broekhuis said that at the time of the engine failures every effort was taken to inspect and investigate the various components of the tug’s engine system. Water in the fuel tanks or injectors was ruled out, as were faulty vents. Broekhuis said something appeared to be gumming up the fuel filters, and, in retrospect, a jelly like substance was found in the fuel tanks after the Aiviq reached Kodiak. Broekhuis testified that he didn’t learn about the gel until after the incident, and that he has not seen a report of what it could have been, although he suspects it was some kind of fuel additive. Coast Guard Commander Joshua McTaggart questioned Broekhuis further about the additive:
[USCG] “So any additives that would have been added to the fuel would have been from your supplier, correct?”
[Broekhuis] “That is correct.”
[USCG] “Perhaps you knew there was an additive added? Can you explain that?”
[Broekhuis ] “I found out after the fact. After the fact is when I found out that there was an additive in it.”
[USCG] “OK. Would you share that with us what information you might have?”
[Broekhuis] “Ah, I’m not sure what it was. I do know you know, it’s been discussed with a couple of different things, but, I mean I do know that there was some form of an additive in there. ”
[USCG] “Is there any further information you can give us regarding the name of the additive, the type of additive and anything along that line?”
[Broekhuis] “Not off the top of my head, no. I can’t give you exactly what was in it. No one’s ever told me what was in it.”
Attorneys for the Aiviq’s shipbuilders Edison Chouest, also questioned Broekhuis. One of them told reporters later that the origin of the tug’s fuel is not known, nor is the component of the alleged additive.
A new batch of bacterial infections has again been traced to a raw milk operation on the Kenai Peninsula.
In a news release Thursday, the Alaska Section of Epidemiology said it is investigating another outbreak of Campylobacter infection associated with the consumption of raw milk. This new outbreak is associated with raw milk distributed by the same Kenai Peninsula cow-share program that was linked to a similar outbreak in February.
Five new cases of the infection have been identified to date, with two of the five people seeking medical attention. Testing by the Alaska State Public Health Laboratory identified the bacteria strain as Campylobacter. The same strain was found in cow manure obtained earlier this year at the cow-share farm that distributed the raw milk.
State Epidemiologist Joe McLaughlin called the outbreaks “an unfortunate reminder of the inherent risks associated with raw milk consumption.”
Last year, Paul Pozonsky resigned from his position as a hearings officer for the state Department of Labor following an inquiry his residency status. The situation was odd for a number of reasons. For one, there were questions about whether Pozonsky landed the job because of his family’s political connections in Alaska. Then, there was the fact that he was being investigated by a grand jury in Pennsylvania for actions he took while he was a judge there. Now, that investigation is complete, and Pozonsky is facing trial for allegedly stealing cocaine that was being used as evidence in cases that the presided over. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez reports.
For years, Paul Pozonsky handled most of the criminal cases that came through his Pennsylvania county. He even started up a drug treatment court there. But this Thursday morning, he showed up to court in a baggy suit instead of black robes, and he was charged with theft, drug possession, obstruction of law, and more.
According to the grand jury report, Pozonsky would frequently ask that cocaine seized in his drug cases to be brought to him. When state investigators reviewed some of that evidence last year, they found that “cocaine was either missing or had been tampered with.” They also found Pozonsky’s DNA on one of the open cocaine bags. In other cases, Pozonsky in his capacity as a judge had ordered for that evidence to be destroyed, and the state was unable to examine it in this investigation. Over the years, Pozonsky allegedly ordered that a number of ounces of cocaine be brought to him and then stored in his chambers.
Pozonsky was released on a $25,000 bond, which lets him to return to Anchorage, where he now lives. His next court date is in June.
Pozonsky only moved to Alaska in 2012, after abruptly leaving his Pennsylvania judgeship. But his family has ties to former Lt. Gov. Loren Leman, and to Chuck Kopp, who briefly served as Public Safety commissioner under Gov. Sarah Palin during the days of the “Troopergate” scandal. Pozonsky’s wife also served on the Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct in the 1990s.
Pozonsky came under scrutiny in the state in December, after the Department of Labor hired him for a position that was only for Alaska residents. Pozonsky was under investigation in Pennsylvania at the time of application. A December 2 column in the Anchorage Daily News criticized the state for disregarding that requirement in Pozonsky’s case and speculated that he might have secured the position through his political ties. (Leman and Kopp have previously stated that they were not involved in Pozonsky’s hire and that they did not serve as references.) Pozonsky resigned December 6.
The Department of Labor has since completed an internal investigation into Pozonsky’s hire, according to communications director Beth Leschper.
“[P]roper review and employment checks were not performed before Mr. Pozonsky’s hiring,” wrote Leschper in an e-mail.
Leschper added that Department has now modified its procedures to better vet applicants, but that the outcome of the investigation has been marked confidential for personnel reasons.
Pozonsky’s lawyer did not respond to a request for comment for this story.
You can read the full grand jury report here.
Homer city officials are in the early stages of creating a land-use plan for the area where the Pier One Theatre sits. The building is currently located in an area zoned for marine commercial and industrial use.
It’s been about a year since Ophelia, the marine debris octopus, was built by Kodiak High School art students. The sculpture, which now resides in the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward, was constructed using items collected from Kodiak beaches. Ophelia has become a mascot for marine debris clean up, and a vivid example of how much trash is circulating in the world’s oceans. But she won’t be the only example for long.
As the Memorial Day weekend approaches, Clam diggers on the Kenai Peninsula will have to keep in mind a new set of rules for harvesting razor clams. For the first time in a decade, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is reducing the bag limit for razor clams from 60 per day all the way down to 25.
Wednesday, the man who was in charge of the Shell drilling rig Kulluk when it went aground New Year’s Eve testified at a Coast Guard hearing that he had never done a winter tow in Alaska, but he thought they were prepared for the weather ahead when they left Dutch Harbor to cross the Gulf of Alaska.
Todd Case had worked for Noble Drilling for more than 20 years and can’t even remember how many tows he’s been involved with. He was aboard the Kulluk when it was towed through the Chukchi Sea in 2012, and he remembers weather bad enough to force the tugs pulling it to turn into the wind. He told investigators that the tug Aivik performed well during that trip. He arrived in Dutch Harbor a couple of days before the Kulluk was due to leave and he said he was confident they had a good tow plan and he and his tow master John Becker were looking at a window of good weather ahead.
“We talked about it in meetings. We didn’t none of us expect to have uh seas as rough as we had,” Case said.
And they did get rough. The Kulluk’s operations manual says if the waves start tipping the vessel more than six degrees, the tow should be slowed down. The vessel’s log book says on the 27th of December that pitching happened for hours, and Case said he couldn’t remember if Becker discussed slowing down with the master of the tug Aivik or not. At about mid-day, Case was on his way to a lunch break when he got word that the tow had broken. He told Coast Guard investigator Josh Mc Taggart what happened next.
Case: Out on deck to look at it. Everybody was informed at that time. Somewhere around 11:30 I believe the tow line…parted, and some time right after 14:00 we got it back on the emergency line.
McTaggart: To your recollection, what actually failed on that tow gear?
A shackle is a heavy metal loop that a chain or cable is fixed to. This shackle was never recovered. It wasn’t on the Kulluk’s gear and it wasn’t at the end of the line when the Aivik pulled it in.
This was the beginning of a series of problems that would see tows re-established several times, the failure of the Aivik’s engines, the arrival of more vessels, and a plan to try to get the rig to safe harbor somewhere around Kodiak Island.
Ultimately an emergency line to the tug Guardsman parted, the storm was intensifying, and the drift toward the shallows was accelerating. It was worse than any situation Todd Case had ever seen, and Barry Strauch of the National Transportation Safety Board asked the inevitable question.
Strauch: At any point in this did you believe that your life was in danger?
Case: Again, be hard to say but if you’re driftin’ toward the bank at three knots and its three hours away, yeah, you would wonder.
Strauch: Well, what did you do, you and the other crew members do when you realized that your life may be in jeopardy?
Case: Well, wasn’t much we could do but wait on other resources to get there. We didn’t start cryin’.
But they might have wanted to start crying, when the Coast Guard helicopter pilot told them the deck was pitching so badly that it was too dangerous to attempt to lower a basket to start evacuating the 18 crew members in the dark. They had to wait for first light. Then on Dec. 29 a couple of helicopter trips removed the crew and efforts went on to try to divert the drifting rig. It grounded on the 31st.
During this lengthy probe, each witness has brought another part of the story to light. Case was asked to speculate several times and declined. But when Strach asked him what hindsight had taught him he did not hesitate:
“Knowing what we know now, we know we should have had multiple tugs,” Case said.
He has never had to be rescued before, he said. When asked if he felt any pressure to leave Dutch Harbor quickly, Case said no, he did not.
House Bill 1964 would force the federal government to scrap its current management plan and environmental assessments for new ones. And it would require the federal government to hold annual lease sales in NPR-A
Rep. Don Young cosponsored the bill, but was not there to explain his motives for it, because he’s big game hunting in Africa.
Jamie Connell, acting deputy director for the Bureau of Land Management, ticked off a list of reasons why the bureau opposes the bill, including:
“The timelines required by the bill, that my result in shortcuts to public involvement.” She added: “The suggestion that the Department pre-approve rights of ways on millions of ac res of land that industry may never seek to develop.”
Connell said the bill’s requirement of scrapping existing management plans for a new one undermines the work the agency has already done.
She told the subcommittee on mineral resources the BLM supports oil and gas drilling in NPR-A.
But that was met with disbelief from a troika of Alaskans who say the federal government is blocking development.
“Interior’s record of decision also made the ability to build a pipeline across NPR-A to pump station one of the Trans Alaska Pipeline more uncertain,” said Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan.
North Slope Borough Mayor Charlotte Brower told the subcommittee she worries NPR-A will receive the same treatment as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
“The concern that the North Slope Borough has is the record of decision that was made on the area that we felt would be better served for leasing and not made into a wilderness area,” she said.
And Richard Glenn, adding the corporate perspective, told the panel Interior did not involve tribes and Alaska Native corporations enough.
“Insufficient consultation with the Native landowners or municipalities in NPR-A,” he complained.
The future of the legislation is unclear. It needs to pass the House of Representatives – which is possible, then pass the Democratic controlled Senate, which is less certain.
As for the future of NPR-A, officials with BLM say it will hold another lease sale in November.
One last year drew bids from just two companies that totaled less than one million dollars.
A massive ice jam 12 miles upriver from Fort Yukon partially let loose early this morning. National Weather Service Hydrologist Ed Plumb says the ice sheet hasn’t broken entirely, but water backed up behind it is starting to move downriver.
“With the ice jam partially open and water being released, this is definitely a good situation because now we don’t have water being built up back behind the ice jam so this will lessen the threat of a sudden release of water coming down the Yukon River and water levels rising quickly in Fort Yukon,” Plumb said.
Low lying areas of Fort Yukon are still seeing some flooding. Ed Plumb says communities like Beaver and Steven’s Village further downriver still face a serious threat of high water.
“There is still the in place ice from the winter that has not moved yet, so until all the ice is out even below fort Yukon there is still the threat of more jamming,” Plumb said.
The National Weather Service and the Alaska Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management flew over the river at Fort Yukon on Wednesday morning. They will continue to monitor the situation, but they haven’t scheduled an afternoon Riverwatch flight.
Another sign of this year’s slow arrival of spring: green up will likely be the latest in Fairbanks recorded history.
A Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson soldier is competing this week in the Pacific Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition in Hawaii. The week-long competition began Saturday and will end with the awards ceremony Thursday.
The past week has been exhausting for Sergeant Daniel Alsdorf.
From before the sun rises until after it sets, he and 10 other soldiers have been putting their entire military skill-set to the test….from land navigation, to hand-to-hand combat, to their overall fitness and more.
According to Alsdorf, the Hawaiian heat and humidity coupled with a simulated battlefield atmosphere haven’t made the tests any easier.
“It’s amazing when you get to a competition how some of the simple tasks become hard, you add a little sleep deprivation and a little fatigue to that, you know, a 6.5 hour road march in Hawaiian conditions can be pretty intense, especially coming from Alaska…these boys have a 30 degree temperature advantage on me,” Alsdorf said.
Despite the difference in climate between Hawaii and Alaska, he says he’s feeling pretty good about the competition so far.
Alsdorf is a combat medic, and he was able to put his life-saving skills to work during the combat casualty care exercise…where competitors had to take care of two injured soldiers and move them to a helicopter before time ran out…all while under simulated combat conditions.
“The sounds of battle are real, the sweat is in your eyes, you’re running through jungle, you can’t see 15-20 feet in front of you, you don’t really know what’s happening until you get around the next corner. All the while, you know that there’s someone in there bleeding, and it’s your job to get to them and save their lives before they lose all their blood,” Alsdorf said.
Even though the two “casualties” are mannequins, Alsdorf says it doesn’t stop the soldiers from doing all they can to save them.
“You have to sort of think on your feet…make sure you’re running through your fundamentals like: are they breathing? Can we stop the bright red stuff from coming out of their body? Can we get them to safety? All those things are a lot harder than it sounds whenever you’ve got 50 caliber rounds blasting over your head…it’s pretty exciting,” Alsdorf said.
Competitors won’t know where exactly they stand in the competition until Thursday at the awards ceremony.
The winners will go on to the U.S. Army Reserve Command’s Best Warrior Competition in Fort McCoy, Wisconsin later this year.