Canada’s Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said today that Canada will make a claim to the North Pole, but has not finished the science around its Arctic seabed.
Baird and Canadian environment minister Leona Aglukkaq, who also chairs the Arctic Council, made public Canada’s claim to the extended continental shelf in the Arctic, in a press conference in the foyer of the House of Commons.
“We have asked our officials and scientists to do additional work and necessary work to ensure that a submission for the full extent of the continental shelf in the Arctic includes Canada’s claim to the North Pole,” said Baird.
The ministers explained the country’s scientific submission to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.
This submission includes claims to both the Atlantic and Arctic seabeds. There is no extended continental shelf Canada can claim in the Pacific Ocean.
While the science on the Atlantic is complete, the government is only presenting “preliminary information” on its Arctic claim.
The findings outline Canada’s claim to the seabed and undersea bed beyond the 200-nautical-mile Exclusive Economic Zone, which would extend Canada’s ownership of natural resources in the area.
“Fundamentally, we are drawing the last lines of Canada. We are defending our sovereignty,” explained Aglukkaq.
The submission is part of Canada’s responsibilities as a signatory to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Canada’s western Arctic is rich in resources and communities keen to participate in responsible development.
But tapping into the economic potential of the region, which includes the Yukon and Northwest Territories, remains a challenge. Particularly when it comes to transportation and infrastructure.
The independent Canadian think-tank The Centre for International Governance Innovation (or CIGI) , recently held a workshop in Canada’s Northwest Territories to explore some of these questions.
Titled “Western Canadian Arctic Marine Transport and Governance Roundtable,” the workshop explored some of the shipping challenges Canada faces its northwestern-most regions.
“If I look at the bottle half full, you’ll see the enormous human resources that we have up in the Arctic,” says CIGI’s John Higginbotham.
“You’ll see some promising signs of work in the federal government in this area in some projects. You’ll see the vigor of the private sector in the surprising and welcome transit by the Nordic Orion of the Northwest Passage… So that’s the bottle half full.”
However, Canada has a lot of work left to do if it wants to compete with other circumpolar countries, he says.
“The bottle half empty is when you compare the scale and speed and resources and programs and policy direction that you see in Norway and Russia in terms of very large national efforts they’re putting into Arctic development. We really are not in that league at the moment.”
Recently, Alaska’s Board of Fisheries set up an experimental harvest in the Aleutian Islands that they thought might benefit small communities like Adak. But, Adak had their eyes on a much bigger prize.
A slide that sent rocks crashing onto frozen Mendenhall Lake in late November actually caused a small tsunami. It also posed a scientific question as well as concern that rock slides are another unpredictable hazard for people exploring the frozen lake this winter.
A slide that sent rocks crashing onto frozen Mendenhall Lake in late November actually caused a small tsunami.
Apparently no one witnessed the rock slide, but Thanksgiving Day hikers on Nugget Falls Trail reported seeing jumbled piles of ice tossed by waves onto the beach. Refrozen ice plates 6 to 8 inches thick can still be seen on the lake.
“The first thing I noticed was that there was broken lake ice on one side and then there was broken lake ice on another side,” said Laurie Craig, a naturalist at Mendenhall Glacier Visitor’s Center.
With no evidence of glacier calving, Craig said trying to figure out what happened was like “geologic forensics.”
A spotting scope trained on Bullard Mountain showed evidence of a rockslide. Tree limbs also were seen in the rubble ice.
“We could clearly see evidence of where this narrow band of rock cascaded down off the mountainside and broke the lake ice that was right up against it,” Craig said. “And then it reverberated under the lake and hit against rock on the other side, which broke there as well.”
How does that happen?
If the rocks had hit water, there would be a big splash and a wave would travel across the lake. That’s simple enough, she thought, but Mendenhall Lake was covered with ice.
Craig posed the question on Friday to Joel Curtis, Warning and Coordination Meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Juneau.
“How does the water pop up on the other side of the lake under the ice? Let’s say the ice is thicker out in the middle. It’s a very, very interesting physics problem and I am asking people who are geekier than I am to look at this,” Curtis said.
One of the scientists he consulted was Dr. Eran Hood at the University of Alaska Southeast, a hydrologist and glaciologist. The two came up with this:
“The wave that was formed propagated right along with the ice, although the wave was dampened because it had to lift the ice. But it still was enough to get across Mendenhall Lake and have water squirt out on the other side.”
Technically, Curtis said, it was like a small tsunami under the ice.
The take away?
Ice is not as rigid as most people think. While the ice on Mendenhall Lake may look stable, it is not, Curtis said. Definitely avoid the face of the glacier, ice caves, creeks, icebergs and the area where the lake flows into Mendenhall River.
“And of course, the freeze/thaw cycle can cause rock slides on any of the steep slopes,” he said. “We all really love the lake and love going out there, but you have to be safe when you do.”
On Jan. 11th, the U.S. Forest Service and Capital City Fire and Rescue will hold ice safety training and demonstrations at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitors Center.
Juneau Animal Control is investigating two recent dog attacks in the Capital City.
About 4 o’ clock last Wednesday afternoon, Bridget Kuhar and her dog, Otis, set out for a walk near Bartlett Regional Hospital. Kuhar is a yoga teacher and musician. Her husband and bandmate, George, was playing music that afternoon at Wildflower Court nursing home. Kuhar had just brought him his guitar.
“The dog hadn’t really been for a walk that day. So I was going to walk from Wildflower Court down to Twin Lakes and back and go home,” Kuhar says.
It was a clear, cold day, and the sun was beginning to set.
Otis is an 11-year-old black mutt. He was on a leash and walking with Kuhar on the sidewalk near the intersection of Salmon Creek Lane and Hospital Drive. Kuhar says she noticed three dogs across the street, behind some sort of gate or fence. The next thing she knew they were running toward her.
“It happened very fast,” she says. “You know, I was just trying to figure out what to do if they did come over, because I knew they were going to attack my dog. They just had that posture about them.”
Kuhar says her first instinct was to turn away. She and Otis stepped off the sidewalk, but the other dogs were already on top of them.
“I started screaming and I wanted to stay on my feet,” Kuhar recalls. “I tried to stay on my feet to use my legs to kick and punch the dogs. Two of them went for his head and one went for his back.”
She says they all ended up in a ditch on the side of the road, rolling around in the snow. All three of the other dogs were pit bulls. Their owner was the first to arrive to help, but there was little either of them could do. Kuhar says she tried to protect Otis as best she could.
“I was fighting two dogs on his head. I was losing for sure,” she says. “There wasn’t really any fighting I was doing. It was like hitting cinder blocks.”
By this point a few people in cars were stopping to try and help. One of them was Dr. Lindy Jones, a physician at nearby Valley Medical Center.
“Initially I was very overwhelmed at the viciousness of this whole scene,” Jones says. “Particularly how these dogs were just trying to rip the dog apart.”
Eventually, Jones was able to help Kuhar get the two dogs off of Otis’ head. The owner of the pit bulls was able to get the third dog to release as well. Kuhar, Jones and Otis all ran to Jones’ car.
“I took her up to my clinic,” Jones says. “She was bleeding from her hand, the dog was bleeding from multiple puncture wounds. Yeah, it was definite carnage.”
Kuhar went to the Emergency Room at Bartlett, where she was treated for bite wounds to her right hand and forearm. Otis spent the night at the vets, but was able to come home the next day.
“He’s really chewed up, but there’s no major damage to his internal organs,” Kuhar says. “He had a pretty serious wound to his front leg, there was some bone exposed, and there was some tearing of his shoulder. So I think they got a little bite and a tear on his shoulder, so he has, like, a drain in his shoulder to keep the fluid from building up.”
Juneau Animal Control cited the owners of the pit bulls for the incident, but declined to identify them.
Kuhar says she doesn’t know who the owners are, but says they agreed to pay her medical bills and Otis’ vet bill.
She says she’s thankful to the owner who helped pull one of the dogs off Otis, and to Jones for his heroics.
“Certainly without Lindy interfering my dog would be dead,” she says. “I might be dead too.”
Kuhar says she doesn’t want to get involved in the debate over whether pit bulls are dangerous.
Jones says he hadn’t thought much about the issue before the event. Now, he says, it certainly has shaped his opinion.
“A responsible pet owner should consider whether or not it is appropriate to have three potentially vicious dogs by themselves,” he says. “Because I think the ability of one individual to control three vicious dogs like this is nearly impossible, as we experienced here. I mean, the guy who owned them could not even control one of them.”
Gastineau Humane Society Executive Director Chava Lee says the pit bulls’ owners will have to meet certain requirements for public safety. That includes signs on their property warning of the dogs’ dangerous status, special collars, leashes and muzzles, as well as possibly having to get the animals fixed.
Animal Control is also investigating a separate dog on dog attack on Thanksgiving, which resulted in the death of the dog that was attacked.
An Alaska prison inmate is in an Anchorage hospital tonight, according to Alaska State Troopers following an assault by a fellow inmate. The alleged assault happened on Friday evening. A corrections officer at Spring Creek Correctional Center in Seward called it in.
Troopers say Jason Rak, 25, assaulted another inmate, Forrest Ahvakana, 48. Trooper spokeswoman Megan Peters says Ahvakana was beaten, but it is not certain if a weapon was used. Peters says Troopers believe the attack was planned.
Kaci Schroeder, spokesperson for the state Department of Corrections, did not return calls, but Brad Wilson, with the Alaska Correctional Officers Association, says the incident is indicative of understaffing at state corrections institutions
Spring Creek has had previous disturbances. In October of 2012, inmates assaulted a corrections officer, and in August of this year, more than a dozen inmates faced disciplinary action after they destroyed toilets and sinks in their cells.
Wood is a primary heating fuel in the interior, but the practice of burning less than dry logs often results in elevated fine particulate pollution in the Fairbanks area. A local business has a solution.
A group of Bristol Bay fishermen have filed suit against Trident Seafoods, Magone Marine Services, and the owner and operator of the vessel Lone Star, which sank in the Igushik River during the middle of this past year’s salmon fishery. The resulting oil spill shut down the fishery, costing most Igushik Beach set netters their season. They say they have still not been paid for their lost income for the season.
Alaska’s Congressional delegation is bracing for an FDA decision on genetically modified salmon and Sen. Mark Begich has asked the head of the agency not to exploit the holiday season to release what’s expected to be an unpopular report.
At issue is a U.S. company’s plan to create Atlantic salmon eggs for fish farms that include a Chinook salmon gene.
AquaBounty hopes to produce fish that grow to market size in half the time – Begich calls it Frankenfish.
“FDA has never approved anything of this nature, which is basically cloning, and from that perspective I don’t think they’re prepared to understand the potential long-term impacts,” Begich said.
Last year, on the day after Christmas, the FDA officially announced its initial ruling in favor of gene-modified salmon.
Begich says it’s like they were trying to slip something by when Americans weren’t looking. An FDA spokeswoman, though, says they publish documents when they’re complete. In a letter last week, Begich asked that they avoid such surprises this season, and he says they assured him the document isn’t coming soon.
“At least they’ve responded, which is a good sign that they recognize how important this issues is and they can’t rush it through at the end of the year because they want to,” Begich said.
Nearly 38,000 people wrote comments to the FDA about AquaBounty’s plan. Most were against it. Begich, like Alaska fisherman, says the modified salmon could escape and damage the state’s wild stocks, and he says they’d hurt Alaska salmon in the marketplace.
AquaBounty says its fish will be sterile and reared inland, in Panama, so that they can’t escape and harm natural populations. Canada last month cleared the firm to produce genetically modified salmon eggs for commercial use at its hatchery on Prince Edward Island.
The state-owned housing agency is trying something innovative to increase access to affordable housing in Anchorage.
The Alaska Housing Finance Corporation is developing mixed housing in East Anchorage that will combine low income apartments with regular ones.
Tucked between a trailer park and the Glen Square Mall along Mountain View Drive are 6.5 acres of property with a view of the Chugach range. A 70-unit apartment complex will soon be built here.
AHFC CEO Bryan Butcher, says it’s the beginning of what he hopes is a new direction for the organization.
“The great thing about this location is that the city of Anchorage is pretty land poor when it comes to developing housing,” Butcher said. “You can find scattered areas all over the place but there’s really not a lot of room to build housing so to find a piece of property of this size that can be developed to this extent in an area so central to downtown Anchorage as well as the Mountain View Area we’re really fortunate to have and we’re really excited about this being the kickoff of this kind of development in Anchorage.”
Butcher steps out onto what is right now an empty swath of land covered by snow. He says the development is needed in Anchorage.
“We’re especially excited about the affordable housing part of it, because Anchorage and frankly the entire state of Alaska is so short on affordable housing it’s very difficult for folks to find housing so being able to add 70 new units of housing stock to the city of Anchorage we think is tremendous,” Butcher said.
The apartments will be near employment centers, around the corner from a bus stop and within walking distance of Clark Middle School. Butcher says it’s first of a series of upcoming projects that will step away from the failing model of separating where poor people live from where everyone else does.
“It used to be there was a focus on public housing or lower income housing. And it works better as a community to have it mixed and to have a mixture of all Anchorage residents living in one area as opposed to kind of separating things out,” Butcher said.
At any given time there is just 1-2 percent vacancy rate on rentals in the city and the average 2 bedroom apartment goes for more than a thousand dollars a month.
Mark Romick is the Director of Planning for AHFC. He says the project, which is the first development by the agencies new non-profit subsidiary, will save money. Romick says with federal and state funds dwindling, the agency is looking for new ways to access money and moving toward more projects that are paid for through public private partnerships.
“They’re federal tax credits that are provided by the treasury to projects where the private sector is investing in the development of low income housing,” Romick said. “So Alaska housing through its subsidiary will be a general partner in a limited partnership with a private investor.”
Michael Courtney is Director of Operations for AHFC. He says the organization is working with local businesses and community organizations to make sure the developments meet the needs of residents and fit into the neighborhoods.
“One of the other things about AHFC is we try very hard to be a good neighbor, fit well into the neighborhoods,” Courtney said. “So we’ve been working with the Anchorage Community Land Trust, been attending the Mountain View Community Council meetings, talking to businessmen in the community to make sure that this development is going to work in well with their employees and in the neighborhood.”
The Mountain View development comes at a time when the AHFC is for the first time, putting a five-year time limit on able-bodied residents. Courtney says the Anchorage development and others like it will help those working to get out of public housing in the area find something they can afford once they graduate from the program.
“It just increases the housing opportunity in Anchorage an gives people more choices in areas that they might want to be in,” Courtney said.
Future developments could also include some commercial properties for coffee shops, cafes and retail on the street level.
The total for the Mountain View project is about $27 million. It’s set for construction in 2014.
Five past champions are registered for this January’s Kuskokwim 300. 9-time and defending champion Jeff King will seek his record 10th title. 1995 Champion Ramey Smyth returns, along with former winners Paul Gebhardt, Martin Buser, and his son Rohn Buser. 15 teams are signed up, and that’s a good sign, according to race director Zach Fansler.
“It’s a really excellent field already for this year’s K300. 15 is a phenomenal number and I would not be shocked if we see 10 to 15 more. We’re talking to lot of mushers.. a lot of mushers like to check out conditions and see where their team is at. One thing that’s becoming en vogue is if you’re going to send out one team, you can send out two,” said Fansler.
Registered to race from the region are Mike Williams Junior and Mike Williams Senior, along with Aniak’s Richie Deihl. There is no official registration yet from Pete Kaiser.
Norwegian Joar Ulsom returns, along with Cim Smyth, Kristy Berington, Tony Browning, and 23-time Iditarod finisher Tim Osmar.
Two rookies are signed up: Steve Watkins and Warren Palfry of Canada. Fansler says the field has a good depth to it.
“It’s one of the best fields we’ll have in terms of size, in terms of fan friendly mushers, that everyone enjoys seeing out here,” said Fansler.
Just 6 weeks from the start of the race, Fansler says the organization is in a big push to finalize sponsors and get volunteers set up for the race. He says this year is a milestone year.
“This is our 35th anniversary. We take pride in that this is the kind of event we’re always trying to make bigger, but it’s not just about growth, it’s about sustainability, and making sure that we’re taking the steps to make this event benefit everyone in our community and put a great spotlight on Bethel. It can raise the profile on our sport, our mushers, our town, and the whole Y-K Delta,” said Fansler.
The 2014 Kuskokwim 300 kicks off January 17th.
People on the coast who took on storm damage from the early November storms are now able to apply for state disaster assistance funds. The state has set up a phone line and website for people to being their application.
Jeremy Zidek is with the state division of homeland security and emergency management. He says there will be temporary in-person teams in two communities: Kotlik and Stebbins.
“Disaster assistance centers will have verifiers, so once people fill out their application in person, verifiers will go out with them to their homes and verify that damage,” Zedik said.
The Kotlik center will be open on Monday at the School Library. The surge of water ripped up water and sewer pipes and damaged dozens of homes. As homeowners prepare for a cold winter with storm damage, there are two disaster programs that could help.
The first covers damages to homes, personal property, transportation, and medical expenses related to the disaster. For the process to work, the state is asking for homeowners’ help.
“Ready the most important thing people can do to speed the process along is to be ready to fill out their application, have those description of damages, home ownership documentation, insurance information, and personal information ready,” Zidek said.
The cap on individual and family grants is $16,200 dollars. Zidek emphasizes that these disaster funds is a payer of last resort. People must first make insurance claims or take advantage of other assistance programs.
The second disaster program is for temporary housing grants that could benefit Kotlik’s displaced families.
“Folk that haven’t been able to stay in their homes have found shelter with friends or relatives. Our team will be look at that and if people need help finding alternate housing we can do that our temporary housing program,” Zidek said.
The phone number to call 1-855-445-7131. The link to apply is here. The deadline to apply is January 17th.
A man was found dead in an Eagle River home Saturday and police are calling it a homicide, but not yet releasing the cause of death for Andrew Conn, 32.
A friend discovered the body after not being able to reach Conn on the phone.
A woman was charged with second degree homicide Friday night after she called police and said she had accidentally shot a man in a south Anchorage home.
Dead at the scene was Ryan Tamborrino, 24, of a single gunshot wound.
Charged is Bonnie Degenstein, 27. A number of firearms were found on the property and police say alcohol was involved.
The Division of Elections has rejected a petition calling for the recall of Anchorage Rep. Lindsey Holmes.
While the recall group exceeded the number of signatures required by the state, state attorneys weren’t compelled by their legal reasoning for removing Holmes from office. The group needed to prove that Holmes showed a “lack of fitness” for office, and they argued that Holmes violated a compact with voters when she changed her party affiliation to Republican not long after her election.
The recall group plans to file an appeal of the decision. There has never been a successful recall of an Alaska legislator.
Representative Bob Herron is being cited for ethics violations, dating back to when he was first elected to the Legislature in 2009.
The House ethics committee found that Herron knowingly withheld “sufficient detail” on his business ventures with another legislator – Senator Lyman Hoffman.
Herron and Hoffman both represent Western Alaska, and they co-own a school bus company in the Bethel area. Golden Eagle Unlimited has a $930,000 contract with the Lower Kuskokwim School District to transport students.
According to ethics law, any time a legislator has a contract with the state that’s worth more than $5,000, they have to report it. The school district is considered a unit of the state.
The ethics board ruled that Herron knowingly left the contract out of his financial disclosures. The Senate ethics committee made a similar ruling on Herron’s business partner, Senator Hoffman, in November.
The House ethics board spent the past year digging through Herron’s financial filings and conducting interviews. They found that Herron also failed to report the seats he held on the boards of corporations since he was elected. And the board dismissed two other complaints against him.
Herron was in Unalaska this week to attend a community event and hold a public listening session at his legislative office. He declined to comment on the ethics violations. But he did hand off a written statement to KUCB.
It read, “I have never knowingly filed a false, misleading or incomplete disclosure statement.”It went on to say that Herron will comply with the corrective actions the committee laid out and follow the filing requirements. The House ethics committee isn’t going to fine Herron at this point. But the Alaska Public Offices Commission has levied a $7,500 penalty against Herron.
A national commission blames the state of Alaska for the epidemic of violence afflicting Alaska Natives, and has come up with a series of recommendations to strengthen tribal jurisdiction. The state Attorney General agrees there’s a public safety problem, but says the Commission’s solutions aren’t suited to Alaska.
The final piece of steel in the University of Alaska Anchorage’s new engineering building was put into place today. It marks the beginning of the end for a decade of vast expansion at the university.
A light drizzle fell on the audience as a crane lifted the final piece to the top of the four-story structure.
The Christmas tree-clad beam, adorned with signatures of most of the onlookers slid smoothly into place with the help of a couple iron workers.
The new Engineering and Industry Building will provide some much needed space for a program that has expanded by 1,000 students since the year 2000.
According to Chris Turletes, the Associate Chancellor for Facilities and Campus Services at UAA, the $78 million building’s new labs and classrooms will be unusual.
“We['re] building the building with a theme of engineering on display,” Turletes said. “So, you’ll be able to see from other parts of the building what’s going on in the labs and what’s going on in some of the classrooms.”
The building is a piece of a three-part project which also includes renovating and updating the current engineering building and adding a parking garage.
This project is the latest – and likely last – in a busy decade of expansion at UAA, which has seen the expansion of the school’s library, the construction of the new Health Sciences Building, ConocoPhillips Science Building, the Alaska Airlines Sports Center and a few other projects.
But, with the school anticipating decreasing state funding in the future, the trend of expansion isn’t likely to continue.
“In general, I think it’s safe to say that we’re not going to be in a robust budget environment over the next few years,” UAA Chancellor Tom Case said. “So, right not the emphasis is on finishing up those things that have gotten started; do the deferred maintenance that we can because delaying deferred maintenance just adds to the problem in future years.”
Also on the docket are upgrades for the older buildings on campus – some of which are approaching the half century mark.
The Engineering and Industry building is expected to be complete before the start of the Fall 2015 semester.
Late last month, residents of Savoonga and Gambell on St. Lawrence Island began finding hundreds of dead seabirds as they washed ashore.
This week, state officials said the event was from a common disease, and is no cause for concern.
On Wednesday, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said in a press release that tests showed the birds died from Avian Cholera – which is a lot less terrifying than it sounds.
“Avian Cholera is not related to the disease Cholera that affects humans,” Cathie Harms, a wildlife biologist with ADF&G, said. “It is only a disease of birds; it’s relatively common around the rest of the world.”
“The unusual thing is that Avian Cholera had not been detected in Alaska before; it had been found in Canada, but this is the first time we’ve found it in Alaska.”
She says even with a large die-off like the one recently seen off St. Lawrence Island, it’s a relatively natural event.
“We had heard that people had concerns of why birds were dying and appearing on the beach,” Harms said. “The good news is although birds died, it’s not something that can hurt people and it isn’t related to the environment or other issues – it is just an outbreak.”
“These outbreaks tend to run their course in a relatively short period of time and in fact we are hearing fewer reports of dead birds as the days go on.”
The Department of Fish and Game recommends putting the carcasses in vented metal oil drums. That way the carcasses can decompose without causing any more illness to spread to scavengers or other animals.
A deadly virus transmitted by ticks is on the rise, and researchers are studying its prevalence in Alaska. The Center for Disease Control recently published a study on the Powassan virus in the Western United States and Siberia.