Alaska News

SewardTo Try Tidal Heat

APRN Alaska News - 6 hours 10 min ago

Seward’s City Council has approved a plan aimed at using tidal energy to heat city buildings. If successful, the project could turn out to be the first ocean -sourced district heating system in the state. A resolution passed by the Seward City Council the evening before President Obama’s arrival is on-point with the president’s climate warming message.  But assistant city manager Ron Long says it was not planned to go with the president’s visit.

“Purely coincidental. It sure worked out well that is was picked up by news media in town, so we have a chance to tell our story to a little broader audience than we might have.”]

Long  says the city is planning to move away from the use of heating oil, while it attempts to create a renewable energy heating district in the city that would include four public buildings. The resolution approved Monday gave the go-ahead for seeking grant funding, and spending city funds, on the innovative project. Long says the plan is unique to Seward, because of the city’s location and because of the position of the buildings involved. The plan to use tidal forces to produce energy requires heat loops to be buried in gravel below the city’s waterfront.

“While it is warmed by sea water, we don’t pump sea water, so we don’t have to deal with any of the corrosives, extra pumps, all those other pieces of a system that we might otherwise have to have.”

The fluid in the loops absorbs heat from sea water according to Andy Baker, a consultant with Your Clean Energy, and energy auditing and consulting company.

“Vertical loops that will be drilled into the deep gravel along their bike path, where the ocean tides are washing in and out twice a day.
So the idea is that the loops would intercept the tidal water, the heat from the ocean water will go into the loops. The loops are part of one big closed loop that goes around and around in four different buildings. In each of those buildings are heat pumps. the heat pumps extract the heat from the loop.”

Interestingly, Resurrection Bay water is warmest in the month of November, according to Baker, a fact that Baker says is fundamental to understanding why ocean heat is such a great resource for much of southeast and south central coastal Alaska. The North Pacific Ocean gyre starting at the Equator eventually brings warm water to the Alaska current which flows through Prince William Sound to the front of Resurrection Bay

“And in October when they get the big rain storms here, fresh water flows out of Resurrection Bay and then draws in the deep sea water from the Alaska current. So it is sort of like a bathtub that fills up with hot water just before winter. ”

Seward will apply for a Alaska Energy Authority Renewable Energy Fund grant of 850 thousand dollars and use 85 thousand dollars in city funds for the project. City officials estimate heating the library, city hall, a city annex and fire department with renewable energy will save the city up to $76,000 annually.

Seward mayor Jean Bardarson says the city will apply for the grant this month.

“And they are awarded in January. So we are looking forward to hopefully winning those fiances to funding that project in January.”

The city’s proposed tidal energy project is different from the ocean water heating system used by the Alaska Sea Life Center in Seward. The Sea Life Center uses sea water pumped directly from the ocean then filtered and then pumped into a heat exchanger. Baker says the proposed city project requires no water pumping.

Categories: Alaska News

Walker may call gas line special session in October

APRN Alaska News - 6 hours 56 min ago

Gov. Bill Walker (File photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

Gov. Bill Walker may call a special session of the Legislature next month to consider the Alaska LNG Project. Walker spokeswoman Katie Marquette says his decision isn’t final yet, but he’s been talking to legislators about dates, and he’s considering the third week in October.

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“The state has until the end of the December to decide whether to buy out TransCanada’s position in  a gas line, so that matter needs to be handled before the regular session,” she said.

Walker wants the state to buy TransCanada’s share of the project, which he says would give the state a real seat at the table. He estimates it would cost about $100 million.

Senate Majority Leader John Coghill of North Pole says Walker has a good case to make for the buyout.

“My guess is there’s a good chance of him being successful,” Coghill said. “But a lot of it depends upon what other pieces are laid out with it. The previous briefings that we’ve had, there was a lot of unanswered questions yet that we’re hoping that they will bring with them to the special session.”

The governor has to give legislators 30-days notice. The Legislature held two special sessions this spring to resolve the state budget.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: Friday, Sept. 4, 2015

APRN Alaska News - 6 hours 57 min ago

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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Walker may call gas-line special session in October

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Anchorage

Gov. Bill Walker may call a special session of the Legislature next month to consider the Alaska LNG project.

In historic Alaska visit, president sidesteps the press

Zachariah Hughes, KSKA – Anchorage

In the wake President Obama’s visit, Alaskans are still sorting out the significance of new climate initiatives, cultural ambassadorship, and more. But there’s lingering frustration among one particularly vocal group, the press, who found that all the president’s messages came from the same same place: his staff.

Medicaid looks to cut back on new disability program users

Associated Press

An Alaska Medicaid program that funds care for adults with developmental disabilities is looking to cut the number of people it enrolls each year by 75 percent.

With rising heroin use, Peninsula doctor lobbies for an antidote

Quinton Chandler, KBBI – Homer

Nationwide prescription opioid pain relievers are killing twice as many people as heroin. A Southern Peninsula doctor is advocating an antidote for opioid overdose that she says will save lives if used correctly.

Juneau hiker who freed eagle and spring traps being sued by trapper

Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau

The woman who freed a trapped eagle and was cited for springing other traps is heading back to court. In January, the State of Alaska dropped its case against Kathleen Turley. Now, the trapper is suing her for damages in small claims court.

AK: Fishing, cooking and a Yup’ik upbringing made Alaska’s health commissioner

Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage

When Valerie Davidson agreed to accept the job of Alaska’s health commissioner, it was with one important condition. She made sure Governor Walker was okay with her working out of Bethel each summer. Davidson, who is Yup’ik, was born in Bethel and owns a house in the community, right on the Kuskokwim river. She splits her time there between working and fishing.

49 Voices: Anthony Gurule

This week we’re talking to Anthony Gurule, who’s been butchering meat for more than a decade. His first job in Alaska was at the AC Store in Barrow.

Categories: Alaska News

In historic visit, president dodges Alaska press

APRN Alaska News - 7 hours 3 min ago

In the wake of President Obama’s visit, Alaskans are still sorting out the significance of new climate initiatives, cultural recognition, and more. But there’s lingering frustration among one particularly vocal group, who found that all the president’s messages came from the same place: His staff.

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President Obama picked up a silver on the beach in Dillingham. Photo: Hannah Colton/KDLG.

Obama was in Alaska for two-and-a-half days. In that time he made an important speech on the imminent threats of climate change, announced new programs on Arctic research and community relocation, and sped up the timeline for a new ice breaker. During that same stretch of time he did not take a single question from the press.

“There were no opportunities to ask questions, whatsoever,” said Hannah Colton, who covered the president’s visit to Dillingham for KDLG.

“There was not a single opportunity to ask the president questions,” KNOM News Director Matthew Smith said from Kotzebue.

“He did not take any questions,” APRN’s Liz Ruskin told News Director Lori Townsend during Obama’s trip to Exit Glacier near Seward. Asked why the press was on a separate boat from the president in a tour of Resurrection Bay, Ruskin replied, “I think that helps us take better pictures of him.”

The president’s message in Alaska was on the immediate effects of climate change across the state. That story was told visually. Each day of the visit there were poignant press photos of the President standing before a shrinking glacier, holding a glistening salmon, or inspecting fish racks.

“No one would be drying their fish on Kanakanak Beach, in the rain, in September,” Colton said. It was especially hard covering Wednesday’s rainy photo ops for radio, Colton added, because the press was kept too far away for microphones to reach.

Veteran print reporter Lisa Demer with the Alaska Dispatch News was bothered for different reasons during the Dillingham stop.

“I made my best pitch for an opportunity to get in one question. They said ‘that’s just not happening,'” Demer said. “It was terribly frustrating.”

In the last week, headlines and nightly news coverage of the president’s visit have stayed mostly positive. But on Twitter, over email lists, and in wry internal reports, journalists complained about a lack of legitimate opportunities to question the administration’s policies. And that was especially true for reporters inside of what’s called “the pool.”

“The pool gives you access, but it’s very much designed to keep it as limited and controlled as possible,” said KNOM’s Smith. Like most Alaska-based reporters contacted for this story, it was Smith’s first time covering such a high-level visit, and he was put off by the fleet of White House staffers who choreographed the movements and tempo of about 30 members of the press in Kotzebue–all the way down to chiding when someone in the pool asked after the name of a puppy in John Baker’s dog lot.

“Which was Feather, by the way,” said Smith, adding, “You’re not allowed to ask the president that.”

While it is fun, telegenic, and symbolically important to cover the president dancing with kids, or buying a bunch of cinnamon rolls, or getting spawned on by a fish, there are a lot of legitimate questions that went unanswered because they could not even be asked.

“There’s this gigantic oil rig drilling not far from here,” Smith said of Royal Dutch Shell’s exploratory efforts in the nearby Chukchi Sea, which started this summer after gaining final approval from the Obama Administration. “I couldn’t think of a better example of how bizarre and broken the system is: We’re in Kotzebue, Shell’s staging their stuff in Kotzebue, nobody said a word about Shell.”

That is not out of the ordinary for Obama, or for most presidents.

“I hate to disappoint you, but it is very, very normal,” said Professor Elizabeth Arnold of UAA, who covered four White House administrations, and does not think Alaskan reporters were uniquely mistreated: This is par for the presidential course.

“It’s depressing, I know,” Arnold said, “but presidents are very controlled by their handlers.”

Arnold explained that the reason media with experience in the pool don’t simply yell out questions or break past the pageantry is long-term access: The White House regularly sends information to journalists ahead of any public release in order to prepare better coverage when news drops, and that relationship looks a lot more reciprocal with a longer view.

“If you break that embargo and you jump out and say ‘Hey, I’ve got the scoop, he’s gonna give us a new ice-breaker,’ you know what?” Arnold asked,  “You’re not gonna be granted that courtesy again.”

And it’s not as if Obama didn’t have any unscripted interactions while in Alaska. He spent an hour hearing from Alaska Native leaders how to improve Federal relations with tribes. He also disappeared onto Exit Glacier with entertainer Bear Grylls, conducted a photo-shoot and interview with Rolling Stone magazine, and ate dinner at the home of Alaska Dispatch News publisher Alice Rogoff.

For Matt Buxton, reporter with the Fairbanks Daily Newsminer, covering the Kotzebue visit from outside the pool made his stories less about the president, and more about the community’s response to the momentous occasion.

“It was actually fun to be running along the streets, running through back allies, running around security, kinda getting yelled at by security every once in a while as we were trying to get a glimpse of the president like everyone else,” Buxton said. “I don’t know if we would have seen the same kind of thing if we were traveling in the motorcade.”

Buxton says the presidents trip was a huge deal for the folks he spoke with in Kotzebue–a delight and an honor, compared favorably to a 2002 visit from the band The Goo Goo Dolls.

The White House would not comment on the record for this story. But they did release an essay through the web platform Medium reflecting on the trip, along with pictures and videos from the White House’s social media accounts.

Categories: Alaska News

Medicaid looks to cut back on new disability program users

APRN Alaska News - 7 hours 12 min ago

An Alaska Medicaid program that funds care for adults with developmental disabilities is looking to cut the number of people it enrolls each year by 75 percent.

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The Peninsula Clarion reports that currently 200 people are taken off a waiting list to be enrolled in Medicaid’s Intellectual and Developmental Disability waiver annually. Administrators now want that number to drop to 50.

Officials say they would not be abandoning those waiting to join the program. In addition to the annual 50-person increase, wait-listed people would also be added to replace waiver recipients who move out of state, die or leave the program for other reasons.

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Service’s Senior and Disabilities Services Division is taking public comments on the proposed reduction until Sept. 17.

Categories: Alaska News

Oil Tanker Fire Shuts Palmer Access – Fair Traffic Diverted

APRN Alaska News - 8 hours 23 min ago

An oil tanker rollover near Palmer caused a spectacular fire, but no injuries this afternoon.  A double tanker trailer heading off the Glenn Highway at the Palmer exit Friday afternoon lost it’s rear trailer around 12:15 pm.. The diesel – filled tanker rolled and burst into flame, causing a huge column of black smoke and intense flames. Bill Gamble, Matanuska Susitna Borough Emergency Services director, says firefighting units from Wasilla, Palmer and JBER in Anchorage responded.

“Sometimes in situations like this, when you have a hazardous material, like diesel or gasoline, it’s better to just let it burn. If you put it out, than you have another situation where you have to get rid of that product. It turns into a hazardous incident.”]

The tanker was carrying more than 5,000 gallons of fuel. The driver of the double tanker was not hurt in the incident, because he could drive away.  The burning tanker was mid-way through the exit ramp, when it rolled.

No injuries have been reported and the fire is now out. The Northbound Palmer exit is still closed to traffic. Alaska State Fair traffic is being diverted to the Parks Highway and the Trunk Road exit.

“Because of the heat involved because of the diesel fuel that was burning, there may be some damage to the road. I’m not sure, but I would suspect there is. There is some to the guard rail. So I’m not sure how long it will take to fix the road so it is open for everybody to use again,” Gamble says.

Gamble says traffic on the Glenn slowed considerably while firefighters battled the blaze, but it is now moving. He says whenever an incident involves a commercial vehicle, many state agencies get involved in an investigation. After the debris is removed, damage to the road needs to be repaired, so drivers should be prepared to divert to Palmer on the Trunk Road route. Alaska State Troopers says the Northbound Palmer exit on the Glenn will be closed for several hours.  Fairgoers can also take the Old Glenn Highway exit to Palmer.

Categories: Alaska News

With rising heroin use, Peninsula doctor lobbies for an antidote

APRN Alaska News - 8 hours 26 min ago

Dr. Sarah Spencer explains the benefits of Naloxone – Photo by Quinton Chandler/KBBI

Opioids are either, like morphine, naturally derived from the opium poppy or they’re man-made, synthesized from natural opioids. Examples of synthetic opioids are heroin and prescription pain killers like oxycodone.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics in 2013 16,000 Americans died from prescription opioid overdose and 8,000 died of heroin overdose. At the Ninilchik Tribal Council Community Clinic Dr. Sarah Spencer is looking to make a dent in the Southern Kenai Peninsula’s contribution to those numbers. She’s introducing an overdose antidote called Naloxone that is proven to counteract the effects of opioids. She wants to give Naloxone kits to patients who are at risk.

“The states that have the biggest program that distribute these kits like in Massachusetts where the kits are widely distributed among community members who have an interest in trying to help…they’ve shown that they’ve reduced their overdose death rates by approximately half,” says Spencer.

Spencer works at the clinic, the emergency room at South Peninsula Hospital in Homer and she’s also working in addiction medicine at the Homer Medical Clinic. She says overdoses are relatively rare in these small communities but they happen often enough.

“I think all doctors who have worked in the emergency room in the last year have seen at least one or more overdoses come in. Hopefully if the person makes it to the emergency room we can save their [life]. But, we’ve had a few deaths in the community from people accidentally overdosing so if we can save one of those people by having those kits available that would be great,” says Spencer.

Overdoses are unpredictable. They can potentially kill in just a few minutes or their victims could live for a matter of hours.

“What happens is they become very sleepy and their breathing slows down sometimes stopping completely but sometimes just slowing down so much the person can’t get enough oxygen in. They turn blue and eventually when you don’t have enough oxygen then you die,” says Spencer.

Having Naloxone kits on hand will give the friends and family of overdose victims a chance to reverse those symptoms immediately. Armed with tales of Naloxone’s success in the Lower 48, Spencer is introducing the antidote to her co-workers at the Ninilchik Clinic. She and a handful of her colleagues are seated in a semi-circle around a small tray holding the Naloxone.

“This is a trainer for it like there [are] trainers for the epi pen,” says Spencer.

Spencer is demonstrating how to use the most expensive option, an automatic injector. The white and black trainer has a kind of rectangular shape and fits easily in Spencer’s palm. Its biggest perk…it talks its user through the injection. The price might push people away from the auto injector but it’s not the only choice. The Naloxone itself is a clear liquid and it also comes in a transparent vial that can be attached to a syringe. The medicine is then injected or it can be squirted up a person’s nostrils. This route means more steps but it’s much cheaper.

“If you’re going to be paying cash at a local pharmacy, if you don’t have insurance, you’re going to be paying between $80 to about $120 for the medication. And it is covered by many insurances,” says Spencer.

Spencer stresses the Naloxone kits are most effective if their users have practiced and know exactly how to assemble and deliver the antidote before they’re faced with an overdose.

“If you overdose you’re going to be unconscious and you can’t help yourself. So the key thing is to have patients when they get the kit, they take it home, and sit down and read the instructions with their friends and family members,” says Spencer.

Naloxone is now available at the clinic in Ninilchik. Spencer says there are a few local pharmacies on the Southern Peninsula carrying the kits, and they’re also available at the Homer Medical Clinic. She’s eventually hoping to have the kits for overdose patients who come into South Peninsula Hospital’s emergency room.

“Previously we didn’t really have anything to offer them when they left the emergency room other than counseling them to see a counselor and try not to let it happen again. As far as being able to give them a kit to use in case of emergencies that hasn’t been an option,” says Spencer.

Spencer encourages anyone struggling with addiction to reach out for help. She says there is hope and community resources they can lean on.

Categories: Alaska News

Juneau hiker who freed eagle and sprung traps sued by trapper

APRN Alaska News - 8 hours 54 min ago

The woman who freed a trapped eagle and was cited for springing other traps is heading back to court. In January, the State of Alaska dropped its case against Kathleen Turley. Now, the trapper is suing her for damages in small claims court.

Kathleen Turley encountered this eagle stuck in two traps Dec. 24, 2014. She freed the eagle and tampered with other legally set traps in the area. She’s now being sued. (Photo courtesy Kathleen Turley)

Pete Buist is a past president and board member of the Alaska Trappers Association. He’s now its spokesman. Buist doesn’t know the Juneau trapper, John Forrest, but understands why he’s suing. He says if it were him, he’d do the same thing.

“I say bravo for the trapper. The state won’t do what’s right. He should do what’s right,” Buist says.

Forrest, who’s suing Kathleen Turley for at least $5,000, declined to comment.

Kathleen Turley in the Dimond Courthouse after the State of Alaska dismissed the case against her. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

In January, Turley (formerly Kathleen Adair at the time of the events) says she sprang three traps on two separate days out of concern for the safety of dogs and hikers. She also freed an eagle that was caught in two traps. Despite her efforts to save the eagle, it was later euthanized.

Alaska Wildlife Troopers cited Turley for tampering with traps that Forrest had legally set, not for freeing the eagle. Hindering lawful trapping is a violation of state law that carries up to a $500 fine and 30 days in jail.

Turley wasn’t fined or jailed. At the arraignment, the state’s prosecutor used his discretion and advocated for the case to be thrown out, and it was.

Buist says members of the trappers association weren’t happy.

“I can fully understand why the lady rescued the eagle. I don’t have any problem with that whatsoever. And I think if she had just rescued the eagle, the trappers would’ve supported that. But she didn’t. She went back and tampered with the traps and broke the law,” Buist says.

Shortly after the State of Alaska dropped its case against Turley, Buist says several members of the trappers association complained to the attorney general’s office.

“And basically we were summarily dismissed as the fringe element and it fizzled after that,” Buist says.

Forrest has a lawyer, though it’s not required in small claims court. Attorney Zane Wilson is no stranger in the trapping community. He helped win a high profile case involving wildlife biologist Gordon Haber who freed a wolf from a snare in Tok in 1997. The biologist was being funded by an international animal advocacy organization. The trapper sued and the Tok jury awarded him $190,000.

Wilson is with Fairbanks firm Cook Shuhmann & Groseclose. He relayed through an employee he was “not authorized” to speak to me. Wilson is a lifetime member of the trappers association. Buist says Wilson’s uncle is Dean Wilson, a well-known trapper and fur buyer who’s been called the state’s patriarch of trapping.

A fellow Juneau trapper and a state wildlife biologist have said Forrest partially relies on trapping for income. The most targeted species in the Juneau area is marten. In the 2012-2013 season, the average price for raw marten fur was about $140. A state report says one even fetched $1,300. In Southeast, trappers also target mink, otter, wolf and beaver, among other animals.

Turley, who freed the eagle and sprung the traps, doesn’t think she owes Forrest anything. She says she’s never been contacted by him. Until she received the complaint in the mail in July, she didn’t even know his name.

“I was very surprised and confused. … I hadn’t heard anything about it. I had no idea that he felt there was money owed,” Turley says.

Turley is Alaska-raised and has lived in Juneau for 30 years. She grew up fishing and hunting and shot a bear at age 16. As an avid outdoors person, she’s seen traps before, but had never tampered with any before the eagle incident. Turley says she’s not against trapping, but thinks it’s better suited for other parts of the state.

She says she didn’t damage the traps when she sprung them. Turley hasn’t been on the Davies Creek Trail where she found the eagle since.

“I’ve completely avoided that area, which is a beautiful area, a very nice trail, but I haven’t gone anywhere near it. I don’t want anything do to with it,” Turley says.

She says the whole incident and the lawsuit have caused her a lot of stress and grief.

The trial is scheduled for Oct. 12. Turley doesn’t have a lawyer yet.

Categories: Alaska News

Expectations after a Presidential visit

APRN Alaska News - 11 hours 44 min ago

President Obama arrives in Alaska to give closing remarks at the GLACIER Conference in Anchorage.

President Obama’s visit to Alaska was unprecedented in terms of the length of stay and the places he visited. Governor Bill Walker was able to have the President’s full attention on Air Force One. What will this historic visit mean for Alaska’s future? What did our state’s top executive discuss with the Commander in Chief and how was it received?

HOST: Lori Townsend

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  • Governor Bill Walker

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  • Post your comment before, during or after the live broadcast (comments may be read on air).
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  • Call 550-8422 in Anchorage or 1-800-478-8255 if you’re outside Anchorage during the live broadcast

LIVE Broadcast: Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2015 at 10:00 a.m. on APRN stations statewide.

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Categories: Alaska News

He’s a little like Ollivander. Pointe shoe wizard comes to Southeast

APRN Alaska News - 12 hours 21 min ago

There aren’t any specialist ballet stores in Southeast Alaska. That means it’s hard for young ballerinas to find the right fitting shoes.

So every summer, just before school starts Phillip Broadbent comes to town. He’s a master pointe shoe fitter who’s served professional companies all over America. Joe Sykes went down to a fitting last week and filed this report.

Philip Broadbent measures first time pointe shoe customer, Lydia Martin’s, feet. (Joe Sykes)

Where Phillip Broadbent’s from, boys aren’t really meant to dance.

“I come working class north England. It was a sissy thing to do and my Dad was totally embarrassed about it,” he says.

But he hated school and dancing was a way to escape the drudgery of life in 1970s England.

“I was a terrible student academically at high school, going through normal teenage wasteland problems and I thought this is a chance to get away from my hometown and go to London and start a new life,” he says.

And he did, attending the Rambert ballet school and working as a professional dancer for over 15 years.

After quitting the profession he moved to Spokane, Washington, married an American ballerina and became an expert in fitting pointe shoes which allow dancers to pirouette around on the tips of their toes. And Broadbent says for the young ballerinas waiting to see him in Petersburg it’s a rite of passage.

Broadbent tries to work out if the shoe fits.(Joe Sykes)

“They dream about it. It’s just something they want to achieve. It’s a badge of honor,” he tells me.

A young ballerina “goes en pointe” around her 13th birthday, when her feet are deemed ready to handle the pressures of point work. Lydia Martin is first up for a fitting. She’s sitting looking a little nervous in the center of the room. But those nerves are mixed with excitement.

“I’ve been working to get there for a long time,” she says.

All she’s waiting for now is Broadbent to work his magic. Although two of the older girls sitting beside her have a few words of warning. I ask them if pointe shoes are painful.

“Yeah!” They cry in unison. “You get used to it but our feet kind of look gross. Blisters and bunyans and cuts and scrapes and callouses,” they tell me.

That’s because it’s not easy to go up “en pointe.” Standing on the end of your toes for long periods at a time is unnatural and ballerinas are prone to suffering permanent damage to their feet.

This means it is all the more important the shoe fits. And that’s where Phillip Broadbent comes in. He comes over and starts talking to the girls. He gets to know them, he makes them feel comfortable and Broadbent says what is important to understand he isn’t just some traveling shoe salesman.

Lydia Martin practices with her new perfectly fitting pointe shoes.(Joe Sykes)

“I think choosing the right style of shoe and counseling the dancer about how to use that tool is what makes it an art form. What’s that guy in Harry Potter who sells the magic wands?” He asks.

I quickly reply “Ollivanders.”

“Right. I can relate to it,” he says. “I like to feel it’s romantic like that for a dancer.”

It might be romantic but it’s also hard work. As the older dancers practice on their pointes, Lydia works her way through shoes while Broadbent strives to find the perfect fit. Pointe shoes are hard and rigid. They have a nail in the center to hold them together but for girls this age sometimes Phillip Broadbent has to take drastic action.
He snaps the shoe and a cracking noise rings out across the room. But it works. It’s a perfect fit and Lydia walks away happy. She’s that little bit closer to being a fully formed ballerina and Ava Lenhard, one of the older girls, says in the end the pain is worth it.

“I love being en pointe,” she says. “In pointe shoes it feels like I’m flying, it really does.”

Although Philip Broadbent knows this is just the start for these young dancers.

“Going en pointe is an exciting day but it’s the beginning of a long road ahead,” he tells me.

But he says with his help these ballerinas are better prepared to make those first, few, painful steps in a pair of perfectly fitting pointe shoes.

Categories: Alaska News

Rep. Young Ducks POTUS Hoopla

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2015-09-03 17:38

Alaskans of all stripes came out this week for a chance to shake hands with President Obama, or at least glimpse his motorcade, but one person not on hand for the big visit was Don Young, Alaska’s only member of the U.S. House of representatives.

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“Congressman Young traditionally spends the end of August in his hometown of Fort Yukon, and that’s what he did this year,” said Young spokesman Matt Shuckerow. Young is still in Fort Yukon and, according to his spokesman, not easily reached by phone. But Young did follow what the president said while he was here, and Shuckerow says he wasn’t entirely disappointed.

“There were some things that Congressman Young was encouraged to see, that was focused on a wider range of Arctic issues. Arctic infrastructure, icebreakers, deepwater ports – these are things that Congressman Young and others in the delegation have been fighting for for years. It certainly is important to bring attention to them.” :19

Many Alaskans seemed charmed that the president embraced Alaskan symbols – from sled dog puppies to salmon to Native dancing. Young, a Republican in office since Obama was in elementary school, retains his pre-trip skepticism.  Shuckerow says his boss was dismayed the president used the state as backdrop for his climate agenda.

“The big thing that Congressman Young said was that the president just fundamentally doesn’t understand one of Alaska’s major, most basic barriers, and that is the federal government and some of its out-of-touch federal policies coming from our agencies,” Shuckerow said.

Alaska’s two U.S. senators are taking family time and were not available for interviews today. Sen. Dan Sullivan was the first person to greet Obama when he first arrived at Joint Base Elmendor Richardson. (It was a prolonged handshake. Sullivan’s spokesman says he was urging Obama to review the Army’s plan to cut troops from the base.)  Sullivan was also spotted at the GLACIER conference when Obama spoke.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski participated in an hour-long meeting with the president, a roundtable with Native leaders, but she said Monday she was worried he wasn’t hearing enough from Alaskans.

Both senators issued statements thanking Obama for the Denali name change.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2015-09-03 17:37

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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Rep. Young avoids POTUS hoopla

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Anchorage

Alaskans of all stripes came out this week for a chance to shake hands with President Obama, or at least glimpse his motorcade, but one person not on hand for the big visit was Don Young, Alaska’s only member of the U.S. House of representatives.

Obama wraps up his tour on the front lines of climate change: the Arctic

Matthew Smith, KNOM – Nome

Alaskans of all stripes came out this week for a chance to shake hands with President Obama, or at least glimpse his motorcade, but one person not on hand for the big visit was Don Young, Alaska’s only member of the U.S. House of representatives.

Denali Commission to spearhead relocation efforts

Zachariah Hughes, KSKA – Anchorage

For the groups working on the relocation of threatened coastal communities in Alaska, the president’s speech in Kotzebue on Wednesday announced that the Denali Commission will lead efforts is significant news.

Sunken seiner leaks oil near Sitka

Emily Kwong, KCAW – Sitka

A 58-foot seiner that sank Wednesday is now estimated to have spilled 10-30 gallons of oil in Sitka waters. The incident took place half a mile from the mouth of Indian River.

Uber agrees to pay state $78k for misclassifying employees

Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage

Uber, the taxi-like ridesharing service, has agreed to pay the state nearly $78,000 because they misclassified drivers as independent contractors instead of employees.

Alaska National Guard family program seeks Mat-Su support

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

The Alaska Forget Me Not Coalition met with Matanuska Susitna Borough service providers in Wasilla on Thursday to coordinate with organizations that support veterans.

National arts endowment leader explains why art is worth it

Jeremy Hsieh, KTOO – Juneau

The leader of the National Endowment for the Arts is in Alaska this week and made a stop at KTOO to talk about what she looks for in potential grantees.

Restoring the ‘Tall One’ to its Athabascan roots

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

Alaskans have been celebrating the federal government’s decision to officially recognize Denali as the name of North America’s tallest mountain.

Juneau Library to launch Alaska Native stories project

Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau

The Juneau Public Library system is collecting Alaska Native stories on educational experiences as part of an oral history project.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska National Guard family program seeks Mat-Su support

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2015-09-03 17:33

The Alaska Forget Me Not Coalition met with Matanuska Susitna Borough service providers in Wasilla on Thursday to coordinate with organizations that support veterans.

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The outreach event at Wasilla’s National Guard Armory is aimed at finding network opportunities with local Mat Su community service providers.

Lt. Col. Kay Spear-Budd is the Alaska National Guard family program director. She says the Coalition was designed two years ago to continue the level of support in communities for veterans and their families.

“We started out with behavioral health and health, and then we developed from there into separate alliances to address gaps that have been identified over the last to years to include, finance, legal, child and youth.”

She says  Thursday’s event in Wasilla drew more than thirty Mat -Su service organizations. The idea is not to create anything new, Spear-Budd says.

“But build off of what they have already got going, provide military cultural awareness so that more people know and understand the military culture, and then make those connections in the community.

The Mat Su Borough does not provide health or social services to residents. Non-profits step in as providers of mental health, drug and alcohol abuse counseling, affordable housing and other needs

Spear- Budd says that there is no one problem that veterans and their families face.

“It’s unique to every service member and their family and veteran.”

The Coalition links individual veterans and families with the services appropriate to the family’s need, matching the type of coverage – such as Medicaid or Medicare – with the right fit. The Coalition also works with providers to arrange sliding scale payments if there is no coverage for services.

Spear-Budd says in Alaska, there are 71 – 76 ,000 veterans, but only about half of them have done the paperwork to claim veterans status.

“Here in the Mat Su Borough we have approximately ten thousand veterans residing here.. veterans, not their families. And a good estimate when we figure out families is 2. 5 to every veteran .. to average out the family members to go with them.”

She says as federal funds dry up, so do services, so it’s important to collaborate with providers.

“If we can capitalize on that collaboration, we can carry our money and our services just a little bit further for a little bit longer”]

The AK National Guard hopes to collaborate with the various agencies to conduct a needs analysis to identify gaps in services or duplications of effort in addressing the needs of veterans and their families.

The Alaska Forget Me Not Coalition met with Matanuska Susitna Borough service providers in Wasilla today [thursday] to coordinate with organizations that support veterans. KSKA’s Ellen Lockyer reports .

The outreach event at Wasilla’s National Guard Armory is aimed at finding network opportunities with local Mat Su community service providers.

Lt.Col. Kay Spear-Budd is the Alaska National Guard family program director. She says the Coalition was designed (about) two years ago to continue the level of support in communities for veterans and their families.

“We started out with behavioral health and health, and then we developed from there into separate alliances to address gaps that have been identified over the last to years to include, finance, legal, child and youth.”

She says Thursday’s event in Wasilla drew more than thirty Mat Su service organizations. The idea is not to create anything new, Spear Budd says but to

“But build off of what they have already got going, provide military cultural awareness so that more people know and understand the military culture, and then make those connections in the community.”]

The Mat Su Borough does not provide health or social services to residents. Non-profits step in as providers of mental health, drug and alcohol abuse *counseling?*, affordable housing and other needs

Spear- Budd says that there is no one problem that veterans and their families face:

“It’s unique to every service member and their family and veteran.”

The Coalition links individual veterans and families with the services appropriate to the family’s need, matching the type of coverage – such as Medicaid or Medicare – with the right fit. The Coalition also works with providers to arrange sliding scale payments if there is no coverage for services.

Spear-Budd says in Alaska, there are 71,000-76,000 veterans, but only about half of them have done the paperwork to claim veterans status.

“Here in the Mat Su Borough we have approximately ten thousand veterans residing here.. veterans, not their families. And a good estimate when we figure out families is 2. 5 to every veteran .. to average out the family members to go with them.”

She says as federal funds dry up, so do services, so it’s important to collaborate with providers

“If we can capitalize on that collaboration, we can carry our money and our services just a little bit further for a little bit longer.”

The Alaska National Guard hopes to collaborate with the various agencies to conduct a needs analysis to identify gaps in services or duplications of effort in addressing the needs of veterans and their families.

Categories: Alaska News

National arts endowment leader explains why art is worth it

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2015-09-03 17:32

Are you part of an arts organization? Need a grant? Three very important people in the national and state arts advocacy community recently talked about what they are looking for on “A Juneau Afternoon.”

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National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu listens as Alaska State Council on the Arts Chairman Ben Brown speaks about Alaska’s art scene. (Photo by Annie Bartholomew/KTOO)

As part of her visit to Alaska, National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu visited Juneau on Tuesday. She met with staff and actors at Perseverance Theatre, visited the Sealaska Heritage Institute, and attended a reception at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center.

She also joined Alaska State Council on the Arts Chairman Ben Brown and Executive Director Shannon Daut for an interview on A Juneau Afternoon. Here are some highlights:

    • Jane Chu on her impression of the state’s arts scene: “The arts community is thriving in Alaska. And one of the things I’ve noted the most is they have a wonderful way, the Alaskan artists, have a wonderful way of honoring the long established traditions of Alaska and at the same time looking forward to the future as well.”
    • Jane Chu on  how the arts have impacted her: “It’s really been there for me, a gift to me for expressing my own self and really connecting to other people and understanding them too.”
    • Ben Brown on what his organization looks for in potential grantees: “Collective impact is probably what we are all looking for. Which is, don’t just do something in isolation. Have a concert, have a play. OK, people went and enjoyed it and that’s the end beneficial result. And not that that’s a bad thing, but it’s possible to target resources, target artistic activity in collaboration with other agencies, other individuals that are trying to accomplish things—so whether that’s helping wounded servicemen recover from post-traumatic stress disorder—I think that’s something we’re looking at, and I think that’s something the NEA is looking at as well.”
    • Jane Chu on what her organization looks for: “If we can show through hard evidence the connections of arts to our everyday lives, where it might be the beauty of art itself, or it might be the results of how the arts affect and help academic performance in our students and achievement as well as healing, and other aspects — economic, it’s s strong economic driver. … When we are able to send out the message that the arts belong to all of us, that they’re not a frill, and they’re not off in a corner, but they’re really for everybody in all kinds of different ways—that’s a measure of success.”
Categories: Alaska News

The ‘Tall One’ restored to its Athabascan roots

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2015-09-03 17:31

Photo: National Park Service

Alaskans have been celebrating the federal government’s decision to officially recognize Denali as the name of North America’s tallest mountain. Aaron Leggett is the Alaska Gallery Curator at the Anchorage Museum and an Athabascan historian. He says more than just local Athabascan people had a name for the mountain.

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Aaron Leggett is the Alaska curator for the Anchorage Museum. A discussion about place names and how indigenous people are working to revive them will take place at the museum tomorrow at noon.

Categories: Alaska News

Juneau Library to launch Alaska Native stories project

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2015-09-03 17:30

StoryCorps interviews will take place at the Juneau Public Library system starting in May. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

The Juneau Public Library system embarks on an oral history project this spring collecting Alaska Native stories on educational experiences. The capital city’s library is one of ten picked from more than 300 national applicants to bring StoryCorps to the community.

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Freda Westman is a product of Juneau’s public school system, a 1974 graduate of Juneau-Douglas High School. Westman is Grand President of the Alaska Native Sisterhood.

One of her strongest childhood memories is from when she was in middle school.

“I asked a teacher at the end of the year why my grade was a C and could we go and look at the grade book, and we did and averaged it out and my grade was really a B, and so it was changed. That took a lot of courage for me to do that,” Westman says.

At the time, she learned that teachers, who she greatly respected, could make mistakes and those mistakes could be fixed. She learned the value of standing up for herself.

Freda Westman, right, at a school board meeting in November 2014. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

Now, Westman looks back on that situation and realizes those types of errors were likely made on a regular basis.

“Expectations for Alaska Native students were low, so maybe that was the motivation,” she says.

Westman’s mother stopped going to school in the 8th grade to care for sick family members.

“She was not allowed to speak Tlingit in school and was not only not allowed to do that but was punished for doing that. She told us that that is why she didn’t want to teach us Tlingit. She didn’t want us to experience that,” Westman says.

These are just a couple of memories that exist in Juneau’s Alaska Native community, stories that the public library hopes to capture through StoryCorps interviews.

StoryCorps is a national oral history project based in Brooklyn, New York. You’ve likely heard snippets ofStoryCorps interviews on National Public Radio.

Juneau librarian Andrea Hirsh says the interviews aren’t formal. It’s a conversation between two people.

“A lot of people pick a family member, a grandparent, a child, a sibling, a neighbor and they tell their story,” Hirsh says.

The theme of Alaska Native educational experiences sprang from an issue that took place last year concerning the Juneau School District’s elementary language arts curriculum.

Community members raised concerns about school texts depicting Alaska Native and Native American tragedies, including the boarding school experience in Alaska. From the late 1800s to the mid-1900s, the federal government split families and forced Native children into boarding schools to assimilate. The texts were called distorted, inaccurate and insensitive.

The district eventually decided to remove the controversial texts and replace them with locally developed materials. The superintendent invited Alaska Native community members into the classroom to tell their stories.

Library program coordinator Beth Weigel hopes the StoryCorps project can help fulfill this need and others.

Juneau Public Libraries librarian Andrea Hirsh and program coordinator Beth Weigel. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

“Oral history is a big part of the Alaska Native tradition so if we have it available then those are available to teachers if they want to use those as part of the resource materials in their classroom,” Weigel says. “And they’ll stories by Alaska Natives, their stories that they tell in their own words.”

Before applying for the project grant, Weigel and Hirsh sought advice and supportfrom members of the Alaska Native community in Juneau, like Sorrel Goodwin.

Goodwin is a librarian at the Alaska State Library. He says the project is an opportunity to get Alaska Native perspectives on the American educational system. In the mid-1990s, Goodwin interviewed Alaska Natives on that topic for a teaching course at the University of Alaska Southeast.

“Most of their perspectives were largely negative, dealing with such issues as racism and assimilation, and the degradation of Alaska Native cultures, languages, histories, going right on into flat out physical, mental and sexual abuse in many of the boarding school contexts,” Goodwin says.

He hopes the library’s project will include interviews of the younger generation, Alaska Natives who are currently going through the educational system.

“A lot of our parents’ and grandparents’ negative experiences in the American education system have been carried forward. It created a sort of intergenerational post-traumatic stress in the ways that many of our people are either able to engage or not engage with the dominant society’s system of educating people,” Goodwin says.

Sorrel says the more stories that are told, the more understanding will take place. He thinks the StoryCorps project can help the community work through issues that still remain.

One of the library’s goals is to capture a range of voices.

“We would love to talk to people who are still in school and this could be grade school, middle school, high school, college, technical school. It could be young adults, it could be older adults. We want to hear everyone’s story,” Hirsh says.

With permission of the participants, all of the StoryCorps interviews will be archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress and locally at the Juneau Public Library and Sealaska Heritage Institute.

Categories: Alaska News

Sunken seiner leaks oil near Sitka

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2015-09-03 15:58

A 58-foot seiner that sank Wednesday is now estimated to have spilled 10-30 gallons of oil in Sitka waters. The incident took place half a mile from the mouth of Indian River.

The Southeast Alaska Petroleum Response Organization (SEAPRO) and local responders deployed booms around the vessel to contain the spill. SEAPRO also plans to pre-stage 600 feet of boom, in case more oil is released.

The owner, William Manos, reports that 600 gallons of diesel fuel and 70 gallons of hydraulic and lube oils were on board the F/V Pacific Venture at the time of the sinking. According to the Coast Guard, fuel vents on the port side of the vessel have been plugged and other products remain in closed systems. A dive contractor will arrive in Sitka today to assess the situation and potentially remove fuel from the vessel, lessening the risk of pollution.

A Unified Command has formed to take care of clean-up, that includes the Coast Guard, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, the National Park Service, Sitka Tribe of Alaska and Manos, the vessel’s owner.

The Pacific Venture ran aground Tuesday evening, rolled over, and sank in 25 feet of water Wednesday morning. No injuries have been reported, and there have been no confirmed reports of impacts to wildlife.

“Responders are working diligently to minimize the impact on the environment and the community,” said Bob Mattson, State On Scene Coordinator. The cause of the grounding is currently under investigation.

Categories: Alaska News

Uber to pay state $78K for misclassifying drivers

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2015-09-03 14:37

Uber, the taxi-like ridesharing service, has agreed to pay the state $77,925 because they misclassified drivers as independent contractors instead of employees. The company operated in Anchorage for six months then pulled out in March because Uber could not come to an agreement with the municipality to legally operate in the city. The muni said the company was violating the taxi ordinance. Now, the company is also prohibited from operating in the state until they comply with the state’s classification laws.

According to a statement from the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, labeling workers as contractors lets companies avoid paying unemployment insurance, taxes, and worker compensation premiums. It also violates the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Act. The money will go toward covering uninsured injured workers claims.

Similar lawsuits have been brought against the company throughout the country.

Categories: Alaska News

Medicaid looks to cut back on new disability program users

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2015-09-03 10:31

An Alaska Medicaid program that funds care for adults with developmental disabilities is looking to cut the number of people it enrolls each year by 75 percent.

The Peninsula Clarion reports that currently 200 people are taken off a waiting list to be enrolled in Medicaid’s Intellectual and Developmental Disability waiver annually. Administrators now want that number to drop to 50.

Officials say they would not be abandoning those waiting to join the program. In addition to the annual 50-person increase, wait-listed people would also be added to replace waiver recipients who move out of state, die or leave the program for other reasons.

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Service’s Senior and Disabilities Services Division is taking public comments on the proposed reduction until Sept. 17.

Categories: Alaska News

Surveyors take Denali down a notch

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2015-09-03 10:29

Photo: National Park Service

Just days after being officially named Denali, North America’s highest peak received a new height estimate from the U.S. Geological Survey on Wednesday.

The new official height for the mountain is 20,310 feet, a reduction of ten feet from the previous estimate taken in the 1950s. The mountain itself hasn’t shrunk. Rather, scientists today have more sophisticated means of measuring elevation than in the mid-20th century.

The decision to resurvey the mountain came in 2013, after a radar-mapping tool estimated Denali’s height at 20,237 feet.

The USGS says that mapping tool is very useful, but not always accurate for the height of specific objects. The best way to determine the elevation of the summit is to do it the old-fashioned way. The USGS sent a team of climbers with GPS and other tools on an expedition earlier this year.

The team reached the summit, placed the instruments, and returned safely. Denali’s new, slightly lower, height still leaves it comfortably ahead of the continent’s second highest peak, Mt. Logan in Canada.

Categories: Alaska News

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