Alaska News

Mayor Sullivan Vetoes East Anchorage Park, Assembly Could Override

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-03-18 16:26

Mayor Dan Sullivan has vetoed an ordinance the Assembly passed last week that designated municipal land in East Anchorage for a park.

Download Audio

Photo © Jerrianne Lowther: Realigned creek near Grass Creek Village & Begich Middle School west of Muldoon.

The municipality purchased the parcel near the intersection of Muldoon and Debarr streets in 2006 for $5 million from the federal government, which had seized it in a drug case.

Chester Creek runs through the property, and East Anchorage residents have been pushing for a park there for several years. The back part of the 30-acre property has been OK’d by the municipality for use as a park, but Mayor Dan Sullivan has fought to keep some of the land for residential and commercial use. He says he vetoed the Assembly’s decision because it did not follow the correct process.

“There’s already a tremendous amount of park land in East Anchorage, so it’s not like there’s a shortage of parks. What we are short of however is residential land,” Sullivan said. “And to just automatically, without going through a process to just say that all this land that could be developed for both small business and residential should be one hundred percent park, I think is really jumping the gun on the process.”

Sullivan says the Assembly should have waited on a decision until the East Anchorage District Plan is finished. East Anchorage Assembly member Adam Trombley, who wrote the ordinance designating the park, says the Muldoon strip is one of the most densely populated sections of town. And he says splitting the land and selling the front portions off is a bad idea.

Photos © Jerrianne Lowther: Chester Creek in natural creekbed east of Muldoon Road.

“Let’s talk about the developability of the land. The middle section is not developable, not a market prices, because of the soil,” Trombley said. “The front commercial property – nobody’s been pounding on the municipalities door, ‘sell me that property, sell me that property – I want to develop it, I want to develop it.’ So I’m not entirely sure about his justification of why he wants to do that.”

Part of the land is reportedly contaminated with pesticides from when a greenhouse operated there. Trombly argues development of a park would raise the value of existing residential property in the area and provide a common gathering place for one of the city’s most diverse neighborhoods.

Trombley is currently fighting to keep his Assembly seat in a high profile race against former legislator Pete Peterson and former NFL player and manager of the Northway Mall, Mao Tosi.

The assembly can override Sullivan’s veto with 8 votes. The next meeting of the Anchorage Assembly is Tuesday, March 25.

Categories: Alaska News

Unalaska Coast Guard Petty Officer Passes Away

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-03-18 12:17

A member of the Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment in Unalaska has passed away in Anchorage.

Petty Officer Michal Marciniak died at Alaska Regional Hospital on Tuesday morning while receiving treatment for a serious illness. Marciniak had fallen ill Monday morning and was medevaced to Cold Bay on a Coast Guard helicopter. A commercial medevac brought him to Alaska Regional’s emergency room in critical condition.

Petty officer Shawn Eggert says the Coast Guard is investigating what happened, but at this point, he says it’s clear Marciniak’s illness wasn’t
linked to his job.

Marciniak was a Marine Science Technician – one of five at the Unalaska MSD. He was 30-years-old.

Categories: Alaska News

State Reps Reject Measure To Extend Military Perk To Same-Sex Partners

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-03-17 17:20

Rep. Max Gruenberg addresses the Alaska House of Representatives, March 17, 2014. (Skip Gray/Gavel Alaska)

Three years ago, the United States Congress repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and allowed gay men and lesbians to openly serve in the military. Their husbands and wives are also entitled to the same federal benefits they would get if they were straight. But in Alaska, these spouses are not recognized because of a ban on gay marriage that was added to the State Constitution.

Download Audio

On Monday, the Alaska House wrestled with that tension when it took up legislation extending a small perk to military families. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez reports that a measure adding same-sex partners to the bill was rejected.

One of the facts of life in the armed services is you may be asked to move a lot. According to the Department of Defense, military families move 10 times more often than civilian families.

The “Military Spouse Residency Relief Act” was introduced to make those moves easier, and to show that Alaska wants to cater to the troops who are stationed here. All the bill does is let military spouses keep their driver’s licenses, saving them the trouble of going to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Even the lawmakers who want the bill changed like the overall idea. Anchorage Democrat Max Gruenberg made that clear on the House floor on Monday.

“The bill itself is non-controversial, and I strongly support the bill and will be voting for the bill,” he said.

Gruenberg saw just one problem with it.

“The only troubling aspect is the use of the single term ‘spouse.’”

Because Alaska has a ban on same-sex marriage, the term “spouse” does not allow the partners of gay servicemen to take advantage of the benefit, even if they married in another state.

Gruenberg offered an amendment to the bill making it explicit that gay military couples should get the driver’s license exemption, too. The State of Alaska already includes same-sex partners in its employee benefits because of a 2005 court decision, and Gruenberg’s measure copied that language and applied it to the military. Same-sex partners would have to meet a list of conditions to qualify, like having lived together for at least a year and co-managing their finances.

He argued his amendment is tailored to avoid getting into a debate over gay marriage in Alaska, and that it follows legal precedent and the military’s own rules.

“We’re looking at, once again, following the lead of the military – all branches of the service in this country – and I think the trend of most Americans who would like to see people treated equally,” said Gruenberg.

Other members of the Democratic minority agreed, and stood up in support of the bill. Rep. Les Gara of Anchorage framed it as a civil rights issue.

“It’s a matter of respect for people who serve for our armed forces, regardless of who they choose to love.”

But many members of the Republican-led majority were unfriendly to the amendment, including bill sponsor Doug Isaacson. He said the courts are still weighing the issue of same-sex rights, and that until they decide differently, the relationship between husband and wife should be elevated.

“Our State Constitution, as we’ve heard, makes a distinction,” said Isaacson. “We prioritize according to what the voters have told us. And the voters have told us the definition of marriage is between one man and one woman.”

Isaacson represents North Pole, and the Eielson Airforce Base is part of his district. He said there is widespread support for the bill as written.

“Even with the gay spouses, none have asked me to extend this benefit to others,” said Isaacson. “They recognize that in order to help the majority of the spouses who are affected, this is a necessary bill.”

The amendment ultimately failed on a 14-22 vote. While no Republicans spoke in favor of the measure, three – Cathy Munoz of Juneau, Mike Hawker of Anchorage, and Lindsey Holmes also of Anchorage — broke with their caucus to support it. Bob Herron, a Bethel Democrat who caucuses with the majority, was the only member of his party to vote against it.

The bill itself passed unanimously, and will now be sent to the Senate.

Categories: Alaska News

Austerman: Talks Under Way On Pension Issue

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-03-17 17:19

A co-chair of the House Finance Committee says he and fellow majority members are discussing possible options for addressing the state’s pension obligation.

Download Audio

Representative Alan Austerman, a Republican from Kodiak, says “everything” is on the table, including possible contribution increases by municipalities, a proposal from Governor Sean Parnell and extending the time horizon for payments.

Austerman could not say when a firm proposal might be put forth. The session is scheduled to end April 20.

Parnell proposed taking $3 billion from savings and putting it toward addressing the state’s nearly $12 billion pension shortfall. Response to the idea has been mixed. Some lawmakers support a big cash infusion to help lower annual payments while others are wary of taking so much from savings.

Austerman says the Senate is having its own conversations.

Categories: Alaska News

State Representatives Condemn EPA Chief’s Statements

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-03-17 17:18

The Alaska State House unanimously condemned language used by the chief of the Environmental Protections Agency to describe gifts she received in the state.

Download Audio

In the process of describing the strictness of ethics guidelines, Gina McCarthy said she received a jar of moose meat in Alaska that could – quote – “gag a maggot.” She also acknowledged throwing away a pin she was given in North Pole, and used an expletive to describe the action. The comments were reported in a profile by the Wall Street Journal.

In the official rebuke state representatives passed on Monday, they expressed concern that those comments indicate an anti-Alaska bias. The measure was introduced by North Pole Republican Doug Isaacson.

McCarthy apologized to Alaska’s congressional delegation last week.

Categories: Alaska News

IRS Gives a Little on Air Taxi Tax

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-03-17 17:17

The IRS has given a sliver of ground in how it has applied tax rules to air taxi flights. Sen. Mark Begich is calling it a win for small air carriers, but Joy Journeay, executive director of the Alaska Air Carriers Association, says the concession is less than it appears.

Download Audio

“It is not clear at this time that it is going to help anyone,” she said.

The association has said the rules were unclear on when a small plane operator has to collect federal excise taxes from passengers. Several air taxi businesses say they didn’t know they were supposed to collect the money until they were audited and hit with tax bills that, in some cases, exceeded a million dollars.  The IRS last week wrote a letter to Begich saying it will refund any excise tax air services paid for day tours. The IRS letter doesn’t say whether it will also refund the penalties and interest audited businesses had to pay, and an IRS spokesman said the agency didn’t want to talk about its decision. But the letter says the agency is only lifting the tax retroactively. Next month it will apparently revert to its previous interpretation of the rules, which Journeay called baffling.

“The letter issued to Sen. Begich from the IRS doesn’t clear up any of the ambiguous language in the regulations or address any of the items that the Alaska Air Carriers have asked them to address for multiple years,” she said.

The IRS has previously said whether the tax applies to a day trip depends in part on the purpose of the trip. If the passengers deplane to see a glacier or watch bears, the air service doesn’t have to collect the tax, but if they land to fish, that might be taxable, if the pilots fly to the same places with some degree of regularity. The way the agency has defined regularity has also exasperated air carriers.

Journeay says as she reads the letter, the refund only applies to carriers that already paid the tax. For years, even attorneys and tax accountants advised air carriers the excise tax didn’t apply to their small planes, Journeay says. She notes small carriers would still pay a tax to the federal government in the fuel they buy.

Categories: Alaska News

Guide Critically Injured In Avalanche Near Haines

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-03-17 17:16

A heliskiing guide was critically injured in an avalanche near Haines over the weekend, the third avalanche in as many years to injure or kill extreme mountain skiers in the area.

Download Audio

Alaska State Troopers say 31-year-old Aaron Karitis was evaluating snow conditions on a popular ski run west of Haines when the avalanche occurred about 11 a.m. Saturday. Karitis was carried about 800 feet and buried at least seven feet deep, according to trooper spokesperson Beth Ipsen

Karitis was acting as a guide on a heliski tour with Haines company Southeast Alaska Backcountry Adventures, known as SEABA. Four clients were waiting on the top of slope and not caught in the avalanche. Other SEABA staff immediately began searching for Karitis and called in another helicopter and more guides to assist. Ipsen says Karitis was located within 20 minutes.

“If you’re going to survive an avalanche, it’s because the people you are with are going to find you in time,” Ipsen said.

Karitis was wearing a locator beacon that helped rescuers locate him quickly, Ipsen said.

“What you have is you have locator beacons on you and you have to turn it on,” she said. “You have to turn it on so it receives a signal and that’s why it kind of like a metal detector where you’re trying to receive that signal the other beacon is sending out.”

Ipsen said Karitis was unresponsive when located and CPR was started. He was flown by a SEABA helicopter to the Haines Airport and transported by ambulance to the local clinic where CPR continued. He was stabilized and medevaced to Providence Medical Center in Anchorage where he was listed in critical condition on Sunday. There was no other information about his injuries.

SEABA owners did not want to speak about the incident but issued a statement Sunday saying normal response procedures were followed. The statement also says while avalanches are inherent risks of heliskiing, the company has offered its assistance and encouragement to the guide’s family.

Ipsen said a trooper visited the scene of the avalanche Saturday and interview SEABA staff and responders about the incident. Troopers also revised a previous press release that said Karitis had determined the area unsafe to ski. Ipsen said Sunday the guide wasn’t planning on moving his clients from the area. Instead, based on the conditions, he was showing them how to ski that slope. The clients hadn’t yet descended the slope when the avalanche broke loose and took Karitis down the mountain known to skiers as Tele 2.5 near the Kicking Horse Valley west of Haines.

Ipsen said the trooper investigation is complete because they found no sign of criminal intent or negligence.

According to the SEABA website, Karitis grew up in Bend, Oregon. He graduated from the University of Utah and has been working in the heliski industry for about a decade.  He joined SEABA in 2013. Karitis has international guide and avalanche certifications, according to the website, and an excellent safety record.

Just over a year ago, another SEABA guide was killed in a cornice collapsed on a mountain near Haines. That incident also injured two skiers. And in 2012 a guide and client with another heliski company were killed in an avalanche, also outside Haines.

Categories: Alaska News

UAA Students Illuminating Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault Issues

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-03-17 17:15

Students at University of Alaska Anchorage are organizing a panel discussion this week to highlight the problem of domestic violence and sexual assault in Alaska. The conversation is part of the national “No More” campaign that uses a blue circle with a white dot in the middle as a symbol to increase awareness of the issue.

Download Audio

Student Coordinator Simona Gerdts told APRN’s Lori Townsend that leading up to the Wednesday discussion she issued her fellow students a challenge.

Categories: Alaska News

2014 Iditarod Trail Awards Banquet Takes Place In Nome

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-03-17 17:14

The 2014 Iditarod Trail Awards Banquet was held last night at the Nome Recreation Center. Hobo Jim entertained the crowd as they ate prime rib and cake. And emcee of the evening – John Handeland – presented the awards earned by those who raced, and survived Iditarod 42.

Download Audio

Categories: Alaska News

Nome Health Groups Hold Vaccination Drive Amid Iditarod Festivities

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-03-17 17:13

Health groups took advantage of Iditarod visitors last week by holding a vaccination drive at the Nome Recreation Center.

Download Audio

Categories: Alaska News

‘Let The Games Begin!’ Gala Opening Ceremony Celebrates Diverse Cultures

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-03-17 17:12

Members of Team Greenland spill out onto the Carlson Center floor during Sunday’s Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony.Photo by Tim Ellis, KUAC – Fairbanks.

The 2014 Arctic Winter Games officially got underway Sunday, with a gala opening ceremony before a standing-room-only crowd at the Carlson Center. A full slate of competition – and a weeklong array of cultural events – begins today.

Download Audio

The ceremony took on the feel of a rock concert, complete with laser show, as athletes from the nine regions competing in the games stepped onto the stage after being introduced by Alaska Native brothers Philip and Steve Blanchette, while a throbbing electronic beat blasted out at high volume.

“Team Greenland!”

As the athletes made their way onto the floor, many of them, like young people everywhere, began dancing to the beat…

“Team Alberta North!

It seemed the crowd was cheering more loudly with every team that was introduced…

“Team Northwest Territories!”

Some contingents were big, like the Northwest Territory’s, with 347 participants. Some were smaller, like …

“Team Nunavik-Quebec!”

Each contingent was escorted by athletes carrying its flag, followed by the rest waving smaller banners…

“Team Nunavut!”

Some of the flags depicted symbols of the indigenous peoples of the region. Others were national flags, like the Russian tricolor carried by …

“Team Yamal!”

One of the contingents comes from a region that encompasses the northern reaches of several Scandanavian nations …

“Team Sapmi!”

The packed house at the Carlson gave it up for the athletes from our next-door neighbor …

“Team Yukon!”

But of course they saved the best for last, and the crowd was ready when it was time to introduce the home team …

“Team Alaska!”

The music was mainly techno and urban, but some featured indigenous drums and instrumentals, in keeping with the games theme that blends Native and Western cultures. Like this one…

(one drum beats)

It’s entitled “Bubblegum,” by Pamyua, a Yupik group from Unalakleet…

(another drum beat)

Listen closely, and you’ll hear the seal-call…

Respect and regard for all the nationalities and cultures was a common theme for ceremony, like the games themselves.

The North Pole High School choir sang the national anthem or equivalent of each of the contingents participating in the game.

The unifying theme also was reflected in many of the remarks given during the ceremony. Like those by the Rev. Anna Frank, an Athabascan from Minto and now-retired Episcopalian clergywoman in her invocation.

“Creator, you made us in your image. Look with compassion on the whole human race. You gave us this land for our heritage. Bless this land.”

And this, from Sen. Lisa Murkowski:

“You are stepping forward. You’re representing your country, in your event. And these are the moments you look back at with great pride. And know that we share that pride with you!”

Gov. Sean Parnell also echoed the theme of unity.

“As you compete, remember a couple of things. One, when you eat, this first day or two, you’re going to be eating like teams. By the end of the week, you’re going to be eating together.”

The final unifying words were left to Wendell Schiffler, the Fairbanksan who’s vice president of the games’ International Committee and major force in bringing them back to the golden heart city. Said what all the athletes and everyone else in attendance were waiting for …

“Now – let the games begin!”

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: March 17, 2014

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-03-17 17:03

Individual news 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.

Download Audio

Legislature Rejects Measure Extending Benefits To Military Same-Sex Partners

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

Three years ago, the United States Congress repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and allowed gay men and lesbians to openly serve in the military. Their husbands and wives are also entitled to the same federal benefits they would get if they were straight. But in Alaska, these spouses are not recognized because of a ban on gay marriage that was added to the State Constitution. Today, the Alaska House wrestled with that tension when it took up legislation extending a small perk to military families. A measure adding same-sex partners into the bill was rejected.

Austerman: Talks Under Way On Pension Issue

The Associated Press

A co-chair of the House Finance Committee says he and fellow majority members are discussing possible options for addressing the state’s pension obligation.

Representative Alan Austerman, a Republican from Kodiak, says “everything” is on the table, including possible contribution increases by municipalities, a proposal from Governor Sean Parnell and extending the time horizon for payments.

Austerman could not say when a firm proposal might be put forth. The session is scheduled to end April 20.

Parnell proposed taking $3 billion from savings and putting it toward addressing the state’s nearly $12 billion pension shortfall. Response to the idea has been mixed. Some lawmakers support a big cash infusion to help lower annual payments while others are wary of taking so much from savings.

Austerman says the Senate is having its own conversations.

State House Condemns Statement By EPA Chief

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

The Alaska State House unanimously condemned language used by the chief of the Environmental Protections Agency to describe gifts she received in the state.

In the process of describing the strictness of ethics guidelines, Gina McCarthy said she received a jar of moose meat in Alaska that could “gag a maggot.” She also acknowledged throwing away a pin she was given in North Pole, and used an expletive to describe the action.

In the “Sense of the House” they passed on Monday state representatives express concern that those comments indicate an anti-Alaska bias.

McCarthy apologized to Alaska’s congressional delegation last week. Members said they were disappointed by the comments but accept the apology.

IRS Gives a Little on Air Taxi Tax

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington DC

The IRS has given a sliver of ground in how it has applied tax rules to air taxi flights. Senator Mark Begich is calling it a win for small air carriers, but Joy Journeay of the Alaska Air Carriers Association says the concession is less than it appears.

State Files Suit Against Feds Over ANWR

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington DC

The state of Alaska filed a lawsuit last week against the federal government for rejecting Gov. Sean Parnell’s application to explore the geology of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The U.S. Interior Department says the window for such oil and gas exploration in the refuge closed in 1987. The 1980 law that created the refuge left it to a future Congress to decide whether to allow petroleum development on the coastal plain, and Congress has repeatedly rejected the idea. Parnell argues the law still allows exploratory activity. The case was filed in U.S. District Court in Anchorage.

Guide Critically Injured In Avalanche Near Haines

Margaret Friedenauer, KHNS – Haines

A heliskiing guide remains in critical condition as of Monday afternoon after being buried in an avalanche near Haines over the weekend. It’s the third heliskiing accident in as many years to injure or kill extreme mountain skiers in the area.

UAA Students Illuminating Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault Issues

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

Students at University of Alaska Anchorage are organizing a panel discussion this week to highlight the problem of domestic violence and sexual assault in Alaska. The conversation is part of the national “No More” campaign that uses a blue circle with a white dot in the middle as a symbol to increase awareness of the issue.

2014 Iditarod Trail Awards Banquet Takes Place In Nome

Laureli Kinneen, KNOM – Nome

The 2014 Iditarod Trail Awards Banquet was held last night at the Nome Recreation Center. Hobo Jim entertained the crowd as they ate prime rib and cake. And emcee of the evening – John Handeland – presented the awards earned by those who raced, and survived Iditarod 42.

Nome Health Groups Hold Vaccination Drive Amid Iditarod Festivities

Zachariah Hughes, KNOM – Nome

Health groups took advantage of Iditarod visitors last week by holding a vaccination drive at the Nome Recreation Center.

‘Let The Games Begin!’ Gala Opening Ceremony Celebrates Diverse Cultures

Tim Ellis, KUAC – Fairbanks

The 2014 Arctic Winter Games officially got underway Sunday, with a gala opening ceremony before a standing-room-only crowd at  the Carlson Center.  A full slate of competition – and a weeklong array of cultural events – begins today.

Categories: Alaska News

GCI Nears 3G Data Service In Bethel

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-03-17 09:26

Bethel was expected to have 3G service in December of the last year. The date was then moved to February, and now scheduled for mid to late April.

GCI tells KYUK that all of the permits are complete to build the 80-foot tower near Ptarmigan road. The company completed some additional environmental and historical federal paperwork and will start construction soon.

David Morris is a spokesperson for GCI. He says other towers are ready to go. But you need a complete system to allow phones to work all around town.

“If you don’t have it designed right you will go off air and have to reboot your phone and everything else like that,” Morris said. “So what we’re trying to get is so you can travel from one area of Bethel to another and it will be a seamless communication experience.”

Once the tower is up, there will be a little more testing before launching the data service.

“There’s probably going to be a bit more grooming to take place, but the essential thing is to get the tower in place,” said Morris.

Ten nearby villages are set to receive upgrades to 3G this summer.

Categories: Alaska News

Calista Heritage Foundations Awards $177,000 In Scholarships

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-03-17 09:24

Two hundred and three students from the region will receive $177,000 in scholarships from the Calista Heritage Foundation. All recipients are Calista shareholders or descendants.

Forty-one of the 56 villages in the Calista region are represented in the 2014 spring scholarships. The top majors are business, nursing, biology/health, education and engineering. Six percent of the students study at the graduate level.

To date, $3.5 million have been distributed through the scholarships.

Categories: Alaska News

State Sues Feds Over Arctic Refuge Exploration

APRN Alaska News - Sun, 2014-03-16 15:44

The state of Alaska filed a lawsuit last week against the federal government for rejecting Gov. Sean Parnell’s application to explore the geology of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The U.S. Interior Department says the window for such oil and gas exploration in the refuge closed in 1987. The1980 law that created the refuge left it to a future Congress to decide whether to allow petroleum development on the coastal plain, and Congress has repeatedly rejected the idea. Parnell argues the law still allows exploratory activity. The case was filed in U.S. District Court in Anchorage.

Categories: Alaska News

Long-Awaited Snow A Welcome Sight To Oosik Classic Organizers

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-03-14 18:45

Photo from the Oosik Classic Ski Race Facebook page.

Organizers of the Oosik Classic Ski Race bill it as a “fun and funky” race and tour, followed by a night on the town of Talkeetna. Until recent snows, however, it wasn’t clear just how fun the race was going to be.

This weekend, hundreds of cross-country skiers will flock to Talkeetna for the annual Oosik Classic Ski Race and Tour. The race will happen late in what has been an unusual winter. Record winter highs have been recorded throughout Alaska, and the Upper Susitna Valley saw two prolonged melting periods before mid-March. The lack of snow had event organizers, including Trail Meister Bill Barstow, concerned.

“The race probably would have been severely constrained,” Barstow said. “It wouldn’t have been very Oosik-y.”

Bill Barstow says the race was probably not in danger of being canceled outright, as happened with a cross-country event in Homer, but there were concerns that the skiing would not be ideal.

That all changed recently with well over a foot of snow falling in the last week. Some of that has since melted as well, but race organizers believe that it will still leave a good trail.

“We’re really lucky, because we haven’t gotten that much snow, but I still think we’re going to be able to make it happen,” Barstow said. “We put in a lot of work on some nice, interesting trails that we were thinking we weren’t going to be able to use, but [more snow] brought it all back into the picture. Now…we make it pretty and hope things are going to keep cooperating.”

When registration closed on Tuesday, 678 skiers were signed up.  That’s more than three-quarters of the year-round population of Talkeetna. Arthur Mannix of the Denali Nordic Ski Club says that the Oosik is a different type of skiing experience, which contributes to its popularity.

“Part of the appeal of it for a lot of skiers is that it’s based out of a funky little town, and the trail itself is…cross-country, through the woods, over hill and dale,” Mannix said. “It really makes you ski. It makes you ski with the country.”

In addition to the somewhat rustic trail, the Oosik has developed a feel and a culture all its own, as might be expected from an event named after part of a male walrus’s anatomy.

Advertisements for the event state, “Some race. Some wear costumes.  Everyone has fun.”

Costumes aren’t the only unique factor, however. In addition to the official aid stations where skiers can recharge with a quick snack, area residents have begun a tradition of setting up “unofficial” aid stations, which often serve beer, bacon, and other consumables that might not normally be considered serious skiing cuisine. Arthur Mannix says that Talkeetna’s unique culture probably has something to do with it.

“I guess it’s part of what makes our little town unique,” Mannix said. “People come up with these spontaneous ideas, and they’re creative and outside of the box. I guess what’s really cool is that this event has provided a venue for people to express themselves in a lot of different ways.”

Talkeetna will begin to fill up as the weekend approaches, and the nearly 700 skiers will take off this Saturday afternoon.

Categories: Alaska News

Ahtna Goes to Congress For Role in Game Management

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-03-14 16:16

Alaska tribes and rural hunters have long complained that the dual federal-state game management system is hard to live by and doesn’t give subsistence users their due. Today, Ahtna Inc., the smallest of Alaska’s Regional Native Corporations, presented a proposal for co-management of game to a U.S. House panel.

Download Audio

Unlike most of rural Alaska, the eight villages of the Ahtna Region are on the road system. Ahtna President Michelle Anderson told a congressional panel today that every season, local hunters have to contend with more and more hunters who drive in from elsewhere. She said it’s not just a matter of food but also cultural erosion.

“It’s a shame that this last season for instance, you know, many of our hunters who have always gotten a moose couldn’t compete with everyone else,” Anderson testified at the House Indian and  Alaska Native Affairs Subcommittee. “A lot of our elders have empty freezers this winter. That means, too, that our children are not being raised on our traditional foods.”

Questions about how to divvy fish and game to favor subsistence users have plagued the state since the 1970s. Anderson says Ahtna has spent millions to protect their members’ hunting rights and to control trespass on corporate land. They say they need co-management, a real seat at the table, with state and federal managers.

“To be honest, we would be taken more seriously,”Anderson said. “Right now we’re just a voice complaining about these people coming on to our lands.”

The proposal would authorize Ahtna and area tribes to jointly manage wildlife on Native corporation lands. It would also establish co-management on what Ahtna says is its traditional hunting grounds. That territory includes state and federal land, stretching from Cantwell to beyond McCarthy. In state Board of Game terms, it’s mostly regions 11 and 13, though the governor would have to “opt in” for co-management to affect state land.

Tara Sweeney, co-chair of Alaska Federation of Natives, testified the proposal will help preserve the subsistence rights of non-Natives living in rural Alaska, too. Sweeney acknowledges not everyone will see it that way.

“The issue of food security for Alaska Natives has always been a controversial issue, and we’re here to stand behind the people of the Ahtna Region,’” she said. “It’s going to impact a very small portion of the state.”

She and Anderson were the only witnesses at the House Indian Affairs Subcommittee today. The head of the Alaska state office in Washington, Kip Knudson, says the state will submit a response by March 24, but the proposal is very complex.

“The bill is covering issues that have been fought about and debated for 40 years, so we’ll have to cover quite a bit of ground in our comments, I suspect,” he said.

The subcommittee chairman, Alaska Congressman Don Young, said at the end of the hearing he intends to pursue this, and he sees rough waters ahead.

“Thank you, and I will tell you, this is something I believe in or I wouldn’t do it, and it’s at great jeopardy that I do this. But if I don’t do this, why am I here?”

Young says he’s listening to all sides and aims to leave a legacy of increased opportunities for subsistence, as well as sport hunting and participation in what he called “the great Alaska experience.”

MORE INFORMATION:

Map of area Ahtna proposes for co-management with federal and possibly state game managers.

Draft Bill

 

Categories: Alaska News

VPSOs Prepare For Possibility Of Being Armed

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-03-14 16:13

The effort to allow VPSOs to carry guns cleared a major hurdle this week when the Alaska House unanimously passed the bill that does just that.

Download Audio

The decision is in the hands of legislators in Juneau now, and while the bill passed the 38-0, the issue on the ground is more nuanced. Several Y-K Delta VPSOs were in Bethel for training last week and spoke to KYUK about the prospect of being armed.

Jacob Tobeluck is from Nunapitchak and is an eight-year veteran of the VPSOs. He said he initially had mixed feelings about being armed, and that’s because many of the people he meets in his job are people he’s known for years.

Tobeluck and Otto. Photo by Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel.

“In the back of your head, you think, if you carry a firearm, how is this person going to react, this person you’ve dealt with for so many years. Going to a call where guns involved and having someone else point a firearm at you, for a lack of better words, it freaks you out and you realize how quick things can go bad,” said Tobeluck.

Sergeant Jonathan Otto has been a VPSO in Kongiganak for 20 years. He says conversations with community members have largely been in favor of arming. And that’s critical, because communities will have some say in whether their VPSO is armed.

“I’ve been told by some people it’s about time you guys are getting armed, all the young people are getting aggressive, we should be able to go home to our own families instead of just being killed,” said Otto.

Two officers have been killed in the line of duty, the most recent being Manokotak’s Thomas Madole. That’s what spurred the most recent legislative push. That law would require some level of training standards. Otto says part of that training came very early for most VPSOs.

“Most of the people in the rural villages have been taught to hunt with a long rifle, most of them have been told about not pointing a gun to anybody, we’ve been told since we were kids when our dads taught us how to use a gun,” said Otto.

Tobeluck says it is ultimately is a matter of officer safety. He says guns are part of the lifestyle in his community. Having a VPSO armed just makes sense.

“I don’t care if it’s shack, they’ll find a gun. You’ll see kids walking around holding guns, going out hunting. It’s a common thing in the villages. For a VPSO to carry a sidearm I don’t think it will be anything new. A trooper comes out with a sidearm, a kid looks at his sidearm and walks away. It’s going to be nothing new,” said Tobeluck.

The bill to allow arming VPSOs now goes to the Alaska Senate. If passed, the bill would go to the governor’s desk for signature.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: March 14, 2014

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-03-14 16:12

Individual news 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.

Download Audio

Ahtna Proposes New Game Management Plan

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington DC

Alaska tribes and rural hunters have long complained that the dual federal-state game management system is hard to live by and doesn’t give subsistence users their due. Today, Ahtna Inc., the smallest of Alaska’s Regional Native Corporations, presented a proposal for co-management of game to a U.S. House panel. It’s a pilot project and it’s sure to be controversial.

VPSOs Prepare For Possibility Of Being Armed

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

The effort to allow VPSOs to carry guns cleared a major hurdle this week when the Alaska house unanimously passed the bill that does just that. The decision is in the hands of legislators in Juneau now, and while the bill passed 38-0, the issue on the ground is more nuanced. Several Y-K Delta VPSOs were in Bethel for training last week and spoke to KYUK’s Ben Matheson about the prospect of being armed.

Senate Education Moves Governor’s Education Bill

The Associated Press

The Alaska Senate Education Committee moved Governor Sean Parnell’s omnibus education bill Friday after rejecting amendments offered by the committee’s lone Democrat.

Legislature Rejects Pay Raises For Top Officials

The Associated Press

The legislature has rejected proposed pay increases for the governor, lieutenant governor and main department heads.

Geoduck Dive Fishery Opens; Market Found

Leila Kheiry, KRBD – Ketchikan

Southeast Alaska divers were out fishing for geoducks on Thursday, for the first time in about two months. Processors found a market for the clams outside of China, which still has not lifted its ban on West Coast shellfish.

Juneau School Board Unmoved By Travel Ban Task Force, Public Testimony

Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau

The Juneau School Board will not reconsider the ban on middle school sports travel, at least for the rest of the school year.

AK: Machine Shop

Robert Woolsey, KCAW – Sitka

Manufacturing – like everything else – is becoming more computerized. But instead of replacing craftsmanship, digital technology is opening up possibilities for students to create things in ways that simply weren’t practical a decade ago.

Three kids at Sitka High School are building a tool — really just a customized piece of metal — to do an unsung, but important, job in the community. And their collaboration points toward a future where we’ll make stuff differently.

300 Villages: Hoonah

This week we’re heading to Hoonah, a small community on Chichagof Island in Southeast. Chris Erikson runs a guiding business in Hoonah.

Categories: Alaska News

Senate Education Moves Governor’s Education Bill

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-03-14 16:12

The Alaska Senate Education Committee moved Gov. Sean Parnell’s omnibus education bill Friday after rejecting amendments offered by the committee’s lone Democrat.

Download Audio

Sen. Berta Gardner, a Democrat from Anchorage, offered two amendments to Senate Bill 139 in attempt to prevent the forcing of a charter school upon a local school district by the state school board. Her third amendment attempted to raise the per-pupil allocation rate by $404 in the first year and tie it the inflation rate for the following years.

All three amendments failed by a four to one vote along party lines.

Gardner raised objections over the bill saying it does not improve the quality of pre-school programs nor support affective, highly effective teachers.

The bill moves to the Senate Finance Committee.

Categories: Alaska News

KBBI is Powered by Active Listeners like You

As we celebrate 35 years of broadcasting, we look ahead to technology improvements and the changing landscape of public radio.

Support the voices, music, information, and ideas that add so much to your life. Renew here or visit KBBI by April 21 to enter to win one round-trip airfare with Era between Homer and Anchorage. Thank you for supporting your local public radio station.

ON THE AIR

FOLLOW US

Drupal theme by pixeljets.com ver.1.4