Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: August 15, 2014

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-08-15 16:47

Individual news stories are posted under APRN News. You can subscribe to APRN’s news feeds via email, podcast and RSS.

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US Arctic Rep Visits, Tours Alaska

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The United States Special Representative for the Arctic is visiting Alaska. Retired Coast guard Admiral Robert Papp is charged with managing the country’s entire arctic portfolio.

Regulators Issue Trespass Notices for Kuskokwim Vessels

Daysha Eaton, KYUK – Bethel

State regulators are issuing dozens of trespass notices for old vessels sitting in the Kuskokwim River. Some of the barges and boats pose navigational and safety hazards, while others are just tied up on state land without a permit. Officials say it’s the first step toward getting owners to take responsibility for vessels that are causing problems.

Joe Miller Says He’ll Back One of His GOP Rivals If He Loses the Primary

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Anchorage

The Republican candidates running for U.S. Senate said in a debate Thursday they’ll support whoever wins the GOP nomination. The big question was about Joe Miller, who had previously refused to say whether he’d run as a write-in or on a third-party ticket if he loses the Republican Primary on Aug. 19. Now, Miller says he’ll back either Dan Sullivan or Mead Treadwell to help unseat the Democratic incumbent.

House District 3 Primary: Mostly Agreement – And A Few Key Differences

Tim Ellis, KUAC – Fairbanks

Redistricting has thrown two incumbent North Pole Republican lawmakers into a new district, and created one of the more unusual political matchups in this year’s primary: District 1 Representative Tammie Wilson versus District 2 incumbent, Doug Isaacson, for the new District 3 seat.

New Sealaska CEO Plans Big Investments in Southeast

Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau

New Sealaska CEO Anthony Mallott says part of the Juneau-based regional Native corporation’s strategy for reversing recent losses will be to do business closer to home.

AK: A Kinder, Gentler Militia? Alaska’s Militia Rebrands Itself

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Anchorage

In 2011, members of the Alaska Peacemakers Militia were arrested for conspiracy to commit murder. The trial of their leader, Schaeffer Cox, continually made headlines in the years that followed, most of them bad. Now, other militia groups in the state are trying to show a different side to the movement.

300 Villages: Healy

This week we’re headed to Healy, a small community on the fringes of Denali National Park. Clay Walker is mayor of the Denali Borough.

Categories: Alaska News

AK: A Kinder, Gentler Militia? Alaska’s Movement Rebrands

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-08-15 15:55

(Alexandra Gutierrez/APRN)

In 2011, members of the Alaska Peacemakers Militia were arrested for conspiracy to commit murder. The trial of their leader, Schaeffer Cox, continually made headlines in the years that followed, most of them bad. Now, other militia groups in the state are trying to show a different side to the movement. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez spent three days at a militia gathering in Sutton this summer and has this story.

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It’s a picture perfect day, and five people in camouflage are marching beneath a crag in the Talkeetna mountains. Rifles are slung across their chests, and an aerial photography drone is hovering over. The man operating the camera is shouting directions.

“We want to get them relaxed – not always ready to rock. Oh, that’s a nice shot of them going away right there ”

The stuff the videographer is getting looks like it’s straight out of an Army recruitment ad. But the people in camo aren’t soldiers. They’re members of the Anchorage Municipality Defense Force, one of the half dozen or so militias operating in Alaska.

Their commander, Mikel Insalaco, came up with the idea of using a drone to film part of the Alaska Prepper, Survivalist, & Militia Rendezvous, an annual training weekend that brings outfits from across the state together.

“We’re supposed to be paranoid about drones but the reality of this is this one has a good purpose,” Insalaco tells me. “We want to be able to get some pretty wicked footage of the event.”

(Alexandra Gutierrez/APRN)

The only thing that Insalaco — or, really, any of the rendezvous attendees — seems paranoid about is seeming paranoid.

The American militia movement isn’t exactly viewed as cuddly. After a series of standoffs with federal agents in the Nineties, militias got a lot of attention as a dangerous and fringe anti-government subculture. Locally, the Alaska Peacemakers Militia incident didn’t help that reputation. Cox was sentenced to 25 years in prison for conspiring to kill law enforcement officials and illegally possessing automatic weapons and grenades. Three other members were also incarcerated on similar charges.

Taking in the scene at the militia rendezvous, it’s easy to see how an outsider might be wary. The temporary compound is patrolled by armed men. There are pickup trucks draped in camo netting, and plenty of dudes with beards and tattoos milling around.

David Luntz is one of them.

“Militias get a bad name,” Luntz says during a break from training.

He commands the Central Alaska Militia, which covers a swath of land from Delta Junction to Fairbanks. For all that should make Luntz intimidating, he’s just – well – not. He’s got an easy laugh, and if you talk to him for more than a couple minutes about how he leads the militia, the word “transparency” will inevitably come up.

“We want people to understand what we’re about and support us. These groups that hide and be all secret and they’re not public and open – well, people start fearing them,” says Luntz.

It should go without saying that any motley crew can describe themselves as a militia, and Luntz obviously doesn’t speak for all of them. But the attitude he has is a common one among the groups attending the rendezvous.

“Unfortunately, what happened with [Cox] really hurt the efforts in Alaska, and one of our primary missions in Central Alaska Militia is to change that perception.”

Even though some members of the Alaska militia movement believe Cox was a victim of entrapment, many rendezvous attendees distance themselves from and are even critical of the Peacemakers. They’re eager to show their militias are about more than clashing with government.

For Luntz, the militia’s about a few things. He describes it as a “community defense” group where the people involved learn solid survival skills. Outside of a couple digs at the United Nations, there’s not a lot of talk at the rendezvous about one-world government or taking on the Feds. You’re more likely to hear about preparing for what some call “general infrastructure failure,” and being ready for natural disasters — and maybe alien or zombie attacks. (Driving that home is one attendee’s ammo dog, who wanders the compound in a camo pack that reads “Zombie Response K-9.”) So, in addition to sessions on weapons transitions and close-quarter tactics, there’s also training on food storage and first aid.

“I think that some people are a little apprehensive to come out and run around in BDUs [battle dress uniform],” says Luntz. “The militias and these groups that are formed have a lot more positions that people could partake in that doesn’t involve running around in fatigues and army gear.”

Luntz also gets a sense of camaraderie from his militia. He was in the Army for 20 years, and now he does defense work for – yes – the federal government.

And as a member of the Constitution Party and a strong believer in the Second Amendment, Luntz sees his involvement in the Central Alaska Militia as a basic exercise of his rights. But he doesn’t think of his militia as right-wing or even explicitly political.

“You know, we don’t not accept people because they’re a liberal or they’re whatever. As long as you support the Constitution and our form of government and our Republican setup, then you’re pretty much good,” Luntz says, before laughing. “Just so long as you’re not a felon or a sex offender.”

(Alexandra Gutierrez/APRN)

Yup, the Central Alaska Militia runs background checks on potential members. And at the rendezvous, there are plenty of rules they agree to for safety reasons that would be unacceptable to them if imposed by government. They require attendees to have their pistols holstered and unloaded, and prohibit anyone from handling a gun if they’ve had anything to drink within the past eight hours. The rules are as strict as a shooting range, and much stricter than state law.

And as far as government goes, Luntz says they’ve given the State Troopers their standard operating procedures. They also reach out to the boroughs, the state, the Feds whenever they hold an event on public land.

“You know it’d be kind of easy for somebody to be on the other side of this big compound here and out camping for the weekend, and they see us, and they’re like, ‘Oh my god! They have guns,’ and they call the troopers, ‘There’s a bunch of people with guns!’” says Luntz. “So, we make those public contacts.”

As it turned out, the Troopers did get called to the area … but not because of the rendezvous. In fact, not a single shot was fired the whole weekend by the militia crowd. The Troopers were there because a separate party sprouted up near the compound on the last night. There were drunk people driving four-wheelers, a couple of cases of indecent exposure, and shots being fired well into the A.M.

At breakfast the next day, there was some talk about how rowdy the party-goers were and how they were glad the compound had a perimeter set up. At the end of the conversation, one person commented while shaking his head, “And we’re supposed to be the guys people are afraid of.”

(Alexandra Gutierrez/APRN)

Categories: Alaska News

300 Villages: Healy

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-08-15 14:29

This week we’re headed to Healy, a small community on the fringes of Denali National Park. Clay Walker is mayor of the Denali Borough.

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300 villages is AK’s attempt to put every community in Alaska on the radio. If you want to hear your community featured, send an e-mail to news@alaskapublic.org.

Categories: Alaska News

Sealaska Plans To Bring Investment Back Home

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-08-15 13:36

New Sealaska CEO Anthony Mallott says part of the Juneau-based regional Native corporation’s strategy for reversing recent losses will be to do business closer to home.

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Mallott told the Juneau Chamber of Commerce on Thursday that Sealaska wants to provide economic opportunities and jobs for its nearly 22,000 shareholders. Most live in Southeast and the Pacific Northwest.

The corporation has sold some of its business interests in areas like Florida, Mexico and Alabama. Mallott says it now has a $100 million investment fund and a $65 million fund for acquisitions.

While jobs for shareholders will be important, Mallott says the number one priority will be to invest in profitable enterprises. In 2013, Sealaska businesses lost about $57 million. That shrunk to $35 million due to revenue from investments and natural resource earnings shared by all Native corporations.

Mallott believes Congress is poised to pass legislation completing Sealaska’s land entitlement under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. The long-awaited measure would transfer up to 80,000 acres of the Tongass National Forest to the corporation, providing a boon to Sealaska’s timber businesses.

Mallott took over as CEO at Sealaska’s annual meeting in June. He had previously served as treasurer and chief investment officer. He replaced longtime CEO Chris McNeil Jr., who retired. Mallott is the son of Democratic gubernatorial candidate and former Sealaska board member Byron Mallott.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska Airlines Center Set To Open In September

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-08-15 13:26

On Friday, Aug. 15, the University of Alaska Anchorage invited local media outlets to tour the nearly-complete Alaska Airlines Center. The facility is slated to open to the public on Sept. 5, 2014.

Categories: Alaska News

Keogh Announces Senate E Run

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-08-15 12:51

 Chickaloon’s Warren Keogh has turned in enough signatures to the state division of elections to secure a ballot spot for the Senate E seat. Keogh and his followers made the announcement Thursday in Wasilla. Keogh is running as an independent, and will face incumbent Republican Mike Dunleavy in the November election.

 Keogh, who served on the Matanuska Susitna Borough Assembly, has a background as a firefighter, paramedic and a water resources specialist in Alaska. He has also served a president of the Chickaloon Community Council.

 Senate E stretches from the Susitna Valley to Valdez, and includes areas to the North of Wasilla, and along the Glenn and Richardson Highways.

Categories: Alaska News

Peak Water

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-08-15 12:00

The severe conditions in Alaska prompt a lot of ingenuity, and that’s good because we have plenty of challenges – for instance food security and sanitation. But can Alaskan ingenuity deal with both at the same time?  That’s the discussion we’ll have with waste-water gardener Mark Nelson, on the next Talk of Alaska.

HOST: Steve Heimel, Alaska Public Radio Network

GUESTS:

  • Mark Nelson, author, “The Wastewater Gardener: Preserving the Planet One Flush at a Time”
  • Callers Statewide

PARTICIPATE:

  • Post your comment before, during or after the live broadcast (comments may be read on air).
  • Send e-mail to talk [at] alaskapublic [dot] org (comments may be read on air)
  • Call 550-8422 in Anchorage or 1-800-478-8255 if you’re outside Anchorage during the live broadcast

LIVE Broadcast: Tuesday, August 19, 2014 at 10:00 a.m. on APRN stations statewide.

SUBSCRIBE: Get Talk of Alaska updates automatically by e-mailRSS or podcast.

TALK OF ALASKA ARCHIVE

Categories: Alaska News

Three Way Race For House 9

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-08-15 11:49

Incumbent Eric Feige is a two term House legislator, running, in his words, as a “common sense conservative”. Feige is a former military man, professional pilot and business owner, and he says the small communities in his district depend on the highways that criss cross it.

 House District 9 runs the length of the Richardson Highway Valdez to Delta , with quick sweep West on the Glenn Highway to grab the Matanuska Valley communities of Sutton and Chickaloon. Those two communities are at the heart of a local dispute over natural resource development. Feige says transportation issues characterize the district.

 ”District 9 offers great highways. All the goods and services that come through Canada going either to Fairbanks or to Anchorage come through the highways, that need to be maintained well.”

 He says the small businesses along the road system could be helped by a state wide advertising campaign to lure more tourists to the region. Feige serves on the House Transportation committee and co-chairs the House Resources committee. He says, how the state will bring affordable energy to rural areas will dominate the next legislature

“There’s a couple of things the state can do. One, is we can get out of the way of responsible development and responsible development of those energy resources. We can support it with state grant funds as we have done with the Allison Creek project in Valdez, which will allow Copper Valley Electric to lower their electrical rates significantly once that project comes into production. And we can make sure that a gas pipeline moves forward.”

 

The incumbent says changes he helped craft in state statutes has enabled Ahtna Corporation to engage in local natural gas exploration, which could provide regional energy needs, if successful.   

But Borough Assemblyman Jim Colver, and Sutton businessman George Rauscher, both would like to upset Feige.

George Rauscher came close to beating Feige in the 2012 primary. Rauscher gained almost 47 percent of the vote at that time. Rauscher is a civil engineer. He served as chair of the Sutton Community Council and has sat on boards as diverse as that of the Alpine Historical Park and the Samaritans’ Purse International mission board. Rauscher says his main concerns are jobs and the cost of energy.

“Well, I agree about the Allison project. I believe that’s one way we can help bring the cost down to that area along the Richardson Highway. We’ve got gas being drilled right now in the Glennallen area. We’re hoping that when the pipeline gets started up we’ll be able to bring that cost to the people and lower it somehow.”

Rauscher says he’s concerned about the survival of small businesses in the district

“Business right now are having to struggle. Government’s right now is not working with them, it is working against them. Tourism is on a decline somewhat. The area could use an influx, it could use some advertising, it needs a better chance, because if you look at some of the motels, if you look at the areas, Valdez and Delta, where they rely on toursim, it’s not there. And as a government we could probably help them out in that respect when they’re advertising the area.”

Borough Assemblyman Jim Colver has similar concerns about local economies

“We’re being too hard on our businesses. So we’ve got to cut some of this red tape. These roadside business, the lodges and whatnot, they are suffering from over-regulation of DEC and DNR. They can’t put business signs out for DOT regulations, or get a driveway. We simply got to cut the regulations, cut the red tape, and let our private sector prosper.”

 Colver has been stumping hard in Feige’s district this summer, shaking hands at Delta Junction fairs, and visiting Valdez voters. He says the district’s importance to the state has been downplayed. It serves national defense at Fort Greely, and the TAPS terminal in Valdez

“Ten percent of America’s oil runs through the district. …it has a strategic port to deliver our oil, it’s the engine for our economy on the whole West Coast.”

 The TAPS line runs along the Richardson to Valdez, but it is not certain that a future Alaska Gasline will.   And Colver has made it a point to attack Feige’s record on bringing natural gas to Matanuska Valley communities.

“The incumbent hasn’t delivered on cheaper energy. Two gaslines have been approved by the legislature that went through his committee, without anything in there for his district. All these billions are being spent on these energy projects, and the Richardson Highway communities have been left behind.”

Feige, in his turn, has published Colver’s record of campaign donations to Democratic candidates over the past several years, while insinuating that Colver could be a closet Dem wearing Republican clothing. And Feige points out that Colver has reaped thousands of dollars in union PAC contributions for his campaign, about 24 thousand dollars so far, raising the question of payback.

Colver has spent almost 54 thousand dollars on his race thus far. Feige has spent a little over 20 thousand dollars as of this week.  Rauscher ‘s meager campaign chest had about 500 dollars in it at last glance. He’ running a bare bones effort, noting expenditures of as little as 5 dollars for food, as he self propels his campaign up the highway.

Categories: Alaska News

Debate for the State: Miller, Treadwell Face Off

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-08-15 09:19

Joe Miller and Mead Treadwell discussed foreign affairs, health policy, transportation, climate change, gun control, Social Security and how they wanted to help Alaska in the US Senate during a one-hour Debate for the State on Wednesday night.

Miller and Treadwell are competing for the GOP nomination to run against the Democratic incumbent, Mark Begich.

Dan Sullivan was invited to the debate but chose not to participate.

The debate was a production of Alaska Public Media in Anchorage and KTOO in Juneau.

It was carried statewide by all four public television stations in Alaska including KUAC in Fairbanks and KYUK in Bethel. Debate for the State was also broadcast on KSKA-FM and made available to other APRN stations.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska Edition: Friday, August 15, 2014

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-08-15 08:24

The Anchorage Assembly passes a revised labor law – and Mayor Sullivan vetoes it. Debates, debates and more debates as election day approaches. The battle over oil taxes continues. Enstar workers strike. The Air Force says Fairbanks is the best location for two F-35 squadrons.  The current Congress has a reputation as a do-nothing Congress. Is it when faced with Alaska issues?

Listen now:

HOST: Michael Carey

GUESTS:

  • Sean Doogan Alaska  Dispatch/ADN.
  • Paul Jenkins Anchorage Daily Planet.
  • Liz Ruskin APRN.

KSKA (FM 91.1) BROADCAST: Friday August 15 at 2:00 p.m. and Saturday, August 16 at 6:00 p.m.

Alaska Public Television BROADCAST: Friday, August 15 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday August 16 at 4:30 PM.

Categories: Alaska News

With Senate Career Behind Him, French Not Looking Back

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-08-14 18:58

Lieutenant Governor candidate Hollis French.

On Tuesday, voters will decide which Republican candidate will face off against Mark Begich in a closely watched Senate primary. But while it’s gotten less attention, there’s also a contested statewide race on the Democratic ballot for the office of lieutenant governor. One of the two candidates is Hollis French, a state senator who is giving up his seat in the Legislature to run for the job.

It will be French’s sixth time running for office, with most of those races to keep his Senate seat. In 2010, he ran for governor but lost in the Democratic primary. Last year, he decided not to run for reelection and instead considered another run for governor. He even put in paperwork and had signs made. But he wasn’t the only one who wanted the job, so he dropped down to the second ranking seat in the executive branch.

“You know, I couldn’t see going through a destructive primary with Bryon Mallott,” says French. “I respect him. I think he’s got a broader reach.”

The Lieutenant Governor job isn’t a terribly powerful one. The office oversees the Division of Elections, signs regulations, protects the state seal, and can help counsel the governor. But mostly, it puts you next in line to run the state should anything happen.

French says even so, he’d rather try for the executive branch than the Legislature at this point.

“If you really want to make a change, that’s the place to do it — and probably not inside the Legislature,” says French.

For the past year, French led the Senate’s Democratic minority, serving as the voice of the loyal opposition to the Republican majority caucus. During the past Legislature, French introduced eight bills, including one to reduce student loan payments and another to legalize same-sex marriage. Just one — a bill to expand the state’s pre-kindergarten program — even got a hearing.

But for much of his time in office, French was part of the ruling caucus. As a member of the Senate bipartisan coalition, he chaired committees and actually had the power to move legislation through the body. French gets a little nostalgic about it.

“The coalition was really a godsend, and it was really a big leap for me,” says French. “I mean we shook hands with people that I had been diametrically opposed to and fighting for the past four years.”

The coalition fell apart in 2012 when a mix of Democrats and moderate Republicans were voted out of office, after new redistricting maps came out. Put in a more conservative district, French barely held onto his seat, winning by just 51 votes. The Republican – state representative Mia Costello — running in the West Anchorage district he represents is even stronger than the opponent he faced last time. But while Costello was initially viewed as difficult to beat, the Democrat who ended up filing in the district, Clare Ross, has been one of the top fundraisers this year.

Even though that race is now considered competitive, French says he doesn’t regret not defending his seat.

“None of us are irreplaceable,” says French. “I’ve really enjoyed my time there, but it really feels like I’ve made the right decision.”

Now, French is running against schoolteacher Bob Williams to make up the bottom half of a gubernatorial ticket. Should French win the primary, the show won’t be about him in November. And even if he does end up on the ticket, it’s a tough race for the Democrats against Republican Gov. Sean Parnell. On top of Parnell’s incumbency advantage and conservative tilt in the state, it’s a three-way race with independent candidate Bill Walker pulling from the same demographic as Mallott. French thinks that Parnell can be beat, though, especially if the oil tax referendum passes next week.

French also thinks he could help strengthen the Democratic ticket, not just as a candidate but pragmatically. After the primary, the candidates for governor and lieutenant governor essentially merge their accounts, and French had nearly $70,000 cash on hand as of Tuesday. In contrast, Mallott has about $40,000 left in his war chest, after spending much of the $550,000 he’s raised on staffing, polling, and travel. Parnell is heading into November with $300,000 on hand, and Walker has $100,000 available.

“My campaign office is my Subaru,” says French. “I do a huge amount work out of this office. You know, I’m a fiscal conservative. I do not like to waste campaign money. You have to spend campaign money communicating with voters, and every penny you spend that’s not toward that communication is not the most effective use of a campaign dollar.”

As a political newcomer, Williams has had to spend nearly all of his campaign money on the primary. Republican candidate Dan Sullivan, who has a nominal primary challenge, has nearly $80,000 cash on hand to bring to the Parnell campaign.

Even if French loses his primary or the general, he says he’s okay if this turns out to be the end of his political career.

“You know, we’re not going to starve to death. I’ve got a law degree, I can practice law,” says French. “There’s great mountains out there. I like to climb mountains. There’s all kinds of stuff to do.”

And plus, HE says, in this state, old politicians never really disappear.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: August 14, 2014

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-08-14 18:07

Individual news stories are posted under APRN News. You can subscribe to APRN’s news feeds via email, podcast and RSS.

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Sullivan Continues to Lead Fundraising Battle

Liz Ruskin, ARPN-Washington, DC

In the U.S. Senate race, Dan Sullivan’s financial advantage over other Republican contenders continues to grow. Sullivan has raised more than $4 million, most of it from outside of Alaska.

Marine Highway Contract Rejected

Casey Kelly, KTOO-Juneau

The licensed captains and officers who navigate Alaska Marine Highway System vessels have rejected a tentative contract agreement with the state.

AK Firefighters Battling California Fires

Emily Schwing, KUAC-Fairbanks

More than 300 firefighters from across are Alaska are in California battling wildfires for at least the next two weeks.  Most of them travelled from Interior Alaska villages for the Alaska Fire Service and the Alaska Division of Forestry.

Democrats Dueling for Lt. Gov. Nomination

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN-Juneau

On Tuesday, voters will decide which Republican candidate will face off against Mark Begich in a closely watched Senate primary. But while it’s gotten less attention, there’s also a contested statewide race on the Democratic ballot for the office of lieutenant governor.

State Has No Plans, Funds to Replace Steel Float in Gustavus

Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau

The million dollar steel float in the Southeast community of Gustavus was less than two years old when a storm ripped it from its piling in January. Seven months later, the state still doesn’t know what caused the failure and doesn’t have funds to replace it.

Alaska Kayaker Still Missing in Costa Rica

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA-Anchorage

Almost two weeks ago, 27-year-old Alaskan Cody Dial was reported missing on a kayak trip in Costa Rica. Dial is the son of Roman Dial, a well-known outdoorsman and Alaska Pacific University wilderness program instructor. In a call from Costa Rica Wednesday, the elder Dial says the search for his son has turned up nothing so far, and that requests for help from the U.S. by the Costa Rican government have so far not been answered.

Three Army Units Deactivated at JBER

Monica Gokey, KSKA – Anchorage

Three Army units were inactivated this afternoon at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. The move is a result of changing priorities and fiscal belt-tightening at the federal level.

Writer Hitching to Point Barrow

Phillip Manning, KTNA-Talkeetna

At KTNA radio in Talkeetna, the staff often has people contact it asking for help finding a ride. Normally, it’s someone needing to get to town for an appointment or looking for a ride to the airport.  On Wednesday, a very different kind of ride-seeker walked through the doors.

 

Categories: Alaska News

As Military Draws Down, 3 Army Units Inactivated at JBER

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-08-14 17:00

Three Army units were inactivated this afternoon at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. The move is a result of changing priorities and fiscal belt-tightening at the federal level.

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The 56th Engineer Company, 84th Engineer Supply Company and the 240th Survey and Design Detachment have fought in every single conflict since World War Two. All three Army units had their colors cased Thursday afternoon — rendering them out of service until they’re needed again.

Battalion commander George Walter says seeing the units, and their rich histories, get shelved is bittersweet. But he also says it’s a necessity.

“These changes are designed to allow our Army to retain its adaptability and flexibility in order to address future and unknown challenges,” Walter says. “As soldiers we know it’s not a matter of if we go to war next, but when we’ll go to war next.”

Army units come and go as the nation’s conflicts change, but these three are being inactivated due to budget cuts.

And calling the units ‘inactivated’ doesn’t mean soldiers will lose their jobs. Walter says most will be reshuffled internally.

“Most of the great soldiers of the 84th, 56th and 240th, who’ve elected — through their individual career paths — to continue serving, will be reassigned both within Alaska and across our great Army,” Walter says.

At a national level the Army is reducing its active force by about 15 percent, or 80,000 soldiers. In Alaska, the reduction numbers about 400, according to Army-Alaska media chief John Pennell.

“JBER will lose roughly 800, but there will be a plus-up of some at Ft. Wainwright,” Pennell says. JBER is currently home to about 7,500 active duty Army personnel.

The cuts are small compared to what some other Army posts are experiencing. Some cuts number in the thousands, Pennell says.

“We figure we’re doing pretty well in Alaska getting by with the small number of cuts that we’ll be taking. It shows the importance of Alaska strategically, militarily, and the value that the Army puts on Alaska,” Pennell says.

One more Army unit is slated for inactivation this month. The seven-ninety-third military police battalion will stand down after more than seventy years of service. The unit was a part of the Red Ball Express during World War II, an effort that supplied the Allied Forces in Europe from the beach at Normandy.

Categories: Alaska News

Sullivan Continues to Lead Fundraising Battle

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-08-14 16:10

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In the U.S. Senate race, Dan Sullivan’s financial advantage over other
Republican contenders continues to grow.

Sullivan has raised more than $4 million, most of it from Outside  Alaska.
He’s done well in Ohio, the headquarters of the paint company his family
runs. Money has also poured into the Sullivan campaign from national
fundraising groups working to win Republican control of the Senate.

A separate group, led by Alaska adman Art Hackney, is running its own
pro-Sullivan ads. The Hackney superPAC has raised nearly half a million
dollars. Most of that has come from Sullivan’s parents and brother in Ohio,
who added $300,000 to the fund last month.

Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell is running a distant second, with contributions
hovering around the $1 million mark. He has also loaned the campaign
$250,000 of his own. Joe Miller’s campaign is running on about $300,000.

Sen. Mark Begich, a Democrat, has no opposition in the Primary. He’s raised
more than $6 million.

Categories: Alaska News

Marine Highway Contract Rejected

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-08-14 16:09

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The licensed captains and officers who navigate Alaska Marine Highway System vessels have rejected a tentative contract agreement with the state.

Categories: Alaska News

AK Firefighters Battling California Fires

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-08-14 16:06

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More than 300 firefighters from across are Alaska are in California battling wildfires for at least the next two weeks.  Most of them travelled from Interior Alaska villages for the Alaska Fire Service and the Alaska Division of Forestry. The crews came through Fairbanks before they left for the Lower 48.  For some, it’s a respite from village life. For others it will be the first time they’ve left the state.

Categories: Alaska News

State Has No Plans, Funds to Replace Steel Float in Gustavus

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-08-14 16:04

This is what the Gustavus harbor looked like before the January storm. The steel float along with the timber floats created a U-shape facility. (Photo courtesy of Department of Transportation)

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The million dollar steel float in Gustavus was less than two years old when a storm ripped it from its piling in January.

Seven months later, the state still doesn’t know what caused the failure and doesn’t have funds to replace it.

When the state installed the all-weather float in the fall of 2012, the purpose was to provide additional moorage opportunity for Gustavus boaters in the summer. The plan was to keep it in the water during the winter even though it wouldn’t be used then.

Kirk Miller supervises marine design in Southeast for the Alaska Department of Transportation. He says the 200-foot float was built to be easily removed from its piles.

“We knew from day one that this environment out here might not allow this float to survive,” Miller says.

He says his design team is very familiar with the severe storm weather at the Gustavus harbor facility. It’s in an exposed section of land that gets strong winds blowing from the west.

When the steel float dislodged in January, it swung into the timber floats, destroying two sections. The state paid $32,000 to replace them. (Photo courtesy of Pep Scott)

“The intent was to watch this closely and if it looked like we were going to have issues, we would unbolt this thing and put it up the Salmon River where we did the rest of the floats every year,” Miller says.

A storm in mid-December damaged five of the ten steel piles holding the float in place.

“After that first storm, we should’ve been out there unbolting it ourselves,” he says.

But the state didn’t move fast enough.

“While we were formulating a plan to replace the piles, the next storm came up. I wish we would’ve taken it out, but we didn’t,” Miller says.

He admits that was a mistake, but says the design of the float and the piling holding it in place was not.

Miller says DOT has done a lot of analysis since the January storm.

“We’ve also analyzed our original design calculations and we’ve determined that the loads of those two storms in December and January that were imposed on those piles were higher than we originally anticipated,” he says.

Data from a state weather gage at the harbor facility and statistical models have led Miller to believe waves were as high as 10 to 12 feet.

Still, he says, the piles should’ve survived.

“We still do not have a firm grasp on the actual failure mechanism,” Miller says.

The steel float was salvaged and is now anchored across Icy Passage near Pleasant Island. Miller says it’s in relatively good shape. The remains of the steel piles were removed

Without the steel float, commercial and recreational boaters have been sharing 350 feet of timber floats in the Gustavus harbor. The state paid about $30,000 to rebuild two timber sections that had been destroyed in the January storm. Those were just replaced in mid-July.

Gustavus tour operator Tod Sebens says without the steel float, space is tight.

“You really have to get in, get your people and get out,” he says.

Sebens runs a 50-foot whale watching boat, the TAZ, which can carry up to 28 passengers. He offers two trips daily.

“People have actually been working well together – the charter fishermen, some of the commercial fishermen and some of the individual tour operators, like myself. Everybody’s been really considerate this year,” Sebens says.

Mayor Sandi Marchbanks says Gustavus residents and business owners are used to making do with what’s available. But, she says, the town does need the steel float and hopes the state will replace it as soon as possible.

Miller says the state doesn’t have the funding to do that.

“It is our hope to bring that float back to the harbor, but nothing is certain,” he says.

The state does have close to $4.5 million in federal aid for a different Gustavus project. Miller says the state plans to replace the floating transfer bridge in the Alaska Marine Highway facility with a cable lift system.

“We may incorporate some elements to that steel float back into that project. But we don’t know if the federal government will participate in that, because they paid for it once and it broke loose and I don’t know if they’ll participate again,” Miller says.

If DOT does reinstate the steel float in Gustavus, it would be in a seasonal capacity only. Like the other harbor floats, it would have to be kept in the Salmon River during the winter and returned in the summer.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska Kayaker Still Missing in Costa Rica

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-08-14 16:03

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Almost two weeks ago,  27-year-old Alaskan Cody Dial was reported missing on a kayak trip in Costa Rica. Dial is the son of Roman Dial, a well-known outdoorsman and Alaska Pacific University professor.

In a call from Costa Rica yesterday, the elder Dial says the search for his son has turned up nothing so far,  and that requests for help from the U.S. by the Costa Rican  government have not been answered.

Dial has asked that Alaska’s Congressional delegation put pressure on U.S. officials to help.  He says the process has stalled in bureaucratic – heavy Washington, DC

Dial says the Costa Rican Red Cross, which has been assisting in the search since August 1, decided to pull out of the rescue effort about a week ago.  Dial says with a few experts in climbing and jungle living,  he believes his son can be located

Dial thinks his son is in a dangerous area of Costa Rica’s Corcovado National Park.  The area is so hazardous it’s off limits to tourists.

Roman Dial’s wife, Peggy says Cody left Anchorage in December, bound for Mexico and Central America.  She says her son is cautious and capable, and kept in touch with his parents through regular email and phone updates until the messages stopped coming in mid July.

Categories: Alaska News

Writer Hitching to Point Barrow

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-08-14 16:01

Amber Nolan upon arrival in Tok, Alaska. (Photo courtesy of JetHiking.com)

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At KTNA radio in Talkeetna, the staff often has people contact it asking for help finding a ride. Normally, it’s someone needing to get to town for an appointment or looking for a ride to the airport.  On Wednesday, a very different kind of ride-seeker walked through the doors.

So, you’re hitchhiking by plane, trying to reach all fifty states?

“Yes.”

That’s Amber Nolan.  She’s a travel writer who has been hitching rides on private aircraft for the better part of two years.  Her goal for this leg of her journey is to make it from Key West, Florida, to Point Barrow, Alaska.  Amber says her work has taken her all over the world, but she had not seen as much of America as she would like, so she decided to start traveling.

“One thing led to another, and this idea came up to hitchhike across the U.S. by general aviation,” she said. “I thought it would be an interesting viewpoint and perspective on the U.S., and also, when you’re landing at small airports, it gives you an entirely different angle to go at.  You’re not flying into big cities.  You get to see the small-town U.S. instead of just the major tourist points.”

Hitchhiking is relatively common in Alaska.  For most people, it means standing along the side of the road with a thumb in the air and sometimes a sign with a destination on it.  With airplanes, things work differently.  Amber Nolan says the initial reaction she gets is often one of surprise:

“I usually just go in and tell whoever is working at the [fixed-base operator], or just in the airport, what I’m doing, and I usually get, ‘Wait, what?  What are you doing?’ and then kind of the weird eyes of, ‘Are you crazy?’  Then, after a minute, they understand that I’m on this adventure.”

Word then spreads among the local pilot community, and when someone is willing to give Amber a ride in roughly the right direction, she hops on board.  In small towns, where only a few planes come in and out on a given day, that can take awhile.  Other times, Murphy’s Law rears its head and causes longer delays:

“In Texas, I got stuck for quite a few weeks, because one thing led to another:  Rain came in, problems with an airplane,” she said. “So, it seemed like I had four different people offer to give me a ride, and something went wrong every time.”

Amber says some of her flights have been particularly memorable, including one in a former warplane:

“I got to hitchhike on a B-17, which was just epic.  I couldn’t get the grin off my face the entire time.”

“Where was that?” she is asked.

“From Indiana, they were doing a barnstorming tour.  They were going from town to town doing scenic flights.  People would make reservations and do the flight.  So, I said, ‘What about between towns?  Do you have any room on those flights?’  And he says, ‘Well, the whole plane’s empty if you want to go.’”

With clouds in the forecast, Amber anticipates waiting a few days in Talkeetna.  It probably won’t be long, though, until she is on her way north once more.>>

You can follow Amber Nolan’s journey at JetHiking.com, or on the Jet-Hiking Facebook page.

Categories: Alaska News

Arvin, Tilton Compete for GOP Nod In Mat-Su

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-08-14 15:59

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House District 12 was left without a representative when Bill Stoltze announced his bid for a Senate seat earlier this year. Now two candidates with strong Wasilla connections are seeking to fill that gap.

 Ron Arvin, is sending a development message to the voters as the August 19 primary approaches. The two term Matanuska Susitna Borough Assemblyman has an extensive background that involves overseeing federal construction contracts, and work on export trade in Japan, Korea and the Phillipines. He points to his background in state and business trade relations:

“I think what I bring to this race is very unique. Alaska is an export business from minerals to oil to timber and I think that I have the skill set to bring those some of those intiatives further along.”

 Cathy Tilton has worked for the city of Wasilla and as a staffer for Republican Mat Su legislator Mark Neuman. She points to her work in helping to build the state budget as a plus during belt-tightening times to come.

 ”The upcoming years are really crucial. If we don’t get a handle on our state’s budget, our state is going to be bankrupt. And there won’t be the capital that we need to do any of the projects that we need to be open for business.”

Both grew up in Alaska. Arvin, born in Sitka, has three daughters in Borough Schools. Tilton moved to the state as an infant with her military family. She has three sons.

Arvin has served on both the Alaska Industrial Development And Export Authority and Alaska Energy Authority boards and has worked with the Mat Su Borough’s port commission and transportation advisory board. He is an advocate of what he calls the “legacy” projects. He says its time to move forward on the Susitna Watana dam, the Knik Arm Bridge, the Alaska gasline and get going on trucking LNG from the North Slope to Fairbanks. He says all of those projects will help rural Alaskans beat high energy costs

“The state has an initiative to build a facility on the North Slope and to truck modules of LNG down to Interior Alaska, Fairbanks proper. Along with that, those containers could be situated on a barge and could be moved up and down the rivers and could provide alternative, less costly energy to rural Alaska, rather than just fuel oil. ”

He says when private industry gets involved in making energy available to rural villages, the new options will lower costs.

Tilton, for her part, says the state should have a stable tax structure for companies to help lower energy costs.

“I think what our state needs to do is to have a stable tax structure and a sensible regululatory environment so that the companies and the utilities that are creating these types of things are able to do that so that the cost can come down for the people.”

 Tilton says her experience on the local government level involved working to help Wasilla grow into first class city status, in working on it’s sewer and transportation systems. But she points to her “over four years extensive work with the state budget ” as her biggest asset. She says she made recommendations and wrote pieces of legislation. She says the state budget needs to be a lot tighter.

“In the Health and Social Services budget alone there’s over 860 grants to all different sorts of programs. There’s lots and lots of good programs, but there are some that I don’t believe the state should be paying for. Maybe some of the repayment programs for different types of educational opportunities. ”

Arvin says his experience on state boards and Borough commissions is a valuable asset, and he has experience in introducing and vetting new legislation. He says that during his five years on the Mat Su Borough Assembly, the mill levy was reduced, saving Borough taxpayers about a million dollars. But he says, on a state level, he’ll focus on key services.

“The people expect government to provide three basic things: public education, EMS fire rescue, emergency services, and infrastructure, so we can move ourselves and commerce effectively. The fourth part of that is the social aspect of taking care of the youngest and most vulnerable in our communities. Everything else is on the table for me. We have to focus on those things first.”

 Both candidates favor a ‘No’ position on Proposition 1. And both are against raising the minimum wage, but for different reasons.  Cathy Tilton:

” I personally will vote against the minimum wage. I feel like that the private sector has control of the pay they want to pay their people. Clearly the intent and the idea is a good intent, but the effect has been on a federal level has been a loss of jobs nationwide and a significant in crease in consumer prices.”

But Arvin says:

“The issue should be, how do we create jobs that you can raise a family on, not a minimum wage job where you can just simply live, and just barely eke by a living. That’s not what entry level jobs are meant to be. I’m a no on raising the minimum wage. We need to focus our energy on creating sustainable, family wage jobs. ”

House 12 stretches between Anchorage bedroom communities and Butte farms, and the wide swath of attitudes in between the two poles could pose a challenge or any legislator.

 At the end of the last reporting period, Arvin had contributed 15 thousand dollars to his own campaign, but Tilton’s self contribution dwarfs that. Tilton has pumped more than 35 thousand dollars into her own campaign, saying that her work as a legislative staffer kept her from campaigning until late May, and that she needs the money to build name recognition.

Categories: Alaska News
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