Alaska News

As Chinooks, Chums Enter the Yukon, Fishermen Chafe Under Tight Restrictions

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-05-29 14:12

Subsistence fishermen say they’re willing to back off the kings, but they want to be able to get their chums.

Both Chinook and chum salmon are starting to swim up the Yukon River, but with the worst king run on record expected this year, Fish and Game officials are implementing tight restrictions that subsistence users say are keeping them from getting chums.

“Chinook salmon, Yukon Delta NWR.” (Photo: Craig Springer, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)

“We do not want to be handling Chinook salmon unnecessarily when we have such a low run, and we’re concerned for the Chinook run, and we have some pretty big closures on subsistence,”  Fish & Game biologist Eric Newland said during the first in-season management call Wednesday. “We don’t want to kill any more kings than we need to.”

As of Monday, the northern Costal district and districts one through three — from the mouth of the Yukon to just north of Holy Cross — are closed to gillnets with mesh sizes bigger than 4 inches. Dipnets are also prohibited — for now. Fish & Game biologists say it’s to avoid Chinook bycatch, but many fishermen say it’s keeping them from catching anything at all.

“We got restrictions so early this year,” Ryan, a caller from Russian Mission, said. “I had about a week to get some salmon and here at Russian Mission we haven’t got any salmon, maybe I heard one chum salmon. We didn’t get a chance to get our sheefish.”

Others along the Yukon echoed Kenai fisherman Robert Gibson, who disagrees with fishery managers as to how much of a threat dipnetting poses to Chinook.

“I personally dipnet in the Russian River here for years, and I hardly see any damage or mortality at all when doing so,” Gibson said. “So, I would like to know what your concerns are not allowing dipnetting for chums for subsistence during the uh, the closure?”

And another caller — Eric from St. Mary’s — says the new, tight restrictions mean many don’t have the right equipment.

“We’ve got probably 75 percent of these subsistence don’t have the gear to harvest right now, it’s only a handful of the people who tried it last year in the commercial,” Eric said. “So I don’t know how we’re going to deal with that, fishery last year.”

“So, I don’t know how we’re going to deal with that, getting their subsistence needs met.”

Despite complaints, the restrictions remain in effect for Districts 1 through 3, with similar restrictions coming to other districts as the first pulse of Chinook makes its way upriver.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska Journalist Bob Tkacz Found Dead

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-05-29 12:06

Longtime Alaska freelance journalist Bob Tkacz has died. He was 61.

Reporter Bob Tkacz interviews U.S. Sen. Mark Begich following the senator’s annual address to the Alaska Legislature, March 3, 2014. (Photo by Skip Gray/Gavel Alaska)

Juneau police say they responded to a report of a death at Tkacz’s downtown office Tuesday morning and found his body. The death is not considered suspicious. The body was initially taken to Alaskan Memorial Park Mortuary & Crematory then sent to the state medical examiner’s office in Anchorage for an autopsy.

Tkacz was a fixture in the state capital press corps for years. His gravelly voice and dogged interviewing style needled a number of Alaska politicians. He had his own subscription news service, “Laws for the SEA,” which covered the commercial fishing and seafood industry. He also wrote for Tim and Mike Bradner’s “Legislative Digest” in recent years. He’d been published in the Alaska Journal of Commerce and once worked for KTOO.

In 1991, Tkacz was stabbed in an apparent mugging in Juneau that was highly publicized. A New York Times story about the incident is one of the top results when you Google his name.

His LinkedIn profile says Tkacz went to Ohio University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Newspaper and Magazine Editing. He lived on a boat in Aurora Harbor, and was a volunteer jazz DJ on KTOO’s sister station, KRNN.

Friends say he has family in Ohio. Services are pending.

Categories: Alaska News

Name Of Helicopter Pilot Killed In Crash Released

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-05-29 12:02

Anchorage police have released the name of the pilot of a helicopter that crashed at the Birchwood Airport in Chugiak.

Police say the pilot was 62-year-old Thomas Moore of Anchorage.

Moore was flying a Robinson R-44 Wednesday afternoon when the aircraft crashed and became engulfed in flames. A bystander was taken to a hospital for treatment of burns sustained while he was trying to rescue Moore.

The bystander’s name has not been released.

The cause of the crash is under investigation.

Categories: Alaska News

Lower Skilak Lake Campground, Boat Launch Reopens

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-05-29 10:47

(Courtesy Alaska Interagency Incident Management Team)

The Funny River fire is holding steady at just over 192,831 acres and is considered 46 percent contained.

Fire Information Officer Brigitte Foster says the continuing damp weather and low winds have slowed the spread of the fire.

The Lower Skilak Lake Campground and boat launch area will be reopening Thursday.

There are 760 personnel working on the Funny River fire.

Categories: Alaska News

Rain, Little Wind Helps Firefighters Combat Funny River Fire

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-05-28 17:45

(Image courtesy Alaska Inter-Agency Management Team)

The Funny River fire continues to burn the central Kenai peninsula.

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As of 9 p.m. Wednesday night, incident command estimated it had burned more than 192,000 acres, mainly within the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

Light rain and little wind slower the spread of the fire over the past two days. As a result, all of The evacuation advisories for the area were lifted Wednesday morning.

The cause of the fire is under investigation. Refuge manager Andy Loranger says officials are seeking any information about the cause.

It is 30 percent contained and as of Wednesday.

Categories: Alaska News

Fairbanks Team Leads Firefighting Efforts on Kenai

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-05-28 17:20



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Wednesday marked one week since the Funny River fire began burning on the Kenai Peninsula. Very early on in the fire, one group – Alaska Interagency Incident Management Team – from Fairbanks has been in control of the firefighting efforts.

Categories: Alaska News

Firefighters Shifting from Tyonek to Funny River

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-05-28 17:12



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Officials overseeing the Tyonek wildfire on the west side of Cook Inlet said today that most firefighting personnel were being released from the fire, with some of them headed to the Kenai Peninsula to work on the Funny River fire.

The Tyonek fire started May 19th and burned between the villages of Tyonek and Beluga.  It is currently mapped at 1,906 acres and is considered 100 percent contained.

A total of 112 personnel were still assigned to Tyonek this morning but most were scheduled to leave by the end of the day.

Categories: Alaska News

Parnell Signs Budgets, Spares Veto Pen

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-05-28 17:12

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Governor Sean Parnell signed the state operating and capital budgets Wednesday afternoon in downtown Anchorage, beginning with a speech to the Rotary Club, in which he said the Legislature met the spending targets he laid out for it.

Parnell noted that the Legislature had cut general fund spending by a $1 billion each year for the last three years, and by dipping into reserves, it has reduced future payments into the projected $12 billion deficit in retirement funds for teachers and state employees.

“Our administration, we, with the legislature, made sustainable, the single biggest cost driver in the budget” Parnell said. “I proposed paying down a portion of that debt, that 12 billion dollar debt and then lowering our annual payments.

Legislators approved that concept and they unanimously agreed, Republicans and Democrats, unanimously agreed to take, to move three billion dollars from the constitutional budget reserve into the retirement trust funds.”

The governor said that one-time payment will reduce future payments that were expected to rise to more than $1 billion a year, to more like $300 million.

The budget includes an education funding formula increase that will continue in future years. The total of all budgets, including federal funds, is $12.8 billion.

Categories: Alaska News

Oil Companies, Munis Have Window to Appeal Pipeline Evaluation

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-05-28 17:10

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Oil companies and Alaska municipalities have 30 days to decide whether to appeal a State Assessment Review Board decision to set the value of the trans-Alaska pipeline at $10.2 billion.

Categories: Alaska News

Anthony Mallott Named CEO of Sealaska

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-05-28 17:06

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A second generation of Mallotts is taking over the helm at Sealaska.

The regional Native corporation’s board of directors named Anthony Mallott as president and CEO during a shareholders’ meeting Tuesday night in Anchorage.

He’s the son of former CEO and long-time board member Byron Mallott, who’s running for governor as a Democrat.

The younger Mallott says he has a good relationship with his father. But they limit their conversations.

“We do not discuss business,” he said. “We’ve kept that outside our relationship. Of course, he’s offered fatherly advice my whole entire life.”

Anthony Mallott has been Sealaska’s treasurer and chief investment officer for the past eight years.

The 39-year-old says that, and his previous experience, got him the job.

“I’ve spent 18 years in the investment management field,” he said. “I have a very experienced background in that regard. And I really think the board saw that as one of the very important attributes that we need in a CEO as we move into this phase of acquiring new investments and operating entities.”

Sealaska is in the midst of changing some of its financial policies, with a goal of providing more jobs and higher dividends to shareholders.

To do that, it must recover from last year’s substantial shortfall.

Sealaska reported about $57 million of operating losses during 2013. Revenues from investments and other sources brought that down to around $35 million.

Mallott says the corporation is still financially strong.

“We have assets, that at a minimum, will provide a strong level of income in this coming year. So the turnaround’s already happening.”

He’ll take over the reins from current CEO Chris McNeil Jr. on June 28th, the day of Sealaska’s annual meeting.

Categories: Alaska News

Senate Passes Bill to Grant More Tribal Jurisdiction

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-05-28 17:05

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A bill that would give tribes greater jurisdiction over substance abuse, domestic violence and other misdemeanors was passed out of the U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee last week despite objections from the state.

Categories: Alaska News

Ferry Workers Approve Strike Authorization

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-05-28 17:04



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Alaska Marine Highway workers approved a strike authorization this week, meaning the Inlandboatmen’s Union could call for workers to strike within the next month if the union and state can’t agree on a new contract.

Categories: Alaska News

Funny River Fire Evacuees Back at Home, But Prepared to Leave Again

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-05-28 17:01



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Hooligan’s Lodging became one of Soldotna’s main hubs during the evacuation. Though most evacuees have returned home, the hotel is ready in case the fire moves toward the community again.

Categories: Alaska News

Searchers Continue Looking for Missing Hiker

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-05-28 17:00



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Volunteers spent a fourth day searching for missing hiker 48-year-old Sharon Buis. Tuesday’s efforts resulted in no new leads. Buis has been missing since Saturday.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: May 28, 2014

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-05-28 16:53

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.

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Rain, Little Wind Help Firefighters Combat Funny River Fire
Shady Grove Oliver, KBBI Homer

Light rain and little wind has helped keep the Funny River fire from growing much for the past two days. It is 30 percent contained and as of Wednesday afternoon, it is estimated to have burned more than 183,000 acres on the central Kenai Peninsula.

Fairbanks Team Leads Firefighting Efforts on Kenai
Aaron Selbig, KBBI – Homer

Wednesday marked one week since the Funny River fire began burning on the Kenai Peninsula. Very early on in the fire, one group from Fairbanks has been in control of the firefighting efforts.

Firefighters Shifting from Tyonek to Funny River
Aaron Selbig, KBBI – Homer

Officials overseeing the Tyonek wildfire on the west side of Cook Inlet said today that most firefighting personnel were being released from the fire, with some of them headed to the Kenai Peninsula to work on the Funny River fire.

Parnell Signs Budgets, Spares Veto Pen
Steve Heimel, APRN – Anchorage

Governor Sean Parnell signed the state operating and capital budgets this afternoon in downtown Anchorage, beginning with a speech to the Rotary Club, in which he said the Legislature met the spending targets he laid out for it

Oil Companies, Munis Have Window to Appeal Pipeline Evaluation
The Associated Press

Oil companies and Alaska municipalities have 30 days to decide whether to appeal a State Assessment Review Board decision to set the value of the trans-Alaska pipeline at $10.2 billion.

Senate Passes Bill to Grant More Tribal Jurisdiction
Joaqlin Estus, KNBA – Anchorage

A bill that would give tribes greater jurisdiction over substance abuse, domestic violence and other misdemeanors was passed out of the U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee last week despite objections from the state.

Anthony Mallott Named CEO of Sealaska
Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau

A second generation of Mallotts is taking over the helm at Sealaska. The regional Native corporation’s board of directors named Anthony Mallott as president and CEO during a shareholders’ meeting Tuesday night in Anchorage. He’s the son of former CEO and long-time board member Byron Mallott, who’s running for governor as a Democrat.

Ferry Workers Approve Strike Authorization
Margaret Friedenauer, KHNS – Haines

Alaska Marine Highway workers approved a strike authorization this week, meaning the Inlandboatmen’s Union could call for workers to strike within the next month if the union and state can’t agree on a new contract.

Funny River Fire Evacuees Back at Home, But Prepared to Leave Again
Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage

Hooligan’s Lodging became one of Soldotna’s main hubs during the evacuation. Though most evacuees have returned home, the hotel is ready in case the fire moves toward the community again.

Searchers Continue Looking for Missing Hiker
Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau

Volunteers spent a fourth day searching for missing hiker 48-year-old Sharon Buis. Tuesday’s efforts resulted in no new leads. Buis has been missing since Saturday.

 

 

Categories: Alaska News

Tyonek fire 100% contained

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-05-28 12:11

The Tyonek Fire is now considered 100% contained. It burned about 1,900 acres. Most of the crews and resources are now being used on the Funny River Fire instead, though some personnel and equipment will stay behind to make sure the fire stays under control.

No one was injured in this fire. However, fire officials say locals should pay attention to standing trees that burned and may topple in strong winds. The fire started on May 19 and burned between Tyonek and Beluga villages.

A photo of the Tyonek Fire taken on May 19 by the Alaska Division of Forestry.

Categories: Alaska News

Rain, Lack Of Wind Slows Funny River Fire Growth

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-05-28 12:06

(Image courtesy Alaska Inter-Agency Management Team)

Fire crews Wednesday morning mapped the Funny River fire out to be nearly 183,300 acres.

Tom Lavagnino, with the incident management team, says the rain has helped a little bit, but it’s not the biggest reason the fire’s growth has slowed.

“The bigger factor, probably, is there’s lack of wind,” Lavagnino said. ”The first couple days and the aggressive growth period were due to wind-driven fire, and that hasn’t happened yesterday.”

Lavignino says the fire line along the western edge is well-established and secure. He also says a fuel break established by the community over the past several years has played a large role in containing the northern edge of the fire.

“Kudos to them,” Lavagnino said. “They’re very successful in stopping the fire and having retardant being able to reach the ground at that point and mitigate the fire so the hand crews can come in in the fire trucks and suppress the fire a little more – and safely.”

For now, most of the fire crews’ efforts will be on the northeast and eastern borders of the fire.

There are 713 personnel working on the Funny River fire.

All evacuation advisories in the area have been lifted.

There is a community meeting scheduled Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at the Funny River Community Center.

Categories: Alaska News

Funny River Fire Brings Community Together

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-05-28 10:00

Hooligan’s  Lodging became one of Soldotna’s main hubs during the evacuation. Though most evacuees have returned home, the hotel is ready in case the fire moves toward the community again.

The lobby of Hooligan’s Lodging and Saloon looks more like a garage sale than a hotel:

“We have like toothpaste and toothbrushes and shampoo and conditioner and lotion and soap.”

The hotel’s owner, Molly Poland, walks through the piles of things donated by community members. They’re for the people who were evacuated because of the Funny River Fire.

“So we have cat litter because there were lots of cats and they didn’t remember the cat litter, so I was like, “let’s get that handled.”

130 people and 30 animals stayed at the long wooden hotel over the weekend for free. Poland says she turned away paying customers because she just wanted to help.

“I didn’t expect for people to be so grateful… but one lady looked at me yesterday and said, ‘you’re going straight to heaven,’ and that made me tear up. And this morning when I went to my car and it was raining I started crying, and I was like, ‘why am I crying over rain?’ But I was just so happy because I know all these people are displaced and they want their homes.”

Other businesses and community members chipped in as well. People opened up their homes, offered free childcare, boarded dogs in kennels for free, gave away pet food—the list goes on.

Odie’s Deli was one of the restaurants that offered discounted and free food to evacuees and fire fighters. Owner Melody Symington says she just wanted to give back:

“I’m truly amazed by the outpouring of this community it’s just amazing how they’ve all pulled together and people just giving their own money and their own resources.”

Back at Hooligan’s, the evacuees have gone home but the work continues. April Fulk is scrubbing the floors of one of the hotel rooms to rid the place of dog smells.

“My mom always had me on the floor cleaning with my hands, so that’s what I’ve done.”

She says she’s volunteering to clean because Soldotna is her home. She says the fire has brought people together in a way she’s never seen.

“Wow. An amazing amount of support, encouragement, wisdom was shared. Everybody just came together. It was just amazing actually.”

Fulk says the community is trying to share another message as well.

“Thanks to all the fire fighters, the crew in the air. Just, thank you. It seems like that’s not enough to say, but I guess as long as we keep pulling together we can show them our gratitude.”

Hooligan’s owner Poland says she knows they aren’t out of danger yet. She says they’re holding on to the items people have donated until the fire is far away from the community.

 

http://www.alaskapublic.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/27-fire-donations-pkg.mp3

 

 

 

 

Categories: Alaska News

Rain Falls On Funny River Fire, Provides Some Relief

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-05-27 18:50

Public Information Officer Jim Schwarber briefs the media about the Funny Rover fire on Tuesday morning. (Photo by Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage)

The Funny River fire has grown to more than 182,200 acres.

After a streak of warm, dry weather, firefighters are seeing a break in the weather, with rain falling Tuesday during the early morning hours and temperatures in the 50s.

“The rain that fell this morning was enough to knock the fire down, but certainly not enough to put it out,” Rob Allen, the incident commander for the Funny River fire, said.

Officials say the weather pattern should hold for at least the next couple days.

“We’re gonna see waves of precipitation as they move up through Cook Inlet on up into our area and then up into the Mat-Su Valley,” Scott Berg, a forecaster with the National Weather Service, said. “That should help quite a bit with kinda keeping everything calmed down.”

Allen says there has been enough rain to dampen the grass, which should keep the fire from spotting and creeping ahead. But, it will take quite a bit more rain to affect the black spruce, which has been one of the fire’s main fuels.

“Normally we look at three days of good rain in a row,” Allen said. “Any time you get a break in that and there’s some sun that comes out, the grasses will dry incredibly fast, the rest of the fine fuels will dry really fast, and then you’re back over starting at square one.”

So far, five structures have been lost in the fire – one outbuilding and four recreational cabins. None of the structures were accessible by road.

With the western edge of the fire mostly contained. Most of the focus is on the northeast portion of the fire, where it jumped the Kenai River.

Bernie Pineda, a fire information officer with the Alaska Inter-Agency Team, says they will coordinate with the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge to see what, if anything, will be done along the southern and eastern edges, which remain mostly unchecked.

“It’s kind of a roadless area, so the accessibility is gonna be very, very difficult to say the least. So we’re either gonna have to hike in, drop people off using helicopters or other ways, and spiking them out,” Pineda said. ”So, it’s their call as to how much or how little they want us to do on that one on this end of the perimeter itself.”

There are currently 689 personnel working on the fire.

Evacuation advisories have been lifted for Kasilof and the Kenai Keys subdivision.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: May 27, 2014

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-05-27 18:29

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

Rains Fall on Kenai Fire, But More Needed to Help
Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage

After a streak of warm, dry weather, firefighters are seeing a break in the weather, with rain falling Tuesday during the early morning hours and temperatures in the 50s. Officials said the weather pattern should hold for at least the next few days. There has been enough rain to dampen the grass, which should keep the fire from spotting and creeping ahead. But, it will take quite a bit more rain to affect the black spruce, which has been one of the fire’s main fuels.

Evacuation Order Lifted for Kenai Residents
Shady Grove Oliver, KBBI – Homer

The fire management team lifted the evacuation order this morning for Funny River Road from Mile 7 to the end of the road. Homeowners near the road remain under an evacuation alert, which means they should be ready to leave again if the fire gets worse in that area. Residents of Funny River Road were evacuated over the weekend. Many left with just a few necessities and haven’t been back home since.

Begich, Coast Guard Admiral Visit Aleutian Islands
Lauren Rosenthal, KUCB – Unalaska

This weekend, Senator Mark Begich and Coast Guard Rear Admiral Thomas Ostebo made a brief appearance in the Aleutian Islands. The officials shared their vision of how Unalaska — and other coastal communities — will have to support economic activity in the Arctic.

Research Center to Monitor Acid Levels
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

Remotely operated vehicles will be plying Prince William Sound and the Gulf of Alaska this summer, measuring acid levels. The float and glider vehicles are the latest technology deployed through a long running monitoring project overseen by University of Alaska Fairbanks Ocean Acidification Research Center Director Jeremy Mathis.

Utility Has Plan to Bring Natural Gas to Fairbanks Area
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The Interior Gas Utility has laid out a plan for getting natural gas to thousands of homes in North Pole and other outlying areas of Fairbanks. The non-profit public utilities plan covers more than $200 million of work, spread over six years.

Golden Valley Electric Loses Biggest Customer
Tim Ellis, KUAC – Fairbanks

Golden Valley Electric Association is scheduled to lose one of its biggest customers this week – the Flint Hills Resources refinery in North Pole. But GVEA is working on plans to hook up another industrial customer next year that will buy nearly as much electricity as the refinery.

Alaska Farmers Eligible for USDA Transportation Help
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

Starting July 21, farmers in Alaska can sign up for  the US Department of Agriculture’s Reimbursement Transportation Cost Payment Program. Under the 2014 Farm Bill, farmers outside the contiguous US can now receive a portion of the costs of shipping their agricultural products over long distances.

Uncertainty Hovers Over Fishing Season
Charles Enoch, KYUK – Bethel

A few fishermen from the communities in the Kuskokwim caught king salmon before the scheduled closures last week.  In a typical year the first catch is a time of joy but this year it’s bringing uncertainty.

Yaakoosgé Daakahídi Alternative High School Graduate Profile
Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau

High school graduation is an accomplishment worth celebrating for all students. But for some the achievement is that much sweeter, because of the obstacles they had to overcome. KTOO profiles profiles a graduate of Juneau’s Yaakoosgé Daakahídi Alternative High School, who has been living on her own for about a year.

 

 

Categories: Alaska News
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