Alaska News

Human Remains Discovered On Adak

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-06-30 17:23

State troopers believe that a set of human remains found on Adak this month are those of a long-lost camper.

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“Based on a wallet with some ID that was found near the remains, we believe that this is Samuel Arrington, who was 57 at the time of disappearance,” says trooper spokesperson Beth Ipsen.

Arrington went missing in July 2008 during a camping trip at Lake Betty. The lake is about a mile from the spot where two U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees stumbled on the human remains in mid-June.

The state medical examiner performed an autopsy, but Ipsen says it didn’t reveal much.

“So the remains are going to be shipped out of state to try and pin down the cause of death and do positive identification,” Ipsen says.

Right now, the troopers don’t suspect foul play.

Categories: Alaska News

High Court Throws Out Petition Case

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-06-30 17:22

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has dismissed a challenge to Alaska’s signature-gathering laws because of lack of standing.

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Robert Raymond, of Shorewood, Wisconsin, filed his lawsuit against the State of Alaska in 2012. He believes his First Amendment rights are being violated because he is not allowed to distribute ballot petitions in Alaska unless he is a resident.

Three separate federal appeals courts have overturned similar laws in Arizona, Oklahoma, and Michigan. But because Raymond did not have a specific cause he wanted to work on and could not show he was immediately harmed by the law, the Ninth Circuit Court threw out his case on June 24.

Categories: Alaska News

With HIV cases on the rise, Alaskans consider new tool for prevention

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-06-30 17:21

Twenty-four people in Alaska have been diagnosed with HIV since January. Normally, that’s the total number of new diagnoses for an entire year, not just six months. Now Alaskans have a new way to help prevent HIV infections. The Center for Disease Control recently released new guidelines for a daily pill that can prevent new infections, though it’s not seen as a cure-all.

PreP in AK

Pre-exposure prophylaxis is commonly called PreP. It’s a drug that’s also used to treat HIV and prevent it from developing into AIDS. PreP is aimed at people who do risky things, like have multiple, anonymous sexual partners or share needles. Studies show that if a person takes it consistently–every day–it’s 92% effective.

“Taking a pill everyday if you’re practicing these high risk behaviors isn’t easy,” said Susan Jones with the state’s Section of Epidemiology. “Having HIV infection and coping with that is harder.”

Jones said using PreP is also a good choice for HIV negative individuals who are in relationships with people who are HIV positive.

The drug, called Truvada, has been available since 2012 but guidelines for using it as a preventative tool were only released by the CDC in May. Jones says now people in Alaska need to learn about it.

“The task of identifying those people at high risk really falls on the health care providers. And they’re not always used to asking those tough questions about sexual behavior.”

Part of that may be because sexual behavior is changing. One third of the people who tested positive for HIV this year were men who met their partners through phone apps or online. But Davy Norris from the Alaskan AIDS Assistance Association said the new technology isn’t the problem.

“It’s not really the technology that’s the issue, it’s the way people are using that tool. Young men are having multiple anonymous sexual partners and not using condoms and just kind of doing it very unsafely.”

Norris said people don’t need to stop using the apps, they just need to be responsible when they find a partner that way. And he emphasizes that using PreP isn’t an excuse to stop using condoms. “We want people to have a comprehensive understanding of HIV prevention and to try multiple things because that’s the most effective way.”

He also notes that only half of the new infections are in men who have sex with men. ”So it’s certainly not fair to say it’s just a gay issue.”

Anyone can be infected by HIV, especially if they participate in risky behaviors. But Jones says PreP could be an effective tool in stopping the spread of the disease. ”Maybe there’s 23 more people out there that we can prevent from getting an infection at the end of this year.”

Truvada is widely available. However, without insurance, it costs about $1,000 per month. Studies show that side effects are minimal.

Categories: Alaska News

Large Dredge Unlikely In Grantley Harbor This Season

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-06-30 17:20

DNR Meeting in Teller. (Photo: Anna Rose MacArthur, KNOM)

A massive dredge looking to work the waters near two communities in western Alaska is sparking concerns from subsistence users—and brought the Alaska Department of Natural Resources to villages west of Nome last week, to talk to residents about their concerns.

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the large gold dredge AU Grabber is unlikely to appear in Grantley Harbor this season, says the Department of Natural Resources, but not guaranteed.

A Nome miner, Hank Schimschat, owns the AU Grabber, an 80-foot long barge dredge with an excavator arm, and has submitted a permit to mine in the harbor waters.

Jack Kerin is the Natural Resource Manager with DNR. He said, “Specifically DEC has considered the current application to be of a scale that requires an individual permit and that process can take up to a year.”

That process would involve providing baseline data for the water’s resources and explaining how the dredging won’t impact subsistence. But all that work might not be necessary.

“If the applicant comes in and revises, changes his mining plan, to be something of a scale that these issues can be addressed,” said Kerin, “then it’s possible he could be issued a permit.”

Teller, Brevig Mission, and Mary’s Igloo use Grantley Harbor for subsistence activities and have sent a letter to DNR opposing Schimshat’s operation. Many residents are upset DNR is allowing the permit to undergo further review at all.

One Teller resident stated: “This is very disturbing that DNR [is] giving them a chance to review their application. First of all, you know, the backhoe is going to disturb our land. So what are they going to come up with, you know? Suction dredges next?”

That comment was made at yesterday’s community meeting in Teller where Karin and two other DNR employees addressed community concerns about dredging in Grantley Harbor. Kawerak invited DNR to Teller as part of the corporation’s annual executive session. Many residents from Brevig Mission boated over to attend.

Kerin says since the State owns the subsurface of Grantley Harbor, Schimschat has a legal right to apply for a dredging permit and revise his application.

Kerin explains, “The person has a legal right to the subsurface of the state, the mineral state, and what we have is the right to ensure that how he accesses it is done in a reasonable manner that doesn’t cause undue disruption to the local community. But he has the right to try to change his application to try to address the concerns raised by the community.”

Those concerns surround subsistence. Jolene Okleasik, Teller resident, also attended the meeting and said,“I don’t want it to become like Nome around here. Because if you see lots of dredges, you’ll probably not even see any fish or any wildlife.”

Because the waters of Nome, said Teller resident, Joe Garnie, are very different from the waters of Grantley Harbor. While the shallow waters of the Bering Sea are reestablished every year by winter storms, Grantley Harbor is not, making the harbor unable to withstand dredging’s impacts.

“Even just the minimal equipment of suction dredges would be very destructive here,” said Garnie. “This is not necessarily self-healing waters with wave action like you have right in the Bering Sea. This is old growth bottom.”

Kawerak also invited Graphite One to the meeting to talk about their local mining operations, but no representatives attended.

Categories: Alaska News

Public Comment Begins For Sea Lion Protections

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-06-30 17:19

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is opening public comment on a plan to relax Steller sea lion protections and allow more commercial fishing in the western Aleutian Islands.

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Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The agency released a draft of its new regulations on Tuesday. They would pave the way for the first commercial harvests of Atka mackerel and Pacific cod since 2011.

That’s when federal managers banned fishing on those species in the western Aleutians. It was intended to help an endangered population of sea lions. But commercial fishing interests and the state of Alaska argued that the science behind the fishing bans were faulty.

After years of litigation — and a comprehensive, court-ordered reassessment of the protection plan — NOAA ruled that commercial fishing wouldn’t jeopardize the sea lions if it was done under the right conditions.

Members of the public will have 45 days to weigh in on a draft of the new fishing regulations. The comment period will close on August 15. NOAA’s aiming to finalize the new rules by January 2015.

Categories: Alaska News

Legislation Opens Doors For Medevac Providers

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-06-30 17:18

A piece of state legislation passed this spring opened the door for more competition among medevac providers in the state, and one company has taken advantage of that opportunity.

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Categories: Alaska News

No Fukushima Radiation Found in Alaska Seafood

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-06-27 17:04

Alaska health officials say Alaska seafood has no radiation contamination from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant, which was damaged by a tsunami in 2011.

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Officials from the Alaska departments of Environmental Conservation and Health and Social Services announced results of U.S. Food and Drug Administration tests today.

The FDA monitors radiation in both domestic and imported food. Alaska officials called for specific Alaska samples, including fish that migrate from western Pacific waters off Japan.

The federal agency tested samples from the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands to southeast Alaska.

Categories: Alaska News

Future of Tradition and Development Weighed at Ambler Road Meeting

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-06-27 17:03

The Nullagvik Hotel in Kotzebue. (Photo by Zachariah Hughes, KNOM – Nome)

How will small Native communities in rural Alaska balance traditional life with the pressures of modernization? That was the question community leaders focused on during the second day of discussions on the proposed road to the Ambler Mining District.

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For nearly five hours in a conference room at the Nullagvik Hotel, representatives—many of them elders—from communities in the Kobuk Valley, Koyukuk River, and elsewhere shared their thoughts.

“I think we ought to seriously look at what we’re doing right now. Because we need a cash economy to support our way of life,” said Larry Westlake of Kiana. “I don’t think we could go back to where we started from.”

Like many others yesterday, Westlake shared his personal history before offering thoughts on how people in the Northwest Arctic and Interior regions need to engage with development projects like the Ambler industrial road.

The session was scheduled to be a two-and-a-half hour dialogue between community members and state officials. But speakers chose to deviate from the plan, passing the microphone all the way around a large circle of 38, each person getting her or his chance to talk.

“For too long we’ve been planned for. It’s time that we turn things around to where we plan our destiny–the future of our children, and our grandchildren,” said Walter Sampson, who lives in Kotzebue and spent decades working for NANA Regional Corporation. Like others, he used the road as a proxy for a larger conversation about how to affect change. “Quit reacting. Become proactive in designing those things, so you can maximize the benefits that you can get from those plans.”

Many referenced the need to prepare new opportunities, citing Red Dog Mine—and the AIDEA owned road connected to it—as a template for bringing the benefits of industrial mining back to shareholders.

The session also saw plenty of praise for AIDEA and their contractor Dowl HKM, who organized and paid for Wednesday and Thursday’s meetings. Karsten Rodvik is in charge of external affairs for AIDEA, and thought Thursday’s session was a resounding success.

“Clearly there’s a recognition–for the sake of future generations–that responsible development of Alaska’s natural resources needs to occur today,” Rodvik said. “I’m very pleased with the level of support that was expressed here today for this project, and for the process going forward.”

But some in attendance were unsure of what exactly had been accomplished. No decisions were made, and few questions about serious selling points for the project—like the promise of jobs, lower cost of living, and revenues—were answered.

“I think this is definitely a starting point, and I think there’s definitely some conversation going on, but I don’t think it’s anywhere near the full conversation that should happen. There’s many people that are not here at the table today that should be,” said Jill Yordy, an environmental advocate who has followed the project closely for the Northern Alaska Environmental Center in Fairbanks, and has been to several meetings.

Yordy believes that while relationship building is important, decisions about fundamental features of the project keep getting deferred.

“AIDEA hasn’t really been clear on what role these meetings are playing and how they’re taking the information that people bring into account, how they’re making those decisions.”

AIDEA says that many of those specific decisions can’t be considered until after the Environmental Impact Statement has collected all the pertinent information. Mark Davis is a deputy director with the agency and says the upcoming EIS will set the stage for evaluating everything from subsistence impacts to stress-testing financial models.

“[A] business plan would come after the EIS process,” Davis explained. “And then you’d make sure that that business model could survive changes in the business environment–say a downturn in the price of copper, for example. And you’d make that decision then to determine whether the road would be viable, given the size of those mines.”

But there are those who want local conditions put into writing before plans for the road go any further.

“If anything is gonna to be beneficial for my people, there have to be memorandums of agreement before anything is really starting off. Because [the] EIS is gonna be fast—before we know it it’s gonna be over. And by that time things may change,” said Virginia Comack of Ambler.

Those memorandums, or the requests they might protect, were not discussed in any detail. During both days of meetings there were times when it felt like two distinct conversations were going on in the same conference room. Leaders from the Kobuk and Koyukuk River communities shared their personal perspectives how they might not just survive, but thrive. Representatives from the state listened, and in their turn explained procedural steps and timelines for a template they say has worked before, and will here.

Editor’s Note: After a version of this story played on Alaska Public Radio Network’s Alaska News Nightly, Patricia Sivu Faye-Brazel, who works for the Native Village of Ambler as a planner and technical advisor for negotiations, contacted KNOM, saying: “The Communities of Ambler, Kobuk, Allakaket, Allatna, Bettles, and Evansville expressed alarm at the way the meeting was portrayed in this story, in particular with the line ‘Leaders from the Kobuk and Koyukuk River communities shared their personal perspectives how they might not just survive, but thrive.’ There was no actual approval or agreement. And the tribes, while they are invited to public meetings, do not feel they are being consulted, as is their right, as sovereign tribal governments.”

Categories: Alaska News

U.S. House Passes Bill To Open NPR-A

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-06-27 17:02

For the second time in six months, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill aimed at greater oil industry access to the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

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The bill would force the federal government to scrap its current management plan for NPR-A and start over. It would also require additional lease sales there and off-shore.

It’s supported by Alaska Congressman Don Young and passed the House on Thursday as part of a larger GOP energy bill, largely along party lines. In November, the House passed a similar NPR-A provision in a different GOP energy bill. Senate leaders have shown no interest in moving it.

Categories: Alaska News

U.S. Senate Republican Candidates Debate Addresses Resource Development, Government Overreach

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-06-27 17:01

All three candidates vying for the Republican nomination in August’s senatorial primary election squared off over a variety of issues in Anchorage on Thursday.

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U.S. Senate Republican candidates Joe Miller, Dan Sullivan, and Mead Treadwell faced a crowd of well over 200 people in the East High School Auditorium.

Treadwell took shots at the amount of money coming into Sullivan’s campaign from outside of Alaska… Sullivan countered by questioning Treadwell’s fund raising activities….which Treadwell responded to with a sense of levity.

Sullivan: “Can you give us a number of how many of those fund raisers you had in 2013 and were you traveling on the state’s dime when you went to these numerous, numerous fund raisers in the Lower 48?”

Treadwell: “Thanks, Dan. I’m glad you’re so concerned about outside money…(crowd laughter)”

Sullivan, who has raised far more money than his opponents to date, countered – again bringing Treadwell’s fund raising methods into question.

“We have been out-raising any of my opponents, and if you take away the self-financing that you’re doing with regard to your candidacy, looking in the mirror and asking yourself for a loan, we’re almost out-raising both of you together with Alaskans, grassroots Alaskans,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan also said Alaskans need a doer in Washington DC, not a talker – and Miller questioned which of those groups Sullivan would fall into

“What we don’t need is somebody that claims to be fighter, but behind him is being funded by Karl Rove, who is behind the very things that are  destroying this country,” Miller said.

As the candidates addressed a variety of other issues ranging from the IRS and foreign policy, to abortion and gay rights, natural resource development and federal overreach remained a common thread throughout the conversation.

When asked what the number one impediment to natural resource development is, Miller says it’s compromise and “environmentalism run amok.”

“EPA regulations cost more than 5 percent of our annual gross domestic product…the equivalent of the cost of defense and homeland security combined,” Miller said, quoting a Washington Times Op-Ed by Kentucky Republican Rand Paul. “Since EPA regulations have expanded, unemployment in America has increased by 33 percent. This abuse of power by the implementation of regulations infringes upon our basic Constitutional rights.”

Miller followed up by saying bold actions, such as scaling back or abolishing the EPA would be necessary.

Treadwell says the biggest issue in resource development is access.

“We have physical access, we need ports, we need roads, we need railroads, we need pipelines, and those are things that will make our natural resources go to market,” he said.

Treadwell also says legal, labor, and intellectual access is imperative to natural resource development, as is access to markets to sell Alaska’s natural resources.

Sullivan says federal overreach isn’t just the primary obstacle to natural resource development in the state, but to a plethora of other industries as well.

“I used to think it was just in the resource sector…it is everywhere: tourism, financial industry, fishing, small businesses, big businesses,” Sullivan said. “There is hardly an Alaskan that I have met on the campaign trail that does not have some story about federal overreach.”

The debate was organized by the Anchorage Republican Women’s Club in conjunction with radio stations KOAN and KVNT.

Categories: Alaska News

Frostbite Among Chief Dangers For Denali Climbers

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-06-27 17:00

It’s been a tough year for climbers attempting to summit Denali. Only 1 in 3 have made the summit. The weather also means higher risk for injuries, especially frostbite.

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Categories: Alaska News

Y-K Delta Residents Struggle To Put Up Fish

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-06-27 16:59

Arvin Dull, of Bethel, with his drying salmon at his fish camp in Oscarville Slough. (Photo by Daysha Eaton, KYUK – Bethel)

Fish camp is an annual tradition going back thousands of years for Yup’ik people living along the Kuskokwim River. But fishing restrictions this year, have hit many families hard.

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Iyana Dull prepares to visit fish camps downriver from Bethel.

“We’re heading down river to the village of Napaskiak. And they rely heavily on the salmon and hopefully they’re getting their needs met. And that’s what we’re gonna go find out,” said Iyana Dull.

The 28-year-old Alaska Native is a fisheries technician for Bethel’s tribe, ONC. He asks people about their subsistence needs and run timings are for kings, chums and sockeye salmon.

The information Dull gathers is reported to the Kuskokwim Salmon Working Group, which is helping federal and state biologists manage the fishery. This year, they say surveys are hard to get because people are angry about restrictions. Many won’t talk with them. Just outside Napaskiak, at a simple camp with alder drying racks, elder Sophie Jenkins agrees to take a survey. She says restrictions are traumatizing.

“I looked up genocide and it says like this – people make policies and where people have no say with the law, with the policies and rules and regulations. (Daysha: And how does that make you feel?) I’m very familiar with oppression and you know trauma and that’s how I feel right now,” said Jenkins.

After 2013 showed the weakest King salmon run on record managers of the Kuskokwim River fishery are not allowing directed king salmon fishing. That means the 8-inch mesh nets, that were introduced by the commercial fishery in the 50s and 60’s, and have become commonplace in YK Delta households, have been banned completely.

Instead fishers have been limited to short, 4-inch mesh set nets. They’re much less productive and many fishermen don’t own them. Some say purchasing the net is too expensive.

Now, it’s late in the fishing season and managers have been allowing short openings with 6-inch gear for chum and sockeye salmon.

Jenkins, ordered the six-inch net, but she says she could not find one in Alaska. They were sold out, so she ordered one from a company in Tennessee.

“And I’m still waiting. It’s been a week and I know there was fishing yesterday and I was so depressed. I don’t have anything hanging,” said Jenkins.

Residents along the Kuskokwim say the restrictions have created haves and have-nots. In nearby Oscarville Slough, Arvin Dull, the uncle of the fisheries technician is having better luck. His fish rack and smoke house are full of glistening red salmon. A former bank manager from Bethel, Dull had the cash to buy the net required this year.

And a lot of people don’t have jobs and were unable to buy the nets. Some people can’t even afford a sixty-foot white fish net. (Daysha: How much does that cost?) About $300 dollars, said Arvin Dull.

His nephew says he sees why people are upset, but he also worries about extinction.

“They’d like to open the big king, king net gear so they can target more kings and get more kings on the rack. You know, they’re so used to seeing the fish return that they think no matter how hard they fish that they’ll always come back but that’s not true,” said Iyana Dull.

At the time this story was filed, Elder Sophie Jenkins was still waiting for her net to arrive. If it comes in time she says she hopes to get some fish on her rack. She says getting chum and reds is good, but they miss their kings.

Categories: Alaska News

Smokejumpers Deploy to Southwest Alaska

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-06-27 16:58

Fire Danger is up in Southwest Alaska. Mike Roos, a Fire Management Officer with the Alaska Division of Forestry says fuels, especially tundra grasses, are drying out.

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“They’re very susceptible to starts from either lightening strikes or escaped burns, such as dumps and we’ve had two escaped dump fires in the past two days, one in Mountain Village and one at Tooksook Bay,” Roos said.

Smokejumper crews were deployed to both fires.

Clear, sunny weather and high winds are forecast through the weekend.

Categories: Alaska News

AK: Dance

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-06-27 16:57

(Photo courtesy Rant & Raven)

Although the ancient form of dance called English Morris was born so long ago its origins are murky, it remains alive and well, even in frozen Alaska. Rant and Raven, Anchorage’s Morris dance group, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, with a tour on the Alaska Marine Highway.

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Categories: Alaska News

300 Villages: Eagle

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-06-27 16:56

This week we’re heading to Eagle, a small community on the Yukon River. Jason Hamilton lives in Eagle, Alaska.

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Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: June 27, 2014

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-06-27 16:51

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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No Fukushima Radiation Found in Alaska Seafood

The Associated Press

Alaska health officials say Alaska seafood has no radiation contamination from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant, which was damaged by a tsunami in 2011.

Officials from the Alaska departments of Environmental Conservation and Health and Social Services announced results of U.S. Food and Drug Administration tests today.

The FDA monitors radiation in both domestic and imported food. Alaska officials called for specific Alaska samples, including fish that migrate from western Pacific waters off Japan.

The federal agency tested samples from the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands to southeast Alaska.

Cross-Regional Dialogue On Ambler Road As Parties Converge In Kotzebue

Zachariah Hughes, KNOM – Nome

How will small Native communities in rural Alaska balance traditional life with the pressures of modernization? That was the question community leaders focused on during the second day of discussions on the proposed road to the Ambler Mining District.

U.S. House Passes Bill To Open NPR-A

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington DC

For the second time in six months, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill aimed at greater oil industry access to the National

Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

The bill would force the federal government to scrap its current management plan for NPR-A and start over. It would also require additional lease sales there and off-shore.

It’s supported by Alaska Congressman Don Young and passed the House on Thursday as part of a larger GOP energy bill, largely along party lines. In November, the House passed a similar NPR-A provision in a different GOP energy bill. Senate leaders have shown no interest in moving it.

U.S. Senate Republican Candidates Debate Addresses Resource Development, Government Overreach

Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage

All three candidates vying for the Republican nomination in August’s senatorial primary election squared off over a variety of issues in Anchorage on Thursday.

Frostbite Among Chief Dangers For Denali Climbers

Phillip Manning, KTNA – Talkeetna

It’s been a tough year for climbers attempting to summit Denali.  Only 1 in 3 have made the summit.  The weather also means higher risk for injuries, especially frostbite.

Y-K Delta Residents Struggle To Put Up Fish

Daysha Eaton, KYUK – Bethel

Fish camp is an annual tradition going back thousands of years for Yup’ik people living along the Kuskokwim River. But fishing restrictions this year, have hit many families hard.

Smokejumpers Deploy in Southwest Alaska

Daysha Eaton, KYUK – Bethel

Fire Danger is up in Southwest Alaska. Mike Roos, a Fire Management Officer with the Alaska Division of Forestry says fuels, especially tundra grasses, are drying out.

“They’re very susceptible to starts from either lightening strikes or escaped burns, such as dumps and we’ve had two escaped dump fires in the past two days, one in Mountain Village and one at Tooksook Bay,” Roos said.

Smokejumper crews were deployed to both fires.

Clear, sunny weather and high winds are forecast through the weekend.

AK: Dance

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

Although the ancient form of dance called English Morris was born so long ago its origins are murky, it remains alive and well, even in frozen Alaska.  Rant and Raven, Anchorage’s Morris dance group, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, with a tour on the Alaska Marine Highway.

300 Villages: Eagle

This week we’re heading to Eagle, a small community on the Yukon River. Jason Hamilton lives in Eagle, Alaska.

Categories: Alaska News

Wetlands Plan Update Causes Concern

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-06-27 14:47

Some community members are concerned about proposed changes to the Anchorage Municipal Wetlands Management Plan. They say it weakens protections for vital areas. The plan’s update has been in the works for nearly four years. It’s the first revision since 1996.

Anchorage’s Wetlands Management Plan was first developed in 1982, during the city’s development boom. Senior Planner Thebe  Tobish says back then, it could take up to two years to get a permit from the Corps of Engineers to develop any thing in wetlands areas.

“It was unworkable for Anchorage at that time of our boom. So we created this wetlands plan that provided a hierarchy of designations of wetlands from low value to high value in an effort to facilitate permit development, but also in an effort to facilitate protection of the more important areas for the community.”

And it’s the protection element that has some community members worried. Community councils from Airport Heights, Rogers Park and the University Area sent resolutions to the Anchorage Assembly earlier this week objecting to some of the wording changes in the draft of the updated plan. Now the draft plan reads in some parts that the wetlands will be protected to “the maximum extent possible” instead of just protected, as it said in the 1996 version. Paul Stang and others say the new language endangers key class A wetlands, like Goose and Mosquito Lakes.

“And what are we doing?” Stang asked the Assembly during this week’s meeting. “We’re watering down for convenience. ‘Oh for this project here, we need this little bit of acreage.’ And so on. Don’t do it. It’s going down the wrong road.”

Airport Heights resident Carolyn Ramsey says losing more wetlands will hurt everyone. “The wetlands are Mother Nature’s sponge. And if you take that away, it’s going to flow into the creeks faster, which is going to cause more flooding. Which ultimately costs every single person in Anchorage money because our tax dollars have to go to clean up the mess and to mitigate future funding when Mother Nature did it for free.”

But senior planner Tobish says the language changes in the management plan don’t really affect the level of protection of some wetlands. He says the wording was requested by the Corps of Engineers to reflect the reality of the permitting process.

“On the face value, people think an ‘A’ wetlands should never be disturbed. That it should be preserved. And while that’s the thrust of the designation, the reality is that certain projects in ‘A’ wetlands will get permitted by the Corps,” he explains. “Especially if they’re proven to have a significant public purpose and a public need.”

Tobish says that’s what happened when Elmore was punched through from Tudor to Abbott. It crossed dozens of acres of class A wetlands, but the Corps still approved it because of the community’s need.

Tobish says the primary changes to the wetlands management plan were upgrades to the maps; they designated new wetlands and stream areas and removed places that had been filled in.

The plan will be discussed during a work session before the Assembly decides if they will approve the changes during their July 8 meeting.

Categories: Alaska News

Primary Election: Republican U.S. Senate Candidate Mead Treadwell

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-06-27 12:00

It will soon be decision time for Alaska voters on which Republican should face incumbent U.S. Senator Mark Begich in November. Will it be Joe Miller, Dan Sullivan, or Mead Treadwell? Each candidate will have an hour-long live opportunity to answer phone calls from public radio listeners statewide. Mead Treadwell will go first, on the next Talk of Alaska.

HOST: Steve Heimel, Alaska Public Radio Network

GUESTS:

  • Mead Treadwell, U.S. Senate candidate
  • 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, July 1, 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

Alaska Edition: Earthquakes

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-06-27 07:00

Even by Alaska standards, there has been a lot of seismic activity recently. Alaska is located in the Ring of Fire, so it’s not unusual for there to be frequent earthquakes and volcanoes kicking up occasionally, but starting in April, there has been some unusual seismic activity in the Brooks Range. An area near Noatak has, since April, seen a spike in earthquakes after a 30-year quiet period.

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HOST: Lori Townsend

GUESTS:

  • Michael West, State seismologist and director of the Alaska Earthquake Center
  • John Power, scientist in charge of the Alaska Volcano Observatory

KSKA (FM 91.1) BROADCAST: Friday June 27 at 2:00 p.m. and Saturday, June 28  at 6:00 p.m.

Alaska Public Television BROADCAST: Friday, June 27 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday June 28 at 4:30 PM.

Categories: Alaska News

Flooding Closes Portion of Denali Park Road

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-06-26 17:28

The National Park Service has closed the Denali Park Road past Eielson Visitors Center at Mile 66 due to flooding and significant rockfall.

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The Park Service says torrential rain fell in the park overnight and the Denali Backcountry Lodge, located at the end of the road, has been evacuated due to flooding. National Park spokeswoman Kris Fister says all guests are accounted for and are currently at another lodge on higher ground. She says those guests, along with other visitors and employees trapped in the park’s interior cannot be transported by bus or airplane due to high water on the road and the airstrip.

The park is making contingency plans to evacuate guests by helicopter.

Categories: Alaska News
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