Alaska News

Body of Wilderness Classic Racer Recovered From Tana River

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-08-12 17:35

A long time competitor in one of Alaska’s most famous and dangerous backcountry races has died.  Rob Kehrer was found dead while competing in the Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic over the weekend in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve.

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The body of 44-year-old Rob Kehrer, pictured here on the 2013 Wilderness Classic website, was found by search and rescue personnel after he was last seen in his pack raft on the Tana River. Photo from the 2013 Wilderness Classic website.

On Sunday morning, Wrangell-St. Elias Park and Preserve officials received a call from the Rescue Coordination Center at Joint-Base Elmendorf-Richardson needing help locating Rob Kehrer.  Peter Christian is the Chief Ranger for Wrangell-St. Elias.  He said the 44-year-old was last seen Saturday afternoon by his partner in his pack raft on the Tana River, a tributary of the Chitina River.

Search efforts were based out of McCarthy.  Around 4 p.m., Kehrer’s body was located by an Alaska Air National Guard helicopter crew about two and a half miles downstream from where he was last seen.  Hs body was transported to Providence Hospital in Anchorage.

Kehrer, a Mat-Su resident, was a 10-year veteran of the race.  The race itself is 32 years old and has been held in various places such as the Brooks Range, Kenai Peninsula, and Talkeetna Mountains.  Since 2012, it has been held in Wrangell-St. Elias.

Christian says it is an unsanctioned event and is not permitted in the park.

Christian says park officials cannot stop the event because they don’t know when it’s held every year.  He says they plan to talk to the event organizers in order to prevent similar event from happening again.

Categories: Alaska News

Court Orders Review of A Controversial Fisheries Observer Program

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-08-12 17:34

A U.S. District Court judge has ruled that a newly-implemented fisheries observer program in the Gulf of Alaska may have become unreliable, and is sending federal managers back to the drawing board to fix it.

The decision by Judge H. Russel Holland is being hailed as a victory by Southeast Alaska’s longline fleet, who have chafed under the new system, which requires them to carry human observers on their relatively small vessels.

But federal fisheries managers see it as a win as well.

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Fishermen offload commercially-caught halibut in Juneau. The cost of an observer day has nearly doubled — to over $800 — from the inception of the program in 2010. (Flickr photo/Gillphoto)

The observer program is not going away. Instead, the court’s action may compel the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — or NOAA — to find a way to remodel it, which is what the small-boat fleet has wanted since the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council adopted the new plan in 2010.

Joel Hanson is the conservation director for The Boat Company, the non-profit regional cruise company-cum-environmental organization that brought the lawsuit.

“We don’t hesitate to speak our peace with federal agencies when we see them doing something awry.”

In this case, something awry meant redistributing observer coverage on Alaska’s trawlers — who drag huge nets along to ocean floor scooping up pollock — in order to create an observer program for the halibut fleet, generally smaller boats who use a type of gear called longlines, which catch fish on hooks.

Hanson says NOAA — acting under the direction of the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council — just got it wrong. The observer program is intended to keep track of bycatch, or the number and kinds of fish being caught unintentionally. Restructuring the program was supposed to improve coverage of the fisheries, but Hanson believes its gotten worse.

“So this was an opportunity for us to look at what the outcome of the restructuring program was, where it should be, and how to make it more like what we think the public expected, and what we certainly expected. ”

And Judge H. Russel Holland agreed in part. In his 50-page ruling, Judge Holland says coverage under the new system risks dropping below a reliable threshold.

The government doesn’t necessarily dispute that finding.

“The analysis that the judge has asked us to do is actually very helpful.”

Martin Loefflad directs Fisheries Monitoring for NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle. Judge Holland’s decision requires the agency to prepare another environmental analysis, to ensure that enough observers are on enough boats to gather reliable data on bycatch.

“And we’re certainly game to do that, because we too share the concern of the data quality issue.”

Read NOAA’s 2013 Observer Program Annual Report.

Unfortunately for fishermen, better coverage may mean an increase in costs. The fleet pays 1.25-percent of its gross sales to fund the observer program. The Magnuson-Stevens Act caps those fees at 2-percent, but there are still millions of dollars in play.

Loefflad says the decision validates the government’s efforts to expand observer coverage in the 25 years since it began.

“The court’s judgement on us is really quite a success story because it preserved many of the strides that we were able to get through with the restructured observer program, working through the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council. So many of those things that didn’t occur in the past are present today.”

Foremost among those new things is coverage of the halibut longline fleet, which did not have to carry observers until last season. An organization calling itself The Fixed Gear Alliance intervened in the lawsuit on behalf of The Boat Company. Linda Behnken is the director of the Alaska Longline Fisherman’s Association — or ALFA — which is member of the Alliance.

“The main improvement we hope to see in the program is an increase in observer coverage on vessels where bycatch is an issue. So salmon bycatch is all in the trawl fishery. Halibut bycatch is primarily in the trawl fishery. To see better coverage.”

The Fixed Gear Alliance also wanted to see electronic monitoring (EM) addressed in NOAA’s new Environmental Analysis, but Judge Holland did not allow that argument to move forward. Still, the use of cameras to count fish instead of humans — especially in cramped quarters on boats under 60 feet in length — has its advocates. Really important advocates. Like Sen. Lisa Murkowski, recently speaking to the Sitka Chamber of Commerce.

“We can be smarter in our technologies to allow for electronic monitoring that is accurate and reliable, and doesn’t get in the way of the operations. It’s been fascinating to me how much foot-dragging we have had from the agencies, Oh you know, we just don’t know, somebody might tamper with this, you can’t do that — Good heavens! Work with us.”

Linda Behnken at ALFA hopes that NOAA does just that when it reopens the environmental analysis — even though the judge didn’t spell it out. ALFA has been working for several years on an electronic monitoring pilot project. NOAA is piloting a program of its own with nine boats this season.

NOAA’s Loefflad says it’s a start.

“I think there is a future for electronic monitoring in Alaska. We’re doing the research right now, and we’ve been partnering to move that research forward.”

Still, electronic monitoring would have to be adopted by the North Pacific Management Fisheries Council — a process that is by no means fast. None of this is particularly fast. The Boat Company’s attorney, Paul Olson, filed this suit in 2012 with Earthjustice. Although the observer program isn’t going away, Olson considers the ruling a win anyway, since the government is going to have to take another hard look.

“Basically what the court said is that your NEPA analysis failed to consider whether you would acquire statistically reliable data at significantly reduced coverage rates, especially for the trawl fleet.”

NEPA stands for National Environmental Policy Act. In this case, a new NEPA analysis means — not necessarily starting from scratch — but a new document, and a new opportunity for the public, the small-boat halibut fleet, and US Senators to comment on the process.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: August 12, 2014

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-08-12 17:31

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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Oil Tax Referendum Spurs a Neighborly Sign War

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Anchorage

On top of being the most expensive ballot measure in state history, next week’s referendum on oil taxes may also be one of the most contentious. The polling shows a tight race, with the state’s voters almost equally divided on the question. But what do you do when you’re close to the opposition?

Ad Claims Treadwell’s Company Erodes Privacy

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Anchorage

A new political ad is homing in on the technology companies U.S. Senate candidate Mead Treadwell founded, saying they’re helping the government erode privacy. Treadwell calls the claims absurd.

Bethel Tribal Leaders Speak Out on Police Brutality Allegations

Daysha Eaton, KYUK – Bethel

Bethel’s tribe, ONC, wants people to come forth regarding allegations of city police mistreating Native people. In addition, the Association of Village Council Presidents released a letter that they sent to Bethel mayor, Joe Klejka about the matter.

Tribal Groups Disagree on B.C. Mine Projects

Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau

Some Alaska tribal organizations say last week’s (Aug. 4th’s) dam break at a British Columbia mine shows what could happen closer to home. The groups say similar dams planned for several near-border mines could damage or destroy fish runs in both countries.

ANTHC Program To Monitor Toxicity in Subsistence Foods

Anna Rose MacArthur, KNOM – Nome

For the first time in the U.S., a technology traditionally used on humans is testing possible widespread threats to food security. The technology is filter paper, and it is used to collect blood samples. Throughout the Bering Strait region, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium is distributing the paper to subsistence hunters to collect blood specimens from subsistence mammals.

Body of Wilderness Classic Racer Recovered From Tana River

Tony Gorman, KCHU – Valdez

A long time competitor in one of Alaska’s most rugged backcountry races has died.  Rob Kehrer (kare-er) was found dead while competing in the Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic over the weekend in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve.

Court Orders A Second Look At Controversial Fisheries Observer Program

Robert Woolsey, KCAW – Sitka

A U.S. District Court judge has ruled that a newly-implemented fisheries observer program in the Gulf of Alaska may have become unreliable, and is sending federal managers back to the drawing board to fix it.

 

 

Categories: Alaska News

State Lacks Plans, Funds to Replace Steel Float in Gustavus

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-08-12 16:56

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.

Without the steel float, Gustavus boaters are left with 350 feet of timber floats. In the winter, these are stored up the Salmon River. (Photo by Tod Sebens)

 

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.

“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.

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)

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

Tribal Groups Disagree on the Stakes of B.C. Mine Projects

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-08-12 15:28

Some Alaska tribal organizations say the August 4th dam break at a British Columbia mine shows what could happen at proposed near-border mines. But some B.C. tribal governments strongly support development.

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Northwest British Columbia’s Nisga’a Museum includes a display of legendary beings occupying the Nass River valley, about 20 miles from the Southeast Alaska border. (Photo by Ed Schoenfeld/CoastAlaska News)

“Here you’ll see some of the types of ways that we use oolichans. They’re sun-dried as well as smoked.”

Kerry Small explains what’s in a display case in northwest British Columbia’s Nisga’a Museum. It’s a gleaming, glass-fronted building in a wide valley about 20 miles from the Alaska border.

The valley surrounds the Nass River, home to the Nisga’a Nation and its tribal government, which is at the forefront of Canada’s aboriginal rights movement.

Small points to a carved, rectangular, wooden dish used to process oolichans, also called hooligan or candlefish.

“The bottom’s laid with fern and you cook it down, and that’s how you create the grease. And this is oolichan grease. It’s like liquid gold. It’s one of the most valuable items still to this day,” she says.

Guide Kerry Small talks her people’s history at the Nisga’a Museum. The Nisga’a Government recently signed an agreement with the controversial KSM Mine project. (Photo by Ed Schoenfeld/CoastAlaska News)

Kevin McKay, executive chairman of the Nisga’a Government’s legislature, says the Nisga’a people depend on the health of the Nass River to keep the oolichan coming, as well as salmon.

“The oolichan has been called the survival fish because it’s a very important part of our cycle of food that we get in abundance,” McKay says.

But they also need jobs.

That’s one of the reasons the tribal government signed an agreement this summer pledging support for the Kerr-Sulpherrets-Mitchell Mine, under development to the north.

“What we told our citizens … (is) we have taken every measure and every opportunity to mitigate those environmental impacts throughout the life of the project,” he says.

KSM will store its tailings–ground up rock leftover from ore processing–behind dams within the Naas River watershed.

“We had some concerns with the original design they had presented throughout the course of our negotiations,” he says.

The Nisga’a Lisims Government Building is the home of the Canadian First Nation’s government. Leaders say their environmental concerns have been answered by the developer of the KSM Mine. (Photo by Ed Schoenfeld/CoastAlaska News)

McKay says those changes will cost the developer a couple hundred million dollars. KSM says changes made to address aboriginal concerns bring the amount to $500 million.

“Now I dare say, without that significant move by the proponent, it may not have been possible for the parties to reach a mutual agreement.”

Total development costs are estimated at $5.3 billion.

McKay says the Nisga’a-KSM agreement also provides lump-sum payments, training, jobs and environmental protections.

“There are no 100 percent guarantees. We go into this with our eyes wide open,” he says.

The mine faces objections on this side of the border.

“I just firmly, firmly, firmly believe that this is a bad idea,” says Ketchikan’s Rob Sanderson Jr., who co-chairs the Southeast Alaska-based United Tribal Transboundary Mining Work Group. It’s backed by the Tlingit-Haida Central Council, as well as several Southeast communities’ tribal governments.

All the groups say the KSM and other near-border mines could threaten the Unuk, the Stikine or the Taku rivers, which flow from Canada into Alaska.

“We live in a very seismic area of the world and one of the big concerns about the KSM is the scale,” he says.

And it’s not just when the mines are running. Sanderson and other critics worry about the decades–or centuries–after they close, when tailings dams fail.

“If they get up to capacity and production and we have a catastrophic event, that pretty much puts southern Southeast into a dead zone,” he says.

Those objections won the backing of the Washington, D.C.-based National Congress of American Indians this summer. It’s the nation’s largest Native organization. It’s urging Congress, the White House and the State Department to push Canadian officials to increase environmental scrutiny.

But the KSM’s environmental-protection plans are close to approval. And, the Red Chris Mine, owned by the same company that had the dam collapse, is already extracting ore within the Stikine River watershed.

KSM developers have also won support from the Gitxsan Nation, a British Columbia aboriginal government east of Nisga’a territory.

Gitanyow Fisheries Authority Fish and Wildlife Biologist Kevin Koch talks about mine impacts in a small park in Old Hazelton, B.C. (Photo by Ed Schoenfeld/CoastAlaska News)

Another tribal government, the Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs, had opposed the project, but signed an agreement this summer.

“What we’re concerned about is the tailings facility that does drain into Gitanyow territory,” says Fish and Wildlife Biologist Kevin Koch, who works for the Gitanyow Fisheries Authority, a branch of that government.

He says mining’s impacts may not be immediately obvious.

“When some metal or element of some kind is released into water, it might not directly kill fish, but it might impair some part of their physiology or behavior. They might lose their ability to avoid predators, that sort of thing,” he says.

It might also hurt salmon’s sense of smell, which makes it hard to find their spawning grounds.

The Gitanyow’s KSM agreement is not a full endorsement. Rather, it sets some rules and guarantees the tribal government is part of environmental monitoring.

“For Gitanyow to feel that their territory’s protected, they need to be directly involved. They need to have people on the ground taking part in the work, analyzing the work, reporting directly to the chiefs rather than government or industry just reporting annually,” Koch says, speaking as a biologist, not as a tribal representative.

Gitanyow staff have done field work, studying salmon and moose habitat.

Another tribal government, the Tahltan Central Council, has also expressed concerns about transboundary mines.

Mine proponents say that’s part of the assessment process required by government regulators.

Brent Murphy is spokesman and top environmental official for Seabridge Gold, the Kerr-Sulpherrets-Mitchell Mine’s developer.

“The guiding principal behind the design of the KSM project was the protection of the downstream environments,” he says.

Other mine projects concerning tribal groups are Galore Creek and Schaft Creek in the Stikine River watershed, and Tulsequah Chief near the Taku River.

 

Categories: Alaska News

DEBATE FOR THE STATE: GOP US Senate Candidates

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-08-12 13:25

Meet two of the candidates running for the GOP nomination for US Senate, Joe Miller and Mead Treadwell on Wednesday, August 13 in Debate for the State.

Dan Sullivan was invited but chose not to take part in the debate.

The program starts at 7:00 p.m. on Alaska Public Media, KSKA radio and many APRN stations.

Moderator: Lori Townsend. News director. Alaska Public Media-APRN

Panelists: Dan Bross. Reporter. KUAC

Liz Ruskin. Washington, DC correspondent. APRN

Categories: Alaska News

RUNNING 2014: Alaska Legislature

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-08-12 13:08

 

Meet the legislative candidates running in contested primary races from the Anchorage and Matanuska Valley on KSKA-FM  and Alaska Public Media.

Programs start at 7:00 p.m. Tuesday, August 12.

Moderator: Michael Carey

Panelists: Anne Hillman, reporter, KSKA. Ellen Lockyer, reporter, KSKA.

Tuesday. August 12.
Senate District F. DeLena Johnson, Bill Stoltze.
House District 9. Jim Colver, Eric Feige, George Rauscher.
House District 12. Ron Arvin. Cathy Tilton.

Thursday. August 14.
House District 16. Don Hadley, Kevin Kastner.
House District 21. Anand Dubey, Matt Fagnani.

Watch all the contested races

Watch statements from the uncontested candidates

 

 

Categories: Alaska News

2014 Primary Election – Contested Races

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-08-12 12:41

For the 2014 Primary Election, candidates from all contested Senate and House districts in the Municipality of Anchorage and the Matanuska-Susitna Valley were invited to participate.

Find the entire playlist by clicking on the “Playlist” button at the top left of the video player.

Categories: Alaska News

2014 Primary Election – Unopposed Candidates

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-08-12 11:47

For the 2014 Primary Election, all unopposed candidates from Senate and House districts in the Municipality of Anchorage and the Matanuska-Susitna Valley were invited to record a 2-minute statement.

Find the entire playlist by clicking on the “Playlist” button at the top left of the video player.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: August 11, 2014

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-08-11 18:06

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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Mayor Vetoes Labor Compromise

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan struck down the substitute for Anchorage Ordinance 37 on Monday afternoon.

Russia’s Import Ban Hits Alaskan Seafood Industry

Lauren Rosenthal, KUCB – Unalaska

Alaska’s seafood industry is getting caught in the middle of a power struggle between Russia and western nations.

Bethel Investigating Police Brutality Charge

Daysha Eaton, KYUK – Bethel

A woman from Arizona who works as a professor doing seasonal research in the Y-K Delta says she witnessed an arrest of a citizen by a Bethel Police Officer and she alleges police brutality. City leaders say they’re investigating.

Feds Issue Report on 2013 Dillingham Crash 

The Associated Press

Federal investigators have concluded two Anchorage commercial pilots failed to maintain minimal clearance while circling the Dillingham airport before they died in a 2013 crash. A National Transportation Safety Board report out Monday also faults the air traffic controller who issued ambiguous instructions and didn’t notice the plane’s descent to a dangerous altitude.

Village Fire Crews Heading to Lower 48 to Fight Fires

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

Alaska village-based firefighting crews are heading south to fight blazes in the Lower 48.  Alaska Division of Forestry spokesman Sam Harrel is tracking the deployments, which began over the weekend with crews from the communities of Delta Junction, Kaltag, Fort Yukon, Venetie, Koyukuk and Galena.

Ft. Wainwright Closes Area East of Eielson for Training

The Associated Press

Fort Wainwright officials have closed the Yukon Training Area east of Eielson Air Force Base to public use through Aug. 23. Military-training exercises will be ongoing there until the 23rd.

Alaska Exceeds Canadian Chinook Escapement Goal, Decline Remains a Mystery

Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks

The Yukon River Chinook salmon run is nearly complete according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.  It is the first time in roughly eight years that escapement goals lined out in a treaty between Alaska and Canada have been met.

Search for Missing Fisherman Called Off

Phillip Manning, KTNA – Talkeetna

The search for a missing fisherman around Willow Creek was called off on Saturday.  Jerry Warner of Missouri was last seen on August 3rd walking upstream from an RV campground for a solo fishing trip.  The Alaska State Troopers describe Warner as an experienced outdoorsman, but say that he did not have survival gear or a cell phone with him when he was last seen.

Troopers Find Body of Missing Bethel Man

Daysha Eaton, KYUK – Bethel

Alaska State Troopers found the body of Nick Cooke near Tuntaltuliak Friday.  They received a report from the tribal police officer from Tuntutuliak that a body had been located on the bank of the Kuskokwim River just south of the Kialik River.

Six-Day Marathon: Chugging Along Indoors

Monica Gokey, KSKA – Anchorage

August is a popular time for hitting the trails around Anchorage. But for an elite group of ultrarunners, this week is all about taking their sport indoors. Nearly 50 people from all over the world are chugging away in the Alaska Dome, trying to log as many miles as they can in six days.

Johnson, Stoltze Square Off in Valley Senate Race

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

Former state representative Bill Stoltze is eyeing a new state senate seat.  The District F seat will include the Eastern Anchorage suburbs of Peters Creek and Chugiak, as well as the greater Palmer area and outlying communities to the North.  But current Palmer mayor DeLena Johnson has thrown her hat into the ring and now the two Republican candidates will face off in the upcoming  August 19 primary.

 

Categories: Alaska News

Search for Missing Fisherman Called Off

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-08-11 17:05

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The search for a missing fisherman around Willow Creek was called off on Saturday.  Jerry Warner of Missouri was last seen on August 3rd walking upstream from an RV campground for a solo fishing trip.  The Alaska State Troopers describe Warner as an experienced outdoorsman, but say that he did not have survival gear or a cell phone with him when he was last seen.

The six-day search included troopers, Matanuska-Susitna Borough emergency responders, and volunteers from a number of search and rescue groups.

About 40 people were searching for Warner at one point using dogs, ATVs, boats, and a helicopter, but no sign of him has been found.

Troopers say that they will analyze and respond if any new clues to Warner’s location are found.  His photograph and description have been added to the Alaska State Trooper website along with more than 90 other missing persons.

Categories: Alaska News

Troopers Find Body of Missing Bethel Man

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-08-11 17:04

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Alaska State Troopers found the body of Nick Cooke near Tuntaltuliak Friday.  They received a report from the tribal police officer from Tuntutuliak that a body had been located on the bank of the Kuskokwim River just south of the Kialik  River.

“Troopers were able to respond and collect the remains have been sent to the state medical examiners office for positive identification,” said Megan Peters, a spokesperson for the Alaska State Troopers.

“At this point we do believe that the remains belong to a man that was the subject of a search and rescue that began on October 25th of last year.”

The family confirmed the body found was the body of Bethel man, Nick Cooke.

Because of protocol, the remains were sent to the State Medical Examiner’s office for positive identification. No foul play is suspected.

Nick Cooke and Jim Lee Napoka were last heard from on October 22nd. They were headed to Tuntutuliak for a funeral and never made it. Freezing weather halted the search in November. Napoka is still missing.

Cooke is the brother of Bethel Native Corporation President and Alaska Federation of Natives Co-Chair, Ana Hoffman.

The family of Nick Cooke says they are preparing for a burial service in Bethel later this week.

Categories: Alaska News

Six-Day Race at the Alaska Dome Goes Heavy on the ‘Ultra’

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-08-11 17:02

 

Ultrarunner Traci Falbo set both a world record and an American record for most distance covered indoors by a woman during a 48-hour race. Falbo clocked nearly 245 miles before collapsing on the track.
Photo by Jeff Genova Photography.

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It was almost eleven at night on a Wednesday in the Alaska Dome last week and Willow, Alaska resident Dave Johnston had been running for nearly three days. Some of that time has was spent hunched over the toilet, puking. Multiday ultrarunning is extremely hard on athletes.

“Stomach’s finally starting to feel better… now it’s just time to run,” Johnston says as he makes his way around the track.

Johnston recovered from his rough start. By Friday, Johnston was in second place, trailing the leader by less than 20 miles.

And the competition was stiff — a lot of the most prominent ultrarunners from throughout the world were logging laps at the Alaska Dome last week. Forty-eight hours into the event, Indiana-based runner Traci Falbo set a world record for most distance covered indoors during a 48-hr. run — she ran almost 243 miles before collapsing on the track.

The six-day ultra event is called “Six Days in the Dome.” It’s just like it sounds: runners log as many miles as they can in six days. It sounds crazy. And it kind of is.

“This is what we’ve chosen to do with our vacation time and our extra dollars,” says Ed Ettinghausen. He placed seventh overall.

Ettinghausen was dressed like a jester, and he brought six different jester outfits to the race — one for each day. His wife and daughter were sleeping at one end of the track while he doggedly put one foot in front of the other with a smile on his face, bells bouncing atop his jester hat.

There’s another guy here from Brazil who ran a hundred and forty-two miles on the first day of the race. You can tell people were equally impressed-slash-appalled by the feat. By Wednesday night, he was out of the race, sleeping on a high jump mattress to recover.

David Johnston of Willow, Alaska was just one of three Alaskans to compete in “Six Days in the Dome.” He earned a reputation among other racers as “the smiley Alaska guy.”
Photo by Jeff Genova Photography.

One of the race organizers, Zane Holscher of North Carolina, says this motley crew of nearly 50 is actually one of the most elite packs of ultrarunners worldwide.

“To do this on this track, day after day, and when you sleep you get so tight and then come out and have to run again. I can’t tell you the level of people we have here — mental toughness, physical toughness, it’s unbelieveable,” Holscher says.

So how’d they end up in Alaska?

“Turns out, there’s only a couple of facilities like this in all of North America with a 400m track indoors. Most are 200 or 300m.”

The race organizers wanted an indoor, temperature-controlled, element-free track that would allow the runners to simply run.

“And this turned out perfect because everyone in Alaska wants to be outside int he summer instead of summer, and we wanted to be inside. So kind of supply and demand. We were able to work out something great with the Dome, and I can’t say enough abvout how great this facility is,” Holscher adds.

The Dome also doubled as a hotel for the race. At one end of the track runners set up camp. Sweaty clothes were draped over hurdles to dry. Athletes were curled up on high jump mats that double as beds.

Ed Ettinghausen takes a break from the race at a make-shift camp at one end of the track. Ettinghausen runs to raise awareness on the importance of organ donors. You can find his website at https://www.facebook.com/groups/RunJesterRun/.
Photo by Jeff Genova Photography.

And the event even served its own food. Three meals a day.

“Eggs, bacon, PopTarts, oatmeal, PopTarts… looks like they’re having PopTarts at every meal.”

There’s even sushi on the menu plan.

After six sleepless days and nights, the race finished on Sunday morning. Race organizer Joe Fejes of Atlanta, Georgia took first, having logged five-hundred and eighty miles. For the women, Liz Bauer logged 425 miles for the win, and sixth place overall. No runners broke the 600-mile goal the cash prize was contingent on.

Categories: Alaska News

Johnson, Stoltze Square Off in Valley Senate Race

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-08-11 17:01

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Former state representative Bill Stoltze is eyeing a new state senate seat.  The District F seat will include the Eastern Anchorage suburbs of Peters Creek and Chugiak, as well as the greater Palmer area and outlying communities to the North.  But current Palmer mayor DeLena Johnson has thrown her hat into the ring and now the two Republican candidates will face off in the upcoming  August 19 primary.

Categories: Alaska News

Mayor Vetoes Labor Compromise

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-08-11 16:14

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After months of compromise between the Anchorage Assembly and public employee unions, the city’s voters may still end up deciding on a controversial labor law due to a mayoral veto.

Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan struck down the substitute for Anchorage Ordinance 37 on Monday afternoon. AO-37, which the mayor championed, prohibited the municipality’s unions from striking, capped pay raises, and put limits on collective bargaining. The law was panned by labor, and a campaign to repeal it collected 20,000 signatures to get their referendum on the ballot.

The ordinance that was passed last week was an effort to avoid that outcome, and it got rid of some elements of AO-37 that labor found unpopular. But the compromise only passed seven to four, one vote short of being able to override a mayoral veto.

The assembly has the option of rejecting the veto at a special meeting on Tuesday night, if they are able to secure the eighth necessary vote. If they cannot, AO-37 will remain law until the repeal question is put to voters in November. Mayor Sullivan, who is running for lieutenant governor, is expected to appear on the same ballot.

Categories: Alaska News

Russia’s Import Ban Hits Alaskan Seafood Industry

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-08-11 16:12

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Alaska’s seafood industry is getting caught in the middle of a power struggle between Russia and western nations.

Photos taken during the 2006 biennial survey of the Aleutian Islands, Leg 1 on F/V Gladiator, 1 June to 25 June 2006. N. W. Raring, Field Party Chief.

Ever since Russia seized part of Ukraine this winter, sanctions against it have been stacking up. Now, Russia’s fighting back by banning food imports from the United States and a handful of other countries.

Alaska shipped almost $9 million worth of pollock to Russia last year. Some of it went to fast food chains, including McDonald’s. A significant chunk of it is used for making surimi — better known as fake crab.

At least one shipment of surimi was on its way to Russia when the ban came out on Thursday. Undercurrent News reports that the fish could get diverted to South Korea or another eastern market.

That’s got some American fishing advocates fired up. A former U.S. Congressman has started the “Just Say Nyet” campaign, seeking a corresponding ban on Russian fish coming into the States.

But it’s slow going: As of Friday afternoon, his petition to the federal government had only gathered 18 signatures.

Categories: Alaska News

Bethel Investigating Police Brutality Charge

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-08-11 16:10

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A woman from Arizona who works as a professor doing seasonal research in the Y-K Delta says she witnessed an arrest of a citizen by a Bethel Police Officer and she alleges police brutality. City leaders say they’re investigating.

Categories: Alaska News

Feds Fault Pilots, Controller in 2013 Dillingham Crash

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-08-11 16:09



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Federal investigators have concluded two Anchorage commercial pilots failed to maintain minimal clearance while circling the Dillingham airport before they died in a 2013 crash.

A National Transportation Safety Board report out Monday also faults the air traffic controller who issued ambiguous instructions and didn’t notice the plane’s descent to a dangerous altitude.

The Ace Air Cargo plane crashed March, 8, 2013, about 20 miles northeast of Dillingham in southwest Alaska.

Categories: Alaska News

Village Fire Crews Heading to Lower 48 to Fight Fires

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-08-11 16:08

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Alaska village-based firefighting crews are heading south to fight blazes in the Lower 48.  Alaska Division of Forestry spokesman Sam Harrel is tracking the deployments, which began over the weekend with crews from the communities of Delta Junction, Kaltag, Fort Yukon, Venetie, Koyukuk and Galena.

Categories: Alaska News

Ft. Wainwright Closes Area East of Eielson for Training

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-08-11 15:42

Fort Wainwright officials have closed the Yukon Training Area east of Eielson Air Force Base to public use through Aug. 23. Military-training exercises will be ongoing there until the 23rd.

Post officials say in a news release that the quarter-million area training range is off-limits to all. They say people who’ve had regular access through the area to get to private or leased property must use an alternate route.

Training under way in the Yukon Training Area includes joint exercises with Army personnel as part of the latest Red Flag training round that began this week.

Meanwhile, Stryker Brigade soldiers from Wainwright are conducting exercises in the Donnelly Training Area, south of Fort Greely.

Categories: Alaska News
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