A Wrangell café is combating hunger. For about 13 weeks per year, it donates its Monday night profits to a charity that works to end child hunger in the United States. On those nights, it also gives patrons a good meal for whatever they are willing to pay.
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Ever wonder what all those Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race volunteer checkers eat? Well, APRN’s Ellen Lockyer found out during a visit to an Anchorage warehouse where supplies were getting packed up for flights to Skwentna, Nome and other checkpoints along the thousand mile trail.
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A recent episode of the popular cooking show Top Chef: Seattle was filmed in Juneau. The show was taped last August at various locations around the Capital City. Some Juneau residents were actually employed to help on set. But everyone was contractually-prohibited from saying anything about it — even acknowledging that it ever happened.
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Alaska’s congressional delegation today introduced new Sealaska land-selection bills.
Both would turn about 70,000 acres of the Tongass National Forest over to Sealaska, the regional Native corporation for Southeast Alaska.
Murkowski’s version includes numerous changes meant to reduce opposition from environmental groups, tourism businesses and small communities.
She says it would still complete a promise made 40 years ago by the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.
“In terms of what we set out to do, which is to provide completion to Sealaska in terms of allowing them to select their lands that were committed, this will help finalize that selection and really work to balance the interests of all of those in the region,” she says.
Both bills transfer about 68,000 acres to Sealaska for timber harvest and development. They remove about 26,000 controversial acres on or near northern Prince of Wales Island and replace them with other parcels.
Sealaska Vice President and General Counsel Jaeleen Araujo says the new acreage is near some previously-logged areas.
“There was some infrastructure already in place on north Prince of Wales, so we had to find other alternatives that would have proximity to infrastructure that would be helpful in timber development,” Araujo says.
She says Sealaska supports the new measures.
The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, an umbrella environmental group, has been one of the groups critical of the legislation.
SEACC Attorney Buck Lindekugel says he hasn’t seen Young’s bill and is still looking through Murkowski’s measure. But he sees some significant improvements.
“Senator Murkowski has shown some solid leadership and tried to address some thorny issues that were raised by Southeast Alaskans. There is a lot of bittersweet stuff here, particularly with some of the timber lands. Nobody’s going to be happy with all of them. But both Sealaska and Senator Murkowski helped avoid some real controversial places,” Lindekugel says.
He says his group will run the measures by its membership before taking a formal position.
The Alaska Forest Association backs the measures.
Executive Director Owen Graham says Murkowski’s version makes too many concessions. But he says they’re needed to keep the logging industry alive.
“We’re holding our nose on the conservation areas. We don’t think there’s anything special about them. They’re certainly not needed because there are other protections for the land. But we’re willing to accept those conservation areas in order to get this bill done quickly,” Graham says.
Both bills also cut the number of small parcels set aside for tourism, energy or other economic development. They also reduce the acreage to be selected as sacred or cultural sites.
Murkowski’s version increases the required stream-buffer zone from 66 to 100 feet to protect three salmon spawning areas. It also balances Sealaska’s timber selections with 150,000 acres of conservation areas.
Don Young spokesman Michael Anderson says that’s where his version differs.
“The House bill doesn’t contain any conservation set-asides. Though the two bills convey the same overall acreage to Sealaska, the House bill includes a few more small parcels. The House bill does not include any buffer requirements beyond what is required in the Alaska Forest Practices Act,” Anderson says.
Similar legislation was introduced in previous Congresses.
Young’s version passed out of the House as part of a larger lands package last year. Murkowski’s bill did not make it to the Senate floor.
She says it will have a better chance this year. That’s because Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, took over chairmanship of the chamber’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
“He has pointed out to me numerous times that he’s very pleased with the fact that we have engaged in this level of sit-down and dialog with everyone from the administration to the energy committee staff, to those within all aspects of industry, whether they’re fishermen, environmental groups, tourism. I think he’s impressed by the process that he’s seen,” Murkowski says.
She says Wyden has agreed to move several land bills out of the Natural Resources Committee. Sealaska would not be part of the first package, which will only include measure that already cleared the committee. But she says it could be in a later version.
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Alaskans marked Elizabeth Peratrovich Day on Saturday, in honor of the Tlingit woman whose testimony to the Alaska Territorial Legislature helped pass the Anti-Discrimination Act in 1945. A small crowd gathered at the Alaska State Museum in Juneau to hear a talk from Barbara Cadiente-Nelson, a board member of Sealaska Native Corporation, the Douglas Indian Association, and a member of the Alaska Native Sisterhood.
A Homer charter boat captain who pled guilty to distributing drugs to minors and possession of child pornography has been sentenced to 10 years in prison. The captain, 34-year old Randall Hines, also will have to pay $160,000 in restitution.
Suspect James Michael “Jim” Wells is expected to appear in court this week. An arrest was made on Friday for a double-murder at the Communications Station on Coast Guard Base Kodiak last spring.
Numerous interviews and physical evidence led Alaska State Troopers to arrest the 14-year old Kake boy they believe is responsible for the death of 13-year old Mackenzie Howard. That’s according to the Deputy Commander of the Major Crimes Section for the Alaska Bureau of Investigation.
Bells jingled as Dyan Bergen pulled her team across this year’s Yukon Quest finish line. “They’re really bear bells,” she said.
“We always put bells to let the buffalo and moose and wolves know we’re coming. The one time I didn’t have the bells this year, we got chased by a wolf, so I put the bear bells back on.”
Bergen, from Yellowknife in Canada’s Northwest Territories, was the 20th and final musher to arrive in Fairbanks. She traveled nearly the entire Quest trail from Whitehorse by herself.
“I prefer to run by myself,” she said. “I train by myself I don’t have anybody else running with me, so it’s normal for me. I can run at my own pace, snack my dogs at my own pace and stop when I think they’re tired.”
Bergen’s dogs are just as shy as she is. Roughly 200 meters from the finish line, the team stopped. Bergen said the crowd gathered to welcome them and the bridges overhead made them nervous. So, she switched up her leaders and walked the skittish team across the line. She says it’s unlikely she will return for another Quest.
“No, I gotta spend the next five years paying for everything,” she laughed. Bergen accepted a red lantern for her finale finish during a banquet Saturday night. She and a handful of other rookies were recognized by 2013 Rookie of the Year, Scott Smith.
“To be a rookie in this race is unlike any other race,” Smith told the audience. “I feel more like a representative to you guys than the top rookie, so great job and congratulations.”
Rookie Darrin Lee took home the Challenge of the North Award this year. Race officials agreed unanimously Lee most exemplified the spirit of the race. This was Lee’s third attempt to complete the race.
“I never stopped running dogs ever since I last came here,” he said. “And it was always to come back and finish this so I really appreciate the officials recognizing me and everybody. Thank you.” Lee is among a handful of mushers who say they aren’t planning to return for another Yukon Quest.
But there is one musher who says he’ll never leave. Healy musher Dave Dalton tied 1995 Champion Frank Turner for the most Yukon Quest finishes this year. Both men have run 18 races. Dalton says he doesn’t have a reason to quit. “It’s just a way of life for me,” Dalton said.
“It’s just the people and the racing and it’s an adventure every year different things happen and it’s a challenge every year it challenges me and my dogs and my body.”
Dalton’s highest finished third in 2004 and 2008. He said he’s always aiming for a win. “Oh yeah!” he said. “Next year we got five new finishers so, we should have a good selection next year. So we’re still rebuilding year after year, so one of these days it’s just gonna click.”
There were a handful of other awards given out during the banquet. Eureka musher Brent Sass received this year’s Sportsmanship Award. Whitehorse musher Normand Casavant was awarded the Veterinarian’s Choice Award for exemplary Dog Care.
Champion Allen Moore’s lead dog Quito received a bowl full of steak and a golden harness. The six-year old husky has finished three Yukon Quests and four Iditarods. Allen Moore said he’ll likely return next year. With years of racing ahead, Quito may well be one of the lead dogs to leave next year’s Yukon Quest start line on February 1, 2014.
There are 37 tribal colleges in the United States. Barrow, Alaska is home to one of them. Ilisagvik College was founded in the 1980s but didn’t become an independent, accredited tribal school until the 2006. Now it offers a blend of traditional college classes, technical trade training, and Inupiaq culture that gives students from around the North Slope the chance to get ahead -without leaving their identities behind.
For the next several weeks, APRN will be airing a series that looks at how Alaskans describe what makes their way of life unique. Whether you live in a village or a city, everyone has a culture and we’re going to bring you stories of how both urban and rural Alaskans define and live theirs. The series is funded by a grant from the Alaska Humanities Forum Rose Urban Rural Exchange.
Former state senator Albert Kookesh was medevaced to Anchorage Monday morning after suffering a heart attack. His eldest daughter Elaine says the 64-year old Kookesh was in Juneau preparing for a trip out of state, when he called his wife saying he was having chest pains and was going to the hospital. His wife also was in Juneau and was able to fly with him.
He was stabilized and flown to Providence Hospital and Medical Center.
“They’re currently now at Providence. They’re going to go in with a catheter and see where the blockage is,” she said Monday morning.
The eldest daughter of Mr. Kookesh’s five children, Elaine Kookesh says she will travel to Anchorage this evening to be with her dad.
“My sister and I are heading up tonight and then our other sister will head up as soon as she can,” she said. “Just keep us all in your thoughts and prayers. He’s a tough guy and never sits even when he’s sick.”
A Democrat from Angoon, Kookesh served 16 years in total, eight as a representative and eight more as a senator. He was defeated by Sitka Republican Bert Stedman after parts of their southeast districts were combined during redistricting.
Kookesh is the current chairman of Sealaska’s board of directors and co-chair of the Alaska Federation of Natives board.
Governor Sean Parnell gave an update in Fairbanks Friday on what he called a significant milestone in plans for building a gas pipeline in Alaska. In his state of the state address a few weeks ago, the governor had given the companies, BP, ConocoPhillips, Exxon and Transcanada a deadline of February 15th to come forward with details of their proposed project. A letter from the companies, delivered on Friday, stated they had made a project concept selection. The governor called that an important phase in building a line.
“They said they would move forward on the concept of a 42-inch line, five off takes for Alaskans, gas treatment plant on the North Slope and
the project details are actually in their attachment to that letter,” Parnell said. “The significance of it is, it’s the first time in Alaska’s history that
companies that can build and operate a pipeline are together on a project concept selection like this.”
Parnell said the line would run 800 miles, mostly underground. Although the treatment plant is proposed for the North Slope, there is not yet a
decision about where on the coast the line would end. The cost is estimated to be between $45 and $65 billion dollars. The governor said he wants more investment from the companies before a discussion about additional
investment or tax guarantees from the state.
“The state has already committed up to $500 million to this gasline project. When I see the companies step forward with hundreds of millions of dollars, which will be the next phase, the pre-feed phase, that would be the appropriate time to talk about next steps when it comes
Larry Persily is the federal coordinator for permitting for the gasline project. He said there is good news in Friday’s announcement but for Alaskans, expectations over the past 10 years have outpaced reality. Persily said the project is not moving as fast as Alaskans had hoped or been led to believe by past politicians who had promised that it would be easy and fast.
“When you’re trying to put together the largest and most expensive natural gas project in the world, there’s a tremendous amount of risk in construction cost over runs, market appetite for it, so it is a exceedingly laborious, painful, slow process that we’re going through,” Persily said.
The letter the governor received from the companies doesn’t line out a site for the liquefaction plant. Last October the companies said they were considering 22 possible locations in Prince William Sound, Cook Inlet and elsewhere in Southcentral.
Friday’s letter said the plant would require more land than previously proposed at up to 600 acres rather than 500 acres. The liquefaction plant’s capacity will be 15 to 18 million metric tons per year averaging about 2 to 2.4 billion cubic feet of gas per day. The update did not have any new information about engineering, design or environmental studies.
A 14-year old boy from Kake has been identified as a suspect in the homicide of a young girl in Kake earlier this month and has been taken to a Department of Juvenile Justice holding facility in Ketchikan, according to a statement released Saturday by the Alaska State Troopers.
The statement did not release the name of the suspect nor offer any additional details of the investigation or charges against the suspect.
Troopers had received a report on February 5 that the body of a young girl had been found in an arctic entry way at the Presbyterian Memorial Church. The girl, 13, was later identified as Mackenzie Howard of Kake.
Anchorage Assembly members met with Mayor Dan Sullivan and Municipal attorneys Friday for a work session on the Mayor’s proposal to limit unions. Ordinance number 37 is aimed at cutting costs and limiting the union power of municipal workers. It was introduced at the Anchorage Assembly last week, where and estimated more than 1,000 people showed up to rally against it.
In the Mayor’s conference room on the 8th floor of city hall on Friday, it was all paper shuffling and legalese. Municipal attorneys spent about two hours explaining Ordinance 37. It mostly sounded like this.
“And in section C, that’s on the bottom of page 17, what we’ve noted is that the parties can continue negotiating, but only up to 150 days by mutual consent. This is to avoid these negotiations that go on for a year, two years, three years – we get way down the road and have a big mess to unravel.”
That’s William Earnhart, who’s an assistant municipal attorney with the Municipality of Anchorage. Ordinance 37 would change a 40-plus-year-old part of city code that sets the rules for how union and the municipality interact. Mayor Sullivan says the changes are needed to control spending and update practices to make the municipality more efficient. The changes include a program of managed competition, that would allow the municipality to contract work out the lowest bidder. Police and fire would be exempt.
Friday, the mayor said EMT’s would be spared as well. One of the main things the ordinance does, is tie wages for workers to an average for the past five years of consumer price index. Why? Sullivan.
“It’s kind of the guiding number so that we don’t pass contracts that then force you to cut services because they’re so expensive. And that’s what I’ve been going through for the past five years. And I want to leave a legacy for future mayor’s will have a cap on those sort of costs so that you don’t have to cut services to the people.”
Mayor Sullivan said he had been preparing to propose the changes for several years and had attorneys working on the proposal for months. The changes would impact around 2,200 municipal employees, from accountants to police officers and firefighters. Besides putting time limits on union negotiations and locking pay to a 5-year average of the cpi, the ordinance would shrink benefit options, which Sullivan says are way to complicated.
“As was pointed out in the work session, we’ve got a healthcare plan with over 680 potential options. It is so difficult to manage. You go to any big organization today, including as was reference both the school district, the university, large corporations like ConocoPhillips and others. They offer good health care plans, but they’re so much simpler, that’s what we’re trying to get to.”
The Mayor’s proposal also takes away the option of arbitration when a third party settles a dispute between unions and the city. Instead, the final decision on labor agreements would come down to a vote of the Assembly. Some worried the Mayor could veto an Assembly decision. The ordinance would also take away the ability for municipal workers to strike. In addition, it standardizes leave and overtime across departments, among other things.
Assembly member Paul Honeman asked why such a comprehensive overhaul was needed in such a relatively short period of time. Sullivan says he wants the ordinance passed by the Anchorage Assembly before upcoming labor negotiations in late March or early April. Assembly member Elvi-Gray-Jackson said the mayor should have included labor in the formation of the proposal. She said putting the final word on labor agreements in the hands of the assembly would be poor public process.
“Assemblies change. You know you have, from any given year, a conservative assembly, a more progressive assembly and it’s just not fair to the public to have the assembly make the decision on a union contract, at that level. The arbitration process was put in place for a reason: to lead the Assembly out of that process. And to change it just doesn’t make sense. It’s just not fair to the public.”
There will be a second work session at noon on Wednesday, February 20 in the mayor’s conference room on the eighth floor of City Hall, where labor leaders will make a presentation. Assembly Chair Ernie Hall said he would likely move public testimony on Ordinance 37 to a special meeting on Wednesday, February 27th. Hall also said he was hoping to expand the meeting to include the Wilda Marston Theatre in addition to the assembly chambers.
A dozen states across the country have school voucher programs. Now, some legislators are trying to bring vouchers to Alaska. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez reports that push for directing state funding to private schools has more momentum than it’s had in the past.
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Since his election to the Alaska State Legislature last year, Senator Peter Micciche has found himself neck-deep in oil and gas issues, something he knows about as a long-time employee of Conoco Phillips.
Micciche recently spoke about Governor Sean Parnell’s proposal to overhaul oil taxes and whether his employment in the industry presents a conflict of interest.
Micciche says he does believe that the ACES oil tax restructuring bill passed in 2006 does need to be changed but he does not support Governor Sean Parnell’s bill to make a sweeping overhaul to the tax regime.
“It needs a lot of work before I would support it,” said Micciche. “I don’t believe that it has an adequate share for Alaskans.”
Micciche says he likes the progressivity aspect of ACES that allows for a higher tax rate on oil as prices increase but he thinks the system needs to be adjusted.
He says he will soon be meeting with Democrats, including Anchorage Rep. Les Gara, who have offered a proposal that is more of a modification that a complete overhaul.
“I’m hoping that we can bring both parties together to come up with a solution that makes us more competitive but still protects the interests of Alaskans and delivers a few guarantees that any money that’s reduced in taxes will be invested here and result in more production,” he said.
Since taking his seat in the Alaska Senate, Micciche has repeatedly faced questions about a potential conflict of interest when it comes to oil and gas issues, given his employment with ConocoPhillips as supervisor of the Kenai LNG plant.
Micciche, who also works seasonally as a commercial fisherman, responds by pointing out that all of his fellow legislators have some kind of outside employment.
Micciche says he thinks there is a double standard at play when it comes to legislators who work in the oil and gas industry.
“No one says a word when labor attorneys introduce legislation having to do with labor issues,” he said. “I’m not here representing an oil company. I’m here representing the residents of District O and that’s the most important thing to me.”
Senator Peter Micciche made his comments on the “Coffee Table” program, which aired Wednesday on KBBI and KDLL.
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The State Department of Health is investigating an outbreak of a food borne illness linked to raw milk. Officials have confirmed four cases of Campylobacter infection in people who drank raw milk on the Kenai Peninsula. The illness causes diarrhea, vomiting and fever.
Dr. Brian Yablon is a medical epidemiologist with the state. He says the cases have all been identified by the state lab in the last three weeks:
“When they looked at these strains, they found that the four specimens were all exactly the same type, so that is consistent with a cluster of illnesses and when we found out additional information it seemed that all of the people who developed the infection had consumed raw milk or unpasteurized milk in the proceeding several days before they got sick,” Yablon said.
The state is still working to identify the source of the raw milk. A farmer named Kevin Byers in Kasilof distributes raw milk to families around the state. He did not agree to a recorded interview, but said he doesn’t know if his milk is responsible for the outbreak. He says his customers drink his milk for the perceived health benefits. According to a recent newspaper article, Byers has 150 customers as far away as Sitka.
Selling raw milk is illegal in Alaska. But farmers have found ways to do it legally.
“There are these share programs where people purchase a share or lease an animal and because they’re technically then a partial owner of the animal they can go ahead and consume the raw milk,” state veterinarian Bob Gerlach said.
A similar outbreak of Campylobacter bacteria was traced to a Mat-Su Valley farmer in 2011. There were 18 people with probable or confirmed illness in that outbreak. That operation has since gone out of business.
Gerlach says the state tries to get information to people who own shares of cows about the danger of drinking raw milk. But he says it’s difficult to track how many farmers are distributing raw milk in the state:
“In most cases somebody who does drink raw milk or is part of a cow share operation generally isn’t communicating a lot with us. Because it’s their own private business and they’d like to go ahead and keep it that way,” Gerlach said.
People with Campylobacter illness usually have a miserable few days and then get better. But it can be life threatening in people with compromised immune systems. And Dr. Yablon says there are other risks.
“At a minimum it’s a nuisance and it makes you feel pretty bad. But the illness can also be more protracted it can last a week or longer. The bacteria actually could get into your blood stream and that could cause major problems,” Yablon said.
Yablon says in rare cases it can also cause a type of arthritis or a rare inflammatory nerve disease. He says there is no scientific evidence that raw milk is any healthier than pasteurized milk.
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The state has set a contamination threshold for sulfolane in North Pole ground water. The standard reflects years of research on the chemical which has polluted the aquifer in an area surrounding a local oil refinery.
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The National Park Service is considering increasing winter vehicle access into Denali National Park. The agency is taking public comment on proposals to plowing farther out the road. Park spokeswoman Kris Fister says access would be increased beyond the mile 3 visitor center where plowing currently stops.
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They are often overshadowed by the larger Bering Sea fleets, but Unalaska has a handful of small boat commercial fishermen who make their living in the waters around the Aleutian Islands. During the recent tanner crab fishery, KUCB’s Stephanie Joyce headed out to see what it’s like to be a small boat in big boat territory.
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