Alaska News

Bethel Native Reimagines Qaspeq

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-06-02 17:21

Michelle Konig Works on a Qaspeq with Annie Woods. (Photo by Daysha Eaton, KYUK – Bethel)

One Alaska Native woman is putting a new spin on the traditional qaspeq. Michelle Konig uses stretchy fabric and a unique pattern to make the modern qaspeqs. With a label under her own name, the designer can barely keep up with orders and is now traveling around the state teaching others to make her designs.

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At the last minute, Michelle Konig decided to sew a batch of qaspeqs to sell at Camai Dance festival to make a little extra money for a trip to California.

“I made the traditional qaskpek a little bit too small for an adult and I decided to add, I called it stretchy fabric at the time, but it’s jersey knit.”

She ripped side seams out and added a panel of the jersey material. She also made some other alterations.

“Instead of using qaspeq fabric for the sleeves I decided to also use the jersey knit for the sleeves along with the waistband and instead of hood, I decided to make a cowl.”

A qaspeq is a lightweight parka or over shirt worn by Alaska Native women and men, usually a cotton tunic with an oversized pocket and a hood. The garment was originally made of animal skin or gut and was worn over a fur parka to keep it clean.

As stores became more common in remote bush villages Natives began making them out of calico grain sacks. They are now generally made from cotton material.

Konig often uses batik material and heathered knits and embroiders instead of using rickrack trim, creating a more tailored silhouette than a traditional qaspeq.

Konig grew up in Bethel but now lives in Kenai. She balances her designer qaspeq business with raising three kids. She learned to sew at a young age and remembers drawing clothes as a child. But she wasn’t always a pro.

“My first time makin’ a qaspeq was probably in the 3rd grade with my Yup’ik teacher. And I thought I’d be quick. It was a torso piece and she wanted us to sew the top and the sides but leave the hole opening for the arms, which I didn’t do. Instead, I made (laughs) a tube so … She looked at my sewing and started laughing and said, ‘how are you gonna put your arms through!’”

But with practice she got better. And then one day when she was 21 and her grandmother was teaching her to make qaspeq something happened.

“It never really came to me that making clothing would be my career until I had my grandmother teach me the first time using a sewing machine and making a qaspeq.”

Her grandmother wanted to do it the traditional way, but Konig had other ideas. Lots of them. Those ideas coalesced under pressure as she created her modern day qaspek prototype that day at the Camai craft sale.

Once people started seeing her original designer qaspeq around her hometown of Bethel, word spread and orders started trickling in. She says she doesn’t really had to advertise and does a lot of custom orders through facebook. Since starting her business last fall, she she’s had around a hundred orders and had to hire another seamstress to keep up. She hopes her story encourages other women to start their own businesses.

“I feel like I’m inspiring other women to experiment with their crafts, also to get their name out there because of their unique idea.”

Konig is now in the process of patenting her modern qaspeq pattern and she’s developing her own clothing line. She’s working on a website with hopes to eventually have a storefront in Anchorage. Konig is now touring around Alaska teaching people to make her modern qaspeq.

Categories: Alaska News

Mallott Campaign Computer Stolen

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-06-02 15:01

A laptop was taken from Byron Mallott’s Anchorage campaign office. (APRN photo)

A laptop computer with donors’ financial information has been stolen from the Anchorage office of the Byron Mallott gubernatorial campaign.

The laptop was discovered missing about 7 p.m. Wednesday, as volunteers were wrapping up their day.

Campaign advisor Bruce Botelho says the laptop was in a restricted area at the back of the office.

“What we believe may have happened was the back door had not latched properly. Someone had come in through the back door while volunteers were working in the front public area of the campaign and it was removed.”

Botelho says nothing else was taken.

PDF copies of checks and credit cards were on the computer, including each contributor’s name, mailing address, phone number, bank account, or credit card and security code numbers, as well as occupation and employer.

A letter went out Thursday to more than a thousand Mallott contributors, recommending they verify and monitor their bank and credit card accounts. State law requires immediate notification of lost or stolen personal information, unless a criminal investigation calls for delay.

“Important to this entire incident is the fact that the computer was password protected and was shut down at the time,” Botelho says. “In that respect that lessens the risk, I think, to any of our donors. But nevertheless, there still is a risk.”

Botelho believes it was a random theft and not targeted at the Democrat’s campaign for governor.

Anchorage police are investigating the incident.

Categories: Alaska News

Arctic Subsea Fiber Optic Cable Project Begins Summer Marine Surveys

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-06-02 09:27

The proposed network map for the the fiber optic cable. (Image via Arctic Fibre)

A Canadian telecommunications company is implementing plans to lay a fiber optic cable from London to Tokyo by way of the U.S. and Canadian arctic, and is readying summer marine surveys to map exactly where it will lay the cable.

When complete, several spurs off the main fiber line could mean high-speed broadband internet for many communities in northwest Alaska.

Arctic Fibre is the company building the fiber backbone. Anchorage-based Quintillion Networks is the “middle mile” provider in Alaska who will link the fiber optic pipeline to local telecommunications providers in Nome, Kotzebue, and other communities in the Bering Strait and along the North Slope.

Despite international complexity and an approximate $650 million price tag, Quintillion CEO Elizabeth Pierce said during a visit to Nome this week that the project is far enough along for marine surveys to start this summer, “which is actually ships in the water using sonar and video to map the whole route of the cable,” she said.

“The cable will be built this winter to exactly match that route,” she added, with a timeline of laying the fiber in the arctic by summer 2015.

Pierce’s presentation highlighted the sonar equipment Quintillion and Arctic Fibre intend to use in its surveying this summer. The company’s presentation showed the equipment to be similar to what some oil companies use in their undersea mapping process. While the risks mentioned in Quintillion’s presentation in Nome discussed issues that could negatively impact the fiber project, the company did not note what, if any, impact the sonar surveys and eventual subsea construction work could have on arctic ecosystems. The report also made no mention of potential impact on subsistence species.

Categories: Alaska News

Most Territorial Court Records Will Stay In Alaska

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-06-02 09:25

View of west side of State Library Archives and Museum that is under construction in downtown Juneau. (Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO)

Most of Alaska’s Territorial Court records will not be transferred to the National Archives in Seattle, but will stay in Alaska.

The National Archives and Records Administration says it will transfer 92 percent of Territorial Court as well as Alaska Railroad historical records to the Alaska State Archives in Juneau. Both account for about 25 percent of the records now housed in the National Archives office in Anchorage. The Anchorage facility will be closed this summer and the remaining documents will be transferred to the Seattle NARA office.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski was notified of the decision on Friday. In a letter to Murkowski, U.S. Archivist David Ferriero said most of the Territorial Court records don’t require permanent preservation in the National Archives. They include court proceedings; birth, death and marriage records; mining and other property records that pre-date statehood as well as case files, dockets, and records of civil and criminal proceedings in the Alaska court system through 1959.

The territorial and railroad records will be housed in the new State Library Archives and Museum building under construction in downtown Juneau.

Categories: Alaska News

Low Level Eruption at the Pavlof Volcano

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-06-02 09:23

The Pavlof Volcano on the Alaska Peninsula has started erupting but it’s considered a low level eruption.

Photograph of Pavlof steaming, with fresh lava flow on its north flank. Photograph taken by Brandon Wilson, PenAir pilot, at about 7 pm, May 13, 2013. Brandon was at about 10,500 feet, westbound from Sand Point to Cold Bay. Photo by Brandon Wilson.

The Alaska Volcano Observatory raised the volcano alert level to “Watch” on Saturday after detecting a thermal anomaly at the summit of the volcano Saturday morning.

AVO issued an update Sunday afternoon confirming that the elevated surface temperatures persist at the summit of the volcano and weak incandescent glowing at the summit was observed Saturday night in the FAA web cam in Cold Bay. AVO confirms that no ash clouds have been detected in satellite images.

Some weak seismic activity is being detected on the network set up on the Pavlov Volcano and AVO confirms that some small explosion signals were detected by a distant infrasound sensor.

The National Weather Service issued a special statement Saturday afternoon about the eruption of the Pavlof Volcano. The Weather Service is warning that very light ash fall is possible in the vicinity of the volcano.

The Pavlof Volcano is 8,200 feet above sea level and there have been about 40 historic eruptions. It’s considered one of the most consistently active volcanos in the Aleutian arc. Cold Bay is about 37-miles southwest of the volcano. You can follow all of the activity at the volcano on the website of the Alaska Volcano Observatory.

Categories: Alaska News

Kenai Peninsula Burn Ban Lifted

APRN Alaska News - Sat, 2014-05-31 22:48

The State Department of Natural Resources said in a release today that rain and cooler temperatures have allowed a ban on fires to be canceled for the entire Kenai Peninsula, including all federal, state and private lands. The closure was lifted at one minute past noon on Saturday.

The DNR release says cooking, warming or signal fires are allowed. Within state and national park lands, fires may only be built in campgrounds that have metal fire rings or grates.

The Funny River fire continues to burn within the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. At least 193,00 acres have been consumed by the blaze. Rain and higher humidity in recent days have slowed the growth of the fire, allowing fire fighters to achieve 46% containment.


Categories: Alaska News

Wind Gusts Push Over Trees In West Anchorage

APRN Alaska News - Sat, 2014-05-31 13:44

Wind conditions in Anchorage were not predicted to be strong enough to cause damage today, but sporadic gusts fell at least two trees in the Turnagain neighborhood in west Anchorage. Water was seen seeping across Spenard road near Westchester Lagoon. Drivers should be cautious and on the look out for wind driven debris in roadways.


Tree broken by wind gusts in Anchorage’s Turnagain neighborhood on Saturday morning. Photo by Bede Trantina- KSKA

Categories: Alaska News

Drug Stockpile Recovered From Unalaska Home

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-05-30 16:12

(Courtesy of Unalaska Dept. of Public Safety)

Unalaska police may have reached a turning point in a long investigation into drug sales. Two people are in custody after a stockpile was discovered at the home — and business — they both share.

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Unalaska’s police chief, Jamie Sunderland, says he can’t remember a bigger bust.

Sunderland: “Easily over a half a million dollars worth of drugs found so far, and the search is continuing.”

It’s turned up staggering quantities of methamphetamine and cocaine — more than two pounds each — plus more than a half-pound of marijuana, and two kinds of heroin.

Sunderland: “There’s certainly more evidence out there and clues to be found, but we feel that we have found a major player in this enterprise here.”

Thu McConnell and Tam Nguyen are both 45 years old. Their current relationship is unclear, but they have raised a family together. And they’ve definitely gone into business in Unalaska – opening a cab company, a tanning salon, and a variety store called Dutch Harbor Asia.

Police say that store is where Tam Nguyen was on May 24 when he allegedly sold two packets of heroin.

The order for the drugs came from a criminal informant who agreed to buy heroin from his sources in the community, to try and get leniency on his own charges.

Officers arrested Nguyen shortly after the alleged drug deal. They got warrants to search through the Dutch Harbor Asia store the same day.

Along with the regular inventory — snacks, jewelry, movies — police say they found digital scales and a loaded semiautomatic handgun.

They also say there were 55 individually wrapped packets of heroin, cocaine, and meth. Based on that, officers got warrants to search Nguyen and McConnell’s house — and arrest warrants, to put them in jail.

Now, the pair is facing multiple felony charges for allegedly possessing drugs with the intent to distribute them in the community.

Illegal drug sales are always a target for police action. But Unalaska’s been cracking down since last fall.

That’s when police orchestrated the first of two big sweeps — arresting up to nine people at one time. At least two dozen have been taken into custody and charged since then.

Sunderland, the police chief, says officers have gotten tips about the operators of Dutch Harbor Asia in the process.

But to Del Huber, they were model tenants. Huber is the property manager at the strip mall where Dutch Harbor Asia is located.

Huber: ”It was a smooth relationship. Their business was pretty much smooth. We never had no problems with anything.”

Huber says he did some renovations in the building and helped fix up the Dutch Harbor Asia storefront. The operators seemed happy, he says. They even agreed to sign a longer lease.

But lately, they had been trying to get out of the business. Thu McConnell posted it for sale on a Facebook message board in January – even cutting the price of Dutch Harbor Asia to attract a buyer.

Soon after that, she listed her house for sale.

Huber, the property manager, says he doesn’t know what’s going to happen now that the pair is in jail.

Huber: “As of right now, it’s totally up in the air. All we can do is just take care the rest of the tenants in the [Dutch Harbor] Mall and make sure everything’s upkept — and also make sure that Dutch Harbor Asia stays secure.”

That means making sure customers respect the sign in the window that says the business is closed.

Categories: Alaska News

Amid Green Peace Protests, ExxonMobil Readies for Summer Project in Russian Chukchi

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-05-30 16:11

A walrus haul-out in the Serdtse Kamen Cape on the Chukotka Peninsula. (Photo: Anatoliy Kochnev, Haulout Keepers)

Norwegian police and Special Forces  cleared Green Peace protestors off an oil rig in the Barents Sea this week. Activists have since been using a boat to block access to the proposed drill site, which could become the world’s Northern-most offshore oil well. The action is part of increasing efforts by environmental groups.

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“We are escalating our actions against Arctic drilling. I mean, the oil industry is escalating their activities in the far North, and so are we,” said Arctic campaigner Sune Scheller from aboard the Esperanza in the Barents Sea.

Scheller was in Point Hope two years ago with Green Peace protesting Shell’s offshore exploration in the Chukchi Sea. And while the company announced earlier this year they won’t be resuming work in Chukchi waters this season, there’s an American company that will—but on the Russian side.

“Seismic surveys will go along in certain parts of the Russian license areas this year and next year, just like we did in the Kara Sea,” said Patrick McGinn, spokesperson for ExxonMobil, which is partnered with Russian energy company Rosneft in several oil and gas ventures, including a seismic survey in the Chukchi Basin above the Chukotka Peninsula west of the Bering Strait.

Seismic surveys are an early step in assessing potential oil reserves, and use blasts of air to map the sea floor.

In its partnership, ExxonMobil handles project management and technical expertise, while Rosneft handles local affairs. McGinn says both companies have extensive protocols in place to make sure national and international rules are closely followed.

“Just like in the United States, in Russia the oil companies are required to have public consultation meetings, and Rosneft does that with their local communities where they talk about what’s going to take place.”

But several groups in the Chukotka region have criticizedRosneft’s conduct in the consultation process. They’ve filed a claim with the public prosecutor’s office alleging that the ecological assessments are based on a different habitat, and insufficiently consider social and environmental impacts on marine mammals near Chukotka. Aleksey Zimenko, director of the Center for Wild Nature Preservation, wrote in January that by ignoring input from local populations, Rosneft is violating current legislation in Russia.

There’s also disagreement over the impact to marine mammals from seismic testing—a  debate taking place in Alaska, too.

Sue Banet is with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which handles oil and gas permitting in US federal waters, and bases its seismic regulation on scientifically established protocols. American companies like ExxonMobil are extremely careful when it comes to the regulations around monitoring marine mammals, Banet said.

“During activity there will be continual monitoring from the agencies—and BOEM in particular—based on reports from observers that will be on all the ships, and also from weekly reports on operations.”

The monitoring program puts trained observers on survey boats. Their job is spotting whales, walruses, and other marine mammals, and instructing the crew to reduce or cease seismic operations until the animals have passed.

McGinn says ExxonMobil takes the measures very seriously, adding, “although, I got to tell you, we’ve been doing this for many decades in the water and there’s never been a documented case, a proven case, of a marine mammal being injured by a seismic testing.”

But many say the monitoring program doesn’t work. In December, Anatoliy Kochnev, a Russian walrus biologist, wrotethat Rosneft has offered insufficient evidence seismic blasts will not disrupt the massive walrus pods Chukotkan hunters rely on.

In Alaska, the North Slope Borough banned seismic and industrial noise during the fall Bowhead hunt, citing scientific evidence backing up claims by whaling captains that—observed or not—underwater noise deflects whales.

For Scheller, proper conduct is irrelevant because development is premature so long as there’s no real ability to cleanup accidents if a well does go online.

“There is no oil spill response plan when a major oil spill takes place that far North,” Scheller said. “You have to take into consideration the very long distance to any usable infrastructure, the amount of ships that can respond to it is minimal. And when the oil gets mixed with the ice it just becomes an impossible job to do.”

While activists protest Arctic drilling in the Barents, ExxonMobil and Rosneft are set to begin work this season once the last of the Chukchi sea ice moves out.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska Journalist Bob Tkacz Found Dead

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-05-30 16:10

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

Veteran Alaska journalist Bob Tkacz has died. He was 61.

With his gravelly voice and dogged interviewing style, Tkacz was a fixture in the state capital press corps for more than 20 years.

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Tkacz peppered his share of Alaska politicians with a seemingly endless line of questions. Former Administration Commissioner Becky Hultberg was press secretary under former Gov. Frank Murkowski.

“Bob really liked to get under people’s skin if he could, and he’d kind of know when he did and he’d keep poking, keep going,” Hultberg says.

But she says she always respected the job Tkacz was trying to do. She doesn’t remember the issue, but says there was one exchange in particular where she tried to step in to prevent the governor from saying something he might regret.

“Ultimately, I was physically trying to maneuver my body between the governor and the podium to try to get the governor out of the room,” she recalls. “Because Bob had really accomplished what he wanted to accomplish, which was getting the governor riled up, and when people are upset they tend to be very quotable and not always in a good way.”

Former APRN Juneau Correspondent Dave Donaldson began covering the Alaska Legislature about the same time as Tkacz. They worked near each in the Capitol press room for 21 years. Though they were friends, Donaldson says even fellow reporters sometimes got fed up with Tkacz’s aggressive style.

Bob would not let go, and he would go forever,” Donaldson says. “And yeah, it did get a little annoying every once in a while. But the fact is that he came closer to really doing the job that we all ought to be doing than a lot of people who say, ‘Okay, thank you,’ and hang up.”

In September 1991, Tkacz was beaten and stabbed in an apparent mugging in Juneau. A New York Times story about the incident is still one of the first search results when you Google his name. Donaldson remembers visiting him in the hospital.

“He couldn’t talk, so he was trying to draw notes,” he says. “And he finally got it across to me that the reason I was there was to call his publisher and say that he’d be late for deadline.”

Tkacz worked or freelanced for several Alaska media outlets, including KTOO. In recent years, he wrote for Alaska Legislative Digest and the Alaska Journal of Commerce. His stories also appeared in national and international publications.

In 1994, he started his own subscription news service, Laws for the SEA, about the commercial fishing and seafood industry. Donaldson says that was the endeavor in which Tkacz took the most pride.

“He was kind enough when I retired that he gave me an honorary subscription, so I could keep reading them, and it really was good stuff,” Donaldson says.

In recent years, Tkacz traveled to Asia several times to report on how countries in the region are involved with Alaska’s seafood industry. Legislative Digest co-publisher Tim Bradner says he was passionate about the issue.

“The fact that so many of our seafood exports go to Asia, he just became interested in the market over there and what was happening to it and how that affected Alaska,” Bradner says.

Besides working as a reporter, Tkacz also did maintenance work at Jordan Creek Center, an office building in Juneau. He lived alone on his boat in Aurora Harbor, and often spent his free time at Augustus Brown Swimming Pool. He also was a volunteer DJ on KTOO’s sister station, KRNN, where he did a jazz show.

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

Tkacz was originally from Ohio, where friends say he still has family. Services are pending.

Original post:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: May 30, 2014

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-05-30 16:09

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 and on Twitter @aprn.

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Drug Stockpile Recovered From Unalaska Home

Lauren Rosenthal, KUCB – Unalaska

Unalaska police may have reached a turning point in a long investigation into drug sales. Two people are in custody after a stockpile was discovered at the home – and business – they both share.

Amid Green Peace Protests, ExxonMobil Readies for Summer Project in Russian Chukchi

Zachariah Hughes, KNOM – Nome

Yesterday Norwegian police and special forces cleared Green Peace protestors off an oil rig in the Barents Sea. Activists have since been using a boat to block access to the proposed drill site, which could become the world’s Northern-most offshore oil well. But on the Russian side of the Chukchi Sea, American and Russian energy companies are getting ready for a season of seismic surveying.

Alaska Journalist Bob Tkacz Found Dead

Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau

Veteran Alaska journalist Bob Tkacz has died. He was 61. With his gravelly voice and dogged interviewing style, Tkacz was a fixture in the state capital press corps for more than 20 years.

Bethel Test Fishery Starts Early

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

The Bethel Test Fishery put nets in the water five days early this year. With no salmon fishing happening in the early season, the test data will be central to understanding the strength of the king run and helping managers decide when to open up for other species.

Rain Gives Crews Leg Up On Funny River Fire

Shady Grove Oliver, KBBI – Homer

Rain and cooler conditions have given firefighters a chance to strengthen their effort and get a step ahead in their battle with the Funny River fire on the Kenai. Officials are always trying to plan a few days in advance. But now, they are also looking ahead to the next few months and long-term management of the fire and its effects.

AK: A Musical Celebration

Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau

Alaskans have had some big anniversaries this year: The ‘64 earthquake and the Exxon Valdez oil spill among them.

Acoustic musicians celebrated their own anniversary last month in Juneau: the Alaska Folk Festival’s 40th. The week of concerts attract hundreds of singers, pickers and strummers and thousands of audience members from around the state – and the nation.

300 Villages: Rampart

This week, we’re heading to Rapart, in Interior Alaska. The Koyukon Athabascan community is tiny, but working to attract new residents. Floyd Green is tribal administrator of Rampart Alaska. He’s just 21-years-old.

Categories: Alaska News

Bethel Test Fishery Starts Early

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-05-30 16:09

Crews transfer Bethel Test Fishery fish for ONC. (Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK)

The Bethel Test Fishery put nets in the water five days early this year. With no salmon fishing happening in the early season, the test data will be central to understanding the strength of the king run and helping managers decide when to open up for other species.

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In its 30 years of operation, the Bethel Test Fishery has begun drifting June 1st. This year, crews started May 27th. Kevin Schaberg is a Research Biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

“Breakup was pretty early this year and reports from around state and on the Kuskokwim was that the fish were coming in a little bit early here and there,” said Shaberg.

Crews have caught both king and sockeye salmon in the first couple days of operations. Given this year’s severe king salmon restrictions, Shaberg is expecting many more king salmon to come through the test waters relative to typical years when people have been fishing below Bethel.

“This year everybody knows is a very different year… this is something I don’t know if we’ve ever seen on the Kuskowkim river in terms of lack of harvest at this time of year. So interpretation of Bethel Test Fishery is going to take a little bit longer to get a really solid signal on whether we think the run is doing well or very well or very poor,” said Shaberg.

Schaberg says there is no perfect way to measure the impact of people not catching kings. There is however an anticipated cultural and social harvest of about 1,000 kings beginning in June on federal waters. There are detailed reporting requirements about where and when the kings were caught. That will add some data to the managers’ toolbox.

Knowing the species mix from Bethel Test Fishery and how the kings are moving upriver is critical for the mid part of June when managers plan to open a dipnet fishery for other species of salmon and the last week of June, when they hope to have short gillnet openings.

On Thursday morning, representatives from Bethel’s Tribe, ONC picked up a small tote box of test fishery kings salmon bound for elder meals at Bethel’s senior center. The tribe is helping distribute those fish during the summer. Shaberg says it’s good to get the catch out to people on the river, and adds that about a quarter of the catch actually survives.

“We count those fish, we record it as a captured fish. But if it looks like a healthy fish, we put it back in the water. We don’t want to kill fish if we don’t need to kill fish,” said Shaberg.

Other research initiatives this summer include lower river fisherman collecting scales to estimate age and sex composition. And in early July, a Yukon River Sonar crew will come to evaluate sites for a possible sonar project.

Categories: Alaska News

Rain Gives Crews Leg Up On Funny River Fire

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-05-30 16:08

Rain and cooler conditions have given firefighters a chance to strengthen their effort and get a step ahead in their battle with the Funny River fire on the Kenai. Officials are always trying to plan a few days in advance. But now, they are also looking ahead to the next few months and long-term management of the fire and its effects.

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Categories: Alaska News

AK: A Musical Celebration

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-05-30 16:07

Pat Henry, right, and Bob Banghart, left, performing as We’re Still Here. The two are the only musicians to have performed at all 40 festivals. (Photo by Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau)

Alaskans have had some big anniversaries this year: The ‘64 earthquake and the Exxon Valdez oil spill among them.

Acoustic musicians celebrated their own anniversary last month in Juneau: the Alaska Folk Festival’s 40th. The week of concerts attracts hundreds of singers, pickers and strummers and thousands of fans from around the state.

CoastAlaska’s Ed Schoenfeld has attended most of the 40 events. He took a walk down memory lane with some folk fest old-timers and filed this report.

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Art Johns and Nola Lamken, Tagish and Skagway Hillbillies. (Photo by Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau)

That drawl, those droll lyrics and the guitar licks have all been part of the Alaska Folk Festival, since it began in 1975.

They’re from Pat Henry, one of two– and only two – people who’ve performed at all 40 events.

Sharing the stage is Bob Banghart, the only other person who’s played every single festival.

I catch up with Henry as he heads outside the concert hall for a smoke on this rainy night.

Ed: “So, what’s it like to walk in and realize it’s the 40th year and you’ve been here for every one?”

Pat: “I think it’s pretty amazing that I’m here. I never expected to live this long. It’s all gravy.”

The folk festival began in the main gallery of the Alaska State Museum.

“Oh my gosh. It was, of course, a lot smaller,” longtime festival volunteer Barbara Pavitt, said. “And I don’t remember exactly how many acts but it was just one evening, probably a couple of hours. And maybe a hundred people came.”

The Third Grade Trio, Martha and Mary Dwyer and Robert Cohen. (Photo by Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau)

The event quickly outgrew that space. Now, concerts, workshops, jam sessions and dances are held in and around Juneau’s Centennial Hall Convention Center.

Over the decades, Alaska’s folk, bluegrass, jazz and rock-n-roll musicians made the festival part of their annual calendar.

One is Greg McLaughlin, who plays the concertina in a Celtic dance band.

His first time was about 35 years ago, when he caught a ride down from Fairbanks. He says he didn’t quite know what he was getting into.

“I saw a sign at the Hungry Dog Cafe that said, ‘If you want to go to the folk festival, the bus is leaving at midnight,’” McLaughlin said. “And there were about 16 hippies who showed up and we all piled on to this bus and we came down to the Alaska Folk Festival.”

He liked what he heard – a lot. He recently retired after many years as president of the festival’s board.

A lot of regulars started coming as teens or young adults.

Pat Henry, right, plays with son Hiram Henry at the 2014 Alaska Folk Festival. (Photo by Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau)

Others began as kids, and never stopped.

Photographer Brian Wallace was more into Alice Cooper than “Alice’s Restaurant” back at the beginning.

But he walked into that first, 1975, festival by accident. And he’s been taking pictures and listening to music ever since.

“Every year it kind of regenerates itself, like the phoenix,” Wallace said. “The old guard passes on and we saw those two young kids up there and they can’t be more than 10, 12, 13 years old and they’re going to be the old guard some day.”

Some of those kids are from Pat Henry’s family.

Those concerts where they played are his favorite festival memories.

Pat: “I’m a proud daddy and a proud granddaddy.

Ed: “So do you think you’ll be here for the 50th?”

Pat: “I would like to think I’ll be here. It I’m still going and can, I will.”

If he is, you’ll find him up on stage, leading a crowd of musicians in the traditional festival finale.

“Irene, goodnight.  Irene, goodnight…”

Categories: Alaska News

300 Villages: Rampart

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-05-30 16:06

This week, we’re heading to Rampart, in Interior Alaska. The Koyukon Athabascan community is tiny, but working to attract new residents. Floyd Green is tribal administrator of Rampart, Alaska. He’s just 21-years-old.

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Categories: Alaska News

Managing Predators

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-05-30 12:00

Managing predators is not easy, but it’s harder to manage people. Predator populations are spreading in the Lower 48 states, and farmers are not happy. Meanwhile in Alaska the tourists are arriving, the bears are out and so are the moose calves.

HOST: Steve HeimelAlaska Public Radio Network


  • John A. Shivik, author, “The Predator Paradox: Ending the War with Wolves, Bears, Cougars and Coyotes”
  • Callers Statewide


  • 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, May 27, 2014 at 10:00 a.m. on APRN stations statewide.

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


Categories: Alaska News

Alaska Edition Friday May 30, 2014

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-05-30 07:23

Sexual assault and the National Guard update. Update on southcentral fires. The SARB board meets to evaluate the trans-Alaska pipeline. Jim Minnery, leading conservative activist, modifies his views on gays. Changes ahead for workers compensation law. Verizon enters the Alaska market. Six Native regional corporation join the vote no campaign against the oil-tax referendum. Anchorage Police Chief Mark Mew says his department is understaffed.

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HOST: Michael Carey


  • Jill Burke, Alaska  Dispatch/ADN.
  • Tim Bradner, Alaska Journal of Commerce
  •  Paul Jenkins, Anchorage Daily Planet

KSKA (FM 91.1) BROADCAST: Friday, May 30 at 2:00 p.m. and Saturday, May 31, at 6:00 p.m.

Alaska Public Television BROADCAST: Friday, May 30 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, May 31 at 4:30 p.m.

Categories: Alaska News

Committee Moves Bill Updating Magnuson-Stevens Act

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-05-29 17:34

The U.S. House Natural Resources Committee today moved a bill to update the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the primary fisheries law in federal waters. Alaska Congressman Don Young amended the bill to allow subsistence fishermen a voice on the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council.

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Fish like halibut and pollock are caught at sea, but Young says inland fishermen should also have a say in how they’re managed.

“All I want is for them to have a voice, the same voice that the commercial and sport fisheries have, so they have utilization for a living source of food,” Young said.

Nominees for the North Pacific Council can be qualified based on their commercial or recreational fishing expertise. The law doesn’t mention subsistence users, and Young says they’re being short-changed on the Council.

“There has been a decline in fisheries that are used for subsistence and yet the subsistence users are neglected as far as taking in consideration the amount of fish that can be caught,” Young said.

His amendment would require the Alaska governor to consult with subsistence users before nominating North Pacific Council members. Tribes in the Y-K Delta and the Interior have been asking for representation on the Council. People there suspect Bering Sea fisheries are aggravating the Chinook salmon crisis. The Pollock industry says its cut way down on its Chinook bycatch, down to about 30,000 fish. But to subsistence users barred from catching even one, it sounds like a lot.

Sky Starkey, an attorney for the Association of Village Council Presidents, says the amendment is a good start in getting subsistence users into the Magnuson-Stevens Act, but Starkey says tribes want a dedicated tribal seat on the council to press subsistence concerns.

“And the amendment that was introduced at mark-up today would not accomplish that purpose, at least not directly so,” Starkey said.

Current law says membership on the management councils should be “balanced” between different types of fishermen, commercial and recreational. Young’s amendment doesn’t change the balancing requirement to give any weight to subsistence.

It passed the committee with no opposition. The bill itself is largely similar to the draft in circulation since December.

Resources Chairman Doc Hastings told the committee they’d have more opportunities to shape the bill as it moves forward.

Categories: Alaska News

Kuskokwim Inter-Tribal Fish Commission Comes Together In Bethel

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-05-29 17:33

Tribal representatives took the first steps on Wednesday towards establishing the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. The group intends to push for co-management of salmon stocks and more direct involvement for tribal fisherman.

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The river is currently split between state and federal jurisdiction. Mark Leary from Napaimute explained that when you cross a line at Aniak, the regulations significantly change.

“It’s madness,” said Leary.

Leary says that inconsistency is one reason for Tribes on the Kuskokwim to form the commission. Myron Naneng is the President of the Association of Village Council Presidents and says co-management is due because tribal members bear the brunt of conservation measures.

“They go back to our people and say you should follow this rule and regulation and you should cooperate. No, that’s no longer the case if we’re going to come up with the rules and regulations we’re going to work on…let’s do it at an equal level with the state and federal government. So we are protecting our rights to hunt and fish,” said Naneng.

Organizers envision a structure in which the commission works in tandem with federal and state agencies. Draft federal legislation would authorize agreements in which the commission formulates management plans and has a direct role in run assessments, test fishing, and sharing local knowledge. Wayne Morgan is from Aniak.

“No more [being] pushed, shoved aside by state or federal managers, saying thank you for your comment AVCP, thank you for your comment, tribal council, we’ll take that into consideration,” said Morgan.

A draft resolution includes accepting steep conservation measures, including a moratorium on king salmon harvest this year besides fish for traditional funeral potlatches and a small community harvest of king salmon.

Another pillar of the plans calls for reducing bycatch of king salmon in Bering Sea trawl fisheries. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council, which regulates the fishery, meets in Nome next week.

Sky Starkey, an attorney who advises AVCP, says groups will push the council to cut the season limit on king salmon bycatch from 47,500 to just above 14,000.

“And we think that might be achievable. And we think if we can drive it down that low, it will be really hard for them to ever bring it back up. From there we’ll continue to try to bring it down eventually to zero,” said Starkey.

They are also pushing for a tribal seat on the council and setting steep fines for bycatch.

To fund the Kuskokwim River Intertribal Fish Commission, Naneng is seeking a million dollars in federal fishery disaster funds, as well as other grants. Next steps include creating a 10-person steering committee to further organize and bring together tribes to formally establish the commission.

Delegates met in St. Mary’s last week to put the pieces in place for the Yukon Fish Commission.

Categories: Alaska News

Begich Speaks On VA Care In Alaska

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-05-29 17:32

Amid national outrage over the Veterans’ Administration’s handling of medical services for veterans and congressional calls for the resignation of VA secretary General Erik Shenseki, Senator Mark Begich today stopped short of calling for a resignation, but Begich said officials from the top down will be held accountable when Shenseki’s report comes out.

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(Photo by Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage)

Begich, a member of the Senate Veteran’s Affairs committee, spoke at the Anchorage Neighborhood Health Clinic where he touted a collaboration in Alaska between the VA, the IHS and the neighborhood clinic to address veteran’s health care needs wherever they live.

“For example up in Nome, a beautiful new hospital up there. 800 veterans there, Native and non-Native, but they could not use that hospital,” Begich said. “They had to fly to the hub if they were in a village, fly to Anchorage for service or go to Seattle. So we figured out through these agreements, which were not easy and they’re still being worked on, a lot of complication but we figured out now that if you’re a veteran in a place like that, you could walk across the street, if you want, to get that service, right next door and the VA will reimburse them.”

Because of the agreements in Alaska, veterans can now go to 26 tribal health facilities across the state, and in Anchorage they can be seen at the Neighborhood Health Clinic.

Begich said in 2009, Alaska’s VA facility had one thousand veterans on a waiting list of 90-120 days. Now the list has dwindled to 10 and the wait time for new veterans is about 8 days. Susan Yeager is the director of VA services for Alaska, she confirmed the streamlined process and said the Alaska VA budget has gone from $150 million to $206 million this year.

“And the big change there was, in 2010, it was decided that patients with cancer needs should receive care in Alaska, because the VA is normally a hub spoke, normally we’d be sending to Seattle and it was determined at that time it’s better, more honoring veterans to receive that cancer care here in Alaska,” Yeager said. “So in 2011, that concept was expanded to any of the care that can be provided to an eligible veteran in Alaska, should be.”

Yeager said the Alaska VA facility passed a surprise inspection of their scheduling system and were told by inspectors they are scheduling in the right way.

Kimberly Cohen, executive director of the Anchorage Neighborhood Health Clinic said over the past two months they’ve started seeing more veterans come in and are currently serving about 200 veterans and hope for up to 2000 eventually.

“The first thing that’s happened with many of our veterans is, they’re not too sure about us because they think of a community health center as where poor people go,” Cohen said. “And then they come in and see they are welcomed and get really great medical care, they get really enthusiastic doctors.”

Doug Ebee, the Vice President of Medical Services for Southcentral Foundation, says the Alaska Native Health care provider is proud to be part of a system that helps veterans to be treated where they live.

“Because the only statewide network of health care in this state is the tribal system so the hundreds of small villages. While it’s 26 Native entities, it’s hundreds and hundreds, over 200 village sites and small towns and communities where the only infrastructure is the tribal system and it’s now open to everyone,” Ebee said. “So community health center payments, VA payments, everyone can go.”

Ebee says there are currently 400 veterans who are signed up and being seen at the Mat-Su Southcentral Foundation facility. He expects that to grow to thousands across the state.

The VA’s Yeager says there are 77,000 veterans in Alaska with about 30,000 signed up for VA services. She says they serve about 18,000 veterans annually.


Categories: Alaska News

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