Alaska News

Calista Shareholders Reconsider Enrolling Descendants

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-11-25 16:55

Calista representatives Willie Kasayulie on the left and President Andrew Guy on the right. (Photo by Charles Enoch)

Representatives from the Calista Corporation met at the Cultural Center in Bethel earlier this month with shareholders and descendants, to discuss the details of an upcoming vote on whether to issue shares to “afterborns,” those born after December 1971 when newly formed Alaska Native Corporations enrolled their shareholders.

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Calista President and CEO Andrew Guy, and Chairman Willie Kasayulie shared information about what shareholders can expect if Calista’s shareholders triple in number. One of the shareholders’ main concerns focused on how much the annual dividend would decrease.

Bethel resident and shareholder, Stanely Hoffman says he would rather not have his annual dividend diluted. He compared Calista to the other Alaska Native regional corporations who issue dividends that are in the tens of thousands.

“I can see them doing that (enrolling afterborns) and getting a healthy dividend. If this passes we’ll never see another dividend. The way I look at it my kids will benefit more too cause they’ll get my shares after I die, the way it is now they’re not benefiting at all,” said Hoffman.

For example, if Calista gave out dividends to its 12,900 shareholders at $3.50 per share like it did earlier this year, a shareholder with a hundred shares would receive $350. But if the number of shareholders triples to as much as over forty thousand, Calista would have to reduce the dividends to as much as a third of the original worth. That would bring the dividend down $1.08 per share, and the average shareholder would receive around $108.

Calista said enrolling afterborns would also increase administrative costs and make it difficult to reach a quorum during future shareholder meetings. Also, shareholders would not be able to gift or transfer these new shares so these proposed shares would die with the shareholder.

Bethel resident Connie Sankwich is a Calista shareholder, she said the meeting included information she believes many have not considered.

“This presentation was really good it was very well outlined. I think that when the vote was initially passed in 2011 where shareholders, the majority of shareholders wanted to see a vote to enroll descendants, that the majority of the shareholders were not informed on what would happen,” said Sankwich.

Calista shareholders voted on an advisory proposal in 2011 to look at the possibility of issuing shares to descendants. Representatives from Calista will meet with shareholders from different communities in the near future to answer questions. Sometime next year, possibly during the summer months at the annual meeting, shareholders will vote on whether descendants will be issued shares.

The date and location for the annual meeting will be decided during the next Calista quarterly meeting in the first week of December.

Categories: Alaska News

ANSEP tripling enrollment in middle school program

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-11-25 16:54

Students and staff at a 2013 ANSEP Middle School Academy (Photo courtesy ANSEP)

The Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program is tripling enrollment in its Middle School Academies after receiving a $6 million state grant.

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The free academies were founded in 2010 and last 10 to 12 days. The program hopes to get middle school students—especially Alaska Natives—interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The curriculum includes experiments and engineering challenges. Students live on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus to get a feel for college.

Seventy-seven percent of academy students take Algebra I by the end of eighth grade; the national average in 2011 was 47 percent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Last year, there were four Middle School Academies in the spring and summer, each with 54 students between grades six and eight. Next year, they will have 12 sessions held all year round.

The grant money will be split over three years. Michael Bourdukofsky is ANSEP’s chief operations officer. He says the grant will go toward housing for students at UAA, travel, academic materials and staff support, among other things.

Bourdukofsky was a participant in ANSEP’s university program, but feels that students coming out of the Middle School Academies have an early advantage.

“With the exposure that we’re providing students with now to college life, to campus life, to the expectations of students once they get to college, I didn’t have any of that and I kind of went in blind,” Bourdukofsky says.

He graduated with an engineering degree from UAA and says ANSEP was critical in keeping him on track.

Bourdukofsky says ANSEP accepts about half of academy applicants and there are never enough slots for interested students. Students can only go to the program once, but are encouraged to participate in other ANSEP initiatives afterward.

Jules Mermelstein is only 15 but is set to graduate next year from West Valley High School in Fairbanks. He says that ANSEP encouraged him to set his goals higher and graduate early.

“I definitely wouldn’t have been doing a three-year track, had it not been for ANSEP’s initial push to get me interested,” he says.

Mermelstein originally wanted to be an archaeologist, but became fascinated with mechanical engineering when he attended an academy in sixth grade.

“We built a balsa wood bridge and while my group may not have done the best ‘cause there were many, many different groups competing, it was still really interesting and fun to learn how to build stuff, because that’s like nothing that’s really introduced in school other than like, a candy cane house,” Mermelstein says.

He hopes to continue along the ANSEP track in college, going to either UAA or University of Alaska Fairbanks. When he graduates, he says he would like to work on in-state renewable energy projects.

The grant to expand the Middle School Academies came through House Bill 278 championed by Gov. Sean Parnell.

Categories: Alaska News

Nome Churches, Nonprofits Keep Sales Tax Exemption

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-11-25 16:53

Business owners, nonprofit workers, and residents (including Rep. Neal Foster, left) made for a full house in Nome City Council chambers Monday as the council debated contentious tax issues. (Photo: Matthew F. Smith, KNOM)

Nome’s nonprofits and churches will remain exempt from city sales tax—and retailers won’t have their unsold inventories taxed—but at Monday night’s City Council meeting, efforts to charge property tax on airplanes moved forward.

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The rejection of the proposals are just the latest in the city’s months-long struggle to find more revenue after disappearing state and federal funding left a roughly $800,000 dollar hole in the city’s budget.

A packed house gathered in City Council chambers to hear the introduction, or “first reading,” of three ordinances meant to bring in more revenue for the city. The council wasn’t able to debate the issues—that debate is only allowed on “second reading”—but that didn’t stop small businesses owners, nonprofits directors, and residents from telling the council their thoughts. And those thoughts were a chorus of rejection for all three proposals.

On the sales tax exemption issue, Danielle Slingsby with the Nome Community Center—which runs the town food bank, the Nome Children’s Home providing transitional youth housing, the XYZ Senior Center, and more—said ending the exemption would have a direct impact on services.

“All of our purchases are direct program purchases, so anything we purchase, we try to support local business as much as we can,” she said, addressing the council as well as the more than two dozen members of the public. “I think if you take [the sales tax exemption] away from nonprofits, you’re basically just taking away services from the people of Nome.”

Kawerak president Melanie Bahnke said services the regional nonprofit provides are usually performed by government agencies; agencies that she noted would remain exempt from sales tax with the proposal under consideration.

“Many of these programs exist because Kawerak assumed the functions of the federal government to deliver these services,” Bahnke said. “The federal government enjoys the benefit of the exemption. It would seem to penalize the tribal governments in this region for exerting self-governance by taxing these programs because they are not operated by the federal government.”

Though the sales tax exemption issue would have impacts on faith-based organizations like churches, no one from the roughly dozen churches in Nome spoke on the issue.

Levying tax on business inventories was characterized by many business owners as a “double tax” that would be collected both when items sit on the shelf and again when they are sold and subject to Nome’s 5 percent sales tax. Barb Nichols with the Nome Chamber of Commerce received a round of applause from members of the public after she spoke against taxing inventories.

“This additional cost can’t be shown on receipts, such as a retail sales tax,” Nichols argued. “The impact of these non-transparent taxes are hidden to most consumers, and an invisible issue to most voters.”

Nichols also spoke to the timing of the new tax, which would have gone in to effect Jan. 1, 2015. “Our business community has already ordered and received their goods to last through our long winters, to ensure the community has what it needs. Now, without any notice, this exemption could be removed this year.”

“This is not about business profit,” Nichols summarized. “Removing this exemption will dig even further into the ever-slimming wallets of all of our community members. These businesses should be celebrated, not double taxed.”

While dislike for the proposals was nearly unanimous, Rolland Trowbridge of Trinity Sails and Repair (and KNOM Chief Engineer) took the podium—without expressing support or opposition to any particular ordinance—to emphasize the need for organizations and individuals to be more willing to support a city that allows their nonprofits and businesses to exist.

“There’s a lot of business going on in Nome where sales tax isn’t being collected. A lot of people doing business on the side, repairs, the kind of stuff where they’re just taking cash money. And for those people doing that, you’re not helping yourself, you’re not helping anybody, because that is what it costs to run this town,” Trowbridge said.

“The reality is, I depend on this city to function correctly for my business to operate, and so do the nonprofits,” he added. “We all need to start saying, OK, where do we want the money to come from?”

Many speakers called on the city to get its own financial house in order before raising taxes, but City Manager Josie Bahnke said it wasn’t a ballooning city budget—but rather roughly $800,000 in shortfalls in state and federal funding—that has led to the current deficit. She said the new tax proposals were not considered on a whim.

“We did make cuts, we did get down to a bare-bones budget.This year our operating budget has gone down, we all continue to deal with healthcare costs rising … The discussion was around how we could make up for that approximately $800,000,” Bahnke said. “I think the idea of [sales tax] exemptions [as well as] meetings with the city attorney led us down that road.”

But fresh from attending last week’s Alaska Municipal League—a gathering of city administers from around the state—Bahnke said other Alaska cities, large and small, are facing similar budget shortfalls and identical scrambles for revenue, raising questions of just what jobs people expect their city to do.

“Some of the challenges, I think, are … the disconnect in what residents see, what they want, and what they’re willing to pay for. I think this is going to continue on here through the next several months … sometimes there’s disagreement on what the core functions of the city are, of what they should be.”

The room became quiet as the ordinance for the sales tax exemption went before the council, which required just one other council member to second the motion to move it forward. But the ordinance died on the table; not a single council member voted to even consider it for a first reading. The proposal to tax business inventories also failed to pass muster for first reading, failing in a vote of two in favor to three against.

That left just one proposal passing for a second reading, one that would assess property tax on aircraft. That brought Paul Costo, the Nome station manager for Alaska Airlines, to the podium to tell the council that taxing airplanes could send businesses to other hubs like Bethel, Kotzebue, or Unalakleet.

“There’s some real-life ramifications for the airline industry if you were to start taxing aircraft. Nome would lose not only aircraft, they would lose services and they would lose jobs.” Costo requested more information on how the city would assess any tax, “a formula, a tax plan, and quite frankly, what the aircraft owner is going to get in return for paying their tax dollars.”

Costo added that few other Alaska cities collect property tax on planes, and when they do, it’s usually on city-owned airports, whereas Nome’s airport is state-owned. Council member Jerald Brown said there are enough city services at the airport to merit the tax.

“I’ve see the fire trucks responding to issues at the airport, I’ve seen police responding to issues at the airport. I know there’s water and sewer provided out there, probably for a fee, so services are being provided,” he said.

Brown called for a list of other cities that assess property tax on airplanes—and a list of what entity owns the airport in those communities—when the proposal comes up for a second reading (and formal public comment) at the council’s next meeting on Dec. 8.

The only other item before the council was handled quickly, approving a $7 million bid for the port’s Middle Dock project to Orion Marine Contractors.

Categories: Alaska News

Orphaned Bear Cub Finds Temporary Home At Alaska Zoo

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-11-25 16:52

An orphaned bear cub from the Eagle area is at the Alaska Zoo. The young black bear will be kept at the facility in Anchorage, while a search is conducted for a permanent home.

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Categories: Alaska News

Anti-Begich Ad in Voter Guide Prompts Bill to Ban Parties From Booklet

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-11-25 14:43

The state Division of Elections took some heat this year for publishing an attack ad against Sen. Mark Begich within the pages of the official voter guide. Now, Rep. Les Gara, an Anchorage Democrat, wants to ban partisan ads in the guide, a booklet that’s mailed to every voting household.

“People hear enough in the form of political attack ads during an election. I don’t think it’s appropriate for attack ads to find their way into a state funded voter guide,” Gara said.

By statute, political parties are allowed to buy up to two full-page ads, for $600 apiece, and the Division of Elections has no say over the content. Until this year, the parties mostly used the space to list their party platforms. But now that the Republican Party of Alaska has used the space for a more aggressive message, Gara says other parties are likely to do the same.

Republican Party Chairman Peter Goldberg says he got a few angry complaints about the anti-Begich ad, but he’s not convinced it had much impact, since a lot of voters don’t read the guide. Goldberg says he just wanted to make sure the party used its ad space effectively.

“When someone suggested a negative ad, why not? The objective of a political party is to win an election. And you take advantage of every opportunity you can to look for opportunities to sway voters,” Goldberg said.

Gara says he plans to pre-file the bill and will be looking for co-sponsors from both parties.

Categories: Alaska News

Hilcorp To Purchase Port MacKenzie LNG Plant

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-11-25 10:21

Cook Inlet oil and gas producer Hilcorp has announced purchase of an LNG plant at Port MacKenzie. The plant, now owned by Titan Alaska LNG, supplies Fairbanks Natural Gas.

Fairbanks Natural Gas President Dan Britton says the sale grew from discussions between Fairbanks Natural Gas and Hilcorp about a longer-term gas supply.

Hilcorp spokeswoman Lori Nelson says the Regulatory Commission of Alaska must approve the sale.

“The transaction is definitely dependent on all the necessary and regulatory approvals, so this just marks the agreement for and desire for Hilcorp to purchase that facility.”

Nelson says Hilcorp supplies gas to Titan’s plant and has a contract through 2018. She says Hilcorp plans to expand the facility in the future, and to expand its capacity for transmission of gas to Interior markets. Fairbanks Natural Gas serves about 1,100 mixed residential and commercial customers in the core of Fairbanks.

“It actually opens up great opportunity for us to expand the market here in Alaska. As you know, we have been investing hundreds of millions in Cook Inlet to up that production, and with a closed market and limited availability for export, growing our market within Alaska is a natural step for us, and one that also serves the Interior residents as well.”

Nelson says she has no details on the agreed upon price of the purchase. Hilcorp recently purchased four North Slope fields formerly owned by BP. Nelson says the two transactions are not related.  



Categories: Alaska News

New Activity Seen At Mount Shishaldin

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-11-24 17:24

Shishaldin Volcano with a typical steam plume, pictured on Sept. 14, 2013. Photo by Joseph Korpiewski, U.S. Coast Guard.

There has been some new activity at Mount Shishaldin. The Alaska Volcano Observatory upgraded the volcano to an orange status several months ago, but as geologist at AVO Chris Waythomas says Shishaldin started acting differently Sunday night.
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“We detected an escalation in seismic activity that suggested the volcano had increased its level on unrest.”

Waythomas says there has been no ash emission thus far from Shishaldin but that volcano is known for producing huge ash plumes as high as 20,000 feet.

“But there are some very strong thermal signals detected at the summit, suggesting that there may have been some emission of hot material blocks or flows on the upper flanks.”

Shishaldin is one of the most active volcanoes in Alaska.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: November 24, 2014

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-11-24 17:23

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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Judge Temporarily Halts EPA’s 404(c) Process on Pebble Mine

Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage

U.S. District Court Judge H. Russel Holland issued a preliminary injunction Monday, temporarily halting the EPA’s 404(c) process regarding the Pebble Mine.

Walker Transition Team Brings 250 Delegates to Shape Policy

Zachariah Hughes, KSKA – Anchorage

Gov.-elect Bill Walker and his transition team held meetings in Anchorage over the weekend to hammer out a list of priorities for the incoming administration. The 250 committee members- stakeholders from across the state- discussed topics ranging from fiscal policy to subsistence. It was a rare attempt for an incoming administration to shape its future so openly.

Details Sketchy on Expanded Deferred Action for Illegal Immigrants

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

It is estimated that 1,800 undocumented Mexicans are living in Alaska, although there is no account of how many undocumented immigrants of other nationalities may be in the state.  Now, some undocumented immigrants may be eligible for an expanded deferred action program announced last week by President Barack Obama.

New Activity Seen At Mount Shishaldin

Thea Card, KDLG – Dillingham

There has been some new activity at Mount Shishaldin. The Alaska Volcano Observatory upgraded the volcano to an orange status several months ago, but as AVO geologist at is Waythomas says, Shishaldin started acting differently Sunday night.

BBAHC Testing All Expectant Mothers For Opioid Use

Dave Bendinger, KDLG – Dillingham

A few weeks ago, police were called to the Kanakanak Hospital in Dillingham when a woman six months pregnant and a mother who had just given birth that day were caught smoking an oxycodone pill in the bathroom of the maternity room. The disturbing incident highlighted just how severe the use of opioids like heroin and oxycodone has become in Bristol Bay. Now the hospital has made the testing for opioids routine for all pregnancies.

For Better Storm Warnings, NWS Goes Local

Lauren Rosenthal, KUCB – Unalaska

Predicting storms in a fast-changing environment isn’t easy. But the National Weather Service is slowly working on a plan to improve their forecasts in Alaska – and across the country – by adding in the view from the ground.

Interior’s Dry Weather To Continue

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The interior is forecast to get a little snow over the next couple days, but the trend is for continued dry weather.

Report: Subsidized logging costs feds millions

Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau

A new report says the Forest Service is wasting millions of dollars by propping up a failing Southeast Alaska timber industry. It says the Tongass National Forest should instead invest in projects supporting tourism and fishing, which are growing segments of the economy.

“Frost” Brings Art Seekers into Anchorage Parks

Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage

Frost is one of Anchorage’s newest public art projects. It’s a scavenger hunt with photo clues that lead you to a place where the artists have mixed lights and film into a temporary art piece. It’s called “creative placemaking” and aims to get people out into the city’s parks and help them see the space in a different way.

Categories: Alaska News

BBAHC testing all expectant mothers for opioid use

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-11-24 17:23

A few weeks ago, police were called to the Kanakanak Hospital in Dillingham when a woman six months pregnant and a mother who had just given birth that day were caught smoking an oxycodone pill in the bathroom of the maternity room. The disturbing incident highlighted just how severe the use of opioids like heroin and oxycodone has become in Bristol Bay. Now the hospital has made the testing for opioids routine for all pregnancies.

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Categories: Alaska News

For Better Storm Warnings, NWS Goes Local

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-11-24 17:22

Predicting storms in a fast-changing environment isn’t easy. But the National Weather Service is slowly working on a plan to improve their forecasts in Alaska — and across the country — by adding in the view from the ground.

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Since he moved to Unalaska 12 years ago, Dale Miller has weathered a lot of storms. But nothing like the one he calls the doozy.

Miller: “I had a new Colorado out in the front yard that I watched go on two wheels. That leaned over, and it slid about four inches.”

The morning after a major storm passed over Unalaska, mechanic Dale Miller stopped into CarQuest auto supply. (Lauren Rosenthal/KUCB)

That’s exactly what Miller wanted to avoid when the tail end of a super typhoon swept into the Bering Sea this month. He’s a mechanic with a lot of spare materials and cars laying around.

Miller: “Kind of wanted to park things in a way where maybe the glass isn’t going to get broken. But I didn’t know which direction the wind was going to be coming from if it did hit.”

That information was available in a string of alerts from the National Weather Service. But even though they’re meant for the public, meteorologist Dave Snider says they’re not always user-friendly.

Snider: “Warning and advisory and watch: Are those types of words helpful to you, or are they confusing?”

Those questions are at the heart of the Weather-Ready Nation project. Over the last three years, Snider and other forecasters have tried to get the country better prepared for storms.

That includes putting out effective storm warnings. And research has shown that most people don’t understand the different terms that the National Weather Service has relied on.

If there’s an exception, it might be coastal Alaska. Commercial fishermen and recreational boaters rely on forecasts to navigate, so they learn to speak the language.

But weather is a critical part of life on land, too. In Unalaska, Snider says the terrain is full of hills and valleys that can channel wind into strong, localized gusts.

Snider: “If the wind’s blowing one direction and it happens to make it down the canyon and into town just right, well, that might hit a container. Or if it’s blowing a different way, it might hit a crane.”

That’s exactly what happened five years ago. The same storm that picked up Dale Miller’s truck also knocked down a cargo crane at Unalaska’s port.

It’s a pretty extreme example. But weather can affect port operations on a smaller scale, like when shipping companies try to figure out when it’s safe to offload cargo.

Snider visited Unalaska last week to see how weather drives those decisions on the ground.

Snider: “Those kinds of things are really important. Any time there’s damage, even from a little bit of weather, we’d like to know about it. So we know how this particular weather situation impacted your daily life.”

That’s where a new crop of Weather-Ready Nation ambassadors comes in. Snider is helping recruit volunteers who can explain how their communities respond to storms.

Eventually, it could lead to a new kind of forecast — one that clearly lays out how traffic or shipping might be affected by the day’s weather, in language that’s easy to understand.

For Dale Miller, that can’t come soon enough. The mechanic tried to windproof his property in Unalaska — but the big storm he was expecting this month mostly blew out to sea.

Miller: “So, it’s all good. I just think that there’s one coming for us out there. And that’s the one that’s gonna ruin our day pretty good.”

Whatever the form, it won’t come without a warning.

Categories: Alaska News

Interior’s Dry Weather To Continue

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-11-24 17:21

The Interior is forecast to get a little snow over the next couple days, but the trend is for continued dry weather.

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Categories: Alaska News

Report: Subsidized logging costs feds millions

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-11-24 17:20

Beached logs pile up in Shoal Cove on Revilla Island in the Tongass National Forest. A new report challenges old-growth logging spending in the forest. (Jim Baichtal/USFS)

A new report says the U.S. Forest Service is wasting millions of dollars by propping up a failing Southeast Alaska timber industry. It says the Tongass National Forest should instead invest in projects supporting tourism and fishing, which are growing segments of the economy.

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Headwaters Economics, a Montana-based research firm, prepared the study with funding from two conservation-oriented foundations.

It was released by the Alaska chapter of Trout Unlimited, which is critical of Tongass logging.

“The Tongass has historically been a national forest focused on old-growth harvesting and it looks very much today like the same thing,” says Ben Alexander, Headwaters’ associate director.

“The underlying economics in Southeast Alaska have shifted radically and the growth sectors and the sectors creating jobs and opportunities for communities and businesses now are no longer in timber,” he says.

The report says the Forest Service spent more than $100 million subsidizing old-growth logging over the past five years.

Alaska Regional Forester Beth Pendleton didn’t have the information at hand to confirm or deny that figure.

But she says the Headwaters report does not accurately describe how agency funding works. She says Congress, not her office, decides how much goes to programs such as timber, fishing and tourism.

“I believe that the report, while well-intentioned, is flawed. And I think it shows some naivety relative to how the federal budgets are allocated,” she says.

Ross Gorte, a research professor involved in the report, says that’s sidestepping the problem, which he says is in Washington, D.C.

“They don’t tell the Forest Service how much money to spend on recreation in the Tongass versus how much to spend on recreation in Washington or Alabama or anywhere else,” he says.

“We do have some flexibility relative to policy and how we implement certain program direction,” says Pendleton.

She says that’s allowing her agency to start moving away from old-growth logging. The goal is to do that in 10 to 15 years.

“So over the last five years, we’ve been putting an increasing emphasis on that transition toyoung growth,” she says.

The Headwaters report says the agency has moved too slowly.

Austin Williams is Alaska policy director for Trout Unlimited.

“It’s frankly not clear when that time frame might start or end. And there’s an opportunity to speed it up. Ten to 15 years is just too long and it’s not getting at the real needs of Southeast Alaska communities,” he says.

The Forest Service says a change this big doesn’t happen overnight.

Pendleton says the planning process is ongoing, including consulting with an appointed Tongass Advisory Committee representing different interest groups. That panel meets this week in Sitka.

“The planning process takes time. It’s one that’s based on collaborative engagement with our communities and [the] public and also through the offering of stewardship contracts. So these things do take some time, but we’re making some progress in that direction,” she says.

separate report, from an industry consultant and an environmental scientist, says the transition could happen in five years.

The Forest Service says that’s not realistic. But Pendleton says the research is part of the advisory committee’s discussion.

Categories: Alaska News

Details Sketchy on Expanded Deferred Action for Illegal Immigrants

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-11-24 16:50

It is estimated that 1800 undocumented Mexicans are living in Alaska, although there is no account of how many illegals of other nationalities may be in the state. Now, some undocumented immigrants may be eligible for an expanded deferred action program announced last week by President Barack Obama.

 The presidents’s executive order may not become official any time soon, according to the Immigration Justice Project’s Robin Bronin. Bronin says there are few details as yet, and it could be 180 days  before applications are available. But, she cautions, illegals who could qualify should start gathering proof of identification now.

“This is a program to make sure the people who are living here, who are contributing to our community, hae immigration documents so that they can get, for instance, driver’s licenses and not be afraid that when they are taking their children to school that they are going to be deported from the United States. “

President Obama last week announced his executive action on a plan to grant temporary, three year legal status to up to five million undocumented immigrants who have family in the United States. The president’s plan does not grant them citizenship, but it does expand an earlier program aimed at keeping illegal immigrant children in the US. The earlier Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals [DACA ] plan helped one Anchorage woman who arrived in Alaska illegally at age 13. She spoke through a translator.

 ”I’m very happy because I am not anymore afraid of driving, and I can go to work, and I can keep my family together.”

Attorney Bronin says it is critical for applicants for the expanded deferred action program to show that they have been in the US since January of 2010.

The president’s action is intended to allow undocumented parents of immigrant children born in the US to remain in the country legally, and it frees federal immigration authorities to target criminals and those undocumented immigrants recently arrived in the US for deportation.

Bronin spoke at the Consulado de Mexico in Anchorage on Monday.


Categories: Alaska News

Finding the Perfect Thanksgiving Wine

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-11-24 16:41

Ann and her dad at Thanksgiving.

Today we’re planning Thanksgiving. Now, a lot of time energy goes into what we eat for Thanksgiving, but what about what we drink?

For that, I found a local wine enthusiast Ann Byker. Byker’s day job is architect, but she also works weekends at UnWINED, a wine boutique in midtown Anchorage. She knows a lot about wine these days, but that wasn’t always the case.

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“Probably like any other young girl I started with the Boones Farm and the awful things of that nature, but I quickly worked myself up to have I don’t if it’s a refined palette, but certainly a more expensive one,” Byker said.

And that was a big factor in Byker learning more about wine. She says if she’s going to spend more than 15 bucks on a bottle of wine, she wants to like it. So she started asking questions.

“’What is it I’m tasting? Why do I love this?’ That made me think about it,” she said. “The way it smelled, the way it looked, the way it tasted, the way it hit my mouth when I drank it.”

Byker says she loves Thanksgiving, and not just the eating part.

“I just have a lot of fun trying to pair the appropriate wines with the food that we have,” she said.

And that can be tricky with so many rich and heavy foods. That’s why Byker starts her Thanksgiving with a bang, or in this case, a pop.

“I’ll typically start off with champagne. If I were to recommend something though I would say sparkling rose,” Byker said. “It’s different, it’s got that little bit of red juice to it. But what it really does is set that celebratory mood. And when you’re drinking something sparkling between multiple appetizers it sort of acts like a palette cleanser. ”

Next up, and probably the most important, is what to drink with your Turkey, Ham or Roast.

“I’m definitely going to lean toward a red on this one. You always hear about Pinot Noir and Zinfandel, and those are great choices, but this particular Thanksgiving I’m going to throw a curveball and do a Grenache,” she said. “A typical Grenache is going to be medium bodied, really low on tannins, kind of spicy. You’re going to get huckleberry and wild strawberry. It’s such an easy drinking red, but it’s not one that you typically see on the Thanksgiving table.”

And lastly, we need something to drink with our pumpkin pie.

Byker: “This is a hard category for me, because I’m not a big sweets person. I tend to lean toward Tawny Ports. It’s a fortified wine, fortified with great brandy. On the scale of sweetness it kind of falls in the middle. The older they are the more fig and nutty flavors like walnut you’ll get. It’s an absolutely beautiful wine.”

Waldron: “Ok, as much fun as this is I think most families, mine included, will not be pairing wine with individual foods. We’re going to get as many different foods on the plate as we can, so what’s the one wine you would pick to go with a traditional Thanksgiving plate.”

Byker: “The one wine….well in my personal opinion, and what I plan on bringing to the table is Grenache. I think it’s so dynamic and so interesting. I think there are so many characteristics from Grenache that most people would find incredibly pleasing and complimentary to the things that make up the bulk of a Thanksgiving dinner.”

For the non-drinkers at your Thanksgiving, Byker says you can’t go wrong with sparkling cider. She says there’s also non-alcholic wine out there that is pretty good.

“They actually mimic the taste of wine quite well, it’s pretty amazing,” she said, laughing. “That being said, it’s not something I would drink unless I had to.”

And we can’t forget about the leftovers. Byker says she likes her turkey and gravy sandwich the next day with a nice glass of Pinot Noir.

Categories: Alaska News

Judge Temporarily Halts EPA’s 404(c) Process on Pebble Mine

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-11-24 16:29

U.S. District Court Judge H. Russel Holland issued a preliminary injunction Monday, temporarily halting the EPA’s 404(c) process regarding the Pebble Mine.

The process allows the EPA to restrict or prohibit projects that could have adverse effects on fishery areas.

The Pebble Partnership contends the EPA violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which ensures advisory committees are objective and accessible to the public, while developing the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment.

“The preliminary injunction basically says that the EPA can’t take further steps in their preemptive process against Pebble until the merits of this case have more time in front of the court,” Mike Heatwole, spokesperson for the Pebble Limited Partnership, said.

The EPA initiated the 404(c) process at the end of February, alleging the Pebble Mine would have significant and irreversible negative impacts on the Bristol Bay watershed.

Trout Unlimited‘s Tim Bristol says the ruling is disappointing.

“The people of the region, the people who depend upon that fishery for their livelihood, I think after last week’s announcement of a potential huge run, I think they were hopeful that we would have the Clean Water Act protections in place, so for the first time in over a decade and fish and operate their businesses and get on with their lives and not have the specter of Pebble looming over their head,” Bristol said.

Bristol says Monday’s ruling likely means Judge Holland needs more time to sort through the information filed by the Pebble Partnership.

The EPA says it’s waiting to see the court’s written order on the preliminary injunction and hopes the litigation is resolved quickly so the agency can move forward with its regulatory decision-making.

Court proceedings are expected to resume early next year.

Categories: Alaska News

“Frost” Brings Art Seekers into Anchorage Parks

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-11-24 15:41

Frost is one of Anchorage’s newest public art projects. It’s a scavenger hunt with photo clues that lead you to a place where the artists have mixed lights and film into a temporary art piece. It’s called “creative placemaking” and aims to get people out into the city’s parks and help them see the space in a different way. A team of seekers and followed the clues to find the newest installation.
Readers, beware: this story may spoil your search. So if you’re hoping to find the hidden art exhibit completely on your own, stop reading and stop the audio player on your computer.

“Hi, I’m unnaturally telling my name into the microphone….” joked Krystal Garrison as she did exactly that.

The clue we used to find Frost. Photo by Sierra Mills and posted to

Krystal had heard about Frost and let me tag along on her expedition to find it. She roped her fiancee Corey Crawford into the outing and their trusty dog Leo.

The first stop was inside at the computer to look up the clue on the Frost website.

“So I just googled ‘Anchorage Frost’…” Krystal narrated.

“You got Frost Dental, so I guess we can go get our teeth cleaned…” I responded.

With a more refined search we find the first clue — a picture of a snowy lawn with towering lights. In the distance you can see a blurry fence and a dark area on the edge.

“I would have a hard time guessing on this picture to be honest with you,” Krystal said.

But Corey knew it instantly.

“That’s *****,” Corey states matter-of-factly.

“That’s *****?” Krystal questioned, disbelievingly.

“Yeah, that’s *****.”

“He’s super visual,” Krystal said to explain how he instantly knew the site of a park he rarely visited from a dark, half blurry photo.

“Yeah, the duck pond’s right here. The parking lot is right in front of it.” He pointed out vague features.

Corey said it makes sense because the park is easily accessible by car, bus, bike, and foot, but people don’t always think to hang out there.

Gretchen Weiss is one of the project coordinators. She said the five exhibits will be placed in different parks in the city for short periods throughout the winter.

“Anchorage is huge, and we’ve got over 200 parks, and each one has it’s own flavor and variety. And we kind of took the personality of what that ‘Frost’ was going to be like and what that parks were like and we kind of matched them up.”

This time the Frost exhibit is a short film made from footage gathered around the world, so the setting has a more classic cinematic feel.

Weiss said the temporary, outdoor exhibits invite people to interact with strangers that they may never otherwise meet.

“For Frost it’s dark, and people are wearing lots of layers so you really don’t have a whole lot to go off of somebody except for here’s one marshmallow, and you’re a marshmallow and you see this thing and it’s pretty cool and you can start talking when maybe usually you wouldn’t,” she explained.

When we arrived at ***** to look for the movie, the park was empty, despite the relatively warm weather. Leo the dog leads the way. As we enter the park, Corey finds the scene of the clue.

“You remember seeing the rock in the picture?”

“No, I don’t,” Krystal said.

“These rocks were in the picture. That’s the duck pond to the left.”

Leo bounds ahead, and we follow him straight to the movie.

“You totally called it,” Krystal said.

The film was projected from a locked box onto a white wooden board. Extension cords trail away from the set up. Krystal watches it while standing outside, in the cold. She was impressed.

“This is so awesome that you’re bringing art to the public. And you’re leaving it out there for people to explore and discover on they’re own whether they’re meaning to or not,” she said. “But it’s also got to be kind of nerve wracking to leaving this equipment and this art and, you know, all the time spent involved setting it up. Hopefully people will enjoy it for what it is and not feel the need to tamper with it.”

Krystal’s statement turned out to be prophetic. Within a week of our successful quest, cords began to disappear and the set up had to be altered to make it more secure. But Weiss said they’ll try to keep it running until December 6 when they’ll reveal the final location and host a drive-in movie at the *******.

OK, I’ll give you another clue. It’s that big building in midtown where you can go to read for free…

Categories: Alaska News

Walker Transition Team Brings 250 Delegates to Shape Policy

APRN Alaska News - Sun, 2014-11-23 19:57

Hundreds of delegates came to Anchorage to offer policy solutions to the incoming governor and his team. In 1990, Hickel’s transition team was 20 advisers who met behind closed doors. (Photo: Zachariah Hughes).

Governor Elect Bill Walker and his transition team held meetings over the weekend that shed new light on the incoming administration’s priorities, and the very public process they are using to find policy solutions to state-wide issues ranging from fiscal planning to subsistence.

Small working groups made up of stakeholders from across the state met in classrooms all over the UAA campus to discuss a wide spectrum of topics. Gail Anagik  Schubert is CEO of the Bering Straits Native Corporation, and brought her region’s needs to conversations within the infrastructure committee.

“We’re on the Bering Straits, and so any of the Arctic development, you know the Northern waters expansion and that sort of thing,” Schubert explained after Sunday’s Plenary Session,  ”our communities are going to be impacted by it.”

Each of the 17 committees will produce reports from notes taken all weekend long, and share them with the public as well as with all 250 delegates broadly considered part of the transition team. The reports will also be used by the governor and his staff as the starting point for policy revisions.

“This is a listening process, and the question has been asked: what’s the product? The product is you and the relationships you’ve built, and that report,” said Rick Halford, co-chair of the Walker transition team, emphasizing the influence the weekend’s discussions will have on the incoming administration. ”It is not intended to stop here, it’s intended to go on.”

Meetings were open to the public, and represent a strong effort to bring as many voices from different parts of the state into the transition process. That has not been the case for most gubernatorial change-overs. Malcolm Roberts was part of Governor Wally Hickel’s transition team in 1990.

“It was only a very small group of people involved,” Roberts recalled, 20 or so advisers meeting behind closed doors.  ”This is a whole new world,” he added.

The crowd at the meeting’s final session was as diverse as the as the agenda, with men in suits sitting knee-to-knee with women holding the sunshine ruffs of their parkees, and plenty in between.

“We should identify best practices and utilize tribal structures to capture the values in our state,” read the other chair of the transition team, Ana Hoffman, summarizing comments made from the various committees. “We will achieve sustainability by being conservation-minded. We need to reverse negative trends, to populate our training facilities and not our holding facilities. We all agree to put fish first, and we know that the low-hanging fruit can sustain us,” added Hoffman, earning a laugh from the crowd.

The air of optimistic camaraderie was undercut by the bleak financial outlook facing the state, and conversations early in the weekend about leaner budgets in the years ahead. Walker told the crowd his campaign’s motto of diversity creating unity will be fundamental to his administration’s approach for finding economic solutions.

“Yes, I wish the oil wasn’t at $75, or whatever it is. But it is. And there’s nothing we’re gonna do about that ourselves,” Walker told the large audience. But he stressed bringing his campaign’s motto of diversity creating unity forward into the administration’s approach to developing policy solutions. “We’re gonna work our way out of this because we’re Alaskans.”

“And there’ll be some changes, you bet there will be,” Walker added.

Two of those changes have already been announced, as Walker’s team named new commissioners for his cabinet. Mark Myers will replace Joe Balash at the Department of Natural Resources. And Randall Hoffbeck has been chosen to head the Department of Revenue, a position currently held by Angela Rodell.

Categories: Alaska News

City to Pursue $485 Million Design Strategy for Port of Anchorage

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-11-21 20:07

On top is the current Port of Anchorage configuration, and below is the proposed modification, with a draft depth of -45 feet, and other tweaks. Photo: Anchorage Port Modification Plan.

The mayor’s office announced it has selected a design for the Anchorage Port’s overhaul, setting a blue-print for how the half-billion dollar project will take shape in the years ahead. At a work session on Friday, planners and engineers explained their decisions to members of the Anchorage Assembly. 

Representatives from the port and the company managing the project, CH2M Hill, made presentations to on the different plans they analyzed, and how they settled on what was previously referred to as ‘Concept D.’ But now, said the port’s Director of External Affairs Lindsey Whitt, it’s just called ‘the plan’  as they move forward with a longer term solution for fixing the facilities.

“The wharf pilings are rotting, and eroding, and rusting,” Whitt explained after the work session. “So every year we pour money into putting band-aids on the piling. And its really only a temporary fix.”

The plan calls for building out terminals to accommodate bigger ships in deeper water, cutting back a wedge of land to help mitigate sediment build-up and all the expensive dredging it takes to remove it, and adding a new extension for loading cement and fuel.

The three different designs were given a weighted analysis comparing different criteria, from short term costs to effects on cargo handling. Photo: Anchorage Port Modernization Project.

The design determines how the port will be configured what it’s done, but it also sets out the different steps getting there, and how to keep construction from interrupting cargo coming in and out of the terminals. The idea is to build a port that can endure for the next 75 years, without hampering commerce too much as it is built. Mayor Dan Sullivan has done a lot to guide the port project’s development, and believes this version will help it progress smoothly during the two major government transitions in the year ahead.

“The key is to have a solid plan with a price tag that’s affordable. And one that has the minimum amount of risk for changing and all the sudden become a project that’s much more expensive,” Sullivan said. “I think what we saw today is a plan that’s really well thought out, and I think we have price estimates that are reasonable.”

That reasonable estimate is $485 million dollars, which was the least expensive of all the options analyzed. There’s already $130 million set aside, but the city will have to raise the remaining $355 million. Whitt says that while it’s expensive, she expects financial support to come from the legislature and elsewhere given the facility’s critical importance for the state as a whole.

“The Port of Anchorage is kind of a magical place, because it brings most of the food and goods for Alaska through the docks,” Whitt said, lighting up as she spoke. “This project is vital to Alaskans, and I wish I could show the port to every single person who lived here.”

So far about $312 million has been spent on an earlier model of port expansion that was halted, and which is the subject of a lawsuit the city has brought against three of the companies previously involved.



Categories: Alaska News

Mexican Consulate Readies To Help On Deferred Action Plan

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-11-21 17:53

The Mexican government, through it’s consulate in Anchorage, has issued a statement regarding President Barack Obama’s announcement regarding deferred action on illegal immigrants. Senor Javier Abud is Anchorage’s Mexican consul. He says the Mexican government welcomes the announcement.

“Why, because some studies show more than fifty percent of undocumented people in the US are of Mexican origen. And we are talking about more thatn 11 million in total”, Abud said on Friday.

President Obama on Thursday announced his executive action on a plan to grant temporary, three year legal status to up to five million undocumented immigrants who have family in the United States. The president says that the plan does not grant them citizenship. The president’s action  protects families and allows federal immigration authorities to target criminals and those undocumented immigrants recently arrived in the US for deportation.

Senor Abud says the Mexican consulate is preparing to help those undocumented immigrants in Alaska who may benefit from Obama’s announcement.

“…to give them some guidance, to give them some advice. And I can tell you, when the process formally starts, the consulate will be ready with some contingency measures.”

Abud says that those affected must inform themselves about the plan through official sources only, such as the Mexican consulate, to avoid misinformation and to avoid being taken advantage of by scammers who may mislead them.

Abud says according to the Pew Hispanic Center studies, , there are an estimated 1,800 undocmented Mexicans in Alaska.




Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: November 21, 2014

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-11-21 16:39

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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LNG Project Gets Export Approval

The Associated PRess

A federal agency has approved the export of liquefied natural gas from a proposed mega-project in Alaska to free-trade nations.

Regional Tribal Government Considered by Calista Regional Committee

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

Could the YK Delta see a new tribal government system?  Delegates from the region will consider steps that could lead to a new regional government, new taxes, and a constitutional convention.  That topic will be front and center at a meeting of the Regional Committee Monday in Anchorage. The group was created by the board of directors of Calista, the YK Delta’s regional native corporation.

Kennels Protected Under New Mat-Su Ordinance

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

Dog mushers in the Matanuska Susitna Borough now are protected under a new Borough ordinance.  The law licenses kennels, and is aimed at protecting mushers against complaints from neighbors as the Mat Su population grows.

Another Orphaned Alaska Bear Cub Needs A Home

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

Another orphaned Alaska bear cub needs a home. The young black bear found near Eagle is the 8th the state has dealt with this year.  The other seven cubs, all but one black, including a trio rescued in Galena in September, have been placed in lower 48 wildlife care facilities.  The fate of the latest orphaned cub is uncertain.

NOAA Designates Kachemak Bay a Habitat Focus Area

Shady Grove Oliver, KBBI – Homer

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced this week it is designating Kachemak Bay as its next habitat focus area. That will open up the door to more directed research and conservation efforts and possible federal funding.

Federal Court Rejects Alaska’s Appeal

The Associated Press

The state of Alaska has lost another attempt to reinstate a ban on same-sex marriage, and Gov.-elect Bill Walker has changed his stance on the issue.

Listen: What Marriage Means For One Alaska Same-Sex Couple

Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau

Since same-sex marriage became legal in Alaska  around 90 marriage license applications have been issued to same sex couples

AK: Eagles Up Close

Emily Files, KHNS – Haines

Each fall, thousands of bald eagles flock to a stretch of the Chilkat River about 20 miles north of Haines. The birds fly there for a late chum salmon run. And it’s one of the largest gathering of eagles in the world. Dozens of people travel to witness the raptors each year, filling up almost every hotel room in Haines.

300 Villages: South Naknek

This week, we’re heading to the community of South Naknek on Bristol Bay. Lorianne Rawson is the tribal administrator with the native village of South Naknek.

Categories: Alaska News