Alaska News

Earthquakes Swarm the Brooks Range

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-06-09 10:09

Map for April and May 2014 Earthquakes in Northwestern Alaska. (Image: Alaska Earthquake Center)

An “earthquake swarm” is hitting the Brooks Range. Seismologists do not know why it is occurring or if it will continue.

Friday night a 5.5 magnitude earthquake struck 20 miles northeast of Noatak. This is the third 5.5 quake that has struck the same area in the past two months.

Michael West is the Director of the Alaska Earthquake Information Center and said, “We are now referring to this as an ‘earthquake swarm.’ That is there’s something in the earth that is causing a whole series of earthquakes of similar size. It really is quite unusual to have this in that kind of setting.”

West said earthquake swarms are common around volcanoes. But with no volcanoes in the Brooks Range, this seismic swarm is raising questions for seismologists nationwide.

“At the moment,” West said, “we are not aware of a similar kind of sequence like this that has ever really occurred in the Brooks Range or in Western Alaska.”

West says the Earthquake Center does not know what is causing the swarm. But it does know the quakes all ruptured from the same type of fault and are all moving in the same direction.

“All of these are the same type of motion. And that certainly tells us that there is a weak zone. There is clearly a fault system that we have previously not been very aware of in this area,” West said.

Last month, technicians installed temporary seismic stations in Noatak and Kotzebue after the second major quake hit the area. West says the data will allow seismologists to “see inside the fault,” and the stations are recording hundreds of aftershocks, helping seismologists better understand what is happening beneath the Brooks Range.

No injuries or damage has been reported.

Categories: Alaska News

Critics Question Sealaska Ballot

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-06-09 10:06

Four Sealaska board of directors candidates say the regional Native corporation’s balloting process violates a recent court ruling.

Sealaska says it’s not a problem.

Sealaska Plaza, the corporation’s headquarters.

The Alaska Supreme Court decision came in a case involving CIRI, the regional Native corporation for the Cook Inlet area.

The group 4 Shareholders for Sealaska says Native corporations must now disclose how discretionary votes will be counted in board elections.

Discretionary votes are turned over to the board, which casts them for its slate. Shareholders authorize such voting by checking a box on their ballots, also called proxies.

Randy Wanamaker is spokesman for the 4 Shareholders group.

“Sealaska’s proxy does not contain that language. They have some language in their proxy booklet, but not on the proxy itself. And the state Supreme Court said you must put it on the proxy,” Wanamaker says.

Sealaska officials say election attorneys have reviewed the issue.

Corporate Secretary Nicole Hallingstad says the ballots are legal, as-is.

“The outside group misinterprets the CIRI case and is designed to confuse shareholders. Sealaska’s proxy statement, proxy card and bylaws all state clearly that discretionary votes will be allocated to elect the board slate candidates,” Hallingstad says.

Thirteen people are seeking four seats on the regional Native corporation’s board. There are three incumbents, the four-shareholders slate and six independents.

This year’s proxy also includes a resolution to limit discretionary voting.

Balloting is underway and winners will be announced at the June 28th annual meeting near Seattle.

Sealaska is the regional Native corporation for Tlingits, Haidas and Tsimshians with roots in Southeast Alaska. More than half its almost 22,000 shareholders live outside the region.

The 4 Shareholders candidates are Karen Taug, Ross Soboleff, Carlton Smith and Margaret Nelson.

The independent candidates are Myrna Gardner, Mick Beasley, Michelle McConkey, Will Micklin, Edward Sarabia Jr. and Ralph Wolfe.

The board incumbents are Sidney Edenshaw, Ed Thomas and Rosita Worl. Incumbent Bryon Mallott is not seeking re-election so he can focus on running for governor.

Sealaska4′s press release:Based on a recent Alaska Supreme Court decision, the four independent candidates for the Sealaska board – Karen Taug, Ross Soboleff, Carlton Smith, and Margaret Nelson — are questioning the rules governing Sealaska’s annual meeting voting process.

“It appears Sealaska failed to make changes to this year’s corporate ballot as required by a recent Alaska Supreme Court decision,” said the group’s spokesman, Randy Wanamaker. “On the advice of counsel, the Sealaska4 sent letters on May 22 to Sealaska’s corporate secretary and the independent inspector of elections. The correspondence pointed out Sealaska’s failure to properly disclose how discretionary votes will be distributed.”

Two weeks later, the Sealaska4 candidates have not received a response nor has Sealaska issued a corrected ballot. With only three weeks to go before the regional corporation’s annual meeting on June 28, the Sealaska4 candidates are pressing Sealaska for a response.

The Alaska Supreme Court’s decision in Rude v. CIRI now requires Alaska Native corporations to disclose on proxy ballots how discretionary votes will be allocated. Wanamaker says that Sealaska’s proxy ballot does not include the necessary explanation.

“It appears that Sealaska’s ballot advisors failed to adequately consider the new voting rules,” said Wanamaker. “The result may be that Sealaska will have to assign discretionary votes equally to its board slate candidates.”

According to Wanamaker, discretionary voting is a controversial practice long used by Sealaska to distribute votes in unequal amounts to elect as many of the board slate candidates as possible. “This practice often results in the election of incumbent directors who may have weak shareholder support,”
Wanamaker said.

A shareholder petition forced the question of discretionary voting practice onto the 2014 Sealaska ballot. If shareholders support the initiative, discretionary voting will not be allowed in subsequent elections. Wanamaker said that considering the new court decision, and Sealaska’s apparent failure to incorporate and disclose the required discretionary voting instructions on the ballot, the corporate bylaws are open for challenge.

Sealaska’s press release:

“The press release by the outside group misinterprets the CIRI case and is designed to confuse shareholders. Sealaska’s proxy statement, proxy card, and bylaws all state clearly that discretionary votes will be allocated to elect the board slate candidates. It is the duty of the Independent Inspectors of Election and Voting to determine the effect of each proxy. The Inspectors of Election has independent legal counsel, and verbally advised Sealaska that the proxies are valid as written. We expect written confirmation of this conclusion. Any Sealaska shareholder voting on Sealaska’s blue proxy can be assured their votes will be counted.

The press release issued by the outside group further confuses shareholders by wrongly representing the shareholder resolution. It is a resolution to reduce the use of discretionary voting on the Sealaska proxy unless an independent slate is present and also using discretionary voting. To claim that support of the initiative would disallow discretionary voting in all subsequent elections is simply not true.”

Categories: Alaska News

Coast Guard Sector Juneau Gets New Leadership

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-06-09 10:05

U.S. Coast Guard Sector Juneau has a new commanding officer.

Capt. Shannan Greene took over for Capt. Scott Bornemann in a ceremony Friday at Centennial Hall.

Rear Admiral Thomas Ostebo (right), commander of the U.S. Coast Guard’s 17th District recognizes outgoing Sector Juneau commander Capt. Scott Bornemann at a change of command ceremony on Friday. (Photo by Casey Kelly/KTOO)

Bornemann led Sector Juneau for the past three years. He said the men and women under his command during that time are the best the Coast Guard has to offer.

“I’d match them with any crew in the country,” he said, before listing some of their accomplishments.

“You sank a derelict Japanese fishing vessel,” Bornemann said, referring to the Ryou-Un Maru, which sailed across the Pacific Ocean without a crew following the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami.

“You planned and conducted multiple unified command-based exercises that broadened stakeholder and tribal engagement and group participation with key agencies in search and rescue, security and natural disaster scenarios,” he said. “You also ensured the safety of the pristine marine environment in Southeast Alaska.”

Bornemann is staying in Juneau as Chief of Prevention for the Coast Guard’s 17th District. He’ll oversee maritime safety, maritime security and environmental stewardship for the entire state.

Greene most recently served as Deputy Chief of Incident Management for the Coast Guard’s 1st District in Boston, where she supervised hazard response and search missions for eight Northeast states. According to a Coast Guard biography, highlights of her tour there include coordinating responses to Hurricane Sandy and the Boston Marathon bombing.

Greene said she was impressed by all aspects of Sector Juneau during her transition week working with Bornemann.

“To our many partners throughout Southeast Alaska, we could not be successful without your expertise and involvement,” she said. “I look forward to continuing the robust relationship that already exists today.”

Greene’s husband is a Coast Guard commander. They have three young sons.

Coast Guard Sector Juneau has about 250 active duty, reserve and civilian employees.

District 17 Commanding Officer Rear Adm. Thomas Ostebo presented Bornemann with a citation for meritorious service to Sector Juneau. Ostebo has been promoted to a position in Washington, D.C. His change of command ceremony is June 12.

Categories: Alaska News

Local Researchers Find New Home As Japanese Agencies Leave

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-06-09 10:02

The University of Alaska Board of Regents gave their formal approval for a $4.4 million project to re-purpose the Syun-Ichi Akasofu Building on the campus of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks during a regular meeting last week.

The project comes after two Japanese agencies vacated the buildings. Their absence means a loss of funding that would otherwise pay to maintain the building.

(Credit International Arctic Research Center)

How the university will make up the deficit remains a mystery as the UA system continues to struggle with an anticipated $12 to $14 million budget shortfall in the coming year.

The Akasofu building, home of the International Arctic Research Center (IARC) was constructed in 1999 as a joint venture between UAF, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology. But after 15 years, the Japanese have decided to refocus their polar research efforts and vacate the building.

“We’ve had an incredibly strong partnership with the Japanese and they’ve been giving us between $3 and 5 million a year in research support,” Larry Hinzman, IARC’s Director, said. “And they’ve been paying for half of the lease on the building, so it’s been a tremendous boon for the university and we’ve had some huge research accomplishments through our partnerships with them.”

With the Japanese agencies gone, Hinzman says other research units directly associated with the University will move in. One of those organizations is the Scenarios Network for Alaska and Arctic Planning (SNAP).  For the last five years, SNAP has been paying more than $180,000 to lease offices off campus. Director Scott Rupp says moving into the Akasofu building means more than financial savings.

“SNAP was set up by the university as sort of a bridging entity to take a lot of our high latitude research, get it more applied and to cultivate collaboration across the institutes and schools,” Rupp said. “So we’ve been doing a lot of that already, but the really big boon is just going to be the ability to walk next door to researchers and not have to get in a car or walk.”

But savings on SNAP’s lease won’t make up for a revenue loss.  The Japanese paid for a lease that covered 60 percent of the annual upkeep costs for the Akasofu Building. In fact, they paid extra over the last decade and a half.  The unspent money was held in a reserve account that now totals more than $5 million. More than half of that will pay to renovate offices for SNAP personnel. The rest will be reimbursed.

Hinzman says IARC will have to find other ways to cover maintenance in the future.

“Our researchers have been focusing on getting other external research funds, so we’ve been doing a lot more proposals to NSF, a lot more proposals to the department of energy, and NASA and the USGS, and so we are seeking other ancillary funds through external funding agencies,” he said. “So yeah we are making it up. And it is going to hurt us, we’re losing, just this year we’re going to lose $3.5 million from the Japanese support for research. And so that’s hard to absorb. It’s going to hurt us but it’s not going to kill us.”

The renovation is scheduled to start in September, with completion slated for early 2015. Once moved, SNAP will join three other research organizations that focus on climate assessment, policy and fire science in the Akasofu building.

Categories: Alaska News

Federal Fisheries Money Heads to Senate

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

The U.S. Senate is poised to pass a spending bill that includes more than $150 million for federal programs important to Alaska’s fishing industry and marine navigation.

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It includes $4 million for electronic monitors for the fishing fleet. Alaska fishermen on small boats have asked for cameras as a substitute for some of the human observers that record catch data. Sen. Lisa Murkowski told her colleagues electronic monitors will allow the mission to continue while “recognizing that our small fishermen just simply cannot put another body on their boat as they’re out working.”

The bill also includes $25 million for sonar mapping of coastlines, with an emphasis on the need for more data on the Bering Straits and the Arctic. It has $6 million for removing marine debris, especially debris from Japan’s 2011 tsunami that washed up on federal land.

The bill funding commerce, justice and science programs passed the Senate Appropriations Committee this week. Both Alaska senators sit on that committee, and Murkowski sits on the subcommittee that drafted the bill.

Categories: Alaska News

Kerttula Takes Ocean Policy Job In Obama Administration

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-06-06 16:04

Former Juneau Rep. Beth Kerttula has joined the Obama Administration as Director of the National Ocean Council Office.

Since January, Kerttula has been a visiting fellow at Stanford University’s Center for Ocean Solutions. She was appointed to the federal job on Wednesday and is already at work in Washington, D.C.

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Photo by Skip Gray – Gavel to Gavel.

The job was announced in an email to her Stanford colleagues, where Kerttula has been working on ocean issues. She has described her role there as a conduit between state legislatures and science policy makers, bringing them together to discuss ocean policies. In that job, she had worked with the National Ocean Council.

President Obama established the council by executive order in 2010. Kerttula will lead the office that supports it.

Former Alaska Attorney General Bruce Botelho says it’s a perfect fit for Kerttula, who was a coastal zone management lawyer in the law department when Botelho was AG.

“Given her background as a lawyer for the state, her years of involvement with coastal zone management in representing statewide council, but also being intimately involved in developing the regulatory and statutory scheme, she has the clear legal expertise in the area,” he says.

Botelho says her political experience also gives her a unique perspective for the federal job.

Kerttula represented Juneau in the state legislature for 15 years. She authored the first cruise ship pollution legislation in Alaska. In her last term, the district grew to include Petersburg, Gustavus and Skagway. During her tenure she served on several national boards dealing with environmental and coastal policy, including the Alaska Arctic Policy Commission.

Kerttula will be in the National Ocean Policy job for a year, with the option of continuing through the end of Obama’s term. Botelho says it can only benefit Alaska.

“I expect that Beth, not only having the responsibility of translating national policy around the country including to Alaska, will be serving as someone who can convey the issues that are directly impacting Alaska and what that means for the country as a whole,” he says.

Alaska boasts the largest coastal area in the U.S., but is currently the only state that does not have a coastal management program. In 2012, Kerttula worked on the failed citizens’ initiative to restore the Alaska Coastal Management Program. The Alaska Legislature in 2011 did not re-authorize the program.

Categories: Alaska News

AEA Holds Public Meetings In Upper Valley, Anchorage

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-06-06 16:03

This week, the Alaska Energy Authority held public meetings in the Upper Valley and Anchorage to discuss the plans for the proposed Susitna-Watana Hydroelectric Project.  In addition to AEA’s updates on the progress and plans for the megaproject, opponents to the dam expressed continuing concerns.

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Both the Talkeetna and Anchorage meetings began with a presentation by Wayne Dyok, Project Manager for Susitna-Watana.  He says that the Susitna Dam remains a key part of the state’s goal for fifty percent of Alaska’s energy to come from renewable sources by 2025.  Wayne Dyok says that, while AEA is interested in wind and other alternative energy projects, that the large dam would provide stability to the overall grid.

“Without having some kind of resource, like a hydro, it’s difficult to put that into the system and still have a stable electric system.  We also want reliable energy, and sustainable energy, and energy that’s clean.”

Wayne Dyok says that the Susitna-Watana Project would also have a significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions.

“Susitna-Watana would displace about 1.3 million tons of CO2, annually.  That’s actually a pretty significant number.  That’s equal to the emissions of about half the cars that are registered in the State of Alaska.”

AEA refers to Susitna-Watana as, “Clean, reliable energy for the next 100 years,” on nearly all of its distributed materials.  It also claims that the long-term price of energy would stabilize, then drop with Susitna-Watana.  AEA’s estimates show the cost of natural gas generation catching up to the price of power from the dam about twelve years after completion, in 2036. It says the price of power from Susitna would then drop sharply in 2052, after the project would ostensibly be paid off.

Those cost estimates have met with some challenge, however.  In 2012, Dr. Steve Colt, of the Institute of Economic Research at the University of Alaska in Anchorage said that the initial cost of power when the dam comes online will be significantly higher than what AEA estimates.  That study was brought up at the Talkeetna meeting.  Wayne Dyok says that the different results are a product of different assumptions regarding the financing of the project.

“We looked at his study, and we looked at some of the assumptions that he did.  We gave him our information, so he actually has what we put–and the model should give you the same thing.  If you put the same inputs, the model should be the same.”

Many of the comments from the crowd of eighty-plus in the Upper Susitna Valley centered around environmental concerns.  Fish habitat, seismic activity,caribou migration, and other topics that have consistently been brought up as concerns were reiterated by residents of the communities that would be downstream from the project if it is built.  Many of those questions were answered by the members of the project team that were also in attendance.

A few members of the audience also challenged the reliability of the material that AEA is sending to the general public.  One those is Molly Wood, a member of the Chase Community Council.  She specifically referenced a graphic that shows fish passage up to and beyond the proposed dam site.  She says the way the information is presented is incomplete and misleading.

“That really makes it looks like there aren’t any fish in this river, and you know–you’ve had much feedback, already.  That continues to show up at all of these meetings, and it’s being sent out in pamphlet form all over Alaska.  It misrepresents the results of your studies, number one, and you’re drawing very premature conclusions about potential impact.”

Other members of the audience, such as Ellen Wolff, challenged the fact that they see AEA as promoting the dam’s environmental impact and utility as a foregone conclusion as opposed to coming to a decision after all of the studies have been completed.  Her view is that advertisements and other materials are more sales pitch than science.

“[You] put it in all the newspapers, and it must have been very expensive.  They made the public think like this was a done deal.  It’s very promotional.  That was not waiting for the data.  You have fancy little water bottles that say “SuWa.”  You’re doing these meetings that, to me, seem promotional.”

Wayne Dyok says that AEA is using those tools primarily as a means to convey information to the public, and that all of the current study data is available in the Initial Study Report released this Tuesday.  That report includes over 8,600 pages of information from the fifty-eight studies required by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

At a similar meeting on Wednesday in Anchorage, AEA faced many of the same environmental questions as in Talkeetna from an audience of about fifty.  Nobody in the audience rose to speak in favor of the megaproject at either meeting.

AEA plans to conduct studies this summer, despite budget cuts, and field work is scheduled to continue through 2015. If all goes to plan, construction would begin on the project in 2019.  That is all contingent on receiving the $90 million in funds that AEA says are necessary to complete the pre-licensing process.  With legislative attention shifting to a gas pipeline, and with the project receiving less than half of the total funds requested by Governor Sean Parnell this year, however, that is far from a certainty.

Categories: Alaska News

Indignant JDHS Alum Rallies Stanford Campus Around Rape Case

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-06-06 16:02

Sarai Gould and Chelsea Green at a rally on the Stanford University campus raising awareness about sexual assault and supporting Leah Francis. Thursday, June 5, 2014. (Photo courtesy Sarai Gould.)

Until this week, Leah Francis was probably best known as an Alaska distance running champ from her days at Juneau-Douglas High School.

That all changed after she went public saying she was forcibly raped by a fellow Stanford University undergraduate while in Juneau.

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Leah Francis came out as a rape survivor, and as an activist indignant over Stanford University’s in-house adjudication process.

“No one wants to do the Alternate Review Process, it’s super-traumatizing. I mean, it, it, it drags out, it’s mishandled.”

The university panel formally concluded the male student did sexually assault Francis. The decision was based on a university investigation and statements from both sides, according touniversity documents via The Stanford Daily.

The university has kept the male student’s name confidential, and Francis declined to name him; she wants to keep the focus on the bigger issues.

Like the university’s consequence for rape. The panel recommended 40 hours of community service, a sexual assault awareness education class and a five quarter suspension. That suspension wouldn’t take effect until the summer, which Francis says, is after her assailant graduates.

It’s a slap on the wrist, she says, that “invites my rapist back to campus” for grad school.

“In the end, you have a sense of futility. Like, you’ve, you’ve spent, you know, months of your life, reliving one of the worst nights of your life and you don’t get anything out of it.”

She emailed out her story on Tuesday, and has been riding the wave of support since. Thursday night, she said, “I haven’t eaten today, and haven’t slept in 48 hours.”

Earlier, Francis had led hundreds of students in a campus rally and protest to raise awareness about sexual assault and to demand reforms. They want mandatory expulsion for sexual assault, as well as better resources for victims.

Students yelled in unison for administrators to “Stand with Leah.” They plastered campus surfaces with posters and signs incorporating the #StandWithLeah hashtag, and blew it up on Twitter.

“This was awesome, I mean, today was more healing for me than anything that’s happened since I was raped.”

And, she’s gotten a lot of media attention.

“So I communicated with BuzzFeed, with Huffington Post, with the New York Times … I just can’t even keep track of them all. … L.A. Times, Palo Alto WeeklyStanford Daily.”

Francis says a criminal case is also open with the Juneau Police Department; the incident happened in Juneau early on New Year’s Day. She says she was in no condition to consent when it began — drunk and unconscious. Police could not be reached for comment by deadline.

Categories: Alaska News

Volunteers Still Searching For Missing Juneau Hiker

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-06-06 16:01

The volunteer search table is located behind the Mt. Roberts Tramway building. Volunteers are needed. The team will meet up Friday, Saturday and Sunday morning at 9 a.m. Volunteers can also contact Luke Holton on Facebook. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KT

Luke Holton doesn’t know 48-year-old Sharon Buis, but he’s helping to organize the volunteer search effort that started Wednesday, less than one week after Alaska State Troopers called off the official search.

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“I’m an outdoorsman myself and I understand if I was out here in the cold, I wouldn’t want anyone to give up on me,” he says.

Holton and other volunteers have set up a search table at the bottom of the Mt. Roberts Tramway and meet there each morning.

On Wednesday, three teams of three searched Granite Creek Basin and Perseverance Trail, getting off the trail as much as possible when safe to do so.

Thursday afternoon, Holton was on top of Mt. Roberts, along with six other volunteers. They hiked to Icy Gulch and are sending skiers there by helicopter Friday.

These areas were covered extensively during the five-day search led by the Alaska State Troopers. But Holton says there’s no reason to give up hope of finding some sort of clue.

“It’s unlikely that we’ll find anything too positive at this point, but for the family’s sake, we want to keep looking no matter what we find,” Holton says.

Holton met with Buis’s brother and sister-in-law who came to Juneau from Ontario, Canada. He says they left Thursday but asked to be kept updated on the search.

One of Buis’s hiking friends said Buis owned a yellow backpack. It’s an unofficial lead, Holton says, but it’s something to look for. He hopes the volunteers can find anything that will restart the official search.

“The best option we would have is to find some of her personal property up here or anything else,” Holton says. “The further we go in, the less tracks you’re going to find in the snow, so once we get past Icy Gulch and you find tracks on the gulch or tracks on the peak of Gastineau, that could potentially also be enough evidence.”

Trooper spokeswoman Megan Peters says a decision to start searching again will be based on what’s found.

“It’s going to be evaluated based on what is located and if we can confirm it belonged to Ms. Buis or not. Certainly if they find something and it is identified as one of her possessions, it gives us a new place to look,” Peters says.

Buis is in the Alaska State Troopers Missing Persons Clearinghouse, a database for law enforcement only. Peters says any missing person in Alaska is entered into the database and stays there until they are found dead or alive.

She says a volunteer search group could help close a missing persons case.

“Troopers can’t always be everywhere. There are a lot of things that we have to go and put our attention to and our resources towards. Certainly with search and rescue cases, we want them to have a positive resolution. And finding somebody even if they’re deceased at that point, at least we can provide some type of closure. We can return them to their families,” Peters says.

When Troopers called off the search and rescue effort May 29, Juneau Police Department took over the case. Spokeswoman Erann Kalwara says detectives started working on it this week.

“The detective has started reaching out to the missing person’s friends and her family, just discussing things that had been going on in her life, talking about where they think she might be, if they have any ideas of any lead that he could investigate, just trying to ensure that if she was hiking and she went missing, that that’s truly what happened,” Kalwara says.

She says they have no reason to believe anything suspicious occurred although they haven’t ruled anything out.

Juneau police are in the process of collecting Buis’s dental and medical information to enter into a database of the National Crime Information Center.

Kalwara also says there’s no information to connect Buis’s case with Sandra Gelber, the 61-year-old woman who died May 4 after being found in the water off Salmon Creek Trail. Both women were physical therapists and both cases are linked to hiking trails.

Buis has been missing since May 24. When she didn’t show up for a planned group hike with the Juneau Alpine Club that morning, a friend reported her missing. Buis was last seen May 23.

The volunteer search effort for Buis continues this weekend. Community members interested in helping should meet at the bottom of Mt. Roberts Tramway at 9 a.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. And look for Luke Holton’s messages on the Facebook group Juneau Buy ~ Sell ~ Trade.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: June 6, 2014

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-06-06 16:00

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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Federal Fisheries Money Heads to Senate

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington DC

The U.S. Senate is poised to pass a spending bill that includes more than $150 million for federal programs important to Alaska’s fishing industry and marine navigation. It includes $4 million for electronic monitors for the fishing fleet. Alaska fishermen on small boats have asked for cameras as a substitute for some of the human observers that record catch data.

Kerttula Takes Ocean Policy Job In Obama Administration

Rosemarie Alexander, KTOO – Juneau

Former Juneau Representative Beth Kerttula has joined the Obama Administration as Director of the National Ocean Council Office.

AEA Holds Public Meetings In Upper Valley, Anchorage

Phillip Manning, KTNA – Talkeetna

The Alaska Energy Authority held public meetings in the Upper Valley and Anchorage this week to discuss the plans for the proposed Susitna-Watana Hydroelectric Project.  In addition to AEA’s updates on the progress and plans for the megaproject, opponents to the dam expressed concerns.

Indignant JDHS Alum Rallies Stanford Campus Around Rape Case

Jeremy Hsieh, KTOO – Juneau

Until this week, Leah Francis was probably best known as an Alaska distance running champ from her days at Juneau-Douglas High School.

That all changed after she went public saying she was forcibly raped by a fellow Stanford University undergraduate.

Volunteers Still Searching For Missing Juneau Hiker

Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau

It’s been just over a week since Alaska State Troopers called off the search for missing Juneau hiker Sharon Buis. But a group of volunteers have taken on the effort and are still looking.

Chitina Dip Net Salmon Fishery Opens At Midnight

Tony Gorman, KCHU – Valdez

The Chitina Subdistrict Dip Net Salmon Fishery opens at midnight.  Dip netters can expect to see plenty of fish during the first opening.

Video Collars Provide Polar Bears’ Point Of View

Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage

Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey are using new video collars to get a glimpse into the daily life of polar bears.

AK: Police Dogs

Joaqlin Estus, KNBA – Anchorage

Dog owners know the challenges of dog training… the difficulties in getting their pet to stop jumping up on people, or barking. Police dogs have to excel at those basic tasks and then go beyond to meet a remarkable level of obedience.

300 Villages: Togiak

This week, we’re heading to Togiak, on Bristol Bay. Daryl Thompson is city administrator for the city of Togiak.

Categories: Alaska News

Chitina Dip Net Salmon Fishery Opens At Midnight

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-06-06 16:00

The Chitina Subdistrict Dip Net Salmon Fishery opens at midnight. Dip netters can expect to see plenty of fish during the first opening.

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Categories: Alaska News

Video Collars Provide Polar Bears’ Point Of View

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-06-06 15:59

Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey are using new video collars to get a glimpse into the daily life of polar bears.

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Researchers have been using radio and GPS collars since the 1980s to track polar bears’ movements along the Arctic sea ice. But, that data lacks a lot of contextual and observational information that allows for a better understanding of the bears.

Anthony Pagano, a research biologist with USGS, says these new collars were deployed in April on four female bears along the sea ice north of Prudhoe Bay.

“We can start to get a much more in-depth understanding of how bears are using these different habitats,” he said. “Potentially how often they’re eating, and get an understanding of how much time they spend walking, how much time they spend swimming, how much time they spend resting – which is information we really don’t have that much knowledge about now.”

Pagano hopes the new information will allow researchers to gain a better understanding of how polar bear behaviors might change with different sea ice conditions and other environmental patterns.

The cameras were on the bears for a little over a week and gathered between 30 and 40 hours of footage each, which scientists are still sorting through.

Clips released by the USGS show bears swimming under the sea ice, eating a seal, and interacting with potential mates.

Categories: Alaska News

AK: Police Dogs

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-06-06 15:58

Dog owners know the challenges of dog training – first to get them housebroken, then to stop jumping on people or perhaps to pull on their harness on command. But police dogs have to meet a remarkable level of obedience. KNBA’s Joaqlin Estus recently met up with Aerie, a police dog with the Anchorage Police Department, and his handler in an Anchorage parking lot, and has this story.

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Aerie’s sitting on the asphalt, alert and focused on his handler and the thick rubber stick Anchorage Police Officer Lonnie Brown is holding in both hands.

(Photo by the Anchorage Police Department)

“So I’ll give the command to… see he’s looking at the toy right now,” Officer Brown said. “And I’ll give him the command that he can have it, which is the free command. Free! So he’s biting the toy right now.”

Aerie tries to try to rip it from his grasp.

Brown tosses the toy a couple dozen feet away, and frees Aerie to go after it. Then he gives the “Stop!” command. Aerie stops in his tracks. Then, on command, Aerie walks backwards away from the toy.

Brown has been a handler in the Anchorage Police Department’s K-9 unit for almost 15 years. His 2-and-a-half-year-old K-9 partner Aerie is black and brown. You can see a few of Aerie’s ribs, which Brown says is a sign Aerie’s at just the right weight for a Belgian Malinois.

“Belgian Malinois’s are considered… they kind of look like a shepherd but they’re real skinny,” Brown said. “But they have the play drive and the activity drive of a Dalmation. So they’re really an active dog.”

Along with that high drive, Brown says, police dogs have to have the right personality or character – a strong hunting and chasing instinct, and loyalty. They need to be obedient to a fault, but also independent enough to work alone and to make certain decisions.

“If you became aggressive and you shoved me right now, he’d automatically bite you,” Brown said. “Because that’s a trained behavior, because you became aggressive toward the handler, or aggressive toward another police officer.”

Brown says Aerie’s trained to track people through scents on the ground. Aerie has tracked down several suspects – his latest, for example, was finding a burglar who had fled and hidden behind a wooden box – and apprehended two in his year and a half in service, including a man who took a shot at a police officer. Brown says Aerie is trained to take a flying leap to get the suspect on the ground.

“If a dog apprehends somebody when they’re running away, and hits them high center of mass, between the shoulder blades, it will force the suspect to the ground,” Brown said. “Because you know you have a 70-pound dog, going certain miles per hour, launching through air, it will topple somebody over.”

Brown says once the dog launches, it’s trained to bite the suspect. It sometimes gets an arm or leg, but it’s trained to bite in the upper back, between the shoulder blades.

“Because there’s not a big muscle group there,” he said. “Not a lot of injury is inflicted by that. They can’t really get hold of any bones and break them.”

But if the suspect stands still, or is passive, Brown says Aerie is trained to hold them in place and bark. He’s also trained to bark when he finds a suspect, and to not bark on command.

“So say you have him barking at a door, and you gave commands for the guy to give up,” he said. “And you want to see if the guy’s going to answer you back, you don’t want this dog to bark. So you give the command down and quiet.”

“So I’ll give him the command to bark, and to be quiet, which is the command ‘still.’ Give it up!”

Aerie pulls the wind sock off my microphone! He thinks it’s a toy. Brown gives the rubber stick to him, who looks pretty pleased as he chews on it. Judging by its tattered look, he’s made some progress in tearing the tough toy to pieces, which is not surprising since the Belgian Malinois can exert hundreds of pounds of force through its jaws, another characteristic of the breed that makes it a favorite for police work.

Categories: Alaska News

300 Villages: Togiak

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-06-06 15:57

This week, we’re heading to Togiak, on Bristol Bay. Daryl Thompson is city administrator for the city of Togiak.

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Categories: Alaska News

Proposition 1

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

Alaska’s budget is based on oil taxes, and the Legislature changed the oil tax structure last year to allow the industry more income when prices are high. In August Alaska’s voters are being asked whether they want to repeal that change.

HOST: Steve HeimelAlaska Public Radio Network


  • Senator Bert Stedman, Republican from Sitka
  • Former Governor Tony Knowles
  • 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, June 10, 2014 at 10:00 a.m. on APRN stations statewide.

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Categories: Alaska News

Court Says Alaska Must Translate Election Materials Into Alaska Native Languages

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-06-05 17:23

A federal judge says the constitutional right to vote requires the state of Alaska to translate all election materials into Native languages for voters lacking English proficiency.

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The Anchorage Daily News says U.S. District Judge Sharon Gleason plans to conduct a 10-day trial this month in a voting rights lawsuit brought by several Native villages and elders with limited English skills.

Gleason denied requests for summary judgment yesterday (Wednesday). She also laid out her standard for the trial, saying that the state is obligated to match all English materials including pamphlets, instructions and ballots with Yup’ik, Cup’ik and Gwich’in translations.

Assistant Attorney General Libby Bakalar is representing the state in the case, and she says the state will have to prove that its translation efforts measure up to those terms.

“That is the statutory rubric that Judge Gleason has laid out for the parties at trial,” Bakalar said. “She hasn’t made any findings at all about what our program is or does.”

The lawsuit alleges the state is violating language provisions of the federal Voting Rights Act by not providing election materials in their Native languages.

The state defends its Native languages program as robust.

APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez contributed to this story.

Categories: Alaska News

What Do The EPA’s New Carbon Rules Mean For Alaska?

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-06-05 17:22

Alaska utilities and policymakers are puzzling over President Obama’s proposal to cut carbon pollution from power plants and what the rules would mean for Alaska. Around the country, the proposal is viewed as a push to get states to clean up their coal plants, but that may not be the easiest way for Alaska to meet its target.

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Look around the state for big carbon dioxide emitters and it’s easy to point the finger at Fairbanks. Southeast Alaska is largely dependent on hydropower and Southcentral has natural gas. But in Fairbanks and other parts of the Interior, about a third of the electricity comes from coal. Cory Borgeson, CEO of Golden Valley Electric Association told KUAC this week its rate-payers should expect higher bills if it has to install new emission controls.

“You go in and put in additional controls to take out CO2, or limit those emissions, and – it’s just hard to speculate on the cost,” Borgeson said. “But, ultimately, it’s a big cost.”

If the rules go into effect, Alaska would have to cut carbon emissions from power production 26 percent by 2030. But Fairbanks isn’t in this alone. The state would have to develop a plan to meet its carbon target, and Chris Rose, executive director of Renewable Energy Alaska Project, says clamping down on smokestacks is just one option.

“There are tremendous opportunities both on the efficiency and the generation sector for electricity that would be applicable to a state implementation plan,” Rose said.

The EPA target is a reduction in carbon intensity, the rate of carbon production per megawatt of power, not the amount of emissions. Without touching Fairbanks’s coal plants, Alaska, Rose says, could lower its carbon intensity by adding more hydro or wind power, or maybe with geothermal and tidal generation. The regulations also give credit for cutting demand. Rose
says the state’s ongoing initiative to make buildings more energy efficient will help.

“The public buildings the state owns, over 5,000 buildings, currently have a mandate to be retrofitted … by 2020,” Rose said.

Alaska Energy Authority Deputy Director Gene Therriault says his organization is still studying the proposed regulations, but he says the pressure to cut carbon would clearly fall on the Railbelt.
The diesel-fired generators in the Bush are too small to be included in the carbon regulations. He wonders whether the federal government would accept an Alaska plan that doesn’t reduce coal plant emissions.

“We’re not sure yet exactly how the EPA is going to apply these rules, if it is just a blended, emissions per mega-watt generated,” Therriault said.

One thing on Therriault’s to-do list is to calculate how far Alaska has already come in meeting the target, with wind generation and improved efficiency. Therriault says the Susitna-Watana dam, still in the application phase, would also move the state toward the target. Alaska’s energy policy, signed by Gov. Parnell, calls for producing 50 percent of the state’s electricity from renewables by 2025. Therriault says if that comes to pass, Alaska would likely meet its EPA carbon goal, five years ahead of schedule.

“Yeah I think if we did meet that goal by and large that would put us into compliance,” Therriault said.

He says upgrading the Railbelt’s transmission lines would also help. With expanded capacity, Therriault says the utilities could move electricity around more efficiently, add wind generation and accept power from independent producers, although it would cost some $900 million.

“Very positive cost-benefit analysis, even if Susitna does not get built, but that more robust transmission system would mean that more energy could be sourced from cleaner, lower-cost sources in the Railbelt,” Therriault said.

You can expect to hear a lot more about the carbon rules as Election Day nears.

“Yesterday, President Obama announced new costly environmental regulations. It’s all part of his radical energy plan.”

In Washington, Republican groups immediately saw carbon as the new healthcare, a controversial Obama policy to hang on the necks of Democratic senators they hope to oust in November. This is a robocall the National Republican Senatorial Committee is running against Sen. Mark Begich in Alaska and against Democrats in three other states.

“It’s not surprising Mark Begich stands by Barack Obama’s costly regulation…”

Begich says he wants to make sure the state has the flexibility the EPA is promising, but he’s not condemning the proposed carbon rules.

“At least at this point it seems to us, it does not affect rural Alaska in anyway, and second as you know the goal of the state is to get 50 percent renewable energies by 2025, so it’s very possible we’re already on the way,” Begich said.

Alaska’s Republican delegates to Congress, Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Congressman Don Young, both say the regulations are likely to hurt the economy.

Categories: Alaska News

Company Operating Red Dog Mine May have to pay Fine Over Wastewater Pipeline

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-06-05 17:21

The Canadian company that operates the Red Dog Mine in northwest Alaska says it won’t build a pipeline to carry wastewater away from the mine site to the Chukchi Sea—now a court will decide if the company must pay a fine laid out in a 2008 lawsuit settlement.

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Categories: Alaska News

NPFMC Meets in Nome; Bering Sea Pollock Remains Flat, Chinook Bycatch Is Up

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-06-05 17:20

After days of scientific subcommittees, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council had its first round of meetings Wednesday in Nome. The Council heard reports from fisheries across the North Pacific.

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When it comes to Bering Sea pollock, catches remain flat. Glenn Merrill, an Assistant Regional Administrator for the Council, said this year’s catch is “almost identical to what it was last year at this time.”

But the Chinook bycatch within the pollock fishery is higher than last year’s rates—a major issue as subsistence fishermen along the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers face unprecedented restrictions in anticipation of one of the worst king salmon runs on record.

Merrill reported, “The total Chinook salmon bycatch last year at this time last year was 8,237 fish. And the current Chinook salmon bycatch is 11,536. The rates are slightly higher this year for that same metric tonnage.”

Merrill also said, halibut bycatch is also higher—by about 12-percent—this year.

On the Russian side of the Strait, pollock fisheries are in full swing as well. Coast Guard Capt. Phillip Thorne said the Russian pollock fishery opened on May 15 of this year. Seven vessels are operating within 20 nautical miles of the maritime boundary line. Thorne said the Coast Guard patrolled the line May 29 through 31 and is continuing to send out patrol ships and aircraft as the season progresses.

As for other species in the Bering Sea, snow crab were slightly down. Karla Bush with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said the season ended about two weeks earlier than it had in the past.

When the floor opened for public comment, representatives from At-Sea Processors Association, United States Seafood, and Glacier Fish Company asked the Council to reapportion 100 metric tons of halibut bycatch for this year. The representatives said the measure would help “maximize” catches of yellowfin sole and cod. The representatives said fisheries could enter a voluntary agreement to capture 60-percent of the reapportion and leave 40-percent in the water for future savings. The Council said it will examine this request on Saturday at 1:00 pm.

The Council continues its meetings in Nome today at the Mini Convention Center. Today’s two topics are the Observer Program for Tendering and Electronic Monitoring.

Categories: Alaska News

NPFMC Looking to Reduce Salmon Bycatch

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-06-05 17:19

This morning an advisory panel of the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council heard public testimony on proposed policy changes to salmon bycatch. The panel makes recommendations to the governing board of the council, which is meeting this week in Nome.

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Chinook runs are down. The pollack fishery bycatches tens of thousands of these salmon every year. And the North Pacific Fishery Marine Management Council is seeking ways to reduce those numbers.

The Council is meeting in Nome this week, and Tuesday the Scientific and Statistical Committee, which advises the Council, heard a presentation on salmon bycatch management.

Three years ago, the Council implemented a Chinook bycatch program. Diana Stram is a Fishery Analysis for the Council and said since 2011 the Council has been “struggling to either fold their Chum bycatch management…into the existing program” or to create a new program for Chum.

Explaining the issue Stram said, “We found that any measure that we layered on top of the same fishery for Chum tended to make the Chinook bycatch worse. And since the purpose was never to exacerbate a problem in an existing program by layering another measure, the Council took a step back and decided to consider them together.”

Stram said the Council is considering “whether to move forward with an analysis that would change how Chum salmon bycatch is managed” and whether to modify Chinook bycatch regulations.

When the floor opened to public testimony, the demand was to include the impact of bycatch on subsistence in that analysis.

Brandon Ahmasuk is the Subsistence Resource Director at Kawerak and a lifelong subsistence user. To support salmon bycatch reduction, Ahmasuk explained, “Subsistence users’ diet is composed 80-percent of fish. Now the subsistence user is being asked to lower their diet of fish to 20-percent or less. These are areas where supermarkets aren’t readily available. These people, they do live off the land.”

Ahmasuk said while the pollack fishery is allowed to waste tens of thousands of salmon, the subsistence user “bears the burden of conservation” when gear restrictions are imposed and rivers shut down because of low runs.

Rose Fosdick is the Vice President for Natural Resources at Kawerak. She said the low runs go beyond reducing the subsistence users ability to feed themselves and restricts their ability to continue their culture.

Fosdick explained, “the knowledge of biology, the knowledge of processing, the knowledge of respect for elders and for the environment is being lost without the opportunity to have fresh salmon to work with.”

The public asked the Committee to gather more scientific data on why runs are declining in the Norton Sound and to collect surveys on how bycatch affects subsistence users throughout rural Alaska.

As a mitigation measure for the low runs, Tim Smith with the Norton Sound Regional Aquaculture Association proposed activating a local hatchery. The Committee also suggested investigating an incentive-based system to reduce bycatch.

Categories: Alaska News
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