Alaska News

Study Finds No Discernable Impact From Tulsequah Chief Mine Discharge On Fish

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-05-12 18:16

Chieftan Metals Corporation, based in Toronto, is the owner of the Tulsequah Chief Mine. Company President and CEO Victor Wypryski was traveling and could not be reached for comment today, but a recent posting on the company’s website highlights the results of a February water quality study.

Conducted at the request of the British Columbia ministry of the environment, the study tested four sites on the Tulsequah River, near the confluence of the Taku River near the mine site. Chinook, Coho, sockeye salmon and dolly varden were tested. Researchers reportedly found no discernable impact in fish tissue samples from historic mining discharge.

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Categories: Alaska News

Concerns Raised Over Alaska’s Lack Of Standing To Address Canadian Mining

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-05-12 18:16

Robert Sanderson is first vice president of the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes and was at the mining conference. He also is concerned that Alaskans don’t have legal standing to address Canadian mining.

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“So that’s one thing we’re working on now is to start a dialogue with the tribal first nations first in Canada, and encourage them to work closely with their government, the provincial government, and on this side of the border, the U.S., we’re working with our Congressional delegation and the state of Alaska, which I feel could do more,” Sanderson said.

Something that may help the BC mining operations is a 2011 initiative to sign revenue sharing agreements with Canadian First Nations or tribes.

Categories: Alaska News

Motorcycle Collisions Claim 5 Lives This Year In Southcentral

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-05-12 18:16

A string of motorcycle collisions have taken five lives in the Southcentral area during the past several weeks.

And on a narrow highway shoulder near Palmer last week, riders lined up for an impromptu memorial service at the site of an accident on May 3 that claimed the lives of three members of the Harley Owners Group Alaska Chapter. They placed flowers and flags at the site.

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Categories: Alaska News

Blind Climber To Attempt Denali Ascent

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-05-12 18:16

Next month, Seattle-area mountain climber Bruce Stobie is going to attempt to get to the top of Denali. That alone is impressive, but Stobie faces an additional challenge. He’s blind.

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Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: May 12, 2014

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-05-12 17:32

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 alaskapublic.org and on Twitter @aprn.

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Group Challenging Alaska’s Same-Sex Marriage Ban

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

Alaska was the first state in the country to add a ban on same-sex marriage to its Constitution. Now, five gay couples are trying to strike that ban down.

Pacific Walruses Removed From Unusual Mortality Event In North Pacific

Mike Mason, KDLG – Dillingham

Pacific walruses have been removed from the unusual mortality event declared in the North Pacific for several marine mammal species.

Panel Discussion Addresses Effects Of British Columbia Mines

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

Over the weekend, the Western Mining Action Network held a panel discussion in Anchorage on the development of large scale mines in British Columbia that could impact the Taku, Stikine and Unuk rivers. All are prolific salmon producers for Alaska.

Chris Zimmer is the Alaska Rivers without Borders campaign director. He says there are a number of mines proposed for BC and two of the most concerning are the Tulsequah Chief mine and the much larger Kerr Suphurets Mitchell or KSM prospect which is half the size of the Pebble mine proposal and 50 times larger than Tulsequah.

Concerns Raised Over Alaska’s Lack Of Standing To Address Canadian Mining

Joaqlin Estus, KNBA – Anchorage

Robert Sanderson is first vice president of the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes and was at the mining conference. He also is concerned that Alaskans don’t have legal standing to address Canadian mining.

Study Finds No Discernable Impact From Tulsequah Chief Mine Discharge On Fish

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

Chieftan Metals Corporation, based in Toronto, is the owner of the Tulsequah Chief Mine. Company President and CEO Victor Wypryski was traveling and could not be reached for comment today, but a recent posting on the company’s website highlights the results of a February water quality study.

Conducted at the request of the British Columbia ministry of the environment, the study tested four sites on the Tulsequah River, near the confluence of the Taku River near the mine site. Chinook, Coho, sockeye salmon and dolly varden were tested. Researchers reportedly found no discernable impact in fish tissue samples from historic mining discharge.

Banking Error Delays State Payroll

Rosemarie Alexander, KTOO – Juneau

About 15,000 State of Alaska employees will wait another day for their paychecks, due to a banking glitch.

Juneau Birders Photograph Rare Long-Billed Curlew

Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau

A Juneau couple has likely made the first verified sighting of a Long-billed Curlew in Alaska. North America’s largest shorebird, rarely seen in this part of the country, may become the next entry on the Checklist of Alaska Birds.

Mt. View Community Spruces Up For Spring

Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage

Things look a little different in Mountain View. The community in north Anchorage just finished their 25th annual community-wide clean-up. This year they were joined by other city residents to improve a local park as well.

Motorcycle Collisions Claim 5 Lives This Year In Southcentral

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

A string of motorcycle collisions have taken five lives in the Southcentral area during the past several weeks.

And on a narrow highway shoulder near Palmer last week,  riders lined up for an impromptu memorial service at the site of an accident on May 3 that claimed the lives of  three members of the Harley Owners Group Alaska Chapter. They placed flowers and flags at the site.

Blind Climber To Attempt Denali Ascent

Ashley Gross, KPLU – Seattle

Next month, Seattle-area mountain climber Bruce Stobie is going to attempt to get to the top of Denali. That alone is impressive, but Stobie faces an additional challenge. He’s blind.

 

Categories: Alaska News

Mt. View community spruces up for spring

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-05-12 17:25

Things look a little different in Mountain View these days. The community in north Anchorage just finished their 25th annual community-wide clean-up. This year they were joined by other city residents to improve their green space as well. KSKA’s Anne Hillman learned more.

http://www.alaskapublic.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/12-mt-view-cleanup.mp3

Behind clean-up coordinator and longtime Mountain View resident Scott Kohlhaas, massive machines scoop mattresses and old couches into dumpsters.

“We’re taking everything from hazmat, electronics, car batteries, tires, metal, general trash…” he lists as he looks around at the groups of old refrigerators and piles of metal.

Over a week, the community collected about 200 tons of waste to be thrown out or recycled. Most of it has already been hauled away.

“There’s a lot of mobility here, lots of transition, so there’s lots of stuff in apartments that people have moved from, lots of stuff in the streets, in the alleys. It’s a constant struggle” to keep the area clean, Kohlhaas explains.

But Kohlhaas says when residents come together to clear it away, it improves the community atmosphere. “Yeah, there’s no doubt there’s more pride,” he says. “It’s the broken window syndrome. If we fix the broken window then everyone cares, and it’s gonna be a better place. And if we leave it broken then they’re gonna break the other windows. I think it makes big difference and I think people are proud of how it looks right now.”

Volunteers haul and clip brush during the Davis Park Fix-It in Mt. View

Though it’s the 25th annual community-wide clean up in Mountain View, it’s the first-ever Neighborhood Park Fix-it at Davis park. The park is a small plot of wooded land with trails running through it next to a giant playground. Community members initiated the event to improve the safety of the area.

Mountain View Lions Club member Amy Orange Posma drags bags of trash filled with things like power cords and pillows from abandoned homeless camps in the park. She says historically many homeless people have lived here, but the area is for everyone.

“This is a marvelous little chunk of trees, wild nature — and you have a street right there, schools over that way, housing. It’s just a lovely little refuge in Anchorage. All the parks are.”

Further down the path, Tony Lukian and members of his church group from south Anchorage are clipping back brush from the trail that winds through the trees.

He explains they’re doing it “just to create some visibility into the woods, you know. Make it a little bit more safe. Give people a little more clearance. Whether it be wildlife, any other dangers, possible hazards.”

Anchorage Parks and Recreation volunteer coordinator Mirna Estrada explains that trimming the brush helps give residents a place they feel comfortable gathering.

“Parks are great for our development, creating bonds with our friends and our family and our community.” She pauses and ducks as a volunteer snips a sapling right on top of Estrada. Uninjured and laughing, she continues. “See we’re bonding with nature!”

The clean-up is attracting new people to the park as well, like Rebecca Castleman, who recently moved in just a few miles away. “We thought, it’s our first time here at the park, we wanted to see what it’s all about, maybe clear some of the trails, and then we can enjoy it with our two little girls.”

The Park project marked the end of this year’s citywide clean-up week.

Volunteers enjoy lunch after cleaning up Davis Park

Parks and Recreaction has Park clean ups planned for the entire summer. Find out more at muni.org.

Categories: Alaska News

Banking Error Delays State Payroll

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-05-12 16:07

About 15,000 state of Alaska employees will wait another day for their paychecks, due to a banking glitch.

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State Office Building in Juneau. (Photo by Casey Kelly/KTOO)

Direct deposits were not processed as expected by U.S. Bank on Monday, according to the Administration Department. Spokesman Andy Mills says the deposits are expected to be complete by Tuesday morning.

He says the state transmitted the payroll information to U.S. Bank on Friday, and the error was made by the bank.

U.S. Bank is a new vendor for the state and this is first time the company has processed the direct deposits. Wells Fargo was the previous vendor.

Mills calls it a big disappointment that U.S. Bank couldn’t get it right the first time.

“While our folks processed and did their portion of this payroll transmittal information, U.S. Bank did not complete their part and we’re looking to  make sure this doesn’t happen again,” Mills says.

State workers may end up with fees on their personal bank accounts due to the problem, he says, which will be U.S. Bank’s responsibility.

“U.S. Bank has confirmed that they will be covering employee banking fees that are incurred from this error that they created and we’re going to hold them to that.”

Employees in every agency of the executive, legislative and the judicial branches of government statewide are affected.

Categories: Alaska News

Juneau Birders Photograph Rare Long-Billed Curlew

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-05-12 12:11

Doug Sanvik took this photo of a Long-billed Curlew on May 3. To the left of it is a Whimbrel. (Photo by Doug Sanvik)

A Juneau couple has likely made the first verified sighting of a Long-billed Curlew in Alaska. North America’s largest shorebird, rarely seen in this part of the country, may become No. 502 on the Checklist of Alaska Birds.

Gwen Baluss went to Boy Scout Camp after the initial sighting and also saw the Long-billed Curlew. (Photo by Gwen Baluss)

Martina Kallenberger and husband Doug Sanvik were bird watching at Boy Scout Camp on May 3. Kallenberger says they started around 11 a.m. walking the trail and beach and were going through the meadow around 1:30.

“We were actually watching a flock of Lapland Longspurs when we noticed these two shorebirds on a little rise by the stream and one of them was a Whimbrel, which we recognized, and the other one was just shockingly different,” Kallenberger says.

Kallenberger and Sanvik watched the bird for at least an hour, taking pictures and referring to guidebooks. They had an inkling it might be the Long-billed Curlew.

“During the course of the time we were sitting there I was going through the bird book thinking, ‘Well, gosh it can’t be this, it could be— No…’ And I kept coming back to the Curlew, and Doug and I were both like, ‘It sure looks like a match but, gosh, it just doesn’t seem right.’”

They had reason to be hesitant.

“It is very rare,” says Steve Heinl.

Heinl is a lifelong birder and sits on the University of Alaska Museum’s Alaska Checklist Committee, which maintains and decides what goes on the official list of birds documented in Alaska.

“There had only been three previous reports of a Long-billed Curlew in Alaska, but none of them were photographed,” he says.

Bob Armstrong captured the Long-billed Curlew in flight. Steve Heinl says the bird is most distinctive this way because its underwings are cinnamon colored. (Photo by Bob Armstrong)

This is what makes Kallenberger and Sanvik’s sighting a likely entry on the list. Heinl says a sighting can be verified with photographs or a specimen.

Sightings of Long-billed Curlews on the unsubstantiated list first took place in 1973 near Juneau’s Eagle River, not again until 1992 on the Stikine River near Wrangell, and most recently in 2008 on the Situk River in Yakutat.

Long-billed Curlews spend winters in Mexico and on the west coast of North America. They breed throughout the West from southern Canada to New Mexico.

Heinl says the bird in Juneau likely flew farther than it needed to.

“I think it overshot its normal breeding range, which means it migrated too far north. Often birds that migrate to the wrong place are younger birds so it perhaps was on its first northward migration,” Heinl says.

That’s part of what makes watching birds so great, Heinl says, and why the Checklist of Alaska Birds will likely never stop growing.

“They have wings and they fly off in the wrong direction and there’s always potential to see something you’ve never seen before,” he says.

Kallenberger and Sanvik are proof of this. Kallenberger says they’ve spent many hours birdwatching at Boy Scout Camp and never imagined they’d see a Long-billed Curlew.

“Anytime I see a new species, it’s just hugely exciting,” Kallenberger says. “But to see something as unusual as this bird in this place was even doubly so.”

For Kallenberger and Sanvik, it was a matter of being in the right place at the right time.

Categories: Alaska News

Two Bethel Establishments Reportedly Were Operating as Bottle Clubs

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-05-12 10:31

The Alaska Alcohol Beverage Control Board says two Bethel establishments have been illegally allowing patrons to bring in and consume their own alcohol, operating as what’s known as “bottle clubs.” But two conflicting statutes in the state alcohol law put certain clubs in a gray area.

State Troopers and ABC Board teams have been in discussion with Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10041 and an unnamed Bethel restaurant earlier this year after reports that they were allowing people to bring alcohol on site. Shirley Coté is the Director of the ABC Board.

“You can’t BYOB to any premises that under the law would require a license,” said Coté.

Until late April, the VFW allowed members to bring in their own alcoholic beverage. The ABC board and state troopers say because there were no charges filed they’re not disclosing the name of the restaurant.

Michael Calvetti is Commander of VFW post 10041, which has 174 members throughout the Y-K Delta. He says the post was operating under advice they had received from an attorney that under one statute, they are exempt from needing a license. But a separate section of state law specifically outlaws bottle clubs, unless allowed, thus blurring the law.

“Because there is a conflict between those two statutes, at this point, we have said we don’t want any alcohol on the premise until ourselves, the ABC board, and the legislative body get to together and discuss and figure out the exact solution to this concern,” said Calvetti.

Coté says the two statues indeed collide with each other. In this case, she says there are no consequences for what would be violations of the state’s bottle club law.

“We talked to them on the phone, we work with them like we work with a lot of people around the state who are unaware the acts they are doing, they’re unaware that what they’re doing is illegal. We gave them an opportunity to fix it, and they said it was fixed, and unless we get other information that it’s still ongoing, our case is closed,” said Coté.

The ABC board last month discussed a change to regulation that would have allowed the VFW to continue, but they elected not to go in that direction.

The board pointed to a category of license, a club license, that would apply for the VFW. But that would require them to sell alcohol, but Calvetti says the membership does not want to be in that business.

When Bethel voted to go wet in 2009, six establishments, including the VFW applied for liquor licenses. The city protested the applications and they were rejected.

The Alaska Legislature could also change state law to allow certain patriotic clubs to operate as they had in the past.

As for now, the VFW has a no alcohol sign posted on the door and is in discussions with regulators and lawmakers.

“We do not plan on moving forward in any direction with the thought of alcohol until we have something in writing that we know applies to this post. I don’t want a generalization, I don’t want ‘a I think so,’ I want it to be solid so there’s no question on any party’s part,” said Calvetti.

Calvetti says the VFW operates a bingo hall and hosts many community events and alcohol is not the focus of the organization. As a non-profit, he says he wants to continue to provide money and support for the community. So far this fiscal year, they have given $150,000 for local causes.

Click here to view correspondence between the VFW and the ABC board and the regulations.

Categories: Alaska News

Troopers Catch Nikiski Teacher Accused of ‘Inappropriate Behavior’ With Student

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-05-12 10:29

A Nikiski teacher accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a student was the subject of a law enforcement manhunt Thursday afternoon. After the man threatened to commit suicide, two local schools were placed on lockdown. Alaska State Troopers caught the man on Friday.

Neither the Troopers or the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District are saying much about the incident.

What’s known is that a male teacher at Nikiski Middle-High School was suspected of “inappropriate behavior” with a student. School District Spokesperson Pegge Erkeneff says district officials reported their suspicions about the teacher to Alaska State Troopers Thursday morning and Troopers began their own investigation.

Troopers responded to the school and attempted to locate the teacher but he had already left the campus. At some point – it’s not clear when – the man threatened to commit suicide by consuming alcohol and sleeping pills.

Troopers began searching for the teacher’s red 1993 Dodge Dakota truck and urged members of the public to help locate the vehicle.

Meanwhile, both Nikiski Middle-High School and North Star Elementary School went on lockdown. Erkeneff says that decision was made after the report came in that man had threatened suicide.

“As a precaution, the school dostrict put students’ safety first,” said Erkeneff. “And so we did a lockdown at both of our schools that were in close proximity.”

Both schools were under the lockdown for about two hours Thursday. Under the district’s current procedures for a “modified” lockdown, students are confined to their classrooms but parents are still allowed to come and pick them up. Erkeneff says that at the schools’ regular closing time, Troopers were on site and students were allowed to go home as they normally would.

Trooper Spokesperson Beth Ipsen says Troopers finally caught up with the suspect Friday.

“(We) caught up with him at about noon today at about Mile 15 (of) the Kenai Spur Highway,” said Ipsen. “Based on some medical issues that he was going through, medics were called in and he was transported to the hospital, where he remains, getting treatment.”

Ipsen would not say what the nature of the man’s injuries were. He has not yet been charged with a crime.

As for the allegations that the teacher had “inappropriate behavior” with a student, Pegge Erkeneff says she cannot say much because the case is still under investigation.

“What I can say is that we did an internal investigation,” she said. “(We) deemed it necessary to contact the Troopers and bring them in.”

Erkeneff says the suspicions about the teacher were originally brought forward to district officials who then began an internal investigation.

She says the teacher has been placed on administrative leave. His name has not yet been released.

“People want to know everything but we can’t give out all of the information,” said Erkeneff. “We can just assure that all of our students … are safe right now. That’s the priority. I just ask for parents to trust us. We’re keeping kids safe and working with law enforcement.”

Categories: Alaska News

Ambler Man Faces Attempted Murder Charges for Shooting at VPO

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-05-12 10:22

Aerial view of Ambler and the Kobuk River in the summer. (Courtesy of the National Park Service via UAF Gates of the Arctic Research Portal)

An Ambler man is facing attempted murder charges after Alaska State Troopers say he tried to shoot a village police officer through the door of his home.

According to a dispatch from Troopers, it all happened around 1:15 Saturday afternoon. That’s when Troopers say 34-year-old Harry Morena was “intoxicated and belligerent” using a VHF radio.

Ambler Village Police Office Jeffery Metlon went to Morena’s home and knocked on the door. That’s when the officer says he heard Morena yell, “one shot, one kill” before shooting through his front door at the officer.

The VPO was uninjured and backed away—as Troopers say Morena shot at least two more times though the door and walls of his home.

A concerned friend then tried to contact Morena through the VHF. Officers investigating the shooting say the friend asked to meet with Morena but only if he promised not to shoot him. Morena allegedly told the friend he, “only wanted to kill the VPO.”

Troopers say the friend then met Morena in the street and convinced him to surrender his weapon.

Morena was arrested, and when Troopers arrived to investigate, a search warrant for his home later found evidence of a home-brew alcohol operation.

Troopers say Morena’s deaf and blind mother was also found in the home, oblivious to the gunfire Troopers say unfolded around her.

Morena was taken to the Kotzebue regional jail. He faces charges of second-degree attempted murder, two charges of second-degree assault, and several charges related to home-brewing alcohol.

Ambler is a community of about 260 people in the Northwest Arctic Borough, about 280 miles northeast of Nome.

Categories: Alaska News
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