Alaska News

Juneau Man Held On Non-Criminal Charges, Dies In Correctional Facility

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2015-08-17 09:23

A Juneau man died at Lemon Creek Correctional Center Friday morning, about 12 hours after he was brought in. Forty-nine-year-old Joseph Murphy was booked at the prison around 7 p.m. Thursday night and was being held on non-criminal charges.

Department of Corrections spokeswoman Sherrie Daigle says Murphy was being kept in a holding cell and was due to be released after 12 hours.

“I don’t know the specifics in this case and I can’t give any specifics in this case, but in general, people are brought in on a 12-hour hold if they are intoxicated and they can’t be on the street, but are combative and can’t go to a detox center. There also could be some type of behavioral health issues that people are brought in on non-criminal holds.”

In the past, Murphy had been found guilty of at least two misdemeanors for driving while intoxicated, according to online court records.

Daigle says Alaska State Troopers are investigating the death and the state medical examiner’s office is conducting an autopsy. She says it could take three to six weeks until a cause of death is known.

Corrections will do its own investigation, which Daigle says takes up to four weeks. She says those results are confidential due to attorney client privilege between the attorney general and Corrections, and they contain medical, security and personnel information.

Categories: Alaska News

Dispatch From The Couch: Google Trekker Lets You ‘Hike’ the Chilkoot Trail

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2015-08-17 08:57

Google Trekker brings Google Maps technology to the trail. Photo: Screen shot of Google Trekker homepage.

A hundred years ago, to hike to the Klondike gold fields via the Chilkoot Trail meant a grueling trek carrying a required one ton of supplies, enough to last a year. Soon armchair hikers can breeze along the 33-mile trail virtually, in a few minutes, using Google’s Street View.

“Welcome to the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, home to the famous Chilkoot Trail,”  says NPS staffers Erica Francis and Elizabeth Blakeley in an informational video produced by the National Park Service. “Hiking the Chilkoot Trail can be highly rewarding; however, unlike many hikes, taking on the Chilkoot means crossing an international border and hiking 33 miles up isolated, physical challenging and potential hazardous terrain…”

But soon there will be another way to experience it. For the first time Google Street View is going off-road in Alaska. This month two Parks Canada staff mapped the entire Chilkoot Trail. They used a backpack-mounted camera system called the Google Trekker.

Parks Canada and Google agreed to partner a few years ago in creating virtual tours of many of Canada’s national and regional parks. The first Canadian park to appear on Google’s Street View was Nova Scotia’s Fortress of Louisbourg in 2013, and more than 100 wild Canadian places have been added since.

Klondike National Park Superintendent Mike Tranel says Parks Canada approached the National Park Service last fall to see if managers here were interested in joining a project to map the Chilkoot, since the Alaskan segment of the trail is managed by the NPS, and Parks Canada manages the Canadian side. The trail starts in Dyea and snakes up the Taiya River to Crater Lake and the headwaters of the Yukon River at Lake Bennett, British Columbia.

“If you can see it online, do you need to still come and do it?” asked Tranel. “You know, I think in in the end it will be good publicity for the trail and a way for people to see what it’s all about, what it looks like and I think it will spur more interest in coming to hike the trail.”

Tranel said the park service mulled over whether putting the trail online would result in more or fewer visitors coming to hike the real thing.  Currently between 2500 and 3000 people hike the entire trail each year.

Parks Canada spokesperson Christine Aikens says they wanted to create a virtual tour of the Chilkoot and other wild places so that people will better understand why these places are so special and encourage in-person visitation.

Mapping the Chilkoot with the heavy camera equipment was a challenge for the Parks Canada team, said Tranel. It was key to keep the camera level and correctly oriented, especially on the difficult Golden Stairs section. During the first week of August,  the weather cooperated and the mapping hike was on.

Tranel says he’s excited about the Street View mapping because it will pave the way for more detailed project in the works…a 1898 Street View version of the trail. Using archeological data and historical photographs and maps…

“We can potentially recreate what it would look like to travel over the trail in 1898 during the Gold Rush. So that’s something I think would be really cool, so doing the Google Street View of the 2015 view of the trail can help us with the ability to do that 1898 Google Street View idea,” he said.

Parks Canada’s Aikens says people can expect to see the trail on Google Maps in the coming months.

Categories: Alaska News

Crews Work To Contain 7,000-Gallon Diesel Spill In Sitka

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2015-08-17 08:51

A storage tank at Sitka’s Jarvis Street Diesel Plant failed over the weekend, spilling an estimated 4,000 to 7,000 gallons of diesel into Sitka Sound near the mouth of Indian River. Teams from the city, state, and Coast Guard are working to contain and clean up the spill — and to find out what caused it.

As of Sunday night, it wasn’t clear exactly how much diesel had actually made it into Sitka Sound.

The Jarvis Street Diesel Plant is owned by the city — it’s Sitka’s backup power station — and city Administrator Mark Gorman said the failed storage tank released about 30,000 gallons into a cement containment enclosure. Some portion of that — perhaps as much as 7,000 gallons — then leaked into the storm water system, which empties into the ocean at Eagle Beach.

Gorman said that though the release is near the mouth of Indian River, so far there’s no sign of diesel in the river itself, and the spill has been contained to Eagle Beach and the water near Cannon Island.

The Fire Department estimated that about 40 people from the city, Coast Guard, National Park Service and state Department of Environmental Conservation were on site Sunday, using boom and absorbent material to contain and soak up the spill. Speaking Sunday evening, Gorman said the efforts so far have had a visible impact.

“I was down at the impacted area this evening twice, and there’s certainly, you can smell it in the air, but there’s no sheen on the water at this point in time, so it seems to be dispersing pretty rapidly.”

According to a press release from the city, the Fire Department first received a call around 11 a.m. Saturday (8-15-15) reporting a heavy smell of diesel in the area near Eagle Beach. Assistant Fire Chief Al Stevens says the Department responded and found a small patch of diesel in the water, but couldn’t locate its source. He says responders thought the diesel had perhaps come from a fishing vessel in the area, and contacted both the state and Coast Guard.

The city then received a second call on Sunday, reporting a sheen on the water near Cannon Island. This time, the Fire Department traced the spill to a storm drain on Sawmill Creek Road, and eventually followed it back to the Jarvis Street Diesel Plant.

Around 1 p.m. Sunday, The Fire Department initiated its Incident Command System, marshalling resources from the city, state, Coast Guard, and National Park Service. Stevens says the leak was stopped around 3:30 p.m. Sunday, and teams worked throughout the afternoon to mop up the spill.  “It certainly is a big deal,” he said. But Gorman added that diesel is easier to clean up than, say, crude oil.

“Diesel is not oil. If this was an oil spill, I think 7,000 gallons going into the Sound would be alarming. It’s not good to have diesel going into the sound, but diesel does evaporate and dissipate quite rapidly.”

It’s not yet clear why the tank failed, or how the diesel leaked out of the containment enclosure. The city, state and Coast Guard are all involved in that investigation.

Categories: Alaska News

Dead herring, poison mussels found on Unalaska shorelines

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2015-08-17 08:22

Dead herring on an Unalaska beach on Wednesday. KUCB/John Ryan photo.

Hundreds of dead herring washed up on Front Beach in downtown Unalaska on Tuesday.

“Hundreds of herring floating in the water,” Caleb Livingston, who lives nearby, said as he was walking his dog Hazel on the beach. “But what really got my attention was the few that drifted on the beach were not being eaten by the eagles, or seagulls or terns.”

Scientists have been receiving reports of dead and dying whales, birds and the small fish known as sand lance in the Aleutian Islands.

A dead Steller’s sea lion washed ashore in Unalaska in July with no wounds or other obvious causes of death.

Researchers think the killer might be toxic algae proliferating in unusually warm ocean waters.

Mussels taken from two different bays in Unalaska this spring have had levels of the toxin that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning two to four times higher than the level considered safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Livingston said he doesn’t think the herring he saw on Front Beach were killed by toxic algae.

“I’m guessing that somebody shoveled them off a boat,” he said.

Herring are used as bait by crabbers and longliners.

Boats shouldn’t do that in close. If they’re going to get rid of this stuff, they should do it further out,” Livingston said. “It’s probably not that harmful, other than critters like Hazel gobbling on it, but it is a form of pollution.”

Caleb Livingston takes his dog Hazel for a walk on Unalaska’s Front Beach. KUCB/John Ryan photo.

Scientist Melissa Good with University of Alaska Fairbanks agreed, after a quick bit of beach forensics, that these dead fish were probably dumped in the water.

She said the herring had lost their scales, suggesting the fish had been poured through a chute en masse.

“Their fins are deteriorated while their eyes are intact,” Good said. “I think it’s probably bait fish that got dumped.”

Even so, Good said she will send herring that she and Livingston collected on the beach to an Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation lab for analysis.

This spring, Good collected mussels from Captains Bay and Summer Bay in Unalaska to see if they had the toxin that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning.

She just got the results back: Mussels had up to 3.3 parts per million of the potent PSP toxin. That’s four times higher than the FDA’s 0.8 parts per million limit.

“Anything above that is unsafe to eat,” Good said.

“I would suggest people take caution and probably not harvest mussels or any other clams or bivalves within the Unalaska area because we are seeing high toxin levels for the previous spring months,” she said. “It’s likely these levels are higher now, after the summer algal blooms.”

In an email, Bruce Wright with the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association said butter clams tested in June at Sand Point, in the Shumagin Islands, just east of the Aleutians, showed even higher levels of the toxin.

One of the largest algal blooms ever recorded has been spreading throughout the Northeast Pacific Ocean, from California to Alaska. Scientists believe a giant blob of warm water is fueling the harmful algal bloom.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: Friday, August 14, 2015

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-08-14 17:35

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.

Download Audio


Mat-Su Vets Rail Against VA During Secretary’s Visit

Zachariah Hughes, KSKA – Anchorage

A listening session held Thursday night in Wasilla by the head of the Department of Veterans Affairs was dominated by complaints about the healthcare system for veterans. As KSKA’s Zachariah Hughes reports, the VA is struggling in Alaska to rebuild trust as policy changes unfold from Washington, D.C., all the way to the state’s most remote clinics.

Climate Change, Not Arctic Drilling, Brings Obama to Alaska

John Ryan, KUCB – Unalaska

President Barack Obama is coming to Alaska later this month. The White House released a video Thursday morning to explain why he will be the first sitting president to visit Alaska’s Arctic.

Doyon Announces New Oil & Gas Prospect Near Nenana

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

Doyon plans to drill another oil and gas exploration well in the Nenana area.  It will be the third the company has sunk into the oil and gas rich basin.

LGBT Discrimination Claims Still Not Valid in Alaska Despite Federal Ruling

Lakeidra Chavis, KTOO – Juneau

Some of the most common types of discrimination LGBT people face are in the workplace and in housing. Despite this, Alaska’s statewide and Anchorage anti-discrimination commissions don’t offer protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people. The commissions are not legally required to do so, and some activists see that as an injustice.

Governor Nominates Elizabeth Peratrovich As The Face of the $10 Bill

Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau

The Walker-Mallott administration has nominated a Tlingit civil-rights leader to be on the new $10 bill.

Earthquake Swarm Hits Yakutat

Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau

About 30 earthquakes have hit the Yakutat area this week. The Gulf of Alaska city, about 250 miles northwest of Juneau, is in a fault zone and quakes aren’t unusual. But this swarm is caused by calving glaciers in a nearby bay, not movement of the Earth’s crust.

AK: Sitka Cirque Lassos Sitkans Into The Show

Emily Kwong, KCAW – Sitka

The circus is coming to Sitka, but the performers aren’t from out of town. They are ordinary citizens, who in the past two years, have learned to climb, swing, and soar. Led by an aerialist with roots in Alaska, Sitka Cirque is dreaming up a new kind of circus that provides as much thrill to the participants as it does to the audience.

49 Voices: Zach Carothers of Portugal. The Man

Dave Waldron, APRN – Anchorage

Zach Carothers is the bass player for Portugal. the Man. The band formed in Alaska, but now resides in Portland. Currently, they’re in LA recording material for their 8th studio album.

Categories: Alaska News

Sentencing trial begins in Anchorage hit-and-run cyclist case

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-08-14 17:30

Melissa Holder testified during the sentencing hearing of Alexandra Ellis, who killed Holder’s husband in a hit-and-run last year. Hillman/KSKA

She was intoxicated at the time and fled the scene.

The state agreed to plea deal this spring that called for Ellis to serve one year in prison with three suspended. Community members and the victim’s family are asking the judge to overrule the deal made with the state and give Ellis a longer sentence.

Judge Michael Wolverton heard testimony from a scene reconstructionist, Jay Smith, who was hired by the defense. Smith told the court that evidence suggested that Ellis was reversing at 11 miles per hour while Dusenbury was cycling between 30 to 35 mph. However, Smith said most of the literature he used to develop those calculations did not look at situations where a cyclist was hit from the side as Dusenbury was.

Defense attorney William Ingaldson also said that Dusenbury’s reaction time might have been slow because he was cycling with earbuds in and had traces of THC in his blood.

“And if someone is under the influence whether it’s alcohol or say, marijuana, that person under the influence of marijuana’s perception time is going to slow down, isn’t it?” Ingaldson asked Smith.

“Yes,” Smith replied.

“That person who is 100 feet away from a truck might not stop in time. Might not take evasive action if the truck is turning, right?” Ingaldson asked.

“That is correct.”

Jay Smith stands before a photo of Jeff Dusenbury’s bike as it lay where he was hit and killed. Hillman/KSKA

The court also heard emotional testimony from Dusenbury’s friends and family as Ellis sobbed at her table. Melissa Holder is Dusenbury’s widow.

“Alexandra Ellis killed my best friend of 32 years,” said Dusenbury’s widow Melissa Holder, through tears. “He was my soul mate, my husband, and the father of my only child. In 32 years I had never gone more than 12 hours without hearing his voice.”

She also asked the judge to consider the implications of what she considers to be the plea deal’s light sentence.

“What kind of message does this send to our community? Please do not let Jeff’s death be in vain. We fail the youth of our community if we do not take this opportunity to send a clear message that taking the life of a person while driving irresponsibly is not acceptable and cannot be tolerated.”

The hearing will continue on Monday with a confidential session. Judge Wolverton said he will chose the next public hearing date at that point. He also said he will consider “the thoughtful input” from the community shared through social media when deciding on the sentence.

Categories: Alaska News

Can We Call It Hoo-Brew? New Brewery Opens in Hoonah

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-08-14 16:32

On Saturday, a Hoonah microbrewery is opening its doors to serve the village a variety of craft beers. Kegs used to become scarce around the same time tourists did. Now fresh pints are guaranteed through winter.

Dan Kane and his business partner Todd Thingvall. (Photo by Elizabeth Jenkins/KTOO)

Todd Thingvall and his business partner Dan Kane have been working hard to renovate a 100-year-old house on pilings above water, the site of the new brewery and taproom. Both left good jobs to start the business. Kane says his kids asked if he was having a midlife crisis.

“There’s been a lot of sleepless nights,” Kane says. “I’m sitting in Anchorage at my house there and I have a good life. There’s a lot mornings I would be sitting there going, ‘Have I lost my mind, is this really what I want to do?’”

He’s been homebrewing for about 20 years. They met each other through their wives.

“Dan had beer so I instantly liked him. We hit it off ever since,” says Thingvall.

He pitched Kane the idea of opening the Hoonah brewery. They invested about $400,000 and are living upstairs. The long-term plan is to move the tanks to another site but for now, they’re on a patio above the water.

Usually stainless-steel fermentation tanks are labeled one, two, three.

(Photo by Elizabeth Jenkins/KTOO)

“We decided, eh. Let’s stay with a Southeast theme and we went with keta, humpy, king, sockeye and coho. Of course, the king is the big seven barrel,” Kane says.

They’re cooled by a refrigeration unit that runs partially off solar panels. Electricity can be expensive in Hoonah and the panels could pay for themselves in a little over a year.

On the bottom of the king tank is a well kept brewer’s secret.

“You’re very lucky to see this. It’s called a sample valve. It allows you to take samples or actual drinks out of a vessel. So this is our pale which was the first beer that we made here,” Thingvall says.

He fills up a frothy golden glass of beer made with Cascade hops.

With no connecting roads, the Pacific Northwest hops and brewer’s yeast is shipped using FedEx. Thingvall and Kane say it can be nerve-wracking waiting for the delicate ingredients to arrive. Most need to remain temperature controlled. It travels from Seattle to Juneau, then over to Hoonah by small plane. A few weeks ago, their yeast was overdue.

“One great thing about a small town, even the postmaster, she knew exactly what I was looking for and it came in Saturday after their closing hours and she called us. And said, ‘Hey it’s here.’ And waiting for us to come pick it up,” Kane says.

They’ll serve pale ale, IPA and hefeweizen. A pilsner and stout are also in the works. Production will be about 500 barrels a year, and some of the kegs could be distributed to Southeast’s smallest communities like Gustavus and Elfin Cove–maybe eventually making its way to Juneau.

What Kane says they’re really looking forward to the most is experimenting with ingredients like Hudson Bay tea, a medicinal plant that grows in the muskeg.

“When it first hits your palate, it was more of light clean, crisp beer and then as it hit the back of your palate that’s when that tea just came alive,” Kane says.

It can be tricky getting FDA approval for ingredients that are locally sourced, but they say they’re up for the challenge. They want Icy Strait Brewing to reflect the community.

“Hoonah has a slogan: The little place with the big heart. And it’s true. The people here are wonderful,” Thingvall says.

And now it has a microbrewery to match.

Overlooking the taproom of Icy Strait Brewery. (Photo by Elizabeth Jenkins/KTOO)

Categories: Alaska News

Earthquake swarm hits Yakutat

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-08-14 16:11

About 30 earthquakes have hit the Yakutat area this week.

The Gulf of Alaska city, about 250 miles northwest of Juneau, is in a fault zone and quakes aren’t unusual.

Two glaciers flow into Yakutat Bay. Glacial calving causes regular, but small, earthquakes. The Hubbard Glacier, right, sometimes surges, blocking off an arm of the bay. (Photo courtesy Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve)

But this swarm is caused by calving glaciers in a nearby bay, not movement of the Earth’s crust.

Alaska Earthquake Information Center Seismologist Natalia Ruppert says it happens all the time. But she says at least one of this week’s quakes were stronger than usual.

“Maybe the size of this particular ice chunk was very large and as it fell into the water it created lots of energy,” Ruppert said.

She says there’s no connection to the Yakutat Fault, and a block of the Earth’s crust that’s slowly moving under that part of Alaska.

Most glaciers are retreating and thinning as climate change increases melting.

Seismologist Ruppert says that could eventually lead to more quakes from moving blocks of crust.

“If the glaciers keep melting and if they keep losing the mass, the pressure on the surface of the Earth becomes less,” Ruppert said. “And so, on a very long time scale, the lessening of this pressure might actually influence the tectonic forces and the pressure on the faults in that area.”

Since Monday morning, 28 glacial quakes have hit the Yakutat Bay area. Another 11 hit Cape Yakataga, about 100 miles to the northwest. That’s as of midday Thursday.

Categories: Alaska News

LGBT discrimination claims still not valid in Alaska despite federal ruling

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-08-14 15:54

The U.S. Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission ruled in late July that sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace is illegal because it is a form of sex discrimination, which is already prohibited.

Some of the most common types of discrimination LGBT people face are in the workplace and in housing. Despite this, Alaska’s statewide and Anchorage anti-discrimination commissions don’t offer protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people. The commissions are not legally required to do so, and some activists see that as an injustice.

“Just imagine if you couldn’t call the fire department because you were LGBT. I mean, that’s an analogy to make. If you are LGBT you should be able to call any state agency and get the same service,” says attorney Caitlin Shortell. She represented the same-sex couples that sued the state for the right to marry. “I mean this is an injustice that needs to be corrected.”

The Rainbow Flag is a symbol of LGBT pride. (Creative Commons photo by torbakhopper)

In December, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Department of Justice would treat gender identity as protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In early February, the U.S. EEOC Director of Field Programs sent a memo saying that complaints of discrimination based on gender identity should also be accepted under the Civil Rights Act. Federal and state employees already have these workplace protections.

And late last month, the federal commission ruled in a 4-2 vote that sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace was illegal, too.

But the Alaska State Commission for Human Rights and the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission refer LGBT discrimination complainants to a toll free number for the federal EEOC.

When I called the toll-free number, I was directed through nearly three minutes of call options. To speak with a federal EEOC employee, on one particular day the wait was approximately 60 minutes.

Both the state and Anchorage commissions have work-sharing agreements with the EEOC and receive a portion of their budget from the federal agency. However, the funding does not require commissions to enforce civil rights laws as the EEOC interprets them.

“There’s a basis and a duty to already be taking these complaints and the commission should be doing that, without even amending our state and municipal human rights law,” Shortell said.

In initial interview requests for this story, the commission’s directors — Paula Haley for the state and Pamela Basler for Anchorage — both refused to be recorded and would not answer questions directly. Neither director responded to subsequent interview requests.

Gov. Bill Walker says he “[doesn’t] like any form of discrimination, at all.”

But disliking discrimination doesn’t mean he’s willing to change up the state commission members and director, who serve at his pleasure.

“At this point we don’t intend to address this issue. That shouldn’t be a surprise,” Walker said.

Walker says his administration will not introduce legislation on this issue or any other social issue. He says he’s not reviewed the priorities of the state’s human rights commissioners or the commission’s executive director.

“I don’t want to be judgmental about what the Human Rights Commission is or isn’t doing, but I will say that we are working on that issue ourselves,” Walker said. “It’s come up in the past, the issue of them having some venue to report, record circumstances where they feel they have been discriminated against.”

In an earlier written statement the governor said he’d leave it to the commission to decide whether to accept LGBT discrimination complaints, or complaints from any other class.

In other words, the state commission is actively choosing to not provide coverage.

Only two of the seven board members on the state Human Rights Commission could be contacted. Although neither would agree to be recorded, one stated that discussion surrounding LGBT discrimination protections has only come up a few times in the past few years.

The federal EEOC canceled an interview and declined to reschedule. In a written statement, an agency spokeswoman says neither the state or Anchorage commissions are required to accept claims that they don’t have jurisdiction over. And jurisdiction is based on their own assessment of the law, independent of the EEOC’s positions.

In an interview with KYUK’s Elllie Coggins in May, state commission director Paula Haley didn’t include LGBT people in her organization’s duties.

“So we have a very broad area of coverage and we protect people from discrimination based on race, sex, disability, age, marital status, so there’s a lot of coverage. Pretty much everyone in Alaska is protected by our laws,” Haley said.

Later in the interview, Haley said most of the complaints the agency receives deal with employment discrimination—a type of discrimination transgender people are most at risk for, according to a 2012 Anchorage survey on LGBT issues.

In a previous story for KTOO, Paula Haley said she’s only seen a handful of cases over the years.

“Very few people contact us because they’re concerned about discrimination based on lesbian, gay, transgender, queer issues, because they know we don’t cover those. So they don’t reach out to us because we don’t have the ability to help them.”

In the Human Rights Campaign’s 100-point 2014 Municipal Equality Index,Anchorage scored the highest at 35, Juneau at 33 and Fairbanks the lowest at 24.

Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz says he, “everyone who lives in Anchorage has equal protection under the law.”

But later in the interview, Berkowitz said he was unsure of how the Anchorage commission currently handles these complaints and didn’t mention any specific plans to address the issue.

Categories: Alaska News

Doyon Announces New Oil & Gas Prospect Near Nenana

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-08-14 15:49

Doyon corporate logo.

Doyon plans to drill another oil and gas exploration well in the Nenana area.  It will be the third the company has sunk into the oil and gas-rich basin. The Interior Regional Native Corporation is looking for a commercially developable deposit to supply local and broader energy demand.


Doyon CEO Aaron Schutt announced the new exploration well project at a press conference at the corporation’s Fairbanks headquarters.

“Last winter we ran an extensive 3D seismic program just west of the community of Nenana — about 50 square miles — to process the data. (We) got recommendations on next steps, and we’re very excited to announce the well.”

Schutt says the drilling, planned for next summer on land leased from the state about 7 miles west of Nenena, is between the 2 earlier Doyon explorations wells. The new well is being named after the Nenena Village Corporation: Toghotthele which draws its moniker from a local hill, something Doyon Board Chairman Orie Williams believes may benefit the project.

“Chief Peter John used to say that mountains are just something floating in the distance. And back in the old time days when they traveled the rivers they could see that Toghotthele hill floating out in the distance — a good place to camp. That was a major landmark, so there will be some spirituality to this well and some good luck coming with it.”

Doyon and other companies have explored the Nenana Basin for decades, but have yet to find a commercially viable oil and gas deposit.  Schutt says geology at the latest drill site looks promising.

“Looking at the structure in this location, we’re very, very optimistic. And you can see that we and our experts in particular put a one in two chance of a produceable gas field in this next well.”

Schutt says natural gas from the project could serve the local area and other parts of the state, noting Nenana’s location along the Tanana River, on which gas could be barged to villages.  Schutt won’t put a price tag on the project, but says state of Alaska oil and gas exploration tax credits are instrumental in pursuing it.

“Wild cat exploration is not for the faint of heart, and the state’s program is certainly a big part of Doyon’s efforts in the Nenana-Minto basin.”

Citing the state’s budget deficit, earlier this summer, Governor Walker cut $200 million in oil industry tax credits from the state budget, leaving another $500 million in tact.  State Representative Steve Thompson says the cut hurts smaller energy company projects.

Representative Thompson of Fairbanks says the credits are paid out on a first come first serve basis.

Categories: Alaska News

Governor Nominates Elizabeth Peratrovich As The Face of the $10 Bill

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-08-14 15:33

Elizabeth Peratrovich was a Tlingit civil rights activist. Photo courtesy Governor Walker’s office.

The Walker-Mallott administration has nominated a Tlingit civil-rights leader to be on the new $10 bill.

The governor and lieutenant governor say Elizabeth Peratrovich fits the bill well. The U.S. Treasury is collecting nominations of women who were champions for democracy to put on the redesigned note.

Peratrovich and her husband Roy were leaders in the campaign for equal rights for Alaska Natives.

She’s most famous for her 1945 speech to the Territorial Senate during debate on a bill to prohibit racial discrimination in the state.

Speaking as an Alaska Native Sisterhood representative, Peratrovich addressed those referring to Natives as “savages.”

She said, quote, “I would not have expected that I, who am barely out of savagery, would have to remind gentlemen with 5,000 years of recorded civilization behind them of our Bill of Rights.” The Alaska Civil Rights Act passed.

Walker, in his nomination, wrote that Peratrovich helped make Alaska, quote, “the nation’s first organized government to end legal discrimination.”

Categories: Alaska News

Overhauling Alaska’s Aviation Maps

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-08-14 12:00

Flying blind. No Alaska pilot wants to, but sometimes it happens. And sometimes it’s not on an established flight corridor. A new terrain mapping effort for aviators is underway.

HOST: Steve Heimel


  • Kevin Gallagher, USGS Core Science Systems
  • Nick Mastrodicasa, Alaska-DOT, project lead
  • Chris Noyles, BLM, Civil Applications Committee, Alaska liaison



  • Post your comment before, during or after the live broadcast (comments may be read on air).
  • Send email 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, August 18, 2015 at 10:00 a.m. on APRN stations statewide.

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


Categories: Alaska News

Warm water, low rivers killing fish in Anchorage, Mat-Su

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-08-14 09:36

Uncharacteristically warm water temperatures and low river levels are killing salmon and Arctic char in Anchorage and the Matanuska and Susitna valleys.

The Alaska Dispatch News reports that Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists have recorded water temperatures as high as 74 degrees in Jim Creek, which is a tributary of the Knik River. Dead salmon have been found near the river’s weir.

In Anchorage, officials say last week about 500 recently-stocked Arctic char died at Little Campbell Lake when water temperatures went above 70 degrees.

Biologists say the combination of high temperatures and low water levels have created almost perfect conditions for fish die-offs, though they doubt the dies offs will have lasting effects on fish numbers in the area.

Categories: Alaska News

14-year-old taken to Fairbanks hospital after shooting

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-08-14 09:29

A 14-year-old boy is being treated for non-life threatening injuries at a Fairbanks hospital after he was accidentally shot.

KTVA-TV reports that Alaska State Troopers were notified of a gunshot wound victim Thursday.

Officials say their initial investigation shows the teen was shot when he grabbed a pistol by the barrel while his 17-year-old brother was manipulating the gun.

No foul play was suspected. Officials did not say if any charges would be filed.

Categories: Alaska News

Climate change, not Arctic drilling, drives Obama trip to Alaska

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-08-14 09:28 video screenshot

President Barack Obama is coming to Alaska later this month.

The White House released a video Thursday morning to explain why he will be the first sitting president to visit Alaska’s Arctic.

The folksy video (it starts with the President of the United States saying, “Hi, everyone”) features dripping glaciers, raging wildfires and Alaska Natives hanging salmon to dry.

“As Alaskan permafrost melts, some homes are even sinking into the ground,” Obama says in the video. “The state’s God-given natural treasures are all at risk.”

In the video, the president says he’s coming to Alaska because it’s on the front lines of climate change, with lives and communities already being disrupted.

“What’s happening in Alaska isn’t just a preview of what will happen to the rest of us if we don’t take action. It’s our wake-up call,” Obama says. “The alarm bells are ringing. And as long as I’m president, America will lead the world to meet this threat — before it’s too late.”

In Anchorage, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski said she hopes President Obama will keep his eyes open during his visit rather than come to Alaska with a predetermined agenda.

“I think we’re all looking forward to welcoming the President of the United States to Alaska, his first official trip to see our state,” Murkowski said. “It is somewhat disappointing, though, that he apparently intends to use this as nothing more than a backdrop for climate change.”

Murkowski’s fellow Republican, Rep. Don Young, used less diplomatic language in his press release.

“It is my hope that the president will use his visit as an opportunity to learn about the many challenges we face and not as a platform to pander to extreme interest groups using Alaska as a poster child for their reckless agenda,” Young’s statement said.

Young’s statement described that agenda as locking up critical resources like oil, gas and minerals.

The White House video does not mention the administration’s Alaska- and climate-related policy that has been making national headlines this summer: its approval of exploratory drilling in the Arctic Ocean.

With the Obama administration’s blessing, Shell Oil began drilling last month in the Chukchi Sea. The company is hoping the Interior Department will approve deeper drilling into oil-bearing rocks any day now.

Environmental groups say the administration’s green-lighting of Arctic drilling just doesn’t square with Obama’s stated aim of leading the world in fighting climate change.

“It’s a pretty evident contradiction,” Margaret Williams with the World Wildlife Fund in Anchorage said. “It is absolutely clear that greenhouse gases are driving change in the Arctic, and to solve the climate problem, we have to be stemming the source of greenhouse gases.”

Greenhouse gas emissions come primarily from burning fuels like coal, oil and natural gas.

International climate negotiators will meet in Paris in December. They’ll try to agree on how fast to reduce those emissions. Their aim: keeping the earth’s climate from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius.

A study this year by British energy researchers in the journal Nature found that climate change can only be kept under 2 degrees Celsius by leaving Arctic oil in the ground.

Sarah Erkmann with the Alaska Oil and Gas Association said the group has no reaction to Obama’s trip yet, with the details of his agenda still being worked out.

“We’ll have a reaction if he has any announcements that would impact the industry in Alaska specifically,” she said.

Erkmann said AOGA has no position on climate change, though individual oil companies that make up its membership do.

Last week, Shell announced it was ending its membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council. A Shell spokesman said the energy giant would be leaving the anti-regulatory group because ALEC’s opposition to action on climate change was inconsistent with Shell’s approach to the issue.

Categories: Alaska News

Video: Great Pyrenees prove their mettle against a Dillingham brown bear

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-08-14 08:27

Tens of thousands watch video of Ivy and Hazel stand ground as brown bear comes roaming onto Aspen Drive this week. 

The Fox family on Aspen Drive in Dillingham had an unwelcome visitor one evening this week. Annie Fox filmed as their 2-year-old Great Pyrenees held their ground. Since Annie’s mom Starla posted the video to the facebook page of the Kansas breeder they bought the dogs from, it’s been viewed by tens of thousands of people, many of them great pyrenees owners.

Ivy and Hazel as puppies. Photo shared via

Categories: Alaska News

Emergency Call from Wrecked Pilot Believed to Be From Sat Phone

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-08-14 08:15

Seth Fairbanks. (Facebook photo)

Alaska State Troopers say they believe pilot Seth Fairbanks made an emergency call with a Satellite phone when his Supercub crashed into Cook Inlet around midnight August 6. They also say their investigation reveals he called the non-emergency number for the Alaska State Trooper Post in Bethel, not 9-1-1.

As of July 1st, after-hour phone calls in the Bethel region are automatically routed to the Alaska State Trooper dispatch center in Fairbanks. Fairbanks dispatch center received the call and it lasted approximately 69 seconds before the call dropped off, say troopers.

No other calls were made from the satellite phone, according to Troopers. There was no caller identification or number for a call back.

A minute after the initial call, the Fairbanks trooper dispatch contacted a Wasilla Police Department dispatch center. They called troopers and tried to confirm some information. Seven minutes after the call, at two minutes past midnight, they called the Rescue Coordination Center (RCC) who rerouted C-17 aircraft. RCC also contacted a helicopter crew to prepare for a flight, which launched at approximately 1:18 a.m.

Troopers launched an investigation into the initial call after receiving scrutiny about the timeline of the call and response.

Twenty-nine-year-old Fairbanks, and 23-year-old Anthony Hooper, both of McGrath, are still missing and presumed dead. The two men were on their way to a wedding reception in Anchorage from McGrath.

A service for Fairbanks is set for Bethel today [Friday 8/14].

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: Thursday, August 13, 2015

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2015-08-13 17:44

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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Mayor Pulls the Plug on A Slow and Spendy Software Project

Zachariah Hughes, KSKA – Anchorage

A massive software project that’s run millions of dollars and years over original expectations was halted today by Anchorage’s new mayor. The move is meant to reexamine the city’s path forward, but won’t totally shut off money for the project.

University of Alaska Defines Consent in New Student Conduct Code

Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau

The University of Alaska system has defined “consent” for the first time when it comes to sexual misconduct terminology.

Child Porn Suspect Arrested in South Carolina

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

Authorities have arrested the former computer network manager at the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation who is accused of possessing and distributing child pornography.

70 Years After WWII, Two Nations’ Militaries Jump Side By Side

Zachariah Hughes, KSKA – Anchorage

Seventy years ago this month, the U.S. dropped two atomic bombs on Japan, prompting it’s surrender and the end of World War II. Now, the two nations’ armed forces are collaborating in Alaska.

Anchorage Assembly Seeks to Add LBGT Clause To Anti-Discrimination Code

Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage

The Anchorage Assembly is trying again to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the city’s anti-discrimination ordinances.

Bethel Council Nixes City-Run Liquor Store Vote in October

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

There will not be a vote this October for Bethel to go into local option status and pursue opening a city-run liquor store. The Bethel City Council by a vote of 5 to 1 rejected sending the vote to citizens.

Permafrost Carbon Takes A Trip to Davy Jones’ Locker

Monica Gokey, KSKA – Anchorage

It’s been widely accepted in the science community that melting permafrost means more carbon in the atmosphere. But a new study has just identified a quirk in that process.

After More Than 30 Years, The Mendenhall Valley Library Moves Out Of the Mall

Elizabeth Jenkins, KTOO – Juneau

Friday was the last children’s storytime at a Juneau library branch that’s been in the Mendenhall Mall for over 30 years. The days of checking out books and grabbing a slice of pizza are over because the branch is moving to a new location at the end of the month.



Happy 40th, Kupreanof! All 24 Residents Celebrate A Remote Alaska Lifestyle

Joe Sykes, KFSK – Petersburg

Most people in Petersburg don’t give much thought to the handful of houses which sit on the other shore of the Wrangell Narrows. But to the people who live there it’s a place they are proud to call home. It’s name is Kupreanof.

Categories: Alaska News

Happy 40th, Kupreanof! All 24 Residents Celebrate A Remote Alaska Lifestyle

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2015-08-13 17:30

Most people in Petersburg don’t give much thought to the handful of houses which sit on the other shore of the Wrangell Narrows.

But to the people who live there it’s a place they are proud to call home. It’s name is Kupreanof and with just 24 residents it’s Southeast’s smallest, and Alaska’s second smallest, city. And this week it turns 40. It’s a community still proud of their little piece of Alaskan independence and unified against their older brother across the water.

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The view over to Kupreanof from Sharon Sprague’s house on Sasby Island. (Photo by Joe Sykes/KFSK)

When Sharon Sprague and her husband Dick moved to Sasby Island, in the middle of the Wrangell Narrows in 1975, they had to build a life from scratch.

“We started with nothing. There was no electricity, there was no water here. Nothing,” Sprague said.

Since then they’ve created what some might call a homestead. They have their own hydroelectric power system, chickens run around in the garden, and plump fruit hangs off trees ripe for picking.

They came here to get away and live out on their own. And together with a group of other isolation inclined individuals they helped found the city of Kupreanof, the smallest city in Southeast Alaska.

It sits on the shore of Kupreanof island just next to the Sprague’s house and on the opposite side of the narrows from Petersburg.

Sharon Sprague picks vegetables in her garden on Sasby Island. (Photo by Joe Sykes/KFSK)

It began when residents who lived on the island decided they were sick of Petersburg and so organized themselves into an independent city. And the Spragues went with them.

And Sharon Sprague says Petersburg and Kupreanof are separate for a good reason.

“The two communities are so opposite,” she told me.

That opposition still simmers and boiled over in 2013 when Kupreanof fought the establishment of the Borough of Petersburg. They lost that battle meaning they had to pay more money into Petersburg’s coffers but retained their status as a city.

At a recent council meeting, jokes at Petersburg’s expense flew over breakfast of watermelon slices, sausages and eggs.

Kupreanof Mayor, Tom Reinarts, heads up a meeting of the Kupreanof City Council. (Photo by Joe Sykes/KFSK)

“Has the assembly over there every provided you with breakfast?” Kupreanof Mayor Tom Reinarts quipped as he offered me my share of their Saturday morning spread. In a city so small the mayor is not just the mayor.

“I’m also the police chief and the fire chief,” he said.

Everyone has to play a hand in Kupreanof.

Butch Anderson’s been living here for about eight years. He turned up to the council meeting one day just to see what was going on.

“There was an extra seat open. So they voted. I got one vote,” he said. “I got in by a landslide, one vote was all it took.”

He likes it here because he can kind of do what he wants.

“I’m a hermit. I live alone and enjoy life. I don’t like heat. In my house, it will get down to 25 inside. Then I’ll go light the fire,” he said.

They’re idiosyncratic. They keep to themselves and because of that sometimes it’s hard to remember just how many people actually live here.

“Our official population is 24, I think,” Tom Reinarts said.

“I thought it was 25. I read 25,” Butch Anderson jumped in.

“Maybe 25, I concede,” Reinarts replied.

Either way, their six-member council makes up about a quarter of their population. And while they say they’ve not always seen eye to eye, they do have a common bête noire: The Borough of Petersburg.

“We’re like Petersburg’s red-headed step-child. They’re like ‘we want you guys to follow our rules. So we can tell you how to live your life over here, ” Anderson said.

So now it’s their 40th anniversary and they’re determined to show Petersburg they’re here, they’ve been here for a long time and they are here to stay.

“I think we need to make a big splash for our friends across the bay in Petersburg East,” Reinarts announced at the meeting.

He says he calls them Petersburg East because people in Petersburg often refer to Kupreanof by its original name, Petersburg West.

They’re proud to be Kupreanof and they know with so few people it will always be a struggle to survive. But Sharon Sprague, standing on her dock looking out over both communities has the answer.

“If you’ve got a group of people and they have one goal and they all feel the same and they’re a unit, they have strength,” she said.

I ask her what she thinks that goal should be:

“To keep it as it is,” she says. “This is a jewel.”

And it’s a jewel that will always be a bugbear to Petersburg.

“They hate us, they hate us. We’re a thorn in their side. They just wish we’d go away. But we’re not going to,” Sprague tells me with a glimmer in her eye.

They’re not going anywhere and if it was up to Sharon Sprague they’d be a thorn in Petersburg’s side for another 40 years to come.

Categories: Alaska News

After More Than 30 Years, The Mendenhall Valley Library Moves Out Of the Mall

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2015-08-13 17:30

Friday was the last children’s storytime at a Juneau library branch that’s been in the Mendenhall Mall for over 30 years. The days of checking out books and grabbing a slice of pizza are over because the branch is moving to a new location at the end of the month.

About 15 kids are sitting crisscross applesauce listening to Amelia Jenkins read a picture book. She works at the Mendenhall Valley Library.

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Amelia Jenkins reads a book for the last storytime at the Mendenhall Mall library location. (Photo by Elizabeth Jenkins/KTOO)

Her audience is sometimes captive, sometimes not. But she knows how to handle the crowd by breaking into song and dance.

“There’s some weeks when everybody wants to sit on a lap and listen quietly and these other weeks like today when everyone wants to do the hokey pokey straight for half an hour,” Jenkins says.

Kids can check out the books at the end of storytime, which is exactly what library staff want. Left behind materials have to be transported to the new location so patrons are encouraged to check out up to 40 books.

You can check out all the Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, Hunger Games and Fifty Shades books and you’d only be halfway.

M.J. Grande, the youth services librarian, has worked for the library for 15 years and is excited about the new 20,000-square-foot space at Dimond Park.

It cost $14 million to build, paid for by a grant from the state and city sales tax. Another million was contributed by the Friends of the Juneau Public Libraries.

Of all the perks, there’s one Grande says she’s looking forward to the most.

“Space. We are almost doubling our footage here so the kids programing is a really dominant part of the library,” Grande says.”We have these wonderful reading cubicles that are extra padded and cozy.”

There’s also wheelchair accessible reading nooks and a room that has its own teen advisory committee to decide function and decor. But probably the biggest difference is it won’t be sandwiched between a restaurant and a tanning salon.

Grande says not too long ago, it wasn’t uncommon to see a library in a mall.

“You know, kind of in the 70s when malls were really getting established as a one-stop shop, you can do your shopping, you can do your library, you can do your other business. That role in the evolution of malls has changed.”

For Letha Bethel, the old location has been convenient. She’s a stay-at-home mom with two kids and another one she watches during the day.

The new library at Dimond Park is expected to open in November. (Photo courtesy of Friends of the Juneau Public Libraries)

She says the kids love dancing and singing at the reading circle, the toys in the children’s section and of course the books.

They walk to the Mendenhall Mall on sunny days and Bethel says she’s sad the library will be closed for a few months as it moves to its new location.

“It’ll be nice though that it’ll be bigger hopefully and more space to run around. They’re excited to see it and it’s right by the pool,” Bethel says.

But will she check out 40 books?

“For their sake, probably not. Because I don’t know if they’d last at our house.”

Bethel says she might consider checking out one or two before the Mendenhall Valley Library closes on Aug. 31, opening back up at Dimond Park sometime in November.

Categories: Alaska News