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Get Alaska statewide news from the stations of the Alaska Public Radio Network (APRN). With a central news room in Anchorage and contributing reporters spread across the state, we capture news in the Voices of Alaska and share it with the world. Tune in to your local APRN station in Alaska, visit us online at APRN.ORG or subscribe to the Alaska News podcast right here. These are individual news stories, most of which appear in Alaska News Nightly (available as a separate podcast).
Updated: 19 min 20 sec ago

Black Bear Party-Crashes A Ketchikan XC Meet

Mon, 2014-09-29 17:38

A black bear was in first place for a short time during one of the races at the Region V Cross Country meet Saturday in Ketchikan. Teams from around Southeast Alaska faced off for the chance to compete in the state championship. But the event took a chaotic turn when the first race was interrupted by a bear.

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The first heat of runners to circle the course at Ward Lake was made up of girls from 1, 2 and 3A schools – those are the smaller ones, like Wrangell, Hoonah, Petersberg, Klawock.

“Runners set?” an announcer says. A gunshot and cheers ring out.

The fastest of these runners is Taylee Nyquest – the only girl on the Thorne Bay cross country team. I followed her coach, Sheila Nyquest, who also happens to be her mom, to the 2-mile marker.

“Oh my legs are shakin’. I just get so nervous for her,” Nyquest says. “I get excited for all of them. We are at 12 minutes at the 2 miles mark. If she did three of these it would be 18 of these.”

Then Taylee came into site.

“Taylee you’re doin’ awesome! You’re at 12-12, just over 6 minutes. Just book it. Your pace is awesome! Go, go, go like the wind!” her mom cheers.

Taylee yelled something back, which we weren’t able to make out.

“There’s a black bear!”

She said: ‘there’s a black bear.’ You can hear someone who was standing on the beach at another part of Ward Lake yell back to her. When I listen back to the tape of her mom and I talking, I can hear Taylee yelling: it’s in a tree! It went into the forest!

ACT 4: There’s a black bear on the trail up there. Is she ok? What happened? She had to stop, there’s a black bear on the trail?

Thorne Bay School principal Rob O’Neal saw everything from underneath one of the Ward Lake shelters. He even managed to get a blurry picture of the bear on his phone.

“Right here, there’s some rocks and the bear’s right there. And then Taylee came through and then boom, the bear shot off. She stops…” O’Neal remembers.

And then he and other coaches stopped the rest of the girls right before the two-mile mark because of the bear. They walked back to where all the teams were gathered. But once the bear cleared out, Taylee kept running. She was the only one to finish the race.

“Go Taylee! Push, push, push! Go Taylee!”

“I was just running and the bear was coming up from the water, and I didn’t want to keep going,” Taylee explains. “So it climbed up into the tree and I yelled back and waited and it went into the forest on the other side so I just kept going.”

Taylee wasn’t as worried about the bear as she was about her time.

“To be honest, what was going through my head when I had to stop was what could have my time been if I didn’t have to stop?”

A committee of coaches and athletic directors decided the 1, 2, and 3A girls would re-run the race, since it was interrupted before the end. Madison James and Marissa Yliniemi from Metlakatla High School were not thrilled about that.

“We were running we were in the mojo of it. Then all of a sudden they were like, there’s a bear! And it’s like, are you kidding me? I was doing good! I felt like I did not want to run again. There’s been bears [before] but they’ve never been actually on the course to the point where we had to stop the race.”

Since Taylee finished the course the first time, she didn’t have to run it again.

Ketchikan High School Activities Director Ed Klein said in the approximately 7 years he’s been here, there has never been a bear situation at an athletic competition. He says the cross country trails are marked, but not cleared of bears before the race.

“But it might be something we’ll have to put on our list,” Klein laughs.

Thorne Bay Coach Nyquest says she’s tried to prepare her five-person cross country team for encounters with wildlife.

“We run on logging roads, so we’re in the wilderness quite a bit. Tell the kids to make a lot of noise. But we’ve never had an issue.”

Despite the unexpected visitor, Taylee qualified for state. She was disappointed about the impact the bear had on her time – she was about a minute slower than usual – but she tried to take a positive perspective.

“In practice we always say, run like there’s a bear chasing you. I was like, well perfect opportunity!”

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: September 29, 2014

Mon, 2014-09-29 17:33

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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Begich Touts Positive Relationship with Murkowski in Campaign Ad

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington, D.C.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski keeps trying to shake him off, but Sen. Mark Begich continues to insist they have a good working relationship.

Aleutian Towns Struggle To Retain Safety Officers

Lauren Rosenthal, KUCB – Unalaska

Two Aleutian communities are going without local law enforcement after their village public safety officers resigned.

Insurer: Affordable Care Act Needs A Fix In Alaska

Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage

The open enrollment period for signing up for health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act begins November 15th. Customers in Alaska who don’t receive subsidies will have to pay dramatically higher rates for next year’s coverage. And one insurer on the exchange, Premera Alaska, says the state needs to implement a new program to ensure future rate increases aren’t as steep.

‘No Means No’ – UAS Includes Sexual Assault Ed In Freshmen Orientation

Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau

Experts often refer to the first several weeks of college for new students as the “red zone” – a time when they’re more likely to be sexually assaulted. The University of Alaska system is on a list of 79 post-secondary schools being investigated by the U.S. Department of Education for compliance with sexual assault laws or violations. This year, the federal government updated guidelines requiring colleges to proactively combat sexual assault by talking to students about consent.

Warm Spell Helps Growers Salvage Harvest After Cool, Soggy Summer

Tim Ellis, KUAC – Fairbanks

Gardeners and farmers around the Interior have pretty much shut down for the winter after a cool, rainy, and for many, disappointing growing season. Some growers salvaged a decent yield by diversifying their crops – and taking advantage of a late-season warm spell to do some last-minute harvesting.

Proposed Film/Photo Regs in Wilderness Areas Come Under Fire

Jennifer Canfield, KTOO – Juneau

As conservationists celebrate 50 years since the passage of the Wilderness Act, a U.S. Forest Service proposal to make certain wilderness area regulations permanent has brought forth accusations that the agency is infringing on First Amendment rights. Nearly a third of the 17 million-acre Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska is designated wilderness.

Black Bear Party-Crashes A Ketchikan XC Meet

Emily Files, KRBD – Ketchikan

A black bear was in first place for a short time during one of the races at the Region V Cross Country meet Saturday in Ketchikan. Teams from around Southeast Alaska faced off for the chance to compete in the state championship. But the event took a chaotic turn when the first race was interrupted by a bear.

 

 

Categories: Alaska News

Federal Grants Boost Services at Aleutian-Pribilof Clinics

Mon, 2014-09-29 15:52

Community health centers in the Aleutian and Pribilof Islands will get at least $600,000 in federal grant money for new services this year. The grants are aimed in part at helping new patients who enrolled in health plans under the Affordable Care Act.

But there aren’t many of those in the Aleutian Islands. Instead, providers will use the money for the patients they already have.

Jennifer Harrison oversees clinics from Whittier to Adak as executive director of Eastern Aleutian Tribes. She estimates they only had about 11 patients sign up for new health plans on the federal marketplace.

“They’re probably people that were under the self-pay category and that have gotten insurance now. That would be my guess,” Harrison says. “Because we’ve kind of already been seeing everybody in all the communities, so I don’t think it’s necessarily bringing in a new person through the door. It’s just helping that person pay for the services.”

So Harrison’s organization will use their $196,000-dollar grant to contract with a traveling optometrist and physical therapist. They’ll also set up a fund to pay to send people to residential drug and alcohol treatment centers, which right now, Harrison says isn’t happening:

“It’s really this weird gap in services throughout the state — it’s not something the Indian Health Service really supports in a big way, and it’s been really hard for people to get substance abuse treatment,” Harrison says. “Because often, they don’t have a job because of the substance abuse, so then they don’t have the insurance, so there’s nobody to help pay for it.”

Most of Eastern Aleutian Tribes’ patients are insured by the Indian Health Service. Harrison says they can make referrals for detox programs, but until now, they haven’t been able to cover the programs’ costs.

The federal grants will also pay for a mid-level provider on the Pribilof island of St. George for the first time. The Aleutian-Pribilof Islands Association is getting a $190,000 grant to help out the clinic there.

Like at Eastern Aleutian Tribes, APIA health administrator Jessica Mata-Rukovishnikoff also says the money will mainly serve current patients — increasing “access to a higher level of service.” But she does say most of St. George’s hundred or so residents enrolled in federal health plans. APIA got another grant to make that happen.

As enrollments go, Unalaska is the outlier in the region — the town’s clinic didn’t have any patients sign up for federal health care. Most of Iliuliuk Family & Health Services’ clients use commercial insurance, or pay out of pocket. Clinic director Eileen Conlon-Scott says those patients haven’t been able to afford to enroll in federal health plans.

“Well, if we could get them on the insurance rolls, our revenues would go up,” Scott says. “But understandably, they don’t have $500 a month to pay in insurance.”

So she says her clinic will use their federal grant like everyone else. They’re getting between $200,000 and $400,000 to pay for new medical equipment and new visiting specialists. It’ll mean more care for the people they’re already treating — and for now, it’ll be at the same price as before.

For the full list of grant recipients in Alaska, click here.

Categories: Alaska News

Why Was Interior Alaska Green During The Last Ice Age?

Mon, 2014-09-29 10:29

The snow-capturing peaks of the Alaska Range, including 17,400 foot Mount Foraker, left, and 20,320 foot Mount McKinley. (Photo by Ned Rozell)

During our planet’s most recent cold period, a slab of ice smothered Manhattan. Canada looked like Antarctica but with no protruding mountains. When the last glacial maximum peaked about 20,000 years ago, most of the continent — from the Arctic Ocean to the Missouri River — slept under a blanket of white.

Alaska was different. Anchorage and the rest of Southcentral, Southeast, and the Alaska Peninsula were under ice, but interior Alaska was green. Why, when blue ice buried North America, was Fairbanks ice-free?

First, another question: how do we know what the planet looked like 20,000 years ago? Answer: curious people who spot rock aprons draped over mountainsides and see tongues of extinct glaciers. The same types squint at cylinders of muck pulled from lake bottoms and envision maple and oak parklands where tundra ponds sit today.

One of these people, Dan Mann, offered an answer to the question of why central Alaska did not, in the literal sense, participate in the ice age (and despite its latitude has never been glaciated). When he’s not floating northern rivers and finding the remains of ancient creatures poking from riverbanks, Mann teaches a class at the University of Alaska called Ice Age Alaska.

Twenty thousand years ago, a time Mann calls “very recent,” Alaska was not the giant peninsula it is now. Because so much water was locked in glacier ice, sea level was 400 feet lower. That exposed the wide plain known as the Bering Land Bridge between western Alaska and Siberia. With Bering Strait closed, what is now Interior Alaska was much farther from ocean moisture. That “incredibly continental” climate featured warm, dry summers and less snow in winter.

The Interior now features monolithic granite tors (which glaciers would have sheared away) because of a combination of ice-age conditions, Mann said. Some of these conditions persist today, like mid-latitude interception of moist, warm air from the tropics, which provides less moisture for high-latitude places.

Two 19th-century physicists, Rudolf Clausius and Benoit Clapeyron, first explained another of the enduring features that keeps the Interior dry. Because air can’t hold as much moisture as it travels upslope and cools, rain and snow tend to unload on the south side of the Alaska Range. The north side stays dryer. An example of this: while rain and snow on Alaska’s southern coast is measured in feet, Yukon Flats can receive less than six inches of precipitation a year.

The Alaska Range was just as grand during the ice age as it is today. Because of this band of mountains frowning across the middle of Alaska, Tanana was a grassland while a mile of ice squashed Talkeetna, Toronto and almost everywhere in between.

“The Alaska Range is a fantastic barrier,” Mann said.

Since the late 1970s, the director of the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks has supported the writing and free distribution of this column to news media outlets. 2014 is Ned Rozell’s 20th year as a science writer for the Geophysical Institute.

Categories: Alaska News

Biologists Capture Orphaned Black Bear Cubs in Galena

Mon, 2014-09-29 09:17

Three orphaned bear cubs are safely in captivity after being captured by state biologists over the weekend in Galena.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game spokeswoman Cathie Harms says the biologists caught the black bears using baited live traps. 

“Friday evening about 8:30 they were able to capture two of the three cubs, knowing that if they hadn’t caught all three, the third one would be more difficult, and it was, it was very trap-shy,” she said. “So, they watched him Saturday and they tried on Saturday and finally on Sunday at 3:30 in the morning, they caught the third cub.”

Harms says the animals, who’s mother is suspected to have been illegally shot earlier this month, were flown to Fairbanks, and will be transported to the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage today.

“We are still evaluating the application of a facility in Colorado who has requested them,” she said. “We are hopeful they will have a home; we won’t know for about another week or so.”

The bear cubs have been roaming around the village since their mother was killed, and had gotten food from people. Harms says the cubs, born this spring, turned out to be bigger than biologists initially thought.

“One of the cubs was close to 50 pounds; they were large for cubs of the year,” Harms said. “That meant they had been eating well. They would have had a slight chance of making it to be wild black bears and growing up, even without their mother because of their size, but once people started feeding them, we knew that even if they did survive, they would be approaching people for food and getting into things.”

“So, they became a nuisance and they had to be removed.”

Alaska Wildlife Troopers are investigating the killing of the cubs mother, which was reported September 13th.

 

Categories: Alaska News

Judge Stops Logging Projects, Pending Review

Mon, 2014-09-29 09:10

Four Southeast Alaska logging projects are on hold after a judge found the U.S. Forest Service didn’t fully comply with a prior court order.

Conservationists who sued to stop the Scott Peak, Overlook, Traitors Creek and Soda Nick projects raised concerns with the model for determining sufficiency of deer habitat.

An appeals court in 2011 ordered an explanation for how the models supported decisions to move ahead with the projects. U.S. District Court Judge Ralph Beistline said Friday that the Forest Service failed to comply with that order.

The management plan for the Tongass National Forest was updated in 2008. Beistline said the agency can provide deer modeling analyses based on the 1997 plan under which the projects were approved or revise the approval decisions to apply the 2008 plan.

Categories: Alaska News

Schaeffer Cox Given More Time To File Appellate Brief

Mon, 2014-09-29 09:09

Convicted militia leader Schaeffer Cox has been given more time to file an appeal brief with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Cox was convicted in 2012 of nine federal charges, including conspiracy to kill federal law enforcement officers. He was sentenced in January 2013 to serve nearly 26 years in prison and gave his notice of appeal shortly thereafter.

Cox had a rocky relationship with his initial appellate attorney. He was allowed to get a new attorney in May.

The delay, granted last week, gives Cox and his attorney until Dec. 29 to file their opening briefs. Prosecutors will have until Jan. 28 to respond.

Categories: Alaska News

Judge Dismisses Case Against EPA

Mon, 2014-09-29 09:08

A judge has dismissed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over a process that could result in development of the Pebble Mine being restricted or prohibited.

The case was brought by the group behind the mine and the state, who argued that EPA was overstepping its authority. In dismissing the case Friday, U.S. District Court Judge H. Russel Holland said EPA’s initiation of the process was not a final agency action.

EPA has said it won’t decide before Jan. 2 what the next step in that process might be.

EPA faces another lawsuit from Pebble over an agency study that concluded large-scale mining posed significant risk to salmon in the Bristol Bay region. The study provided the basis for EPA invoking the process under the Clean Water Act.

Categories: Alaska News

Judge Rules in Favor of State on Merged Campaigns

Fri, 2014-09-26 18:21

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A judge sided with the state of Alaska Friday in a lawsuit challenging the merged campaigns of two candidates in the governor’s race.

Anchorage Superior Court Judge John Suddock ruled an emergency order issued by Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell that allowed the merger was valid.

The lawsuit was filed last week by Steve Strait, an Alaska Republican Party district chair.

Strait maintained Treadwell erred in his Sept. 2nd order that allowed Democratic gubernatorial nominee Byron Mallott to join campaigns with independent gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker and run as Walker’s lieutenant governor in the November election.

The new ticket is deemed a stronger challenge to Republican incumbent Governor Sean Parnell.

After Friday’s ruling, Strait and his attorney, Ken Jacobus, said they haven’t decided whether they’ll appeal to the Alaska Supreme Court.

Categories: Alaska News

Parnell Asks Military Official To Resign

Fri, 2014-09-26 18:19

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Weeks after firing the adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard, Gov. Sean Parnell has asked another official at the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs to resign.

Deputy Commissioner McHugh Pierre submitted his resignation on Thursday, and will leave the department on October 2. His resignation letter lists his “tremendous accomplishments” at the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, singling out disaster response efforts and the development of a veterans cemetery near Fairbanks. But the letter makes no mention of the Alaska National Guard, which was recently the subject of a scathing federal report.

As deputy commissioner, Pierre communicated with National Guard chaplains who raised concerns about the handling of sexual assault reports. In 2013, Pierre directed the chaplains not to speak with legislators about National Guard matters without first going through the chain of command. In an April interview with APRN, Parnell defended Pierre’s actions, and called the directive “standard operating policy” that “you don’t speak for the business, you don’t speak for the department without first coordinating it with your supervisor.”

On September 4, Parnell released the results of an investigation by the federal National Guard Bureau finding that the Alaska reserve forces mishandled sexual assault cases. The report also described instances of fraud and found the Alaska National Guard was experiencing a crisis of confidence with its leadership. That day, Parnell asked the Adjutant General, Thomas Katkus, to resign.

Sharon Leighow, a spokesperson for Parnell, confirmed that the governor also asked Pierre to step down, but did not give an explanation for his removal and did not mention the Guard in her statement.

“There won’t be any further comment on Mr. Pierre from our office,” Leighow wrote in an e-mail.

Michael O’Hare, a deputy director for the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, will take over the position on an acting basis.

Pierre did not return calls for comment. In his resignation letter, Pierre states he is “looking forward to new challenges and new adventures in the private sector.”

Pierre’s dismissal comes one day after Parnell met with a reform task force led by Brig. Gen. Jon Mott of the Connecticut National Guard to develop a plan for implementing the National Guard Bureau’s recommendations.

Categories: Alaska News

Small-scale Hydro Project Proposed for Talkeetna River

Fri, 2014-09-26 18:17



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The proposal for a massive hydroelectric project on the Susitna river is moving forward. The project has generated a lot of opposition in Talkeetna, the closest community to the dam site. Now a private company is proposing a second, smaller hydro project on the Talkeetna river.

The company is Northwest Power Service, Incorporated.  Brent Smith is heading up the Alaska operation, and says that this is the first time that NPSI is proposing building a dam, though it has considerable experience in hydropower.

“Most all of the projects that Northwest Power Service has been involved with in the past is to retrofit existing, federally owned dams in the Lower 48, where we go in and there’s already an existing dam that does not have power generation on it,” he said. “So, what we do is go through a licensing process to retrofit that dam and put power on it.”

The dam that NPSI is proposing would generate 75 megawatts of power, far less than that proposed by Susitna-Watana.  It would also have a much smaller footprint than the Susitna project, with a height of 370 feet.

Brent Smith says he believes that there is room in Alaska for the diversification of the power grid.  He adds that the location of the Talkeetna dam proposal has a lot to do with proximity to the electrical intertie between Anchorage and Fairbanks.  The site is not set in stone, however.

“I’m not going to say, today, that it’s in Talkeetna. I don’t know that, for sure,” Smith said. “What we want to do is take a look at that opportunity, but I am in favor of more of a diversified generation out there, not just one or two very large projects.”

Brent Smith says that he sees the Talkeetna proposal as a way to start a larger conversation about other power sources.  He is a proponent of methods that reduce reliance on fossil fuels.  In Smith’s eyes, the conversation that is part of any hydro project’s public process could help reveal the best option for the Railbelt.

“My hopes would be that we could spend a fair amount of the time, or the majority of the time, talking about, ‘Is there an opportunity for renewables in the State of Alaska, or are we just going to default to natural gas and diesel?’”

Mike Wood is the chair of the Susitna River Coalition, a Talkeetna-based group that opposes the construction of the Susitna-Watana hydro project.  He says that just because hydropower does not use fossil fuel to generate electricity does not necessarily mean it’s sustainable at large scales.

“Overall, this state truly needs to define what good, sustainable hydro is at any level, and the conversation needs to be had, beginning with our state legislature,” Wood said.

Wood says that the proposal put forth by Brent Smith and NPSI, while smaller than Susitna-Watana, still relies on the method of damming a river in order to spin turbines.

“If he wants to start the conversation…about smaller hydro, I would say personally, I believe he could have started it with a more progressive type of hydropower creator.”

Part of the Susitna River Coalition’s reason for opposing the damming of the Susitna River has to do with fish and other environmental concerns.  Mike Wood says there are other methods to consider for smaller hydro than, as he puts it, blocking up the river with concrete.

“It’s lake taps; it’s in higher places where anadromous fish haven’t been going.  It isn’t ruining a world class salmon river…Trading resources is not what we want to do, here.”

In the end, Mike Wood says the Talkeetna dam proposal will not divert the Susitna River Coalition’s efforts in opposing the Susitna-Watana Project.

The proposal for the Talkeetna dam is in the very early phases.

On Thursday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission sent back NPSI’s permit request, citing a lack of technical details for the proposed structure.  Brent Smith says that he is planning on speaking with local community councils, and is open to the prospect of public meetings to discuss non-fossil fuel energy, whether it be in the form of a dam or some other means of generating electricity.



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Categories: Alaska News

Seismologist Says It’s Time to Talk About Earthquake Early Warning

Fri, 2014-09-26 18:15

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Thursday’s 6.2 earthquake in Southcentral Alaska struck without warning. Because that’s what earthquakes do here in Alaska. But state seismologist Michael West says it’s time for Alaskans to discuss the possibility of an earthquake early warning system.

“You can think about it as throwing a rock in a pond and the waves ripple out at some speed, but it’s not instantaneous,” he says. “If you can detect those ripples before they get to you, like with sensors very close to the source, you can very easily have seconds, in some cases, maybe a minute or two of forewarning. “

The warning time would vary, depending on the location and type of earthquake. West says for a quake like the one Anchorage felt yesterday, the warning would likely only be a few seconds.

“If the 1964 earthquake, or something comparable were to occur going forward, an earthquake early warning could easily be able to provide tens of seconds before the strongest shaking.

So what can you do in tens of second? It’s probably not enough time to evacuate a building, but West says it could be enough for an automated shut down of a natural gas pipeline.

“Stoplights,” he says. “Turn all the stop lights red to bring all traffic to a halt, in advance.”

It could, he says, alert a surgeon just picking up a scalpel.

Japan’s early warning system stopped bullet trains and forced open elevator doors during the massive 2011 earthquake. Switzerland and Mexico also have warning systems. California is building one, but West says there’s nothing in development for Alaska.  To get such a system, he says the state would need more seismic stations.

“The reason for that is very simple: The closer you have a sensor to the start of the earthquake, the epicenter, the more quickly you can detect it,” he says.

It would also require fast data communication lines and a way to deliver useful messages to residents without inducing panic.  West says the cost would likely run to the tens of millions.

“Let me be honest. Some of this is expensive, and we need to decide whether or not that’s a priority for us or not. I think that’s a very logical, very reasonable discussion to have,” he said. “My concern is we’re not really talking about it very much.”

West was in Washington, DC this week to rally support for permanent seismic monitors in northern and western Alaska. They’re important for the Alaska Earthquake Center’s ongoing data collection, but West says they’d also be a good first step toward an early warning system.

 

Categories: Alaska News

Housing Conference Gets Underway Monday

Fri, 2014-09-26 18:14

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Two of the country’s foremost experts in the fight against chronic homelessness highlight the Alaska Coalition on Housing and Homelessness annual conference, which gets underway Monday in Juneau.

Categories: Alaska News

Biologists Trying to Rescue Orphaned Cubs

Fri, 2014-09-26 18:10



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Download Audio

State Fish and Game biologists are in Galena trying to capture 3 orphaned bear cubs.  The state initiated the effort after the cubs mother was reported killed by a local resident. The state is also working to find the animals a new home.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: September 26, 2014

Fri, 2014-09-26 18:07

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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Judge Rules in Favor of State on Merged Campaigns

The Associated Press
A judge sided with the state of Alaska Friday in a lawsuit challenging the merged campaigns of two candidates in the governor’s race.

Parnell Asks Military Official To Resign

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN-Anchorage
Weeks after firing the adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard, Gov. Sean Parnell has asked an official at the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs to resign.

Small-scale Hydro Project Proposed for Talkeetna River

Phillip Manning, KTNA-Talkeetna
The proposal for a massive hydroelectric project on the Susitna river is moving forward. The project has generated a lot of opposition in Talkeetna, the closest community to the dam site. Now a private company is proposing a second, smaller hydro project on the Talkeetna river.

Seismologist Says It’s Time to Talk About Earthquake Early Warning

Liz Ruskin, APRN-Washington
Thursday’s 6.2 earthquake in Southcentral Alaska struck without warning. Because that’s what earthquakes do here in Alaska. But state seismologist Michael West says now is the time for Alaskans to discuss the possibility of building an earthquake early warning system.

Housing Conference Gets Underway Monday

Casey Kelly, KTOO-Juneau
Two of the country’s foremost experts in the fight against chronic homelessness highlight the Alaska Coalition on Housing and Homelessness annual conference, which gets underway Monday in Juneau.

Biologists Trying to Rescue Orphaned Cubs

Dan Bross, KUAC-Fairbanks
State Fish and Game biologists are in Galena trying to capture three orphaned bear cubs.  The state initiated the effort after the cubs mother was reported killed by a local resident.  The state is also working to find the animals a new home.

AK: Learning to Dance

Joaqlin Estus, KNBA-Anchorage
Greg Nothstine didn’t learn traditional Inupiaq dance as a kid growing up in Nome. He was in his 30′s when he started studying the dance traditions of his family elders, who lived in Wales, Alaska. Now his Anchorage dance group is part of a renaissance in Alaska Native traditional dancing.

300 Villages: Coffman Cove

Ashley Snyder, KSKA – Anchorage
This week, we’re heading to Coffman Cove, on the east side of Prince of Wales Island. Heather Hedges works for the city of Coffman Cove.

Categories: Alaska News

300 Villages: Coffman Cove

Fri, 2014-09-26 12:56

This week, we’re heading to Coffman Cove, in Southeast Alaska. Heather Hedges is the tourism coordinator for the city of Coffman Cove.

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Categories: Alaska News

AK: Alaska Native Dancing Tradition

Fri, 2014-09-26 12:11

Greg Nothstine is second from left. (Photo by Joaqlin Estus, KNBA – Anchorage)

Over the past several decades, there’s been a renaissance in Alaska Native traditional dancing. KNBA’s Joaqlin Estus recently visited with one of the founders of an Inupiaq dance group in Anchorage, who told her about his personal journey toward tradition

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“Hey, I forgot your name. Allison. Allison! Good to see you again.”

Greg Nothstine hesitates to say he’s a dance group leader, but he is a founder of Kingikimiut, which means “people of the high bluff,” after the original name of Wales, a village in Northwest Alaska.

King Island is about 45 miles from Wales. Nothstine says long before he thought about forming a dance group, the late Paul Tiulana, of the King Island dance group, would call on him to dance at performances in Anchorage:

“He would look at me and say, ‘Ungwunm. This is a Wales song. You got to claim it. Come out here.’ He said, ‘Anytime you recognize a song from your village,’ – course I didn’t know it was from my village at the time – ‘you’re supposed to come up and claim it. You supposed to dance. That’s protocol. If you don’t claim it, you’ll lose it.’”

Nothstine is named after his grandfather, which in the Inupiaq view means his grandfather’s soul is supporting him, almost as a reincarnation. The family didn’t know where his grandfather was buried, though, until Nothstine was in his early 30s. He says a visit to the grave inspired him. He asked Tiulana if he could practice with the King Island dancers.

“He just smiled at me and he said ‘when I was a boy, we used to travel to your mom’s village of Wales. And I was maybe two-three years old and I used to get in the bow of the kayak and that was a real fun time for us kids. We’d go to your Mom’s village. We’d go to the Qargi. The women were graceful. The men were real powerful singers and drummers. Wow, that was a real wonderful time. Hey, I bet, you know what, if you go ask those elders who are still alive back in your Mom’s village, maybe they still remember some songs,’” Nothstine said.

More than half the residents of Wales died in the 1918 influenza epidemic, though, so it wasn’t clear how many Wales elders would knew traditional songs. But Nothstine and his mother and a friend traveled there with a borrowed video camera. Enough elders did know songs. The group used the videos to learn, and the group grew. Nothstine vividly remembers their first performance, at the World Eskimo Indian Olympics in Fairbanks some twenty years ago.

(Photo by Joaqlin Estus, KNBA – Anchorage)

“I was really singing my heart out. My aunt was sitting next to me. And I must have miscued. It’s real easy, you miscue and you keep singing the other stanza. And she looks to me. She grabs my shoulder and my arm and says real loud, ‘Not. Like. That!’ It’s right in front of everybody. And I’m trying to drum at the same time,” Nothstine said.

He says the group finished their performance as gracefully as they could:

“You have a couple of those experiences, and some people will say ‘never again, never again, never again.’ But we said ‘Okay, well, that’s the price of admission for reclaiming your songs.’ You just have to wade through some of these unknown areas and pitfalls and just keep going,” he said.

Nothstine says Kingikimiut now regularly performs at different events – they’ll soon perform at an elder’s birthday party. He says he’d like to see dance groups become an even bigger part of community life:

“There were songs that were used to be sung when married couples got married, when someone was successful at a hunt, or built a new boat, or a baby was born, or some significant aspect of life that happened that happened to a whole bunch of people that they wanted to keep in memory, we don’t do that as much anymore,” he said.

(Photo by Joaqlin Estus, KNBA – Anchorage)

Heidi Senungetuk was a professional violinist with the Anchorage Symphony and other orchestras, and always wanted to learn more about the music of her father’s people, who are from Wales. She’s now a PhD candidate in ethnomusicology. Senungetuk says dance group members enjoy the music, dancing, and sense of community – and are making a statement.

“People are trying to say, ‘We are here. We’re still here. And it’s okay to be who we are,’ rather than what so many people have experienced in Alaska, which is ‘you’re not good enough as a Native person’ or the whole colonial thought, which is, ‘get out of the way, we need your land,’” Senungetuk said.

At the rehearsal, Nothstine told the 30-some participants it was the last practice before his daughter Ravynn left for college at Dartmouth. He and his mother and his two children danced the seal hunting dance together, a family favorite.

Categories: Alaska News

Medicaid Reform

Fri, 2014-09-26 12:00

Alaska will spend more than $700 million on Medicaid this year. State officials say Medicaid costs are increasing at an unsustainable rate. What would reforming the program look like to keep costs under control?

HOST: Annie Feidt, Alaska Public Radio Network

GUESTS:

  • William Streur, commissioner, Department of Health and Social Services
  • Josh Applebee, deputy director, Department of Health and Social Services
  • Becky Hultberg, president, Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association
  • Callers Statewide

PARTICIPATE:

  • 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, September 30, 2014 at 10:00 a.m. on APRN stations statewide.

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

TALK OF ALASKA ARCHIVE

Categories: Alaska News

Fire at Nome Multiplex Injures 2, Displaces at Least 20

Fri, 2014-09-26 09:04

Fire tore through a Nome eight-unit multiplex Thursday night, displacing more than 20 people and gutting the building with flames that refused to subside after more than an hour of active firefighting.

Nome emergency dispatchers say they received calls starting at 7:07 p.m. reporting “black smoke and fire” coming from the apartment at the corner of East 3rd Avenue and Moore Way.

Flames licked the southwest face of the L-shaped multiplex as smoke billowed from the second- and first-story windows. Within minutes the vinyl siding of the southwest face boiled away; a deep black gash belched cinders and smoke on the building’s side.

Brian Volk, a teacher at Nome’s NACTEC technical school, lives in the building with his girlfriend and three children. He said he saw the smoke “around 7:15” and came outside to “group of people already watching.”

Firefighters with the Nome Volunteer Fire Department arrived on scene at 7:10 with five fire trucks, dispatchers said; EMTs with the Nome Volunteer Ambulance Department arrived at 7:16 with two ambulances and within minutes transported two people to Norton Sound Regional Hospital for “minor smoke inhalation,” EMTs on the scene said.

Fire crews did an immediate sweep, evacuating the building with no further injuries as persistent flames leapt toward the roof. Power cables connected to the building crackled in the heat of the fire; dispatchers cut power to the building around 7:25 as crews used a bolt cutter to sever two power lines running from the building.

Firefighters on one truck’s turntable ladder attempted to vent the flames using a chainsaw where the roof met the wall as fire crews with hoses continued to douse the blaze from the building’s western face.

More volunteer firefighters arrived, brining reserve oxygen tanks as fire crews began to enter the building just after 8:03 p.m., but efforts to knock the fire down forced them out again; a half hour later, flames were still visible on the roof.

Just minutes before 9 p.m., flames were no longer visible and firefighters were able to venture inside once again, tossing smoldering debris out of the building’s windows.

The Bering Straits Native Corporation owns the building. Vice President Jerald Brown said at the scene said the building houses families and BSNC employees.

Brian Stockman, manager at the BSNC-owned hotel the Aurora Inn (located mere yards away from the scene of the blaze) said the inn was offering rooms to all who were displaced. As of 9:30 p.m. Stockman said the hotel had opened  10 rooms to house “about 20 to 25 people, including children.”

Though formal donations have not yet been organized, Stockman said donations of clothes and other items for children were welcome. He said the hotel was providing food, diapers, and clothes.

Bethanna Bennett with the Alaska Red Cross in Anchorage said late Thursday night that volunteers were on the scene in Nome, but information on their efforts was unavailable Thursday.

Photos and video: David Dodman, KNOM.

Categories: Alaska News

Fire burns condo in Anchorage, doesn’t spread

Thu, 2014-09-25 17:53

The burned unit on Lunar Drive.

A fire severely damaged an Anchorage condo near Tudor and Baxter on Thursday afternoon, but fire crews contained it before it spread to other units and structures.

The Fire Department received a 9-1-1 call just before 2 pm saying the three story condo on Lunar Drive was engulfed in flames. Senior Fire Captain Mike Davidson said when the nine fire units arrived on scene, the sole occupant of the home was outside.

“The important thing was the occupant himself had a functioning smoke detector, there were people outside who alerted him. He was able to immediately leave the house and not go back in. That’s the biggest thing we tell people is they need to get out, they need to not go back in. Because when they do go back in it often doesn’t work out well for them.”

Davidson said the fire was contained within 20 minutes, but the condo was heavily damaged.

A Fire Department press release said two firefighters sustained minor injuries and were transported to the hospital. The fire is currently under investigation and the cause is unknown.

Categories: Alaska News
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