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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: 59 min 55 sec ago

Alaska News Nightly: March 23, 2015

Mon, 2015-03-23 17:37

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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Police Confident Remains Belong To Missing Kenai Family

Shaylon Cochran, KDLL – Kenai

Police investigators in Kenai are confident they’ve found the remains of a family missing since last May.

Shell Oil Replaces Pete Slaiby

Lauren Rosenthal, KUCB – Unalaska

Shell Oil has replaced one of its top executives in charge of exploration off the coast of Alaska.

Sen. Sullivan: Alaska One Family, Obama Not Its Friend

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington DC

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan returned to Juneau and today gave his first speech as a senator to a joint session of the Alaska Legislature. The first-term Republican established an “us versus them” theme – a united Alaska up against the Obama administration.

Committee Takes Up Gas Line Board Appointments

The Associated Press

New appointees to the board of the Alaska Gasline Development Corp. expressed support for a major liquefied natural gas project the state is pursuing with oil and gas companies.

State Senators Question Need For Water, Sewer Construction Dollars

Joaqlin Estus, KNBA – Anchorage

State Senate Finance Committee members are going over proposed agency budgets one by one, looking for funds or programs they can cut. Thursday they questioned Department of Environmental Conservation officials, asking just how bad it would be to turn down federal dollars for water and sewer systems.

USFS Celebrates Big Thorne Decision As Environmental Groups Weight Options

Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau

The U.S. Forest Service says a Friday court decision allowing a timber sale will help speed changes in Tongass National Forest logging. But opponents say it will damage other Southeast Alaska industries.

Potential Alaska State Park Cuts Rile Valdez Residents

Marcia Lynn, KCHU – Valdez

Proposed funding cuts for Alaska State Parks have caused a stir in Valdez where the one Park Ranger position could be eliminated.

After 3 Failed Attempts, Freeride Holds Haines Competition

Emily Files, KHNS – Haines

The fourth time was a charm for the Freeride World Tour in Haines. The big mountain ski and snowboard competition made three attempts to hold the event, but canceled each one because of weather. Today, conditions were finally right for about 30 athletes to take on the Haines mountains.

Cindy Abbott Claims 2015 Iditarod Red Lantern Award

Jenn Ruckel, KNOM – Nome

After two prior attempts, this year’s Red Lantern, Cindy Abbott, completed her first Iditarod late last night.

Categories: Alaska News

Laurie Schmidt New VP For Shell Alaska

Mon, 2015-03-23 17:24

Shell Oil has replaced one of its top executives in charge of exploration off the coast of Alaska.

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As vice president of Shell’s Alaska venture, Pete Slaiby traveled the state to build support for Arctic drilling and defend the program against its critics.

He left Anchorage almost two months ago for a new job at Shell’s corporate headquarters.

That change wasn’t reported until last week, in the trade publication Petroleum News.

Spokesperson Megan Baldino says it was announced internally at Shell – and is not related to problems the company faced during its last Arctic drilling season.

“He led the venture for six years, extending well beyond the typical assignment,” Baldino said. “I don’t think anyone would argue that he leaves behind a legacy of leadership and working with communities and building partnerships. And that has positioned the venture for well into the future.”

Baldino says an agreement between Shell and the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation to share in drilling proceeds is still going forward – even after Slaiby’s departure.

For now, Shell is focused on securing legal permission to return to the Arctic this summer. And Laurie Schmidt is stepping in as the new vice president for Shell in Alaska.

Schmidt is an attorney who’s been with Shell for 25 years. She has experience in internal auditing, overseeing contracting for drilling projects, and in community relations – both in Russia and in Nigeria.

“So making sure that local people are trained and skilled to work on projects and can apply for and succeed in the jobs that are available anywhere where Shell works,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt has already been sent to Barrow and Unalaska to meet with stakeholders since she took over February 1.

Categories: Alaska News

Committee Takes Up Gas Line Board Appointments

Mon, 2015-03-23 17:22

New appointees to the board of the Alaska Gasline Development Corp. expressed support for a major liquefied natural gas project the state is pursuing with oil and gas companies.

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The House Resources Committee held confirmation hearings for Rick Halford, Joe Paskvan and Hugh Short.

Paskvan said “job No. 1″ is the major project, known as Alaska LNG. If that falters, he said he believes Alaskans deserve the best shot at an economically viable alternative, if one exists.

Gov. Bill Walker proposed increasing the size of a smaller stand-alone gas line project and turning into a project capable of exports in case Alaska LNG faltered. Some lawmakers worry this could create uncertainty around Alaska LNG.

The House plans to vote on legislation Monday to limit AGDC’s role in an alternate project.

Categories: Alaska News

State Senators Question Need For Water, Sewer Construction Dollars

Mon, 2015-03-23 17:21

State Senate Finance Committee members are going over proposed agency budgets one by one, looking for funds or programs they can cut. Thursday they questioned Department of Environmental Conservation officials, asking just how bad it would be to turn down federal dollars for water and sewer systems.

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Categories: Alaska News

USFS Celebrates Big Thorne Decision As Environmental Groups Weight Options

Mon, 2015-03-23 17:20

Clearcuts and old-growth forests are part of the view on Prince of Wales Island. A ruling in an environmental lawsuit says the island’s Big Thorne timber sale can proceed. (Creative Commons photo by Nick Bonzey)

The U.S. Forest Service says a Friday court decision allowing a timber sale will help speed changes in Tongass National Forest logging. But opponents say it will damage other Southeast Alaska industries.

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The Forest Service designed the Big Thorne sale as part of its transition from old-growth to second- or young-growth timber cuts.

Ten environmental organizations sued to block the sale, saying the acreage is critical habitat for deer and wolf populations, as well as salmon.

The ruling was made by U.S. District Court Judge Ralph Beistline. His 25-page decision rejects claims that the Forest Service failed to follow proper procedure before offering the sale.

Alaska Regional Forester Beth Pendleton was encouraged by the decision.

“It is critical to our overall transition and the ability to provide bridge timber to the industry here in Southeast, as we make that complete transition to young growth in the next 10 to 15 years,” she says.

The court decision allows the agency to proceed with the sale, which includes about 6,000 acres of old-growth rainforest on Prince of Wales Island. Another approximately 2,000 acres of second-growth trees are also included.

A suit, filed in August, said the agency did not properly consider the sale’s impacts on wildlife.

Southeast Alaska Conservation Council Executive Director Malena Marvin says logging Big Thorne would hurt other regional industries.

“We have a thriving fishing and tourism economy here and those are based on healthy streams and abundant wildlife and both of those things are undercut by old-growth logging,” she says.

Big Thorne is the largest timber sale planned for the Tongass, the nation’s biggest national forest.

The agency awarded a contract for about two-thirds of the acreage to Klawock’s Viking Lumber in October. It hoped to settle legal challenges in time for logging to start this spring.

But the lawsuit isn’t necessarily over. The plaintiffs could take the decision before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and seek an injunction pending the outcome.

SEACC’s Marvin says the environmental groups will discuss whether they’ll take that action. She says the suit includes views from more than those taking court action.

“In our experience, local people would much rather see a small and sustainable wood industry that actually keeps money circulating it in our communities instead of exporting old growth in the round to Asia,” she says.

Loggers say small communities want the opposite, a strong logging industry that provides good jobs.

The sale was first announced in the summer of 2013. Tongass officials said it could provide up to a decade’s worth of timber for Viking and smaller mills.

Environmentalists filed an agency appeal over impacts to wolves and other wildlife. They also pointed out that the area to be logged is home to about three-quarters of the world’s population of a rare orchid.

The Forest Service rejected that internal appeal, though it deferred offering some of the acreage.

Regional Forester Pendleton says Beistline’s ruling shows the agency did its homework.

“This decision really does validate the importance of the Big Thorne sale and the decision that was made associated with that,” she says.

The ruling came as the Tongass Advisory Committee prepares to meet in Juneau.

The 15-member panel is working on recommendations for an updated Tongass Land Management Plan, including the transition from old- to young-growth logging.

Categories: Alaska News

Potential Alaska State Park Cuts Rile Valdez Residents

Mon, 2015-03-23 17:19

Proposed funding cuts for Alaska State Parks have caused a stir in Valdez where the one Park Ranger position could be eliminated.

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Categories: Alaska News

After 3 Failed Attempts, Freeride Holds Haines Competition

Mon, 2015-03-23 17:18

Skier Lorraine Huber gets ready for her run.

The fourth time was a charm for the Freeride World Tour in Haines. The big mountain ski and snowboard competition made three attempts to hold the event, but cancelled each one because of weather.

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The ten-day permit the Haines Borough granted the event ended on Sunday, but the borough manager gave permission to extend the window two more days. On Monday, the conditions were right for about 30 athletes to take on the Haines mountains.

“Welcome to the Freeride World Tour,” Commentator Ed Leigh said before the competition. “It’s a five-stop journey around the world, that challenges the best skiers and snowboarders to descend some of the most technical and intimidating mountains on the planet.”

This was the Freeride’s first ever stop in Alaska and it hasn’t been smooth sailing. After failed attempt after failed attempt, the organizers decided to try one more time on Monday. And sunny, clear skies welcomed the skiers onto a steep mountain face called “The Venue.”

“We have sat out 12 days waiting for these conditions,” Leigh said. “And the snow up here is just phenomenal.”

The competition on began around 9:30 a.m. with men’s snowboarders. American Sammy Luebke started out the competition strong. Judges gave him a score of 90 points out of 100, which put him in first place in his category.

As athletes from around the world took on the mountain, Haines locals watched the competition through an online livestream at various locations around town. About 20 people sat around a big screen at the public library.

“I’m the person going ‘Ohh! Oh my gosh that’s scary!’” said librarian Debbie Gravel.

The library’s IT guy and local skier Erik Stevens was watching too.

“It’s just been amazing to watch people open up this face,” he said. “The big error are nailbiting, they’re exicitng to watch.”

Over at the Haines School, about 25 students crowded around a screen in that library. 9th grader Seth Waldo says he got out of math class to watch.

“We’ve been asking all of our teachers about it. They’ve said no,” Waldo said. “We finally got one teacher to buckle under peer pressure.”

Two more Americans topped the rankings in the men’s skiing and women’s snowboarding categories. 21-year-old rookie George Rodney gained a score of 87.75. Shannan Yates earned 79.5 points.

As Stevens watched the competition, he said the more athletes who carve tracks in the snow, the more difficult it gets.

“The face just gets more and more tracked up with every run,” he said. “It’s gonna be harder for them ’cause there’s less powder and bumps from the other tracks. That really messes you up when you’re going fast.”

That turned out to be true for the women skiiers, who went last.

“Boom! Oh no! She got caught up on the landing and she’s still tumbling,” commentators Leigh and Martin Winkler reacted as Alaskan Hazel Birnbaum fell.

Birnbaum was one of three female skiers to wipe out and lose her skis, meaning she wasn’t able to finish her run. But there were a couple women skiiers who made great impressions.

Austrian Eva Walkner was one of them. She scored 76.75 points.

“That was a worthy run of a champion,” Leigh said.

Walkner’s lead is big enough that she can already be named Freeride champion in her category, even though the final Freeride competition in Verbier, Switzerland is yet to come.

The Freeride in Haines ended on a low note when skier Jaclyn Paaso took a harsh tumble and had a doctor rushed to her side before she skied down to the finish line. There were a lot of impressive runs, but there were also some frightening falls. It doesn’t look like anyone was seriously injured.

As the event wrapped up, commentator Ed Leigh said the competition was worth the patience and hard work that went into making it happen in Haines.

“This is one for the history books,” Winkler said. “The first time Alaska, Haines, Freeride World Tour. Unbelievable efforts have been taken to make this happen.”

Categories: Alaska News

Sen. Sullivan: Alaska one Family, Obama not its Friend

Mon, 2015-03-23 16:35

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan returned to Juneau and today gave his first speech as a senator to a joint session of the Alaska Legislature. The first-term Republican established an “us versus them” theme – a united Alaska up against the Obama administration.

Sullivan, who ousted a Democrat in a tough race, opened with unity. He says Alaskans are one big family who survive life’s ups and downs together.

“Births. Deaths. Marriages. Even elections,” he said.

Sullivan made a point of seeking out a Barrow Democrat who has recovered after he fell ill on the House floor last month.

“It’s great to see Rep. Ben Nageak, looking as healthy as ever. Where are you Benny?”

Someone told him Rep. Nageak was absent that day.

“Oh no! That was my first applause line!” Sullivan quipped.

He talked about his work on a veteran’s suicide bill, and going to the White House for the signing ceremony. He says Alaskans need to align interests with people of every political stripe.

“Certainly one that that I’ve already started is working with both sides of the aisle on critical issues to our country, critical issues to our state. It’s something that I do on a regular basis,” he said. “In fact, Sen. Murkowski, Rep. Young and I made a little news the other night. We had a potlatch dinner at the senator’s house with the entire Hawaiian delegation – all Democrats.”

But Sullivan was elected on a strong anti-Obama message, and he has stayed consistent. Sometimes, Sullivan says, interests can’t be aligned.

“On some of the most critical issues facing our state and country, the administration of Barack Obama does not have our interests at heart,” he said. “This is becoming increasingly clear.”

Sullivan says Alaskans want access to develop federal lands, big economic projects, and less regulation, while the administration, he says, wants the opposite.

“We want a strong secure Arctic teeming with opportunity for our citizens, and protected by a strong military presence in Alaska,” he said. “They’re looking at removing thousands of our Arctic-tough soldiers.”

(The Army plans to cut brigade combat teams, possibly from Alaska. The Army’s chief of staff says it’s due to the 2011 Budget Control Act, passed by Congress.)

Rep. Adam Wool, a Fairbanks Democrat, says this was the first time he’d heard Sullivan speak, other than in campaign ads.

“He said ‘My door is always open, I work with Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Socialists.’ But much of the speech … seemed kind of partisan,” Wool said.

Rep. David Guttenberg, another Fairbanks Democrat, says he hopes Sullivan can deploy a different skill set than the one that got him elected.

“To be a statesman, which is what we need to do in the U.S. Senate, is you need to build the bridges. You need to make people see that you’re relevant,” he said.

Guttenberg says he was delighted to hear about the dinner with the Hawaii delegation, which he says continues an important alliance forged by the late Sen. Ted Stevens. But Guttenberg says, he also heard a lot of blame, which he says isn’t constructive.

“Our guys need to be able to talk to the president no matter who he is. You need to be able to have that dialogue,” he said. “Alaska has interests that are so important, you need to not shut the door anywhere you turn. And blaming the president every time you turn around is just the nature of the very partisanship that’s gone on back there.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski made her annual speech to the legislature last month. No date has been announced yet for Congressman Don Young.

 

Categories: Alaska News

Police Confident Remains Belong To Missing Kenai Family

Mon, 2015-03-23 14:10

Kenai Police Lt. David Ross addresses the media at Kenai City Hall Monday afternoon. Police believe they have found the remains of Rebecca Adams, 22; Michelle Hundley, 5; Jaracca Hundley, 3; and Brandon Jividen, 37, all missing since May of 2014.

Police investigators in Kenai are confident they’ve found the remains of a family missing since last May.

A homicide investigation is underway for missing 22-year-old Rebecca Adams, her daughters, 5-year-old Michelle Hundley and 3-year-old Jaracca and Adams’ boyfriend, 37-year-old Brandon Jividen. The family left virtually no trace when they were last seen 10 months ago – until this weekend.

“Saturday evening, about 9:50, Kenai police received notification from a person traveling in the area that they saw a piece of clothing off the trail, they got out, and located what appeared to be human remains,” Kenai Police Lieutenant David Ross said.

Ross gave few details on what exactly was found, but did say a hand gun was also left at the scene, and that the remains match with what they had been searching for.

“The clothes are consistent, the size, the location,” Ross said. “We’re very confident it is, but obviously we’ll be looking for the medical examiners confirmation through DNA testing and so forth.”

Local police, the FBI and scores of other family members, friends and neighbors combed the area in North Kenai for months, but had turned up little. The remains were found in an area very near the missing family’s apartment, in a low-lying area, just off a trail that’s passable for vehicles.

“You know, I can only speculate how close searchers may have come and why that was difficult to find,” Ross said. “But searching for things or people in the Alaska wilderness is not an easy thing to find people.”

Ross read from a statement prepared on behalf of Rebecca Adams’ family. It said they are grateful for the continued support of the community as well as the time and effort put into this investigation by local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.

The family does not plan to give any interviews and asked for privacy as the investigation continues.

Categories: Alaska News

Cindy Abbott Claims 2015 Iditarod Red Lantern Award

Mon, 2015-03-23 10:03

Cindy Abbott cruises through Anchorage during the 2015 Iditarod ceremonial start. (Photo by Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage)

This year’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race has wrapped up, with the final musher arriving in Nome.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports that rookie musher Cindy Abbott, from Irvine, California, arrived in Nome seconds before 9:20 p.m. Sunday. Abbott wins the Red Lantern Award, given to the last team to arrive.

Abbott finished in 13 days, 11 hours, 19 minutes and 51 seconds. This year’s winner, Dallas Seavey, finished in eight days, 18 hours, 13 minutes, six seconds.

This was the 56-year-old Abbott’s third Iditarod attempt. She scratched due to injuries in prior attempts.

Seventy-eight teams started this year’s Iditarod; 66 teams finished.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska Fish And Game Says It Could Absorb CFEC

Mon, 2015-03-23 09:37

At a legislative committee Thursday, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game says it could absorb part of the responsibilities of the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission if it was eliminated.

The House Fisheries Committee heard Kodiak Rep. Louise Stutes’ House Bill 112, which would transfer duties of the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission to the Department of Fish and Game and the Office of Administrative Hearings. Twenty-five full time employees would move to Fish and Game.

Kevin Brooks is Fish and Game deputy commissioner.

“The department believes that we could make this work without service degradation to commercial fishermen. I think that’s important. Issuing permits, doing emergency transfers, those types of things,” Brooks says.

The CFEC is responsible for deciding what commercial fisheries to limit, who gets to participate in them and adjudicating appeal cases. It also issues permits and licenses, which bring in the majority of the agency’s revenue.

This is not the first time a lawmaker has tried to eliminate the CFEC. Homer Rep. Paul Seaton first introduced a similar bill at the end of the last legislative session and initiated a legislative audit.

Fish and Game conducted its own review that came out in February. It made several recommendations and highlighted some inefficiencies, like a backlog of 28 application cases more than 15 years old.

Sitka Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins sits on the fisheries committee.

“There seems to be some stubborn resistance getting to the number zero with that backlog. The backlog is low, but it doesn’t seem to be working its way down, at least quickly. And just put directly, why has the backlog not been worked through?” Kreiss-Tomkins asks.

CFEC Chair Bruce Twomley says he and the other two commissioners adjudicated 143 cases last year, mostly permit transfers. He says they are committed to finishing the backlogged cases in 2016.

Stutes’ bill would do away with the agency’s three heads and add an executive director, saving $424,000, according to a Fish and Game estimate.

The House Fisheries Committee will take public testimony on the bill to eliminate CFEC Thursday at 10 a.m. As of Friday, at least two letters of opposition have come from the fishing community, including the United Southeast Alaska Gillnetters Association.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska Ferry Rates Rising For Commercial Customers

Mon, 2015-03-23 09:35

Three ferries tied up at the Ketchikan Shipyard in the winter of 2012. Commercial users will likely pay higher rates beginning next winter. (Ed Schoenfeld/CoastAlaska News)

You’ve probably heard that state ferry fares are going up in May. The Alaska Marine Highway System also plans to increase commercial rates later this year.

State officials say it costs too much to run the system.

Rising expenses and decreasing state revenues are leading to a 4.5 percent fare increase that will hit most travelers in May. Legislative budget-writers boosted it to 9 percent, though the extra charges will happen later.

Department of Transportation officials are now considering larger increases for commercial customers, those moving trucks and container vans via ferry.

Commissioner Marc Luiken cites a new analysis of charges.

“The study made it very apparent that the commercial rates aboard the marine highway system are considerably lower than comparable ferry systems around the United States and the world. The role of government is not to compete with private industry, but to support it,” he says.

The study, by Anchorage-based Northern Economics, says other ferry systems charge commercial vehicles 60 to 120 percent more than passenger rates. It recommends the ferry system do the same, though not all at once.

Officials say the increases will help, but not solve, the marine highway’s budget problems.

“I think the system needs to raise rates. Nobody likes to pay more. But I’d just be happy if I could use the ferry,” says Petersburg’s Dave Kensinger, co-owner of Chelan Produce.

The company sells Pacific Northwest fruit and vegetables in Southeast communities out of a truck. He’s also represented commercial users on the state’s Marine Transportation Advisory Board.

He says the issue isn’t cost, it’s the schedule.

“Twenty years ago, in the course of our business between my wife and I, we got on the ferry 100 times a year. This year, with what I believe are the proposed cuts to ferry service, I think I’m going to get on the ferry twice,” he says.

Calls to barge companies serving ferry port communities were not immediately returned.

Transportation Commissioner Luiken, speaking to the Southeast Conference, says increases will be considered as part of next winter’s ferry schedule.

He says higher ferry rates are part of a larger look at his agency’s regional costs.

“I can tell you the long-term transportation outlook for Southeast Alaska is going to be impacted by what can be responsibly done and what is sustainable over time,” he says.

The legislatively mandated fare increase must still make it through the state Senate and the governor’s office. If it does, it’s expected to be in place for the winter season.

Categories: Alaska News

Arctic Ice Melt Sees Early Start

Mon, 2015-03-23 09:28

The maximum extent of Arctic ice on Feb. 25 was the lowest on record. The orange line shows the median extent for that day from 1981 to 2010. (Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center)

The Arctic’s summer ice melt has begun — earlier than ever.

The National Snow and Ice Data Center reported Friday that Arctic sea ice reached its maximum extent on Feb. 25.

That extent covered about half a million square miles less than average — and it maxed out two weeks sooner than normal.

The Data Center says ice is still growing in parts of the Bering Sea — and there could be some spikes later in the season. But they don’t think the overall extent will see a major increase again this season, especially further north.

The Arctic saw lower than average ice conditions across the board this year, except in the Labrador and Davis straits.

Categories: Alaska News

Human Remains Found on Kenai Trail May Link to Missing Family

Mon, 2015-03-23 09:26

According to a release on Sunday, Kenai police were notified by a motorist Saturday evening of human remains and clothing found on a local trail.

The remains were found in west Kenai near Borgen Avenue and Alpine Drive.

That’s just a few miles from the apartment of a family that’s been missing for 10 months.

Thirty-seven-year-old Brandon Jividen, his girlfriend, 22-year-old Rebecca Adams, and her two daughters, 6-year-old Michelle and 3-year-old Jaracca, disappeared in late May 2014. They were reported missing in early June.

At the time, their apartment was found locked with no signs of forced entry. The family’s camping gear and two cars were left at the apartment, along with the children’s car seats and many of their clothes and possessions. However, there were some personal effects reported missing.

Items found with the human remains over the weekend do appear to match those missing from the apartment.

Police, State Troopers, the FBI, Fish and Game and volunteers conducted extensive searches near the apartment last summer, including the Borgen Avenue area. The structured sweeps were called off after several weeks of turning up few leads, though family and friends continued the search through late last year.

The remains will be analyzed and the police are investigating. An FBI team from Anchorage has been dispatched to assist.

Police are not releasing any additional information until a media briefing midday Monday.

Categories: Alaska News

AK: Hip-Hop Message Encouraging Drug-Free Lifestyle Resonating With Dillingham Youth

Fri, 2015-03-20 18:20

(Courtesy Samuel Johns)

Samuel Johns grew up in the community of Copper Center surrounded by drugs and alcohol. After years of struggling with alcoholism, he is now sober and trying to make it as a musician who blends Athabascan culture with modern hip hop.

Johns is traveling to villages across the state to perform and talk about living a drug free life. And it’s a message that seems to be resonating with kids in Dillingham.

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Students in Dillingham are squeezed into the plastic blenches in the high school gym on a recent Thursday afternoon as Samuel Johns plays his skin drum. He warns the students that he can get pretty loud singing traditional songs but its all part of the show.

“When I preform for some of the kids they look scared, especially some of the white kids, I’ll just be like, aahhh, and they’re like is he going on a war path right now? What is he doing?” he said.

Johns is trying to inspire kids to preserve traditional culture. But also close to his heart is a mission to convince rural kids to avoid addiction and curb domestic violence.

(Courtesy Samuel Johns)

Johns spent years drinking, growing up in the Copper Center. He says he regrets the time he lost just parting away his days. He never graduated from high school.

“That’s what I am trying to talk to the kids about, not wasting that time and get going right now,” Johns said.

He speaks to the students about his personal experience with substance abuse and drug dealing.

“I am ashamed of selling weed because I could have lost my daughter. I could have lost my home,” Johns said. “Luckily, that never happened with me. And I feel like now I have the platform to tell my story, to tell people, hey this is what I went through.”

The kids are intrigued by the traditional singing but as soon as Johns begins to rap they get out their phones to record and take photos.

“That’s the first time I’ve ever heard of a rapping native,” Sophomore Dorothy Bavilla said. “It’s very surprising and very cool and I think he really got the message out there.”

(Courtesy Samuel Johns)

Johns’ message also resonated with 8th grader Kate Gomez.

“Him rapping about culture and domestic violence, just standing up for things really inspires me to help other people,” she said.

Johns frequently raps about his native heritage. He sees himself as a link to where the kids are today and where the elders used to be.

“When I talk about traditional music, I try to tell them, this right here, our traditional culture, our traditional values, it’s survived for thousands of years for a reason, not for it to end right now,” Johns said. “And now, I feel like I am in a position to build that bridge to have our kids see that our culture is cool.”

Johns sees the problem of addiction as a threat to native culture. He says his ancestors used to be like superman, they were strong and pure.

“But alcohol, drugs, food, unhealthy food. It’s crippling our way of life. It’s crippling what our ancestors past down for so many years,” Johns said. “Alcoholism, drug addiction, any type of addiction is really our kryptonite for the way we used to be.”

Johns hopes his music, in at least some small way, will help to change that.

Johns doesn’t want kids to simply become a fan of his music, he hopes to inspire them to become leaders in their own communities. Johns believes his music allows him to connect with Alaska students in a meaningful way.

“I see the kid with hides on,” he said. “Who else has hides on? Just you? Alright, he knows style.”

Categories: Alaska News

49 Voices: Grace Bolling of Craig

Fri, 2015-03-20 18:19

This week we’ll hear from a high school student from Craig. Grace Bolling is from Craig, Alaska.

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Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: March 20, 2015

Fri, 2015-03-20 18:12

 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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Big Thorne Timber Sale Lawsuit Dismissed

Leila Kheiry, KRBD-Ketchikan
The Big Thorne Timber Sale lawsuit has been dismissed by a federal judge in Anchorage. Alaska U.S. District Court Judge Ralph Beistline granted summary judgment on Friday in favor of the defendants and rejected every argument brought forward by the plaintiffs.

Young Introduces Bill to Reauthorize Magnuson-Stevens Act

Liz Ruskin, APRN-Washington, DC

Alaska Congressman Don Young has introduced a bill to reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the nation’s primary law governing fishing in federal waters. It leaves fisheries managers some controversial wiggle room.

Soldiers to Train Near Bethel

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel
More than 100 soldiers will train in the Bethel area over the next week and a half to build arctic operational expertise and cultivate the next generation of National Guard soldiers. Members of the Alaska Army National Guard’s 297th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade are descending on the YK Delta to polish their arctic skills.

Streff Takes Command of National Guard

The Associated Press
A new Alaska Army National Guard commander is taking the helm in the weekend ceremony at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. Col. Joseph Streff will take over from Brig. Gen. Mike Bridges at a ceremony beginning at 2 p.m. Sunday.

Army Confirms Investigation of Racism in Stryker Brigade

Tim Elllis, KUAC-Fairbanks
Army investigators have confirmed they’ve launched a formal investigation into a Stryker Brigade soldier’s allegations of racist behavior by some members of his unit. The action follows an earlier informal inquiry into allegations- first outlined in a story published Wednesday by the Army Times.

Bill Filed To Promote Language Immersion

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN-Juneau

At least 20 distinct Native languages are spoken in Alaska, and every year, the population of speakers gets a little smaller. A Golovin senator now wants to reverse that trend by encouraging immersion language charter schools in the state.

SE Tribal Organization Gets Feds Backing for Energy Upgrades

By Casey Kelly, KTOO-Juneau
Southeast Alaska’s largest tribal organization is getting $500,000 from the federal government to make energy efficiency upgrades to its Juneau headquarters.

BC Adds New Requirements for Proposed Mines

Katarina Sostaric, KSTK-Wrangell
The British Columbia Environmental Assessment Office announced on Thursday it’s adding new requirements for proposed mines undergoing environmental review. The changes are part of an effort to make mine tailings facilities safer in response to last year’s tailings dam collapse at the Mount Polley mine. KSTK’s Katarina Sostaric reports.

Fish Board Takes No Action on Limiting Clams on Cook Inlet Beach
The Associated Press
The Alaska Board of Fisheries has decided to take no action on a proposal that would have set limits on clams on a remote beach on the west side of Cook Inlet.

AK: The Hip Hop of Samuel Johns
Samuel Johns grew up in the community of Copper Center surrounded by drugs and alcohol. After years of struggling with alcoholism, he is now sober and trying to make it as a musician who blends Athabascan culture with modern hip hop. Johns is traveling to villages across the state to perform and talk about living a drug free life. And it’s a message that seems to be resonating with kids in Dillingham.

49 Voices: Grace Bolling

This week we’ll hear from a high school student from Craig. Grace Bolling is from Craig, Alaska.

 

 

Categories: Alaska News

Big Thorne Timber Sale Lawsuit Dismissed

Fri, 2015-03-20 17:40

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The Big Thorne Timber Sale lawsuit has been dismissed by a federal judge in Anchorage.

Alaska U.S. District Court Judge Ralph Beistline granted summary judgment on Friday in favor of the defendants, and rejected every argument brought forward by the plaintiffs.

The lawsuit isn’t necessarily over, however. The plaintiffs could appeal the decision to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and seek an injunction pending the outcome. The lawsuit was filed last summer shortly after the U.S. Forest Service made a final decision to move forward with the timber sale on Prince of Wales Island.

The proposed timber harvest would include about 6,000 acres of old-growth rainforest. Environmental organizations say that acreage is critical habitat for deer and wolf populations.
The Forest Service is moving away from old-growth logging, but the switch to second-growth will take time.

Federal officials and pro-logging groups say old-growth harvests will need to continue during that transition for mills to survive.

In his decision today, Beistline ruled that the plaintiffs failed to show that the Forest Service didn’t follow proper procedure before making its final decision.

Categories: Alaska News

Soldiers to Train Near Bethel

Fri, 2015-03-20 17:25

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More than 100 soldiers will train in the Bethel area over the next week and a half to build arctic operational expertise and cultivate the next generation of National Guard soldiers. Members of the Alaska Army National Guard’s 297th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade are descending on the YK Delta to polish their arctic skills.

Categories: Alaska News

Army Confirms Investigation of Racism in Stryker Brigade

Fri, 2015-03-20 17:14

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Army investigators have confirmed they’ve launched a formal investigation into a Stryker Brigade soldier’s allegations of racist behavior by some members of his unit. The action follows an earlier informal inquiry into allegations- first outlined in a story published Wednesday by the Army Times.

The story is based on statements by a staff sergeant with 2nd Platoon, C Company, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, a unit under the 25th Infantry Division’s 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team at Fort Wainwright.

The staff sergeant has served for a decade and asked not to be identified. He told the Army Times that soldiers with the platoon created a weekly opportunity to racially slur fellow soldiers known as “Racial Thursdays.”

U.S. Army Alaska spokesman Lt Colonel Alan Brown this morning confirmed that officials with the command had completed an initial informal inquiry into the allegations and have now launched a formal investigation. 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team Commander Col. Donn Hill appointed an investigating officer on Thursday to look into the matter.

Brown says he can’t estimate how long it’ll take to complete the investigation. He emphasized that “The allegations are just that – allegations,” until evidence is found to support them.

Categories: Alaska News

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