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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: 38 min 14 sec ago

Gas To Liquids Project Could Cut Oil Production Costs

Tue, 2014-09-23 14:20

An Alaska company wants to help reduce the cost of producing oil on the North Slope.  Alaska Natural Gas to Liquids, based in Anchorage, is pitching a plan to construct a gas-to-liquids facility that could save the producers between $50 million and $100 million a year.

Richard Peterson, raspy voiced president and CEO of Alaska Natural Gas to Liquids, (ANGTL) is a mechanical engineer who has been in the energy field for the past forty years.Peterson spoke at a recent Mat Su Business Alliance luncheon to pitch a 650 million dollar project, that, he says, will save costs to oil and gas producers.

“Those producers must import about a hundred thousand gallons a day of diesel. Where do you make ultra-low sulphur diesel in Alaska? Tesoro Nikiski. So the diesel that is required to be used on the North Slope, comes out of Tesoro, Nikiski, has to be transported all the way to the North Slope. Nine hundred miles of transport. This adds an enormous amount of cost.”

 ANGTL would like to bring that cost down, by providing the technology for producing clean burning diesel on site at the North Slope.  According to Peterson, the process that enables natural gas to be converted to a liquid fuel has been around since World War 2. His proposed facility would convert natural gas into a low sulphur, clean burning diesel fuel.

 ”We’d like to bring the first commercial plant in the United States to Alaska, “  he said.

 Peterson showed photos of gas to liquids reactors, at least one now in use by Shell in Qatar, which produces 140 thousand barrels of diesel a day. But other types of reactors produce diesel on a smaller scale. He said that the mega- facilities “don’t translate to Alaska right now,” but the smallest unit, could be adapted to Alaska’s needs, if built correctly.

“To make it economic, it has to be built in modular form.”

 He says the modules could be built in state, and shipped to the North Slope,  although the  reactors themselves would be built elsewhere.

“You cannot stick built stuff like this on the North Slope. The cost is just too high.  So you need to go to places where you can build them, then transport them by road, rail or ship, to the site.  The Valley happens to have three of those, so why wouldn’t you start looking at potentially building those small scale modules in a place like the Valley?”

 Peterson says the small project’s cost, which includes a building to house the reactor, at 650 million dollars, …” is a tad too big for financing within the state, so we are going outside the state.” Peterson did not indicate where outside the state he was looking, although he said Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority [AIDEA] is interested in the project.

He says, in saving oil producers some production costs, his company can help oil companies to do more to create opportunities for small businesses and for alternative energy projects.

Categories: Alaska News

Banned Books Week: ‘Captain Underpants’ Tops List Filled With Literary Classics

Tue, 2014-09-23 08:09

Sunday marked the beginning of banned books week. The celebration involves more than just literature.  Stacia McGourty is a librarian working at Anchorage’s Loussac Library. She says this week is a huge deal for her profession.

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“Banned Books Week is a national holiday for libraries,” McGourty said, laughing.

And that’s because banned books week is all about celebrating the freedom to read what we want. It’s also a way to bring to light the banned books of past and present. McGourty says more books get challenged than banned these days. The challenges, which are the first step of banning, usually come from school districts.

“Because it’s geared towards children,” McGourty said. “And a lot of the challenges come because people believe that material is not appropriate for that age level of that grade level.”

Some of the most banned books in school libraries are classics like To Kill a Mockingbird and Of Mice and Men. But McGourty says the most commonly banned book is one you likely haven’t heard of – unless of course you are a parent of a 10-year-old boy.

“Captain Underpants is probably number one this year,” McGourty said. “It is an elementary-age graphic novel, and it’s basically a super hero cartoon. I haven’t read this book but it’s been super popular. It’s been popular ever since I was in college working at the book store and it’s popular now. We still have kids asking for it.”

Captain Underpants aside, McGourty says these banned and challenged books are usually serious and sometimes absurd censorships.

“In 1987 Anchorage School Districts banned a dictionary for having slanged definitions for certain words,” she said.

McGourty says banning books in a public library is much harder than doing it in a school, but it does happen. She says anyone can try to ban a book.

“Every library has their own process. At ours you would fill out a comment sheet and it would go to the director. You have to be very specific in why you think it needs to be taken off the shelf, you can’t take things out of context and you have to read the entire book,” McGourty said. “It’s a lot harder in a public library than a school library, because we are a library of the people.”

The Censorship Challenge: A Banned Books Pub  Quiz

McGourty says most people at her library bypass the banning process, and take their censorship into their own hands.

“You have plenty of people who check out a book and never return it, because they don’t think anyone else needs to have that book. Or you have people who return it but black out certain things,” McGourty said. “There is a picture book called In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendack. There’s a picture of a little boy, and he just happens to be naked in the kitchen. And sometimes people draw a little bathing suit on the boy.”

McGourty says you might be tempted to think that if a little vandalism is the worst that’s happening, and if most these book challenges don’t end in actual bans, why make such a big deal about Banned Books Week?

“I think it’s important because you should be aware that you have the freedom to read and explore the ideas you want. You think about China and how they block certain Google searches,” McGourty said. “So it’s not just books, it’s really about protecting ideas and protecting access to information. Because libraries offer free and equitable access to information and a place for the community to come together and learn.”

Categories: Alaska News

State Ordered to Improve Voting Materials for Alaska Natives

Mon, 2014-09-22 17:44

A federal judge issued an order to the State of Alaska in a voting rights case Monday. In her 8-page order, U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason said the state must take additional steps to provide voting materials to Alaska Natives with limited English.

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Cori Mills is a spokesperson for the State of Alaska. She says the state is committed to doing everything that was put forth in the judge’s order.

The lawsuit brought by several Native villages alleged that the state has failed to provide accurate, complete translations of voting materials in Yup’ik and Gwich’in. The state argued it had taken reasonable steps.

Nathalie Landreth is an attorney with the Native American Rights Fund or NARF, who argued the case on behalf of the plaintiffs. She says the gist of the 21-point order is that the election information that English-speaking people are receiving must be made available in Yup’ik, and it’s dialects and in Gwich’in.

That includes all the radio announcements about deadlines that one would ordinarily hear on the radio, information about all the ballot measures and all the information about judges. Landreth says the order also mandates the entire official election pamphlet that is printed in English must be available in Yup’ik:

All of this has to happen on a tight timeline before the November election. The order includes deadlines, some as early as this Friday.

Categories: Alaska News

Senate Candidates Vie for Rural Support

Mon, 2014-09-22 17:43

This year’s U.S. Senate race in Alaska is shattering records for spending, with millions in outside dollars directed mostly toward TV ads. With less than two months before the general election, both campaigns are also aggressively seeking an edge on the ground in rural Alaska.

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LaTesia Guinn and Barb Angaiak speak in Bethel. Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK.

In a Bethel subdivision near the Kuskokwim river, Barb Angaiak is sacrificing this sunny Saturday for politics and she’s made a game plan.

“….two houses kinda down the hill, we’ll hit that, come up here, hit gwens, and hit 245 right there,” she says to herself.

Angaiak is a volunteer canvasser working on behalf of Democratic candidates, including the Begich campaign.

We visit the home of LaTesia Guinn. Angaiak knocks. When Guinn opens the door, the two women make small talk.

This door-to-door effort is a key part of Begich’s strategy for reaching the rural vote. The campaign has 13 field offices around the state, double that of his effort in 2008. They have staff in Bethel for the first time in decades, and the Alaska Democratic Party is advertising for part time village based staff.

Max Croes is the Communication director for the Begich campaign.

“That’ s a show of how committed he is to trying to win votes in rural Alaska and ask Alaskans in Bethel, and The Y-K delta, as well as across the state for the vote (and) have a conversation about the things he’s been able to do for rural Alaska,” Croes says.

The Begich campaign opened the Bethel office well in advance of the August primary which named former Attorney General and Natural Resources Commissioner  Dan Sullivan as his Republican opponent.  Sullivan recently hired a Nome woman, Megan Alvanna Stimpfle, as their rural coordinator to formally ramp up their rural efforts.

Ben Sparks, the campaign manager for Republican Dan Sullivan, says his candidate is also taking the rural campaign seriously.

“The Begich campaign has made it very clear they feel as though they have the Alaska Native vote locked up and nothing could be further from the truth,” Sparks says.

Sullivan has five offices; none in rural Alaska. But Sparks says they have tremendous support and organization in what they call Super Volunteers who reach out with their networks.

“Our campaign is not going to rely on paid staffers, we’re going to rely on prominent members of the Alaska native community going and spreading Dan’s message, and there’s nothing more effective that that.”

Both campaigns say nothing replaces having the candidates meet with voters in person.  Begich visited in July to open his Bethel office and travelled downriver a few miles to the village of Napaskiak. Sullivan has not made it in person during the campaign, but his team say he will be here soon.

Sen. Begich did the next best thing on KYUK’s Friday talk line show.

Mark Trahant is an independent journalist who currently serves as the Atwood Chair of Journalism at the University of Alaska Anchorage and is writing extensively about the Alaska Native vote this year.  He expects millenials – those voters roughly between the age of 18 and 33 – to be a pivotal force and social media to play a big role in the Alaska native vote.

“This won’t be a traditionally fought election, it will be based on turnout,” Trahant says. “And whichever candidate can build a better list of people to turn out is going to be the one who wins. ”

Back on the ground in Bethel, the conversation between Guinn and Angaiak isn’t restricted to the future partisan makeup of the Senate.

“I wasn’t sure why you were coming here, I posted on Facebook that I had a hummingbird in my yard so I’ve had all of these people come by,” Guinn says.

After an hour of door-to-door, Angaiak calls it a day.

“There’s something different happing this year, and that is this coordinated campaign, making sure they know what to do, getting staff out and about to the communities is really really important and impressive and i think it’s the way to go. It’s a different way of running a campaign.”

But in a year in which she expects the election to come down to minuscule numbers of votes, she plans to be canvassing again soon.

Categories: Alaska News

State Files Complaint Against Medicaid Payment Vendor

Mon, 2014-09-22 17:42

The state has filed an administrative complaint alleging unfair or deceptive practices by the vendor it hired to implement a new Medicaid payment system.

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The claim against Xerox State Healthcare LLC was filed with Alaska’s commissioner of Administration. It follows an unsuccessful attempt at mediation.

It seeks compensatory, punitive and other damages and an order requiring a plan from Xerox by Oct. 15 to resolve problems with the system. The state, in its complaint, also reserves the right to go to court.

The system has been plagued by problems since going live last year. The state said the department was aware of problems but believed Xerox assurances that the system was operational and there was a plan to resolve remaining issues.

Xerox did not make anyone available for comment.

Categories: Alaska News

Deadline Set; Southeast Wolves To Undergo ESA Review

Mon, 2014-09-22 17:41

The federal government has agreed to a deadline of the end of next year for an endangered species review for wolves in Southeast Alaska.

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The Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace and the Boat Company sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this year seeking a timely decision on their petition to list the Alexander Archipelago wolf under the Endangered Species Act. The groups filed their petition in 2011. The agency issued what’s called a 90-day finding this March, committing to further review of the region’s wolf numbers.

“When a petition is filed there’s supposed to be a preliminary 90-day finding, 90 days after the petition is filed. And the final decision is supposed to come one year after that.”

Larry Edwards is a forest campaigner with Greenpeace in Sitka. And he notes the federal agency has not met timelines for reviewing the wolf petition.

“The difficulty is that Congress doesn’t adequately fund Fish and Wildlife Service to process ESA (Endangered Species Act) listings. So when you go to court, it’s really difficult to get, even from a court, a good date. The fish and wildlife service is looking at doing this in 2017 and I think we did very well to get this settled and get a date at the end of 2015.”

In a settlement agreement filed this week, the federal government agrees to complete a 12-month finding on Southeast wolves by the end of 2015.

Andrea Medeiros spokesperson for the Fish and Wildlife Service in Alaska

“At that time we will announce whether or not we believe that it is warranted to list Alexander Archipelago wolf as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.”

The petitioners want greater protection for wolves and their habitat on the Tongass National Forest. They argue that populations are declining and are vulnerable to hunting and trapping pressure along with loss of habitat from logging on the 17-million acre national forest.  In particular, they cite past and future logging on Prince of Wales Island and say wolves on POW are in danger of extinction.

Categories: Alaska News

KTVA reporter quits live on-air after stating she heads AK Cannabis Club

Mon, 2014-09-22 17:40

A KTVA reporter announced that she is the president of Alaska Cannabis Club and quit her job during a live broadcast Sunday night. Reporter Charlo Greene, whose real name is Charlene Egbe, has been reporting on the legalization ballot initiative since April.

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KTVA’s news director posted an apology for Greene’s outburst and use of an expletive on Facebook and Twitter but could not be reached for comment.

Greene posted a video on YouTube explaining why she quit so publicly.

“Advocating for freedom and fairness should be everyone’s duty, I’m making it my life work,” she declared in the video. “To uphold what America stands for truly: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Ideals that now need to be defended.”

The Vote No on 2 campaign spoke out against Greene this afternoon. They said they spoke with KTVA’s news director about her biased reporting after a 5-part series that ran this spring.

Kalie Kalysmat, the executive director of the Alaska Association of Chiefs of Police, said she also expressed concerns about Greene’s bias. She says Greene’s reporting has been a disservice to Alaskans.

“When you have a reporter in a major news outlet as this one, professing her own point of view in stories, it’s really a very sad thing and difficult for the public to know what’s true,” she said during the news conference.

A YouTube video of the TV clip has gone viral, and Greene’s IndieGogo campaign to raise $5,000 for voter education on the marijuana legalization ballot initiative is more than half way toward its goal.


Categories: Alaska News

EPA’s 404-C Public Comment Period on Pebble Closes

Mon, 2014-09-22 17:39

More than 160,000 official public comments have been received by the EPA regarding their proposed restrictions on the controversial Pebble Mine. But it’s expected that once the final numbers are tallied, there will be hundreds of thousands of comments, both pro-and-con.

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Categories: Alaska News

Murkowski Presses FDA To Clarify Spent-Grain Rule for Brewers

Mon, 2014-09-22 17:37

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, along with beer-makers around the country, is celebrating a recent clarification from the Food and Drug Administration about spent grains.

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The material is a byproduct of the brewing process. Beer-makers often donate their spent grains to farms to use as animal feed. But proposed changes to the rules for animal feed producers had brewers fearing they were going to face a pile of new red tape.

Murkowski, who — in addition to being Alaska’s senior senator — is co-chair of the Senate Brewers Caucus, took up the cause.

In a sternly worded letter to the FDA in April, she said the rules would destroy the symbiotic relationship between Alaska’s brewers and farmers.

But the FDA has been saying for months it was all a mistake. The agency says it never meant to apply the animal feed rule to breweries. That’s now spelled out in the rule.

Murkowski, in a written statement Monday, said she appreciated the FDA’s new approach.

Categories: Alaska News

Arctic Researcher: Social Changes Are As Drastic as Climate Changes

Mon, 2014-09-22 17:36

Academics and researchers have been meeting in Anchorage to bring together studies looking at what sustainability means in the arctic. Andrey Petrov is lead investigator and director of Arctic Frost. He has studied the arctic in Russia, Canada and Alaska for 15 years. He says there is a lot of discussion about environmental changes, but social changes in arctic communities can be even more dramatic. His work looks at human capital and community innovators.

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Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: September 22, 2014

Mon, 2014-09-22 17:34

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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State Ordered to Improve Voting Materials for Alaska Natives

Daysha Eaton, KYUK – Bethel

A federal judge has ordered the state to take additional steps to provide voting materials to Alaska Native voters with limited English.

Senate Candidates Vie for Rural Support

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

This year’s U.S. Senate race in Alaska is shattering records for spending, with millions in outside dollars directed mostly toward TV ads. With less than two months before the general election, both campaigns are also aggressively seeking an edge on the ground in rural Alaska.

State Files Complaint Against Medicaid Payment Vendor

The Associated Press

The state has filed an administrative complaint alleging unfair or deceptive practices by the vendor it hired to implement a new Medicaid payment system.

Deadline Set for Southeast Wolves ESA Review

Joe Veichnicki, KFSK – Petersburg

The federal government has agreed to a deadline of the end of next year for an endangered species review for wolves in Southeast Alaska.

KTVA Reporter Quits on Air, Dedicates Time to Pot Initiative

Anne Hilleman, KSKA – Anchorage

A KTVA reporter announced that she is the president of Alaska Cannabis Club and quit her job during a live broadcast Sunday night.

EPA’s 404-C Public Comment Period on Pebble Closes

Mike Mason, KDLG  – Dillingham

More than 160,000 official public comments have been received by the EPA regarding their proposed restrictions on the controversial Pebble mine. But it’s expected that once the numbers are tallied hundreds of thousands of comments, both pro-and-con, will be submitted.

NTSB Report Yields Few Clues In Fatal Soldotna Plane Crash

Shady Grove Oliver, KBBI – Homer

A plane crash in Soldotna last summer resulted in the deaths of 10 people. The National Transportation Safety Board released its preliminary findings on the crash this week.

Murkowski Presses FDA To Clarify Spent-Grain Rule for Brewers

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington, D.C.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, along with beer-makers around the country, is celebrating a recent clarification from the Food and Drug Administration about spent grains.

Arctic Researcher: Social Changes Are As Drastic as Climate Changes

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

Academics and researchers have been meeting in Anchorage to bring together studies looking at what sustainability means in the arctic. Andrey Petrov is lead investigator and director of Arctic Frost. He has studied the arctic in Russia, Canada and Alaska for 15 years. He says there is a lot of discussion about environmental changes, but social changes in arctic communities can be even more dramatic.


Categories: Alaska News

25-Year-Old Rescued After Fishing Boat Sinks

Mon, 2014-09-22 16:16

One man is reported safe after his fishing boat sank in Lynn Canal on Sunday night.

Twenty-five-year-old Woody Paul of Haines was rescued by another fishing boat in William Henry Bay north of Juneau after his boat the 36-foot, Kyra Dawn began taking on water and then capsized.

The boat sank in about 900 feet of water about a mile from shore, according to the Coast Guard. Paul was rescued by another Haines fishing boat, the Gabriella.

Paul’s mother, Carol, was able to speak to her son Monday morning from the Gabriella, she said. He told her he went into the water as the boat sank but was able to hang onto the roof of his bait shed. He didn’t have time to put on a survival suit, but was holding on to one. He was in the water about five minutes before being rescued.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Wesley Shipley, watchstander at Sector Juneau, says they were preparing to send an H-60 helicopter from Sitka when the Kyra Dawn initially reported trouble.

But they canceled the flight when they received a report that Paul was rescued.

The Coast Guard prevention unit is investigating the sinking.

A gale was forecasted for Sunday night in Lynn Canal, which led many fishermen to anchor early. But Haines fisherman Norm Hughes, who was headed for anchorage when the Kyra Dawn sank, said the weather kicked up faster than expected.

“I was about a mile out of Mab Island anchorage and you could see this black line on the horizon, coming across up the channel and it was topped with all these white caps. That’s a weather event coming your way. And I didn’t make the anchorage before it hit and it went from one-footers to five-footers in 20 seconds.”

Seven-foot seas were reported and wind gusts at Eldred Rock Lighthouse reached 71 knots according to the National Weather Service.

Categories: Alaska News

Ketchikan Shipyard to Build Two Alaska Ferries

Mon, 2014-09-22 08:31

Adam Beck and Gov. Sean Parnell sign the contact for Vigor Alaska to build two new state ferries.

It’s official: The Ketchikan Shipyard will build two new ferries for the State of Alaska over the next few years. The deal was announced on a very rainy Saturday during a barbecue at the shipyard’s huge, enclosed ship construction area.

Hundreds of local residents showed up for the hastily arranged barbecue celebration at Vigor Alaska’s shipyard. The agreement between Vigor and the State of Alaska had been finalized just a few days before.

Gov. Sean Parnell was all smiles as he announced the terms of the deal.

“The construction contract to build both ferries in Ketchikan at $101.5 million, the economic and job benefits are going to be felt throughout the community, throughout the region and throughout the state,” he said.

The ferries will be the first Alaska Marine Highway System vessels built in Alaska, and Parnell said that when they’re completed they also will be the largest vessels ever built in the state.

“The ferries will be 280 feet long, seat up to 300 passengers and carry 53 standard vehicles,” he said. “Each ferry will feature bow and stern doors for quicker loading and unloading, fully enclosed car decks, and controllable pitch propellers to maximize maneuverability and efficiency. A modified hull design will greatly improve traveler comfort during rough weather, like today.”

Vigor Alaska President Adam Beck speaks while Vigor CEO Frank Foti and Gov. Sean Parnell listen, seated.

Frank Foti is CEO of Vigor Industrial, which operates the Ketchikan shipyard along with other shipyards on the West Coast. He said this contract will let Ketchikan disprove a few myths about Alaska.

“You can’t build anything here. It’s too far. It’s too hard to get things here. There’s not enough workers here. Workers aren’t qualified here. Wrong, wrong and wrong,” he said. “Because what we’re going to do, we’re going to make some ferries, and on the side of them it’s going to say, ‘Made in Alaska.’”

Vigor Industrial bought out Alaska Ship and Drydock a few years ago to operate the shipyard. Randy Johnson is a former ASD owner who stayed on with Vigor Alaska.

Johnson praised the governor for his tough negotiating skills, and for his commitment to building the ferries in Ketchikan. But Johnson saved his biggest praise for shipyard employees.

“To all the men and women I’ve had the pleasure to work with building this shipyard, you deserve this day,” he said. “It wasn’t easy, you all know that. I’ve got tremendous respect for all of you. It’s a tremendous opportunity and I know these ships that are going to be built in this facility are going to make everyone in this room proud and I’m just happy I was able to have a part in it. Thank you all.”

Following the speeches, Parnell and Vigor Alaska President Adam Beck signed the agreement, with shipyard employees crowded behind to witness the event.

Both of the new vessels will be day boats to serve the Lynn Canal route between Juneau, Haines and Skagway. Beck said the design is somewhat different than the original proposal, which had called for an open car deck.

“I think the public, rightfully so, was very much interested in a closed car deck, given where it was going to operate, and the department listened to the public input, so now we’re building a fully enclosed car deck with a drive through,” he said.

Despite that addition, value engineering elsewhere kept the contract under the state’s $120 million limit. Beck said the ships will be no-frills vessels that will get the job done.

“It’s going to be day boats that are going to carry people and cars and get you from point A to Point B,” he said. “I think that’s what the state needs, and we’ll be able to build them within budget.”

Saturday’s announcement wasn’t unexpected. Vigor has been working with the state on designing the two day boats, and through that agreement had first dibs on the contract to build the vessels.

The multi-million-dollar ferry contract calls for delivery of the two vessels by 2018.

Categories: Alaska News

NTSB Releases Preliminary Report on Deadly 2013 Soldotna Crash

Mon, 2014-09-22 08:27

A plane crash in Soldotna last summer resulted in the deaths of 10 people. The National Transportation Safety Board released its preliminary findings on the crash this week.

On July 7, 2013, a single-engine de Havilland Canada DHC-3 Otter crashed shortly after takeoff at the Soldotna Airport, killing all nine passengers and the pilot. It was owned and operated by Rediske Air, an air charter company based in Nikiski.

Ten people were killed when an airplane crashed just after takeoff in Soldotna.

It was on its way to the Bear Mountain Lodge, about 90 miles southwest of Soldotna. Along with the two families, it was carrying luggage, food, bedding, and other supplies for the lodge.

The National Transportation Safety Board, or NTSB, has been investigating the crash. Clint Johnson is the chief of the NTSB’s Alaska Regional Office.

“How we approach these accidents is basically with various groups- groups meaning operations, airworthiness, survivability,” Johnson said. “When each one of those groups is finished with those reports, and the reports reach 51 percent, our policy is to open that public docket.”

He says the more than 400 pages of documents released do not include speculation on the cause of the crash.

“We’re not at a point where we’re drawing any conclusions at this point,” Johnson said. “That will be addressed in detail when the probable cause is released. Probable cause will probably be following in the next three to four months or so.”

The findings include a weight and balance study with six possible scenarios. It’s noted that the precise weight and balance of the airplane during the flight can’t be accurately determined with the limited data available.

But, the scenarios were constructed using the data that is known and quote “logical, documented assumptions.”

Johnson says the NTSB used known facts and evidence like a cell phone video taken by one of the passengers to put together the scenarios.

The victims of the crash were two families from Greenville, South Carolina. They were Chris and Stacey McManus and their two children and Milton and Kimberly Antonakos and their three children. The pilot was longtime aviator Walter Rediske.

Rediske Air declined to comment for this story.

Categories: Alaska News

Governor Parnell Inks Support for King Cove Road

Mon, 2014-09-22 08:23

Parnell signs the resolution alongisde King Cove Mayor Henry Mack. (Courtesy: State of Alaska)

Gov. Sean Parnell was in King Cove Friday to sign a resolution urging the federal government to allow an access road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge.

The road would connect King Cove to Cold Bay’s all-weather airport for medevacs. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell nixed the plan last year, saying it would damage protected wilderness.

Now, Parnell and the state legislature are the latest to ask Jewell to reverse that decision. Rep. Bob Herron proposed House Joint Resolution 30 earlier this year. On Friday, Gov. Parnell signed it into law in King Cove’s school gym.

Parnell said in a press release, “I do not think [Secretary Jewell] realizes what she has done: She has put people in peril. My respect for her leads me to believe that she simply doesn’t understand. I do believe she is capable of changing her mind.”

King Cove Corporation spokeswoman Della Trumble called the resolution “symbolic of Alaska’s deep concern for the safety of the Aleut people of King Cove” in a separate release Friday.

Trumble represents village and tribal groups who sued the federal government for the right to build the road earlier this year. The state of Alaska has signed on to join them in that suit. The state is also filing its own suit, asking the government for a right-of-way through the Izembek refuge.

Categories: Alaska News

Denali Rangers Investigate Illegal Moose Killing

Mon, 2014-09-22 08:20

National Park Service officials say charges are pending in connection with two hunters who illegally shot a moose at Denali National Park and Preserve.

Rangers investigated the shooting after it was reported last week as taking place in an area where sport hunting is prohibited.

Officials say the two hunters are men from the Matanuska Valley, who said they did not know they were in the park.

Officials say the man had a map, a regulation book and a global positioning system unit.

Sport hunting is allowed only in the Denali National Preserve at the western corners of the park.

Categories: Alaska News

Regents Nix Tuition Hike For University of Alaska

Mon, 2014-09-22 08:15

The University of Alaska Board of Regents gave thumbs down to a proposal to boost tuition by 4 percent.

UA President Pat Gamble proposed the increase for the 2015-16 academic year, saying the move would raise about $4 million as the system navigates tight budgets.

The university faced a $26 million budget gap this year amid rising fixed costs and lower legislative funding.

Seven of the 11 regents voted against the proposal on Friday.

Some said more needed to be done to cut costs within the UA system, while others worried about the long-term impact of frequent tuition increases.

Categories: Alaska News

Borough Weighs Gravel Mine Application

Fri, 2014-09-19 17:21

A plan to vacate agricultural rights on a parcel of Matanuska Susitna Borough land is running into opposition. At a Borough Assembly meeting Tuesday night, [sept 16 ]residents spoke out against an ordinance aimed at approving a gravel mine on farmland.

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 The ordinance would allow Colaska, Inc, doing business as QAP, to purchase the development rights on 213 acres of agricultural rights only land the company purchased from the Matanuska Susitna Borough in 2010. Colaska, Inc, wants to extract gravel from the land. But the agricultural rights stand in the way of that plan. The ordinance came up for a public hearing Tuesday , September 16,  at the Mat Su Borough Assembly meeting. Assemblyman Matthew Beck, who opposes Colaska’s application, says several people spoke against the move at the meeting.

“The agricultural land is so limited, and we have a lot of land in the Mat Su Borough, we’re huge.  And there’s lots of other areas where this could be done, where they wouldn’t have to use valuable agricultural land.  Someone argued that the land isn’t currently being farmed and hasn’t been farmed in a while, but it is evident when you look at it that it has been farmed in the past.  There are windbreaks that are built into the land and so the potential is there for it still to be farmed.  And  the concern of a lot of people who came and testified was , once you turn it into a gravel pit, it will never be farmed again. “

 Beck says if the ordinance is approved,

“Yeah, it opens the floodgates.  there are people in line who have brought property on the same gamble, that they may be able to do away with those restrictions.  And I don’t want to start that precedent. “

 Glenda Smith, with the Borough’s land use office, says Borough code uses soil quality to determine if land is classified for agricultural use. If the soil qualifies, the land in question is slated for farming, unless there is a compelling health or safety issue pending. Smith says Colaska knew the land it bought was classed as agricultural.

Borough staff, as well as Borough mayor Larry DeVilbiss, have come out against Colaska’s gravel plan. DeVilbiss says he’s put the Assembly on notice that he’ll veto the ordinance, should it pass.

But Assemblyman Vern Halter urged the panel to take another look.  During his comments at the meeting, Halter said:

 ”I’d invite the Farm Bureau to come up and take a look at that piece of property. It hasn’t really been farmed or agged for many years.. it’s  not a farm right now.  Basically, those windrows are going up, but you k now how fast those willows and birch grow, that’s pretty much the condition of it right now. Just on first sight, don’t make such bold suggestions. Go look at it.”

Halter says he’ll decide on the issue after he hears the rest of the public comments.

Tuesday night’s public hearing was continued, however, until the November 19 meeting, at the request of the applicant. The public will be able to weigh in on the ordinance again at at that time.   QAP did not return calls for comment.

Categories: Alaska News

Mott to Lead Alaska Guard Response Team

Fri, 2014-09-19 16:41

Brigadier General Jon Mott will lead a team charged with implementing recommendations for restoring confidence in the leadership and structure of the Alaska National Guard.

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Mott, who serves as the assistant adjutant general for the Connecticut National Guard, was recommended to Gov. Sean Parnell by the National Guard Bureau.

The bureau’s Office of Complex Investigations looked into allegations of sexual assault and fraud in the Alaska National Guard and found that victims do not trust the system because of a lack of confidence in the command.

Parnell released the report earlier this month and also called for and received the resignation of Alaska’s adjutant general.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska Delegation Review 113th Congress

Fri, 2014-09-19 16:40

The U.S. House and Senate are on recess now. When lawmakers return it’ll be after the November election for a lame duck session that will end the 113th Congress.

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Categories: Alaska News

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