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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: 56 min 6 sec ago

Growing Food Near the Kitchen

Fri, 2014-03-07 13:00

Photo from Foundroot.

During the Second World War, household “Victory Gardens” produced almost half the food the nation consumed. Now home gardens produce about two percent. Could the path to food security run though a garden plot in your front yard?

HOST: Steve HeimelAlaska Public Radio Network

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LIVE Broadcast: Tuesday, March 11, 2014 at 10:00 a.m. on APRN stations statewide.

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TALK OF ALASKA ARCHIVE

Categories: Alaska News

Mushers Anticipating Tough Run Up Bering Sea Coast

Fri, 2014-03-07 13:00

Some mushers are still trying to hold dog teams back despite the fast Yukon River miles ahead.

The most experienced mushers know the river miles can be fast, but there’s still a tough run up the Bering Sea Coast ahead.

Four-time Champion Jeff King has run the Iditarod 23 times. He knows exactly what it means when teams reach the Yukon River.

Aliy Zirkle. Photo by Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks.

“Well it will be a chance to really evaluate team speed,” he said.

King’s competition is stiff; Robert Sorlie doesn’t start a race if he doesn’t plan to win. Aliy Zirkle’s team is primed from a winning Yukon Quest last month. Both Dallas and Mitch Seavey won the race the last two consecutive years. Nicolas Petit posted one of the fastest run times into Ruby. But he says the long, flat river miles may not benefit his larger dogs.

“I want to preserve my dog team for getting to the coast and then we can start playing around a little bit,” Petit said.

But the wind is forecast to pick up, transforming and drifting snow for more than 140 miles. A slower, sugary trail could help Petit who says he’s likely to continue holding his team back.

“I don’t really let me dogs run,” he said. “I just make them trot and so we don’t have top end speed because it’s not sustainable.”

Hans Gatt says there’s another great equalizer on the trail.

“Well, the dogs need rest, that’s the bottom line,” he said.

As the race picks up, mushers will start to cut rest. Jeff King says it’s tough to decide how best to do that.

“We’re all trying to be as chintsy as we can to rob Peter and not pay Paul,” King said. “We want to get the very most from our dogs energy and our energy.”

Lucky for mushers, they are required to take an eight hour rest somewhere on the Yukon. The key players in the race won’t shake out until after they’ve all completed that layover.

Categories: Alaska News

Iditarod Strategies Make for Some Head Scratching

Fri, 2014-03-07 11:21

As dogs teams drop onto the Yukon River, Iditarod mushers will find out how their race plans are playing out.  The next 140 miles of long, flat river will shine some light on who has the most speed and who needs a little more rest.

No one is quite sure exactly what’s going on with race strategies this year. In fact even the most experienced mushers are scratching their heads.

Martin Buser departs Willow at the 2014 Iditarod’s official restart. Photo by Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage.

“I realized that I’m probably a better dog training than a dog racer,” four-time champion Martin Buser, who was just waking up from a nap in Ruby, said. “But this team deserves to be raced properly, so that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Clearly exhausted, Buser downs a steaming cup of coffee.

“I just know you have to push so hard and it’s just tough and I’m not into toughness all that much,” he said.

As he talks, Buser pulls at the little finger on his left hand.  It’s dislocated, white and swollen. He keeps it wrapped in a spare dog bootie.  His feet are bare and his left ankle is purple – also swollen.  He sprained it badly somewhere between Rohn and Nikolai.

“The way I look at is we have the toughest individuals in front of us those dogs are so superior to anything else,” he said. “We might as well toughen up buttercup. They are unbelievably strong and tough and willing to give so we might as well give a little bit too.”

Buser is putting all his energy into proving that lots of rest early in the race can pay big dividends later.  It’s a strategy Kelly Maixner is also testing with his dogs.

“It seems like they recover a lot better earlier,” Maixner said. “So, say you do a long run at the beginning of a training session, they seem to recover faster at the beginning, so they get back to normal.”

Maixner is running the Iditarod for the fourth time.  He’s a pediatric dentist by day.  He knew coming into the race he’d surprise a lot of people.

Nicolas Petit. Photo by Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage.

“I’ve had a couple rough years the last couple years,” he said. “I just had injuries and illnesses during the race the last couple years that really bummed me out and this year I trained a lot harder than I ever have and this year I started my own practice so I was able to switch my schedule. I put probably 75 percent more miles on than I have in the past.”

Nicolas Petit is also no stranger to high volume training.

“Considering the lack of snow all over Alaska, basically my dogs haven’t seen a dog house since about New Years,” Petit said. “We’ve just been traveling around using the truck as a home base…training from there.”

Petit’s strategy is to hold a strong steady pace.  He doesn’t like to run too fast.  But he’s been at the front of the pack since the start. He was surprised to see his run time into Ruby.

“Apparently I got here faster than everybody else and that’s fun, but we were just trotting along,” he laughs.

Petit says he hasn’t looked at another dog team since he left Willow.

“I don’t really look at other people’s teams,” he said. “I just look at mine because it’s enough to worry about when you have 16 animals.”

Mushers will have plenty of time to look around as the head out on the Yukon River.  The miles are long and flat for more than 140 miles. Teams are required to take a mandatory eight-hour rest before the get off the river in Kaltag.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska Edition Friday March 7, 2014

Fri, 2014-03-07 09:03

Legislation that would provide for state participation in the gas line moves forward. Fetal alcohol syndrome is a scourge. Some of those affected explain why. Gov. Parnell “absolves” a future buyer of the Fl;int Hills refinery of cleanup costs. Parnell sues past and current owner over the cleanup. Alaska public life and policy is different if not unique – here’s some of the reason why. The emerging problem of scarcity. Idaho compared to Alaska.

HOST: Michael Carey

GUESTS:

    • Kyle Hopkins, ADN.
    • Tim Bradner, Alaska Journal of Commerce.
    • Mark Trahant, UAA.

KSKA (FM 91.1) BROADCAST: Friday, March 7 at 2:00 p.m. and Saturday, March 8 at 6:00 p.m.

Alaska Public Television BROADCAST: Friday, March 7 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, March 8 at 4:30 PM.

SUBSCRIBE: Get Alaska Edition updates automatically — via e-mailRSS or podcasts

ALASKA EDITION ARCHIVE

Listen now:

 

Categories: Alaska News

Zirkle Bolts Ruby With Iditarod Lead; Buser Follows

Fri, 2014-03-07 07:29

Aliy Zirkle took the lead in the 2014 Iditarod early Friday morning leaving Ruby almost two hours ahead of Martin Buser who also took off from Ruby Friday. Both mushers dropped dogs at the layover and were racing with 14 dogs.

Arron Burmeister was about two hours behind Buser and out of Ruby. His team was down to 12 dogs.

Buser has taken both of his mandatory layovers. Neither Zirkle nor Burmeister has taken an 8-hour layover.

Jeff King and Sonny Lindner led the pack much of Thursday but were still in Ruby early Friday morning.

Last year’s winner – Mitch Seavey – was in Ruby early Friday morning and in 10th place.

Two Rivers’ Abbie West led the rookies. She was out of Cripple and racing towards Ruby Friday morning.

Categories: Alaska News

Buser Joins King and Lindner in Ruby

Thu, 2014-03-06 22:09

Martin Buser – Photo by Patrick Yack – Alaska Public Media

Jeff King was first to Ruby on Thursday in the 2014 Iditarod but Sonny Lindner was not far behind. The two leaders were joined by Martin Buser later Thursday night.

Racing in fourth place was Aliy Zirkle who had yet to reach Ruby by 9:00 p.m.

Buser and Zirkle have taken their 24-hour mandatory stop. King and Lindner – prior to reaching Ruby – had not.

 

 

Categories: Alaska News

EPA Settles Over Lead Dust Violations At Governor’s Mansion

Thu, 2014-03-06 18:29

(Casey Kelly/KTOO)

Throughout his administration, Gov. Sean Parnell has accused the Environmental Protection Agency of “overreaching” on Alaska affairs. Now, it looks like the EPA may have reached into Parnell’s own home. The Governor’s Mansion appears on a list of construction projects requiring EPA intervention for lead violations.

Download Audio

Lead poisoning is nasty business. It can cause headaches and seizures, and result in miscarriages. If you’re a child, the symptoms are especially bad.

“Lethargy. Inability to pay of attention. At high enough levels, it can cause death,” says Wallace Reid.

Reid works out of the EPA’s Seattle office, and his team handles investigations into lead violations. Because a lot of modern cases of lead exposure are caused by home repairs, the EPA implemented a rule in 2010 requiring contractors to be certified in lead paint removal if they’re working on a house that was built before 1978.

Like the Alaska Governor’s Mansion.

The building is a century old, and the state hired Alaska Commercial Contractors to restore the whole exterior a couple of years ago. And that meant removing lead paint, which the company was not certified to do at the time.

“We first became aware of it – this problem in Alaska – because of an anonymous tip and complaint that this work was going on and that there were problems associated with it,” says Reid.

Reid says that as soon as the EPA learned of the violation, they sent two inspectors to check the area for lead paint. They found paint chips on the lawn and on the street.

“When we do this kind of work, all of the lead paint chips and dust has to be maintained within a contained area,” says Reid. “In this case, it was not. And the company was not certified, and the employees were not trained. So those were fundamental violations of our rules.”

Because of the violations, Alaska Commercial Contractors ended up settling with the EPA for $32,000. Their subcontractor, Van Pool Painting, was also dinged $10,000. While the settlements were finalized in September, the EPA only recently made the violations public.

Alaska Commercial Contractors declined to do a taped interview for this story, because there are still outstanding legal questions related to the construction project. But in a written statement, company president Doug Courtney emphasized that Alaska Commercial Contractors cooperated fully with the EPA, and that they became certified in lead paint removal shortly after the incident.

So, why did the state hire a company that was not certified in lead paint removal in the first place?

When asked about that, Administration Commissioner Curtis Thayer declined an interview because of ongoing challenges related to the contract. At $1.5 million, Alaska Commercial Contractors was the highest bidder for the project, and two rival contractors whose bids came in under $1 million appealed the award. The Office of Administrative Hearings rejected both of those protests, but Silver Bow Construction is appealing the decision to the Alaska Supreme Court.

Alaska Commercial Contractors has also requested that the State pay out $150,000 to cover their EPA penalties and legal fees, because they allege that Department of Administration misled them on the scope of the project. The Department of Administration found no merit to that request in January, but the decision is subject to appeal.

Gov. Sean Parnell also declined repeated requests for an interview. Instead, his office referred questions to Larry Hartig, the commissioner of Environmental Conservation.

Hartig says his department’s involvement in the renovation problem was limited. They mostly helped the EPA get access to the governor’s home to make sure the lead paint didn’t pose a health hazard.

“Obviously, there was concerns about the safety of the governor’s family,” says Hartig. “And so they were interested in what was going on – we all were – in making sure that if there is an issue here that would impact the governor and his family, we wanted to be on top of that.”

Hartig says there was no real risk to the Parnell family. He says even the governor’s yellow Labrador, the most frequent user of the mansion’s backyard, was kept safe from lead exposure.

“Annie’s doing fine the last time I saw Annie.”

Categories: Alaska News

Former Crime Lab Employee Charged With 6 Felonies

Thu, 2014-03-06 18:28

A former employee of the State Crime Lab in Anchorage has been charged with six felonies, including drug misconduct and tampering with evidence.

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The Department of Law in says 53-year-old Stephen Palmer was arrested today.

He’s charged with scheme to defraud, drug misconduct and four counts of evidence tampering. He’s also charged with four misdemeanor counts of official misconduct.

Alaska State Troopers launched an investigation seven months ago after detecting irregularities in lab reference standards, the controlled samples of illegal drugs kept at the state crime lab.

Prosecutors say investigators also determined drug evidence was missing in cases worked by Palmer.

Prosecutors say they don’t believe the irregularities discovered in reference standards affected the validity of testing performed by other analysts.

Categories: Alaska News

Mayors Seek Assurances On Gas Line Project

Thu, 2014-03-06 18:27

Borough mayors are asking to be part of the discussions on terms related to a mega-liquefied natural gas project that will affect local communities.

Download Audio

An agreement signed by the state and companies pursuing the project says subject to consultation between the state and local governments, payments in lieu of property taxes would be paid by the companies.

The mayor of the Kenai Peninsula Borough, Mike Navarre, told the Senate Finance Committee that consultation is not a strong word.

The mayors are seeking greater assurances for the level of input they will have as the process moves forward.

The committee is weighing a bill that would make the state an equity partner and allow for the project to move into a phase of preliminary engineering and design.

Categories: Alaska News

King Resting At Ruby, Competitors Close In

Thu, 2014-03-06 18:26

Jeff King is resting at the Yukon river checkpoint of Ruby. The four time Iditarod champion is technically in the lead at this point, but Martin Buser, Aliy Zirkle and Robert Sorlie are closing in, and they’ve already completed their 24 hour layovers. Once teams leave Ruby, they’ll have a chance to take advantage of any remaining speed they have on the flat river miles ahead.

Download Audio

Categories: Alaska News

Five Nations Tentatively Agree To Arctic Fishing Ban

Thu, 2014-03-06 18:25

The United States and four other Arctic nations have tentatively agreed to prevent commercial fishing in the high Arctic.

Download Audio

The Canadian Press reports that Canada, Denmark, Norway, and Russia signed on to the ban after three days of meetings in Greenland last week. The measure was originally pitched by the United States, and it didn’t have support from Norway or Russia until now.

The details of the ban are still being worked out. But the basics are clear: The countries have to do more scientific research on Arctic fish stocks. In the meantime, they will not engage in commercial fishing in the Arctic Ocean outside their 200-mile exclusive economic zones.

In the United States, that area begins at the northern edge of Alaska. Fishing has already been banned within the American Arctic since 2009.

Because this new moratorium applies to international waters in the Arctic Ocean, there’s no guarantee that other countries will choose to honor it.

The next step is to get more nations on board beyond these five Arctic states. In a statement, the Arctic group said they plan to spend the rest of the year lobbying for broader support.

Categories: Alaska News

Dipnets May Be Allowed On Kuskokwim

Thu, 2014-03-06 18:24

Kuskowkim fisherman are expected to face serious restrictions on subsistence salmon fishing this summer in efforts to bring more king salmon to the spawning grounds. With fishing closed possibly all of June, the working group is asking that dipnets be used selectively to harvest non-Chinook salmon.

Download Audio

Categories: Alaska News

Delta Western’s Pro-Union Fuelers Strike Again

Thu, 2014-03-06 18:23

For the past month, a group of fuel supply workers in Unalaska have been trying to unionize. And they’ve also accused their employer, Delta Western, of mistreating them for it.

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The workers took to the picket line on Tuesday to protest with other local union members.

Leo Dacio is a driver for Delta Western, and a spokesman for the pro-union workers.

He alleges that the company cut off their access to some facilities after they walked off the job the first time, in February.

Photo by Pipa Escalante, KUCB – Unalaska.

“They changed the locks on the break room and on the shop, and at the shop — that’s where we wash our clothes, our work clothes. And that’s the only shower,” Dacio said.

The only emergency shower, to wash off chemicals in a hurry. The washing machines are there so employees don’t have to worry about getting toxic or flammable substances in their machines at home.

Dacio alleges that the only people who lost access to those facilities were the workers who wanted to join the Inlandboatmen’s Union. He says they didn’t get new keys again until Friday — and they only got them then because they asked their manager.

“They did have some issues with the lock and they changed it,” Kirk Payne, the president of Delta Western, said. ”But this facility is open [from] 7 in the morning to 7 p.m. every day, to where you don’t need a key. And when somebody needed access or needed a key, they were given it.”

In the last month, Payne and the president of Delta Western’s parent company have both visited the island to talk with their employees. Brian Bogen is the head of North Star Petroleum, and he was in town just hours before Tuesday’s strike.

At this point, Delta Western workers says they are still waiting for the company to formally respond to a written request they made in February — to be recognized as union members.

Payne, the president of Delta Western, says that’s not going to happen.

“What the union needs to do is to file a petition with the NLRB that says, ‘Hey, these guys want to be represented,’” he said.

The National Labor Relations Board would run the rest of the unionization process, possibly leading up to a formal vote.

Adam Dalton is an organizer from the Inlandboatmen’s Union. He’s been in Unalaska for the past two weeks, and he says the workers are getting ready to file a petition with the NLRB sometime soon.

In the meantime, Dalton says he’s convinced that changing the locks at Delta Western did keep union supporters from accessing facilities. And Dalton says that that violates the National Labor Relations Act.

“Basically any change to the workers’ conditions — to the conditions of their employment — that they had access to before, would be an unfair labor practice,” he said.

Dalton says the union is adding this alleged violation to a complaint they filed with the NLRB last month. At that time, the Inlandboatmen’s Union accused Delta Western of trying to intimidate and punish its pro-union workers.

That kind of behavior is what the workers said they were responding to when they walked off the job on Tuesday.

About a half a dozen Delta Western employees joined the picket line, despite the fact that the company’s fuel barge had just arrived to deliver a shipment.

Delta Western rounded up a crew to unload the fuel. But they also called the police.

Unalaska police sergeant Bill Simms says the picketers were technically trespassing as they stood at the mouth of Delta Western’s fuel dock.

The protesters moved, the police didn’t get any more complaints, and the strike went on as planned.

“Delta Western, you don’t care. Unsafe, unfair. Delta Western, you don’t care,” the crowd chanted.

Delta Western has roughly 18 workers at its fuel shop in Unalaska. Right now, about seven of them want to join the union.

Categories: Alaska News

State Bans Importation, Sale Of Certain Elodea Plants

Thu, 2014-03-06 18:22

The state has taken steps to ban the importation and sale of some aquatic plants that are commonly found in aquariums. Elodea is a plant used in fishbowls that has become a big problem in Alaska, and is considered an invasive species. Last year, the state began working to eradicate the plant from areas in Fairbanks and in Anchorage.

Download Audio

Categories: Alaska News

Kikkan Randall Secures World Cup Sprint Title

Thu, 2014-03-06 18:21

Kikkan Randall has a lock on her 3rd straight World Cup sprint title. Randall did not make the finals in a classic technique sprint in Drammen Norway Wednesday, but her seventh place finish there mathematically clinches the season title. Just one sprint race remains. Retaining the title as the world’s top woman sprinter is some consolation for Randall who struggled at last month’s Sochi Olympics, where she’s d hoped to medal.

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Categories: Alaska News

Cyclist Obliterates Iditarod Trail Invitational Record

Thu, 2014-03-06 18:20

Most speed records are broken by seconds or minutes. Wednesday, a Fairbanks cyclist demolished the Iditarod Trail Invitational record by almost a full week.

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After pedaling almost 1,000 miles from Knik Lake to Nome, Jeff Oatly rolled across the finish at 4:53pm Wednesday, totaling 10 days, 2 hours, and 53 minutes. The previous record was 17 days and 2 hours.

“It’s fun. I had a great time the whole time,” Oatly said. “There was not a lot of times out there when I was thinking I wish I was at my desk doing work. I was having a blast.”

This was Oatly’s first race all the way to Nome. But Oatly is no rookie. He’s completed the 350-mile route to McGrath 10 times. Only this year he rode with a different goal in mind.

“The mentality going in it is, I’m going to get to Nome. No matter what. I’ll get to Nome,” he said.

Oatly is not the only one who broke a record this year. So did Heather Best, Oatly’s wife. Best completed the 350-miles to McGrath in 2 days, 13 hours, and 14 minutes, undercutting the shortest time in the women’s division by over 27 hours. This year’s shattering speeds are attributed to the lack of fresh snow. Dirt and ice—a lot of it glare ice— covered most of the trail, and the snow that did appear was mostly hard-packed. Oatly says, the trail offered little reason to slow down or dismount, an option he welcomed when it came along.

“I was not unhappy when I had to get off a few times to walk up hills and things like that. I didn’t want any snow to slow me down, because I was enjoying going fast,” he said. “But when you never get off the bike, when you’re just riding fast all the time, you get to the point where everything hurts from that, too. So it’s nice to change things up and get off the bike and walk.”

But this toll, Oatly says, is only temporary.

“Well, you do it for fun. It’s a recreation, you know. And stress isn’t necessarily a bad thing. On the body or mental stress,” he said. “It’s just sort of a state that you’re in, and then you have to recover from.”

Though racers who complete the Invitational to Nome travel almost 1,000 miles of Alaska’s wilderness, winners receive no prizes, no money, no compensation. But Oatly says the race itself is its own purse.

“Like life is very simple when you’re doing that kind of racing. You’re just riding and eating and sleeping. And that’s it. And it has a very nice rhythm, and it’s fun. And you’re out in just awesome, incredible scenery,” Oatly said. “And you get out here to the coast…but it’s so stunningly beautiful, and it’s just so hostile. I mean the wind just seems like it’s just eating at you from every direction all the time. It’s an experience. It’s fun.”

And as far as shattering records goes, well, Oatly remains unfazed.

“I mean, people can say whatever they want. It’s just a record. It’ll get broken eventually,” he said.

Sixteen competitors remain on the trail to Nome. Eleven are on bikes and four on foot. They come from seven different countries.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: March 6, 2014

Thu, 2014-03-06 18:10

Individual news stories are posted on the APRN news page. You can subscribe to APRN’s newsfeeds via emailpodcast and RSS. Follow us on Facebook at alaskapublic.org and on Twitter @aprn.

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Governor’s Mansion On List For EPA Intervention

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

Throughout his administration, Gov. Sean Parnell has accused the Environmental Protection Agency of “overreaching” on Alaska affairs. Now, it looks like the EPA may have reached into Parnell’s own home. The Governor’s Mansion appears on a list of construction projects requiring EPA intervention for lead violations.

Former Crime Lab Employee Charged With 6 Felonies

The Associated Press

A former employee of the State Crime Lab in Anchorage has been charged with six felonies, including drug misconduct and tampering with evidence.

The Department of Law in says 53-year-old Stephen Palmer was arrested today.

He’s charged with scheme to defraud, drug misconduct and four counts of evidence tampering. He’s also charged with four misdemeanor counts of official misconduct.

Alaska State Troopers launched an investigation seven months ago after detecting irregularities in lab reference standards, the controlled samples of illegal drugs kept at the state crime lab.

Prosecutors say investigators also determined drug evidence was missing in cases worked by Palmer.

Prosecutors say they don’t believe the irregularities discovered in reference standards affected the validity of testing performed by other analysts.

Mayors Seek Assurances On Gas Line Project

The Associated Press

Borough mayors are asking to be part of the discussions on terms related to a mega-liquefied natural gas project that will affect local communities.

An agreement signed by the state and companies pursuing the project says subject to consultation between the state and local governments, payments in lieu of property taxes would be paid by the companies.

The mayor of the Kenai Peninsula Borough, Mike Navarre, told the Senate Finance Committee that consultation is not a strong word.

The mayors are seeking greater assurances for the level of input they will have as the process moves forward.

The committee is weighing a bill that would make the state an equity partner and allow for the project to move into a phase of preliminary engineering and design.

King Resting At Ruby, Competitors Close In

Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks

Jeff King is resting at the Yukon river checkpoint of Ruby. The four time Iditarod champion is technically in the lead at this point, but Martin Buser, Aliy Zirkle and Robert Sorlie are closing in, and they’ve already completed their 24 hour layovers. Once teams leave Ruby, they’ll have a chance to take advantage of any remaining speed they have on the flat river miles ahead.

Five Nations Tentatively Agree To Arctic Fishing Ban

Lauren Rosenthal, KUCB – Unalaska

The United States and four other Arctic nations have tentatively agreed to prevent commercial fishing in the high Arctic.

The Canadian Press reports that Canada, Denmark, Norway, and Russia signed on to the ban after three days of meetings in Greenland last week. The measure was originally pitched by the United States, and it didn’t have support from Norway or Russia until now.

The details of the ban are still being worked out. But the basics are clear: The countries have to do more scientific research on Arctic fish stocks. In the meantime, they will not engage in commercial fishing in the Arctic Ocean outside their 200-mile exclusive economic zones.

In the United States, that area begins at the northern edge of Alaska. Fishing has already been banned within the American Arctic since 2009.

Because this new moratorium applies to international waters in the Arctic Ocean, there’s no guarantee that other countries will choose to honor it.

The next step is to get more nations on board beyond these five Arctic states. In a statement, the Arctic group said they plan to spend the rest of the year lobbying for broader support.

Dipnets May Be Allowed On Kuskokwim

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

Kuskowkim fisherman are expected to face serious restrictions on subsistence salmon fishing this summer in efforts to bring more king salmon to the spawning grounds. With fishing closed possibly all of June, the working group is asking that dipnets be used selectively to harvest non-Chinook salmon.

Delta Western’s Pro-Union Fuelers Strike Again

Lauren Rosenthal, KUCB – Unalaska

For the past month, a group of fuel supply workers in Unalaska have been trying to unionize. And they’ve also accused their employer, Delta Western, of mistreating them for it. The workers took to the picket line on Tuesday to protest.

State Bans Importation, Sale Of Certain Elodea Plants

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

The state has taken steps to ban the importation and sale of some aquatic plants that are commonly found in aquariums.  Elodea is a plant used in fishbowls that has become a big problem in Alaska, and is considered an invasive species.  Last year, the state began working to eradicate the plant from areas in Fairbanks and in Anchorage.

Kikkan Randall Secures World Cup Sprint Title

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

Kikkan Randall has a lock on her 3rd straight World Cup sprint title. Randall did not make the finals in a classic technique sprint in Drammen Norway Wednesday, but her seventh place finish there mathematically clinches the season title. Just one sprint race remains. Retaining the title as the world’s top woman sprinter is some consolation for Randall who struggled at last month’s Sochi Olympics, where she’s d hoped to medal.

Cyclist Obliterates Iditarod Trail Invitational Record

Anna Rose MacArthur, KNOM – Nome

Most speed records are broken by seconds or minutes. Wednesday, a Fairbanks cyclist demolished the Iditarod Trail Invitational record by almost a full week.

Dogs Fare Better Than Mushers Over Rough Trail

Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks

In the sled dog version of the Iditarod, teams remain large.  Most mushers are still running with 14 or more dogs. Mushers are surprised at how many dogs fared through the rough trail early on:

Categories: Alaska News

Dogs Fare Better Than Mushers Over Rough Trail

Thu, 2014-03-06 13:00

Jeff King. Photo by Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks.

Iditarod teams remain large.  Most mushers are still running teams of 14 or more dogs. Mushers are surprised at how many dogs fared well through some of the roughest trail they’ve seen in the race’s history.

Download Audio

Four-time champion, Jeff King has towed a large trailer behind his sled since the start of the race. He carries one or two dogs in it at a time while the rest of the team travels down the trail.

Michelle Phillips. Photo by Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage.

“I’m using it both proactively for a dog that’s super important to later on in this race and in the event I see one that has a little tick of lameness, the first thing I do is give it a ride and then evaluate it so that if there’s something there, it’s not aggravated,” he said.

King has been resting his dogs en route for years.  He says it saves energy for later in the race and takes some wear and tear of his equipment.

Wear and tear is something this year’s mushers know plenty about. They faced miles of rough and rugged, snow-free trail early on.  But Canadian Michelle Phillips says mushers are definitely roughed up more than then the dogs.

“It seems that way, yeah.  Definitely,” she said.

Her legs are covered in huge purple bruises. Phillips pulls a little blue vial out of her pocket. It’s medicine for both her and her dogs.

“It’s a homeopathic remedy arnica,” she said. “I’ve gone through half a bottle and anyone that’s stiff or sore is taking it as well.”

She is known for the homemade remedies she uses to treat stiff and sore dogs.

“It’s a whole blend that I roll on and I make my own massage oil and foot ointment that’s got emu oil and a bunch of herbs and essential oils,” Phillips said.

Hans Gatt spent some of his 24-hour layover massaging and walking his dogs.  He still has his full team.  He says he’s not letting anyone go until he has to.

“I’m not dropping anybody if they don’t have to be dropped,” Gatt said. “It would be a hoot to get to Nome with 16, but I know it’s not going to happen.”

Well over half the field still has teams numbering in the teens.  Those with 16 dogs will have plenty of speed and power as they push forward toward the Yukon River.

Categories: Alaska News

Jeff King Leads Teams Into Ruby, Claims ‘First Musher To The Yukon’ Award

Thu, 2014-03-06 11:48

Jeff King waves to fans as he leaves Willow at the beginning of the 42nd Iditarod. Photo by Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage.

Four-time Iditarod Champion Jeff King led mushers into the Ruby checkpoint at 6:45 a.m. Thursday, claiming the First Musher to the Yukon Award.

Two Rivers musher Sonny Lindner rode into Ruby an hour after King.

Martin Buser, Aaron Burmeister and John Baker round out the top-5.

Last year’s two top mushers, Aliy Zirkle and Mitch Seavey, are running in 11th and 15th place, respectively, and are currently between the Ophir and Cripple checkpoints.

Categories: Alaska News

Iditarod Teams Rest Up for A Big Push as They Near the Yukon

Thu, 2014-03-06 11:16

As teams come off their mandatory 24-hour rest and head for the Yukon River, they’ll be thinking of how best to pick up the pace in what is turning out to be one of the most dramatic, but also the most competitive races in Iditarod history.

Hans Gatt. Photo by Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage.

Teams haven’t yet reached the halfway mark. Twelve-time finisher Hans Gatt says even though he’s running a competitive team, he hasn’t even thought about racing yet.

“Well, usually you try to figure out any time after the 24-hour layover, but we’ll probably have to wait until we get to Ruby,” Gatt said.

Ruby is nearly 500 miles into the race. Gatt would have liked to there before he rested his team for 24 hours.

“I had to kind of patch up the dogs a little bit,” Gatt said. “I had some sick dogs that didn’t eat so I had to 24 here, otherwise, I’d be way down the trail.”

But a stopover in Takotna was exactly what Aliy Zirkle had planned.

“I always get to Takotna on my own schedule and never look at what’s happening,” she said. “I’ve looked and seen what people are doing and it’s pretty interesting. I guess I’m going to stick on my own schedule until the Yukon and then see where it works out.”

Her team was parked right next to defending champion Mitch Seavey’s.  The two worked in the dog yard side-by-side, but shared few words as they focused on feeding their teams and packing their sleds.

Ray Reddington Jr. Photo by Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage.

“We’re running our own dogs right now, so if you kind of start with what your own dogs can do and then get out a little bit later and see where you’re standing compared to everyone else, I guess that’s what we’re doing,” Zirkle said.

Unlike other mushers, Zirkle says she isn’t scratching her head over the big, early push made by Martin Buser.

“It shouldn’t be surprising after what he did last year,” she said.

It’s the second year in a row Buser has set a hard and fast pace early.  Zirkle says she, like many, had expected Norwegian Robert Sorlie to be something of a rabbit this year.  His team was parked further up the hill, also resting for 24 hours.

“I think this is the best team I’ve run ever, so far but you never know.”

Sorlie’s team is energetic, boisterous and powerful. They’ve pulled him speedily over rough trail and dragged him through checkpoints, eager to keep moving down the trail.  He says they haven’t even begun to race.

“I have not pushed them yet. I have not pushed them.  I will not push them before I get to Ruby and after that I think,” he said. “They can go their own speed. That is the best for them, o go their own speed. They know best what they can do, not me.”

Sorlie’s approach involves fast runs and lots of rest. He doesn’t like to change his ways.  A tried and true race plan is something former champion Dallas Seavey also likes to stick with.

“Just because Aliy, myself, my dad – oh wait a second is that the first and second place mushers from the last two Iditarods? – Now what are all of us doing?  We’re not doing a flashy race, but I can guarantee you, we’re all going to be there at the end,” he said.

The younger Seavey likes to keep things relatively simple.

Dallas Seavey. Photo by Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage.

“A lot of times when I see mushers do big moves now, what it tells me is they’ve used their joker, they’ve played that card, they don’t have that card to play on the coast,” he said.

Regardless of where mushers start to make strategic moves, they will eventually have to cut a little rest if they want to stay competitive.  It’s something Ray Reddington Junior is well aware of.

“Well, I’d like to start doing it somewhere along the river and I’m going to have a little bit of fun here myself and get a little pressure off the dogs,” he said. “Hopefully our run times will stay up and some of these guys will slow down a little bit.”

This is Reddington’s 13th Iditarod.  He’s climbed his way into the top-10 the last three consecutive years, but he says he can’t let his guard down.

“I mean how many of us when you figure it out is within an hour or two of each other right now,” Reddington said. “You can’t mess up.  If you mess up now, you might have ten teams go by you just for one little hiccup.”

Teams have a quick jaunt over to Ophir out of Takotna where they can readjust their plans and take care of dogs.  It’s still more than 140 miles to Ruby where the race meets the Yukon River and teams will presumably start to pick up the pace.

Categories: Alaska News

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