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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: 14 min 47 sec ago

Plane lands safely in Seattle after engine catches fire

Fri, 2015-07-17 10:36

A Delta Air Lines flight heading from Anchorage, Alaska, to Atlanta had to make an emergency stop at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport after one of its engines caught fire.

Delta Air Lines performs a test flight into Juneau. (Photo by Doug Wahto)

Airport spokesman Perry Cooper says Flight 2469 landed at 2:24 a.m. Thursday, but the fire was out before the Boeing 767 touched down.

Cooper says the pilots were able to get the problem resolved in the air. Cooper says they reported a fire in the No. 2 engine but said they shut the engine down and put out the blaze with the cold air.

Fire crews stood by when the plane landed, but they were not needed. The passengers were taken to a gate and had their trips rescheduled.

Delta could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.

Categories: Alaska News

Fatal plane crash wreckage awaits removal

Fri, 2015-07-17 09:59

A June 25th deadly plane crash in Ketchikan remains under investigation; something the National Transportation Safety Board says could take as long as a year and a half. However, just cleaning up the wreckage is also taking a while, begging the question, who’s responsible for it?

NTSB investigator Brice Banning examines the wreckage of the sightseeing plane that crashed June 25th in Misty Fjords south of Ketchikan. Shared via KRBD-Ketchikan.

The National Transportation Safety Board says it’s not their problem. The Alaska State Troopers says it’s out of their hands. And while the Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad secured the plane to the mountainside, they’re saying it’s no longer up to them.

The DeHavilland DHC-3 that crashed near Misty Fjords National Monument, killing nine, still clings to the side of a rather rocky p lace.

Chris John is with the Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad. He says the squad’s job was to try and rescue anyone who may have survived and make sure the area was safe for NTSB investigators.

“As far as this accident, we are probably done with our involvement. We do sometimes go back out when parts of the wreck are recovered. Our role is usually to make sure it’s a safe situation… it’s pretty rugged up there.”

The investigation is ongoing, but the NTSB says it has nothing to do with plane removal.

So how is this remedied? Just left large piece of twisted metal stuck on a mountainside?

As it turns out, Temsco Helicopters, which originally found the crash site and helped with the rescue mission, has volunteered to help fly the wreck out. Except there’s one problem: the only helicopter big enough to retrieve the aircraft is up north, fighting fires.

This leaves some of the volunteer rescue squad’s ropes and straps, securing the plane, up on the mountain with the mound of metal.  Eric Lunde, another Ketchikan Rescue Squad volunteer, says the weathered equipment will have to be replaced. Lunde says either the Troopers will help refund the  lost items, they will have to ask for grants or, most likely,  KVRS  will have to ask for donations to make sure they’re ready for future missions.

“The state troopers, the state will reimburse us, although the state’s budget isn’t looking very good. In the past, that’s how that’s worked. But a lot of the stuff, we seek grants where we can. Lots of personal donations. Lots of just our membership donates money, sometimes enough. Sometimes we need something; sometimes some of our members will just go buy it.”

While Temsco officials say they still plan on extracting the plane, they won’t guarantee anything until the large helicopter returns from the blazes up North.

Categories: Alaska News

State Lifts Spending Freeze on Susitna-Watana Hydro Project

Fri, 2015-07-17 09:48

After a spending freeze by the governor and multiple attempts by the legislative minority to place it back into the state’s general fund, the Susitna-Watana Hydro Project team will now be allowed to spend over six million dollars it has left from previous years.

Last week, a memorandum from the state’s Office of Management and Budget lifted the spending freeze on the Susitna-Watana Hydroelectric Project instituted by Governor Bill Walker in December. Walker’s order had halted new spending on six projects, including the proposed 735-foot-high dam on the Susitna River.

At the time of the administrative order, the Alaska Energy Authority, the state corporation in charge of Susitna-Watana, said it had around $30 million remaining from previous appropriations. Of that, $6.6 million was unencumbered. The rest was already committed to studies for the proposed megaproject.

Emily Ford, spokeswoman for AEA, says, now that the funds have been freed up, the pre-licensing study process will continue through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

“We’re just going to be picking up where we left off as part of this Initial Study Report Process. We essentially pushed a big pause button in the middle of that effort by filing for a license abeyance with FERC. So next, what we’ll do is lift that abeyance and resume with the FERC schedule.”

The money that AEA is once-again allowed to spend on Susitna-Watana represents just over three percent of total allocation to the current project proposal to date. Emily Ford says that means there are not currently plans for the type of large-scale research that took place in the Susitna Valley over the last two years.

“The focus and the goal is to preserve the investment that the state’s already made in the project by either wrapping up studies that are near completion or synthesizing data that was collected in the field and making sure that it’s in a usable format.”

After that, it will be up to the legislature and the governor to determine whether additional funds go to Susitna-Watana. AEA estimates the project’s cost at over $5.5 billion, and Emily Ford says that the agency plans to act based on the funding that the state’s fiscal reality allows.

On Thursday, the Talkeetna-based Susitna River Coalition, a group opposed to Susitna-Watana, issued a statement expressing disappointment with Governor Walker’s decision. The Coalition cites criticism by federal agencies, including the National Marine Fisheries Service, of studies conducted as part of the early phases of the project. Coalition board member Becky Long believes the decision runs contrary to Governor Walker’s stated policy goals, and that Susitna-Watana, if built, would be costly beyond the price tag for construction.

“We have to look at future litigation costs, future mitigation costs, and, in general, the governor has been talking up a lot about fiscal responsibility and fish-first policies. And we think this goes against those policies.”

Becky Long says the Susitna River Coalition is concerned that AEA may not be able to finish the studies already underway without cutting corners, which could lead to litigation.

Now that the fiscal picture has, at least temporarily, cleared, AEA plans to establish a new schedule with federal regulators. That schedule will include public meetings on the Initial Study Report completed last year. AEA’s Emily Ford says those meetings will likely occur in late fall of this year.

Categories: Alaska News

King Salmon Sees a Unique, And Invasive, Visitor From Afar

Fri, 2015-07-17 08:52

A collared dove in the U.K. Photo by Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, U.K. Accessed via the Wikimedia Creative Commons.

An invasive species of dove was spotted in King Salmon Tuesday afternoon. It’s the farthest west the Eurasian collared dove has been found in the U.S.

Matthew McFarland was working outside of the inn he co-owns when he heard a whistling from the porch behind him.

“And I heard that noise, that distinctive noise that doves make. So I said ‘Oh, it’s just a dove!’ But then I thought to myself, ‘well, we don’t have doves here,’” McFarland says.

McFarland thought he must be mistaken. But his cousin, who was working nearby, heard it too.

“He poked his head around the corner out and asked if we have doves here. I said, no, we don’t have doves here at all! And he said well that was a dove! So we went around the house and it had flown up and landed on one of the power lines.”

McFarland quickly took a few photos. It was a gray dove, with a big black band across the back of its neck and a straight edge on the bottom of its tail.

He was pretty sure he knew what kind of dove this was – he’d seen them when he lived in Arizona – but he called for backup just in case.

“Yeah, so we got a call from him, and our office is only about 200 meters from that site…. So several of us went out and confirmed the sighting.”

That’s Stuart Fety, a biological technician with Fish and Wildlife in King Salmon.

“It was in fact a Eurasion collared dove, surprisingly enough.”

Fety says this particular species has a long history of moving in where it shouldn’t. It’s native to Europe and Asia, but first became established in the U.S. in 1982.

“…when they escaped from a pet shop in Florida when it was burgled,” Fety says. “And they were first seen in Alaska in 2009 along the Denali Highway… and they’ve kinda rapidly expanded their range.”

Until now, the furthest west the dove had been seen was in Homer, a few weeks ago.

So how can these doves thrive in habitats ranging from Florida to Alaska? Fety says they’re just really good at finding a niche wherever humans live.

“They’re well-adapted to utilizing food put out by people in their feeders and just utilizing resources around urban or developed areas.”

Fety says Fish & Wildlife isn’t too worried about the dove.  Unlike some invasive species, like, say, Chena Slough elodea, or Adak Island rats, he says the Eurasian collared dove doesn’t really threaten native wildlife, and he was planning on leaving it alone.

But McFarland says an ecologist friend told him differently… her recommendation has also been to shoot it, cause it’s invasive. And I was told there’s no season or limit on exotic invasives.

As many a Lower 48 hunter will attest, doves are quite a tasty prey. And whether this dove is a lone wanderer, or a forerunner for a whole new population, birdwatchers in Bristol Bay can keep an eye, an ear, and maybe a shotgun out for this unique visitor.

Categories: Alaska News

White House “Pre-Advance” Team Visits Dillingham

Fri, 2015-07-17 08:27

A government team will tour Dillingham facilities ahead of a possible Presidential visit later this year.

About a dozen people loaded off a jet bearing an American flag at the Dillingham airport Thursday evening.
Credit Hannah Colton/KDLG

A team from the White House will be in Dillingham this Thursday and Friday to check out the town ahead of a possible visit by President Obama later this year.

Alice Ruby is Mayor of Dillingham:

“We were contacted by some Washington staffers to tell us that it’s possible the President would make a trip to Alaska sometime in the late summer or fall, and that it’s also possible that he might visit some rural communities, and Dillingham had made the list of those communities,” said Ruby. “So a pre-advance team would visit and look at different facilities and meetings and so on.”

Mayor Ruby says the team will visit various facilities, including the airport, the hospital, the school and the campus.

Ruby says she thinks Dillingham may be one of several Alaskan communities receiving such a visit this summer.

A White House spokesperson said they have no official details to share at this time.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: Thursday, July 16, 2015

Thu, 2015-07-16 17:45

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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Walker Announces Plan to Expand Medicaid Unilaterally

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

After promising to expand the state’s Medicaid program on the campaign trail, Gov. Bill Walker has announced he will sidestep the Legislature to make that happen.

North Slope Mayor Under Investigation for Corruption

Associated Press

The North Slope Borough Assembly has voted to investigate allegations of ethics violations made against Mayor Charlotte Brower.

Dirt Bike Dermatoloy: For Army Medic, Specialty is Adaptability

Zachariah Hughes, KSKA – Anchorage

Last week the Army announced it’ll be removing more than 2,600 positions from the 4th Brigade Combat Team’s 25th Infantry Division stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

Accidental Overdose Suspected In Wainwright Soldier’s Death

Zachariah Hughes, KSKA – Anchorage

A 23-year-old Alaska-based soldier passed away this week while on leave out of state.

Anchorage Sees Three Indigent Deaths Overnight

Zachariah Hughes, KSKA – Anchorage

The Anchorage Police Department is investigating an overnight spike in homeless deaths.

Canned Salmon: A New Face on an Old Product

Molly Dischner, KDLG – Dillingham

Despite new ways of marketing and selling salmon, canned fish remains a major product from Alaska’s fisheries.

Alaska Shoppers Greet H&M With Gusto

Monica Gokey, KSKA – Anchorage

Hundreds waited in line Thursday for global fashion retailer H&M to open its new store in Anchorage. Even as the state feels the squeeze of low oil prices, Alaska shoppers are still keen to lay down their dollars on national brands.

Bethel Democrat to Lead PNWER Arctic Caucus

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

Representative Bob Herron, a Democrat from Bethel was elected the chairman of the Arctic Caucus during the 25th summer summit of the Pacific Northwest Economic Region, or PNWER.

K-9 in Training to Combat Juneau’s Heroin Problem

Elizabeth Jenkins, KTOO – Juneau

Juneau Police have a new tool to sniff out a steady flow of heroin and other narcotics entering the city. It’s been about 25 years since the department had a K-9 on staff.

Categories: Alaska News

Walker Announces Plan To Expand Medicaid Unilaterally

Thu, 2015-07-16 17:40

After promising to expand the state’s Medicaid program on the campaign trail, Gov. Bill Walker has announced he will sidestep the Legislature to make that happen.

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Gov. Bill Walker announces his decision to expand Medicaid unilaterally at a press conference at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium on Thursday, July 16, 2015. (Alexandra Gutierrez/APRN)

WALKER: Today, Alaska becomes the thirtieth state to accept the benefits of Medicaid expansion.

Medicaid expansion had been blocked by key Republican leaders. The Legislature is expected to let the decision stand — even if some don’t like it.

The Thursday announcement felt more like a victory rally than a press conference.

“I think today deserves a high-five, Governor,” said Corrections Commissioner Ron Taylor, before doing just that in front of a standing-room crowd.

At least 200 people had gathered at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium office for the event, and the only place where you could find an empty chair was at a reserved table that had more seats than Anchorage has media outlets.

Standing in front of his whole Cabinet, Walker said he wasn’t going to wait any longer for the Legislature to act on Medicaid expansion. His administration had pushed hard for the policy during the regular session, and attempted to get the Legislature to take it up during their first special session — only to see them gavel out and gavel back in with the item removed.

Walker said lawmakers had their chance.

“This is the final option for me. I’ve tried everything else,” said Walker. “And one thing people have to learn about me [is] I never give up.”

Walker explained that the state would accept $150 million in federal funding so single people who are near the poverty line can enroll in the state’s Medicaid program. These are people who are too poor to be eligible for subsidies under the Affordable Care Act, but not covered in other ways.

His health commissioner, Valerie Davidson, said the decision would have a major impact on about 20,000 Alaskans.

“We have so many hard-working Alaskans who simply don’t have access to health care,” Davidson said at the press conference. “They are missing work. It is affecting businesses. They can’t take care of their children. They can’t hunt. They can’t fish. They can’t chop wood. They can’t pack water, and they can’t report to work when they’re not healthy enough to do so.”

Expanding Medicaid isn’t as simple as just telling the federal government Alaska wants the money. The governor does need to consult lawmakers, but the process is more a formality than anything else.

What happens now is that Walker asks the Legislative Budget and Audit committee to consider the appropriation request. They then have 45 days to make a non-binding recommendation on it.

“I personally support Medicaid expansion,” says Anchorage Republican Mike Hawker, who chairs that committee. “But even if I wanted to stop it in this committee, there is nothing I can do.”

In fact, Hawker says he’s even open to expediting the process, if the governor wants the funds to be accepted before September 1. But even though he supports the policy and is willing to work with the governor on it, Hawker says circumventing the Legislature will bother some.

“I’m not sure the governor’s unilateral decision to undertake expansion is, at the end of the day, the best way to go about this,” says Hawker.

North Pole Republican John Coghill is the Senate’s majority leader, and an opponent of expansion. He does not think it’s fiscally responsible to take money for the program when the federal government is running up a deficit. Coghill agrees that it will affect the governor’s relationship with the Legislature.

“It’ll put us on guard, there’s no doubt about that. But I don’t think we’ll start playing payback or anything like that,” says Coghill. “I think it’s just it gives us a little more understanding of how he’s going to make policy calls. That makes it tougher when he comes to us and has to ask for budget items.”

But even though Coghill does not like the policy, he does not expect that the Legislature will take drastic measure to block it. The only real way to stop the governor is to call a third special session. And Coghill says there isn’t enough opposition to the policy for that to happen, especially since the Republican majorities are, themselves, divided on it.

“There probably is support enough for Medicaid expansion,” says Coghill. “If you take both Houses together, you probably get a majority of people.”

For his part, Walker says while it’s the Legislature’s call, a special session to block Medicaid probably would not be productive. And based on the number of high fives and hugs the governor gave at the press conference, he’s not expecting them to try.

Categories: Alaska News

Dirt-Bike Dermatology: For Army Medics, Real Specialty is Adaptability

Thu, 2015-07-16 17:38

Last week the Army announced it’ll be removing more than 2,631 positions from the 4th Brigade Combat Team’s 25th Infantry Division stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. It’s part of the military’s nation-wide force reduction. Amid the cuts, the rarely mentioned role of military medicine is also changing.

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Major Kim Edhegart is trained as a subspecialist in immunodermatology, but his work within the Army includes mending broken bones and jumping out of airplanes. (Photo: Zachariah Hughes, KSKA)

Categories: Alaska News

Accidental Overdose Suspected Cause of Wainwright Soldier’s Death

Thu, 2015-07-16 17:37

A 23-year-old Alaska-based soldier passed away Tuesday while on leave out of state.

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Specialist Norman Eugene Theill Jr. of Fort Wainwright’s 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team. Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Public Affairs.

Specialist Norman Eugene Thiell Jr. of the Army’s 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team’s 1st Batallion at Fort Wainwright near Fairbanks was visiting family in Florida during his leave.

The case is being investigated as an accidental overdose, although the Lake County Sheriff’s Department has not said which substances may have played a roll.

Army officials declined to comment on whether Thiell had undergone counseling or treatment while serving in Alaska the last two years, citing privacy considerations.

This is the second death of a soldier based at Fort Wainwright in less than a week. On July 10th, three-time combat veteran Sergeant Stanley Daniels Jr. was killed in a motorcycle accident in Fairbanks.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska Shoppers Greet H&M With Gusto

Thu, 2015-07-16 17:34

If you were at the Dimond Center on Thursday, you only had to follow the sound of techno music to find H&M. Hundreds of people were lined up outside the store for its Anchorage debut.

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It took about $9 million in renovation work to ready the Dimond Center for H&M. Photo: Monica Gokey/KSKA.

There was screaming, flash mob dancing, free giveaways – things like selfie sticks and gaudy H&M sunglasses. And H&M gift cards for the lucky ones.

Deedee Harris was in line about two hours before the opening…. she moved to Alaska from California. The shopping here, she says, is lackluster:

“Honestly, I really wish they had a Macy’s and a Victoria’s Secret…. and, I can’t think of everything right now, but really a Macy’s — that’s my favorite store,” Harris says. “Normally they don’t have the stuff that I like here, like they don’t really have variety here in Alaska, so I usually shop online a lot or I have my parents send me stuff.”

But Harris says she’s pumped for H&M. It wasn’t one of her regulars in California, but she’s excited to give it a try.

H&M is one of several national brands opening doors in Anchorage this year. Bath & Body Works opened at the Fifth Avenue Mall earlier this summer. And Nordstrom Rack is scheduled to open later this fall.

DeeDee Harris waited in line for about two hours before H&M opened. Photo: Kaysie Ellington/AKPM.

Last year Cabela’s, Bass Pro and a number of national restaurant brands come to Anchorage. Overall, Anchorage lost jobs last year. But jobs in retail grew three and a half percent — the largest growth of any employment sector, according to a state labor report.

For Dimond Center owner Hugh Ashlock, today’s H&M opening was the culmination of a three-year courtship with the Swedish fashion giant.

“We were able to give them a two-story fascia on a major street and give them the brand image they want,” he says.

That brand image H&M wanted, Ashlock says, had about a nine-million dollar price tag — which was split between the retailer and the Dimond Center.

“H&M always wants a flagship in every market. And they want to do what’s called their full brand expression, which in H&M’s case is a very modern, white, clean two-story fascia with a lot of glass. And so we were able to do renderings to show them — we researched their best-looking stores, and then I did a rendering showing them on that corner. And that really sold them: here’s what you can have at the Dimond Center.”

H&M opened in Anchorage on July 16. Photo: Monica Gokey/KSKA.

 

The process Ashlock just described, doing the store renderings and showing H&M that they could, in fact, have a sexy-looking store in Alaska — that is not the norm. Malls in the Lower 48 don’t usually have to woo retailers to that extent:

“You know, sometimes selling Alaska is more difficult than selling Dimond Center. But once they’re up here, they do really well.”

With falling oil prices and fiscal belt tightening in other areas of the Anchorage economy, retail growth is forecasted to slow down this year. But hundreds of fashion-hungry shoppers lining up outside H&M show us that Alaskans are, indeed, hungry for national brands.

Categories: Alaska News

Bethel Democrat to Lead PNWER Arctic Caucus

Thu, 2015-07-16 17:33

Representative Bob Herron, a Democrat from Bethel was elected the chairman of the Arctic Caucus during the 25th summer summit of the Pacific Northwest Economic Region, or PNWER.

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The organization gathered in Big Sky, Montana this week. PNWER is a partnership comprised of industry and five U.S. states, three Canadian provinces and the Yukon and the Northwest Territories. As chairman, Herron will help educate policy makers in Washington, D.C., and Ottawa on arctic issues.

David Ramsay is the Minister of Justice and Industry for the Northwest Territories and the current President of PNWER. He says the Arctic Caucus is an important body for raising the economic profile of the north.

“Market access, infrastructure, energy cost, especially in rural and remote communities. The Northwest Territories is no different and faces similar challenges as Alaska so we’re going to continue to work on ways to try to find investment into the Arctic and that includes Alaska, the NWT and the Yukon.”

Ramsay says their November meeting in Yellow Knife will focus on the needs of the arctic as development ramps up. The PNWER meetings wrapped up Thursday.

Categories: Alaska News

K-9 in training to combat Juneau’s heroin problem

Thu, 2015-07-16 17:32

Juneau Police have a new tool to sniff out a steady flow of heroin and other narcotics entering the city. It’s been about 25 years since the department had a K-9 on staff.

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Buddy has been with the Juneau Police Department for about three weeks. (Photo by Elizabeth Jenkins/KTOO)

His partner, Officer Mike Wise, is training Buddy at Dzanktik’i Heeni Middle School to sniff out drugs on campus.

Inside a classroom, Wise snaps on blue plastic gloves while Buddy waits in the car.

“So, basically right now. I have some narcotics on me I’m going to be planting and basically getting ready to hide,” he says.

Wise unscrews the lid off a mason jar and pulls out 4 grams of black, tacky looking heroin.

“We’re going to put it in the stash box and then we’re going to put it inside the filing cabinet.”

The police department received nearly $25,000 in grant money from the feds to bring the K-9 on staff. Buddy was Russian-born and snapped up by a recruiting agency that finds dogs with a “high drive” for law enforcement.

Officer Wise had to fly down to Alabama to pick up Buddy, then named Baddie.  He remembers walking in a kennel with 30 dogs barking. The handler pointed to a German shepherd and handed him a collar.

“And I didn’t know who this dog was, I’d never met him before, and he’s never seen me,” he says. “And for a stranger just to walk into his kennel was kind of terrifying.”

But Buddy just looked at him and wagged his tail.

“There was a huge relief to know that this dog is not going to try to eat me. The first day Buddy walked off and he just wanted to pull me everywhere,” he says.

Slowly, Wise started to bond with his new partner; he brushed Buddy’s fur, played with him and did some additional training before bringing him back home to his wife and two kids.

“And from then on it’s been inseparable. We just stay together.”

Buddy is trained to smell heroin, meth and cocaine. But not marijuana since that’s legal now in Alaska. His nose is so good that he can detect each note in the narcotics. For example, you might walk into a room and smell a delicious pizza.

“He smells every little ingredient that’s involved in making that pizza. That’s how he does it with the meth, cocaine or heroin and knows that’s something,” he says.

The police department is going to need the help. Last year, they confiscated over $4.6 million of heroin in Juneau. There’s a big incentive for smugglers. A dose here is worth five times more than down south.

Lt.  Kris Sell oversees investigations. She says Heroin gets to Juneau in a number of ways.

Officer Mike Wise watches Buddy play with his “paycheck.” A piece of hose, sometimes PVC pipe. (Photo by Elizabeth Jenkins/KTOO)

“The people who are importing heroin move regularly between the U.S. mail, other mail delivery services and bring it in on the airlines or on the ferry,” she says.

Last year’s seizures were made up of a couple of big busts and several small ones. A drug conspiracy involving stolen Costco jewelry yielded 10,000 street doses of heroin.

“In Juneau, we’ve had such a heroin problem, I think you’d be hard pressed to find an adult who doesn’t know a  family who’s been impacted in some way by the addiction.”

Sell says there hasn’t been a sudden spike in heroin, it’s more like a steady march. And finding it once it’s here can be difficult.

“People have done things like taped drugs to the underside of the baby’s dresser in the baby’s room,  Buddy will help us ferret out things like that. Things we’re worried we haven’t been finding.”

Back inside the classroom, Wise holds tight to Buddy’s leash which is attached to a police harness. He walks him around but, really, Buddy is leading him to the place where we stashed the heroin.

Right when he sniffs the filing cabinet, he lays down–indicating this is the spot.

A black piece of rubber hose is discreetly thrown over Buddy’s head.

It’s his paycheck for a job well done. Wise will play tug of war with it and let Buddy win. Then he’ll hurl the toy back out of sight. Buddy is restrained from going after it.

“So, he’s always assuming his toy’s in the field out there. So when we’re working. He’s looking for this toy again. That’s why he’s doing what he’s doing for that thing right there,” he says. “So, we’re going to hide it from him. It kind of makes him mad a little bit, but we gotta keep working. ”

Wise hopes with Buddy’s help, incoming drugs can be kept off the street. They’ll start patrolling the airport, commercial barges and ferry system soon.

Categories: Alaska News

Ohio newspaper endorses Mt. McKinley name change

Thu, 2015-07-16 09:17

The longstanding Alaskan campaign to restore the name “Denali” to Mount McKinley got an unlikely endorsement today.

For decades, Ohio Congress members have blocked the name change. William McKinley was from Ohio, and Ohioans have argued that renaming the mountain would dishonor a martyred president.

Today, though, one of Ohio’s largest newspapers called on the Buckeye State to stand down. The Columbus Dispatch calls Ohio’s insistence an “unseemly effort on behalf of a politician who never set foot near the mountain and had no known interest in it.”

The editorial suggests that, if the peak is officially named Denali — a moniker that pre-dates the United States — maybe the National Park handle could be changed back to “McKinley.” The newspaper reasons that the park was a creation of the government and might serve as a more fitting tribute to the 25th president, who was killed by an assassin’s bullet in 1901.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski has added the name change to the Interior Appropriations bill. She also sponsored a stand-alone bill to do the same.

Categories: Alaska News

Murkowski brings in nearly $1.1M in latest quarter

Thu, 2015-07-16 09:15

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski brought in nearly $1.1 million toward her re-election bid during the latest fundraising period.

A summary of her disclosure report, released by her campaign Wednesday, shows she had nearly $2.3 million available at the end of the quarter, June 30. At this point during her last campaign, she had close to $1.1 million available.

Her campaign, in a release, described her fundraising efforts as moving at an “historic pace” for a U.S. Senate candidate in Alaska.

Murkowski, a Republican who won re-election in 2010 with a write-in campaign, is up for re-election next year.

The race, so far, has not attracted much attention. There are no candidates listed yet with the state Division of Elections. Murkowski filed a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission.

Categories: Alaska News

Some call for removal of Mississippi flag from Juneau street

Thu, 2015-07-16 09:12

A group of Juneau residents are petitioning to have the Mississippi state flag removed from a display of flags lining one of the city’s main streets.

The Juneau Empire reports that the Mississippi flag, which includes a confederate battle flag in its upper left corner, hangs on Egan Drive downtown.

A petition with 188 signatures was sent to Friends of the Flags, a nonprofit group that maintains the string of state flags, asking that Mississippi’s flag be replaced with something that does not feature a confederate symbol.

Marc Wheeler, who helped spearhead the petition, says he wants no ill will toward Friends of the Flags, in fact he already purchased an alternate option: the Mississippi Magnolia flag, which was the state’s official flag from 1861 to 1865.

Categories: Alaska News

Law firm to investigate payments to Mayor Brower’s relatives

Thu, 2015-07-16 09:11

The North Slope Borough Assembly has voted to investigate allegations of ethics violations made against Mayor Charlotte Brower.

The Assembly’s unanimous vote on Monday was made at Brower’s request and comes after a disclosure by Brower that borough staff had procured goods from members of her family.

Brower wrote in a July 7 memo to Assembly members that the borough had allowed no-bid purchases from her family without her knowledge. Details of the purchases the borough paid for were not immediately known.

Brower was not available for comment Tuesday. In a written statement released to the media, Brower said she thought an investigation into the allegations would “promote transparency and accountability within the borough.”

Categories: Alaska News

HAARP To Be Transferred To UAF

Wed, 2015-07-15 17:44

The University of Alaska Fairbanks will take ownership of Gakona’s High Frequency Active Auroral Program, best known as HAARP.  

After two bumpy years waiting for the US Air Force to decide what to do with HAARP, UAF has won it’s bid to take over the facility for research purposes.

About a year ago, [June of 2014] UAF, with the support of scientists around the globe, managed to delay the Air Force’s plan to close and demolish the HAARP compound.

UAF spokeswoman Marmion Grimes says UAF will take ownership of the $200 million facility next month.

“It’s a transfer, and next month the facilities and equipment will formally transfer from the military to the university. And then we have two years to work with the Air Force to come to an agreement to transfer land.”

The university must still negotiate with the military for 1500 acres of land out of the 5500 acres the Air Force owns in Gakona. The university system is loaning UAF $2 million dollars to get the facility back into operation. Grimes says a plan is in place to raise money to cover the loan and costs associated with operations.

“Scientists would pay to use the facility for their research projects, and that would support operations, and that is a common model for the university and research community. The Siquliaq, which just recently came on board is the same sort of model, we use the same model at Poker Flat research range as well. We are also working to identify maybe some anchor projects, anchor sort of tenants to help cover operating costs.”

Bob McCoy, who heads UAF’s Geophysical Institute, has been instrumental in pursuading the Air Force to give HAARP to the university.

“The government’s invested about $290 million, federal dollars. In the last decade or so, the Navy, the Air Force and DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) all chipped in forty of fifty million each, and they expanded it and increased the power and made improvements. So it really is exquisite. It’s a good catch for the state of Alaska and the university in Fairbanks to get this excellent facility. And both the chancellor and the president both saw that, and were eager to have this added it to our portfolio here.” 

HAARP is one of only three  similar facilities  in the world.  One is in  Norway, another  in Russia.  Research into the Earth’s ionosphere was the primary job at HAARP when the Air Force operated it. But in June of 2013, the military announced that research was coming to an end, and made known it’s intention to shutter HAARP.

Last July, HAARP was saved days before bulldozers were ordered to move in. Grimes says scientists rallied to put pressure on the Air Force to scrap the demolition plan.

“National Research Council has been involved, we’ve spoken to the National Science Foundation, as well as a wide variety of scientists regarding the possibility of keeping the facility open and running it as a university facility. We’ve found a lot of support there. The scientific community wants to keep this facility. It’s regarded as the best in the world, more powerful than the other two facilities.” 

UAF faculty and graduate students have used HAARP for research over the past few years, and now the university plans to expand programs there. Bob McCoy says HAARP turns the ionosphere into a laboratory.

“There’s a lot of science that can be done. The Navy, in the past, has been interested in using the ionosphere like an antenna, to generate extremely low frequency waves to communicate with submarines. And even things like creating simulation in the ionosphere to modulate radio waves, there’s a whole bunch of applications, that I think, the ionosphere, at least thirty kilometers of it, becomes a laboratory, and for a few minutes you can actually do experiments and see what happens.” 

HAARP has been beaming radio waves into the atmosphere since 1997 in ongoing efforts to understand the ionosphere, which has a strong influence on satellite communications. But it’s mission is often misunderstood, and has given rise to speculation that it’s work is linked to top secret military research. The facility has inspired at least one book,
Angels Don’t Play This Haarp, authored by Nick Begich.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The University of Alaska Fairbanks will take ownership of Gakona’s High Frequency Active Auroral Program, best known as HAARP. KSKA’s Ellen Lockyer has more. [:09]

 

After two bumpy years waiting for the US Air Force to decide what to do with HAARP, UAF has won it’s bid to take over the facility for research purposes.

About a year ago, [June of 2014] UAF, with the support of scientists around the globe, managed to delay the Air Force’s plan to close and demolish the HAARP compound.

UAF spokeswoman Marmion Grimes says UAF will take ownership of the $200 million facility next month.

[CutID: <Worktapes> 15Haarp marmion 1.wav

Time: 14s

Title: 15Haarp marmion 1

Description: 15Haarp marmion 1

In-cue: its a transfer

Out-cue: transfer land]

[“It’s a transfer, and next month the facilities and equipment will formally transfer from the military to the university. And then we have two years to work with the Air Force to come to an agreement to transfer land.”]

The university must still negotiate with the military for 1500 acres of land out of the 5500 acres the Air Force owns in Gakona. The university system is loaning UAF $2 million dollars to get the facility back into operation. Grimes says a plan is in place to raise money to cover the loan and costs associated with operations.

[CutID: <Worktapes> 15Haarp marmion 4.wav

Time: 25s

Title: 15Haarp marmion 4

Description: 15Haarp marmion 4

In-cue: scientists

Out-cue: costs]

[“Scientists would pay to use the facility for their research projects, and that would support operations, and that is a common model for the university and research community. The Siquliaq, which just recently came on board is the same sort of model, we use the same model at Poker Flat research range as well. We are also working to identify maybe some anchor projects, anchor sort of tenants to help cover operating costs.”]

Bob McCoy, who heads UAF’s Geophysical Institute, has been instrumental in pursuading the Air Force to give HAARP to the university

[CutID: <Worktapes> 15haarp bob 1.wav

Time: 30s

Title: 15haarp bob 1

Description: 15haarp bob 1

In-cue: the government’s

Out-cue: here]

[“The government’s invested about $290 million, federal dollars. In the last decade or so, the Navy, the Air Force and DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) all chipped in forty of fifty million each, and they expanded it and increased the power and made improvements. So it really is exquisite. It’s a good catch for the state of Alaska and the university in Fairbanks to get this excellent facility. And both the chancellor and the president both saw that, and were eager to have this added it to our portfolio here.”]

 

HAARP is one of only three *similar facilities?* in the world. [one in Norway, one in Russia] Research into the Earth’s ionosphere was the primary job at HAARP when the Air Force operated it. But in June of 2013, the military announced that research was coming to an end, and made known it’s intention to shutter HAARP.

Last July, HAARP was saved days before bulldozers were ordered to move in. Grimes says scientists rallied to put pressure on the Air Force to scrap the demolition plan.

[CutID: <Worktapes> 15Haarp marmion 3.wav

Time: 26s

Title: 15Haarp marmion 3

Description: 15Haarp marmion 3

In-cue: national

Out-cue: facilities]

[“National Research Council has been involved, we’ve spoken to the National Science Foundation, as well as a wide variety of scientists regarding the possibility of keeping the facility open and running it as a university facility. We’ve found a lot of support there. The scientific community wants to keep this facility. It’s regarded as the best in the world, more powerful than the other two facilities.”]

 

UAF faculty and graduate students have used HAARP for research over the past few years, and now the university plans to expand programs there. Bob McCoy says HAARP turns the ionosphere into a laboratory.

[CutID: <Worktapes> 15haarp bob 2.wav

Time: 28s

Title: 15haarp bob 2

Description: 15haarp bob 2

In-cue: most flexible

Out-cue: what happens]

[“There’s a lot of science that can be done. The Navy, in the past, has been interested in using the ionosphere like an antenna, to generate extremely low frequency waves to communicate with submarines. And even things like creating simulation in the ionosphere to modulate radio waves, there’s a whole bunch of applications, that I think, the ionosphere, at least thirty kilometers of it, becomes a laboratory, and for a few minutes you can actually do experiments and see what happens.”]

 

HAARP has been beaming radio waves into the atmosphere since 1997 in ongoing efforts to understand the ionosphere, which has a strong influence on satellite communications. But it’s mission is often misunderstood, and has given rise to speculation that it’s work is linked to top secret military research. The facility has inspired at least one book,

Angels Don’t Play This Haarp, authored by Nick Begich.

I’m Ellen Lockyer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Wed, 2015-07-15 17:38

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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Short $1B, Icebreaker Advocates Consider Leasing, Sharing

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington, D.C.

Nothing highlights American disinterest in the Arctic as much as the tiny inventory of U.S. icebreakers: One heavy-duty ship, one medium and one down for repair. Alaska leaders and some federal officials say the country can’t assert its national interests, or see the benefits of increased shipping and resource development in the Arctic, without more icebreakers. But some advocates now say, why buy when you can lease?

State Raises Concerns Over Costs As Anchorage Hospitals Vie For More ER Beds

Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage

State Health Commissioner Valerie Davidson is granting Providence Hospital in Anchorage permission to build eight new emergency room beds. The decision also denies Alaska Regional’s plan to build the first freestanding emergency rooms in the state. The commissioner hopes the decision will help discourage inappropriate use of an expensive healthcare option.

Barge Arrives To Courier Alaska’s Marine Debris To the Lower 48

Kayla Desroches, KMXT – Kodiak

A massive barge is docked in Kodiak this week, and that barge is more or less a huge floating trash can. It’s en route to the Lower 48 with hundreds of tons of marine debris on board – debris that will be recycled once the barge arrives in Seattle.

Ocean Acidification: A Grim Reaper For Wild Shellfish Stocks?

Shady Grove Oliver, KBBI – Homer

Alaska shellfish hatcheries may be unsustainable by 2040 due to ocean acidification, according to a recent NOAA study. But what about wild shellfish stocks?

Walker OKs Further Work On The Juneau Access Project

Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau

The state Department of Transportation is moving forward with its environmental review of the Juneau Access Project. The governor’s state budget director wrote a memo last week giving the department the go-ahead to finish the document that lays out the state’s case for where the road should or shouldn’t be built.

UAF To Acquire HAARP Science Program

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

The University of Alaska Fairbanks will take ownership of Gakona’s High Frequency Active Auroral Program, best known as HAARP.

Categories: Alaska News

State Raises Concerns Over Costs As Anchorage Hospitals Vie For More ER Beds

Wed, 2015-07-15 17:36

Entrance to Anchorage’s Providence Hospital emergency room. (Photo by Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage)

State Health Commissioner Valerie Davidson is granting Providence Hospital in Anchorage permission to build eight new emergency room beds. The decision also denies Alaska Regional’s plan to build the first freestanding emergency rooms in the state. The commissioner hopes the decision will help discourage inappropriate use of an expensive healthcare option.

Download Audio

Providence Hospital had hoped to build 14 new emergency rooms at its Anchorage facility, designed mostly for pediatric patients. Commissioner Davidson agreed to about half that number.

Jared Kosin is executive director of the state office of rate review. He says allowing eight new emergency rooms in Anchorage will meet the current need, but not exceed it.

“There’s obviously a need. We can’t move forward with nothing. And Providence shows with its trend numbers and data that they have need for eight additional rooms right off the bat.”

In Alaska, hospitals need approval from the state to build big new projects. The idea is to prevent hospitals from building too many facilities and then passing the cost onto consumers. Kosin’s office concluded Anchorage could support 13 new emergency rooms between now and 2022 but then recommended Davidson approve only 10 new rooms for Providence.

The state’s health department is working hard to reduce emergency room visits, and the costs that go along with them. And Kosin says the commissioner decided adding any extra capacity would work against that goal:

“Emergency room visits are expensive. A lot of the cases that present can be handled in a less expensive appropriate setting like an urgent care clinic or a primary care office. So the idea that we want to anticipate growth for emergency room services, despite there being an immediate need, we’d rather try our efforts at reform and try to curb that growth.”

Alaska Regional Hospital wanted to build two freestanding emergency rooms in South Anchorage and Eagle River. The hospital argued all of the city’s emergency rooms are currently concentrated in a two-mile area and it made sense to expand access to other parts of the city.

But freestanding ERs have been criticized for driving up health care costs by increasing inappropriate emergency room use. And Kosin says that was a big factor in the decision:

“Does it make sense to have a freestanding entity create access to Emergency Room services and for the emergency services that do walk through the door, they may not be equipped to meet that demand. So does it make sense to create this access point? And I think based on those and the cost argument, it really doesn’t.”

Alaska Regional CEO Julie Taylor is disappointed with the state’s action. She thinks the health department focused too much on markets where freestanding emergency rooms aren’t successful, instead of paying attention to areas where they work well. Taylor says during the public comment period, the hospital had a lot of support from community members in outlying areas of Anchorage:

“Eagle River in particular was very vocal and especially when you look at the distance involved between their community and ours and Glen Highway, the challenges that come with that when there are accidents and weather hazards, it really is a safety issue for patients and to have access in their own community I think is very important.”

The hospitals have 30 days to appeal the decision and both Regional and Providence are considering that option. Although Providence Alaska Chief Executive Dr. Dick Mandsager says he is generally happy with the state’s action. He says it’s too early to say how the hospital will revise its expansion plan to account for adding eight new rooms instead of 14:

“The principal that we are going to have a pediatric emergency care area, we’re all committed to that. Will that be all 8? Will it be 6 of the 8? Will do 6 that are really pediatric and two that are swing for adults and kids? I think that remains to be seen as we work it out with the architects and the program leaders together.”

Providence says it will take about a year and a half to open its new emergency rooms.

Categories: Alaska News

‘Gar-Barge’ Arrives To Courier Alaska’s Marine Debris To the Lower 48

Wed, 2015-07-15 17:35

A massive barge is docked in Kodiak this week. The barge is more or less a huge floating trash can. It’s en route to the Lower 48 with hundreds of tons of marine debris on board – debris that will be recycled once the barge arrives in Seattle.

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Barge in Kodiak, without bags. Photo by Candice Bressler

A lot of the marine debris littering Alaska’s shorelines is from the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami.

 

Janna Stewart is the Tsunami Marine Debris Coordinator for Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, one of the organizers of the event. She says it’s hard to determine how much of the debris is from that tsunami. However, they’ve seen things like fishing gear and dock fragments: “…Foam that’s used in a lock of construction, tanks, household items,” Stewart says. “As time has gone on, some of the heavier debris been coming in that’s been moving in the currents rather than bouncing up, driven by the wind,” says Stewart. “So, they’ve seen a change in the nature of the debris that’s come in. For example, they weren’t seeing dimensional lumber from Japan until a couple of years after the tsunami and now they’ve starting to see that.” Stewart says nonprofits and other groups have been collecting marine debris for years and many of those collection sites are remote, like Gore Point and Montague Island. “At a lot of those sites, the debris can’t be removed even by smaller vessels because the shorelines are rocky, they’re high-energy beaches with a lot of surges. So, the debris once it’s been collected and stored on the shoreline, for many of these locations, the only practical way and the safest way to get the debris of the shorelines is to get it airlifted onto the barge.” The Japanese government is largely funding the project with $900,000 from the $2.5 million it granted Alaska. Stewart says Japan donated a total of $5 million dollars to coastal states and says she’s met with other funding recipients at conferences. Not only did Alaska get hit harder than other states, she says, but it also faces unique challenges. “The story I always tell is, when they were doing the presentation on the pickup of this dock that came in, I think it was in Oregon, they talked about they had to drive a quarter of a mile on a logging road to get to the beach. And I said ‘You have a road?’” It’s an issue that the Kodiak Archipelago can relate to. Tom Pogson is Director of Education, Outreach, and Marine Programs of Island Trails Network, a nonprofit that has been working to remove marine debris from Kodiak shorelines since 2013. Pogson says ITN has accumulated 180,000 pounds of marine debris in its storage yard and volunteers spent the weekend preparing it for transport. He says ITN started to make plans with other organizations for the debris removal in February and those plans fell into place over the last couple of weeks. “We’ve been talking about this for a couple of years, but the specifics of getting the contracts finalized and getting a plan and finding appropriate vessels and getting all the mechanics of this particular large-scale removal from this large stretch of coastline set-up has been very complicated,” says Pogson. And he says that’s the nature of the beast. “It’s a bit like riding your bike in the dark on a road without any lights. You basically know you’re on the road, you can sorta get a feel for where you’re going, and you know there’s lots of other people that are going there with you. And you kinda just close your eyes and go.” A kick-off event will take place Thursday in Kodiak to celebrate the barge launch and the month-long debris removal along the coast. The public is invited to hear speakers including DEC Commissioner, NOAA Marine Debris Program Regional Coordinator, and the Director of Alaska Keeper, a major nonprofit involved in organizing the event. The kick-off will be at 2pm at Koniag on Near Island.
Categories: Alaska News

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