The Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee has released a draft of some proposed changes to the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The Act was last reauthorized by Congress back in 2006 and its up for another review and re-authorization.
The Act governs the commercial and recreational harvest of fish in Federal waters. Representative Doc Hastings unveiled the proposed changes to the Act on Dec. 20 and stressed that the goal of the release is to gather public input. Hastings believes the proposed changes would give regional fishery managers more flexibility to deal with complex fishery issues. He also claims the changes would improve the ability to collect fishery data.
The proposed changes to the Magnuson Stevens Act are available on the website of the House Natural Resources Committee and you can submit your comments about the proposed changes by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
More Alaskans are signing up as the deadline to enroll in the government health care plan looms.
If people want coverage by Jan. 1, they must sign up by the end of the day Tuesday.
As of Tuesday morning, more than 700 people had signed up with help from Enroll Alaska, which was created to help individuals enroll and understand their options.
Tyann Boling, the chief operating officer of the broker, said more than 600 of those people have signed up in December.
She said there was a rush Monday, and the deadline was extended a day. Other navigators weren’t available for updated numbers on Christmas Eve.
The overall deadline for people to enroll in a plan is March 31.
The Interior Gas Utility is laying out a plan of action, following the state granting the Fairbanks North Star Borough entity’s request to supply natural gas to currently un-served areas of town. Getting natural gas to more neighborhoods is a step toward lowering energy bills and reducing emissions.
Two government bodies on the Kenai Peninsula have voted unanimously to oppose efforts to ban commercial setnetting in Cook Inlet.
A number of small businesses are for sale in Juneau right now.
They’re all fairly successful and none have plans to close their doors, but due to life changes for their owners, they’re on the market. It’s part of the life cycle of a small business.
Southeast Alaska’s Dungeness crab fleet has exceeded expectations for the season, thanks to a strong catch during October and November.
Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell has ordered state flags to be lowered Thursday in memory of a former lawmaker.
Former state Rep. Richard “Dick” Greuel died Dec. 3 in Anoka, Minn. He was 85.
A release from the governor’s office says Greuel arrived in Alaska in 1946 and later served on the Fairbanks City Council.
He was elected to the Alaska Territorial House of Representatives in 1953, 1955 and 1957. He served as House speaker in 1957.
He owned Greuel Real Estate in Fairbanks for more than 30 years, and was again elected to the Fairbanks City Council in 1974.
Survivors include his wife, Patricia, and five children.
Flags to will return to full-staff on Friday.
Alaskans who earn less than $14,350 a year will not qualify for subsidies to buy insurance on healthcare.gov. They won’t qualify for Medicaid either, as the Affordable Care Act intended. That’s because Governor Sean Parnell decided not to expand Medicaid in Alaska, even though the federal government would pay most of the cost. A new report from the Kasier Family Foundation shows 17,000 Alaskans fall into that “gap.”
Samantha Artiga, a researcher with the foundation, explains who those uninsured adults are in Alaska.
Walt Monegan is an Alaskan well known to many as a man of public service. He is the former commissioner of Public Safety and the former Anchorage chief of police. Monegan now serves as President and CEO of the Alaska Native Justice Center, but more than four decades ago, he was a teenage Marine spending Christmas a long way from home.
The state is suggesting another tactic in financing the Knik Arm Crossing. Plans for a bridge linking Anchorage and the Matanuska Susitna Borough hit a snag earlier this year, when the state legislature reacted negatively to an audit indicating that toll projections for the first years after the bridge’s completion are too “optimistic.” State lawmakers had also failed to approve the creation of a state reserve to cover shortfalls in the toll revenues that project supporters say will pay for bridge construction.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell won’t allow a road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge.
The Interior Department delivered the news today, about four months after the secretary visited the community and the refuge.
Residents of King Cove have been asking the Interior Department for permission to build a one lane gravel road through Izembek National Wildlife refuge for decades. They want easier access to Cold Bay, which has an all weather airport.
The community offered the federal government 60,000 acres in exchange for the small amount of land needed to build the road.
Bonita Babcock, a community health aide in King Cove, spoke with Jewell when she visited the village in late summer. She says Jewell’s decision is devastating:
“She came all the way out here. She saw what we were facing and yet, she still didn’t care,” Babcock said. “It’s just a slap in the face. It’s insulting.”
Babcock says severe weather frequently shuts down air travel in and out of King Cove and the road is necessary for health and safety reasons.
The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service had previously denied the road because it would disrupt the birds that nest in the refuge and the rare eel grass beds they depend on.
Jewell traveled to King Cove in August with Senator Lisa Murkowski, who threatened to hold up Jewell’s confirmation until she agreed to a visit. She spent a day touring the community and its medical clinic and spent time in the refuge.
At a press conference in Anchorage in September, Jewell said she had a tough decision to make.
“I think that there have been efforts to talk about a tradeoff between human safety and wildlife and the reality is I think we want both so I understand the interests on both sides, it’s difficult and I don’t think that’s a reasonable tradeoff,” Jewell said.
The Interior Department wouldn’t provide someone to interview for this story. The 20 page decision says, “Construction of a road through Izembek National Wildlife Refuge would lead to significant degradation of irreplaceable ecological resources that would not be offset by the protection of other lands to be received in the exchange.”
Murkowski calls Jewell’s conclusions “heartless.” She got a call from Jewell this morning, while she was sitting in the Fred Meyer parking lot in midtown Anchorage, preparing to buy some last minute Christmas items.
Murkowski says the alternatives Jewell is proposing, like building a better dock in Cold Bay, aren’t feasible:
“I said I will sit down with you in January when I get back, but right now I can’t even listen to what you are proposing, because they are just so inadequate, given the situation and the circumstances,” Murkowski said.
Murkowski says she was especially offensive to King Cove residents to deliver the news two days before Christmas.
But a long list of environmental groups are praising the decision. They argue the road would have set a precedent and made it easier to build roads through other wilderness areas. Nicole Whittington-Evans is Alaska director of The Wilderness Society.
“She took in all sides and aspects and came to her own conclusion based on the facts of the issue and we are celebrating that this wilderness area will remain wild for years to come,” Whittington-Evans said.
Whittington-Evans says she doesn’t believe the road is the best alternative to meet the health and safety needs of King Cove residents. King Cove residents say they will never give up their fight to build a road to Cold Bay. And Senator Murkowski echoes that sentiment.
Another investor in the proposed Pebble Mine says it may back out.
Rio Tinto announced today that it will perform a strategic review of its investment in the controversial gold and copper mine in the Bristol Bay region and that the review will consider divestment.
Rio Tinto holds about 19 percent of Northern Dynasty, which became the sole owner of the project after mining conglomerate Anglo American pulled out in September.
Northern Dynasty CEO Ron Thiesson told investors in a conference call this morning the announcement came as a complete surprise and that he would be seeking new investors in early 2014.
Pebble Partnership CEO John Shively declined to comment for this story.
Two of Rio Tinto’s large investors, the chief financial officers of New York City and the state of California, have been pressing Rio Tinto to reconsider its Pebble investment. They cited, among other reasons, the reputation risk to any company associated with the mine.
Pebble opponents say the project could destroy the Bristol Bay salmon fisheries and devastate the communities in the region.
Rio Tinto says it will consider Pebble’s fit with its investment strategy and its strategy for copper projects elsewhere.
A vehicle crash on Monday morning has claimed the life of Richard Leo, 61, of Trapper Creek.
At 8:07 am on Monday, Alaska State Troopers and Talkeetna Emergency Services received a call of a vehicle collision near Mile 11 of the Talkeetna Spur Road.
According to Trooper spokeswoman Beth Ipsen, Richard Leo’s vehicle was traveling southbound on the Spur when he lost control of the vehicle and crossed into the northbound lane, sliding sideways. A Sunshine Transit shuttle was traveling northbound and hit Leo’s vehicle on the passenger side. Richard Leo and the four dogs in his vehicle were killed in the collision. The driver of the Sunshine Transit van is unhurt, according to Troopers, and was carrying no passengers.
David Bryant, Executive Director of the Sunshine Community Health Center, confirmed the incident, and says that Transit services will continue, but adjustments will be made.
He also says that the Clinic staff’s thoughts and prayers are with Richard Leo’s family.
Here’s a story about reindeer that has nothing to do with Santa. The reindeer herders of the Seward Peninsula have endured years of declining stocks. Once they had more than 100,000 animals. Now, it’s down to about 20,000 and the industry teeters on the edge of viability. Kawerek Reindeer Herders Association sent a delegation to Washington, D.C. earlier this month to see if the federal government can help.
Juneau Animal Control only labels dogs as “dangerous” or “potentially dangerous” as a last resort.
Two recent attacks have put the agency in the spotlight. Last week, an Animal Control official urged the Juneau Assembly not to adopt breed specific legislation in response to the attacks. An animal behavior expert says that’s the right idea.
Cutting down a Christmas tree is a venerated tradition in many parts of the country, and decorating the tree is many people’s favorite holiday activity. But in Alaska, there are places where there simply aren’t trees to cut down.
Kids at Unalaska’s United Methodist Church got to tell the story of Christmas during their annual living nativity last week. Fifteen elementary school kids from the congregation dressed up as wise men, shepherds and angels. Pastor Dan Wilcox helped lead the show.
Fifteen elementary school kids from the congregation dressed up as wise men, shepherds and angels. They came forward as their parts in the story were told. There was even a baby playing Jesus.
Pastor Dan Wilcox helped lead the show.
Wilcox [shouting over kids]: ”Angels in the second to back row!…”
“Normally we have an argument over who’s Mary and who’s Joseph,” he says. “But this time it was who’s gonna be the angels and shepherds, instead.”
Wilcox [narrating]: “As the angel choir withdrew to heaven, the shepherds talked it over. ‘Let’s go over to Bethlehem as fast as we can!’ They left, running — [silence; nobody moves] running… [sound of giggles and scurrying] … and found Mary and Joseph and the baby…”
“We call it a live nativity, although they normally involve live animals,” he says. “We don’t do that here, mainly because we don’t have many camels on the island.”
[all singing "gloria" from "Angels We Have Heard on High"]
“We really do it for the kids, because I think it’s important for them to learn the Christmas story,” he says. “I think by acting it out and telling the story and singing the hymns and the carols, that it helps them know what the story is.”
The living nativity is part of Kids’ Night Out, a weekly after-school get-together for children at the church.
The WWAMI program is the only option for Alaskans who want to stay in the state for part of medical school. And it’s about to undergo changes that will reshape when and where students can attend classes.
Only around a quarter of the students who apply for the Alaska branch of the WWAMI program are accepted. And once they are, students spend two years in classrooms and labs, followed by another two years of clinical rotations. Right now at least one of those years is spent outside Alaska.
Monica Wright is a third-year medical student and a married mother of two. She says spending time away from her home and family was a challenge.
“I had to, you know, pay for an apartment for 9 months out in Seattle, so it’s kind of like maintaining two households while being in medical school; it was a little bit tough. I was able to fly home once a month to see my family, but that was another, kind of, added expense,” Wright said. “So, it was challenging, you know, you talk on the phone every night and do what you can.”
Wright wishes she had been able to stay in Alaska. Future WWAMI students will have that option starting in the fall of 2015.
“We’re very close to having the possibility for Alaska students to do all four years here in Alaska if they so choose,” Alaska WWAMI director Dr. Nancy Jane Shelby said.
For most students, staying in Alaska will be cheaper and easier.
The change is possible because of a dramatic curriculum overhaul.
Shelby says the new curriculum will focus on more active learning instead of lectures. And by reorganizing classes, it should help ease the transition for students as they enter different phases of their education.
“So a student, instead of learning what’s normal the first year, what’s abnormal the second year, and then be expected in their third-year clerkship to integrate all this and remember what they learned two years ago, we’re gonna do it in a more natural continuum of learning experience for the students,” Shelby said.
Shelby expects to hire more staff to help handle the second-year students, who would normally be out of state.
The Alaska WWAMI program also wants to grow. They accept 20 new students each year, but in order to meet the physician workforce demands in the state, Shelby says they need to at least double that number. And she thinks that’s doable.
“I’m quite impressed with what I’m seeing in terms of high school and undergraduate students in Alaska, from all parts of Alaska,” Shelby said. “I think we do have that pipeline that we can develop so we could have 40 outstanding students each year in our class.”
As the program grows, Shelby hopes to see more students go on to work in Alaska’s under-served, rural communities.
“We’re hoping that by recruiting students from rural and more remote areas, or students that have a particular interest in eventually practicing there, that we’ll increase that recruitment of physicians to those areas,” she said.
Shelby says approximately eight of every 10 students who go through Alaska’s WWAMI program return to practice in the state for at least five years.
And she thinks that’s a pretty good return.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on Monday rejected a proposed land swap with the state of Alaska to build a road through a remote Alaska national wildlife refuge that shelters millions of migratory waterfowl.
The community of King Cove, backed by Gov. Sean Parnell and the Alaska congressional delegation, pushed Jewell to approve a land exchange that would allow construction of a one-lane gravel road through Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in Southwest Alaska.
King Cove wants a road to provide emergency medical patients access to an all-weather airport at nearby Cold Bay. They say lives are endangered when aircraft cannot reach their own airport, where strong winds and foul weather make flying dangerous.
Jewell said the decision doesn’t prevent local officials from making transportation improvements outside the refuge.
Former Haines Representative Bill Thomas has filed a letter of intent to run for state office in 2014.
Thomas filed late Friday. He did not indicate which office he will seek, but he is eligible to run for either House or Senate in districts representing Juneau. House District 33 includes downtown Juneau and Douglas Island, as well as Gustavus, Haines, and Skagway. It is part of Senate District Q.
Thomas says he’s leaning toward running for Senate.
“In the event there’s an open seat, I can go for either one,” Thomas told KHNS radio in Haines. “But I’m looking more toward the Senate seat than I am the House. Been there, done that.”
Juneau Democrat Dennis Egan currently holds the Senate seat, while Democratic Minority Leader Beth Kerttula has the House seat. Neither one was available for comment over the weekend. Both have filed letters of intent to run for office in 2014. Egan’s letter says he’ll seek to retain his Senate seat. Kerttula did not specify which office she will seek.
Filing a letter of intent allows candidates to begin raising money.
Whichever seat he runs for, the Republican Thomas says if he wins his party’s primary it will be challenge to unseat a sitting lawmaker in a historically Democratic district.
“The redistricting, oh yeah, it pushed me out of my old district,” he said. “Lost my villages and put me in downtown Juneau. So it’s a whole new challenge.”
In 2012, Thomas was defeated by Sitka Democrat Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins under a temporary redistricting map that put Haines and Sitka in the same district. State Superior Court Judge Michael McConahy entered final judgment on the updated 2013 Alaska redistricting map on Friday.
Following the loss, Thomas said he wasn’t likely to run for state office again. A year later, the 66-year-old commercial fisherman says he’s changed his mind.
“I thought about lobbying but then I thought I still have time to serve the people,” he said.
Thomas served eight years in the House. He was co-chair of the House Finance Committee, which is largely responsible for crafting state budgets.