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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: 20 min 39 sec ago

Juneau Woman Found Off Salmon Creek Trail Dies

Tue, 2014-05-06 18:02

A 61-year-old woman died after being found in the water off Salmon Creek Trail near Juneau Sunday afternoon. Her body is being sent to the State Medical Examiner’s Office in Anchorage for an autopsy.

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Bartlett Regional Hospital employee Sandra Gelber was a physical therapist in the Rehabilitation Services Department.

Capital City Fire/Rescue responded at 4 p.m. to a 911 call about an unconscious woman, says Assistant Chief Ed Quinto.

Sandra Gelber was found in the water off Salmon Creek Trail about a mile from the gate. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

“A couple hikers reported to dispatch that they were on Salmon Creek Trail, that they found a female in the water along one of the creeks along the trail. It was approximately about a mile up from the gate. She was in the water. They brought her up, started doing CPR and they called us,” Quinto says.

Quinto says Gelber was found approximately 100 yards past where the road is washed out, and about 40 feet off the trail downhill. He says she was unconscious and in critical condition.

It’s unknown how long she was in the water before she was found.

“It appears like she was either hiking or jogging up there. She was dressed in jogging clothes and we don’t know how she got into the water,” Quinto says.

An ambulance transported Gelber to Bartlett Regional Hospital. She was pronounced dead there around 4:30 p.m, according to the hospital.

Bartlett spokesman Jim Strader says Gelber arrived at work Sunday morning and was done with her shift at 3 p.m.

“We’re kind of in shell shock to be honest. She was very, very well loved by all of her coworkers and her patients as well,” Strader says.

Gelber joined Bartlett in 2009. Prior to that, she was at Sitka Community Hospital. A statement sent to hospital employees by interim CEO Jeff Egbert described Gelber as “an avid outdoors person” and “she died doing what she loved best; out on the trail, appreciating the beautiful place we call home.”

Gelber leaves behind husband Tim Riley and two college-aged children.

AEL&P closed Salmon Creek Trail at the end of January when an 80-foot section of the road was washed out. AEL&P put an orange safety barrier around the slide and reopened the trail last week.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: May 6, 2014

Tue, 2014-05-06 17:29

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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National Science Foundation To Deploy Seismic Sensors In Alaska

Steve Heimel, APRN – Anchorage

Alaska is the place to be if you want to study earthquakes. In a year, it has as many earthquakes as all the other states combined. Scientific study of those quakes is beginning to ramp up significantly as the National Science Foundation deploys a new network of seismic sensors this summer.

Alaska’s UAV Test Site Begins Operation

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The University of Alaska’s status as a Federal Aviation Administration unmanned aerial vehicle test center is official. Events in Anchorage and Fairbanks marked the start of operations on Monday.

Mallott Leaving Sealaska To Focus On Campaign

Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau

Democrat Bryon Mallott will leave Sealaska’s board of directors next month to spend more time campaigning for governor. The move shakes up an already contentious board election.

Bethel City Council Confirms Code And Policy Violations

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

The Bethel City Council met Monday night in executive session for three hours with the attorney they hired to conduct an investigation into nepotism, contracts, and personnel issues.

GCI Turns 3G On In Bethel, Faces Lawsuit

Daysha Eaton, KYUK – Bethel

The same week that GCI turned 3G on in Bethel, attorneys served the company with a lawsuit. It alleges that GCI over-promised and under-delivered on its wireless, smart phone and data-plans.

Juneau Woman Found Off Salmon Creek Trail Dies

Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau

A 61-year-old woman died after being found in the water off Salmon Creek Trail near Juneau Sunday afternoon. Her body is being sent to the State Medical Examiner’s Office in Anchorage for an autopsy.

Great Land Trust Planning To Buy Top Of Bodenburg Butte

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

The Great Land Trust plans to buy the top of Bodenburg Butte in Palmer.

Online Realtor Says Sitka Tops State In Livability

Robert Woolsey, KCAW – Sitka

Sitka has won a spot on top of yet another list. The online realtor Movoto says Sitka is the most liveable community in Alaska. Just ahead of Anchorage and Juneau.

Categories: Alaska News

Mallott Leaving Sealaska To Focus On Campaign

Tue, 2014-05-06 11:07

Bryon Mallott will leave Sealaska’s board of directors next month to spend more time campaigning for governor.

He’s served on the Juneau-based regional Native corporation’s governing body – or been its CEO – since 1972.

Mallott, a Democrat, is all but assured to challenge Republican Gov. Sean Parnell in the November general election.

 

Byron Mallott, Democratic candidate for governor, will leave Sealaska’s board next month to concentrate on his campaign. (KTOO News)

In a press release, he said he would complete his term, which ends at the corporation’s June 28th annual meeting. But he will not seek re-election to the board.

Sealaska Chairman and former state Sen. Albert Kookesh says the board supports Mallott’s decision.

“I think it was good step that he took to, one, allow him to concentrate on the governor’s race and, two, open it up for shareholders so he didn’t just hold onto his seat and have to give it up after that if he got elected,” he said.

Mallott could not be immediately reached for comment.

When Sealaska board incumbents leave, they often step down before the next election. The board then appoints a replacement, who can run as an incumbent.

Mallott’s decision leaves an open seat with no heir-apparent. That eases the way for other candidates. They include a recently-announced slate of shareholders with business experience outside the corporation.

“The people who are running on that slate have good intentions,” Kookesh said. “They want to run a clean race and I commend them for that. But we also have people who are independents who are running. And you have to commend them and recognize their want to be involved too.”

Sealaska will distribute ballots to its almost 22,000 shareholders on May 15th. They must be cast by June 26th.

In addition to Sealaska service, Mallott’s been Yakutat and Juneau mayor, Alaska Permanent Fund executive director and Alaska Federation of Natives president.

Categories: Alaska News

Weather Forces Alaska Airlines Flight To Land At JBER

Mon, 2014-05-05 18:30

An Alaska Airlines flight from Chicago to Anchorage took an unexpected detour to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson on Monday afternoon.

“As Flight 139 was preparing to land in Anchorage, a fog bank rolled in and the pilots elected to land at Elmendorf Air Force Base,” Nancy Trott, a spokesperson for Alaska Airlines, said.

Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson is an alternate airport for air traffic, if needed.

Passengers were transported to the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport by bus.

The plane refueled at JBER and made the short flight back to the Anchorage airport on Monday afternoon.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska Villages Find Success With Wind-Diesel Energy Combination

Mon, 2014-05-05 17:54

It’s hard to use wind as a main power source because it fluctuates. But four small Alaskan villages have succeeded in creating an innovative wind-diesel system that works even in harsh, variable weather conditions.

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Categories: Alaska News

Oil Producers Get Break On Alaska Property Taxes

Mon, 2014-05-05 17:54

Public documents show Gov. Sean Parnell’s administration worked out a deal with Alaska’s major oil producers that allows the companies to withhold tens of millions of dollars in property taxes.

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The Anchorage Daily News says the 2013 deal occurred after producers disagreed with the state board that set the value of the trans-Alaska pipeline.

The deal was negotiated after an attorney for the oil pipeline owners complained in a June 2013 email that the State Assessment Review Board set the value for the pipeline too high, raising the tax bill for oil companies.

The deal to give oil companies at least a temporary break emerged in public view in April when some of the municipalities that receive property taxes on the pipeline appealed the state’s 2014 valuation.

Categories: Alaska News

State Hurrying To Update Rural Infrastructure Before Federal Dollars Diminish

Mon, 2014-05-05 17:54

Federal money for rural infrastructure is drying up, and state agencies are overhauling projects while they still can. With Alaska’s brief construction season about to begin, state officials are hurrying to bring airfields, roads, and other Bush infrastructure up to standard before funds get scarce.

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Categories: Alaska News

‘Second Shake’ Rattles Noatak, Northwest Brooks Range

Mon, 2014-05-05 17:54

Just two weeks after the strongest earthquake in the region in more than 30 years, residents of Noatak and others near the far western edge of the Brooks Range felt another series of powerful quakes over the weekend.

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Mike West is a state seismologist and director of the Alaska Earthquake Center in Fairbanks. He says the 5.5 magnitude quake that struck at 12:57 a.m. Saturday May 3 came nearly two weeks to the day after an even stronger 5.6 quake on April 18.

“There were quite a number of earthquakes all through Saturday that were part of this aftershock sequence of this second earthquake,” West said.

Saturday’s quake was just that: an earthquake, not an aftershock from the April temblor.

“That’s a little weird for us because it doesn’t fit the aftershock paradigm,” West said. “It’s as large as the original earthquake … and was followed by its own series of aftershocks.”

Those aftershocks were similarly strong, with seven rated a magnitude four or stronger. West said the two strong quakes, both followed by powerful aftershocks, are likely caused by the same geological forces.

“It’s important to think of this as a sequence,” West emphasized. “Stress was building up through the normal movement of plate tectonics, and that needed to be relieved. The earthquake on April 18th, (Saturday)’s earthquake, all the aftershocks from both of those, are all sort of part of this process.”

Like April’s quake, the Saturday event was felt about 20 miles to the south in Noatak, at the giant Red Dog zinc mine, and even in Kotzebue. Despite the power of the “second shake,” West said there’s no danger beyond frayed nerves on the horizon. Nonetheless, he said the Earthquake Center is visiting Noatak and Kotzebue this week to install seismology equipment for better observation of the activity.

“We have plans right now to install probably two seismic stations in an around the source of the earthquake,” West said Sunday. “This is driven not so much by a concern of things to come, but we just want to be prepared, and frankly, better understand why these earthquakes occurred in the first place.”

The last time the region saw seismic activity on par with these two most recent quakes was back in 1981, when West said a 5.5 quake struck in roughly the same area about the same distance from Noatak.

Categories: Alaska News

Burst Water Pipe Likely Cause For Skagway Ferry Dock Sinking

Mon, 2014-05-05 17:54

Western Marine Construction began working early Tuesday to refloat the dock. (Photo courtesy Jeremy Stephens, Alaska DOT&PF)

State transportation officials agree that a burst water pipe likely caused the Skagway ferry dock to sink last month. Repairs continue in hopes of getting the dock operational and returning ferry service to the Southeast community within the next week.

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The state is making repairs and some modifications to the dock now that it’s floating again.

Department of Transportation spokesperson Jeremy Woodrow says it’s not yet known how much the salvage and repairs from the sinking will cost the state.

Woodrow says the state is hoping to resume ferry service to Skagway on May 11. A final decision on that timeline will be made later this week, he said.

Categories: Alaska News

Juneau Considers Solutions To Housing Shortage

Mon, 2014-05-05 17:53

City officials are hoping to address Juneau’s longstanding housing shortage by opening more public land to development.

The Juneau Planning Commission recently recommended about 150 acres of city-owned land on Pederson Hill be rezoned to allow a residential neighborhood to be built. The idea is to copy the early 20th century-style subdivisions of downtown Juneau and Douglas. But not everybody is happy about the proposal.

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Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: May 5, 2014

Mon, 2014-05-05 17:19

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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Oil Producers Get Break On Alaska Property Taxes

The Associated Press

Public documents show Gov. Sean Parnell’s administration worked out a deal with Alaska’s major oil producers that allows the companies to withhold tens of millions of dollars in property taxes.

Alaska GOP Aims To Block Party Coups

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

The Alaska Republican Party has taken measures to prevent a takeover by libertarian and Tea Party activists. The new rules say a person has to be registered as a Republican for at least four years before seeking a top leadership position, and they require all candidates for the party’s statewide offices to be vetted by a special committee before they can run. The rules were adopted on Saturday, at the Alaska Republican Party’s biannual convention.

Alaska Villages Find Success With Wind-Diesel Energy Combination

Joaqlin Estus, KNBA – Anchorage

It’s hard to use wind as a main power source because it fluctuates. But four small Alaskan villages have succeeded in creating an innovative wind-diesel system that works even in harsh, variable weather conditions.

‘Second Shake’ Rattles Noatak, Northwest Brooks Range

Matthew Smith, KNOM – Nome

Just two weeks after the strongest earthquake in the region in more than 30 years, residents of Noatak and others near the far western edge of the Brooks Range felt another series of powerful quakes over the weekend.

Warm, Dry Weather Prompts Southeast Alaska Fire Warning

Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau

A fire warning issued last week for northern Southeast Alaska has been expanded to the whole region.

Breakup Underway Along Yukon River

Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks

Breakup along the Yukon River is underway. Warm temperatures over the weekend and low water levels mean river ice is rotting in place before it has a chance to jam up.

State Hurrying To Update Rural Infrastructure Before Federal Dollars Diminish

Zachariah Hughes, KNOM – Nome

Federal money for rural infrastructure is drying up, and state agencies are overhauling projects while they still can. With Alaska’s brief construction season about to begin, state officials are hurrying to bring airfields, roads, and other Bush infrastructure up to standard before funds get scarce.

Burst Water Pipe Likely Cause For Skagway Ferry Dock Sinking

Margaret Friedenauer, KHNS – Haines

State transportation officials agree that a burst water pipe likely caused the Skagway ferry dock to sink last month. Repairs continue in hopes of getting the dock operational and returning ferry service to the Southeast community within the next week.

The state is making repairs and some modifications to the dock now that it’s floating again.

Department of Transportation spokesperson Jeremy Woodrow says it’s not yet known how much the salvage and repairs from the sinking will cost the state.

Woodrow says the state is hoping to resume ferry service to Skagway on May 11. A final decision on that timeline will be made later this week, he said.

Alaska Airlines Center Adds New Dining Option

Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage

With around four months left until it’s slated to open, the University of Alaska Anchorage is tweaking the design of its new sports complex. The university has decided to add a new restaurant in an effort to draw in the surrounding community.

Juneau Considers Solutions To Housing Shortage

Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau

City officials are hoping to address Juneau’s longstanding housing shortage by opening more public land to development.

The Juneau Planning Commission recently recommended about 150 acres of city-owned land on Pederson Hill be rezoned to allow a residential neighborhood to be built. The idea is to copy the early 20th century-style subdivisions of downtown Juneau and Douglas. But not everybody is happy about the proposal.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska Airlines Center Adds New Dining Option

Mon, 2014-05-05 16:05

(Photo by Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage)

With around four months left until it’s slated to open, the University of Alaska Anchorage is tweaking the design of its new sports complex.

The university has decided to add a new restaurant in an effort to draw in the surrounding community.

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Though much of the finishing work remains, the interior of the Alaska Airlines Center is beginning to take shape.

From the newly-installed floor of the performance gym, which is lit largely by natural light streaming in through a number of massive windows, you get a good idea of just how central it is to the building’s design. Two levels of stadium seating – capable of holding about 5,000 spectators – surround the floor.

Coaching offices overlook the gym. And, peering up to the top floor you can see five hospitality suites with a prime view of the court. According to Tlisa Northcutt, the director of development for Seawolf athletics, those suites aren’t the only thing occupying the arena’s upper-most level.

“There’s also a restaurant going in that will be like 360 days a year; it’s not just for campus, it’s really meant to be kind of an addition for the community in this area,” she said. “It’ll be known as Varsity Sports Grill.”

Northcutt says the grill will be open for lunch and dinner daily, and should seat approximately 100 people at its indoor tables.

Team locker rooms are nearing completion. (Photo by Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage)

“There’s also a lovely patio; it’s amazing; it has a great view,” Northcutt said. “It will actually be able to expand the seating for most of the year. They’re looking at putting propane heaters and that sort of thing out there too.”

The patio – which faces the Chugach Mountains to the east – should fit around 80 people.

The restaurant is a late addition to the arena’s original design, and was approved by the University of Alaska Board of Regents in April.

Bill Spindle is the vice chancellor for administrative services at UAA.

“It’s not the classy brew pub where they’re brewing their own beer, but it has a lot of the characteristics of a brew pub,” Spindle said. “It’ll be something like if you went to the Glacier Brewhouse, it’ll be something similar to that.”

“It’s a place where you can have a really good meal and a drink if you want.”

Though the restaurant will have some food options for students, its focus is to bring in others who live and work in the surrounding area.

Beer and wine will be for sale at the restaurant, which, according to Spindle, marks a shift in UAA’s alcohol policy.

“The University has not allowed alcohol on campus except for specific restricted events, so we have redone our policy and got approval from the chancellor for the arena only, to have beer and wine at particular events,” Spindle said.

In addition to allowing the sale of beer and wine at the Varsity Sports Grill, the new policy will also enable alcohol sales at athletic events, though details about that process are still in development.

UAA Athletic Director Keith Hackett hopes the restaurant will help make the new sports center into a community destination.

“When people come to sporting events, 75 percent of them go out to dinner before or after an event, so, what our hope is, is that those people that are going out to dinner choose to come to the Varsity Sports Grill,” Hackett said.

The restaurant will be operated by NANA Management Services.

Spindle says the Alaska Airlines Center is still on track to open Sept. 5.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska GOP Aims To Block Party Coups

Sun, 2014-05-04 16:15

The Alaska Republican Party has taken measures to prevent a takeover by libertarian and Tea Party activists.

The new rules say a person has to be registered as a Republican for at least four years before seeking a top leadership position, and they require all candidates for the party’s statewide offices to be vetted by a special committee before they can run. The rules were adopted on Saturday, at the Alaska Republican Party’s biannual convention. Party Chair Peter Goldberg says the changes are a reaction to a coup staged by a group of Ron Paul supporters at the 2012 convention.

“Two years ago, people that were not Republicans were registering to become Republicans on the day of their district conventions and participating,” says Goldberg. “That’s really not appropriate.”

The insurgents elected a libertarian-leaning chair and vice chair, but the Alaska Republican Party’s old guard kicked them out of office last year.

Very few of those insurgents were present at this year’s convention, which was held in Juneau. But the 2016 convention will happen in Fairbanks, making an influx of dissidents more likely.

If that happens, Goldberg says the new rules will make it harder for party outsiders to seize control.

“That’s all it is — just to make sure that the people that participate as Republicans really, in their hearts, are Republicans, and they’re not just showing up to try and change the course of the party,” says Goldberg.

The convention delegates adopted the changes with significant support, but not without protest.

Lance Roberts, a delegate from Fairbanks, was part of the 2012 takeover, and he repeatedly tried to amend the new rules. He believes Republican moderates are trying to shut out the rightwing.

“I think it’s completely the wrong direction,” says Roberts. “We should be more open, more honest, and we should be inviting of these people.”

In addition to changing party rules, the convention delegates condensed the Alaska Republican platform. Sections on education and crime were streamlined, and specific provisions on school vouchers, embryonic stem cell research, assisted suicide, and the teaching of creation science were removed.

There was also a failed effort to strike language opposing the expansion of gay rights, with a third of the party delegates voting to take those sections out of the platform.

The Alaska Republican Party also passed a resolution opposing a ballot initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol, with support from 75 percent of the delegates.

Categories: Alaska News

Two Alaska State Troopers Slain In Tanana

Fri, 2014-05-02 17:35

A 19-year-old Tanana man has been arrested in connection with the murder of two Alaska State Troopers on Thursday. The bodies of the two slain law officers were brought to the state medical examiner’s office in Anchorage on Friday, accompanied by a Trooper escort.

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Trooper Sergeant Patrick “Scott” Johnson and Trooper Gabriel “Gabe” Rich were in Tanana on Thursday at the request of the village VPSO. They didn’t leave the village alive.

Nineteen-year-old Nathanial Lee Kangas has been charged with two counts of first degree murder in the shooting death of the two Troopers.

Friday in Anchorage, a shaken Trooper Colonel James Cockrell said members of the department are still in shock over the killings.

“The department is totally focused on the families involved,” Cockrell said. “This is a tragedy for them, it is totally unexpected, and this will take a long time to heal.”

Cockrell described what law enforcement officials know so far about the killings.
Johnson and Rich were stationed at the Fairbanks Rural Unit, and had experience with the villages in their jurisdiction. They were in Tanana Thursday afternoon to serve an arrest warrant on Arvin Morse Kangas, 58, the father of Nathanial Kangas. The elder Kangas had been involved in an altercation with the village VPSO the previous night and had brandished a shotgun at the village officer while driving by the officer’s house. That act prompted VPSO Mark Haglin to call for support.

“Troopers arrived in Tanana about 2:45 yesterday afternoon,” Cockrell said. “Troopers made contact with Arvin Kangas near the front door of his residence. While attempting to place Kangas under arrest, a struggle ensued. This resulted in all three entering the residence. While inside the residence, both troopers were shot and killed by Nathanial, the son of Arvin.”

Cockrell said that events are still being investigated, and that he was unsure of who witnessed the crime, other than those involved. Cockrell said that after Johnson and Rich were shot, it appears that VPSO Haglin took Nathanial Kangas in.

“We’re not totally certain,” Cockrell said. “We do know that approximately 15 minutes after the shooting, we had a report that Nathanial Kangas was in custody in back of the VPSO patrol vehicle.”

Troopers were notified by a phone call at 3:10 Thursday afternoon by the VPSO that there was one Trooper dead and another possibly dead.

Backup Troopers reached the village about 6 p.m. Thursday. Arvin Kangas turned himself in around 10:30 last night. He and Nicholas Kangas are now being held in Fairbanks.

Cockrell said Friday that Nathanial Kangas committed the killings with a semi-automatic rifle, but would not comment on the number of rounds fired. He said it appears that Johnson and Rich had not fired their guns.

“To my knowledge, it doesn’t appear so,” Cockrell said.

Law enforcement officials are preparing charging documents in the case with the help of the Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals, Cockrell said. The younger Kangas is being charged with two counts of murder, and one count of assault. The elder Kangas is being charged with assault and driving with a revoked license.

Investigators remain on scene in Tanana to collect evidence and interview members of the community in regards to the killings of Johnson and Rich.

Johnson was 45 years old and had 21 years with the Troopers. He leaves behind his wife and three daughters. Rich was 26 and had been on the force for three years. He leaves behind his fiancee and their one year old child.

Separate memorial funds have been set up for the families of both men.

Categories: Alaska News

Tanana Residents Devastated By Trooper Deaths

Fri, 2014-05-02 17:33

Tanana is an Athabascan village about 130 miles west of Fairbanks, near the confluence of the Tanana and Yukon Rivers. The village’s 300 residents all know one another, and many are related.

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Categories: Alaska News

Lindsey Holmes Not Seeking Reelection To House Seat

Fri, 2014-05-02 17:29

Rep. Lindsey Holmes speaks to reporters during a House Majority press availability, Feb. 27, 2014. (Photo by Skip Gray/Gavel Alaska)

West Anchorage Republican Lindsey Holmes will not be running for reelection to the Alaska House of Representatives.

Holmes has served eight years in the Legislature, six of them as a Democrat. She switched parties after her last election, and then became the target of a recall campaign. She says that while the criticism was difficult, that’s not her primary motive for leaving office.

“I never went into this planning to be somebody who was down there forever,” says Holmes. “And after eight years, I came home, and I just wanted to be home more.”

Holmes says that while the decision to change parties proved difficult at points, she is happy with the work she did with the House Majority Caucus as part of its moderate wing. She does not have firm plans for the future, but she plans to help Anchorage Republican Mia Costello in the race for her district’s Senate seat and that she would like to get involved with the Vote No on 1 campaign to defeat the oil tax referendum.

Holmes confirms she is retiring from politics the day after the Anchorage Superior Court handed down a decision related to her recall.

Judge Gregory Miller upheld a ruling by the Division of Elections that there were not sufficient grounds for a recall against Holmes. Judge Miller also rejected the argument that the statutes governing recalls were overly burdensome.

Wigi Tozzi is the West Anchorage district chair for the Democratic Party, and he argued the case for the recall campaign. He says they will not be appealing the decision now that Holmes is retiring.

“The voters stood up, and for two years – essentially two years – for an entire term, made it very clear that they were unhappy and that they weren’t going to put up with that,” says Holmes. “If you want to find out if your district has a mandate, then you should run again. And she’s not running.”

Matt Claman, a former Anchorage assemblyman, will be running for the West Anchorage House seat as a Democrat. There are no Republicans in the race yet.

Holmes won the race as a Democrat in 2012 by ten points, with 55 percent of the vote.

Categories: Alaska News

Firefighters Respond To Caribou Lake Wildfire

Fri, 2014-05-02 17:28

Firefighters with the Alaska Division of Forestry are responding to a wildfire near Caribou Lake today.

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Forestry Spokesperson Darren Finley says the fire was called in at around 2 p.m. and has burned about 10 acres, four miles southwest of Caribou Lake.

Caribou Lake is on the southern Kenai Peninsula, about 25 miles northeast of Homer.

Finley says two helicopters are on the scene and an additional crew has been called in from Palmer.

He says as of 2:30 p.m., the fire was 50 percent contained and he is “pretty hopeful” the fire is under control.

Categories: Alaska News

Carl Moses Remembered for ‘Full Career’ of Public Service

Fri, 2014-05-02 17:27

Carl Moses at the dedication of Unalaska’s small boat harbor,
named for him about two years ago. (Photo courtesy of the City of Unalaska)

Flags are at half-staff today as Alaska says goodbye to its longest-serving state representative.

Carl Moses died in Sand Point on Wednesday after a long illness. He was 84. He leaves a legacy of service in Southwest Alaska and across the state.

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Most people who knew Carl Moses will tell you he was a man of few words.

“But when he spoke, even I listened,” Laresa, Moses’ wife of 23 years, said.

She says that as a business owner and statesman, her husband was devoted to making the Aleutian Islands and Alaska a better place.

Moses grew up on Sanak Island, near Sand Point. He opened his first store there when he was young, and went on to run stores in False Pass and King Cove, where he was a member of city council.

He was first elected to the state legislature in 1964. Two years later, he settled in Unalaska, where he’d stay for four decades, fishing and running businesses.
Former Unalaska mayor Frank Kelty says from the start, Moses helped put the town on the map.

“I always felt that Carl had a good feeling that fisheries were going to develop here,” Kelty said.

Moses’ general store in Unalaska was Carl’s Commercial, which became a gathering place and a supplier for fishing vessels as the town grew. He later opened a hotel, a bar and, briefly, a steakhouse.

Shirley Marquardt is Unalaska’s current mayor. She says Moses liked contributing to “unfinished places.”

“Certainly business-wise, but then it turned into for being a statesman: how could he help the community grow?” Marquardt said.

Moses was one of just a few early legislators to prioritize fisheries. He won elections as a Republican and a Democrat.

He left the House in 1973 and took what he once called a “20-year vacation” in an interview with KUCB. He built his businesses and served on the state Board of Fish and as president of the Aleut Corporation.

In 1992, a year after he married Laresa, Moses’ friends urged him to return to the House. He ran as an independent and won.

Moses served 11 terms total, more than any other representative. And he did it as a member of all three major political parties.

“He often joked that well, by golly, maybe he’d have to run as a Green party candidate just to round it all out,” Rep. Bryce Edgmon, a Dillingham Democrat who was part of Moses’ staff, said.

He wanted to run for office after Moses retired. But his time came sooner than he’d hoped. Edgmon opposed Moses for his seat in 2006. The tied election was famously decided by a coin toss, which Edgmon won.

“You know, I look back at that occasion with very bittersweet memories, because I never wanted it to be Carl that I was running against,” Edgmon said.

Edgmon says Moses was one of Alaska’s greatest Native leaders. He says Moses taught him a lot about politics – how to be patient, and how to pick your moments.

“When Carl did speak publicly, whether it was in the committee or the rare times he spoke on the House floor, he generally had something profound to say, and memorable as well,” Edgmon said.

Unalaska city manager Chris Hladick remembered Moses with his poker face and his trademark pipe, waiting in his office for plans to come together.

“He’d always be the vote that someone would need at the last minute, and 15 minutes before midnight, they’d go, Carl? … and he had a little piece of paper with his projects written on it, and he says, ‘Time to go,’” Hladick said.

Moses was the architect of the state’s shared fisheries resource landing tax, which brought millions from offshore processors back to coastal communities. And he was a champion of capital projects in his district — those included Sand Point’s harbor, and a small boat harbor in Unalaska that was named for him when it opened in 2011.

Moses left a mark – U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski says she admired him when she was in the State House.

“He gave a full career to representing people, not only in the legislature, but at other levels, and you don’t forget that,” Murkowski said.

When Moses left the House, he told his wife Laresa it was time to move away from Unalaska. He wanted to settle somewhere he could return to his roots.

“And I said, ‘Okay, where are we moving to?’ And he said, ‘Sand Point. I want you to come and look.’ So we come to Sand Point … and he took me on these steps and he said, ‘What do you think of a store right here?’ And I’m like, ‘Okay, we’re actually moving here?’ And he said, ‘Yeah.’ And I said, ‘Okay, I guess my job is to make home.’ And from 2006 to now, we’ve made Sand Point our home,” Laresa said.

Moses died at that home on Wednesday. Laresa says he wanted his ashes scattered on Sanak. She plans to hold memorial services in Sand Point and Anchorage, along with Moses’ two children, Lewis and Arline, and other friends and family.

Categories: Alaska News

Fairbanks Schools Anticipating Teacher, Staff Reductions

Fri, 2014-05-02 17:26

The State Legislature has boosted money for education, but it’s not enough to stem cuts by the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District. The district is getting 6 million new dollars from the state, $3.3 million more than the expected increase, but acting Superintendent Karen Gaborik says it’s not sufficient to avert teacher and staff reductions.

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Categories: Alaska News

AK: Smokejumpers

Fri, 2014-05-02 17:25

Smokejumpers complete five training jumps before the fire season flares up. (Photo by Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks)

The first Red Flag warnings have already been issued for parts of Southcentral and the Interior and wildland firefighters are gearing up for the season.

Some of them will approach wildfires from the ground, but there’s one elite group that’s been training for more than two months to fight fire from the air. KUAC’s Emily Schwing caught up with the Alaska smokejumpers to find out how they train and why they do it.

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“First jumper get in the door,” a spotter said, as a group of the most elite wildland firefighters in the nation climb to the top of a three-story metal tower with a zipline standing at the end of a small field in Fairbanks.

Smoke jumpers train to manage malfunctions on a zip line. (Photo by Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks)

The jumper is only about 50 feet off the ground, but the exercise simulates what it’s like to stand at the open door of an airplane, 3,000 feet above the ground. It’s the same kind of scenario smokejumpers will face if there’s a real wildfire. The firefighter takes off across the zip line

“Get ready,” the spotter said. “Jump-thousand, reach-thousand, wait-thousand, pull-thousand.”

Lisa Allen repeats the spotter’s words, watching from across the field.  She’s spent the last 18 years fighting wild fire all over the Western US. Like most smokejumpers, she started on the ground before she took to the skies.

“It’s a very efficient way to get to a fire. I love being in the sky, I love flying,” Allen said. “I wouldn’t say I’m an adrenaline junkie but I do like the thrill of it and just the independence of it.”

Hurling oneself from a moving aircraft into a blazing inferno might seem like something that comes with a long list of potential dangers, but Allen says there are really only a handful of things that can go wrong.

During training, smokejumpers are briefed on the inside of the airplanes they’ll fly in. (Photo by Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks)

“They’re very rare, they rarely ever happen, but if you don’t handle them correctly, they can have very serious consequences,” she said.

Smokejumpers train to fight wild fires that can’t be reached from the ground. These are blazes that flare up far from road systems and in some of the most remote parts of the country. What smokejumpers do is different from their land-going counterparts, who try to contain fire by approaching it from its outside edges.  Training for smokejumpers is rigorous and requires more than just fire-fighting skills. Robert Jaeger is the Crew Supervisor for the Alaska Smokejumpers.  He thinks the fitness test is the most nerve-wracking part.

“We have to do a PT test every year and it’s not that hard, but someone is timing you and it’s for your job,” Jaeger said. “So it’s pass or fail.  If you don’t pass, you don’t have a job.”

They have to run a mile and half in under 9 minutes and 30 seconds or three miles in 22 minutes and 30 seconds.  They also have to do 10 pull-ups, 60 sit-ups and 35 pushups. Jaeger has been jumping for 24 years and he hasn’t failed yet.

The gear and Kevlar suits smokejumpers wear is ready to go. They have
to be ready for a call to a fire at a moments notice. (Photo by Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks)

“It’s always close!” Jaeger said. “Even if you get it easy, it’s still hard.”

Maybe the hardest test involves packing 110 pounds for 3 miles in less than 90 minutes. Kevlar jumpsuits the smokejumpers wear, combined with all the gear they carry in the field can weigh even more than that.  They train as much as they do in part because they also have to ready at a moment’s notice.  Lisa Allen says when they are called to a fire, they don’t have much time grab all their gear and get on an airplane.

“You have two minutes from the time the siren goes off to the time you need to be on the plane, because they want to be rolling out of here in four minutes and then wheels up flying in six minutes,” Allen said.

But even with all the preparation, there are still stories of close calls. Operations Supervisor Rob Allen has been jumping since the early 1990s. He says it’s about knowing his gear, understanding the risk and trusting his fellow jumpers.

“We know it’s dangerous,” Allen said. “We know things could happen bad and when things go bad for us, they generally go really bad but we hope that with our training and the way we communicate with each other and pay attention to stuff, that we can get out of trouble as fast as we can get into it.”

Back on the zipline, a jumper works through a simulated parachute malfunction. Lisa Allen says the slow, methodical counting helps him keep a time frame.

“In stressful situations, you can become unaware really quickly of time passing and in that situation time is of the essence so you want to stay in a very sequenced count to get a  canopy up above you that’s going to save your life,” Allen said.

The smoke jumping base in Fairbanks is one of nine run by the federal government in the nation. In all, roughly 400 smokejumpers are training to fight fires this year.

Categories: Alaska News
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