There have been at least two suicides in Anchorage schools over the past three weeks and an attempted suicide by a student who had dropped out. Death from suicide is a loss that school counselors work hard to prevent. Heather Coulehan is a social and emotional learning specialist and Eric Viste is a coordinator within the special education department of ASD.
I sat down with them to ask how suicide prevention is being addressed within Anchorage schools. Viste says, when a suicide happens, everyone who will be affected needs to be identified.
- National Association of School Psychologists: Preventing Youth Suicide – Tips for Parents and Educators
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: Coping with Suicide Loss
- Anchorage School District: STEP Center Lending Library
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U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski is introducing her blueprint energy bill on Monday.
Senator Murkowski is the top Republican on the Senate Energy Committee. She says she’s been working on a new energy bill for months. In fact, last summer she said a draft would be ready by the end of the year.
Monday, she’ll lay out the frame work for plan called Energy 20/20: A Vision for America’s Energy Future.
It’s unclear what the plan will say for issues like exporting liquefied natural gas, revenue-sharing for off-shore drilling in Alaska and other states, and how much money to invest in renewable and traditional energy sources.
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For the past couple of weeks, the legislature has been moving forward on the governor’s proposal to cut taxes on oil companies. Now, it’s scheduled to take up the issue of an in-state gas line. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez has this legislative outlook for the week.
In his State of the State address, Gov. Sean Parnell put his support behind an in-state gas line that would move natural gas from the North Slope through the Interior and then down to Southcentral Alaska. Monday, a bill that would advance that project gets its first committee hearing.
The bill would give the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation more autonomy, sets out what pipeline information would be confidential, and establishes some financing mechanisms for the project. A similar bill passed in the House last year, but stalled in the Senate.
Also on Monday, a bill that would relax regulations on cruise ship discharge is scheduled for the House floor. On Tuesday, bills that would extend the Suicide Prevention Council for another six years and would create a fund for responding to invasive species will get their first committee hearings.
Later in the week, resolutions that express displeasure with President Barack Obama’s gun policy will be taken up by the judiciary committees in both chambers. The House Judiciary committee will also hear a version of the Stand Your Ground Law, which allows a person to react to a threat with deadly force without first trying to retreat. A number of states already have a similar policy in place, and the law received national attention after the shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida.
The governor’s oil tax proposal continues to move through the Senate. A special committee on oil production plans to wrap up its hearings on the bill by the end of the week.
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About a million people visit Alaska by cruise ship every year, creating floating cities along the state’s coastline. A bill that would change just how the waste they produce is regulated is moving rapidly through the legislature, and is scheduled to appear on the House floor Monday.
So far, Gov. Sean Parnell’s bill to allow mixing zones for cruise ship waste instead of having the vessels meet water quality standards at the point of discharge has breezed through committee hearings. House Speaker Mike Chenault, a Republican from Nikiski, commented on the pace at a press availability on Friday.
“That’s pretty quick, considering what other bills I’ve seen move over there in the past few years.”
So, why so fast? The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation has its own reasons for wanting the bill passed in the next couple of weeks. Right now, the general discharge permit for the cruise fleet is set to expire in April, and Commissioner Larry Hartig says the department needs to start the renewal process by February 15 at the very latest. If the bill were to pass after that date, ships would have to get permitted under current standards now and then all over again once a new regime is put in place. Hartig says the department is hoping to avoid that process.
“We could save a lot of public’s time and a lot of the public’s money if we could know what the rules of the game are early,” says Hartig.
The cruise industry also wants the bill passed sooner rather than later. John Binkley, who directs the Alaska Cruise Association, says that some ships would have a hard time complying with discharge standards under the current legal framework. He also says they might have to travel outside of state waters to discharge and could end up spending more money on fuel or eventually changing itineraries as a result.
But critics of the bill say the pace at which the bill is moving through isn’t giving the public enough time to comment. And a member of the state’s panel to study cruise ship pollution also questions whether the urgency is warranted. Scientist Michelle Ridgway notes that cruise ships still have three years before they have to meet stricter standards, and that the Department of Environmental Conservation already has the mechanisms in place to permit vessels under the existing law.
“They can issue a permit. It is routine,” says Ridgway. “They knew that deadline was coming and provide [the permit] to the ships by April. That still allows them flexibility until 2016 to meet water quality criteria at the point of discharge.”
The bill is also scheduled to be heard by the Senate finance committee this week.
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When it finally arrives in Unalaska next week, the Shin Onoe will be one of the biggest vessels to ever stay in port here. It’s 150 feet wide, with a 60 foot draft when it’s full of coal, soybeans, or iron.
Right now, it’s empty. It was traveling along the Great Circle shipping route to Prince William Sound early this week to pick up cargo when its turbocharger failed, just west of Attu island.
Ed Page has been tracking the vessel for the nonprofit Marine Exchange of Alaska.
“She has less power than she normally would, so she can’t make good time or good speed,” Page says. “She’s plodding along at about five knots through the Aleutians, through the Bering Sea.”
As of Friday afternoon, Page said the Shin Onoe was about 600 miles northwest of Unalaska. He’s been feeding this information to the Coast Guard.
Lt. Jim Fothergill is with the marine safety detachment in Unalaska. He says his office is monitoring the Shin Onoe, too. Beyond that, though, Fothergill says there’s not much for the Coast Guard to do, but wait.
“We’re just making sure that there are plenty of tugs available to handle them and we’ve identified an anchorage area,” Fothergill says. “And we’re watching the weather to see when we’re going to have a good window to bring them in.”
The National Weather Service is forecasting 30 knot winds for the Eastern Aleutians through Sunday. The weather is supposed to clear up on Monday, with the Shin Onoe set to arrive Monday afternoon.
Rick Entenmann is a marine pilot who’s been coordinating the local response. He says there was never any risk of a grounding, or a spill, in the Aleutians. But the Shin Onoe is traveling so slowly — at times, just one knot — that it’s hard to maintain its steering.
That’s going to make it tough to get the giant ship into Unalaska. Normally, a disabled cargo ship would need two tugs. But because of the Shin Onoe’s size, Entenmann has been looking for a third to help out.
He says another marine casualty has tied up some of the best resources in the state.
“Shell has everything wrapped up right now,” Entenmann says. “They have the Aiviq, which would have been a great fit for this particular job. The Coast Guard’s been looking, we’ve been wracking our brains out.”
They finally found the tug Ocean Ranger, which is heading up from southeast Alaska to assist the local tugs. Those vessels will have their hands full with other shipping traffic around town.
Fothergill, with the Coast Guard, says that shipping traffic is part of the reason why the Shin Onoe won’t tie up at Unlalaska’s new emergency mooring buoy, just installed this winter.
“Because the emergency buoy is more if it is an actual emergency,” Fothergill says. “Their ground tackle is sufficient, and we’re not really willing to tie up the emergency buoy with this bulker.”
Once the Shin Onoe gets to Unalaska, it’ll anchor in Summers Bay – well outside of town — for a few days while its turbocharger is replaced.
Vessels don’t usually anchor in Summers Bay in winter, since it’s partially exposed. But given the special circumstances, the Coast Guard’s made an exception.
Shell’s chief executives responded to questions about the January grounding of the Kulluk drill rig during the company’s annual results conference in London Thursday.
In a prepared presentation, Shell’s Chief Executive Officer, Peter Voser, played down the company’s many mishaps in Alaska last year.
“Despite making some progress we have run into problems in the last few months. Our rigs will need more work if they are going to be ready for the 2013 drilling season. One, the Noble Discoverer needs a series of upgrades, and the other, the Kulluk, ran aground in a heavy storm on New Year’s Eve and has been damaged.”
Voser reiterated that the company considers the Kulluk grounding a marine shipping incident, completely separate from its drilling operations in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas. But he wouldn’t elaborate on whether the grounding could impact drilling plans for this summer.
“We need to wait for the investigations, which some external bodies are doing, but which we are also doing internally, assess the risks and the learnings and then lay out our plans for the years to come.”
Voser emphasized that the company is viewing the grounding as learning opportunity.
“I cannot say what the learning is at this stage. But let me also say, and I know this is always dangerous to say because it will generate the headlines, but I have not seen in the world any business, not just the energy business, but all businesses — they have risks at the end of the day. And you need to manage those risks, and we do it is as good as we can. We learn when it doesn’t work and we will manage these risks going forward. But I cannot say there will never be an incident — that just isn’t going to work.”
Following up on that statement, Tim Webb, the energy editor at The Times in London, asked Voser if Shell was moving the rig from Unalaska to Seattle in order to evade Alaska’s oil and gas property tax.
“Assuming you say that’s true, because I think that came from Shell, would you say that’s an example of Shell not managing risks correctly, or making a poor decision in terms of managing risk in Alaska?”
In response, Voser denied that the decision to move the rig had anything to do with taxes, saying that the $5-6 million they would have had to pay is nothing in the grand scheme of things.
“There was a statement made by a Shell person, but in a completely different context, in a completely different meeting. That was then taken out of that context and then someone made a story out it. Just to be very clear on this one.”
The original story was written by Dutch Harbor Fisherman reporter Jim Paulin. In it, he quoted an email from Shell spokesperson Curtis Smith that was sent before the grounding. Paulin says he stands by his reporting.
“And I don’t think Shell would be backing away from that comment had it not gone aground. I think they would have been sending lobbyists to Juneau to try to repeal that tax. And I think that would be, in my opinion, the motivation for making that comment that it influenced their decision to move it.”
If the company was moving the rig for tax purposes, the cost of the incident has definitely exceeded what they would have saved. Chief Financial Officer Simon Henry said they anticipate spending at least $90 million on the incident in the first quarter of 2013.
“The $40 million I mentioned is the pure salvage cost to salvage operators. The $50 million is everything else — the Coast Guard, our own vessels etc.”
Henry added that those figures don’t include the cost of repairing the rig — he said that information won’t be available until there are more details about the extent of the damage.
The only information the Unified Command has released is that the rig is in sufficiently stable condition to remain anchored in Kiliuda Bay, on the south side of Kodiak Island.
The Alaska Republican Party’s Executive Committee has blocked incoming party chair. Russ Millette from taking his position. In a meeting last night, the committee voted to oust Millette, who was elected to the chairman’s position at the party’s annual state convention in April of last year. Millette says he’s weighing his options to fight the decision.
Kikkan Randall won the world cup skate sprint near Sochi, Russia today, on the same course that will serve as the Olympic venue next year. The Alaska Pacific University skier won all three heats. The U.S. Ski team noted there was new fog and heavy snow throughout the race. It was Randall’s third world cup win for the season. She is currently in first place in the sprint standings and third place overall. Randall’s teammate Holly Brooks, placed 16th.
Oral arguments are being heard Friday in US District Court in Anchorage for a lawsuit that challenges the decision made by the National Marine Fisheries Service to authorize the first of at least three years of seismic exploration in Cook Inlet.
The lead plaintiff in the case, the Native Village of Chickaloon, is concerned that the air guns Apache Corporation plans to use to conduct the seismic tests will disturb the habitat of the remaining population of Beluga whales in Cook Inlet.
The sounds of waves crashing that we land lovers hear from the shore or on a boat is just a small sample of the dynamic soundscape under the surface. The team at Ocean Conservation Research has a sound library and you can hear what the whales sound like (a little like R2-D2), and what the air guns sound like, and also what they sound like from 1,500 miles away.
The plaintiff’s suit seeks to rescind NMFS’s decision to allow Apache Corporation to proceed with seismic testing using those air guns, which court documents say generate sound levels in excess of 200 decibels.
“Basically, what we’re asking the federal government to do is go back to the drawing board on this one,” said Rebecca Noblin, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the groups representing the Village, along with the Natural Resources Defense Council.
“Take back its authorization to do the surveys, take a look at the science again and we would say don’t issue another authorization unless there’s some way they can mitigate all the impacts,” Noblin said.
A call was made to Apache spokesperson Lisa Parker for their take on the proceedings, but, as Apache is an intervenor in the case, she declined to comment.
The plaintiff’s suit contends that the decision violates portions of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Administrative Procedure Act and would effect and possibly endanger populations of Stellar sea lions, killer whales, harbor porpoises, harbor seals, fish and Cook Inlet Belugas.
For oral arguments, the Court is asking both sides to explain the legal impact of this case for future development in Cook Inlet, what the most important studies are regarding impacts to marine life and how important is the fact that in the first year of survey activities, there were no ‘takes’ as a result of the survey work.
Tlingit elder and original Sealaska Native Corporation board member Clarence Jackson passed away Thursday at the age of 78.
He’s being remembered for his contributions to the Native land claims movement, and for being an ambassador for Tlingit culture in both the business world and his personal life.
Sealaska Heritage Institute President Rosita Worl says Jackson relished comforting people in times of need. He served as master of ceremonies at the memorial service for the late Reverend Dr. Walter Soboleff in 2011.
“He became like our ambassador from Sealaska, where he would attend all of the funerals, all the memorials,” Worl said. “He was there to comfort clans and the family of those who had lost someone.”
Jackson was born in Kake in 1934. He lived there most of his life, attending Sheldon Jackson High School in Sitka, before moving back to the village, where he was a fisherman and operated a small store.
Worl says he was a great fisherman, who loved boats.
“We always say, it is as if the spirits of the animals know him and they give themselves to those kind of people who have those good spirits,” she said. “So, yes, he was a great fisherman.”
In the 1960s, Jackson was involved in the Alaska Native claims movement as a delegate to the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indians. He served as Central Council president from 1972 through 1976.
Also in 1972, Jackson signed the articles of incorporation for Sealaska, the regional Native Corporation for Southeast, created under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. He was the only board member to serve continuously from the time Sealaska was founded.
Current board chair Albert Kookesh first met Jackson when he joined the board in 1975. He says they quickly became friends.
“We’re both from villages right next to each other. He’s from Kake and I’m from Angoon,” said Kookesh. “He knew my father and he knew Walter Soboleff, my uncle. So I got immediately scooped up into his little circle.”
Kookesh says Jackson was a champion of village life and traditional culture on the board, something he attributed to being raised by his Tlingit speaking grandparents.
Kookesh says his ability to speak both Tlingit and English fluently made Jackson a valuable asset to the company.
“His Tlingit background, and his Tlingit stories, and his Tlingit upbringing gave him a really good sense of oration,” Kookesh said. “Very, very articulate. Not somebody who went to college, not somebody who went to law school, not somebody who went to graduate school. But somebody who went to the upper learnings of the Tlingit culture.”
When the corporation established the nonprofit Sealaska Heritage Institute in 1980, Jackson became one of its trustees and served as chair of the Council of Traditional Scholars.
Worl says the council was instrumental in identifying the core cultural values that guide the institute to this day.
“Clarence would remind us always, this is what makes us Native people, it’s our cultural values,” Worl said.
Jackson talked about the importance of preserving those values at Celebration 2012, the biennial cultural and educational event sponsored by the Heritage Institute.
“We’re strengthening our culture,” Jackson said. “We might hear a new song here and there this Celebration. But it’s a shoring up time to not be doing anything just for show. But to show the young people, this is the way it is.”
Jackson spent much of the past two months in Seattle receiving cancer treatment. He recently returned to Alaska, and died surrounded by friends and family on Thursday.
A service will be held at the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall (former ANB Hall) in Juneau on Saturday at 5 p.m.
A video of Clarence Jackson from Celebration 2012:
This week, we’re visiting the Prince William Sound Community of Chenega. Sandra Angaiak is a tribal administrator assistant in Chenega.
If you’re in the habit of running East Anchorage trails in the winter in the dark, then you might have run by a compact, dark-haired doctor named Joanie Hope, jogging slowly with her headphones on, singing. She is the state’s only gynecologic oncologist. But she’s also in a rock band, that tours nationally to raise awareness for gynecological cancers. Their first Alaska concert is tomorrow. Anchorage Daily News columnist Julia O’Malley has the story.
This story is a collaboration between the Anchorage Daily News and APRN.
Read Julia O’Malley’s print story and hear Marc Lester’s audio postcard:
The changing Arctic has become a resource frontier, and a military and economic one. But for much longer it has been a scientific one. We’ll take an international perspective on the Arctic with a leading polar scientist from Japan.
- Steve Heimel, APRN
- Dr. Mitsuo Fukuchi, Polar Marine Ecology Expert, Japan National Institute of Polar Research
- Callers Statewide
- Post your comment before, during or after the live broadcast (comments may be read on air).
- Send e-mail to talk [at] alaskapublic [dot] org (comments may be read on air)
- Call 550-8422 in Anchorage or 1-800-478-8255 if you’re outside Anchorage during the live broadcast
LIVE Broadcast: Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 10:00 a.m. on APRN stations statewide.
The ACLU of Alaska is challenging the Municipality of Anchorage law on sidewalk-sitting and panhandling. They say the law is unconstitutional.
Jeffrey Mittman is the Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska. He says the ordinance adopted by the Anchorage Assembly created two distinct unconstitutional sections in Anchorage Municipal code that are in conflict with the Alaska Constitution.
“As Alaskans, we depend upon our incredibly strong constitution, which is very clear, this ordinance is not permissible,” Mittman said.
The law bans most sitting or lying down and panhandling on downtown sidewalks. It was adopted by the Assembly in November 2011. ACLU attorneys argue the ordinance violates freedom of expression and infringes on the right to peaceably assemble. The ACLU wrote letters to the Assembly expressing concern about the change in law. The Assembly repealed the ordinance in September 2012. Mayor Dan Sullivan quickly vetoed the repeal. Joshua Decker is the ACLU attorney handling the case. He says the ACLU has reached out to municipal officials hoping to amend the code.
“We’re very happy to work with the municipality to craft laws that address problems of sitting on the sidewalk, problems of obstructing traffic, but they should be well-tailored to Alaska, well tailored to Anchorage, but those laws sadly are not,” Decker said.
Decker says the Mayor’s office has not been responsive. The ACLU is concerned that the law could be used to prevent workers from protesting and artists from performing. The eight plaintiffs signed onto the lawsuit range in age from 26 to 95-years-old and from liberal to libertarian. They include activists in the Occupy movement and artist. Two labor unions also signed onto the lawsuit. Vince Beltrami is president of the Alaska AFL-CIO. He says he’s concerned that workers protesting unfair labor practices could be arrested.
“Oftentimes workers may have issues that put us on the street protesting you know poor treatment or whatnot,” Beltrami said. “Maybe unfair labor practices that have been committed by an employer or city government officials for that matter.”
“This would preclude us from being able to protest. Our basic first amendment rights to free speech are being stifled if we don’t stand up for this.”
Beltrami says that he doesn’t know of any workers who have been fined or arrested while protesting since the ordinances were put in place. Teeka Ballas is an artist who runs the city’s arts magazine. She is concerned the law could prevent her from performing in downtown Anchorage.
“I just really hope that there’s a rewording that comes with this so that people can still sit and eat their lunch and not have the threat of maybe being harassed by police officers or fined by police officers and that, as a performance artist, I can continue to do art in a visible area,” Ballas said. “If you want to bus if you want to do a flash mob, if you want to protest, the only reasonable place to do that is downtown Anchorage, and right now, currently, we don’t have that right.”
Anchorage Police Department Officials say that they have not yet cited anyone using the law since it went on the books. But they have enforced it by asking people to leave the sidewalk.
Mayor Sullivan proposed ‘the side-walk sitting law’ after a homeless man, John Martin, was camped out in front of City Hall in 2011 protesting the Mayor’s policy of clearing out homeless camps in Anchorage.
Dennis Wheeler, an attorney for the Municipality of Anchorage said he was surprised by the lawsuit.
We spent a significant amount of time and effort to craft an ordinance that we felt met the constitutional requirements and that’s why we spent so much time working to model it as close as we could after the Seattle version gone through the federal 9th circuit court of appeals and had withstood a constitutional challenge, by among others the ACLU, so we feel very comfortable that we’ve crafted something that works,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler adds it has never been the intention of the municipality to interfere with people’s ability to freely assemble.
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Video from Greenpeace.
Next week the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council may start work on zoning the ocean – something it began in 2005, when it protected the coral gardens of the Aleutian Islands. This time, sea skate nursery areas are being considered. The Council’s preferred alternative would avoid restricting fishing in these areas, instead directing the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to keep an eye on them. But this issue may set the stage for deliberations later this year on two large canyons in the Bering Sea that are full of corals, sponges and skates.
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The state’s long held dream of an Arctic deep water port has moved one step closer to reality. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a draft report Wednesday that names the Nome/Port Clarence region as the best location for the port. It will be the subject of an upcoming feasibility – level study which will help further determine a site.
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Right now, if you and a group of like-minded individuals want to set up a charter school in your community, you need to petition your local school board to get your plan approved. A new bill could change that and open authorization up to universities, other government agencies, and nonprofits.
Rep. Lynn Gattis, a Republican from Wasilla, is behind the bill, and she says that her intent is to make it easier for charter schools to get set up.
”Parents are clamoring for it. Parents in the Anchorage school district are saying, ‘Hey, come on. We’re in line. Year after year, we’re waiting,’” Gattis said.
The way the bill works is that a group would first have to get approved by the state’s education department to set up and administer a school. After that, they would be given the same responsibilities that school districts now have in tracking a school’s effectiveness, and potentially revoking a school’s charter if they’re not meeting standards. These schools would operate under the same state funding formulas as charters set up by school boards.
One other thing the bill does is allow charters to hire teachers who aren’t subject to collective bargaining agreements.
That provision of the bill doesn’t sit well with Ron Fuhrer. He’s the president of the National Education Association’s Alaska affiliate, a labor organization.
”It just appears to be kind of a backdoor attack on collective bargaining in the state of Alaska for public school teachers,” Fuhrer said.
Fuhrer says that bill could create sort of a two-tier system, where charters could employ both unionized and non-unionized teachers, and that it would create confusion over what benefits those non-unionized teachers would receive. Fuhrer says the bill could also take local control away from school boards, and could reduce enrollment and funding for existing public schools.
Gattis says that some teachers have called her with some of those same worries, and that she’s responding to them.
”They’re all valid concerns. But here’s what I say: You got a great school and you’re doing great things, then you don’t have to worry. You don’t have to worry that somebody wants to charterize if you’re responsive to your customers — the parents and the students. Those school districts or those schools, they don’t have to worry about it,” Gattis said.
She adds that her bill could in effect create a more competitive education market, which she sees that as a strength.
As chair of the House education committee, Gattis has the muscle to get the bill in motion at the very least. She says she intends to schedule it for a hearing soon.
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U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski is trying to make a natural gas pipeline from the North Slope more feasible.
Environmentalists are welcoming a stretch of pipeline through Denali National Park.
Senator Murkowski introduced a bill that would allow a seven-mile stretch of pipeline to run through the National Park. For that to happen, Congress needs to pass a law granting approval.
She says it creates an equal playing field for proposed routes along the Richardson and Parks highways.
“Once the decision was made which way to go, we wanted there to be a clear path forward,” Murkowski said.
The pipeline would be buried through the park’s industrial corridor. Jim Stratford says the plan presents the best possible option. He’s the regional director for the National Parks Conservation Association.
“Bearing it along the highway through Denali National Park makes way more sense to us than going to the east and putting a new road or putting a new pipeline in what is essentially virgin wilderness right now,” Stratford said.
And there’s an added boost, says Larry Persily. He’s the federal coordinator for the Alaska Gas Pipeline. He says that in addition to making it easier for producers, this legislation could add to the health of the park’s economy, because it would allow park operators to access some of the cleaner-burning fuel.
“It’s been talked about for years,” Persily said. “If there’s a pipeline nearby there are a lot of environmental and cost advantages to using natural gas for the hotels, for the vehicles, for the businesses, instead of continuing to burn diesel.”
Of course, granting the go-ahead to a seven-mile stretch of what would be a route that extends hundreds of miles is not the major barrier to construction.
That’s something Senator Murkowski readily concedes.
“This did nothing to resolve whether or not we even do it,” Murkowski said. “When you’re looking at alternate routes, if one route is complicated because of the proposed path, if you can correct that ahead of time so that’s not an issue, it doesn’t take away the big issue, which of course, is the price tag.”
And that price tag could total as much as $60 billion.
This bill passed out of the Senate last Congress on a voice vote – meaning there wasn’t any opposition. But it didn’t receive a vote in the House.
So the process begins a new … with votes required in both chambers.
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The Matanuska Susitna Borough is offering to give away the ice breaking ferry “Susitna.” Borough officials want to give away the ship to federal, state or local governments, because it is costing the Borough too much money to maintain it.
The Borough will also consider selling the ferry to a private entity. The “Susitna” was built with federal dollars as a U.S. Navy prototype vessel. It can hold 20 vehicles and 120 passengers. It was supposed to serve passengers between Port MacKenzie and Anchorage. The Borough has not been successful in finding a landing site for the vessel on the Anchorage side of Knik Arm, and the Borough does not have funds to maintain the ship.
Borough spokeswoman Patty Sullivan says the borough could sell the ferry to a private company for about $7 million – enough to cover federal grants the borough may have to pay back.
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Last year the rate of pertussis or “Whooping Cough” in Alaska reached epidemic proportions and it’s likely the epidemic is ongoing.
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