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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: 28 min 49 sec ago

KTVA reporter quits live on-air after stating she heads AK Cannabis Club

Mon, 2014-09-22 17:40

A KTVA reporter announced that she is the president of Alaska Cannabis Club and quit her job during a live broadcast Sunday night. Reporter Charlo Greene, whose real name is Charlene Egbe, has been reporting on the legalization ballot initiative since April.

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KTVA’s news director posted an apology for Greene’s outburst and use of an expletive on Facebook and Twitter but could not be reached for comment.

Greene posted a video on YouTube explaining why she quit so publicly.

“Advocating for freedom and fairness should be everyone’s duty, I’m making it my life work,” she declared in the video. “To uphold what America stands for truly: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Ideals that now need to be defended.”

The Vote No on 2 campaign spoke out against Greene this afternoon. They said they spoke with KTVA’s news director about her biased reporting after a 5-part series that ran this spring.

Kalie Kalysmat, the executive director of the Alaska Association of Chiefs of Police, said she also expressed concerns about Greene’s bias. She says Greene’s reporting has been a disservice to Alaskans.

“When you have a reporter in a major news outlet as this one, professing her own point of view in stories, it’s really a very sad thing and difficult for the public to know what’s true,” she said during the news conference.

A YouTube video of the TV clip has gone viral, and Greene’s IndieGogo campaign to raise $5,000 for voter education on the marijuana legalization ballot initiative is more than half way toward its goal.


Categories: Alaska News

EPA’s 404-C Public Comment Period on Pebble Closes

Mon, 2014-09-22 17:39

More than 160,000 official public comments have been received by the EPA regarding their proposed restrictions on the controversial Pebble Mine. But it’s expected that once the final numbers are tallied, there will be hundreds of thousands of comments, both pro-and-con.

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Categories: Alaska News

Murkowski Presses FDA To Clarify Spent-Grain Rule for Brewers

Mon, 2014-09-22 17:37

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, along with beer-makers around the country, is celebrating a recent clarification from the Food and Drug Administration about spent grains.

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The material is a byproduct of the brewing process. Beer-makers often donate their spent grains to farms to use as animal feed. But proposed changes to the rules for animal feed producers had brewers fearing they were going to face a pile of new red tape.

Murkowski, who — in addition to being Alaska’s senior senator — is co-chair of the Senate Brewers Caucus, took up the cause.

In a sternly worded letter to the FDA in April, she said the rules would destroy the symbiotic relationship between Alaska’s brewers and farmers.

But the FDA has been saying for months it was all a mistake. The agency says it never meant to apply the animal feed rule to breweries. That’s now spelled out in the rule.

Murkowski, in a written statement Monday, said she appreciated the FDA’s new approach.

Categories: Alaska News

Arctic Researcher: Social Changes Are As Drastic as Climate Changes

Mon, 2014-09-22 17:36

Academics and researchers have been meeting in Anchorage to bring together studies looking at what sustainability means in the arctic. Andrey Petrov is lead investigator and director of Arctic Frost. He has studied the arctic in Russia, Canada and Alaska for 15 years. He says there is a lot of discussion about environmental changes, but social changes in arctic communities can be even more dramatic. His work looks at human capital and community innovators.

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Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: September 22, 2014

Mon, 2014-09-22 17:34

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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State Ordered to Improve Voting Materials for Alaska Natives

Daysha Eaton, KYUK – Bethel

A federal judge has ordered the state to take additional steps to provide voting materials to Alaska Native voters with limited English.

Senate Candidates Vie for Rural Support

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

This year’s U.S. Senate race in Alaska is shattering records for spending, with millions in outside dollars directed mostly toward TV ads. With less than two months before the general election, both campaigns are also aggressively seeking an edge on the ground in rural Alaska.

State Files Complaint Against Medicaid Payment Vendor

The Associated Press

The state has filed an administrative complaint alleging unfair or deceptive practices by the vendor it hired to implement a new Medicaid payment system.

Deadline Set for Southeast Wolves ESA Review

Joe Veichnicki, KFSK – Petersburg

The federal government has agreed to a deadline of the end of next year for an endangered species review for wolves in Southeast Alaska.

KTVA Reporter Quits on Air, Dedicates Time to Pot Initiative

Anne Hilleman, KSKA – Anchorage

A KTVA reporter announced that she is the president of Alaska Cannabis Club and quit her job during a live broadcast Sunday night.

EPA’s 404-C Public Comment Period on Pebble Closes

Mike Mason, KDLG  – Dillingham

More than 160,000 official public comments have been received by the EPA regarding their proposed restrictions on the controversial Pebble mine. But it’s expected that once the numbers are tallied hundreds of thousands of comments, both pro-and-con, will be submitted.

NTSB Report Yields Few Clues In Fatal Soldotna Plane Crash

Shady Grove Oliver, KBBI – Homer

A plane crash in Soldotna last summer resulted in the deaths of 10 people. The National Transportation Safety Board released its preliminary findings on the crash this week.

Murkowski Presses FDA To Clarify Spent-Grain Rule for Brewers

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington, D.C.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, along with beer-makers around the country, is celebrating a recent clarification from the Food and Drug Administration about spent grains.

Arctic Researcher: Social Changes Are As Drastic as Climate Changes

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

Academics and researchers have been meeting in Anchorage to bring together studies looking at what sustainability means in the arctic. Andrey Petrov is lead investigator and director of Arctic Frost. He has studied the arctic in Russia, Canada and Alaska for 15 years. He says there is a lot of discussion about environmental changes, but social changes in arctic communities can be even more dramatic.


Categories: Alaska News

25-Year-Old Rescued After Fishing Boat Sinks

Mon, 2014-09-22 16:16

One man is reported safe after his fishing boat sank in Lynn Canal on Sunday night.

Twenty-five-year-old Woody Paul of Haines was rescued by another fishing boat in William Henry Bay north of Juneau after his boat the 36-foot, Kyra Dawn began taking on water and then capsized.

The boat sank in about 900 feet of water about a mile from shore, according to the Coast Guard. Paul was rescued by another Haines fishing boat, the Gabriella.

Paul’s mother, Carol, was able to speak to her son Monday morning from the Gabriella, she said. He told her he went into the water as the boat sank but was able to hang onto the roof of his bait shed. He didn’t have time to put on a survival suit, but was holding on to one. He was in the water about five minutes before being rescued.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Wesley Shipley, watchstander at Sector Juneau, says they were preparing to send an H-60 helicopter from Sitka when the Kyra Dawn initially reported trouble.

But they canceled the flight when they received a report that Paul was rescued.

The Coast Guard prevention unit is investigating the sinking.

A gale was forecasted for Sunday night in Lynn Canal, which led many fishermen to anchor early. But Haines fisherman Norm Hughes, who was headed for anchorage when the Kyra Dawn sank, said the weather kicked up faster than expected.

“I was about a mile out of Mab Island anchorage and you could see this black line on the horizon, coming across up the channel and it was topped with all these white caps. That’s a weather event coming your way. And I didn’t make the anchorage before it hit and it went from one-footers to five-footers in 20 seconds.”

Seven-foot seas were reported and wind gusts at Eldred Rock Lighthouse reached 71 knots according to the National Weather Service.

Categories: Alaska News

Ketchikan Shipyard to Build Two Alaska Ferries

Mon, 2014-09-22 08:31

Adam Beck and Gov. Sean Parnell sign the contact for Vigor Alaska to build two new state ferries.

It’s official: The Ketchikan Shipyard will build two new ferries for the State of Alaska over the next few years. The deal was announced on a very rainy Saturday during a barbecue at the shipyard’s huge, enclosed ship construction area.

Hundreds of local residents showed up for the hastily arranged barbecue celebration at Vigor Alaska’s shipyard. The agreement between Vigor and the State of Alaska had been finalized just a few days before.

Gov. Sean Parnell was all smiles as he announced the terms of the deal.

“The construction contract to build both ferries in Ketchikan at $101.5 million, the economic and job benefits are going to be felt throughout the community, throughout the region and throughout the state,” he said.

The ferries will be the first Alaska Marine Highway System vessels built in Alaska, and Parnell said that when they’re completed they also will be the largest vessels ever built in the state.

“The ferries will be 280 feet long, seat up to 300 passengers and carry 53 standard vehicles,” he said. “Each ferry will feature bow and stern doors for quicker loading and unloading, fully enclosed car decks, and controllable pitch propellers to maximize maneuverability and efficiency. A modified hull design will greatly improve traveler comfort during rough weather, like today.”

Vigor Alaska President Adam Beck speaks while Vigor CEO Frank Foti and Gov. Sean Parnell listen, seated.

Frank Foti is CEO of Vigor Industrial, which operates the Ketchikan shipyard along with other shipyards on the West Coast. He said this contract will let Ketchikan disprove a few myths about Alaska.

“You can’t build anything here. It’s too far. It’s too hard to get things here. There’s not enough workers here. Workers aren’t qualified here. Wrong, wrong and wrong,” he said. “Because what we’re going to do, we’re going to make some ferries, and on the side of them it’s going to say, ‘Made in Alaska.’”

Vigor Industrial bought out Alaska Ship and Drydock a few years ago to operate the shipyard. Randy Johnson is a former ASD owner who stayed on with Vigor Alaska.

Johnson praised the governor for his tough negotiating skills, and for his commitment to building the ferries in Ketchikan. But Johnson saved his biggest praise for shipyard employees.

“To all the men and women I’ve had the pleasure to work with building this shipyard, you deserve this day,” he said. “It wasn’t easy, you all know that. I’ve got tremendous respect for all of you. It’s a tremendous opportunity and I know these ships that are going to be built in this facility are going to make everyone in this room proud and I’m just happy I was able to have a part in it. Thank you all.”

Following the speeches, Parnell and Vigor Alaska President Adam Beck signed the agreement, with shipyard employees crowded behind to witness the event.

Both of the new vessels will be day boats to serve the Lynn Canal route between Juneau, Haines and Skagway. Beck said the design is somewhat different than the original proposal, which had called for an open car deck.

“I think the public, rightfully so, was very much interested in a closed car deck, given where it was going to operate, and the department listened to the public input, so now we’re building a fully enclosed car deck with a drive through,” he said.

Despite that addition, value engineering elsewhere kept the contract under the state’s $120 million limit. Beck said the ships will be no-frills vessels that will get the job done.

“It’s going to be day boats that are going to carry people and cars and get you from point A to Point B,” he said. “I think that’s what the state needs, and we’ll be able to build them within budget.”

Saturday’s announcement wasn’t unexpected. Vigor has been working with the state on designing the two day boats, and through that agreement had first dibs on the contract to build the vessels.

The multi-million-dollar ferry contract calls for delivery of the two vessels by 2018.

Categories: Alaska News

NTSB Releases Preliminary Report on Deadly 2013 Soldotna Crash

Mon, 2014-09-22 08:27

A plane crash in Soldotna last summer resulted in the deaths of 10 people. The National Transportation Safety Board released its preliminary findings on the crash this week.

On July 7, 2013, a single-engine de Havilland Canada DHC-3 Otter crashed shortly after takeoff at the Soldotna Airport, killing all nine passengers and the pilot. It was owned and operated by Rediske Air, an air charter company based in Nikiski.

Ten people were killed when an airplane crashed just after takeoff in Soldotna.

It was on its way to the Bear Mountain Lodge, about 90 miles southwest of Soldotna. Along with the two families, it was carrying luggage, food, bedding, and other supplies for the lodge.

The National Transportation Safety Board, or NTSB, has been investigating the crash. Clint Johnson is the chief of the NTSB’s Alaska Regional Office.

“How we approach these accidents is basically with various groups- groups meaning operations, airworthiness, survivability,” Johnson said. “When each one of those groups is finished with those reports, and the reports reach 51 percent, our policy is to open that public docket.”

He says the more than 400 pages of documents released do not include speculation on the cause of the crash.

“We’re not at a point where we’re drawing any conclusions at this point,” Johnson said. “That will be addressed in detail when the probable cause is released. Probable cause will probably be following in the next three to four months or so.”

The findings include a weight and balance study with six possible scenarios. It’s noted that the precise weight and balance of the airplane during the flight can’t be accurately determined with the limited data available.

But, the scenarios were constructed using the data that is known and quote “logical, documented assumptions.”

Johnson says the NTSB used known facts and evidence like a cell phone video taken by one of the passengers to put together the scenarios.

The victims of the crash were two families from Greenville, South Carolina. They were Chris and Stacey McManus and their two children and Milton and Kimberly Antonakos and their three children. The pilot was longtime aviator Walter Rediske.

Rediske Air declined to comment for this story.

Categories: Alaska News

Governor Parnell Inks Support for King Cove Road

Mon, 2014-09-22 08:23

Parnell signs the resolution alongisde King Cove Mayor Henry Mack. (Courtesy: State of Alaska)

Gov. Sean Parnell was in King Cove Friday to sign a resolution urging the federal government to allow an access road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge.

The road would connect King Cove to Cold Bay’s all-weather airport for medevacs. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell nixed the plan last year, saying it would damage protected wilderness.

Now, Parnell and the state legislature are the latest to ask Jewell to reverse that decision. Rep. Bob Herron proposed House Joint Resolution 30 earlier this year. On Friday, Gov. Parnell signed it into law in King Cove’s school gym.

Parnell said in a press release, “I do not think [Secretary Jewell] realizes what she has done: She has put people in peril. My respect for her leads me to believe that she simply doesn’t understand. I do believe she is capable of changing her mind.”

King Cove Corporation spokeswoman Della Trumble called the resolution “symbolic of Alaska’s deep concern for the safety of the Aleut people of King Cove” in a separate release Friday.

Trumble represents village and tribal groups who sued the federal government for the right to build the road earlier this year. The state of Alaska has signed on to join them in that suit. The state is also filing its own suit, asking the government for a right-of-way through the Izembek refuge.

Categories: Alaska News

Denali Rangers Investigate Illegal Moose Killing

Mon, 2014-09-22 08:20

National Park Service officials say charges are pending in connection with two hunters who illegally shot a moose at Denali National Park and Preserve.

Rangers investigated the shooting after it was reported last week as taking place in an area where sport hunting is prohibited.

Officials say the two hunters are men from the Matanuska Valley, who said they did not know they were in the park.

Officials say the man had a map, a regulation book and a global positioning system unit.

Sport hunting is allowed only in the Denali National Preserve at the western corners of the park.

Categories: Alaska News

Regents Nix Tuition Hike For University of Alaska

Mon, 2014-09-22 08:15

The University of Alaska Board of Regents gave thumbs down to a proposal to boost tuition by 4 percent.

UA President Pat Gamble proposed the increase for the 2015-16 academic year, saying the move would raise about $4 million as the system navigates tight budgets.

The university faced a $26 million budget gap this year amid rising fixed costs and lower legislative funding.

Seven of the 11 regents voted against the proposal on Friday.

Some said more needed to be done to cut costs within the UA system, while others worried about the long-term impact of frequent tuition increases.

Categories: Alaska News

Borough Weighs Gravel Mine Application

Fri, 2014-09-19 17:21

A plan to vacate agricultural rights on a parcel of Matanuska Susitna Borough land is running into opposition. At a Borough Assembly meeting Tuesday night, [sept 16 ]residents spoke out against an ordinance aimed at approving a gravel mine on farmland.

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 The ordinance would allow Colaska, Inc, doing business as QAP, to purchase the development rights on 213 acres of agricultural rights only land the company purchased from the Matanuska Susitna Borough in 2010. Colaska, Inc, wants to extract gravel from the land. But the agricultural rights stand in the way of that plan. The ordinance came up for a public hearing Tuesday , September 16,  at the Mat Su Borough Assembly meeting. Assemblyman Matthew Beck, who opposes Colaska’s application, says several people spoke against the move at the meeting.

“The agricultural land is so limited, and we have a lot of land in the Mat Su Borough, we’re huge.  And there’s lots of other areas where this could be done, where they wouldn’t have to use valuable agricultural land.  Someone argued that the land isn’t currently being farmed and hasn’t been farmed in a while, but it is evident when you look at it that it has been farmed in the past.  There are windbreaks that are built into the land and so the potential is there for it still to be farmed.  And  the concern of a lot of people who came and testified was , once you turn it into a gravel pit, it will never be farmed again. “

 Beck says if the ordinance is approved,

“Yeah, it opens the floodgates.  there are people in line who have brought property on the same gamble, that they may be able to do away with those restrictions.  And I don’t want to start that precedent. “

 Glenda Smith, with the Borough’s land use office, says Borough code uses soil quality to determine if land is classified for agricultural use. If the soil qualifies, the land in question is slated for farming, unless there is a compelling health or safety issue pending. Smith says Colaska knew the land it bought was classed as agricultural.

Borough staff, as well as Borough mayor Larry DeVilbiss, have come out against Colaska’s gravel plan. DeVilbiss says he’s put the Assembly on notice that he’ll veto the ordinance, should it pass.

But Assemblyman Vern Halter urged the panel to take another look.  During his comments at the meeting, Halter said:

 ”I’d invite the Farm Bureau to come up and take a look at that piece of property. It hasn’t really been farmed or agged for many years.. it’s  not a farm right now.  Basically, those windrows are going up, but you k now how fast those willows and birch grow, that’s pretty much the condition of it right now. Just on first sight, don’t make such bold suggestions. Go look at it.”

Halter says he’ll decide on the issue after he hears the rest of the public comments.

Tuesday night’s public hearing was continued, however, until the November 19 meeting, at the request of the applicant. The public will be able to weigh in on the ordinance again at at that time.   QAP did not return calls for comment.

Categories: Alaska News

Mott to Lead Alaska Guard Response Team

Fri, 2014-09-19 16:41

Brigadier General Jon Mott will lead a team charged with implementing recommendations for restoring confidence in the leadership and structure of the Alaska National Guard.

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Mott, who serves as the assistant adjutant general for the Connecticut National Guard, was recommended to Gov. Sean Parnell by the National Guard Bureau.

The bureau’s Office of Complex Investigations looked into allegations of sexual assault and fraud in the Alaska National Guard and found that victims do not trust the system because of a lack of confidence in the command.

Parnell released the report earlier this month and also called for and received the resignation of Alaska’s adjutant general.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska Delegation Review 113th Congress

Fri, 2014-09-19 16:40

The U.S. House and Senate are on recess now. When lawmakers return it’ll be after the November election for a lame duck session that will end the 113th Congress.

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Categories: Alaska News

Tribes Request King Bycatch Reduction as Pollock Season Wraps Up

Fri, 2014-09-19 16:39

As the Pollock season wraps up in the Bering Sea, the Association of Village Council Presidents and the Tanana Chiefs Conference want immediate action to protect declining Western Alaska King Salmon stocks from trawl bycatch. Wednesday they filed a joint petition for emergency regulations with the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to crack down on king bycatch for the remainder of the 2014 season.

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In their petition they suggest reducing the 2014 overall Chinook salmon by-catch hard cap in the Bering Sea-Aleutian Island Pollock fishery by 40,000 fish.

Natasha Singh is an attorney for the Tanana Chiefs Conference. She says together, the tribes along the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers making the request total nearly 100. And they want the Secretary and the Council to make the Pollock fishery conserve the way that families along the rivers have.

“There’s not food in the freezers for our families, yet you see significant profit from the fleets in the ocean who are taking kings as bycatch and we know that they have the technology where they could increase avoidance of the bycatch we are pleading that for the sake of the people and the families in the river who depend on the king salmon to eat, to provide and subsist, they reduce the bycatch,” said Singh.

The petition calls for the bycatch hard cap in the Bering Sea Pollock fishery to be slashed from 60-thousand to 20-thousand and the performance standard, which is a lower threshold to avoid penalties, to be cut from 47,591 to 15-thousand. That’s just for the remainder of the 2014 season. Historically Pollack bycatch spikes have occurred late in the season in the fall.

But that all appears to be moot. Federal officials say the Pollack fishery has reached 99 percent of their available quota and the B season is expected to close soon, perhaps in week or so, which would make an emergency closure redundant. They add that the total bycatch is expected to be under the 15,000, the lower cap requested by tribes.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council, which manages off shore fisheries, including bycatch, asked in June for an in-depth analysis of ways to reduce the incidental catch of kings in Pollack nets.

Scientists say there are likely many factors that could be impacting the wild Western Alaska King salmon stocks, from food supplies and climate change to ocean acidity. The state of Alaska has committed funding toward a long-term study to try to figure out what’s gone wrong. But bycatch is one consideration.

Myron Naneng is President of AVCP. He says after a summer of sacrifice, tribes are eager to see a commitment to conservation from the trawl fleet.

“The State of Alaska already implements openings and closures on the river system whenever they feel the returns of salmon are low. So we want that same requirement to be carried through with the trawl fleet in the Bering Sea,” said Naneng.

Attorneys for tribes say if the Pollock fishery bycatch stays under the 15,000 mark, it demonstrates what the tribes claimed in their petition, that the Pollock fishery can stay under a Chinook bycatch of 15,000 and still catch the allowable limit of Pollack.

Categories: Alaska News

Panel Completes Review of Standard Used to Set Refinery-Pollution Cleanup Level

Fri, 2014-09-19 16:38

Flint Hills Resources-Alaska closed its refinery in North Pole in May, citing rising costs associated with cleaning up sulfolane contamination in area groundwater and other economic factors.
(Credit KUAC file photo)

A panel of experts wrapped up two days of meetings Thursday in Fairbanks that will help the state Department of Environmental Conservation determine the appropriate cleanup level for contamination of North Pole’s groundwater caused by chemicals leaking from the refinery now owned by Flint Hills Resources.

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DEC asked scientists with Ohio-based Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment, or TERA, to take a second look at the reference doses used by the state agency in setting a stringent cleanup level for sulfolane, an industrial solvent that leaked from the refinery over several years.

The TERA panelists reviewed scientific literature on reference doses used by DEC to come up with the 14-parts-per-billion cleanup standard that the agency says Flint Hills must attain before DEC will declare the water safe to drink.

“It’s a very important step in the process,” says DEC environmental program manager Bill O’Connell.

O’Connell says the agency will now use the TERA panel’s work to help it determine whether the 14-parts-per billion cleanup standard is warranted.

“Once TERA submits a written report, which will be in about two months, the DEC will take their recommendations under advisement,” he said. “And then we will go forward and calculate a cleanup level based on the reference dose that they have coalesced around.”

Flint Hills Resources officials told DEC late last year that they believe the 14-parts-per billion standard is overly stringent. They say the level should set at about 25 times that level – around 363 parts-per-billion.

Flint Hills asked DEC to reconsider the cleanup level; in April, Commissioner Larry Hartig agreed.

In February, Flint Hills officials cited the stringent cleanup level as one of the reasons they can’t operate the refinery profitably. They closed it in May, and now operate a fuel terminal in one part of the facility.

Flint Hills and the former refinery operator, along with the state, have all filed lawsuits against each other in efforts to assign blame and liability for the cleanup.

O’Connell says DEC will send its final recommendation on a cleanup level to agency Hartig by the end of the year. Hartig will issue a ruling thereafter.

Categories: Alaska News

Student Greenhouses Prompt Thorne Bay Restaurant Purchase

Fri, 2014-09-19 16:37

A students works in the Thorne Bay greenhouse. (Courtesy Megan Fitzpatrick)

There are no restaurants in the 500-person town of Thorne Bay on Prince of Wales Island. But that looks like it’s going to change. The Southeast Island School District, which serves Thorne Bay and several other rural schools, is buying a vacant restaurant from the city. They’re going to use food from school greenhouses and a bakery to provide fresh meals for residents and business experience for students.

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The Southeast Island School District, which serves Thorne Bay and several other rural schools, is buying a vacant restaurant from the city. They’re going to use food from school greenhouses and a bakery to provide fresh meals for residents and business experience for students.

It will be called the Thorne Bay Café.

The Southeast Island School District hired Susan Powell, a restaurant manager from Oregon, to take charge of the café. She listed some of the entree possibilities:

“Carnitas tacos, ‘cause we have the great tortillas from Coffman Cove. Maybe a taco salad, you know, some Mexican things. A barbeque pork sandwich. A Philly cheese steak or chicken cheese steak. A couple different kinds of soup every day ‘cause we’re going into winter”

She’s still working on the menu. But she plans to use produce from four school greenhouses. And she’ll get bread and tortillas from a small bakery run by the Coffman Cove school.

“I think the main goal is to support the schools and promote their products and to have student involvement,” Powell said.

Megan Fitzpatrick is Thorne Bay’s 7th through 12th grade teacher. She said this restaurant is one more fruit to spring from the labor and success of the student-run greenhouse. The school district starting operating the hydroponic greenhouse in Thorne Bay in February.

“We decided to split the class and run [the greenhouse] like a company. We broke the 20 kids into five or six different departments,” Fitzpatrick said.

The departments included construction, business, horticulture, and purchasing and ordering. Fitzpatrick says the students were evaluated on their “youth employ-ability” skills, like work ethic and showing up on time.

“[We were ] pushing it home that we’re running a business here and it takes the whole group to keep the business running,” Fitzpatrick said.

They grew mostly lettuce – butter lettuce, red leaf, romaine. And they sold it to the school lunch program and local grocery stores. The greenhouse was so successful that the school district is planning to build three more in Naukati, Kasaan and Coffman Cove.

So what happened to the Thorne Bay operation after the school year ended?

“There were a few kids that were really into it,” Fitzpatrick said. “They worked all summer long. They independently kept the greenhouse running.”

The idea to revitalize a vacant restaurant and connect it with the greenhouse came from the students and from Superintendent Lauren Burch.

“I think the restaurant might’ve originally come from Mr. Burch but then the kids sort of morphed it so that they can grow the products for it and have a place to sell their products,” Fitzpatrick said.

The restaurant used to be in Coffman Cove. Thorne Bay City Administrator Wayne Benner says Thorne Bay bought it and moved it in 2012.

“The goal was try to generate some economic development,” Benner said. “Try to get some jobs going in the city of Thorne Bay.”

Since then, two operators have leased the restaurant. But both cancelled their leases after less than a year. The city put out a request for proposals again. And the school district was the only bidder.

“The City Council approved going into negotiations with the school district,” Benner said.

The school district doesn’t want to lease the restaurant, but buy it. The council has to do one more reading of the plan to sell, and then they’ll negotiate an agreement.

Fitzpatrick says the students like the idea of a café, not just because it’ll expand their greenhouse business.

“They wanted to have café where they go and do homework after school,” she said. “A place to kind of hang out but also get a snack and some food.”

Along with the café, the students also want to set up a little shop near the restaurant to sell their goods.

Another new development — four schools are getting into the chicken business. So the café will have local eggs.

Restaurant manager Susan Powell says she’s looking around at other local food options, like a Coffman Cove oyster farm. The ingredients Powell can’t find on-island will come from national food distributors.

She plans to set up a Facebook page where people can check on the day’s menu.

Powell thinks if all goes well, Thorne Bay Café could be open in mid-November.

Categories: Alaska News

Closing Date Looms For The Senior Center In Bethel As ONC Looks For New Venue

Fri, 2014-09-19 16:36

Elder Lucy Jacob enjoys lunch with her friends in the cafeteria at the Senior Center. (Photo by Charles/KYUK)

ONC, Bethel’s Tribe, recently announced they are closing the Senior Center at the end of the month and moving to a temporary location.

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As lunchtime nears, elders gather at the Chief Eddie Hoffman Senior Center in downtown Bethel. Seniors mill around the common area talking, smiling, resting, getting help with paperwork, and playing card games, as they’ve done since the center opened in the mid-80’s.

Just before noon, an elder offers a prayer before lunch.

As the seniors line up for their meal, elder Luther Oscar says he loves the time he gets to socialize with his friends.

“I started coming to the senior center to enjoy the fellowship, also to enjoy a meal with other elders over at the dining hall,” says Oscar.

The meal is bittersweet, as it’s one of the last the seniors will have together in the building. Bethel’s Tribe, Orutsararmiut Native Council, manages the senior center program. This summer they announced that they could no longer afford to stay there.

The senior center serves lunch for elders, delivers food to homebound seniors, and drives a bus to bring them to places like the post office and the grocery store.

Elder, Lucy Jacobs has been a regular at the center for many years. She says her worst fear about the center closing is loneliness.

“I’m afraid I’ll be lonely again, I don’t want the senior center closed. Some of us are always lonely in our homes while our families are gone. When all of us are here together, we are happy, we even get to enjoy games,” says Jacobs.

The center has been housed in a city building off Atsaq Street through a memorandum of understanding that allowed ONC to use the city building free of charge, if they paid the bills. But ONC officials say the cost to run the program totaled over $600,000 last year and that’s just too much

Zach Brink is the Executive Director of ONC.

“The expenses needed to take care of the building are getting too high now that it’s getting too old. We are closing the Eddie Hoffman Senior Center on September 30th, but along the way we are looking at options for a new site,” says Brink.

Brink says they plan to use part of the Lulu Herron Congregate Home, an apartment building for seniors, as a makeshift senior center until a more permanent location can be found.

It is unclear what the city will do with the old site, other than close it off for the winter. Elder Catherine Peters says it’s important for seniors to have a place to socialize and she hopes they’ll find a new home soon.

“We can laugh with them, talk with them, cry with them if we have to. And I hope the younger generation think about, they’re going to get old too and they’ll need a place to stay, comfortable. Everything takes time, everything takes money, don’t wait too long. Get it started,” says Peters.

Brink was uncertain on what level of services ONC can provide seniors in the temporary location.

Categories: Alaska News

300 Villages: Chignik

Fri, 2014-09-19 16:35

This week, we’re heading to Chignik, on the Alaska Peninsula. Adam Anderson is the Mayor of Chignik, Alaska.

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Categories: Alaska News

Removal of Federal Building trees elicits fierce opposition

Fri, 2014-09-19 16:27

The proposal to remove two trees from the front of the historic Federal Building in downtown Anchorage elicited fiery comments from a handful of community members during a public meeting on Thursday.


The General Services Administration, which oversees the building, planned to cut down the spruce trees this summer. GSA spokesperson Stephanie Kenitzer says the trees were damaging the building and they needed to repaint the exterior.

“As a homeowner I’ve been told multiple times to not have a tree touching the side of my house. It’s difficult on the siding, it’s hard on the paint. It’s the same kind of philosophy,” she explained.

The Federal Building in downtown Anchorage this summer.

But they were stopped from cutting them down by public outcry from community members like arborist Nickel LaFleur.

“Because it’s history. Because our trees are legacies,” she said. “We don’t have that many trees here in Anchorage, and these trees are quite historic.”

Photos show they were planted next to the building at least 56 years ago. Some time around then, a bristlecone pine joined the line up. It’s anecdotally thought to be a gift from Anchorage’s sister city in Japan, though documentation is scarce. GSA never planned to cut down the bristlecone pine.

After the public complained, the agency decided to just trim the trees and repaint — for now. Kenitzer said it’s not a long-term solution.

“The trees will grow again. That’s what trees do. Sunshine, water, they’ll grow again. And we may be addressing this problem again down the road. So it’s really in the best interest of the long term preservation of the building.”

She said an arborist’s report on the situation also claimed that the trees’ roots will hurt the foundation of the building, so they should be removed completely.

LaFleur doesn’t buy the argument, especially since the trees are separated from the building itself by a wide window well.

“The root ball will never hurt the building,” she explained. “If the building is leaking, then roots have a way of heading toward water. But you can’t blame the trees for the problems. Just fix the leaks in the buildings and leave the trees.”

The arborist who completed the initial report on the trees asked GSA to keep his name confidential for fear of damage to his business. Some of the community members have filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to see the report and other information about the plan to remove the trees.

GSA will make a final decision in 30 days.




Categories: Alaska News

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