APRN Alaska News

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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: 39 min 58 sec ago

Fairbanks Sport Fish Hatchery Prepares For Second Season

Mon, 2014-04-07 18:06

Hatchery tank. (Photo by Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks)


The onset of spring has some Alaskans looking forward to fishing season. That includes employees at the state’ new sport fish hatchery in Fairbanks, where they’re hoping for conditions less extreme than those experienced last year.

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Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: April 7, 2014

Mon, 2014-04-07 17:23

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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Rio Tinto Gives Up On Pebble Mine

Dave Bendinger, KDLG – Dillingham

Mining Giant Rio Tinto announced Monday it will divest its holdings with Northern Dynasty, the sole owner of the Pebble mine prospect in Bristol Bay.  Rio Tinto held 19 percent of Northern Dynasty’s publicly traded shares. But the company is not selling those shares. Instead, it will split them evenly between two charitable organizations.

Izembek Road Issue May Be Headed To Court

Lauren Rosenthal, KUCB – Unalaska

Over the last year, residents of King Cove have been ramping up their campaign to build what they say is a life-saving road through the Izembek wildlife refuge.

Bill Increases Education Funding By $225 Million

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

With the Alaska House of Representatives set to vote on an omnibus education bill on Monday, rural legislators are prepared to fight a change to the funding formula included in the legislation. The bill increases education funding by $225 million spread out over three years, and it adjusts the formula used to divide that money in a way that gives urban schools a boost.

Researchers Seek Glimpse Into Lives Of Earliest Unangan Population

Annie Ropeik, KUCB – Unalaska

The Islands of the Four Mountains are at the center of the Aleutians — geographically, and in folklore passed down from prehistoric times. But we don’t know much about the people who lived there.

Sealaska Dividends Include No Corporate Earnings

Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau

The Sealaska regional Native corporation does not appear to be making much – if any – money. Its spring distribution to shareholders, which is basically a dividend, includes no corporate revenues. But, the details are not yet available.

Study Investigates Potential Impacts Of Road Development On Western Arctic Caribou Herd

Zachariah Hughes, KNOM – Nome

A group of researchers announced last month the results of a multi-year study assessing the impacts to caribou habitat of a potential service road from the Dalton Highway to the Ambler Mining District. Their research is one of the first wildlife biology studies looking at whether a road through a stretch of the Interior would disrupt the Western Arctic Caribou Herd, which is vital to subsistence users across Western Alaska.

Kuskokwim Working Group Outlines 2014 King Salmon Restrictions

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

Two months before what would normally be time for king salmon fishing, Kuskokwim residents have a sketch of what the summer’s conservation measures will look like. There will be no directed king salmon fishing.  For other chum and red salmon, managers are setting no hard dates for the first gillnet opening, other than its anticipated in the last week of June. The Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Working Group last week painstakingly came to a consensus on conservation measures.

Fairbanks Sport Fish Hatchery Prepares For Second Season

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The onset of spring has some Alaskans looking forward to fishing season.  That includes employees at the state’ new sport fish hatchery in Fairbanks, where  they’re hoping for conditions less extreme than those experienced last year.

Categories: Alaska News

Rural Legislators Wary Of Change To School Funding Formula

Mon, 2014-04-07 16:40

With the Alaska House of Representatives set to vote on an omnibus education bill Monday night, rural legislators are prepared to fight a change to the funding formula included in the legislation.

The bill increases education funding by $225 million spread out over three years, and it adjusts the formula used to divide that money out in a way that gives urban schools a boost.

Rep. Bryce Edgmon, who chairs the Bush Caucus, says that’s unfair.

“In essence it’s saying that ‘Smaller schools, you don’t need that extra money. You’re doing just fine out there,’” says Edgmon.

The current funding formula takes the base student allocation — or the dollar amount a school gets for each child enrolled — and multiplies it in such a way that a student at the state’s smallest school gets twice as much funding as a student at one of the state’s biggest schools. The idea is those bigger schools can be more cost efficient.

The omnibus bill changes that formula by getting rid of the penalties on the biggest schools. Where the current formula treats a 250-student school differently than a 750-student school, the version before the House treats them the same. The change amounts to a 10 percent boost in the formula for East High in Anchorage, the state’s largest school.

Some of the loudest calls for increased education funding have come from the state’s urban districts. The Anchorage School District is facing a $23 million shortfall, while the Fairbanks North Star Borough and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough are looking at an $8 million budget gap.

But Edgmon says rural districts are hurting, too, even if their budget numbers are not as dramatic.

“What hasn’t risen to the front page is the fact that the smaller schools have already made those cuts,” says Edgmon. “They’ve already laid off a lot essential services.”

Because rural schools do not get an increase in the formula change, Edgmon is worried this could lead to a wide gap in funding down the road. He thinks lawmakers did not get a chance to consider that during the committee process because the change was only introduced last week.

“We went into the K-12 funding formula, and adjusted some of those very complicated provisions there without having the benefit of a study, without having the benefit of some real analysis behind it,” says Edgmon.

Citizens for the Educational Advancement of Alaska’s Children, a coalition of more than 20 school districts, has also come out against the formula change because of concern over a regional disparity. The coalition successfully brought the Kasayulie and Moore lawsuits against the state government, which argued that there was a funding inequity between urban and rural schools.

Urban legislators who advocated for the change to the funding formula say it’s justified because it helps 80 percent of students in the public school system. Anchorage Republican Mia Costello, who was not available for a follow-up interview, told reporters last week that the formula change made it so that urban children were not treated as a “fraction” of a student.

Categories: Alaska News

Rio Tinto Gives Pebble Mine Stake to Nonprofits

Mon, 2014-04-07 07:43

The mining conglomerate Rio Tinto announced this morning it is divesting its stake in Northern Dynasty, the owner of the proposed Pebble Mine. Rio said in December it might sell, but in a surprise move, the company says it is donating its 19 percent share to two charities, the Alaska Community Foundation and the Bristol Bay Native Corporation Education Foundation.

Rio CEO Jean-Sebastien Jacques said in a statement the donation would ensure Alaskans will have a say in Pebble’s development.

The foundations didn’t immediately announce what they will do with their minority shares in the project. The director of the Bristol Bay  education fund said in a statement the gift will help the foundation fulfill it’s mission. In the same written statement, BBNC chief executive  Jason Metrokin said the corporation’s opposition to the mine hasn’t changed.

The copper and gold mine has drawn widespread opposition, and an EPA study recently found it would pose “Irreversible harm” to the region’s rich salmon runs. Bristol Bay Native Corp has been one of the leading groups opposing the mine.

Rio’s stake was worth nearly $25 million late last year but Northern Dynasty’s share price plunged last month when the EPA announced its assessment of Pebble, which is the company’s only major asset, and the price fell again today.

Categories: Alaska News

With Education Vote Postponed, Parent Group Rallies For More School Funding

Fri, 2014-04-04 18:17

Mary Hakala of Juneau, a member of the Great Alaska Schools coalition, speaks during a rally on the Capitol steps, April 4, 2014.(Photo by Skip Gray/Gavel Alaska)

The Alaska State House has delayed its vote on an omnibus education bill to Monday, giving lawmakers more time to wrestle with questions over teacher retirement policy and treatment of rural schools. But even though debate on the bill was delayed, that did not stop a crowd of parents from gathering on the Capitol steps to rally for more education funding.

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For the past week, there have been a lot of parents running around the State Capitol letting their legislators know they want more money put into education. They’ve united under the name “Great Alaska Schools,” and they describe themselves as a coalition of 1,500 families that support the public system.

On Friday, they stopped going door-to-door and went out into the street instead. They had one message: “B-S-A! Raise today!”

Cat Coward is a physical therapist, a jazz singer, and a mom to an 8th grade student at Romig Middle School in Anchorage. She flew down for the Juneau rally, because she has seen changes in the quality of education at Romig as the budget has been strained.

“They’re losing counselors there. Class sizes are increasing,” says Coward.

Coward says the proposals that have gotten traction in the Legislature don’t do enough to offset the cuts she’s seeing. The bill that the House is considering bumps the base student allocation — or the amount of money schools get per kid — by $300 spread out over the next three years.

Coward believes they should double that. She says that kind of increase to the base student allocation amounts to a little more than one percent of the overall budget.

“Our kids who are in school right now will never get another chance for this. This is it, this is the only time to fund these kids,” says Coward. “You know, we can put money at other capital projects or other things later, but we can never invest in these children ever again.”>>

To illustrate their point, Great Alaska Schools brought plenty of pie to their rally, to symbolize that they just want a larger cut of the fiscal one. There was blueberry, apple, you name it. And when the rally was over, Coward and other participants dropped off slices to their legislators in hopes that it would sweeten them up before Monday.

Categories: Alaska News

Minimum Wage Bill Introduced Amid Sponsor Outcry

Fri, 2014-04-04 17:32

A bill that could supplant the minimum wage initiative has popped up in the Legislature.

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The House Rules Committee introduced the bill on Friday, and it’s modeled after a citizens’ initiative that’s slated to appear on the August primary ballot. It would raise the minimum wage up from $7.75 to $9.75 over the course of two years, and it would peg the minimum wage to inflation. If the bill is enacted into law, it would make the citizens’ initiative moot and remove the question off the ballot.

Initiative organizers strongly oppose any effort to pre-empt their initiative out of concern the Legislature might try to water it down. When a different minimum wage initiative was introduced in 2002, the Legislature passed a similar bill to keep it from getting on the ballot. A year later, lawmakers came back and stripped the inflation component.

Ed Flanagan, an initiative sponsor and former labor commissioner, says he’s worried the same tactic could be used again.

“It’s not like we didn’t see it coming, but I guess you still hope that people will have some sense of — I don’t know what you call it — shame or anything else such a bold-faced attempt to circumvent the will of the people,” says Flanagan.

If a new minimum wage law is enacted through the ballot, legislators may not touch it for two years.

House Majority Leader Lance Pruitt has said that conversation around a minimum wage bill has not been politically motivated, and instead has focused on public approval of raising the minimum wage. Recently, the House Majority Caucus released a poll by Dittman Research showing that 69 percent people they surveyed supported increasing the minimum wage.

The bill is scheduled to be heard by the House Labor and Commerce Committee on Wednesday.

Categories: Alaska News

Deal Reached For Susitna-Watana Dam Land Access

Fri, 2014-04-04 17:31

A land access dispute that threatened to delay progress on the Susitna-Watana Hydroelectric Project has been resolved, though the agreement has come later than expected.

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Friday afternoon, the Alaska Energy Authority issued a press release stating that a “complex” land access permit had been reached between AEA, six Cook Inlet village corporations, and Cook Inlet Region, Inc to allow access to Alaska Native-owned land that is in the study area for the proposed megaproject.

Over the past two years, discussions over land access have been ongoing, and were occasionally complicated by allegations of trespassing by contractors hired by AEA. Details of the deal were not immediately available.

The agreement could have an impact on funding for the Susitna-Watana project this year.

Governor Sean Parnell has asked the Alaska Legislature for a $32.7 million budget supplement for the current fiscal year.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska Shield Exercise Testing Military’s Emergency Readiness

Fri, 2014-04-04 17:30

The SSGT Robert T. Kuroda is docked at the Port of Anchorage. It’s the largest boat in the Army and sailed from Hawaii to be part of simulation exercises meant to test the readiness of the military to respond to a disaster situation where the port is rendered inoperable.  (Jolene Almendarez/APRN)

More than 550 military personnel from around the country are gathered at the Port of Anchorage this week for an Alaska Shield exercise, meant to test the readiness of the military to provide emergency support to areas impacted by natural or human-caused disasters.

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Categories: Alaska News

Senate Ratifies Treaties to Stop Fish Piracy

Fri, 2014-04-04 17:29

The U.S. Senate yesterday ratified two international treaties that Alaska’s senators say will help crack down on illegal international fishing. One is an agreement to restrict ships from using ports if they engage in what’s known as IUU fishing. Sen. Mark Begich says the practice robs legitimate fishermen of some $23 billion a year.

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“I know lots of times we talk about illegal, unreported, unregulated,” Begich said on the Senate floor yesterday. ” I like to simply call it pirate fishing. These are people who steal our fish out of our waters and then try to sell it back to us.”

He and other advocates of the treaty say it will also help deter human trafficking. The Port State Measures treaty takes effect after 25 countries ratify it. That’s how many initially signed the treaty, but only the U.S., the European Union and nine smaller countries that have gone all the way to ratification or full approval. Russia has signed and not ratified. China is on neither list.

A second treaty would create an international organization to regulate fishing in international waters of the North Pacific to protect fish habitat. Sen. Lisa Murkowski said it’s “critically important” to the sustainability and management of the resource.

“We’re trying to play be the rules,” she said. “We expect others to be doing the same.”

The treaties were approved by voice vote. Murkowski says they’re the first treaties ratified by the Senate since 2010

Categories: Alaska News

State, Feds Wrestle Over Navigable Water Control

Fri, 2014-04-04 17:28

The State of Alaska is continuing to fight the federal government over control of navigable waters in two cases involving Interior rivers.

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The Alaska Department of Law has filed a friend of the court briefing in support of Central resident Jim Wilde’s latest appeal.

Wilde is contesting the National Park Service’s authority to enforce regulations on the state owned Yukon River, inside the Yukon Charley Rivers National Preserve.

State Senior Assistant Attorney General Anne Nelson says the state has tracked the case from its start in 2010.

“The state’s position is that the Park Service doesn’t have the authority to regulate navigable waters within National Parks as if they were a part of the National Park,” Nelson said. “And so we’ve filed these amicus briefs to keep that issue in front of the court.”

In December a federal judge upheld Jim Wilde’s conviction of misdemeanor offences for resisting National Park Service rangers, who pulled him over for a boat safety inspection in September 2010. Wilde’s appeal is one of two challenging the federal agency, that the state of Alaska is involved in.

Federal judges have repeatedly rejected the state’s arguments in both cases, and this week the U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider Alaska’s appeal concerning similar issues in the Katie John subsistence case. The state’s Nelson says the case frames the Wilde and Sturgeon appeals under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.

“What it means is that we are continuing to work with the status quo, which is the Ninth Circuit’s ruling that certain navigable waters are considered public lands under ANILCA because the federal government has a reserved water right in them for purposes of administering ANILCA’s rural subsistence priority,” Nelson said.

She says the state’s focus in the Wilde and Sturgeon cases is on challenging the extent of Park Service authority over navigable waters inside parks. The state just filed its brief in the Wilde case. Briefs are due in the Sturgeon case by the end of the month.

Both appeals are before the federal 9th circuit court.

Categories: Alaska News

Food Tastes Better When It’s Shared

Fri, 2014-04-04 17:27

Chuck Miller(R) and son Jay harvest roe-on-hemlock. (KCAW photo/by Emily Forman).

It’s crisp, crunchy, and salty – and you’ll never find it in a bag in the grocery store. Dipped in seal oil or eulachon oil (hooligan), it is a traditional Southeast Alaskan delicacy that signals spring as surely as a warm, sunny day. But, gathering herring eggs-on-hemlock branches is about a lot more than food.

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ANB Harbor. Stall 10. Small boat on the left. That’s Chuck Miller’s response to anyone looking for herring eggs. Miller has the means to harvest this traditional food in the traditional way. So, sharing the resource is a no brainer. “Food tastes better when you share with people and that’s the way our Native people are,” says Miller.

Like many subsistence fisherman, Miller practices the roe-on-hemlock harvesting method. He invited me to join him and his son, Jay, on a recent harvesting trip.

Miller: We are ready to get some fuel.
EF: With the fuel and everything how much does a trip like this cost you?
Miller: Over 200 dollars easy but it’s worth it.

That includes engine repairs and two trips out to Middle Island. Miller says it’s worth it because he’ll end up feeding at least a dozen people. But within minutes, I learn that he has deeper reasons for the practice. Jay explains.

Jay: The first time I went out I was 6 years old.
EF: Do you remember what that was like?
Jay: Yeah, I went with my uncle Eli my Dad’s brother.

Miller: The yellow buoy that’s on there is my brother’s buoy and my brother’s been passed away now for ten years. He was 5 years older than me. We used to do this together. This is the last of the gear that he had that he used.

As we pull into a cove on the backside of Middle Island the water abruptly changes from deep blue to a milky aqua. That’s what happens when you add a whole lot of fish sperm — or milt — into the mix.

Jay Miller helps his dad harvest herring roe. (KCAW photo/ by Emily Forman)

Miller: So it is still spawning in here.

Plastic bottles and milk jugs speckle the shallow water – all tied to submerged hemlock branches. A handful of those have “Miller” written on them in bold black sharpie ink.

He says people have stolen his sets in the past – which isn’t unusual when branches are left unsupervised overnight to gather eggs. As a result he’s mildly apprehensive around other fisherman.

Miller: He’s probably just staring me down because he doesn’t know who I am. But I’m gonna let him get a good look at me because I lived here my whole life.

Miller has a way of diffusing the tension.

Miller: Hey are you taking my sets? Haha! You guys look like you got a good set in!
Miller: K it’s coming up on your side. Right there, right there, right there!

Jay grabs the milk jug attached to his Uncle Eli’s yellow buoy. He clutches the trailing thick rope. Using all of his body weight he wrestles the egg-laden branch to the surface.

Miller: Get it to where you got some leverage. is it moving? It’s probably super heavy?

When its ready to harvest, a branch can weigh well over 400 pounds.

Miller: What we do is clip off pieces of it to get it in the boat. Holy smokes! That’s a good one right there!

Miller hoists the dripping branch into the boat. It’s coated with eggs and looks like it was dipped in a vat of rubber cement.

Miller: See this is the thickness you want, some people get them a little thicker, but not much more than that.

It’s a bountiful harvest, which according to Miller is thanks to his brother’s buoy.

Miller: It’s my good luck buoy and usual that’s the one every year that produces quite a bit it’s like my brother is looking out for us.

He tosses the leftover branch overboard.

Miller:Gunalcheesh! Thank you! We used the tree to help us.

Take away the power boat, and plastic milk jug buoys, and it isn’t difficult to picture this practice taking place long before Western and Native cultures met.

Miller: If i don’t start sharing what I know right away… I might not be here tomorrow.

When we return to ANB harbor, and pull into Stall 10. I realize that gathering herring eggs on hemlock branches is an expression of gratitude. Gratitude for the the teachings of his ancestors, gratitude for food, and the chance to pass on this way of life.

Categories: Alaska News

300 Villages: Moose Creek

Fri, 2014-04-04 17:26

This week, we’re heading to Moose Creek, a village of about 600 people in central Alaska. Jeff Jacobson is the chief of staff for the Fairbanks North Star Borough.

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Categories: Alaska News

AK: Book Club

Fri, 2014-04-04 17:25

Community outreach librarian Andrea Hirsh points something out to club member Mike Ricker. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

Several people at Juneau’s downtown shelter and soup kitchen The Glory Hole are part of a new club. Every Tuesday, they come together on the second floor of the facility to discuss a different topic. The club is helping to build a different kind of community within the homeless shelter, a community not based on need, but on the exchange of ideas.

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Topics for The Glory Hole Book Club change every week. This session, the club discussed the space program. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

It’s called The Glory Hole Book Club, but it’s really more of a discussion group. Instead of everyone reading the same book, community outreach librarian Andrea Hirsh says there’s a theme that everyone comes prepared to talk about each week.

“The first day, everybody who was here wrote down five ideas of stuff that they thought would be so neat to talk about and we threw them in a hat, and then we pulled it out. And it works really well because it makes it open for anybody who wants to come,” Hirsh says.

Topics range from philosophy to fantasy. Hirsh says book club members can relate the topic to an article they may have read or a movie they watched. Oftentimes, group discussions stem from personal experience.

“We pulled, like, agriculture once and I thought, ‘That one is going to be terrible.’ But we talked a lot about animal husbandry and, like, growing crops, and most of the people here have worked in agricultural fields. It was a great topic,” Hirsh says.

Sheila Higgins (left) has been to every session of The Glory Hole Book Club, which started in January. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

Six people, who have come to this club session, sit in a circle of chairs. All eyes are on Hirsh as she holds up the book “Packing for Mars.”

She talks about a test performed on want-to-be astronauts:

“They have, like, eight candidates and they keep them all in one room and they’re monitored 24/7. They have no privacy and they can’t leave each other because they’re simulating, like, what’s going on in the international space station.”

The Glory Hole Book Club was a test as well when the shelter paired up with Juneau Public Libraries to try something new.

Steve Albright is a member of The Glory Hole Book Club. (Photo by Lisa Phu/TKOO)

“I did not think that The Glory Hole Book Club would be a very successful activity but I think it’s really wonderful for people to have an opportunity to not think about the fact that they’re homeless and that they’re struggling and they need to get out of the situation,” says shelter director Mariya Lovishchuk

Club member Sheila Higgins was a psychic for 25 years out of Fairbanks and Anchorage. She also spent some time working on the North Slope. When she moved to Juneau in 2012 for a different job, things didn’t work out. She’s lived at the Glory Hole for about a year.

Since the club started in January, Higgins has gone to every session. She says those that attend have become closer.

“I think we get to know each other on a different level. We don’t see ourselves as homeless people here. We just see each other as brother and sister.”

At the end of every club session, a member pulls out the topic for next week. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

The book club also adds another dimension to The Gory Hole. Most of the action takes place in the day room on the first floor, where all the meals are served.

“That’s kind of their forum down there, the people who run the place. Up here it’s ours, OK? It’s ours. This is our club,” Higgins says.

Club members freely share their opinions and listen. After several weeks of this, Higgins says they’re grown to respect and support one another.

“Nobody’s here because they want to be, you know. We’d all rather be in our own homes living different lives, but as long as we’re here, we’re going do the best we can for each other,” she says.

For Kidd Perez, the book club is also just fun.

“It’s spontaneous for sure and it’s just a tight knit group. We all are acquainted well enough here to just let it go, let it ride. You can comment and say pretty much what you think. It gets kind of crazy sometimes, but that’s part of the fun,” Perez says.

Perez is an auto mechanic. He says he goes where the money is. With summer approaching, he has hopes of moving out of the shelter.

“Could be sometime this month, because the season’s coming around and that means more work for a lot of people this time of year, so we’ll see what happens,” Perez says.

But as long as Perez is at The Glory Hole though, he’ll continue going to the club.

As the session on the space program wraps up, Hirsh holds out “The Book Club Hat.”

“Why don’t you pick out our topic for next week,” she says to club member Mark Trammell.

“Oh wow, psychology,” Trammell announces to the group.

Chatter and laughter break out among club members as they get up to leave, their minds already on next week’s club theme.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: April 4, 2014

Fri, 2014-04-04 17:12

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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Parents Rally For Education Funding

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

The Alaska State House has delayed its vote on an omnibus education bill to Monday, giving lawmakers more time to wrestle with questions over teacher retirement policy and treatment of rural schools. But even though debate on the bill was delayed, that did not stop a crowd of parents from gathering on the Capitol steps to rally for more education funding.

Minimum Wage Bill Introduced Amid Sponsor Outcry

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

A bill that could supplant the minimum wage initiative has popped up in the Legislature. The House Rules Committee introduced the bill on Friday, and it’s modeled after a citizens’ initiative that’s slated to appear on the August primary ballot. It would raise the minimum wage up from $7.75 to $9.75 over the course of two years, and it would peg the minimum wage to inflation.

Lawmakers Shelve Controversial Permitting Bill

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

A controversial permitting bill has been sentenced to die in committee. Senate Resources Chair Cathy Giessel sent out a press release yesterday announcing the resources committee will not hold any more hearings on HB77.

Deal Reached For Susitna-Watana Dam Land Access

Phillip Manning, KTNA – Talkeetna

A land access dispute that threatened to delay progress on the Susitna-Watana Hydroelectric Project has been resolved, though the agreement has come later than expected.

Alaska Shield Exercise Testing Military’s Emergency Readiness

Jolene Almendarez, APRN – Anchorage

More than 550 military personnel from around the country are gathered at the Port of Anchorage this week for an Alaska Shield exercise, meant to test the readiness of the military to provide emergency support to areas impacted by natural or human-caused disasters.

Senate Ratifies Treaties to Stop Fish Piracy

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington DC

The U.S. Senate yesterday ratified two international treaties that Alaska’s senators say will help crack down on illegal international fishing. One is an agreement to restrict ships from using ports if they engage in what’s known as IUU fishing.

State, Feds Wrestle Over Navigable Water Control

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The State of Alaska is continuing to fight the federal government over control of navigable waters in two cases involving Interior rivers. The Alaska Department of Law has filed a friend of the court briefing in support of Central resident Jim Wilde’s latest appeal. Wilde is contesting the National Park Service’s authority to enforce regulations on the state owned Yukon River, inside the Yukon Charley Rivers National Preserve.

Food Tastes Better When It’s Shared

Emily Forman, KCAW – Sitka

It’s crisp, crunchy, and salty – and you’ll never find it in a bag in the grocery store. Dipped in seal oil or eulachon oil (hooligan), it is a traditional Southeast Alaskan delicacy that signals spring as surely as a warm, sunny day. But, gathering herring eggs-on-hemlock branches is about a lot more than food.

AK: Book Club

Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau

Several people at Juneau’s downtown shelter and soup kitchen The Glory Hole are part of a new club. Every Tuesday, they come together on the second floor of the facility to discuss a different topic. The club is helping to build a community within the homeless shelter, one not based on need, but on the exchange of ideas.

300 Villages: Moose Creek

This week, we’re heading to Moose Creek, a village of about 600 people in central Alaska. Jeff Jacobson is the chief of staff for the Fairbanks North Star Borough.

Categories: Alaska News

The Business of Clean Energy

Fri, 2014-04-04 12:00

Alaska is becoming known as a testing ground for renewable energy. As more and more clean energy technology comes on the market, Alaska’s high fuel costs can make investments in things that reduce those costs pay off quickly – in fact it’s already happening.

HOST: Steve HeimelAlaska Public Radio Network

GUESTS:

  • Gershon Cohen, We the People Alaska
  • John Havelock, former Alaska Attorney General
  • Callers Statewide

PARTICIPATE:

  • 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, April 8, 2014 at 10:00 a.m. on APRN stations statewide.

SUBSCRIBE: Get Talk of Alaska updates automatically by e-mailRSS or podcast.

TALK OF ALASKA ARCHIVE

Categories: Alaska News

Sealaska Dividends Include No Corporate Earnings

Fri, 2014-04-04 10:28

The spring dividend for most Sealaska shareholders will be $721, but some will receive less than a tenth of that amount.

Sealaska Plaza, the corporation’s headquarters.

The total distribution to the regional Native corporation’s 21,600 shareholders is $11.8 million. Payments will be mailed out April 8 and direct-deposited April 11.

Most stockholders own 100 shares. The amount of dividends differ due to status of the corporation’s Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian members.

Those enrolled in Sealaska plus an urban Native corporation, such as Sitka’s Shee Atiká, receive the full $721. So do at-large shareholders, who are only enrolled in Sealaska.

Those holding stock in a village corporation, such as Saxman’s Cape Fox, get $57.

The difference is a payout from a pool of regional Native corporations’ natural-resource earnings. Sealaska pays resource earnings directly to urban shareholders, as part of their dividends. But it pays the resource revenues to village corporations, which decide whether to pass them on to shareholders.

Descendents of original shareholders also get $57 per 100 shares.  Elders in any category receive an extra $57. Those funds come from Sealaska’s permanent fund.

None of the money is coming from Sealaska’s business operations. CEO Chris McNeil says the corporation is in the second year of restructuring its operations.  That includes last summer’s sale of its share of plastics factories in Alabama, Iowa and Guadalajara, Mexico.

More details on Sealaska’s business operations will be in its annual report, to be released in May.

Categories: Alaska News

Legislature OKs $5.8 Million In Capitol Repairs

Fri, 2014-04-04 10:23

A ridge of crumbling masonry near the top of Alaska’s Capitol, April 3, 2014. (Photo by Skip Gray/Gavel Alaska)

The legislature has approved $5.8 million in additional repairs and renovations to the Capitol building.

“Go forth, fix the Capitol,”said Rep. Mike Hawker, R-Anchorage. He chairs the Legislative Council, which authorized a contract with Dawson Construction on Thursday. The council manages the legislature’s in-house administration.

This is the second phase of the project. The need for major repairs of the facade and earthquake retrofits has been well documented, punctuated by occasional chunk of falling masonry. Building manager Jeff Goodell recently took some time to preempt a potential drizzle of stonework on 60 of the building’s most important tenants; legislators lined up out front for a group photo Wednesday.

Detail of brick façade exposed during renovation of Alaska’s Capitol, April 3, 2014. (Photo by Skip Gray/Gavel Alaska)

“Our building manager spent the weekend taking loose chunks of concrete off the parapets that were so loose, that they had a very real chance of falling and hitting someone while we were taking that picture,” Hawker said.

Outside the Capitol, Goodell points out where he’d worked along a lip of crumbling brick near the roof. He says masons recently told him the pace of deterioration is shifting.

“You know, this golden girl is 83 years old. It took a long time to get to this point, but now, things really get accelerated,” Goodell says.

In the Capitol’s maintenance section, Goodell pulls out a 5-gallon bucket and cardboard box filled with crumbly bits and chunks of masonry.

“There are big parts down in here. Of course, this is just little stuff you’re seeing at the top. But there’s big stuff in there,” Goodell says.

He’s keeping it “as evidence.”

“This is for people to see, to know that we’re not monkeying around,” Goodell says.

Workers completed the first phase of Capitol repairs and renovations last fall. That phase included repairing the granite front steps, reinforcing the marble columns, replacing the plumbing and draining systems and cleaning up the crawlspace beneath the building.

With the contract approval, work will resume this summer.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska House Names April as ‘Child Abuse Prevention Month’

Fri, 2014-04-04 10:07

The Alaska House of Representatives voted unanimously Thursday to name April “Child Abuse Prevention Month” in Alaska.

House Concurrent Resolution 21 was sponsored by Representative Geran Tarr from Anchorage. The resolution heads to the Senate for consideration.

In 2013 there were over 40,000 allegation of child maltreatment in Alaska.

Just last month Alaska Governor Sean Parnell issued an Executive Proclamation naming April as “Child Abuse Prevention Month.”

Nationally, April has been “Child Abuse Prevention Month” since the first Executive Declaration in 1983.

Categories: Alaska News

Lawmakers Shelve Controversial Permitting Bill

Thu, 2014-04-03 21:42

A controversial permitting bill has been sentenced to die in committee.

Senate Resources Chair Cathy Giessel sent out a press release on Thursday evening announcing that the resources committee will not hold any more hearings on HB77.

Committee member Peter Micciche says that with the end of session looming, the bill was simply too complex and too polarizing to advance.

“Some people will be very happy. Some people won’t be as happy. But I think that everyone can agree that we can, in the future, do a better job working together on releasing things that people see as having an effect on their everyday lives, their rights as Alaskans, their right to be heard.”

The Parnell administration introduced HB77 last year. The bill was pitched as a way to make the permitting process more efficient, and it initially zipped through the Legislature. But fishing groups, tribal organizations, and environmental outfits came out strong against the bill, arguing that it gave too much power to the natural resources commissioner and limited the public’s role in permitting decisions.

After the bill failed to secure the necessary votes last year, the Department of Natural Resources held meetings with opposition groups and revised the bill in consultation with Micciche. While some of the more contentious provisions were altered, the rewrite still attracted a heated public response when it was unveiled last month.

Micciche believes some components of the new draft have merit and could have been enacted into law had they not been wrapped in such an expansive piece of legislation. He says those parts will likely need to be revisited in the future and parceled out into a series of less ambitious bills.

But this year, the Legislature is done with permitting policy.

“I don’t know go where bills go in the after life, but I do — I do — honestly wish House Bill 77 a very happy eternity as it rests in peace.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Natural Resources wrote in an e-mail that the agency is a “disappointed in this outcome,” but understands the decision.

Categories: Alaska News

Homer Man Shoots, Kills Self With Trooper’s Pistol

Thu, 2014-04-03 17:52

Alaska State Troopers say a Homer man fatally shot himself after he grabbed a trooper’s gun during a struggle following a domestic violence call.

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Twenty-four-year-old Aaron Michael Rael-Catholic is dead following the incident Wednesday night.

According to a Trooper report, an unidentified Trooper attempted to apprehend Rael-Catholic following a report of a domestic violence assault shortly after 8 p.m. at a residence about four miles out East End Road.

The female victim who made the report was able to escape the assault by her ex-boyfriend – Rael-Catholic. She left the residence in a vehicle just as the Trooper arrived on the scene. Rael-Catholic then used another vehicle to ram into the victim’s car.

According to the report, the suspect then got out of the car and a struggle ensued with the Trooper. In an attempt to apprehend Rael-Catholic, the Trooper used pepper spray and then his Taser but to no avail. The Trooper and the suspect ended up wrestling on the ground. During this struggle, Rael-Catholic got a hold of the Trooper’s pistol and fatally shot himself.

Trooper Spokesperson Megan Peters said Troopers could not release any further information about the incident until completion of an investigation by the Alaska Bureau of Investigation. Peters did confirm that the Trooper was the only law enforcement officer who responded to the call. She did not know if he called for backup during the incident. After the shooting, several local agencies – including the Homer Police Department and the Homer Volunteer Fire Department – responded to the scene. The female victim was taken to South Peninsula Hospital in Homer but her condition was unknown.

The Trooper was not injured in the incident. Peters said his identity will not be released for 72 hours.

According to court records, Rael-Catholic was arrested for Fourth Degree Assault in December. In that incident, he was allegedly intoxicated and had assaulted a member of his family.

Peters said an autopsy on Rael-Catholic by the State Medical Examiner’s Office is expected to be performed later this week. She could not estimate how long the investigation might take.

Peters said it is extremely rare for a suspect to get a hold of an officer’s service weapon. The last time it happened on the Kenai Peninsula was in 2003, when 33-year-old David Forster took a pistol from Kenai Police officer John Watson and used it to kill him. Forster was sentenced to 101 years in prison for the murder.

Categories: Alaska News
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