Individual news stories are posted on the APRN news page. You can subscribe to APRN’s newsfeeds via email, podcast and RSS. Follow us on Facebook at alaskapublic.org and on Twitter @aprn.Download AudioControversial Permitting Bill Back For Consideration Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – JuneauAfter sitting in limbo for nearly a year, a controversial permitting bill is on the move in the legislature again.HB 77: Gauging Public SentimentAlexandra Gutierrez, APRN – JuneauLast year, HB77 stalled in part because its opponents were vocal. People packed townhall meetings to tell their legislators to fight it, and tribes across the state passed resolutions asking for a “no” vote. But how widespread was that opposition? The Hays Group released a poll this week the gauges public sentiment on the bill.DEC Commissioner Says Future Sulfolane Spill Liability Shouldn’t Preclude Sale Of Flint Hills’ Refinery Dan Bross, KUAC – FairbanksThe Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation says the issue of liability for future sulfolane spills should not preclude Flint Hills from selling its North Pole refinery.Buser In The Lead As Racers Approach NulatoEmily Schwing, KUAC – FairbanksBig Lake musher Martin Buser is leading the Iditarod. After choosing an unconventional checkpoint for his 24 hour layover early in the race, he charged to the front of the race today. He’s now nearing the Nulato checkpoint with Sonny Lindner, Aliy Zirkle and Jeff King in pursuit.Iditarod Mushers and their dog teams passed in and out of the Yukon River community of Galena on various schedules throughout the afternoon.GCI Recieves $41 Million To Build 3G, 4G In Rural Alaska Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel48 communities in rural Alaska, including 26 in the YK Delta will receive 3G or 4G data service, thanks to an FCC grant of $41 million that GCI secured.Petersburg Sweeps Education Technology AwardsAngela Denning, KFSK – PetersburgPetersburg School District won three statewide awards for technology in education. The district- and the community -have made computer learning a priority.Bill Stoltze Announces Run For New Senate SeatEllen Lockyer, KSKA – AnchorageRepresentative Bill Stoltze, a Republican from Chugiak, announced a new political path at the Mat Su Senior Center in downtown Palmer on Friday.Stoltze told the audience that his heart has always been in Palmer, and now he’d like to represent that city in a new state Senate district. He said he’d done “a lot of soul-searching” before making the announcement.AK: Wave EnergyEd Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – JuneauOcean waves do more than knock your boat around and carry trash to shore. The same force can power devices that generate electricity. Yakutat is gearing up for a wave-energy experiment that could help it – and other coastal cities – lower power costs.300 Villages: TokThis week, we’re heading to Tok, where the community is coming together to rebuild a home for a family that lost everything in a recent fire. John Rusyniak is President of the Tok Chamber of Commerce.
Budget cuts are creating stress for communities trying to keep their citizens safe with fewer dollars for law enforcement. In a state with staggering statistics for violence and sexual assault, how can municipalities, cities, and villages keep the peace amid jail closures, fewer troopers and local police.Download AudioHOST: Lori TownsendGUEST:James Cockrell, director, Alaska State TroopersEthan Berkowitz, mayor, Municipality of AnchorageCaptain Andrew Merrill, Alaska State TroopersPARTICIPATE:Post your comment before, during or after the live broadcast (comments may be read on air).Send email 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 broadcastLIVE Broadcast: Tuesday, July 28, 2015 at 10:00 a.m. on APRN stations statewide.SUBSCRIBE: Get Talk of Alaska updates automatically by e-mail, RSS or podcast.TALK OF ALASKA ARCHIVE
Shell pulls out of the Arctic, citing lack of resourceJohn Ryan, KUCB – UnalaskaAfter sinking eight years and more than $8 billion into the effort, Shell Oil is pulling out of the Arctic Ocean.Murkowski calls Shell pull-out a ‘kick in the gut’Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington, D.C.Sen. Lisa Murkowski says news that Shell is pulling out of the Alaskan Arctic hit her hard.Anchorage convenes task force to combat human traffickingZach Hughes, KSKA – AnchorageA new working group in Anchorage is bringing city, state, and federal resources to combat human trafficking across Alaska.Sen. McGuire won’t seek re-election in 2016Rachel Waldholz, APRN – AnchorageSenator Lesil McGuire, a Republican from Anchorage, likely surprised attendees at the Arctic Energy Summit in Fairbanks today when she announced she would not seek re-election next year.Buldir Island a ‘life changer’ for seabird researchersLauren Rosenthal – APRN ContributorImagine spending three months on a windy island at the tip of the Aleutian Chain. There’s no internet, no cell phones, and not much company — besides the millions of seabirds who flock to Buldir Island to build their nests.As ice melts, Arctic opens for cruise shipsEmily Russell, KNOM – NomeAs sea ice melts and temperatures rise, the Arctic is seeing an increase in vessel traffic, but it’s not just icebreakers and research vessels making the journey up north. Cruise ships, mainly European ones, are also taking advantage of the region’s more navigable waters.DEC to spend $4 million on Wrangell junkyard cleanupKatarina Sostaric, KSTK – WrangellThe Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation announced last week it will spend about $4 million to clean up a former Wrangell junkyard site with high levels of lead contamination.With reservoir low, Kodiak asks citizens to conserve waterKayla Desroches, KMXT – KodiakIt’s been a dry summer for Kodiak, which has lowered bodies of water throughout Kodiak Island, including the Monashka Reservoir.EIS forthcoming for proposed Donlin gold mineLakeidra Chavis, KYUK – BethelPermitting for the proposed Donlin Gold mine, which will affect communities along the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta is underway. An official draft of the statement examining the mine’s affects on the environment will be available at the end of November. Stories are posted on the APRN news page. You can subscribe to APRN’s newsfeeds via email, podcast and RSS. Follow us on Facebook at alaskapublic.org and on Twitter @aprn.Download Audio
Download audioThe Alaska Housing Finance Corporation will stop accepting new applications for the Home Energy Rebate Program waitlist next month. People who are in the process of making their homes more energy efficient are still eligible to receive up to $10 thousand dollars for home improvements. As of January 15, 113 people were on the wait list, and AHFC still has $5 million dollars that aren’t currently obligated for specific homes. But AHFC Governmental Relations Director Stacy Schubert says that money could be moved out of the program through the legislature’s budget process.Since the program started in 2008, nearly 25 thousand families have received rebates for doing things like adding insulation to their homes or improving their heating systems. Rebates averaged about $6,500 dollars. New participants can still sign up for the waitlist until March 25.
Homer’s canvas board counts absentee ballots in recall election. (Aaron Bolton, KBBI News)Three Homer City Council members who were subjects of a highly contentious recall effort will retain their seats. The political battle led to a court case with the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska and two political groups have formed around the issue.Listen nowCouncil members David Lewis, Catriona Reynolds and Donna Aderhold all enjoyed double digit wins as the official results came in Friday.As the canvas board counted hundreds of absentee ballots Friday afternoon, several Heartbeat of Homer supporters in the audience eagerly awaited the results. The pro-recall political action committee’s spokeswoman, Sarah Vance, sat quietly as the stacks of ballots were counted.The three council members narrowly eked out a win Tuesday in the regular vote and needed a strong showing from absentee voters. City Clerk Mellissa Jacobsen read the results for the record and those in attendance.Aderhold and Lewis were both favored by 57 percent of voters and Reynolds came away with 56 percent of the vote. Vance and her supporters were noticeably disappointed as they walked out of City Hall.“Of course we are disappointed in the outcome,” Vance said. “We feel that they definitely were dishonest in their dealings over the issues, but the people have spoken and we’ll proceed from here.”The three council members found themselves subjects of the recall effort this spring. Petitioners took issue with two resolutions they crafted and sponsored, namely an inclusivity resolution.Petitioners argue it was the council members’ intent to make Homer a sanctuary city, damaging the tourism industry. They also claim their actions were misconduct in office.The council members all had one word for the results, vindicated. On Friday evening, Homer Citizens Against the Recall gathered in the very place the inclusivity resolution began, Homer resident Hal Spence’s living room.Council member Reynolds gave an impromptu speech to supporters.“There hasn’t been anything I could do about any of this for a long time, but knowing that you were all working to show the recall was not valid, I think we did that today with the results,” Reynolds said in Spence’s living room. “We did it Tuesday with the results.”Lewis and Reynolds both say they’re happy the special election is over. However, Lewis notes the division created by it will not dissipate overnight.“You know I went back and read some of the articles, and we’ve been called Marxists and all sorts of stuff,” Lewis said. “That doesn’t go away.”Aderhold, an avid writer and runner, added she is particularly excited to have time in her personal life.Homer Citizens Against the Recall Chairman Ron Keffer explained the one-issue political action committee will be dissolved. But, Keffer noted its progressively minded supporters will remain a group.“Because we don’t want to get ourselves into a position in which we have not been active enough and things happen and we have to play catchup,” Keffer explained. “We want to be an active part constantly at this point.”The Homer City Council held a special meeting Monday to certify the results.Reynolds and Lewis’ terms are up in October. Lewis, a three-term councilman, said he decided not to run prior to the recall effort. Reynolds noted the recall, as well as other obligations, pushed her away from running for reelection. Aderhold, whose term expires in 2018, said it’s too early to make that choice.However, all is not said and done. Heartbeat of Homer is seeking reimbursement for its legal fees from the council members.
Spruce beetle outbreak in the Mat-Su Valley seen during the 2017 aerial detection survey. (U.S. Forest Service photo)Spruce beetles may be native to Alaska, but they can still devastate a spruce forest. Over the last two years, an outbreak concentrated in Southcentral Alaska’s Susitna River drainage and northwest Kenai Peninsula has affected more than 500,000 acres of forest. It’s the worst infestation since the 1990s.Jason Moan of Alaska’s Division of Forestry says a combination of factors causes a population to grow to the level of an outbreak.“Spruce beetle favors large-diameter, slow-growing trees,” Moan said. “If we have wind events or things like that where a large number of trees might be blown over, you know, beetles tend to favor that material. They’re able to build up populations.”Moan said warm summers can also play a role because beetles tend to reproduce faster in warmer weather. It takes one to two years for the beetles to complete their life cycles, and then when the weather warms above 60 degrees, female beetles begin to take flight in search of new host trees, sending out pheromones to attract others when they’ve found a tree. Larger, unhealthy trees are more susceptible to infestations.“Folks can start keeping an eye on the spruce that they do that are not attacked. Keeping those watered if they need it. Avoiding damage to those trees,” Moan said.Signs of an infestation include clumps of sap and sawdust where the beetles have bored holes in the bark as well as pieces of bark scattered at the base of the tree. Discolored needles can also be an indicator but not always. Moan said once a tree is infested, there’s not much that can be done other than to remove it. Pesticides can be effective in preventing beetles before they take flight but not after.“In the current part of the beetle flight period, which usually runs from late May to somewhere into July, you know, we would just suggest avoiding cutting green trees,” Moan said. “Unless you’re going to be processing that soon.”Beetle-killed spruce can be used for firewood and for lumber. Beetles tend to live on the underside of a tree’s bark. Moan said that over time, they’ve served as a natural part of forest ecosystems, making room for healthier younger trees, but many landowners want to manage outbreaks to limit the amount of destruction to their properties. The Division of Forestry and their partners are currently working to develop new tools to help.
Statistics indicate Alaska Native woman have been murdered or gone missing in disproportionately large numbers. May 5th marked the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls and community members in Anchorage and Fairbanks gathered over the weekend to pay their respects. The event — which coincides with the start of Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month — is organized by the nonprofit group Alaska Bikers Advocating Training & Education, otherwise known as ABATE. Nathaniel Herz, Alaska’s Energy Desk – Anchorage This past winter, parts of Southeast Alaska experienced severe drought. But a new study published in the journal Nature suggests that’s probably not a preview of what’s to come in Alaska. Kirsten Swann, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage Anchorage Bike Blessing draws riders from around the state With the legislative session winding down, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy has gotten traction with some of his ideas, but many others have stalled. The governor’s office is still holding out for more, but his allies say Dunleavy can still declare victory without passage of specific bills or initiatives. New Anchorage climate plan calls for 80 percent cut to emissions by 2050 An Anchorage sewer line broke loose from the bottom of a city lake after the Magnitude 7.1 earthquake last year, and reinstalling it has not been easy. Public will have chance to weigh in on proposal to move Juneau City Hall Casey Grove, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage The countries of the Arctic Council have for years rejoiced that their region is a zone of peace and cooperation. But in a speech in Finland Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took a harder edge. Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks Pompeo to Arctic Council: Easy days are over Donlin Gold looks to schools, workforce development for future employees Elizabeth Jenkins, Alaska’s Energy Desk – Juneau As the Lower 48 continues to dry out, Alaska could get wetter Johanna Eurich and Robyne, KYUK and KUAC – Anchorage/Fairbanks Donlin Gold promised to hire local workers for its proposed gold mine. To fulfill that promise, the company knows that it has to start now and it has to start young. Anchorage utility racing to fix sewer line unmoored by quake There’s growing concern about a wildfire south of Delta Junction. The Oregon Lakes Fire, has burned about 6,700 acres on a military training range near Ft. Greely. On Tuesday, the city’s Assembly is receiving the 106-page document, which outlines everything from transportation recommendations to emission reduction targets. Communities in Anchorage and Fairbanks commemorate missing Native women and children Liz Ruskin, Alaska Public Media – Washington D.C. Krysti Shallenberger, Alaska’s Energy Desk – Bethel Big parts of Gov. Dunleavy’s agenda remain unfinished. But he still has time, tools at his disposal. Adelyn Baxter, KTOO – Juneau Ft. Greely wildfire gores to 6,700 acres Stories are posted on the APRN news page. You can subscribe to APRN’s newsfeeds via email, podcast and RSS. Follow us on Facebook at alaskapublic.org and on Twitter @AKPublicNews Zachariah Hughes, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage Officials say CBJ outgrew the current City Hall more than 20 years ago. Now the city is proposing a new City Hall building on top of the Downtown Transportation Center parking garage.
Picking aboard the F/V Aventura in the Nushagak District.(Photo credit Sarah Grace Durrance) “Just as a matter of pure economics – forget the politics of it – pure economics – they’ve made an investment,” said Scott Kendall, an attorney for BBRSDA. The association filed a motion to dismiss the state’s brief yesterday. Kendall said not weighing in on a project that could impact the region’s fishery is out of the question. A hearing on the case is scheduled for Monday in Anchorage. “So our position is that they used pretty specific language about promoting and marketing regional seafood products. You know, it looks like the activities that BBRSDA is undertaking are outside that statutory purpose,” Borghesan said. The association, of course, disagrees. The Dunleavy administration has sided with the Pebble-backed plaintiffs in a legal dispute over whether the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association can fund groups opposed to the proposed mine. In an amicus brief filed May 6, the state holds that BBRSDA should have no involvement in Pebble’s permitting process, and should instead confine its activities to marketing. “The economics of a fishery are pounds of fish times the per-pound value,” he said. “Pebble Mine could impact both negatively. It could reduce the abundance of the fishery. And no matter what, a major mine going into that area will degrade the region’s image as wild and unspoiled.” In an emailed statement, Press Secretary Matt Shuckerow said the governor wants to see the Pebble project follow the permitting process. Shuckerow did not say whether the governor is for or against the mine. In a recent letter, Dunleavy opposed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers extending the deadline for the public comment period on Pebble. Despite that, the Army Corps did extend the comment period. Most commercial fishermen in Bristol Bay are required to join BBRSDA and pay a 1 percent tax on their catch. Those dues fund the association. The association’s response to the state includes letters from the Parnell and Walker administrations that acknowledge the association’s authority to spend funds at its own discretion. Kendall says acknowledging that precedent is important. “What’s changed between the last seven years and Monday of this week?” he asked. “They’ve reversed that precedent. The statutes haven’t changed. The only thing that appears to have changed is the posture of the administration.” Since that extension was announced last Friday the Army Corps has made a few changes. The final day to submit comments for both the draft EIS and Pebble’s application is now July 1. That’s two days later than the extension’s original end date of June 29. The Army Corps did not initially extend comment period for Pebble’s application, which was originally set to end on May 30. “So our interest is in making sure that these associations are sticking to their statutory purposes,” said Dario Borghesan, the assistant attorney general with the Alaska Department of Law. According to Borghesan, the state takes issue with BBRSDA’s financial agreements with groups opposed to Pebble, namely, the United Tribes of Bristol Bay and SalmonState. In the state’s view, those contracts are not in line with the association’s mission. He points to the language of the association’s sponsors in the legislature.
The village declared a water emergency on Tuesday. But Evans said if there’s no significant rainfall this week, they could be completely dry by this weekend. Nanwalek (Photo by Daysha Eaton, KBBI) The village has tried to conserve. Water has been shut off at night. Chugachmiut, a regional non-profit, and the North Pacific Rim Housing Authority donated roughly 200 cases of water last week. It’s not the first time Nanwalek has had to ration water. In 2003, the state barged in bottled supplies. Alaska’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management said it is closely monitoring the situation. But the agency was noncommittal about what it plans to do if the village of 250-odd people indeed runs dry. “It’s mainly making everybody kind of worried and scared,” she said. “He found a stream so he walked up the mountain and rerouted the stream to the dam, and that’s drying up now,” she said. The predominantly Alutiiq village on the southern tip of the Kenai Peninsula is only accessible by air and water. Priscilla Evans said the roughly 55 households are getting desperate as the village’s reservoir is poised to run out. Evans said a fellow member of the village’s tribal council went looking for an alternative source. The state has issued a boil water notice. Jamie Bjorkman is with the Department of Environmental Conservation in Soldotna. “Even the bottled water has been depleted,” she said. “So we do have elders that depend on water with their health issues. And then we have newborn babies here, so we were in need of water very much.” Tribal Administrator Gwen Kvasnikoff said water pressure has been steadily dropping. So far no one has reported getting ill from the alternative sources or low pressure. But she warned that the village is on borrowed time as supplies run low. “I get involved when the water may not be adequately treated,” she said. “Knowing that they were having low levels in their water storage tanks means that the water treatment plant and the treatment that they provide to the water may not be a completed process.” “We never made a plan for this kind of emergency for the water,” she said. “So hopefully the state is going to help us out.” A Kenai Peninsula village is rapidly running out of water. Low snowpack and little rainfall has led Nanwalek to declare a water emergency.