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Alaska and Yukon Headlines

Survey Finds Mat-Su Residents Want To Maintain Rural Profile

Wed, 2014-04-23 17:48

A survey sponsored by the Nature Conservancy indicates that Matanuska-Susitna Borough residents want to maintain a rural profile a quarter of a century from now. The Institute of Social and Economic Research collected the data used in the survey. The results were released last week.

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Fairbanks Hatchery Opening Doors To Public

Wed, 2014-04-23 17:48

The Ruth Burnett Sport Fish Hatchery in Fairbanks will open its doors to the public during this weekend’s Outdoors Show. Public outreach and education are part of the $46 million state hatchery’s mission, and a visitor’s center is required by its borough land lease. The hatchery has been operating for more than 2 years but the visitor’s center hasn’t opened.

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Moviegoers Get Glimpse Of Katmai Grizzlies In Disney’s ‘Bears’

Wed, 2014-04-23 17:48

Moviegoers across the country got an up-close look at the wild Grizzly bears of Katmai National Park over the weekend. After a two-year shoot at Hallo Bay Bear Camp, Disney’s wilderness feature “Bears” opened Friday.

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Anchorage foster parent arrested for sexual abuse of child in his care

Wed, 2014-04-23 17:25
Anchorage foster parent arrested for sexual abuse of child in his care Steven L. Pyle, 48, was charged with three counts of sexual abuse of a minor Wednesday. The girl was a foster child in his care.April 23, 2014

Alaska News Nightly: April 23, 2014

Wed, 2014-04-23 17:04

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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What Needs To Be Done To Respond To An Arctic Oil Spill?

Steve Heimel, APRN – Anchorage

Today the National Research Council released a report on what needs to be done in order to respond to oil spills in Arctic waters. Environmental groups were quick to counter that so much needs to be done, it would be better to not drill at all.

Report Not Anticipating Near-Term Arctic Increase In Commercial Shipping

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington DC

Despite reports of a boom in Arctic ship traffic, a recent report by the Government Accountability Office concludes commercial industries aren’t planning to boost shipping through the Bering Strait or elsewhere in the U.S. Arctic over the next decade.

While some federal policymakers say now is the time to start building infrastructure to take advantage of shrinking sea ice, the GAO says deep-water ports, mapping and other infrastructure improvements will only go so far in attracting more ships.

For the container ship companies, one problem is that Arctic routes would be seasonal, while that industry needs steady year-round schedules. And the cruise industry says mainstream cruise lines aren’t drawn to the Arctic because, according to the GAO report, the 10-day journey is too long, the scenery unvarying and interesting ports too scarce.

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski issued a statement disagreeing with the main message in the report, saying she believes Arctic maritime activity is on the rise and the U.S. needs to think long-term.

No End In Sight For Alaska Lawmakers

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

It’s day 93 of the 90-day legislative session, and there’s still not an end in sight. A deal has not yet been made on Gov. Sean Parnell’s education bill. The committee tasked with brokering a compromise has not met at all today, after a series of delays.

All this has resulted in canceled plans, canceled plane tickets, and a lot of frustration in the Capitol. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez talked with people still working there to see how they feel about the hold-up.

Legislature Passes Bill With Aid For State Refineries

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The legislature has passed a bill containing aid for in state oil refineries.

The package, which includes state income tax credits and other provisions, was forwarded by Governor Sean Parnell as a means to ensure Alaska retains its refining industry as cheaper Lower 48 oil makes shipping fuel into the state an option.

HB287 also includes a provision that would allow state oil lease holders, who sell crude to an Alaska refiner, to use the agreed to contract price for calculating state royalty payments, a change aimed at making selling oil to Alaska refiners more attractive. The incentives in HB287 would be in effect for five years, and could provide up to $20 million annually to an individual in-state refiner.

In an announcement about the bill’s passage, Governor Parnell says healthy in state refineries support a strong military presence in Alaska and jobs. Critics of the bill characterize it as an industry bail out.

YK Delta VPSOs Prepare For Firearms

Daysha Eaton, KYUK – Bethel

When Governor Sean Parnell signs House Bill 199, approved earlier this month by the Alaska Senate, Village Public Safety Officers can legally carry firearms. The Yukon Kuskokwim region has the largest number of VPSO’s in the state.

Survey Finds Mat-Su Residents Want To Maintain Rural Profile

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

A survey sponsored by the Nature Conservancy indicates that Matanuska-Susitna Borough residents want to maintain a rural profile a quarter of a century from now. The Institute of Social and Economic Research collected the data used in the survey.  The results were released last week.

Fairbanks Hatchery Opening Doors To Public

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The Ruth Burnett Sport Fish Hatchery in Fairbanks will open its doors to the public during this weekend’s Outdoors Show.  Public outreach and education are part of the $46 million state hatchery’s mission, and a visitor’s center is required by its borough land lease. The hatchery has been operating for more than 2 years but the visitor’s center hasn’t opened.

Moviegoers Get Glimpse Of Katmai Grizzlies In Disney’s ‘Bears’

Aaron Selbig, KBBI – Homer

Moviegoers across the country got an up-close look at the wild Grizzly bears of Katmai National Park over the weekend. After a two-year shoot at Hallo Bay Bear Camp, Disney’s wilderness feature “Bears” opened Friday.

Ukraine standoff: For some, Russia’s tactics hark back to Soviet practices

Wed, 2014-04-23 16:32
Ukraine standoff: For some, Russia’s tactics hark back to Soviet practicesRussia and intelligence experts say the Ukraine conflict – more subterfuge than overt action in its tactics – is aimed at nothing less than reestablishing Russian grandeur and power.April 23, 2014

Kotzebue man allegedly shoots 4 of his mother's dogs

Wed, 2014-04-23 15:57
Kotzebue man allegedly shoots 4 of his mother's dogs Carl Henry Jr. allegedly shot his mother's dogs earlier this month after she called him a drunk.April 23, 2014

Minimum upset price for lots set at $395,000

Wed, 2014-04-23 14:21
In deciding to sell two Ogilvie Street lots, the city has essentially taken from one to sell to another, says Sally Wright of the Escarpment Parks Society.

Inspirational teacher recognized for his approach

Wed, 2014-04-23 14:18
Whitehorse teacher Peter Harms was recognized Tuesday for providing inspiration and guidance in the field of science education.

Abuser made ‘incalculable impact’ on his victims

Wed, 2014-04-23 14:14
In an eight-year jail sentence handed down to a Yukon man convicted of sexual assault against girls in his own family, a territorial court judge has praised four women for coming forward in the wake of trauma.

Div. 1 squash final goes down to wire

Wed, 2014-04-23 13:47
The battle of the Yukon’s top two Division 1 squash teams fittingly went down to the wire last night at Better Bodies Whitehorse.

Yukon cyclists raring to begin season

Wed, 2014-04-23 13:43
As another Yukon winter fades into history, bicycles are once again becoming a common sight on roadways.

Tai Chi Yukon set to celebrate 25 years

Wed, 2014-04-23 13:42
Tai Chi Yukon is getting ready to celebrate.

Running The Table

Wed, 2014-04-23 13:41
Abed Rajab competes in the Asian Tournament hosted by Table Tennis Yukon Saturday at Whitehorse Elementary School.

What Needs To Be Done To Respond To An Arctic Oil Spill?

Wed, 2014-04-23 13:36

Oil and gas planning areas in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. Oil and gas lease areas are shown in
orange, with seismic survey areas shown in gray. Selected oil and gas wells, some in Alaskan state waters and some in federal waters, are shown as purple dots. Some coastal communities and cities are also shown. (Image from the National Research Council)

The National Research Council released a report on what needs to be done in order to be able to respond to oil spills in Arctic waters.

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Environmental groups were quick to respond that so much needs to be done that it would be better to not drill at all.

The report has been a year and a half in the making and involved 14 experts from science and industry and hearings in Alaska and elsewhere. It gets deep into the details of what capabilities and knowledge exist and how limited they are. It deliberately avoids the question of whether to drill or not drill in Arctic waters.

The panel’s chairwoman, New York risk analyst Doctor Martha Grabowski, calls the report balanced, and says it shows many things are needed for oil spill response in the arctic that we do not yet have.

“Increased data needs, more research in terms of countermeasures, better understanding of logistics, operations and co-ordination, and then decision strategies that bring all interested parties to the table in a transparent process,” Grabowski said.

The panel recommends that authorities spill real oil into real Arctic waters to do some real testing of burning and dispersants. Studies in tanks can only go so far, says Mark Myers, research vice chancellor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

“To really understand and be best prepared, we’re going to have to do some controlled releases,” Myers said. “Obviously that’s an important decision to make and we recommend a process for doing that.”

“These tests we consider very important; some of the people on the panel had been involved with the earlier tests all the way going back to the 1970s, I believe, and the tests in Europe and Canada, so there’s a lot of experience and a lot of judgment on the committee and there was consensus  that this was an important finding.”

The report says not nearly enough is known about how crude oil degrades in Arctic waters or what it does to the food chain. Myers says some of that has been studied, but not enough.

“A much broader more robust testing program we thought was important,” Myers said. “The work that’s been done up in Barrow is actually quite good, but it’s not as much as we’d like to see, nor is it necessarily enough of the species that we would like to see.”

Two North Slope Borough scientists were included on the panel. Coastal villages are included in the recommendations to have spill response equipment and a trained work-force available.

“Pre-deployment of those assets and budgets to maintain those assets so they don’t diminish over time is an important facet of the report,” Myers said.

The panel urges more cooperation with Russia and that language translators be identified. And it says the Coast Guard has nowhere near what it needs to do its job and has basically been piggybacking on military operations or diverting resources from other programs to support what activities it has conducted to try to be more prepared to oversee Arctic oil and gas and shipping activities.

“The gap between the activities and Coast Guard ability to support its mission for oil spill response and for vessel navigation, the gap is large and it needs to be closed,” Myers said.

Environmental groups were quick to respond to the report. Doctor Chris Krenz of Oceana says it shows our resources to deal with spills are “woefully inadequate.”  Lois Epstein of the Wilderness Society, a petroleum engineer, said it looks as if they won’t have adequate preparation for Arctic offshore spills in our lifetimes, and she would like to have seen some policy conclusions.

“I find that extraordinarily unsatisfying,” Epstein said. “I’m an engineer; I’d like to see technologies used and be effective, and this report says there is no effective technology.”

Epstein put out a press release saying the report should give the industry cause to think twice about whether the payoff of any arctic offshore drilling plans would really be worth the risk.

Sewage lagoons full because of freezing in two Arctic Canadian communites

Wed, 2014-04-23 12:56
Sewage lagoons full because of freezing in two Arctic Canadian communites Winter conditions and community growth take tolls on sewage facilities in Nunavut.April 23, 2014

Ice Wireless makes a pitch for 911 service in northern Canada

Wed, 2014-04-23 12:55
Ice Wireless makes a pitch for 911 service in northern Canada The Inuvik-based telephone company says it would provide better emergency communications than company selected by the Yukon government.April 23, 2014

Fish and Game weakening land-use regulations for Alaska's wildlife refuges, sanctuaries, critical habitat areas

Wed, 2014-04-23 12:53
Fish and Game weakening land-use regulations for Alaska's wildlife refuges, sanctuaries, critical habitat areas Another brazen plan to “streamline” permitting across Alaska is cloaked in secrecy. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is repealing and rewriting every management plan that regulates development in state wildlife refuges, sanctuaries and critical habitat areas.April 23, 2014

Anchorage physician faces charges of $1 million in Medicaid fraud

Wed, 2014-04-23 12:47
Anchorage physician faces charges of $1 million in Medicaid fraud In initial charging documents, Anchorage physician Dr. Shubhranjan Ghosh was charged with roughly $300,000 in alleged Medicaid fraud, but that number has since risen to more than $1 million, a state prosecutor said Wednesday.April 23, 2014

Bat of Ketchikan star leads Edmonds to historic sweep in softball

Wed, 2014-04-23 12:24
Bat of Ketchikan star leads Edmonds to historic sweep in softball Like most freshman, Faith Clark of Ketchikan had to wait her turn when she got to college. Now she's taking advantage. April 23, 2014

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