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Alaska and Yukon Headlines

AK Beat: Free Anchorage show by Spin Doctors this summer

Fri, 2014-04-18 08:31
AK Beat: Free Anchorage show by Spin Doctors this summer The Spin Doctors made waves in the early 1990s with two chart-topping hits, "Two Princes" and "Little Miss Can't Be Wrong." They'll play Downtown at the lot at the railroad depot. April 18, 2014

Alaska Edition Friday April 18,2014

Fri, 2014-04-18 07:39

Patrick Flynn takes over as chair of the Anchorage Assembly. The Alaska Legislature is still addressing major capital projects in the final days of the session. The Loussac Library bond failed by 14 votes. Why? Legislation to raise the minimum wage becomes deeply controversial. Wasilla does a turnaround on regulating the drug spice. The cost of Gov. Parnell’s North Slope initiative is ballooning. Two inmates die in Alaska prisons in a week.

HOST: Michael Carey

GUESTS:

  • Steve MacDonald, KTUU Channel 2
  • Sean Doogan, Alaska Dispatch
  • Gregg Erickson, Anchorage Daily Planet Alaska Budget Report

KSKA (FM 91.1) BROADCAST: Friday, April 18, at 2:00 p.m. and Saturday, April 19, at 6:00 p.m.

Alaska Public Television BROADCAST: Friday, April 18, at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, April 19, at 4:30 p.m.

Reaching My Family After the 1964 Earthquake

Fri, 2014-04-18 07:00

My Grandmother’s house at 8th and M Streets, Anchorage, 1964

It was very hard to stay calm and collected when I was calling home to Anchorage at 5:00 pm on Good Friday 1964, only to hear the chronic phone message, “Unable to complete your call due to transmission interruption in southeastern Alaska,” or something on that order. I had never heard anything like that before, but then I didn’t make too many calls home from Oregon while I was in college. I had arranged this date and time with my mother by letter in the weeks prior. I was in college in Eugene but on spring break in Corvallis with some friends from Anchorage and Fairbanks.

After repeated attempts, I gave up and decided to wait until later, never thinking there was anything of a catastrophic nature to upset my equilibrium and put me in a state of real panic as I was to learn within the hours and days to come. Nothing this severe had happened in my life to this date.

My Anchorage friend, who had the car, and I decided to head out for something to eat at the local college town low cost eatery starting at 25¢ for a hamburger, fries at 19¢ a packet, and ketchup at no charge. Just like other young people the radio was set to turn on in the car immediately upon startup. There were no tunes of the day as there should have been, but the loud frantic, broken static radio voice announcing a severe earthquake in Alaska. And soon a USAF Major from Elmendorf acting as a spokesman for Anchorage was announcing that there were 3000 people dead on the streets of downtown Anchorage! We had to listen over and over again to be sure what we were hearing was legitimate. After all this was a Major in the military. No wonder I couldn’t get through on the phone line.

My grandmother lived in “downtown” Anchorage at 8th & M Streets, one and half blocks from the bluff around 9th Avenue. I could only imagine the worse and figured I might not see my family ever again. We had had mild earthquakes in Anchorage before. So what was this one about! As a young person I don’t think I’d even ever heard of “bad” earthquakes before.

Needless to say our food order idea was nothing to be concerned about now even though we had food orders from three guys in the house where we were staying in Corvallis. My friend and I ran into the house and announced it in as frightening voices as we could propel and with the most serious tones we could exude.

The radio was the only source to get the news in those days for such a catastrophe. It was all we could listen to for updates. Ham radio operators that received much credit in those early days and weeks of the post earthquake trauma and drama weren’t on our college contact list in 1964. I don’t even recall at what day and time we finally got more of the full story immediately after that destructive date. The evening television news was nothing to rely upon. The newspapers were delayed in getting telling photos and news releases too, due to the wire transmissions being down for weeks.

I kept trying to reach my folks to no avail. Talk about living in limbo and fear!

While my grandmother was downtown, my folks were in Spenard on 26th Ave. My aunt and uncle were out in Turnagain. And of course, most of my friends in Anchorage were schoolmates from West Anchorage High School, North Star and church. I went to Fairbanks for my first year of college so a lot of those contacts were away too, doing their own work and education pursuits elsewhere.

Three weeks after the event in Alaska, I finally got some accurate word about my family.

It was the above photo of my grandmother’s house as it appeared in the Portland Oregonian! It didn’t present a good picture of the situation. As I was to find out later, my grandmother got out of that house, one of the first built by my carpenter grandfather in 1934, then 30 years old. The entry steps nailed to the wood top framing at both the front and back kept the house from falling into the fissure, which ran from the back alley side of the property to the front street edge on M Street. The single car garage behind the house was only slightly crinkled. The photo shows the broken snow edge, the dark soil being the fissure.

My grandmother couldn’t get out of the house on her own because she had fallen in the kitchen area due to the violent tremors of the quake. The refrigerator towards the back of the kitchen had slid towards the front entry of the kitchen and towards the front door.

The severe tilt of the house along with her shaken self allowed for no freedom in getting to the other hallway and working her way to the street side on 8th to call for help. She probably had no idea that her house was sitting on the precipice’s edge at that point in time. And knowing Alaska, it was dark within an hour of the ‘quake, further compounding her exit, assuredly without power. She had to be shaken to the core, thinking of any way around and out the house to be saved before anything worse happened. The dinner of king crab would never be eaten and lent to the reeking, rotten smell in the following days and weeks within the house.

The neighbors weren’t any better off and being that it was Friday of Easter weekend, they wouldn’t know if she was home or elsewhere. Eventually the family across the street was able to pry something open to help her out four hours later! That would have been 9:00 pm in the dark! Fortunately she was just scraped up badly. The hospital, old Providence, was the next block over on L Street. The parking lot was closer to her property. Maybe it wasn’t in the business of medical service then as it was cracked and damaged significantly. It took my father another hour and a half to get from Spenard to reach her and take her to my parent’s house. My parents only suffered lots of broken dishes out of the cupboards from the rocking and rolling. My grandmother’s long used china, crystal and Franciscan Rose everyday ware was history, too, for the most part. I have the remnants to this day.

My grandmother survived very well for a woman of her age at 74. Far better than many of her peers, friends in Eastern Star and Amaranth in downtown Anchorage, who met at the Masonic Temple above Woolworth’s on 4th Ave. She moved to Seattle around 1965 to live in a Seattle apartment hotel where several other senior ladies rented apartment rooms, too. She mentioned several times how nervous and unsettled many of the women from Anchorage were those years around the quake. And of course the Major’s statement of 3000 dead in the streets of Anchorage was dramatically corrected to considerably less, eventually totaling 103, as I learned in recent years. In 1992, I learned also that the ‘quake was elevated to the 9.2 level, becoming the worse in US history.

Her property was condemned for twenty years and ‘was not to be built on again’ given the size of the fissure, along with the other property damage on the bluff adjacent to her house, and also below the cliff next to the inlet. On one of my last trips to Anchorage I observed a multistory, multiple unit building almost fully complete; so much for no more building there. Similar reconstruction occurred to 3rd, 4th and 5th Avenues with their sunken streets.

Ironically around 1974, my mother moved into the supposed “1st earthquake proof building” in Anchorage, the Four Seasons complex around the corner, which pancaked very well in the rumble and tumble of March 27th, 1964; The Koslosky home, to the left, between each structure, experienced less damage as I heard in the months to come but can’t remember all the details.

Grandmother’s garden, 1959.

My grandparents’ large lot, where potatoes, carrots, and a mini field of beautiful flowers on the corner was gone forever to my grandmother. Her life was inexorably altered; it became simpler with so much community and home loss that had to have brought painful memories. We Americans see that frequently in other tragedies around our country and others now, where starting over has to be tough on the spirit. Japan has suffered in much worse circumstances with their 9 pt ‘quake several years ago.

I went back home in the summer of 1964 only to feel first hand what an earthquake of 4 plus magnitude was like. My mother issued a quick demand to get under the door frame!

That and more were strong enough for me! While Anchorage continued to have those after shocks all summer it was nothing as hard as the big one. I was a thankful person for that situation.

Years later, about 1993, Portland would have a 5.3 quake at 5:30 am. There was no way I could get out of bed or stand to reach my door frame! So I learned what my family experienced that day in Anchorage and certainly the fear my grandmother went through in her tiny home. I always think of her Franciscan dinnerware coming through the ‘quake, a broken set then but with the loving memory of all the fine meals she served on those plates and dishes. And that she survived probably the most horrific experience in her life up to that time.

God Bless you Grams in heaven! I am glad you survived.

'Amazing America' recap: Pirate treasure, 007 cars, and driving lesson memories

Fri, 2014-04-18 05:36
'Amazing America' recap: Pirate treasure, 007 cars, and driving lesson memories In this week’s journey into the amazing U.S.A., Sarah Palin wants to know: “Arrr ya ready for adventure?”April 18, 2014

House Approves $3 Billion Transfer To Pension System

Fri, 2014-04-18 00:33

The Alaska State House has voted in favor of Gov. Sean Parnell’s plan to shore up the state’s pension system.

The bill uses $3 billion from the state’s reserve funds to help pay off the $12 billion unfunded liability. It also directs the Legislature to put $500 million into the retirement system every year, until the obligation is paid off.

Rep. Cathy Muñoz, a Juneau Republican, carried the bill for the governor.

“It’s like paying off a mortgage or a credit card,” said Muñoz. “Do we take a big bite now, and pay less later? Or do we take a small bite now, and pay more later?”

The bill passed Thursday night on a 38-2 vote, with Homer Republican Paul Seaton and Fairbanks Republican Pete Higgins opposing the measure.
While the vote was decisive, two amendments were attempted that showed a philosophical divide on how the state deals with its employee pensions

Seaton unsuccessfully offered an amendment dealing with the annual payments. The bill is written so there is some flexibility with how much the state actually has to put into the retirement trust fund every year, and Seaton wanted there to be no question that the state was obligated to pay the $500 million in full.

Anchorage Republican Charisse Millett went the other way. She proposed getting rid of the required annual payment altogether.

“I’m afraid to set expectations so high that when we get into more deficit spending, and we run out of general funds and run out of the [constitutional budget reserves] and we can’t make these large payments that we’ve made empty promise,” said Millett.

Millett ultimately withdrew her amendment and voted yes on the bill.

The bill now goes to the Senate, which is still considering taking its own approach to the unfunded liability.

Photos: Steelhead already running in Yakutat's Situk River

Thu, 2014-04-17 22:25
Photos: Steelhead already running in Yakutat's Situk River

During peak steelhead fishing season in April and May, angling can be so productive that anglers have bragged to Miller that they’ve landed 10 to 20 fish in a day.

April 17, 2014

Spectacular steelhead fishery in Yakutat good way to kick off the season for anglers

Thu, 2014-04-17 22:24
Spectacular steelhead fishery in Yakutat good way to kick off the season for anglers During peak steelhead fishing season in April and May, angling can be so productive that anglers have bragged to Miller that they’ve landed 10 to 20 fish in a day.April 17, 2014

Alaska film tax credits would expire in 2016 under House-passed bill

Thu, 2014-04-17 22:22
Alaska film tax credits would expire in 2016 under House-passed bill Under a bill approved by the state House Thursday, the film tax credit program would disappear unless the Legislature renews it in 2016. The bill also provides for a review of other examples of the state's indirect spending through credits and fee waivers -- except for credits related to non-renewable resources.April 17, 2014

House backs refinery subsidies as supporters warn of hardships

Thu, 2014-04-17 20:37
House backs refinery subsidies as supporters warn of hardships As the Legislature nears the final days of its 2014 session, with most major issues unresolved, a plan to subsidize in-state Alaska refineries won House approval Thursday. The first Senate hearing is set for Friday.April 17, 2014

A crowded field for candidates named Dan Sullivan on primary ballot

Thu, 2014-04-17 20:08
A crowded field for candidates named Dan Sullivan on primary ballot What's in a name? Potentially everything, if you're running for office in Alaska and your name is Dan Sullivan.April 17, 2014

Unknowns, lack of public review mean Alaska gas line bill should be stopped

Thu, 2014-04-17 19:12
Unknowns, lack of public review mean Alaska gas line bill should be stopped OPINION: The Alaska Legislature is poised to commit the state to a path to ownership in a pipeline project we cannot afford, and to paying costs for shipping gas we do not produce. And despite the administration’s assurances, many of the project's waypoints may be signed without public involvement or legislative approval.April 17, 2014

Forget the RINOs. Beware of Democrats running as Alaska Republicans.

Thu, 2014-04-17 19:11
Forget the RINOs. Beware of Democrats running as Alaska Republicans. OPINION: I am a registered Republican who's fed up with politicians who do whatever it takes to get into office, and whatever it takes to keep power. I intend to help others like me take the Republican party back.April 17, 2014

Ferry Workers Considering Strike If Contract Negotiations Don’t Move Forward

Thu, 2014-04-17 17:15

Contract talks between the state and Alaska’s ferry workers are heating up as each side disagrees on how to make up the gap between revenues and the cost of operating the ferry system. Workers are now considering whether to authorize a strike if negotiations remain stalled.

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Texan Confirmed to Alaska Gasline Board

Thu, 2014-04-17 17:14

Sen. Hollis French, who argued against controversial appointments.

Gov. Sean Parnell’s choice of Richard Rabinow drew criticism on two fronts: That he’s not Alaskan and that he spent a career at Exxon.  Sen. Hollis French, an Anchorage Democrat, questioned his allegiances.

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“Exxon already’s got 25 percent of the line. I don’t think they should get 20 percent of the public board positions on the Alaska gas Line Development Corp.,” French argued. “Mr. Rabinow’s work history is nearly exclusively with Exxon. Indeed, 34 years with the company. Thirty-four years.”

Rabinow, a Texan, is a former president of Exxon’s pipeline subsidiary, and he now works as a consultant on pipeline projects. The AGDC board is positioned to oversee a multi-billion-dollar natural gas project, and service on the board is unpaid. Underlying the debate over the appointment is the larger question of how closely aligned the state should be to its dominant industry. Rep. Charisse Millett, an Anchorage Republican, says it’s time to get closer.

Richard Rabinow

“They’re partners. We are partnering with Exxon in the pipeline,” she reminded legislators, gathered in a joint session for a series of confirmation votes. “The adversarial role that we have with them, we have to get rid of that. We have to stop that.”

Like other proponents, Millett says Rabinow’s expertise is invaluable to the board.

“It’s tough to feel we’re hiring an Outsider to come in and help us, but I want the best,” she said. “If I’m going to have brain surgery, I’m not going to go to the guy who maybe has done it once or twice. I’m going to go to the guy whose done it 120 times, 130 times.”

Lawmakers voted 43-17 to confirm him. Sen. Bert Stedman of Sitka and Rep. Tammie Wilson of North Pole were among the few Republicans who voted no.

The Legislature also voted 45-15 to confirm former Conoco Philips executive Bernie Washington to the board that sets the value of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline for tax purposes.

The critics, mostly Democrats, said Washington’s previous work winning favorable tariffs for the oil company left him with divided loyalties. Washington is now the chief financial officer of APRN’s parent company, Alaska Public Media.

Journalists within Alaska Public Media objected to his service on the state board, too, due to concern it creates the appearance of a conflict of interest for the news organization.

Parnell Signs Abortion Bill

Thu, 2014-04-17 17:13

(Photo distributed by Alaska Senate Majority)

Gov. Sean Parnell has signed a bill that restricts state Medicaid payments for abortions.

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The new law puts a set of recently adopted regulations into statute, and takes them a step further. It specifies that the state will not pay for elective abortions. It also limits the term “medically necessary” to cases where a woman’s life or physical health is at risk. The regulations had included a mental health exception.

The new law is expected to be challenged in court. Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union are already suing the state over the existing regulations, arguing that they violate the Constitution’s equal protection clause.

Last year, the state’s Medicaid program covered about a third of the 1,500 abortions performed in Alaska.

State House OKs Refinery Subsidy Plan

Thu, 2014-04-17 17:12

The Alaska State House has a approved a deal to give the state’s refineries – and one fertilizer plant — up to $200 million in subsidies spread out over five years.

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The plan was introduced by Gov. Sean Parnell, and it comes in response to the closure of the Flint Hills oil refinery. It originally applied to the Petro Star refineries in Valdez and North Pole and the Tesoro refinery in Kenai, but was amended yesterday to include the shuttered Agrium fertilizer plant in Nikiski.

The bill allows each of those facilities to secure an tax credit or payment of $10 million a year if they spend $25 million on tangible assets.

Supporters of the bill argue it’s necessary to keep the refineries running because of the jobs they provide and their importance to the state’s military bases. But some Democrats have characterized the bill as a bailout, and they unsuccessfully tried amending the bill so that the money would be given out as loans instead.

The bill passed today on a 35-5 vote. Anchorage Democrats Les Gara, Harriet Drummond, and Andy Josephson opposed the bill, along with Juneau Democrat Sam Kito III and Eagle River Republican Lora Reinbold. It still needs to be approved by the Senate.

High Mercury Levels Found In Lake Trout From Lake Clark

Thu, 2014-04-17 17:11

A new study shows that lake trout in the Lake Clark National Park and Preserve have mercury levels that exceed the state and national standards for consumption by women and children.

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Alaska Inuit Circumpolar Conference Searches For Food Security Definition

Thu, 2014-04-17 17:10

The Alaska Inuit Circumpolar Council met in Nome this week to define food security from an Alaska Native perspective.

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Carolina Behe is the ICC Alaska Traditional Knowledge and Science Advisor.

“When we say food security, we’re talking about the entire environment, and there’s so many changes occurring within that,” Behe said.

As those changes occur, Behe says, Alaska Natives want a role in the decision making, but she says their voices are often not being heard and their participation often excluded.

“So if there is a lack of sea ice,” Behe said. “If all of a sudden a new regulation is imposed that limits their accessibility to getting a food resource, they’re not involved in making a decision that caused the impact of the environment or that resulted in the adaptation that people think need to take place for us to control the environment.”

Behe says, creating this definition helps communicate an Inuit understanding to outside bodies like government agencies and development corporations.

Education was also a major focus, particularly in teaching young people about subsistence. Behe says, failing to transfer this knowledge threatens food security by limiting accessibility and altering identity.

“Inuit are part of this ecosystem and their culture has evolved because of this ecosystem and this ecosystem has reacted to that,” Behe said. “It’s not static; it’s continuously changing and there’s continuous adjustments. But at this point, there’s a lot of outside interest, and it’s causing an increase in concern over food security.”

The Alaska ICC is planning another meeting in Bethel later this year. They’ve already held two sessions in Barrow and Kotzebue. The gathered information will be peer reviewed and then distributed to tribal councils, industry and government agencies, and the international Arctic Council.

National Weather Service Forecasts Kuskokwim Breakup

Thu, 2014-04-17 17:09

The Alaska Pacific River Forecast Center predicts the Kuskowkim will break up at Bethel between May 9th and May 15th. That range is right around the historical average of May 12th. But after a warm winter with little snow, the Forecast Center says this year’s breakup could happen in one of several ways.

Celine van Breukelen is a hydrologist with the National Weather Service. She says her team is looking at two different scenarios. The first is a traditional breakup based on snow melting upriver.

But the Kuskokwim snowpack is less than half of normal levels at this time. If the river breaks up in the traditional way with little snowmelt in the pipeline, the ice upriver could have trouble floating and lead to flooding.

“Because the water level is so low, there’s not enough depth to get the ice sheets down stream, they get caught in the bends of the river and they get caught on sandbars. That’s exactly what happened in Crooked Creek in 2011,” said van Breukelen.

Van Breukelen says, thanks to warmer than normal temperatures, that could lead to an earlier than normal breakup.

The second scenario is a thermal breakup – or mush out. That happens with the sun degrades the ice and there’s not enough water to push ice downriver.

“That could lead to a later than normal break up, in the sense that it just sits in the river and it takes time for the sun to work on it before it finally moves out,” said van Breukelen.

Ice thickness is currently a little below normal to normal. Measurements from earlier this month show ice 44 inches thick at Aniak, 34 inches at Napaimute, and 25 inches at McGrath.

In any case, the conditions over the next two weeks will in part determine what kind of flood risk residents of the Kuskokwim will face.

“It’s easy for people to say oh, there’s a very small snowpack, we can already see the ice beginning to deteriorate. But people just still be aware of the potential for breakup flooding, just for the reason that if there isn’t as much water to push on the ice sheets, they tend to ground and we could see some flooding from that. So still be aware and be prepared,” said van Breukelen.

Van Breukelen will be part of the 2014 River Watch program, a partnership between the state and National Weather Service to assess flood threats and navigational hazards. They plan to begin flying upriver around May 3rd, while a second team flying from Bethel could start around May 8th.

Birthday Cupcakes Exempt From Ketchikan Schools’ Nutrition Guidelines

Thu, 2014-04-17 17:08

The Ketchikan School Board adopted new administrative regulations last week governing student nutrition and physical activity, in order to meet new federal standards.

The standards essentially require that only healthy food be served in schools. There are some exceptions built into the rules and the Ketchikan school board added a few more, including the “cupcake clause.”

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Those last two areas raised some concerns, and led to a couple of language changes in order to relax the rules a little.

One of the issues was selling food at athletic competitions that take place during the school day, such as the recent regional basketball tournament. Many non-students attend those activities, and, as Board Member Stephen Bradford pointed out, want their snacks during a game.

“And I think that we can do that by amending line 263, after ‘sold or served’ add the words, ‘Directly to KGBSD students,’” He said “In other words, they can still operate the concession stand, old guys like me can still go in and enjoy my popcorn and coke while I watch the basketball game. We just have to put up a note up for our own students that says you can’t buy anything until 30 minutes after the instructional period is over.”

That amendment passed unanimously, as did Bradford’s second suggestion, which provides an exception to the healthy food standards for special occasions.

“So the amendment would be, ‘Traditional or cultural foods may be exempted from the food standards described above for educational or special school or classroom events when offered free of charge,’” Board President Michelle O’Brien summed up.

Board Member Dave Timmerman then asked, “Does that cover cupcakes?”

Bradford answered, “Well, I believe that a cupcake, in our culture, is a standard item to be offered at a birthday.”

Student board member Evan Wick suggested a third amendment to the guidelines. He noted that the rules prohibit any kind of educational material or school display that includes a name-brand of an unhealthy food.

“I’ve brought with me some educational materials. This is my AP world history book. It has a picture of McDonald’s in it. That would fall under the brands or illustrations of unhealthful foods,” he said.

Wick then handed around a detail from a mural that covers a wall in the high school’s commons area. “It features a Burger King soda, fries and what appears to be a cheeseburger, which I do believe probably falls under unhealthful foods,” he said.

As the student representative, Wick isn’t allowed to make motions, but he asked the School Board to consider amending the regulation, adding the words “within reason.” Board Member Trevor Shaw complied, and the amendment passed unanimously.

The main motion also passed without dissent.

Approving it means that the district’s policies now are aligned with the 2010 federal Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.

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Chilkat Valley Community Foundation