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Alaska and Yukon Headlines

As Legislature Make Progress On Adjourning, KABATA Bill Falls Apart

7 hours 56 min ago

Less than two hours after the combative House and Senate seemed to reach a truce on education, a bill dealing with the proposed Knik Arm Bridge fell apart on the House floor.

The House rejected the Senate’s version by one vote on Wednesday night. Because 21 votes are required to pass legislation, the bill came up short when it got 20 yeas and 18 nays. Six Republicans broke ranks with their party to oppose the bill. They were Mike Hawker of Anchorage, Mia Costello of Anchorage, Lindsey Holmes of Anchorage, Kurt Olson of Kenai, Eric Feige of Chickaloon, and Paul Seaton of Homer. Two Republicans who were expected to support the bill were not present because of excused absences. Rep. Bob Lynn of Anchorage was excused for a family illness, while Rep. Lora Reinbold of Eagle River was absent because of a planned vacation.

While the bill originated in the House, it was dramatically changed in the Senate after an audit suggested that the project may be uneconomic. The new version sets up a financing plan for the billion-dollar bridge that involves a mix of federal highway grants, federal loans, and state bonds.

Because the House failed to concur, the bill may be sent to “free” conference committee with the power to rewrite it – just like was done with the education bill this week. That could extend a legislative session that has already gone three full days over its statutory deadline. While the Senate still needs to agree, the House has already named Kodiak Republican Alan Austerman, Chugiak Republican Bill Stoltze, and Anchorage Democrat Harriet Drummond.

The bridge bill is a major priority of Senate President Charlie Huggins, a Wasilla Republican.

Nunavut filmmakers turn the lens on suicide

8 hours 22 min ago
Nunavut filmmakers turn the lens on suicide The new project, prompted by the death of a young musician, has already encouraged locals talk more openly about suicide, the filmmaker says.  April 24, 2014

Lentils with Kale, Goat Cheese, and Walnuts

8 hours 36 min ago

It’s springtime in Alaska. A wondrous time of year, full of piles of brown snow on the sides of the highways, potholes the size of craters ready to take a bite out of your car’s undercarriage, and windshields full of rock chips from the copious amounts of gravel on road ways that have yet to be swept up and re-deposited for storage in anticipation of next year’s snowfall. Ah, a magical time of year indeed.

Springtime in Alaska is my least favorite time of the year. Which is why I’m getting the hell out of Dodge to a sunny destination.

Until then, I will endure the final stages of winter with the rest of my neighbors who are anxiously awaiting that first flicker of green on the trees. All the while knowing full well that Mother Nature’s wicked sense of humor likely means at least one more dumping of snow before the end of May.


I’ve been keeping my Alaskan Springtime blues at bay by cooking up a storm in my kitchen! Short ribs, pasta, spring salads, soups…anything to keep the dreary brown grass on my lawn out of sight and out of mind. Summer can’t come soon enough!

I devoured this lovely little lentil salad soon after I took these pictures. Perfectly light and healthy, yet hearty enough to fill me up, this dish makes a great weeknight meal after a busy day at work. Even better, the leftovers hold up well for lunch the next day. Which is exactly what I did with them.

For more recipes, check out the Chena Girl Cooks blog.

Lentils with Kale, Goat Cheese, and Walnuts

(Adapted from Laura Calder)

1 cup French green (du Puy) lentils
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of fresh thyme, or a pinch of dried
2 tablespoons (or more) olive oil
2 large shallots, diced (or one medium red onion, diced)
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups kale, roughly chopped
splash of balsamic vinegar
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
scant 1 cup of walnuts
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

(1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place walnuts on a sheet tray and bake for 10 minutes, or until golden and toasted. Do not burn! Once they cool, roughly chop into large pieces.

(2) Put the lentils in a saucepan with 1 1/3 cups of water, the bay leaf, and thyme sprig. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the lentils are tender, about 25-30 minutes. If the liquid is not all absorbed, just drain off any excess.

(3) Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan or dutch oven. Saute the onion until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for about a minute, then add the kale and cook until it has wilted a bit, about 2-4 minutes. Add a little more olive oil if necessary to soften the kale. Season with kosher salt and several grinds of fresh ground pepper.

(4) Deglaze the pan with a healthy splash of balsamic vinegar, and stir to incorporate. Add the cooked lentils, taste and reseason with more salt and pepper, if necessary (I found mine needed quite a bit! Lentils are pretty bland otherwise). Add more balsamic vinegar if you like that sweet acidic roundness like I do.

(5) Place the lentil mixture in a large serving dish, and top with the crumbled goat cheese and chopped walnuts. Drizzle with a little more olive oil if you like (I enjoyed the way it made the final dish glisten a bit). Serve warm.

xo h

AK Beat: Anchorage Fire Chief stepping down

12 hours 6 min ago
AK Beat: Anchorage Fire Chief stepping down Anchorage Fire Chief Chris Bushue has stepped down to become a Battalion Chief, and a past chief has come out of retirement to take over.April 24, 2014

Knik Arm Crossing bill fails House vote

14 hours 32 min ago
Knik Arm Crossing bill fails House vote The measure needed 21 votes to pass, but two supporters were absent. The bill now goes to a conference committee to hash out differences with a Senate version.April 24, 2014

Alaska Senate, House agree on education bill, but funding discontent remains

Wed, 2014-04-23 23:57
Alaska Senate, House agree on education bill, but funding discontent remains A committee tasked to solve differences between House and Senate versions of Gov. Parnell's omnibus education bill has announced Wednesday evening a deal on most issues, but one that puts some contentious issues off for further study.April 23, 2014

Lawmakers Make Tentative Deal On Education Bill

Wed, 2014-04-23 22:19

Negotiators from the State House and Senate have reached a deal on the governor’s education bill, and it includes a mix of permanent and one-time funding increases.

The compromise was announced on Wednesday night, three days after the Legislature had blown its adjournment deadline because of disagreement on the bill. The conference committee in charge of rewriting the legislation has decided to add $300 million to the education budget, spread out over three years.

Half of the money will come as one-time grants for education programs. The other half will come through the “base student allocation,” the amount of money a school gets for each child enrolled as part of the education funding formula. The new draft of the bill raises the BSA by $150 the first year, and by $50 in years two and three.

The new proposal is a blend of the House and Senate approaches to education funding. Even though both chambers are led by Republicans, the two bodies had different philosophies on education funding. Where the House wanted a slightly smaller amount that came through a more permanent source, the Senate was willing to spend more money but without putting it into the funding formula.

Sen. Kevin Meyer is an Anchorage Republican who is involved in the negotiations. He says that even if the compromise seems obvious now, it was not so clear on Sunday when the Legislature was facing its adjournment deadline.

“Well, you know, I think it took a couple days to realize that — that there’s an easy solution here,” says Meyer. “You know, we can meet halfway on the funding, that overall $100 million. And ultimately, we figured out, ‘Hey, we can meet half way on what’s in, what’s out, and we can be done and out of here.’ So, sometimes it just takes a couple days, and they you go, ‘Wow, Why didn’t we think of that?’”

The funding plan still does not meet the demands of education advocates, who pushed for a BSA increase of $400 this year alone. They argue that the state needs to give school district $450 million over the next three years, if teacher layoffs are to be avoided.

The conference committee also hammered out disagreements on more than a dozen other parts of the bill. They brought back Gov. Sean Parnell’s proposal to repeal the high school exit exam and require students to take the SAT, ACT, or WorkKeys test in its place. They also removed a section of the bill that would have required urban teachers to go through a longer probationary period before they get tenure.

The conference committee is expected to advance the bill on Thursday, the 94th day of the 90-day session.

Alaska Senate approves film tax credit extension, House approval pending

Wed, 2014-04-23 19:52
Alaska Senate approves film tax credit extension, House approval pending Alaska senators have approved an extension for the state's film tax credit program, pushing its end back to 2018. But for the new lease on life to take effect, the Alaska House of Representatives must approve the Senate's version.April 23, 2014

Despite complicated chain of communication between rescuers, man plucked from Cook Inlet

Wed, 2014-04-23 19:22
Despite complicated chain of communication between rescuers, man plucked from Cook Inlet A reportedly suicidal man in an inflatable raft was pulled from the waters of Cook Inlet between Anchorage and Fire Island Tuesday evening, despite a series of convoluted communications between authorities that confused the rescue and led to misinformation about how it was conducted.April 23, 2014

Greenland’s icecap losing stability

Wed, 2014-04-23 19:21
Greenland’s icecap losing stability Newly published research find that Greenland is losing its ice at an accelerated rate, and faster than previously predicted.April 23, 2014

VIDEO: For Miss Amazing contestants, a chance to shine

Wed, 2014-04-23 19:13
VIDEO: For Miss Amazing contestants, a chance to shine

Designed to give women and girls who experience disabilities a moment in the spotlight, Alaska's first Miss Amazing pageant aims to develop social interaction skills and boost self-confidence.

April 23, 2014

Alaska's official indigenous languages and the emotions of revitalization

Wed, 2014-04-23 19:11
Alaska's official indigenous languages and the emotions of revitalization OPINION: There are so many things that can make us give up. Standing so close to the edge, sometimes it is easy to just jump. But pushing back, standing up, uniting in a cause that makes the world a better and safer place for future generations is so much more fulfilling.April 23, 2014

Ability to respond to oil spill in the Arctic called 'sorely lacking'

Wed, 2014-04-23 19:11
Ability to respond to oil spill in the Arctic called 'sorely lacking' Recommendations on how to respond to possible oil spills in the U.S. Arctic won consensus from a diverse committee that spent 18 months drafting the report. April 23, 2014

Prosecutors in Kodiak double murder case call final witnesses

Wed, 2014-04-23 19:00
Prosecutors in Kodiak double murder case call final witnesses The government called the last of its witnesses Wednesday in the murder trial against James Michael Wells, which has been unfolding in Anchorage for nearly a month. Closing statements are expected Thursday.April 23, 2014

Extractive frontiers -- The Arctic and Central Asia

Wed, 2014-04-23 18:44
Extractive frontiers -- The Arctic and Central Asia They are located on different parts of the planet, but the Arctic and Central Asia have similarities. Both are considered new and exciting territory for oil development; both are fraught with challenges for developers.   April 23, 2014

What’s in a name? The Japanese-built, Chinese-chartered icebreaker: MV Nunavik

Wed, 2014-04-23 18:30
What’s in a name? The Japanese-built, Chinese-chartered icebreaker: MV Nunavik The MV Nunavik, the new icebreaker about to be put into service in Canada, is a product of Asian investment and interest in the Arctic. April 23, 2014

Proposal: Use assault rifles in Sweden’s wild-boar hunt

Wed, 2014-04-23 18:28
Proposal: Use assault rifles in Sweden’s wild-boar hunt The population of wild board has exploded since the 1990s, and now about 200,000 of them are roaming the Nordic nation.April 23, 2014

Report Not Anticipating Near-Term Arctic Increase In Commercial Shipping

Wed, 2014-04-23 17:48

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.

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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.

Legislature Passes Bill With Aid For State Refineries

Wed, 2014-04-23 17:48

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

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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

Wed, 2014-04-23 17:48

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.

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