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Alaska and Yukon Headlines

AK Beat: APD issues warrants for 2 after severe Sunday morning beating

Wed, 2014-04-23 08:16
AK Beat: APD issues warrants for 2 after severe Sunday morning beating The Anchorage Police Department has issued arrest warrants for two men it believes responsible for a Sunday morning beating that put another man in critical condition with severe head trauma.April 23, 2014

Sides dig in as Alaska Legislature continues education funding debate

Tue, 2014-04-22 23:27
Sides dig in as Alaska Legislature continues education funding debate The wrangling over Alaska's education funding bill continued on Tuesday in a special committee made up of House and Senate members, who seemed as far apart as ever in the debate over how, and how much, funding to provide Alaska's schools.April 22, 2014

Western Alaska leaders fret over marijuana legalization in rural communities

Tue, 2014-04-22 21:28
Western Alaska leaders fret over marijuana legalization in rural communities Some Western Alaska leaders worry that a proposed ballot initiative to legalize marijuana will place undue burden in already strained rural Alaska villages.April 22, 2014

Hassle over $10,000 highlights need for more Alaska budget transparency

Tue, 2014-04-22 21:13
Hassle over $10,000 highlights need for more Alaska budget transparency In the waning hours of the 2014 legislative session Alaska lawmakers introduced, then reduced, then ultimately eliminated a budget item that would have put up money to "influence the outcome" of a ballot initiative vote. It was the right thing to do, though it highlighted the need for a more transparent budget process.April 22, 2014

Anchorage indoor tennis project loses funding in Juneau

Tue, 2014-04-22 20:33
Anchorage indoor tennis project loses funding in Juneau The back and forth over state funds set aside for a proposed indoor tennis facility in Anchorage has ended. Legislators hashing out the state capital budget have decided to use the remaining $4.4 million for another purpose.April 22, 2014

Superior Court hears arguments over proposed commercial setnet fishing ban

Tue, 2014-04-22 20:26
Superior Court hears arguments over proposed commercial setnet fishing ban The state argued Tuesday that a ballot initiative banning setnetting in Alaska's urban areas is unconstitutional because it involves resource allocation, a matter reserved for the Legislature. Initiative supporters say the measure only targets gear, a common initiative topic.April 22, 2014

Kodiak murder trial: Expert says nail likely punctured tire on road

Tue, 2014-04-22 20:04
Kodiak murder trial: Expert says nail likely punctured tire on road The defense team representing James Michael Wells called upon a tire expert Tuesday to challenge a piece of the government’s theory of how a double homicide on the island of Kodiak took place in April 2012.April 22, 2014

Alaska climber saw dangers of Khumbu Ice Fall before disaster struck on Everest

Tue, 2014-04-22 20:03
Alaska climber saw dangers of Khumbu Ice Fall before disaster struck on Everest Even though Anchorage climber Mike Gordon found the Khumbu Ice Fall "extremely creepy" he kept returning to Mount Everest, hoping to reach the summit.  April 22, 2014

Legislature Still Working To Make Deal On Education Bill

Tue, 2014-04-22 17:46

The Alaska State Legislature is still at an impasse over the Governor’s education bill.

A committee tasked with brokering a deal met for the first time today — about 36 hours after the Legislature blew past its deadline for gaveling out.

The “free conference” committee has the power to rewrite the education bill entirely, and it’s made up of three House representatives and three senators. The House named Anchorage Republican Mike Hawker, Wasilla Republican Lynn Gattis, and Juneau Democrat Sam Kito III as its representatives. The Senate sent Anchorage Republican Kevin Meyer, Mat-Su Republican Mike Dunleavy, and Bethel Democrat Lyman Hoffman.

The group spent the day trying to find places where they could agree. They debated whether students should be able to test out of pottery classes, and whether the state should change the rules on teacher tenure.

But as Committee Chair Mike Hawker laid out, the real question is education funding.

“Probably the largest sticking point between the Senate approach to this legislation and the House approach was the House’s desire to include some element of funding within the [base student allocation] and the Senate’s preference to not put that money in the BSA, but yet to make substantial commitments for the next three years outside of the BSA,” said Hawker, an Anchorage Republican.

When Hawker means by the “base student allocation” is the amount of money a school gets for each child enrolled. That has sat at $5,680 for four years. The House version of the bill adds $185 per student to that formula, and they’ve budgeted about $225 million over three years for that increase along with $30 million in one-time funding for this year. The Senate included even more money — $330 million over three years — in their bill, but they left it outside of the formula.

Education advocates, the state’s biggest teacher’s union, and the Legislature’s Democratic minority have all pushed for putting the money in the BSA, because they believe it gives school districts more security in crafting their budgets. They also believe the proposed education funding boosts don’t go far enough to prevent layoffs, because it’s been years since the Legislature increased the BSA.

Legislative leadership has said whatever compromise they broker should include some money inside the BSA and some out of it.

But when that deal will be brokered is unknown. Committee Chair Mike Hawker said they want to take the time needed to rewrite the bill in a way that makes both chambers happy.

“This is not going to be something that we rush through,” said Hawker. “It will come together really as quickly as we can find consensus in the building over today, tomorrow, or throughout the coming week.”

While the Legislature has already gone two days over their statutory deadline, they can meet for 29 more days without running afoul of the Alaska Constitution.

BP Sells Some North Slope Assets To Hilcorp

Tue, 2014-04-22 17:21

BP announced Tuesday it’s selling some of its assets on the North Slope. The company will sell to aging oil fields – Endicott and Northstar – to Hilcorp, a company that is developing oil and gas wells in Cook Inlet. Hilcorp will also buy a 50 percent interest in two other fields- Milne Point and Liberty.

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Dawn Patience is a spokesperson for BP Alaska. She says the sale is an opportunity for Alaska to bring new partners to the North Slope.

“This is part of BP’s corporate wide view that we are good at managing and operating giant oilfields like Prudhoe Bay and we have a lot of interest in gas value change such as the Alaska LNG project,” Patience said.

Patience says BP is committed to increasing production under Governor Parnell’s oil tax reform, including adding two new rigs at Prudhoe Bay by 2016.

Hilcorp came to Alaska in 2012, and now operates 18 oil fields in Cook Inlet, after acquiring leases from Chevron and Marathon Oil. Lori Nelson manages external affairs for the company in Alaska. She says Hilcorp wasn’t necessarily looking to enter the North Slope.

“The acquisitions that we made in Cook Inlet were kind of a full plate,” Nelson said. ”But when opportunities like this come around, it’s not our timing, it’s the sellers and we were certainly open to that opportunity and here we go again.”

Nelson says the company plans to extend offers to the vast majority of the 250 BP employees associated with the oil fields Hilcorp is buying.

She says the North Slope is a completely different operating area than Cook Inlet, with a separate tax structure. But she says the company is excited by the opportunity.

“Long range we’re aiming to reduce operating costs and extend the field life,” Nelson said. “We certainly intend to increase capital investments in hopes of developing additional oil reserves from the Slope.”

Nelson says venturing on to the North Slope won’t detract from Hilcorp’s assets in Cook Inlet. Both BP and Hilcorp are hoping to close the deal by the end of the year, pending regulatory approval.

BP also announced today it will submit a new development plan for the Liberty field, which Hilcorp will own 50 percent of, by the end of 2014. The company suspended work on the offshore project two years ago because of financial and other concerns. The development is on a man-made gravel island four miles off Alaska’s shore.

Miller Kicks Off Campaign in Wasilla

Tue, 2014-04-22 17:20

Candidate Joe Miller, with family in front row.

U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller kicked off his campaign last night in Wasilla before a few hundred supporters. Miller drew cheers as he hit on popular Tea Party themes, like abolishing the IRS and ending state surveillance. And he may be the only candidate in the race with a personalized country-western anthem.

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“When Alaska needs anything done they say, ‘get Joe to do it. Joe Miller’s the one,’” says the song, written by a fan Miller met in Kansas.

The kick-off included music videos, two live singers and conservative talk show host Lars Larson, who broadcast his nationally syndicated show yesterday from Wasilla. Big Lake Pastor Ethan Hansen led the opening prayer and later told the crowd he likes Miller for three reasons. Among them: ”No. 3: He understands that we need a transformation in our country,”Hansen said.  ”The days are long past when a little tweaking could fix America.”

Joe Miller supporters stand for national anthem.

Miller, a veteran and Yale-educated lawyer, says he’s the true conservative in the race, although his two Republican rivals are also vying for the title. When he took the stage, Miller portrayed government as an oppressive force that robs people of their liberty and impedes success.

“They need to understand that the people have had it,” Miller said. “That’s why you’re here today. This is about ‘we the people.’ It’s not about Joe Miller. It’s about restoring you to your rightful position, where government is the servant and you are the master.”

In 2010, Miller beat Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the primary election, though she kept her seat by winning the general as a write-in.  Miller didn’t mention the series of damaging revelations that emerged that year, except for a joke about the time a security team guarding Miller handcuffed a journalist after a campaign event. Miller made the aside as he was introducing his four younger children, who were on stage with him in Wasilla.

“They’re all martial arts experts,” Miller said. “We learned that from the 2010 race. We needed in-house security. So I don’t have to bring my handcuffs any more.”

Despite a low campaign profile in recent months, Miller has been raising money. On that score, he’s in third place in the three-way Republican race, but gaining on Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell.

APD Implements New Crime-Tracking Systems

Tue, 2014-04-22 17:19

The Anchorage Police Department is using two new systems to communicate with the public about crimes in the city. One is a crime mapping system and the other allows city residents to receive messages directly from the department.

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Expert Anticipates Low Prices For Togiak Herring Fishery

Tue, 2014-04-22 17:18

The largest herring fishery in Alaska is the Togiak sac-roe herring fishery and many stakeholders are preparing for an early start to the season. But at least one expert thinks the price may be so low this year, it won’t be worth fishing.

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Comment Period Opens For Cruise Waste Permits

Tue, 2014-04-22 17:17

The Legislature approved new regulations last year for cruise ships to release wastewater into Alaska’s oceans. Since then, the state has developed a permit process based on those regulations. Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s Division of Water Director Michelle Hale stopped in Ketchikan this week to talk about the changes.

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Division of Water Director Michelle Hale. (KRBD photo)

With the new regulations in place, cruise ships that travel through Alaska’s Inside Passage will have better wastewater treatment systems than some coastal communities.

Hale said no untreated sewage is allowed to be dumped, and the legislation closed so-called “donut holes,” parts of the ocean that were just outside of state jurisdiction. The main activity that the new regulations now allow is the use of mixing zones.

“And that’s very similar to all other industries and municipalities in the state of Alaska,” she said. “It’s a little bit controversial relative to cruise ships; it’s a very standard practice when we are actually permitting wastewater discharges.”

Ketchikan has numerous mixing zones for the various wastewater permits, allowing discharge into the Tongass Narrows. They include the City of Ketchikan’s Charcoal Point Wastewater Treatment Facility, Point Higgins School, seafood processors, the shipyard, the Coast Guard, Vallenar View Mobile Home Park and the airport, among many others.

Mixing zones allow discharge to exceed the standards for certain contaminants, as long as

the standards are met within a certain distance of that initial discharge. In other words, it becomes diluted fairly quickly after its hit the water.

Hale said mixing zones for cruise ships are a little different, because ships move.

“The cruise ship defines two different regulatory mixing zones, one for discharge underway and one for discharge at 6 knots or less or stationary,” she said. “Primarily, that 6 knots or less is for stationary vessels, but we kind of had to make a break point. So, if you’re going faster than 6 knots, you get covered under one mixing zone, if you’re going slower, you’re covered under another.”

Hale said some members of the public were concerned that the permits for cruise ships wouldn’t protect the ocean enough. But, she said, her division wrote the permits in a way that treats cruise ships like other wastewater discharge systems.

“When we do our modeling and establish limits, we do that so that the water is protected, so that water quality is protected for the uses that that water is used for,” she said.

Hale said the water must be safe enough for a fish to pass through the area within 15 minutes, and not be affected.

She notes that it’s possible for cruise ships to treat wastewater so that it meets all standards before the water is released into the ocean; but it’s not practicable.

“This is our regulatory definition for practicable: ‘Available and capable of being done, taking into consideration cost, technology that actually exists and logistics, in light of overall project purposes,’” she said. “So, what practicable means, is it has to make sense.”

More details about the draft cruise ship wastewater permit program is available on the Division of Water’s website. That’s also the place to go to find out how to submit comments. The comment period closes May 23rd.

Click the following link to review the Division of Water’s draft permit for cruise ship wastewater.

Tlingit Elder, Master Storyteller Cyril George Dies

Tue, 2014-04-22 17:16

Cyril George Sr. in 2007, speaking at Angoon Presbyterian Church, where his son Joey George is pastor. (Photo by Skip Gray/KTOO)

Tlingit elder Cyril George Sr. has died at the age of 92. A fisherman, boat builder, master story teller, and man of great faith, George passed away last week at the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage.

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A memorial service for Cyril George Sr. is Wednesday, 6 p.m., at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall in Juneau. The Tlingit elder died April 15 at the age of 92.

Over his life, he was a fisherman, boat builder, master storyteller, and man of great faith.

George was of the Deisheetan clan (Raven/Beaver) of Angoon and lived in the Admiralty Island community most of his life. He moved to Juneau in 1975.

One of his five sons, Richard George, recalls his father to be a successful seiner, halibut and herring fisherman.

He also served his community. He was elected to the Angoon City Council and was mayor. He was on the first board of directors of Sealaska, the regional Native corporation for Southeast, from 1972 to 1974, and served as a member of the board for Kootsnoowoo Inc., Angoon’s village corporation.

Richard George remembers his father as a strong man.

He made decisions which always seemed to be the proper decision. That’s what I was impressed with when I was young,” he says. 

Cyril George attended Sheldon Jackson high school and college in Sitka in the late 1930s, where he became a machinist and learned to build boats. The Presbyterian school was tasked with helping Tlingit shipwright Andrew Hope build the Princeton Hall, a replacement vessel for the church mission fleet.

“I wasn’t the only one that had this feeling of an enormous undertaking when he started to build this boat,” Cyril George recalled in a 2007 interview with KTOO.

“I could weld, I did everything in the machine shop. I was with him all the way from lining up the motor, the shaft, setting up the electrical,” he said. George also built the shaft.

It took a year to complete the Princeton Hall. Then in 1941, just a few days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the boat was to be launched.  It had already been conscripted by the U.S. Navy.

George said all the Sheldon Jackson students trooped down to the harbor to watch the launch.

“When the Navy started to tow it away all the kids were crying. I was crying. I don’t think there was anybody that wasn’t crying,” he said.

After the war, the Princeton Hall was returned to the Presbyterians and it traveled Southeast Alaska waters for years, going village to village.

While George helped build it, he had never been on the boat. Many years later, he had a number of cruises on the Princeton Hall after it was purchased by the late Bill Ruddy. Bill and Kathy Ruddy became close friends with Cyril George, the boat builder, the musician, and the Tlingit storyteller.

George gradually began to lose his hearing. For several years, Kathy Ruddy took on the role of stenographer – typing out conversations for him.

“It really helped him to have things written down so he could look over your shoulder and know what people were saying,” she says.

The hearing loss didn’t slow him down. He continued to play his guitar and sing, visit classrooms, churches, and be involved in the community. He was a delegate to the Juneau chapter of Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, which provided a transcriber for George, so he could be actively involved.

“You know for a guitarist and a really excellent musician, hearing loss is a really poignant thing,” Ruddy says. “The fact that he maintained this constant sense of gratitude even as hearing was failing is just a tribute to his character.”

As a fluent Tlingit speaker, George liked to teach his language and often went to Tlingit language classes at the University of Alaska Southeast, taught by Lance Twitchell.

“In Tlingit he’d tell us: ‘I just feel wonderful whenever I’m looking upon your faces and you guys are learning your language.’ He said he felt that it (Tlingit language) was drifting away from us but then just seeing us fills him with hope.”

Son Richard George calls his father a Godly man. In the 2007 interview, Cyril George talked about a battle with alcohol, which he said he finally won through prayer and his faith.

He was a member of the Salvation Army and was a local commissioned officer known as a sergeant major. He often wore his uniform and always wore it to church, says Lt. Lance Walters of the Salvation Army in Juneau.

He explained one day that he put it on to remind him of what he came from and that he wasn’t going back,” Walters says.

George will be buried on Killisnoo Island near Angoon.

Alaska News Nightly: April 22, 2014

Tue, 2014-04-22 17:03

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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BP Sells Some North Slope Assets To Hilcorp

Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage

BP announced Tuesday it’s selling some of its assets on the North Slope. The company will sell to aging oil fields – Endicott and Northstar – to Hilcorp, a company that is developing oil and gas wells in Cook Inlet. Hilcorp will also buy a 50 percent interest in two other fields- Milne Point and Liberty.

Legislature Remains Embroiled Over Education Bill

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

The Alaska State Legislature is still at an impasse over the Governor’s education bill.

Miller Kicks Off Campaign in Wasilla

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington DC

U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller kicked off his campaign Monday night in Wasilla before a few hundred supporters. Miller drew cheers as he hit on popular Tea Party themes, like abolishing the IRS and ending state surveillance. And he may be the only candidate in the race with a personalized country-western anthem.

APD Implements New Crime-Tracking Systems

Jolene Almendarez, APRN – Juneau

The Anchorage Police Department is using two new systems to communicate with the public about crimes in the city. One is a crime mapping system and the other allows city residents to receive messages directly from the department.

Expert Anticipates Low Prices For Togiak Herring Fishery

Mike Mason, KDLG – Dillingham

The largest herring fishery in Alaska is the Togiak sac-roe herring fishery and many stakeholders are preparing for an early start to the season. But at least one expert thinks the price may be so low this year, it won’t be worth fishing.

Comment Period Opens For Cruise Waste Permits

Leila Kheiry, KRBD – Ketchikan

The Legislature approved new regulations last year for cruise ships to release wastewater into Alaska’s oceans. Since then, the state has developed a permit process based on those regulations. Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s Division of Water Director Michelle Hale stopped in Ketchikan this week to talk about the changes.

Tlingit Elder, Master Storyteller Cyril George Dies

Rosemarie Alexander, KTOO – Juneau

Tlingit elder Cyril George Sr. has died at the age of 92. A fisherman, boat builder, master story teller, and man of great faith, George passed away last week at the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage.

Brace Yourselves, Bird Season Is Coming

Dave Waldron, APRN – Anchorage

Birding season is about to pick up in Alaska, and now is the perfect time to start preparing.

Illegal lingcod harvest in Gulf of Alaska brings $12,000 fine, probation

Tue, 2014-04-22 16:26
Illegal lingcod harvest in Gulf of Alaska brings $12,000 fine, probation Alaska Wildlife Trooper Sgt. Brent Johnson said the illegal lingcod harvest was substantial for that region, amounting to approximately 70 percent of the entire lingcod quota for the area. April 22, 2014

Competition Bureau to review First Air-Canadian North airline merger

Tue, 2014-04-22 15:05
Competition Bureau to review First Air-Canadian North airline merger Some residents of northern Canada are worried that passenger fares and cargo rates will rise if competitors combine. April 22, 2014

New wind parks to be constructed in North Finland

Tue, 2014-04-22 14:53
New wind parks to be constructed in North Finland Approvals have been granted for the new farms, where 45 wind turbines are expected to produce power, at a cost of $276 million. April 22, 2014

Upstart Hilcorp buys share of North Slope assets from BP

Tue, 2014-04-22 14:09
Upstart Hilcorp buys share of North Slope assets from BP Much-smaller Hilcorp, known for its role in rejuvenating oil production in the aging Cook Inlet oil patch, is expected to agree to become operator of the Endicott, Northstar and Milne Point oilfields on Alaska's North Slope.April 22, 2014