Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: Friday, May 26, 2017

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2017-05-26 17:53

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

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This weekend, Ryan Zinke makes inaugural Alaska visit as Interior Secretary

Liz Ruskin, Alaska Public Media – Washington D.C.

Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke is visiting Alaska this weekend.

Per diems driving special session costs

Andrew Kitchenman, KTOO – Juneau

The cost to taxpayers of going past the 90-day legislative session set by state law is roughly $1 million – and rising.

Deceased members of WWII Alaska militia honored

Associated Press

Relatives of deceased members of a largely Native Alaskan citizen militia who guarded the U.S. territory during World War II have received Army discharge papers meant as a posthumous honor.

UAF’s chancellor faces tough decisions in new position

Robert Hannon, KUAC – Fairbanks

The University of Alaska Fairbanks has a new chancellor. Thursday, University of Alaska President Jim Johnson announced that Daniel White would lead the University.

Two Interior residents missing after Yukon boating accident

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

Two Interior residents are missing after a boating accident on the Yukon River. Alaska State Troopers report that a search is underway for 56-year-old Clifford Adams and 38-year-old Ai Adams, both residents of the Yukon Flats village of Beaver.

Man shot by Fairbanks police after ramming into trooper, officer vehicles

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

A man who rammed police vehicles with his truck, was shot dead by Fairbanks police officers in Fairbanks. The man, who’s name has not been released, had outstanding felony arrest warrants — according to Alaska State Troopers.

Feds will take over Lower And Middle Kuskokwim beginning June 12

Anna Rose MacArthur, KYUK – Bethel

Beginning June 12, management of king salmon on the lower and middle Kuskokwim River will switch from state to federal control. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game will hand over management to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Fee to hike Kodiak’s Termination Point removed

Kayla Desroches, KMXT – Kodiak

For years, locals have needed a permit to hike the Termination Point trail, but now they can explore that property without a fee.

UAF doctoral candidate documents Yup’ik-named places for project

Avery Lill, KDLG – Dillingham

In recognition of its native Athabascan name, the official name of Mount McKinley was changed to Mount Denali in 2015. A University of Alaska Fairbanks Ph.D candidate in anthropology has taken a more local interest in native place names. Yoko Kugo is in the midst of a three-year project to document the Yup’ik names of places around Iliamna Lake.

AK: Fire investigators train to determine how blazes begin

Matt Miller, KTOO – Juneau

When a fire breaks out, it’s not always obvious how it started. Not only could the entire structure be wiped out, but items that started the fire could be partially destroyed or altered beyond recognition. That’s the job of the fire investigator: interview witnesses and find clues at the scene that would help them determine how the fire started.

49 Voices: Erik Boltman of Anchorage

Tony Gorman, KCHU – Valdez

This week we’re hearing from Erik Boltman from Anchorage. Boltman moved to Alaska after serving in the Air Force and participated in the Valdez Fly-in.

Categories: Alaska News

The state of our education system

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2017-05-26 17:42
President Jim Johnsen explains Strategic Pathways at University of Alaska Southeast’s Egan Lecture Hall Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016. (Photo by Quinton Chandler/KTOO)

Alaskans love a challenge, and our educational system has plenty of them – with shrinking budgets, serious workforce deficits, and poor retention rates for teachers and students.

HOST: Steve Heimel

GUESTS:

  • Jim Johnsen – University of Alaska president
  • Statewide callers 

Participate:

      • Call 550-8422 (Anchorage) or 1-800-478-8255 (statewide) during the live broadcast
      • Post your comment before, during or after the live broadcast (comments may be read on air).
      • Send email to talk@alaskapublic.org (comments may be read on air)

LIVE Broadcast: Tuesday, May 30, 2017 at 10:00 a.m. on APRN stations statewide.

SUBSCRIBE: Get Talk of Alaska updates automatically by emailRSS or podcast.

Categories: Alaska News

This weekend, Ryan Zinke makes inaugural Alaska visit as Interior Secretary

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2017-05-26 17:38
Interior secretary Ryan Zinke. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/CC 2.0)

Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke is visiting Alaska this weekend.

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Zinke is traveling with Alaska’s congressional delegation, and four other U.S. senators, on a trip to Alaska, Greenland and Norway. They will land in Fairbanks and the secretary will visit Denali National Park Sunday and Monday. He’ll be in Anchorage Tuesday and Wednesday. Among his plans are to speak at an Alaska Oil and Gas Association conference and hike to the Nike Site in Arctic Valley.

The Interior Department is responsible for managing about half of Alaska’s land mass, in national parks, refuges and other federal ownership. As secretary, Zinke also oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Categories: Alaska News

Man shot by Fairbanks police after ramming into trooper, officer vehicles

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2017-05-26 17:27

A man who rammed police vehicles with his truck, was shot dead by Fairbanks police officers in Fairbanks. The man, who’s name has not been released, had outstanding felony arrest warrants — according to Alaska State Troopers.

Trooper Lieutenant Brian Wassmann said officers tried to stop the man Thursday afternoon on the Old Richardson Highway.

“The suspect failed to stop, and then led the Alaska State Troopers on a pursuit which went down the Richardson Highway towards North Pole,” Wasserman said. “Witnesses reported to the State Troopers that the suspect fired a gun at pursuing Troopers.”

Lieutenant Wassmann said Fairbanks Police, deployed spike strips that deflated the tires on the suspect’s truck.

Wassmann said that didn’t stop the man who then pulled onto a Mitchell Expressway on-ramp.

”Where he encountered Fairbanks police officers and Alaska State Troopers, the suspect proceeded to ram an occupied Fairbanks Police Department vehicle and an Alaska State Trooper Vehicle,” Wasserman said. “Fairbanks Police officers then discharged their weapons, hitting the suspect and injuring him.”

Wassmann said officers provided first aid and the suspect was transported to the hospital, where he later died.

Alaska State Troopers are investigating the shooting.

Categories: Alaska News

Fee to hike Kodiak’s Termination Point removed

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2017-05-26 17:21

For years, locals have needed a permit to hike the Termination Point trail, but now they can explore that property without a fee.

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This spring, the Native Corporation Leisnoi passed along the land’s conservation easement to the Kodiak Island Borough. That means that land development is now prohibited, and the property is open to public access.

Land conservation nonprofit, the Great Lands Trust, arranged the transfer of the easement with funding from the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council.

The Great Lands Trust executive director Ellen Kazary said the organization finds habitats that the Exxon Valdez oil spill impacted. The ones that are most in need of protection are bumped up to the top of their list.

“And Termination Point almost 20 years ago was identified by the community of Kodiak and then reaffirmed with this prioritization as a high priority valuable piece of property with great habitat, wet lands, coastal shore line and recreation opportunities, which was also an impacted measure, as a high priority to protect with conservation,” Kazary said.

The Great Lands Trust had been looking for a group to hold the easement when it approached the borough a couple of years ago.

Kazary said now that the deal is done, Leisnoi still owns the land, but it sold its development rights.

“And that’s what the conservation easement is… to conserve the habitat value, you can’t clear cut, you can’t subdivide so they’ve sold those possible development rights,” Kazary said. “The Kodiak Island Borough then basically takes on the role as manager of the public use of the land.”

The same partners are also working on transferring the conservation easement to Long Island.

Kazary said, right now, they’re working on details around the environmental review, a standard part of land deals. She said Long Island is a former military site and they need to find any possible contaminants before moving forward.

The Great Lands Trust and its partners will hold a ribbon cutting ceremony out at White Sands Beach on June 2 at 3:30 p.m. A hike along Termination will follow.

Categories: Alaska News

Two Interior residents missing after Yukon boating accident

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2017-05-26 17:17

Two Interior residents are missing after a boating accident on the Yukon River. Alaska State Troopers report that a search is underway for 56-year-old Clifford Adams and 38-year-old Ai Adams, both residents of the Yukon Flats village of Beaver.

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Troopers say a 3rd person, 45-year-old Kim Andon of Rampart was found walking along the river on Wednesday.

Andon said she and the Adams were returning to Beaver from a hunting trip on Sunday, when their boat overturned about six miles downstream of the village.

Andon told troopers the last time she saw the Adams’ they were unresponsive and that she was the only one wearing a life jacket when the boat flipped over. Search efforts for the Adams include boats and a helicopter.

Categories: Alaska News

UAF’s chancellor faces tough decisions in new position

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2017-05-26 17:14
Dan White, UAF’s new chancellor. (UAF photo)

The University of Alaska Fairbanks has a new chancellor. Thursday, University of Alaska President Jim Johnson announced that Daniel White would lead the University.

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White acknowledges challenges lie before him. The school, along with other campuses in the UA system, has been undergoing belt-tightening in the face of reduced state funding. And this year the Alaska Senate proposes slashing another $22 million from the UA system. At the same time UAF’s reputation has been tarred by Title IX violations. Nevertheless White, who was at a Rotary luncheon Thursday, said he’s confident moving forward.

“We’ve made some mistakes and we’ve got some budget challenges,” White said. “But we’ll get through those. I’m commited to working on that as I know many at the university are.”

Currently, White serves as UA vice president for academic affairs and research. He began his carrier at UAF in 1995 as a professor of civil and environmental engineering. Over the years he’s filled a number of posts including director of the Institute of Northern Engineering and Mines and associate vice-chancellor for research.

UAF has seen a pair of interim chancellors since Brian Rogers departed two years ago. An earlier search was stopped as the statewide system eyed a single accreditation process, which later proved impractical. UA President Jim Johnsen said White’s breadth of experience elevated him to the top of the latest search.

“Breadth in terms of his experience in the classroom teaching, in terms of his experience in laboratories and the field conducting research and in his connections with the communities that we serve all across the state,” Johnsen said.

Johnsen said White also has a depth of knowledge having lived and worked in Fairbanks for so long.

White takes up his duties July 1. His salary will be $300,000 a year.

Categories: Alaska News

Feds will take over Lower And Middle Kuskokwim beginning June 12

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2017-05-26 16:10
“Chinook salmon, Yukon Delta NWR.” Photo: Craig Springer, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Via Flickr Creative Commons.

Beginning June 12, management of king salmon on the lower and middle Kuskokwim River will switch from state to federal control. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game will hand over management to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Fishermen shouldn’t see much difference, though. When the switch happens the king salmon fishery will close, but these areas are already closed under state management. This same hand-off has happened since the summer following the poor king salmon return of 2013.

That’s because, by federal law, the service has to take over the fishery in times of low abundance to ensure that local people get subsistence priority.

The portion of the river switching management lies within the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge from Aniak down to the mouth of the Kuskokwim.

Depending on how the run is doing, the feds will announce gillnet fishing openings. Refuge Manager Ken Stahlnecker said that they’ve already got one planned on the first day.

“Which is looking like it may be a 12-hour opportunity on June 12,” Stahlnecker said. “We’re trying to finalize things, so I wouldn’t say it’s a guarantee at this moment, but that’s definitely what we’re talking about.”

Stahlnecker expects to allow more fishing opportunities than last year. The run forecast looks the same as the previous year, so managers are designating the same amount for subsistence harvest: about 40,000 kings. Last year, fishermen hit below that.

“We probably harvested about 30,000, so we ended up being more conservative than our management objective was,” Stahlnecker said.

The rules will also be the same as last year. Openings under federal law will be restricted to local subsistence users living on the Kuskokwim river drainage, or along the coast in Chefornak, Kongiganak, Kipnuk, or Kwigillingok. The gear restrictions will be familiar, too.

“Again, exactly what they were last year,” Stahlnecker said.

From the mouth of the Kuskowkwim River, at the boundary of the refuge, up to the mouth of the Johnson River, fishermen are allowed to use six-inch mesh, no more than 45 meshes deep or 50 fathoms in length.

Upstream from there, restrictions change. From the Johnson River up to the boundary at Aniak, the nets can be no more than 25 fathoms.

The restrictions are meant to conserve the Kuskokwim king salmon run, which is projected to hit below the historic average again this season.

The restrictions apply to the Kuskokwim River main stem and to the following salmon-bearing tributaries within the refuge: the Eek, Kwethluk, Kasigluk, Kisaralik, Tuluksak and Aniak.

Categories: Alaska News

AK: Fire investigators train to determine how blazes begin

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2017-05-26 16:06
Firefighters with Capital City Fire/Rescue put out last of the hot spots in a staged room during a recent fire investigator training exercise at Juneau’s Hagevig Regional Fire Training Center. (Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO)

When a fire breaks out, it’s not always obvious how it started. Not only could the entire structure be wiped out, but items that started the fire could be partially destroyed or altered beyond recognition.

That’s the job of the fire investigator: interview witnesses and find clues at the scene that would help them determine how the fire started.

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“Can you tell us what happened?” a fire investigator asked at the scene of an apartment fire in Juneau.

“This is ridiculous,” a man believed to be a resident said. “Absolutely sucks.”

After firefighters doused the fire a day earlier, they put most of the occupants’ wet and smoldering belongings out in the front yard as part of overhaul and salvage of the scene.

“We don’t pay a lot in rent here,” the resident said. “This is kind of crappy stuff here. But it’s all we can afford.”

“This is all of our possessions,” a woman believed to be one of the apartment’s residents said.

The couple is agitated and upset, but they continue talking to a fire investigator.

“Was the lamp plugged in when you left?” the investigator asked. “Was it on?”

“Yeah, usually we always keep the lamp on,” the woman said. “You don’t want to come home to have the house all the way dark.”

The investigator will go inside, look for evidence. Then, he’ll take all the stuff in the front yard and put it back in the apartment. He’ll try to recreate the scene before it burned.

“Hey, I want you to figure out what happened here,” the male resident said to the investigator. “This ain’t right.”

Instructor John Gamboa (bottom left) assists instructor Brian Balega as he ignites a fire one of the staged rooms during a recent fire investigator training exercise at Juneau’s Hagevig Regional Fire Training
Center. (Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO)

This may look or sound like it’s real, but it’s only a training exercise at the Hagevig Regional Fire Training Center in Juneau. Students are questioning instructors who are role-playing the burned out couple. In real life, something like this scene may happen three times a day across Alaska.

According to the latest figures compiled by the Department of Public Safety’s Division of Fire and Life Safety, there were nearly 1,470 structure fires in 2015 that killed 16 people and injured 83. Total damage estimated at $49 million. As much as 5 percent of those fires were intentionally started.

That’s where the fire investigator comes in. They determine the origin and cause of the fire, and whether it was intentionally or unintentionally set.

“We don’t call fires accidental anymore because accidental has the connotation that it was not a preventable type of thing,” Ernie Misewicz said. He’s chief of the Salcha Fire Department and president of the Alaska Association of Arson & Fire Investigators.

“Any fire that we have has its own indicators,” Misewicz said. “And so, we look at all of the potential causes for fire: smoking, unattended cooking, electrical, heating systems. And, so as we go through our fire scenes, we’re looking for these potential causes and then ruling them out.”

Indicators of an electrical fire, for example, would include a burned or melted electrical outlet that had power to it.

“Fire investigation is like learning a new language. Initially, it’s very difficult. But once you start mastering it, it becomes even kind of fun,” John Gamboa said. He’s a retired special agent and fire investigator with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in Chicago.

Gamboa teaches new and experienced investigators a variety of subjects including fire behavior, fire chemistry, fire modeling, scene processing and evidence collection.

“We teach them a multitude of disciplines so hopefully it’ll make them better fire investigators and they’ll learn from our experience and from other individuals that come here to teach them on how to approach a fire systematically,” Gamboa said.

Of course, there’s classroom work. But the training also includes students putting their knowledge to the test.

Six rooms are built outside of the Hagevig Regional Fire Training Center. Each room is furnished and stocked with clothes and other personal belongings. A fire is started in each room and then put out by firefighters.

Student investigators arrive the next day to figure out happened.

Instructors and student investigators talk about the investigative process in the aftermath of a fire in staged room at Juneau’s Hagevig Regional Fire Training Center. (Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO)

The crew led by North Slope Borough Fire Department battalion chief Mauricio Gueco discover a couch that was doused with accelerant and ignited by a road flare. An end table in the room was undamaged. So, they get a search warrant before opening the table drawer and finding a diary that described how the resident had been threatened by someone.

“The diary will definitely come into play. Same with the flare, the couch,” Gueco said. “We still have some homework to do. We have to see if that flare can actually ignite that couch. Do those tests.”

Jason Mardirosian, formerly with the Chicago fire department and the Department of Homeland Security, frequently pulls me aside to interpret the language Gamboa uses, like reading a burn trail left by a liquid accelerant. Or, how a missing picture frame or bookcase can leave tell-tale burn and smoke shadows.

“What they call protected areas or witness marks on the floor, to put things back in, and now you start to see how the corresponding damage and fire damage makes sense to lead back to where the area of origin is,” Mardirosian said.

Remember the couple who got burned out of their apartment earlier? After looking at burn patterns, students determined everything was piled up in the center of the room before the fire started. A small plastic garbage bin had melted into the framework of a chair.

“What could an insurance company budget do to this if we have a solid molten mass like that?” an instructor asked.

“Package the whole thing up and take it to their lab” one of the students answered.

“And what might they do?” the instructor prompted again. “Did you guys talk about it in your class that they might be able to like X-ray this?”

“X-ray testing, yeah.”

“You might find something in the middle of that.”

Was the fire started to conceal a crime? Hard to tell right now. Hopefully, the investigator’s report will be thorough enough to allow prosecutors to get a conviction.

40 students from around Alaska participated in the training. Some of them, someday, may be trying to figure out how that fire started in your business or home.

 

Categories: Alaska News

Per diems driving special session costs

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2017-05-26 15:31

The cost to taxpayers of going past the 90-day legislative session set by state law is roughly $1 million – and rising. However, lawmakers can legally have a regular session of 120 days — as they did this year — because it is written into the state Constitution.

The additional costs are driven by the daily allowances that lawmakers receive for each day of the extra legislative time – known as a “per diem” – and the additional cost of paying their aides’ salaries.

Senate President Pete Kelly said the cost must be understood in the context of the major issues the Legislature is attempting to resolve, and the total cost of state government.

“We certainly don’t want to cave in on issues that maybe are not in the best interests of Alaska simple to save a few dollars here and there, in comparison with how much is spent overall,” Kelly said.

The regular 120-day session ended on May 17th, when Governor Bill Walker called lawmakers into legislative overtime.

The cost of the additional 31 days of the special session is not yet calculated but it is expected to be higher than the $700,000 it cost last year for a similar extension. That’s because more legislative aides are working this year, and per diems went up.

Lawmakers who represent areas outside Juneau receive $295 for each day of the special session. Juneau lawmakers receive $221.25 per day.

Some lawmakers say they won’t claim per diems for each day of extra time. Anchorage Independent Jason Grenn said he won’t claim per diems during the entire special session.

Friday was the ninth day of the special session. Past special sessions have cost between $20,000 and $30,000 per day.

Kelly said he expects the cost of the special session to be lower on the Senate side of the legislature this year. That’s because the Senate is trying to reduce the number of aides in Juneau.

“As a diligent manager, I’m sending as many people home as I can to save on those costs, but we’re not going to do something that’s not in the best interests of Alaskans just to save some money on a special session,” Kelly said.

Another cost for the special session is the housing expenses for legislative aides. 25 House aides have been approved for housing this month, with costs ranging from $25 to $129 per day. Aides say the beginning of tourism season has raised housing costs in Juneau.

The aides must provide receipts to be reimbursed.

Categories: Alaska News

49 Voices: Erik Boltman of Anchorage

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2017-05-26 14:51
Erik Boltman (Photo by Tony Gorman, KCHU – Valdez)

This week we’re hearing from Erik Boltman from Anchorage. Boltman moved to Alaska after serving in the Air Force and participated in the Valdez Fly-in.

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BOLTMAN: Alaska… I just always wanted to be here. And so I got out of the Air Force, and we packed everything we owned into a trailer and literally moved up here with some resumes.

I was an air weapons officer on the E3 AWACs. I always had the bug. Especially Bush flying. And so, as soon as I could afford it, I started getting lessons. And then took off about three years of flying to start a business and I was finally able to afford my own airplane.

It’s a 1953 PA 19-A Super Cub. So it’s an agricultural model. It was originally a crop-duster. I came across it… there was a gentleman who was selling it. We were driving through the airport one day, and he had it for sale, and it had all the modifications I wanted done to it, and it’s been a fantastic first airplane. Just a safe, easy to fly, just a good honest airplane.

You know, just tons of little Bush trips. Learning how to bush fly all over Knik Glacier area, Seward, Homer, everywhere I could get. But the Cub is slow so it takes a long time to get there.

I mean of course, Valdez was always the big one. Love coming here. This is like the highlight of my year, coming year. My first time was in 2011, and I was walking around as the wannabe, talking to all the pilots and trying to figure out what airplane I wanted to get. And then brought my own airplane, first time, last year.

I know, I’m not trying to kiss Valdez’s but, but I really do love it here. I love going out to the beaches. I love the Fly-In because it’s so cool to talk to other pilots and spend days out here on the Tarmac. We took a whole week off just to come out here.

Categories: Alaska News

House and Senate disagree on much, but agree on using computer model

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2017-05-26 10:28
This graph was derived from a Legislative Finance Division computer model used to analyze different long-term state budget plans. It appeared in a House Finance Committee document in April.

Many things divide the Alaska Senate and the House about the future of the state’s budget. One thing that can unite them is the numbers they use to determine how big of a hole in the budget they have to fill.

Listen now

Gov. Bill Walker has pointed out both sides agree on at least one thing: a computer model. This model spits out numbers for how different proposals from lawmakers affect the budget in the long run. Walker described the model as important for negotiations in the Capitol.

“We’ve tried to end up with one model, rather than dueling models around the building,” Walker said. “Let’s look at the assumptions that are made.”

The nonpartisan Legislative Finance Division developed the model. Division analysts emphasized that the projections aren’t precise. But at least they give lawmakers an objective source of information.

This computer model allows legislators to plug in different assumptions to see how their ideas will affect the budget. For example, if you plug in a projection for higher oil prices that state officials say have a 40 percent chance of happening, then the state’s budget is much healthier in the future.

The models indicates that if the Legislature makes no changes, one of the state’s two main savings accounts, the Constitutional Budget Reserve, would be out of money next year. The other piggy bank, the Permanent Fund’s earnings reserve, would be empty in a decade.

Soldotna Republican Sen. Peter Micciche said it’s important for both sides to begin at the same place.

“We’re all using the same model – that’s the most important thing, I think, for people to understand,” Micciche said. “We’re using the same model, only the assumptions are different.”

Both the Senate and the House’s plans look better now than they did a couple of months ago. That’s because the Department of Revenue’s spring forecast predicted more royalties and taxes from oil.

Assuming nearly 7 percent growth each year in Permanent Fund earnings, under the Senate proposal, the state’s $2.5 billion deficit would shrink to $140 million by 2026. Micciche noted that is small enough that the state’s savings would grow. That’s because the size of the annual deficit would be less than the amount generated in earnings by the Constitutional Budget Reserve

Micciche said the division’s assumptions that go into the model are conservative enough. The Senate plan would draw more money from Permanent Fund earnings each year than the House to pay for state government. Permanent Fund dividends would start at $1,000. And Micciche assumed roughly $200 million in spending cuts. That’s a smaller amount than the $750 million cut that is the Senate majority’s official position.

Micciche wants the debate to focus on the merits of the two chambers’ proposals.

“It’s just a philosophical difference on if it’s OK to tax Alaskans for a greater level of savings or spending,” Micciche said. “The Senate does not believe that’s an appropriate way forward doing a recession. And the House apparently feels differently.”

House majority members like Homer Republican Rep. Paul Seaton said there’s an important difference to the assumptions the two sides make when they use the model. The House leaves more room for problems like lower than expected oil prices or investment returns.

“Relying on something that’s volatile and you have no control over is not the best way to plan for a stable state government that will help stabilize the economy and getting out of the recession we’re in,” Seaton said.

The House plan includes an income tax. And dividends would be a quarter higher than under the Senate plan, at $1,250. It also assumes more money will be spent on capital projects – and it doesn’t include cuts to the budget.

With the same Permanent Fund earnings growth, the House plan would lead to an annual surplus of more than $400 million by 2026.

Seaton said the House plan also allows the state to restore the savings in the Constitutional Budget Reserve that the government has spent over the past four years. But he emphasized the importance of avoiding budget cuts.

“If you don’t want to see road maintenance done, if you want to see trooper posts close, if you want to see teachers laid off from schools, those are the proposals of the Senate majority budget cuts,” Seaton said.

So the two sides remain far apart. But the computer model makes clearer where the differences are. Lawmakers have five weeks to reach an agreement that would avoid a state government shutdown.

Categories: Alaska News

Young joins Afghanistan war skeptics in Congress

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2017-05-25 18:05
Rep. Young says 16 years of war is too long. Also supporting a bill to end funding for the war: Marine vet Will Fischer (left) and Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C. (right). Photo by Liz Ruskin, Alaska Public Media

Congressman Don Young wants to know why Americans are still fighting in Afghanistan. He has co-sponsored a bill that would end funding for the war in a year, unless the president and Congress affirm the need for it.

Listen now

Motives vary among the House members co-sponsoring the bill, but they say it’s high time Congress debates whether the war should continue. Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., has Camp Lejeune in his district.

“Speaker Ryan, he can initiate this today if he wanted to,” Jones said. “And he doesn’t seem to want to take the responsibility of the blood that comes from my soldiers and Marines dying in a country that will never change, no matter what you do.”

Rep. Young said 16 years of war is too long.

“No one’s ever told me why we’re there,” Young said. “Originally we were after (Osama) bin Laden. And we got him. But we’re still there. And I very frankly want to find out the answers.”

Congress funds the wars, but it hasn’t updated its Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) for the war in Afghanistan since 2001.

Young said most Americans don’t even think about Afghanistan any more. This isn’t like World War II, Young said, when just about every family had a soldier and the burdens were widespread.

“We had metal collections, we had blackouts, we had watch-outs, we had gas rationing, we had meat rationing, we had sugar rationing,” Young said. He was 12 when the World War II ended, “Because we all participated in the war that we declared.”

It’s not in the bill, but Young suggested a “conflict tax” as a way to keep people’s attention on military campaigns that are not formally declared wars.

According to the Pentagon, 2,216 U.S. service members have died in the Afghanistan war. Estimates of the cost exceed $1 trillion.

Capitol Hill reporters chase Sen. Lisa Murkowski these days, asking for her to comment on health care, budget cuts and presidential nominees, so an Afghanistan question seemed to come out of left field.

“I have to admit you’re catching me by surprise because we haven’t talked about Afghanistan in so long,” Murkowski said Wednesday.

Murkowski is a member of Appropriations subcommittee that allocates money to the Defense Department each year, so she does have a chance to question Pentagon brass about military needs and goals. Once she thought about it, she said a broader discussion in Congress may be a good idea.

“We don’t want to forget why we sent men and women to go over there to fight for us,” Murkowski said. “We need to know that the cause is right, so to have that conversation in Congress is not unreasonable.”

Sens. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., (left) and Tim Kaine, D-Va. (right).

In a separate action, Sens. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., are calling for a new AUMF against ISIS, Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Kaine said their moves to get similar measures to a vote in Congress have gone nowhere for years.

“I frankly think this is partly hard because people don’t want to cast a war vote,” Kaine said. “Because there’s going to be a consequence. It should be the gravest vote we ever cast. People want to duck from that if they can.”

Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan said he isn’t opposed to a new authorization for the use of military force in Afghanistan, but he doesn’t want funding for deployed service members to ride on whether Congress can make that decision.

“My approach has been, ‘I’ll look at an AUMF,'” Sullivan said. “But I don’t think right now that an AUMF for our troops in Afghanistan, is something that if we say, ‘Hey we’re going to debate it and (if) we can’t get to a resolution, then we pull them out.’ I don’t agree with that. I don’t agree with that all.”

Members of the 425th brigade combat team, based at JBER, are expected to deploy to Afghanistan later this year.

 

 

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: Thursday, May 25, 2017

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2017-05-25 17:58

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

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Southeast Alaska spring troll fishery shut down for lack of king salmon

Joe Viechnicki, KFSK – Petersburg

The spring season for commercial salmon trolling in Southeast Alaska is shutting down Monday, May 29 except for a few areas near hatchery salmon release sites. The spring season began in May and was to run through the end of June. However, poor returns of king salmon are prompting the closure.

Young joins Afghanistan war skeptics in Congress 

Liz Ruskin, Alaska Public Media – Washington D.C.

Congressman Don Young wants to know why Americans are still fighting in Afghanistan. He has co-sponsored a bill that would end funding for the war in a year, unless the President and Congress affirm the need for it.

Hatchet-wielding man shot by Anchorage police Thursday morning

Casey Grove, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage

Anchorage police say an officer shot and critically wounded a hatchet-wielding man early Thursday morning during an investigation of car break-ins on the city’s south side.

NTSB investigating helicopter crash on Herbert Glacier

Jacob Resneck, KTOO – Juneau

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating how and why a Juneau-bound helicopter ferrying tourists crashed during a glacier excursion.

What goes into Juneau’s legislative budget numbers?

Andrew Kitchenman, KTOO – Juneau

Many things divide the Senate and the House about the future of the state’s budget. One thing that can unite them is the numbers they use to determine how big of a hole in the budget they have to fill.

220 Anchorage teachers receive layoff notices

Josh Edge, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage

220 teachers in the Anchorage School District on Wednesday received layoff notices. The pink slips were issued as legislators contend with a $2.5 billion budget deficit, leaving education funding levels for the coming year uncertain.

Police say boats at PAF yard in Dillingham broken into again this winter

Nick Ciolino, KDLG – Dillingham

Dillingham Police are investigating reports of boats broken into at the PAF yard. Police were notified of some of the break-ins last January, but other skippers returning to town to fish are finding problems, too.

Many GCI customers will see internet bills go up

Casey Grove, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage

Many customers of Alaska telecommunications company GCI will see the cost of their internet service increase next month.

Delta-area dairy owners decide to stay in business, but worker shortage persists

Tim Ellis, KUAC – Fairbanks

The Northern Lights Dairy in Delta Junction will stay open – at least, for now. The owners say they’ve reconsidered a decision earlier this month to close. The dairy’s future hinges on finding people to work hard for low pay, a nationwide agricultural problem, experts say is even more challenging in Alaska.

Low pressure front near Denali Park brings snow

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The Denali Park area is seeing a return to winter. A front associated with an area of low pressure over northwest Alaska is pushing across the Interior and dropping snow at higher elevations.

Categories: Alaska News

Low pressure front near Denali Park brings snow

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2017-05-25 17:14

The Denali Park area is seeing a return to winter. National Weather Service meteorologist Ryan Metzger said a front associated with an area of low pressure over northwest Alaska is pushing across the Interior and dropping snow at higher elevations.

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”We’re expecting probably another five to seven inches of snow on top of three to four inches they’ve already received down in Denali Park.”

Metzger says most of the accumulation has been west of Polychrome Pass, above 2 thousand feet, but that snow is possible across a much broader area of the interior tonight.

”The air is cooling a lot, so we have the potential for lower elevation snow throughout much of the Interior. Even in the Fairbanks area, there could be some scattered snow showers, especially above a thousand feet.”

Metzger says most of the snow in the Fairbanks area should melt when it hits the ground, but higher elevations could see a little accumulation. A warming trend is expected over the Memorial Day weekend, with temperatures climbing into the 70’s next week.

Categories: Alaska News

Police say boats at PAF yard in Dillingham broken into again this winter

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2017-05-25 17:09
Boats at PAF Services Marine Boatyard in Dillingham. (KDLG photo)

Dillingham Police are investigating reports of boats broken into at the PAF yard. Police were notified of some of the break-ins last January, but other skippers returning to town to fish are finding problems, too. In many instances, it appears the burglars were just looking for a place to stay.

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More than a dozen skippers who store their boats at the PAF Marine Services boatyard in Dillingham will find they are victims of some vandalism of their stored vessels.

Among them is Andrew Rosas, captain of the F/V Deborah R, who came back to Dillingham this month to get ready for the season.

“The window had been open for a few weeks—letting weather in and what not. The whole place was ransacked. Everything that could be gone through was gone through, and it was all thrown all over the floor and stomped on,” Rosas said.

Nothing was stolen from Rosas’ boat, but about twenty other boats in the yard reported being burglarized.

Unfortunately, DPD chief Dan Pasquariello said this is pretty common.

“Pretty much every year around this time, as fisherman come back to Dillingham to prepare for the salmon season, we get reports that their vessels have been broken into over the course of the winter,” Pasquariello said.

A few boats were found with sleeping bags and food items strewn about, indicating the suspects probably had just been squatting there. Some things do get stolen from fisherman each year, which the chief believes the public can help curtail.

“Help us solve the case and dry up the market. If someone is trying to sell you expensive electronics for a fishing boat, you should be weary as to where they have obtained those items,” Pasquariello said.

DPD catches harbor thieves some years, and some years they do not.

Another skipper who keeps his container van up the road a ways had a pair of burglars squatting there and stealing from him over many months. They were arrested last fall and convicted on various charges related to theft and burglary. Just a few weeks ago that skipper, wandering around at a downtown rally, saw one of the thieves wearing one of his sweatshirts, with the name of the skipper’s boat on it.

Police were notified.

Categories: Alaska News

Many GCI customers will see internet bills go up

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2017-05-25 16:30

Many customers of Alaska telecommunications company GCI will see the cost of their internet service increase next month.

Rates for what GCI calls its “No Worries” plan will increase 7 to 12 percent. That’s roughly $5 to $10 a month.

Company spokeswoman Heather Handyside said the increase is due to the cost of system upgrades in recent years.

“We have increased the speeds for this plan three times in the past two and a half years since we launched the plan with no increased costs to our customers,” Handyside said.

The fee for GCI’s most expensive service, with the fastest speeds and highest data limits, will not be affected.

Handyside said the company always tries to provide the best service to its customers and that has meant building up the network to fit their needs.

“The increases in the new technologies and investing in our network to make these better speeds and more data available, you know, require an investment, and sometimes those costs are passed on to our customers,” Handyside said.

GCI announced its sale to a larger, Outside telecommunications company — Colorado-based Liberty Interactive Corporation — in April.

Categories: Alaska News

Hatchet-wielding man shot by Anchorage police Thursday morning

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2017-05-25 16:23

Anchorage police say an officer shot and critically wounded a hatchet-wielding man early Thursday morning during an investigation of car break-ins on the city’s south side.

The suspect, Howard Wayne Watson Junior, a 32-year-old Anchorage resident, was in critical condition at a city hospital, as of this afternoon.

Police say Watson’s clothing fit the description witnesses gave when reporting several cars broken into near China Berry Circle.

Acting Deputy Police Chief Kenneth McCoy said officers were searching the area when one of them spotted Watson running through backyards and hopping fences.

McCoy said the officer approached Watson near Golden Morning Loop.

“The officer issued him commands, he failed to comply, at which point the officer pulled his tazer and tazed him,” McCoy said. “What we understand is the suspect was able to pull free of that and then pull out a hatchet.”

McCoy says the officer shot Watson multiple times and called for paramedics.

Per APD policy, the officer’s name will not be released for 36 hours as the investigation continues.

Police have not yet announced any charges against Watson.

Categories: Alaska News

Southeast Alaska spring troll fishery shut down for lack of king salmon

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2017-05-25 16:14
Troll caught winter king salmon (Photo courtesy of Matt Lichtenstein)

The spring season for commercial salmon trolling in Southeast Alaska is shutting down Monday, May 29 except for a few areas near hatchery salmon release sites. The spring season began in May and was to run through the end of June. However, poor returns of king salmon are prompting the closure.

King numbers are low for wild stock fish returning to the Stikine River near Wrangell and Taku River near Juneau as well as some other mainland rivers. Early catches of hatchery kings have not been strong either.

Grant Hagerman, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s troll management biologist for Southeast, said region-wide the hatchery king catch has just been 14 percent of the overall harvest. That’s well below recent averages.

“Hatchery fish are also down as well in addition to those wild fish and so with these fisheries designed to target those hatchery fish, without really having many of those in the catch and concerns for those wild fish at this point, we felt like it was no harvestable surplus on those wild fish and any fishery, directed Chinook fishery for troll, or incidental harvest in other salmon fisheries, basically being the chum fishery that we wanted to limit that and basically closing this fishery does that,” Hagerman explained.

Fish and Game does test fishing on the Stikine and Taku rivers to determine actual numbers of kings making it back to spawn. The department said record low numbers of Chinook are showing up in the two rivers. Neither river is expected to reach an escapement goal, or the number of fish that managers want to return to the river to spawn. Typically, kings from those two rivers make up 80 percent of the wild king salmon in Southeast Alaska.

The season is closed starting Monday, May 29th until further notice. Hagerman said this is a first for a region-wide closure.

“This has happened in individual spring areas,” Hagerman said. “We did have an area near Ketchikan last year close for several weeks for this for conservation concerns. But a region-wide closure for a fishery like this has not happened before.”

Fishing remains open in some terminal harvest areas around the region, where hatchery salmon are returning. Those are at Neets Bay north of Ketchikan, Anita Bay near Wrangell, Port Armstrong and Hidden Falls on Baranof Island and Deep Inlet near Sitka.

The troll fleet’s quota, set under an international treaty with Canada, is not impacted by the closure. Pacific Salmon Treaty kings not caught in the winter and spring seasons will be carried over to the summer season in July.

Categories: Alaska News

Delta-area dairy owners decide to stay in business, but worker shortage persists

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2017-05-25 16:09
The Northern Lights Dairy’s owners have decided to keep the facility operating while they look for workers to help operate it.
(Alaska Farm Bureau)

The Northern Lights Dairy in Delta Junction will stay open – at least, for now. The owners say they’ve reconsidered a decision earlier this month to close. The dairy’s future hinges on finding people to work hard for low pay, a nationwide agricultural problem, experts say is even more challenging in Alaska.

It takes a lot of work to run a dairy. And at the Northern Lights Dairy in Delta Junction, Lois Lintleman, along with her husband Don, own and operate the dairy. For decades, the Lintlemans have pretty much been doing it all. It’s one of two in the state and the only one still operating in the Interior.

“We’ve done everything from milking the cow to packaging it to delivering it to the consumer,” Lois said.

But the Lintlemans are getting on in years, and all but one of their sons have left to find work elsewhere. And the co-owners are having a hard time finding workers to take their place. So Lois and Don decided a few weeks ago to shut down the dairy. Then, last week, they reconsidered and decided to keep it open – for now.

“We’re hoping things will maybe turn around,” Lois said in an interview. “I mean, we’ll have animals that will calve and come fresh in September-October. And we’re hoping things might change.”

Lintleman said they’ll try again to find good workers to operate the dairy. She said that’s been getting harder in recent years, mainly because they must compete against Delta’s biggest employer: Fort Greely and its missile-defense base contractors.

“Everybody thinks that they need to be getting wages like they do out at the military base,” Lois said, “And a farmer can’t pay $25, $30 to $40 an hour. We’ve advertised Outside, and we even sent a fellow a plane ticket. And he never came.”

University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service agricultural agent Phil Kaspari said most Alaskan farmers struggle to find good employees.

“It’s more challenging here, I would say, because of the military base and the wages,” Kaspari said. “It’s difficult for the farmers to be competitive.”

Kaspari said dairy workers are especially hard to come by, because they have or learn a wide skill set that includes farming – growing and harvesting feed – to animal husbandry, to operating a processing plant.

“This time of the year,” Kaspari said, “I will get calls from local farmers asking if I know of any good workers, y’know, any young folks graduating that have an interest in agriculture.”

Alaska Farm Bureau President Bryce Wrigley agreed, adding “It’s a challenge for America in general, really.”

Delta farmer and Alaska Farm Bureau President Bryce Wrigley says the shortage of farm workers is a local and nationwide problem.
(Tim Ellis/KUAC)

Wrigley took a break from spring planting at his barley farm in Delta Monday to explain the worker-shortage problem that farmers nationwide face. Wrigley, whose day job is managing the Delta and Salcha-area Soil and Conservation District, spends much of the rest of his time out in the fields or helping operate a mill where he processes the barley. So he knows what it takes to run an agricultural operation.

“You’re milking cows, you’re grinding grain, you’re making flour, you’re raising beef, checking the hogs,” Wrigley said. “This stuff happens around the clock.”

Wrigley says it takes a special breed of person to commit their life to producing food.

“They see that as a mission, or as a thing that they want to do,” Wrigley said. “And they’re willing to forego the high-dollar salaries and stuff like that.”

Wrigley said there aren’t many people out there these days who would choose such demanding work – work that he said is essential to Alaska’s food security. He said the state must grow its agricultural workforce by helping young people understand the importance of producing food through education and activities like 4-H and FFA, or Future Farmers of America, so they’ll be ready to take over when this generation of farmers is ready to retire.

Categories: Alaska News

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