Alaska News

A ‘funnybug’ holds a serious clue to Ice Age ecology

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2017-06-21 20:51
One-tenth of an inch long, C. dectes is easy to miss. Although hardy, the “funnybug” could not have survived glaciation. So what’s it doing in Sitka? (KCAW photo/Robert Woolsey)

A lot of science involves happy accidents.

Late last month a retired scientist from Oregon stepped off the ferry in Sitka, and on a hunch decided to look around the woods for an old friend.

And while his discovery sheds light on one of the more obscure corners of entomology, it also is a clue to how humans may have survived the Ice Age in North America.

Listen now

Forty years ago, Loren Russell discovered a kind of flightless flea while doing graduate research at Oregon State University.

Actually, Russell can’t claim full discovery rights. There was this undergrad, but what do they know?

“I’m the second person to actually look at it in its space, because I was showing the sample to an undergraduate who wandered through, and I said, ‘Hey, look at this one! I thought it was something entirely different,'” Russell said. “And he said, ‘No, it doesn’t have that.’ I looked at it. Oh, well. Most people at that point say meh and go on. But I kept it.”

So it’s pretty great to find a new anything on the planet, but it’s not like discovering penicillin, or a cure for cancer.

Russell knew there wouldn’t be much buzz around this insect.

“When I found the funnybug 40 years ago,” Russell says, “We thought there was a wall of ice from Juan de Fuca to the pole during the Ice Age.” Russell speculates that the non-migratory funnybug may have used coastal refugia — non-glaciated areas — to “ride out” the Ice Age in North America. Anthropologists think humans may have done the same thing. (KCAW photo/Robert Woolsey)

“There’s a genus Caurinus. They are related to something that’s sometimes called scorpion flies,” Russell said. “But they are so obscure you just have to be into Caurinus to enjoy them. They’re tiny little guys, about the size of fleas. They hop like fleas, and some of them probably evolved into fleas. In Oregon, we call it The Oregon Funnybug.”

After earning his Ph.D., Russell became a scientist for the Environmental Protection Agency, and — as many a grad student has done — left his thesis and the funnybug behind him. He believed that the funnybug only inhabited the so-called “fog belt” from the middle coast range in Oregon to the Olympic Peninsula.

But then on a vacation to Alaska in May 2017, Russell takes a stroll through Sitka National Historical Park and easily finds a funnybug. And by doing so, Russell has just joined the ongoing academic debate over how humans migrated to North America.

The funnybug contributes to the mounting evidence that along the coast during the Ice Age, there were many places that had no ice.

The funnybug doesn’t fly. It doesn’t move around much. It’s a vegetarian. It’s presence in Sitka is a big question mark.

“Some of these insects had to survive in place,” Russell said. “Something with wings, something that rides on other organisms, could recolonize this region. But a little forest critter without wings almost had to have a place to ride it out.”

But it’s not just Sitka. Caurinus dectes has also been identified in Vancouver, and on Prince of Wales Island. Russell lent his expertise to that survey about 5 years ago.

Actually, it’s not a pure lucky stroke that Russell found the funnybug in Sitka. He was acting on a solid hunch.

“You have to look,” Russell said. “The odd thing is that this is an insect that’s relatively common. It’s hiding in plain sight. Entomologists don’t typically have the luxury to go out and survey something for some reason. And most entomologists don’t do much in the winter, which is the primary period when these are active farther south. Here, you have to go in the rainforest and — in my case — you have to look at the host plants, the liverworts growing on tree trunks. If I look, I can usually find them.”

Russell was also planning to look in Ketchikan on his return trip home. He’s contributing his samples to researchers back at OSU, who are using DNA analysis — a technique undiscovered when Russell first found the funnybug — to identify what might be discreet species of the insect.

What’s next for Russell? Looking even farther afield for the funnybug, of course.

“I think this genus, or something similar could very easily be on the Asian side of the Pacific,” Russell said.

Categories: Alaska News

Borough Assembly approves funding for Port Mac repairs

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2017-06-21 18:21
Ship unloads at Port MacKenzie. Courtesy of Mat Su Borough.

On Tuesday, the Mat-Su Borough Assembly approved the transfer of over half-a-million dollars from existing funds to pay for repairs to the Port Mackenzie barge dock, although some expressed reservations about the port’s continuing costs.

With its vote on Tuesday, the Mat-Su Borough assembly took money from funds dedicated to Port Mackenzie and the MV Susitna to pay for repairs to the port’s barge dock. The vote comes as the insurance claim for another repair of nearly $2 million to the port is under review. Borough Manager John Moosey said a payout from the insurance company for that repair is not a certainty.

“It’s not a sure thing that we’re going to get reimbursement on this claim,” Moosey said. “We are working towards it, but I think we have an uphill baddle, and I’d say that reimbursement from the insurance company is in doubt.”

Assembly Member Dan Mayfield, whose district includes Port Mackenzie, said he supports funding the repairs to protect the port as an asset to the borough.

”The port is an asset that we really have to protect,” Mayfield said. “I realize we don’t have a lot of leases at the port at this point in time, but it’s a very, very valuable asset. It would be like this building here having—one quarter of the building having a giant hole in it.”

Assembly Member Randall Kowalke, whose district includes the Northern Valley, says he had to hold his nose to vote for more funding for repairs to the port, but also envisions a future where it makes a profit.

“I think it’s the jewel in the crown,” Kowalke said. “I think they day will come when the KABATA bridge is built, when the international airport for this region will be in that area, we’ll have the rail complete. A lot of things are going to happen out there. We can guarantee that they don’t happen if we let [Port Mackenzie] wash into the inlet.”

Assembly Member Jim Sykes, who represents District 1, said it would be more expensive to mothball or abandon the port than to make this repair, so he is willing to support the funding. Sykes also says he’s not certain how long his support for funding the port, which is not heavily used at this time, will last. He said the borough has to balance between protecting an asset and risking throwing money away.

“It’s kind of a fine line between—are we far-sighted visionaries of an eventually successful port, or are we fools throwing money down a black hole? It’s a fine line,” Sykes said.

Ultimately, moving the funds to pay for repairs to the Port Mackenzie barge dock passed by a vote of six-to-one, with Assembly Member George McKee voting against the move.

Categories: Alaska News

Advocates opposed to mining in Bristol Bay region ramp up summer outreach

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2017-06-21 18:21
Nick Harvey is a deckhand from Seattle. This is his first season fishing in Bristol Bay.
(Avery Lill/ KDLG)

Kristina Andrew greets Nick Harvey as he steps into the Sustaining Bristol Bay Fisheries booth at the Dillingham harbor. He’s hoping to buy a “No Pebble Mine” flag for his boat to fly. Andrew, the director of Sustaining Bristol Bay Fisheries, is out of flags, but Harvey agrees to sign a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency instead.

The letter is addressed to Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt. It expresses disappointment that the EPA and Pebble Limited Partnership recently reached a settlement that will allow the Pebble project to proceed into a normal permitting process.

As Harvey, a 20-year-old deckhand from Seattle, waits on a Dillingham resident to finish signing her letter, he chats with Andrew. She tells him the latest on litigation and legislation related to the proposed mine. This is Harvey’s second season fishing, and it is his first in Bristol Bay.

“This fishery is one of the last truly wild ones in the world. And it’s definitely worth protecting,” Harvey said. “It’s not worth putting a mine upstream decimate the salmon populations. I didn’t know about it until I started working up here. It definitely should be a Pacific Northwest issue if not a national one. It could use more recognition nationwide,” says Harvey.

Sustaining Bristol Bay Fisheries is a recent project of the United Tribes of Bristol Bay. SBBF’s goal is to connect specifically with the commercial fishing industry. Andrew has set up operations in a shipping container in the harbor. The container is painted with fish, boats, and anti-Pebble slogans. Inside she has hoodies and t-shirts for sale, letters to sign and informational flyers to pass out. She is there every weekday afternoon.

In a week and half of being open, she estimates 500 people have signed letters to the EPA. Over the weekend, SBBF hosted a happy hour at the Sea Inn, a bar in downtown Dillingham. Andrews estimates 150 attended, and 90 signed letters.

Kristina Andrew is the director of Sustaining Bristol Bay Fisheries.
(Avery Lill/ KDLG)

“The importance of having the outreach in the summer is this is when we have the most traffic,” Andrew explained. “A lot of fishermen are coming up from out of town, and we really want to capitalize on everybody being here right before they go out fishing.”

On the east side of the bay, Melanie Brown is manning a table outside the Naknek LFS store. Like Andrew, she is collecting signatures to protest the Pebble project. Brown is a part-time set netter in the Naknek district.

“The more they hear about people’s concerns about the project, the more they’re going to have to listen,” Brown said. “They’re not going to be able to deny that they don’t have the social license to move forward if that means anything to them.”

Brown sees these petitions as a concrete way of making a difference.

“If fishing is important to you, if you want to continue to fish, if you have children you want to participate in the fishery, descendants who want to participate, then you have to remain diligent. You have to do what you can to put the pressure on the decision makers,” Brown said.

After this week, Brown will switch from petitioning mining to doing what keeps her motivated—fishing.

Categories: Alaska News

Hilcorp picks up more acreage in Cook Inlet for oil and gas development

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2017-06-21 18:01
Hilcorp’s Anna Platform in Upper Cook Inlet. The company is looking to further expand its operations in the Inlet after buying up additional acreage at federal and state lease sales. (Photo courtesy Cook Inletkeeper)

Hilcorp snapped up more than 100,000 acres in Cook Inlet for additional oil and gas development at federal and state lease sales held Wednesday.

The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management offered over 1 million acres in the Inlet for lease. The agency’s last three Cook Inlet lease sales were canceled when the oil industry wasn’t interested in developing there.

But at this year’s federal sale, Hilcorp submitted over $3 million in bids. The private, Texas-based company is the Inlet’s predominant oil and gas producer.

The company picked up 76,615 acres at the federal lease sale and 26,822 acres at the state lease sale. In both sales, Hilcorp was the only bidder.

David Johnston, who oversees leasing in the region for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, said on a call with reporters that he wasn’t surprised to see Hilcorp’s interest.

“Hilcorp, as you know, has been very active in the upper Cook Inlet,” Johnston said. “I think this is just kind of a natural extension for Hilcorp to be looking in the southern end of the Inlet.”

Vincent DeVito, who advises the Interior Secretary on energy policy, added that he thinks the Trump administration’s more industry-friendly policies also influenced the results.

“We are focused on Alaska energy, and… the signaling that has been coming out of this administration is also catalyzing the optimism,” Devito said on the call.

Not everyone is happy about the lease sale results. In a statement, watchdog environmental group Cook Inletkeeper said the federal lease sale marked “a turning point” for Cook Inlet.

“For the first time ever, we are pushing oil and gas platforms and infrastructure into the heart of our commercial and sport fishing and tourism economies,” Cook Inletkeeper’s Bob Shavelson said.

Earlier this year, a gas leak from a fuel line powering one of Hilcorp’s oil platforms went on for months before it could be repaired, drawing intense criticism from Cook Inletkeeper and other environmental groups.

Categories: Alaska News

Assembly member wants to turn fallow land into an urban farm

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2017-06-21 17:51

Officials in Anchorage are taking the first steps to convert a blighted downtown property into an urban farm.

The move comes as an amendment to a five-year management plan for the Heritage Land Bank that’s set to go before the Assembly next week at its June 27th meeting. The 15-acre property in question is the former site of the Alaska Native Hospital, located between Ingra Street and 3rd Avenue. Under the proposal from downtown Assembly member Christopher Constant, the area would first be tested for contamination, then potentially turned into an “urban agriculture center.”

“This doesn’t actually do anything specific toward approval,” Constant said after members of the Assembly’s homelessness committee agreed to move the proposal forward. “It just sends a message to the administration that this is a desirable area to explore.”

Constant represents the area where the potential center site would be.

“The land’s been sitting fallow,” Constant said. “At this point my personal hope is that we’ll do something positive with that land. Let’s put in a farm. And I’m not talking about a garden, I mean a farm.”

Constant would like to see the area grow produce like herbs or greens that can easily be brought to markets and restaurants in Anchorage. One of the eventual goals of the farm idea is creating training and employment opportunities for people living in nearby shelters or on the streets.

“Let’s come up with some ideas that can actually generate revenue to help people be employed,” Constant said. At such an early stage, he said it’s not clear whether it will ultimately be a for-profit or non-profit venture. “I personally lean towards coming up with a for-profit that manages the farm and the non-profit partners that are a part of it.”

Constant said he has started conversations about the project with a number of stakeholders, including partners at the city and area non-profits, as well as with private-sector businesses like Vertical Harvest, which builds hydroponic growing systems inside shipping containers.


Categories: Alaska News

Alaska trail advocates warn Governor Walker of transportation funding lapses

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2017-06-21 16:00
Logo for Alaska Department of Transportation

Advocacy group Alaska Trails sent a letter to let Governor Bill Walker know that transportation funds are at risk. Last September, Alaska returned $2.6 million to the US Department of Transportation.

The Transportation Alternatives Program, or TAP, provides federal funding for smaller-scale transportation projects such as pedestrian and bicycle facilities.

Each year the federal government authorizes TAP funds for every state that must be obligated to local projects within four years. Projects funded through TAP require a 20 percent state or local match.

The Alaska Department of Transportation had to return the remainder of its 2013 TAP fund after failing to obligate all of the money before it expired in 2016.

The Safe Routes to School National Partnership releases a quarterly report on states’ progress in obligating TAP funds. Deputy director, Margo Pedroso said that Alaska’s lapsed TAP funding is a missed opportunity.

“These dollars that are allocated to Alaska Department of Transportation are, in essence, Alaska’s fair share of the gas tax that every resident pays as they get around,” Pedroso said. “And by letting those funds lapse and be returned to the federal government, Alaska dollars are now going and being distributed to other states.”

Alaska DOT spokesperson Jill Reese said that the 2013 TAP money was not obligated in time because there were not enough projects submitted from local stakeholders that were eligible for funding.

Alaska Trails Executive director Steve Cleary thinks the DOT could have done better outreach to find projects for TAP funding.

“The fact is, there was four years for this program to be implemented and run,” Cleary said. “And the DOT in my estimation waited too long to start it. So of course there are going to be hiccups and stumbling, but if they had taken advantage of more time, then they would have been able to solicit and recruit qualified applicants rather than just having to take the applications that came in.”

According to the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, nearly $4 million of Alaska’s TAP funding from 2014 could be returned to the federal government if it is not obligated by September 2017.

Categories: Alaska News

Business as usual for marine mammal deterrence

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2017-06-21 14:24
Sea lions nap on a buoy in Frederick sound. (Nora Saks, KFSK – Petersburg)

In Southeast Alaska, populations of some marine mammals, like humpback whales and Stellar sea lions, are on the rise. Some subgroups of these species have recently been removed from the Endangered Species list, leaving many commercial fisherman wondering what this means for them.

But it’s still business as usual when it comes to dealing with protected marine mammals in Southeast waters.

On June 7, NOAA Fisheries representatives held a virtual “community roundtable” in Petersburg to update fishermen and the public on marine mammal policies and clear up confusion.

Aleria Jensen is the Deputy of Alaska’s Protected Resources Division for the agency. She was visiting via Google Hangout.

“One of the questions I know has been on people’s minds is the pretty monumental change that happened last year for humpback whale,” Jensen said.

Three different groups of humpbacks migrate to coastal Alaska. Last September, one was delisted, one was reclassified as threatened, and one, from the Western North Pacific, remains endangered. It’s a similar story with Stellar sea lions. Two populations can be found in the area. One is endangered, and one isn’t.

Since it’s impossible to tell these genetically distinct populations apart by sight, Jensen said they all have to be treated the same and afforded full protection under the Endangered Species Act.

“So for you it’s essentially, that means business as usual,” Jensen said. “That’s really the status quo of how we’ve been operating. Nothing is changing. In terms of a vessel’s behavior around a whale.”

Sea lions can steal salmon from commercial nets or become a harbor nuisance, while whales can get tangled in nets and crab gear. There are devices like noisemakers, visual repellents, and exclusion barriers on the market intended to keep these animals away.

But there’s currently no list of agency approved or prohibited deterrence methods to guide fishermen.

Which means there isn’t a clear answer to the million dollar question of whether or not fishermen can use deterrents to protect their gear and catch, or which ones. It’s a situation which seemed to frustrate NOAA Fisheries staff as much as fishermen.

“We want to be able to help you avoid violations,” Jensen said. “We want a win-win. Nobody wants whales and gear in the same place. We have really looked to our national program to provide that guidance, and it certainly has been long in coming.”

A draft list is in the works, and should come out sometime next year. Even when the list is finalized, likely in 2019, it will only address the impact of each deterrent on marine mammals, not its effectiveness.

And, while the Marine Mammal Protection Act allows fishermen to use deterrents to protect their property as long as no animals are hurt, the Endangered Species Act does not contain the same explicit exemption.

While NOAA officials wait for better standards and clearer regulations, Jensen said that right now, they need the fishing industry’s help to come up with creative solutions.

“It’s really fundamentally such a challenging issue. How do we protect gear, catch, and how do we account for human safety, and not use something that has that injurious or negative effect to marine mammals?” Jensen asked the crowd.

NOAA Fisheries plans to hold listening sessions to gather more input from commercial fisherman, and a few stuck around to chat after the meeting.

Julianne Curry is on the board of the Petersburg Marine Mammal Center, and a long time seiner.

“People will keep fishing. People will keep boating. People will keep coming to Alaska on cruises. And we’re just gonna have to cautiously figure out how to operate in this world where marine mammal populations are exploding to levels we’ve never seen in generations,” Curry said.

Gillnetter Max Worhatch said he hasn’t seen very many humpbacks so far this year, but when he does, he tries to stay away.

“I’ve got an aluminum boat, so I just take a stick and beat on the boat when they get close to the boat,” said Worhatch. “Humpbacks don’t use echolocation, they just use their ears and their eyes, so it kind of makes them aware. I’ve had minimal incidents with whales. So, it seems like it works for me.”

For now, NOAA Fisheries representatives recommend avoiding marine mammals as much as possible, and not doing anything that could cause more interactions, like dumping fish waste near boats.

Categories: Alaska News

Fairbanks looks to recruit seasoned officers with $20,000 bonus

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2017-06-21 12:44
(Courtesy of the Fairbanks Police Department)

Fairbanks is offering a $20,000 bonus to attract seasoned police officers to the city after the money was approved unanimously by the city council on June 19. Fairbanks Police Department is short nine officers, and it’s estimated to take four years to fill the posts with rookie recruits, who must go through police academy training.

Mayor Jim Matherly told the council incentivizing lateral hires with a bonus is a faster and cheaper way to get new officers.

”The cost to actually hire a brand new recruit fresh, just off the street, and send them through training — it takes about a year total — is about a $45,000 bill,” Matherly said. “And what we’re looking to do here is to cut that down by over half.“

Citing a recent rash of violence in the city and the officer shortage, mayor Matherly encouraged the council to support the bonus program.

”This is public safety,” Matherly said. “Overtime alone is killing that department. We need these people quick.”

The council discussed the potential of an officer working just long enough to get the bonus, then leaving, and not paying it back. Council member Jerry Cleworth suggested doling out the incentive in two increments.

”Why not mitigate the loss,” Cleworth said. “We’re still offering a $20,000 bonus.”

Member Valerie Therrien downplayed the risk of officers taking the bonus and leaving.

”If a police officer is willing to either come here from another jurisdiction or come from another branch in the state of Alaska, that they’ve made that commitment,” Therrien said.

The council did approve a Cleworth amendment which sunsets the hiring bonus program in July 2018.

The program also offers a $5,000 bonus to FPD officers who recruit an officer to the city from another police department.

Categories: Alaska News

Chiniak replanting begins

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2017-06-21 12:34
Sitka spruce bark. (Josh Blouin / Flickr)

Foresters began replanting the scorched areas of Chiniak on Friday.

The Kodiak Island Borough contracted with Washington-based NorthWind Forest Consultants to recover some of the forest’s former luster. It was damaged in the 2015 Twin Creeks fire.

Forester David Nesheim, who is currently in Chiniak, said they’re planting Sitka Spruce sourced from the Juneau and Hoonah area – the same stock Leisnoi uses. He said they’re replanting using shovels and have 740 to 770 acres to cover with an eight-man crew.

“We should be getting about 1500 seedlings per guy per day,” Nesheim said. “We’re hoping that it doesn’t take much longer than 25 days to put the 278,000 seedlings into the ground.”

Nesheim said the Twin Creeks Fire wasn’t hot enough to damage the soil, and the ground should be in good condition to receive the trees.

“So, the soil, if anything has gotten a big boost from the fire itself by releasing a lot of the organic material that was on the forest floor and turning it into more readily available nutrients for the vegetation,” Nesheim said.

In addition to the spruce, Nesheim said they’ve planted 2200 cottonwood along Big Creek stream to maintain the buffer zone along the waterway, called a riparian management zone.

Nesheim said hardwoods may be better for the stream environment.

“A lot more organic leaf matter is released on an annual basis,” Nesheim said. “A different variety and quantity of insects are associated with deciduous trees. And, in some cases, the deciduous trees are a nitrogen fixing species, and so it adds nitrogen to the waters which is advantageous to the fish and the aquatic insects that fish feed on.”

Nesheim said it’ll take a couple of years for the seedlings to establish themselves.

That is, if all goes well and the other vegetation doesn’t overtake the seedlings or predators, like rabbits, don’t eat away at them.

Nesheim said the trees should be 3 to 4 feet tall by age five or seven. At some point beyond that, he said the trees will start gaining height at about 12 to 18 inches a year, and he said the trees should be 40 to 50 feet in roughly 40 years.

Categories: Alaska News

Belleque Family Farms pivots, selling produce to subscribers instead of grocery stores

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2017-06-21 12:22
Kyle Belleque and his daughter, Amy, are in the midst of planting these greens. Some will go in the garden in their yard. Others will be replanted in their hydroponic growing system. (Avery Lill/ KDLG)

Water rushes through the pipes and fans whir inside the hydroponic growing system that Belleque Family Farms has set up inside a converted shipping container. Kyle Belleque crouches low to inspect the spinach plant on the bottom shelf of his garden.

“Makes me want to have a spinach sandwich,” Belleque said as he picked a deep green leaf and munches on it.

This Dillingham farm is making a concerted effort to provide fresh greens year-round. They grow everything from butterhead lettuce and chard to basil and mountain mint on floor to ceiling shelves that run the length of the container. Belleque points out a new product on a shelf across the narrow aisle.

“We’ve got our new experiment here,” Belleque said. “We’ve got bare root strawberry plants. We’re just going to start with a row, and then if they work we’ll plant more.”

Belleque Family Farms is something of an experiment itself. They are mastering hydroponic technology, testing different plant varieties, and now they’re trying out a new business model. In November, they began selling to grocery stores in Dillingham. But Belleque said that after a few months it became clear that model wasn’t sustainable for his produce.

“It’s not as fibrous, so the stalks break a little easier, and the leaves are a little thinner,” Belleque said. “It is ultra-fresh, but you sort of have to take care of it in certain ways to keep it fresh. I think that was somewhat of a challenge in the stores. They’re looking to get stuff in there and keep it out until it sells. And if it doesn’t sell for a while it becomes hard to maintain.”

When the grocery stores stopped buying their greens, they decided to try something new.

“I guess we started out with kind of the mindset that we would be replacing the produce in the stores,” Belleque explained. “That’s not how I look at it anymore. The way I look at it is we’re providing a whole new line of produce. So we’re developing that market for our new produce.”

Amy Belleque plants bare root strawberries.
(Avery Lill/ KDLG)

Last week, Belleque Family Farms began selling shares of their harvest. $40 dollars a week buys a share of 10 units a week. An ounce of basil or a head of greens each count as a unit. Subscribers can visit the farm twice a week to pick out their greens.

“You know, if you want a head of lettuce, you point at the one you want,” Belleque said. “If you want some spinach, we’ll snip it off for you and bag it up. If you want some herbs, we’ll cut it right there. Essentially what we’re trying to offer people is year-round, fresh, custom grown produce.”

Initially, they are offering five subscriptions. So far, four people have signed on. Once the new system is established, Belleque anticipates that their growing capacity will allow them to sell 20 or 30 shares. They also want to continue providing fresh greens to the Dillingham City School District during the school year.

In a place where many people already eat off the land, collecting and preserving fish, game and berries, Belleque sees this hydroponic farm as one more opportunity to eat locally year round.

Categories: Alaska News

Unionized borough workers want more contract talks

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2017-06-21 11:04
Alaska’s IBEW Local 1547 represents 24 Wrangell municipal workers. (Photo by Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau)

Wrangell’s municipal employees’ union has authorized a strike. But one of its leaders said members don’t really want to.

Mark Armstrong is a shop steward for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which represents 24 city and borough staffers. He said the union voted to authorize a strike twice before this year. Both times, municipal officials responded by resuming contract talks. He hopes that happens again.

“I don’t know anybody who wants a strike,” Armstrong said. “Certainly the community members don’t want us to strike. I’m sure the city isn’t looking forward to a strike. And neither are the union members. The purpose of the strike is just to bring the city back to the table so we can continue negotiations and hopefully reach a contract that’s agreeable to everybody.”

The Borough Assembly scheduled a special meeting at 5:30 this evening to consider the situation.

Wrangell’s unionized workers have been without a contract for three years.

Management and labor made final wage offers earlier this month. The union proposed an across-the-board, $2.50-an-hour raise. The municipality offered 75 cents.

Armstrong said the union’s proposal balances out another contract term that calls for workers to pay 15 percent of their health-insurance costs.

“We’re not seeking a wage increase. We’re just trying to compensate wages enough so that in the end, we don’t fall backwards because we’re going to pay that insurance premium,” Armstrong said.

Armstrong said the borough’s offer would essentially cut paychecks by several hundred dollars each.

The municipality has been preparing for a strike.

Interim Borough Manager Carol Rushmore said it’s recruiting temporary, fill-in staff. And she’s released a list of services that would slow or stop if workers strike. She said some tasks would be covered by about 35 managers and non-union staffers.

Armstrong said the union has not asked for a wage increase to be retroactive to when the previous contract expired.

“We chose not to pursue that because of the extra burden that that would have been on the city. We realize things are extremely tight,” Armstrong said.

Rushmore, in a prepared statement, recognized the right of union workers to strike. But she said the municipality’s responsibility is to build a budget it can afford, especially given ongoing state spending reductions.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: Tuesday, June 20, 2017

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2017-06-20 18:00

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 and on Twitter @aprn

Listen now

Supreme Court of Alaska hears arguments over legality of Walker’s PFD veto

Wesley Early, Sean Doogan and Henry Leasia, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage

The fate of hundreds of millions in Permanent Fund dividend money now rests with the five Alaska Supreme court judges.

Alaskan appointed to help manage national fisheries

Elizabeth Jenkins, Alaska’s Energy Desk – Juneau

An Alaskan has been appointed to help manage fisheries nationwide.

Fairbanks Police say Monday morning shooter was prepared for armed confrontation

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

Fairbanks Police have released details about an officer involved shooting in the city Monday. Police identified the man killed in a shootout with 4 FPD officers, as 21-year-old Mathew Colton Stover of Northway.

Pogo mine field work halted after black bear attack kills worker

Tim Ellis, KUAC – Fairbanks

Pogo Mine officials have halted field work outside of the main camp after a black bear killed one contract worker and injured another at a remote site Monday. Meanwhile, state Wildlife Troopers and a federal mine-safety official began investigating the bear attack near the gold mine some 35 miles northeast of Delta Junction.

Searchers seek Wasilla man missing from capsized canoe

Associated Press

A Wasilla man is missing and feared drowned after a canoe capsized.

Unionized borough workers want more contract talkers

Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Wrnagell

Wrangell’s municipal employees’ union has authorized a strike. But one of its leaders says members don’t really want to.

Sitka considers code changes in landslide zones

Emily Kwong, KCAW – Sitka

The state is currently mapping the potential risk for landslides in Sitka. This time next year, the Sitka Assembly will be presented with a community-wide map.

Smithsonian representatives wrap up information meetings for Native veterans memorial

Tripp Crouse, KTOO – Juneau

In 2013, Congress authorized the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian to establish a national veterans memorial for Natives. The Alaska community consultations of that national effort wrapped last week.

Confusion over legalities is hurting Alaskan ivory market, locals say

Davis Hovey, KNOM – Nome

With five different states’ ivory bans currently in effect, the latest passed by Hawaii at the beginning of this year, confusion remains among potential walrus ivory buyers in Alaska about what ivory is legal and what isn’t.

Ask a Climatologist: Summer solstice

Annie Feidt, Alaska’s Energy Desk – Anchorage

Alaskans will celebrate the summer solstice at 8:24 tonight. The solstice is the point when the sun’s rays reach their highest latitude of the year. And also the moment when the days start getting shorter.

Categories: Alaska News

Fairbanks Police say Monday morning shooter was prepared for armed confrontation

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2017-06-20 17:37
Fairbanks Police Department commander’s Dodge Charger. (Flickr Creative Commons photo by Steven H. Robinson)

Fairbanks Police have released details about an officer involved shooting in the city Monday. Police identified the man killed in a shootout with 4 FPD officers, as 21-year-old Mathew Colton Stover of Northway. During a press conference Tuesday, Chief Eric Jewkes explained that officers responded to a snow dump next to Fairbanks Correctional Center around 4 a.m. Monday, after receiving reports of a masked man with a rifle.

Listen now

“Two officers approached in their vehicles, stopping a considerable distance away” Jewkes said. “They activated their lights and made contact with the suspect over the PA. As soon as that PA announcement started, the suspect exited the vehicle, immediately turned, started running towards the officers, raised an AR-style rifle and began firing as he ran towards the patrol cars.”

Chief Jewkes said the officers were not injured, and returned fire, killing Stover. Jewkes says Stover was armed with an assault rifle and a 9mm pistol, and was prepared for confrontation.

“He had numerous loaded magazines both on him and in his vehicle, both for the rifle and the handgun, which counted to about 400 rounds of ammunition,” Jewkes said. “He also was wearing body armor that covered a significant part of his body. We’re still looking into exactly how much of his body was covered by that body armor, but it did include a ballistic face mask.”

Chief Jewkes said an armored Alaska State Trooper vehicle and a robot were used to approach Stover’s body and his truck.

“He had modified his vehicle to conceal both its make and to change its original appearance,” Jewkes said. “They also noticed a large bag sitting beside the vehicle and noticed a fuel-type smell or some type of accelerant. So given all the preparations that he made, the smell and the things that went with that, there were some concerns about explosive materials — some other kind of secondary hazard to the officers.”

Jewkes said an Army explosive ordinance detection team from Ft. Wainwright was called in, but no explosives were found. An unmanned aerial vehicle from the University of Alaska Fairbanks was used to survey and map the shooting scene.

A nearby medical center, movie theatre and other businesses were evacuated or locked down during the hours long clearing and processing of the scene. Chief Jewkes said police have had no prior dealings with Stover, and he would not speculate on his motivation.

“What I can say is after reviewing the information we have so far, I stand here very proud of the officers that were involved,” Jewkes said. “The way they conducted themselves, the way they confronted and armed gunman who had spent considerable time preparing for an armed confrontation. I have full appreciation for the significance of Mr. Stover and his loss of life, and my sympathy goes out to his family. He’s a person, he has a family and I sympathize with what they must be going through.”

Stover’s hometown of Northway is located about 50 miles south of Tok on the Alaska Highway. The population was 71 people in the 2010 census.

The four FPD officers involved in the shooting are on administrative leave, and their names will be released after 72 hours. It was the second officer involved shooting in Fairbanks in a month.

Categories: Alaska News

Sitka considers code changes in landslide zones

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2017-06-20 17:02
If the critical areas ordinance passes on June 27th, it would change development rules for South Kramer Avenue. An outside firm mapped the area for landslide risk in the aftermath of the August 18, 2015 landslides. (Map from Shannon & Wilson South Kramer report)

The state is currently mapping the potential risk for landslides in Sitka. This time next year, the Sitka Assembly will be presented with a community-wide map. Whether they adopt the maps or not, city staff wanted to be prepared for how the information could affect property development. They presented their critical areas ordinance (Ord 2017-14) to the Sitka Assembly on June 13.

Listen now

This is a policy rooted in tragedy.

“We all remember August 18th, 2015. Over 65 landslides hit Baranof Island that day,” Sitka Community Affairs Director Maegan Bosak said at the start of her presentation. “We had extremely heavy rainfall in the morning and a shift of wind patterns that left our community reeling over the tragic loss of life and damage to property.”

Future development in Sitka is now a fraught enterprise, particularly in the South Kramer and Gary Paxton Industrial Park areas. Bosak said this leaves the city in a tough position and in writing the critical areas ordinance, staff looked to other places with hazardous land.

“We’ve compared other municipalities, specifically Juneau – they have both a hazard, landslide, and avalanche area – Seattle, and Snohomish County. We’ve included outside counsel in drafting and review. And really struggled with this ordinance all personally. It’s really the argument of what is the role of government. Where do we step in? And what is that demand for public safety or the need to develop?” Bosak said.

Right now, the city cannot issue permits in landslide areas unless the homeowner pays for a geotechnical evaluation and any necessary mitigation. Under this new critical areas ordinance (Ord 2017-14), the homeowner can waive that requirement.

That person would sign a covenant with the city that would be tied to the deed of the land, “stating that essentially that they know and accept the risks and are protecting the municipality from financial liability,” Bosak explained.

Subdivisions and high occupancy buildings would not qualify for this waiver option. Future homeowners could cancel that covenant at any time.

The Assembly had mixed opinions on how this, with some wondering how designating land as “risky” could change its value, development, and financing. Would a bank be reluctant to loan money for a house on the Benchlands?

Planning Director Michael Scarcelli said that is beyond the city’s control and the market for supplemental insurance is growing. Homes in Juneau have been able to access “difference in conditions” insurance, or DIC, that is designed to cover catastrophes the broader insurance market won’t touch.

Scarcelli pointed out that an ordinance like this may be inevitable, as the federal government pushes for GIS mapping. FEMA recently published drafts of a multi-hazard map for Sitka, which the Assembly will review next year.

“Those private [insurance] markets – whether the Sitka Assembly would adopt those [flood] maps – might use those for those risk actuary analysis,” Scarcelli said. 

Some on the Assembly were ill at ease with continued hazard mapping in Sitka, with Steven Eisenbeisz worrying about homeowners who suddenly find themselves in a high risk area. As for the critical areas ordinance, he said, “it scares me.”

“It seems like the city is just trying to wash its hands of any responsibility here. We’re just trying to step back and say, ‘Yeah no, let’s not be a part of this.’ But there’s still something in here that’s unsettling to me,” Eisenbeisz said.

Kevin Knox reasoned that landowners have their hands tied as is, under current rules, and saw the ordinance as a move in the right direction. “There are landowners right now that are hamstrung. They can’t do anything,” Knox said.

Mayor Matthew Hunter went so far as to say that this ordinance gives rights back to property owners. “If I owned a lot that was in a risky area and I wanted to use it, I’d say, ‘I own this property but why can’t I use it? I’ll sign a waiver that says I recognize this is dangerous, but just let me do what I want to do.’”

That may come to pass if the Assembly gives the critical areas ordinance final approval at their next meeting on June 27th. They passed the ordinance on first reading Tuesday night 5-2, with Eisenbeisz and Aaron Bean voting no.

Categories: Alaska News

Supreme Court of Alaska hears arguments over legality of Walker’s PFD veto

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2017-06-20 16:46
The Supreme Court of Alaska. (Wesley Early / Alaska Public Media)

The fate of hundreds of millions in Permanent Fund dividend money now rests with the five Alaska Supreme court judges.

The court heard oral arguments today in Anchorage in a case that seeks to overturn Governor Bill Walkers veto last year of $666 million from the dividend. Anchorage Democratic Senator Bill Wielechowski and two former republican state lawmakers sued last November to get the money back.

“It’s critical to Alaskans and I think we should share a little bit of our oil wealth with the people,” Wielechowski said.

Lower courts ruled last year the Governor had the power to use his line item veto to take the money from dividend checks.

Today on the fifth floor of the Boney Courthouse in Downtown Anchorage, about 75 people watched as the justices heard from both sides.

State attorney Kathryn Vogel argued that the money the governor vetoed was actually an appropriation and subject to his override.

State attorney Katherine Vogel argued that the governor’s veto of the Permanent Fund dividend amounts was within his rights. (Photo by Wesley Early, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage)

“Both parties agree that the Permanent Fund Dividend is a statutory entitlement. It is not in the constitutional amendment, and that enables the governor to, when faced with funding for that in an appropriations bill, to strike or reduce,” Vogel said.

But Senator Wielechowski, a lawyer himself, disagreed, saying the original intent of the law that created the Permanent Fund Dividend program was that the money is dedicated funding and not an appropriation therefore, not subject to veto. He said the legislature has that authority and not the governor.

“We think the legislature did in fact dedicate the funding in 1980 and again in 1982 for dividends,” Wielechowski said. “And so, when you have a dedicated fund, the governor can’t veto that. It’s not subject to the appropriation process. The only way that you change that is by a future legislature changing that. So our position is, yeah the legislature can change that at any time. The legislature’s hands aren’t tied. They just have to change the law.”

Before the hearing 35 people lined up outside the courthouse to protest the governor’s veto of the PFD money, and to let lawmakers know they don’t want to see their dividend checks reduced to pay for state government. Juanita Casellius, a coordinator for the group Permanent Fund Defenders, said the decision will likely have long lasting effects on the Permanent Fund Dividend.

Protesters lined up in front of the Boney Courthouse. They were against Governor Walker’s veto of some of the Permanent Fund dividend. (Photo by Wesley Early, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage)

“This decision will open the door to raids on the Permanent Fund and the dividend if the governor is allowed to veto it,” Casellius said. “And it’ll also protect the people’s money from raids if it is prevailing for Bill Wielechowski, (Rick) Halford and (Clem)Tillion.”

It can take up to a year for the Supreme Court to decide a case. Both sides don’t think it will take that long for a decision on this case.

This story contained contributions form Henry Leasia, Wesley Early and Sena Doogan of Alaska Public Media. 

Categories: Alaska News

Confusion over legalities is hurting Alaskan ivory market, locals say

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2017-06-20 16:18
An ivory carving of a beluga whale is set to be purchased by a couple from Washington State. (Photo by Davis Hovey/KNOM)

With five different states’ ivory bans currently in effect, the latest passed by Hawaii at the beginning of this year, confusion remains among potential walrus ivory buyers in Alaska about what ivory is legal and what isn’t.

Robert James is the manager of Maruskiya’s, a small business in Nome that sells local gifts and handmade crafts, including ivory carvings. He said most of their ivory pieces, made from mastodon, whale bone and walrus ivory, are all sold to a specific clientele.

“It’s a very client-based business,” James said, “We don’t necessarily have to get out there too much. I mean, the challenges are more and more so it might get to that point where we’ll have to. But a lot of times people will seek us out, or we have certain clients because we end up wholesaling a lot out of Nome. It’s a great place to buy, but we don’t get the foot-traffic like in Southeast or anywhere else.”

James is wrapping a mounted beluga whale, carved out of walrus ivory, for a couple of tourists from Washington state.

According to James, the best months for ivory sales at Maruskiya’s are July through September, which also is when a few cruise ships, like the Crystal Serenity, make port in Nome.

Maruskiya’s receives and sells ivory pieces from Native carvers throughout the Bering Straits region.

Susie Silook, a Native ivory carver from Gambell, recalled a time she addressed a tourist group in Nome and one potential ivory customer mentioned their hesitancy to make a purchase.

“They were scared to buy any ivory without a piece of paper that gives information on where it’s from and the fact that it is legal. In the elephant ivory ban, antiquities are allowed up to 100 years old, but it’s up to the owner to prove that this piece is 100 years old and, therefore, is legal,” Silook said. “People are worried about that, worried about having to prove that their item is actually legal.”

Silook feels that if carvers don’t get their artwork certified, then it will hurt their business.

James said even if they wanted to get certifications for the ivory Maruskiya’s sells, it’s just not feasible.

“We can’t get any kind of formal documentation that says this is authentic, Native art. Ideally, we’d get it from CITES, which is the international trade exporting association, but it’s not that simple, because every time you apply for that, it’s on each individual piece, and there’s a huge fee each time,” James said, “A lot of the time, it’s not worth (it), and it’s like a 3-6 month wait, so a lot of people aren’t going to wait that long, anyway.”

James believes it would take some clear legislation from the Alaska delegation to clarify the differences between walrus and elephant ivory as a way to reassure people who are concerned about buying ivory carvings.

Although that state legislation does not yet exist, Silook said an educational brochure is available that explains how Alaska Natives’ use of walrus ivory is excluded from an elephant ivory ban in the U.S., which was established by an executive order last year from President Barack Obama.

“Even though there’s an exemption for existing federal legislation permitting other items, which would be us under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, not many people are aware of, not just that law, but our legal use of walrus ivory,” Silook said. “This brochure is part of the ongoing effort by organizations to inform the American public about our legal, cultural use of walrus ivory in the hopes that states will not ban it along with other items they are attempting to ban as they respond to the executive order.”

This Alaska Native Ivory brochure was created through collaboration between the Eskimo Walrus Commission, the Alaska State Council on the Arts and others.

In Nome, Vera Metcalf, the director of the Eskimo Walrus Commission, explained how walrus and their ivory tusks are priceless in more ways than one.

“I’m from Savoonga, St. Lawrence Island, and I grew up with ivory. I have many relatives and friends who make crafts to make income,” Metcalf said. “It is highly utilized and valued, so it is a valuable, beautiful piece of a resource that we have been utilizing for centuries. It’s part of our identity, it’s part of our lifeways.”

The Commission is also working with the Alaska delegation to educate other state delegations about walrus ivory before they decide to implement more inclusive ivory bans, Metcalf said.

As it stands, California, New York, New Jersey, Washington and Hawaii all have their own state ivory legislation, some of which ban walrus ivory along with elephant ivory.

When asked if these state bans have affected Maruskiya’s ivory sales, James replied, “Oh absolutely, sure, and we’ve just had to adapt, find other clients. We used to go to California and do a show in San Francisco, but we can’t do that anymore. That was a big weekend for us, because we really only get out of Alaska and bring large amounts of inventory to a couple shows, and that was one of them. We aren’t panicking yet, but sure, it has affected sales.”

James is hopeful that the Alaska Native Ivory brochure will continue to educate his potential customers and help carvers in the region sell more pieces of ivory off Maruskiya’s shelves.

For now, James said Maruskiya’s will operate as usual and participate in a crafts show in Santa Fe, New Mexico, this August.

Categories: Alaska News

Ask a Climatologist: Summer solstice

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2017-06-20 16:08
(Graphic courtesy of Brian Brettschneider)

Alaskans will celebrate the summer solstice at 8:24 tonight. The solstice is the point when the sun’s rays reach their highest latitude of the year. And also the moment when the days start getting shorter.

And Brian Brettschneider, with our Ask a Climatologist segment said the solstice is always a popular topic with Alaskans.

Interview Transcript:

Brian: From an astronomical point of view it’s when the sun’s rays reach their farthest, most northerly point. So they’re directly over the Tropic of Cancer, which is at 23.5 degrees latitude at approximately 8:24 pm Alaska Daylight Time.

Annie: And is this typically when our hottest temperatures are too?

Brian: If you look at the peak all time single day temperature records, they actually do occur kind of near the solstice. In Anchorage, the all time record was measured at the end of June and statewide, the all time record was at the end of June. So when everything comes together, that long day can add just a little more solar energy to generate those all time records. But on average, we’re still a couple of weeks away from when we would see our seasonal peak of temperatures.

Annie: How quickly do we start losing daylight?

Brian: As we approach the solstice, say in April and May, you might see we gained six minutes a day, or in Fairbanks, eight minutes a day. As we’ve been approaching the solstice the last few days, you might see we gained only 30 seconds a day. So we’re slowly reaching that peak and then we’ll stop, turn the corner and we’ll only gain a few seconds tomorrow and maybe 15 or 20 seconds after that. It will take a week or ten days before we start losing a minute or two minutes a day. So we have the extended daylight right now and we’ll have it for quite a while.

Annie: Do you celebrate the summer solstice?

Brian: A couple times I’ve done the Flattop hike here in Anchorage. It’s better if the weather is clear. There are 24 hours of twilight, so unless it’s really cloudy and rainy, you can do it without a headlamp. If the weather’s good, I may be on Flattop tonight, so keep an eye out for me.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaskan appointed to help manage national fisheries

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2017-06-20 16:06
Chris Oliver was appointed assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries on June 19, 2017. (Photo courtesy of NOAA)

An Alaskan has been appointed to help manage fisheries nationwide.

Chris Oliver will oversee recreational and commercial fishing at the National Marine Fisheries Service, which is under the umbrella of NOAA.

Oliver said one of his goals is to make long-term sustainability a priority for the billion dollar industry.

Previously Oliver worked on shrimp fishery management in the Gulf of Mexico. In 1990, he moved to Alaska, and he’s been employed by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council for the past 27 years.

Oliver starts his new job this week at the NOAA headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: Monday, June 19, 2017

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2017-06-19 18:18

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 and on Twitter @aprn

Listen now

Sharp comments reflect ill will as Legislature starts 2nd special session

Andrew Kitchenman, KTOO – Juneau

House majority’s handling of budget debate was compared to Pearl Harbor attack, tyranny and Jim Crow laws.

Interior Secretary reassigns top climate policy adviser

Elizabeth Jenkins, Alaska’s Energy Desk – Juneau

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is reshuffling several senior government positions, and it could affect Arctic policies in Alaska.

Alaska Department of Natural Resources tracks bear that killed Anchorage teenager

Henry Leasia, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage

Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources is still searching for the black bear that killed 16-year-old Patrick Cooper on Sunday.

East Fork Fire grows to 1,300 acres

Associated Press

A fire in Alaska has grown to more than 1,300 acres.

New equipment helps scientists keep tabs on Bogoslof now and study it later

Zoe Sobel, Alaska’ Energy Desk – Unalaska

There aren’t many volcanoes like Bogoslof. But with an improved monitoring network, scientists are relishing every last eruption.

Alleged gunman shot by Fairbanks police Monday morning

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

One person is dead after being shot by Fairbanks Police. Police spokeswoman Yumi McCullough said the shooting happened  when officers received two calls about a masked man wielding a rifle.

Former Kenai city manager dies after motorcycle crash

Tim Ellis, KUAC – Fairbanks

A former Kenai city manager died Sunday of injuries he sustained when he wrecked his motorcycle earlier that day on the Dalton Highway.

SEARHC land transfer advances in congressional committees

Robert Woolsey, KCAW – Sitka

A bill transferring over 19 acres of federal land in Sitka to the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium — or SEARHC — has passed preliminary committees in both the US House and Senate.

Homer City Council members survive recall effort

Aaron Bolton, KBBI – Homer

Three Homer City Council members subject of a highly contentious recall effort will retain their seats. The political battle led to a court case with the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska and two political groups have formed around the issue.

2 Anchorage men die when boat capsizes near Seward

Associated Press

Two Anchorage men died and two were rescued when their fishing boat capsized near Seward.

Alaska looks to reform its solitary confinement practices

Anne Hillman, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage

The Department of Corrections and the ACLU are working together to reform the department’s solitary confinement practices. They brought in a team of experts from New York University to tour facilities and their segregation units this week and develop suggestions that will improve conditions for both inmates and staff.

Categories: Alaska News

Alleged gunman shot by Fairbanks police Monday morning

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2017-06-19 18:06

One person is dead after being shot by Fairbanks Police.

Listen now

Police spokeswoman Yumi McCullough said the shooting happened at about 4 a.m., when officers received two calls about a masked man wielding a rifle.

”The man was located at an undisclosed location,” McCullough said. “There were four FPD officers that were involved and the gunman approached them and the officers fired and the gunman died on the scene.”

McCullogh says police have delayed releasing the location of the shooting because of safety concerns that prompted calling in a military explosive ordinance detection team.

“The scene itself was secure from the public, but it did appear to have some hazards,” McCullough said. “And out of concern for the safety of the officers and the investigators, their process, the Ft. Wainwright EOD was called out to assist.”

McCullough said the name of the suspect killed is being withheld pending notification of next of kin. The four officers involved are on administrative leave and their names will be released after 72 hours. It was the second officer involved shooting in Fairbanks in a month.

Categories: Alaska News