Alaska News

Longtime Juneau painter Herb Bonnett dies at 87

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2017-08-14 16:19
Longtime Juneau resident and painter Herb Bonnett attends the Juneau Pioneer Home’s senior prom on June 22, 2017. He died Monday, Aug. 14, 2017. (Photo by Philip Loseby/Juneau Pioneer Home)

Longtime Juneau resident and painter Herb Bonnett died this morning at the age of 87.

Bonnett’s paintings of boats, planes and iconic local landmarks are all over Juneau, including a very large painting on the back wall of the Juneau Assembly’s chambers at City Hall.

Daughter Michelle Bonnet Hale said he’s very well known by “old Juneau.”

“You can just see his prints all over town,” Hale said. “And lots of his prints in banks – so he’s got a print of the old Douglas bridge, he’s got prints of ferries. One of the more recent prints that he has is called ‘Rainy night in Juneau’ and it’s looking up Franklin Street on a rainy night.”

Hale said her father signed his paintings Bonnet, but he was officially Bonnett with two Ts.

Herb Bonnett was the son of an AJ Mine electrical engineer. He was born at St. Ann’s Hospital in 1930 and grew up in Thane and Douglas. He drew and painted for decades.

Hale said her father died peacefully at the Juneau Pioneer Home.

“He had a very good run of it, very long, good life in Juneau and Southeast on his boats with his friends,” Hale said.

Mail condolences for the family to Michelle Hale at 4431 Taku Boulevard, Juneau, 99801. A tribute is being planned.

Categories: Alaska News

Recall election spotlights political division in Haines

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2017-08-14 16:15
A sign supporting the Haines recall campaign. (Credit: Abbey Collins)

On Tuesday, Haines voters will decide whether to recall half of their borough assembly. Three assembly members are accused of misconduct in office. But the discontent driving the recall is about much more than the official charges. And the recall leaders have repeatedly refused to defend their views on the record.

“I’m an obituary writer, and I feel as if there’s been a death in my family,” Assembly member Heather Lende described the personal toll of the recall. “And the grief is going to stay with me.”

Lende, Tom Morphet and Tresham Gregg are the targets of this recall election.

“Politics in Haines has always been a very rough game,” Morphe saidt.

The three recall targets spoke during a public forum organized by Haines media. More than 30 recall sponsors or supporters were invited. None agreed to participate.

In fact, the recall’s main sponsor, Don Turner Jr. has not agreed to any on-tape interviews with KHNS or on-the-record interviews with the newspaper. Instead, he and other recall leaders have used Facebook, newspaper advertisements and a 10-page mailer to share their views.

The only recall sponsor who talked to KHNS on tape is Ryan Cook. In a June interview, he said he and others started looking into a recall almost as soon as Morphet and Lende took office last October. Cook was a losing candidate in that race.

“This town’s always been split on lots of different issues,” Cook said in June. “But since this assembly’s been in, you’ve never seen it so split before.”

Cook and Turner handed in recall petitions in April. They included several charges against the assembly members. Two of those charges made it past the borough attorney.

The attorney emphasized that a recall is a political, not legal process. He did not investigate the charges, but said two of them, if assumed to be true, would constitute misconduct in office.

One is an alleged violation of the Alaska Open Meetings Act by all three assembly members. The accusation is based on an email in which Gregg asks for Lende’s support on an upcoming vote. He wrote that two other assembly members, Morphet and Ron Jackson, are on the same page. This could imply that Gregg participated in ‘serial polling’ or ‘serial meetings’ – a gray area in open meetings law.

“I don’t think that one little email that asks for some support is really an offense worth of recall,” Gregg said.

The second accusation is that Morphet and Lende coerced a subordinate for personal or financial gain. It stems from a debate over the Haines police blotter. The police chief, Heath Scott, stopped releasing the blotter to the newspaper, which Morphet owned at the time, and Lende writes obituaries for. Both Morphet and Lende made spoke out in support of the blotter being made public again.

The two assembly members say calling that coercion of the police chief is absurd.

“It strikes me as strange that a grandmother of six somehow has brought the Haines police department to its knees over the police blotter,” Lende said.

Recall supporters maintain that the assembly members abused their power in these two cases. But the effort to oust them is about more than the grounds listed on the petitions.

The evidence of that is in the ads and flier recall leader Turner has put out. He accuses the assembly members of yelling at borough employees and going against ‘75 percent’ of the people in their decisions. He also points to the assembly firing a previous borough manager and hiring the current manager as ‘good reasons for recall.’

“A recall is a gun held to the head of an elected leader,” Morphet said, in response to a question about people voting for the recall for reasons not listed on the ballot. “I ask that people honor the intent of the system and consider the recall only on the grounds on which it was brought.”

If early voting is an indication, public interest in the recall election is strong. Borough manager Debra Schnabel said early voting has been ‘unprecedented,’ with more than 30 ballots cast on certain days.

If the recall is successful and all three assembly members lose their seats, Haines will be voting for its entire six-person assembly in October. If Morphet, Lende and Gregg retain their seats on the assembly, Ryan Cook said it’s possible the recall sponsors could try again.

“If they prove to us they can’t follow the rules and they give us a reason to [recall them,]’” Cook said. “I don’t know. I don’t want to. I don’t want to do it again ever.”

One thing Cook and the assembly members agree on is that the recall has been challenging. It’s divided people and damaged friendships.

Whether the acrimony continues after the Aug. 15 election remains to be seen.

Categories: Alaska News

Newtok village holds ribbon cutting at Mertarvik

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2017-08-14 15:26
A Newtok Village Council Elder gathered with financial and government stakeholders at the Mertarvik site for the ribbon cutting ceremony on August 10, 2017. (Christine Trudeau / KYUK)

Over the last month and a half, a decade-long project to move the village of Newtok, in the Yukon Delta, is finally beginning to take shape. Last Thursday a ribbon cutting was held in Mertarvik, which means “a place for water”. The new community is safely above the rising water, which threatens village of Newtok.

 

A small group of Newtok residents gathered high up on the bluffs at the new site of, the village in Mertarvik.

Lifelong Newtok resident Albertina Charles, is thrilled to be here.

“It’s a safe land, it’s high,” Charles said. “It’s beautiful.”

Located a 10 to 15 minute walk from the newly extended boat harbor, five to six homes – three of which currently occupied – a steam house and foundational pilings for four new homes line the main avenue. Construction here has focused on water infrastructure. Recent additions to life in Mertarvik include; on-site hot and cold running water, along with two drilled wells and water tanks; a bathroom with four showers and four toilets; three washers and three dryers and a boiler; and a hundred and twenty five kilowatt generator – equivalent to the power that is currently in Newtok.

Still under construction is the Mertarvik Evacuation Center, which the community hopes to start using next year. The two-room building is being built large enough to house two hundred and fifty people, if need be. A little ways further up the hillside is the dining hall that Troy Welch from HC Contractors helped build.

“It’s gonna be a viable community – very viable – it’s gonna be the community center, the kitchen area,” Welch said. “I think it’s gonna be the heart of the community.”

Planners are still working to secure the rest of the funding for the building, and much of the planned housing.

Though there is much more to be done, there has been progress. It’s been six years since Larry Hartig, the Commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, was here. He has been working on relocating Newtok for a decade.

“It was really great to see the rock pit open and see the progress on the road, because I can remember when we just wished we had a rock pit. [laughs] There has been good progress,” Hartig said.

Hartig said the Commission’s ability to connect state and federal agencies has been crucial. He also pointed out that the two wells that have been drilled will be able to use gravity to deliver the water, and that will save on operating costs.

The biggest uncertainty threatening continued progress at Metarvik is what kind of federal funding will be available. In a boat headed back to the old village site, Lynn Polacca, the Bureau of Indian Affairs Acting Regional Director said Newtok is only one of many villages at risk from climate change. He said the BIA is able to help fund roads but does not have as much money available for housing.

“Anything tied to transportation, that’s what we fund for BIA, and we’ve got limited funding for housing but you know, we try to help out where we can,” Polacca said.

Newtok resident Albertina Charles is ready to be among the first to move to Metarvik.

“I want to pioneer here in fall time… my daughter is scared for my grandchild,” Charles said. “She wanted me to take her with me, so she can be safe here. But I want to be safe staying here ‘cause last year the water raised more than usual.”

With grey skies coming in, Albertina Charles was remembering those fall storms.

Categories: Alaska News

Commuter flight makes emergency water landing outside Juneau, all occupants unharmed

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2017-08-14 14:52
An Alaska Seaplanes aircraft makes its way to Juneau in June 2107. (Abbey Collins)

Four passengers and a pilot are unharmed after an Alaska Seaplanes aircraft made an emergency landing in the water near Juneau Monday morning.

The flight originated in Haines around 5:30 a.m. It made a routine stop in Skagway to pick up additional passengers before continuing on to Juneau.

Just outside Juneau, the pilot declared an emergency following an engine failure. That’s according to a press release from Alaska Seaplanes General Manager Carl Ramseth.

According to the Alaska State Troopers, the pilot was Haines resident Joshua Poirier.

Troopers say Poirier made an emergency landing in the ocean, about 150 ft. from Coughlin Island. All five people aboard the plane were able to swim to shore. The aircraft later sunk.

According to the troopers, an Alaska Seaplanes aircraft equipped with floats responded to the scene and retrieved the four passengers. Poirier stayed on the beach and was later picked up by Coastal Helicopters.

All of the passengers and the pilot were assessed by Capitol City Fire and Rescue and were released with no injuries.

Troopers say the plane that went down was a Cessna T207 on wheels. Its last airworthiness certificate was issued by the FAA in September 2015. It is set to expire in about a year. The National Transportation Safety Board and Alaska Seaplanes are working together to determine the cause of the accident.

Ramseth commended Poirier’s actions in the incident.

Alaska Seaplanes is based in Juneau and operates daily flights to communities in Southeast Alaska.

Seaplanes gained a monopoly on its market after competitor Wings of Alaska shut down in March.

Categories: Alaska News

Despite king salmon ban, Golden North derby officials report good numbers

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2017-08-14 12:50
The Johns family watches as Kami Bartness, right, weighs one of their fish on a float in Auke Bay on Saturday. (Photo by Quinton Chandler/KTOO)

No king salmon allowed!

That Department of Fish and Game announcement doesn’t seem to be hurting boat loads in this year’s Golden North Salmon Derby. Derby officials said contestants are actually catching more fish than last year.

If you can’t have the biggest king, you might as well catch all the silvers your ice box can hold.

Derby workers are hunched over dragging tubs of silver salmon, or Coho, across the bare wood of a float in the Auke Bay harbor. They’re working on filling up super-sized plastic containers with the fish derby contestants are reeling in.

Kami Bartness is in charge of the three stations that weigh fish for the Golden North Salmon Derby. She said even though contestants aren’t allowed to target the prized king salmon, Juneau residents aren’t snubbing the three-day contest.

“I think the first day, from all the weigh stations; we’re probably looking at about 1100 validations, which is pretty comparable to last year,” Bartness said.

Contestants brought in about 16,000 pounds of fish on the first day of the contest, Bartness estimated.

“That’s better already than last year – the first day,” Bartness said.

Last year, the derby landed about 18,000 pounds.

Fish and Game banned king fishing a week before the derby’s start because of record-low fish numbers.

Historically the derby’s heaviest fish have been kings. This year, first place will go to a silver. Derby officials said this is the first silver-only derby in its 71-year history.

But, Bartness said it’s logical that the closure isn’t hurting the contest.

“In August, it’s mostly Coho fishing anyway,” Bartness said. “It’s just the way the species run. King fishing is mostly May and June.”

Bartness said last year, contestants only asked to put 70 king salmon in the running for a prize.

“So about 85 percent of all the proceeds came from Coho anyways,” Bartness said.

Katherine Dimond won first place last year with a 27-and-a-half pound king salmon. Midway through this year’s derby, the biggest Coho weighed is just under 19 pounds.

Bartness said the good news is many of the fish that don’t have a chance to win are being donated toward the Territorial Sportsmen Scholarship Foundation.

“All the fish that are turned in, weighed and scholarship (fish) get sold to Alaska Glacier Seafoods — the processor here,” Bartness said. “They in turn, give Territorial Sportsmen a check for the sale of that fish.”

Territorial Sportsmen, the derby’s organizer, puts the money into a scholarship fund and each year they give earnings from that fund to several local graduates to use for their next education goals.

According to the derby website, last year’s derby fish were worth slightly more than $24,000.

Derby officials plan to finalize results for the 2017 derby and announce winners on Tuesday.

Categories: Alaska News

After signing wastewater bill, Governor Walker celebrates salmon

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2017-08-14 12:41
Alaska Governor Bill Walker and First Lady Donna Walker receive a coho, prepared by Colette Nelson of Ludvig’s Bistro and presented by Gavi Stromer in a salmon-bone dress made by Cynthia Gibson. The salmon-themed celebration was organized by local fisherman and organizations. (Emily Kwong/KCAW photo)

Governor Bill Walker put pen to paper last Thursday afternoon, signing a bill at a shipyard in Sitka. The measure means big savings for small ships — especially those that ferry passengers around Southeast. On Alaska Wild Salmon Day, he also received a gift from local fishermen.

Standing among welders and boat builders, Senator Bert Stedman found the perfect backdrop for the Governor to sign his latest bill: the shipyard of Allen Marine.

“It’s very nice to have the Governor come down and meet the hands that are building these boats and maintaining them,” Stedman said.

Part of the business of maintaining a boat is flushing its wastewater in a clean way. The state has imposed news rules for how to do that, requiring installation of an advanced wastewater treatment system.

But such an upgrade would have crippled a company like Allen Marine, which has been operating day cruises since 1970. Senior Vice President Jamie Cagle said, “[Allen Marine] would have had to look at shutting some of our vessels down because there’s physically not enough space to put on the equipment that would have been required, if the exemption hadn’t been signed.”

All five state ferries and 10 day-cruise boats discharge their wastewater at a shore-based facility, untreated. Senate Bill 3 maintains the status quo. Technically, it renews a state exemption for  wastewater rules while keeping boat operators  accountable to the state’s “best management practices” for protecting the environment.

Dave Allen chats with Governor Bill Walker after the bill signing, which directly benefits his company Allen Marine. The legislation applies to small commercial boats, upholding their exemption from meeting wastewater discharge rules. (Emily Kwong/KCAW photo)

All this spells good news for the Alaska Marine Highway System too, which is a lifeline for getting around Southeast. Stedman was so on top of this issue that he filed the bill before session.

“Without this bill, the ferries would have millions of dollars of infrastructure improvements,” Stedman said.

The state’s Department of Transportation estimated it would have cost $5 million to upgrade the state ferries, which would have been a gutshot for a system hobbled by significant budget cuts already.

In an original draft of the bill, Stedman also wanted to excuse some ferries from participating in a state program to put 1% of their revenue towards original art. That’s no longer in the bill. Stedman said that’s because the Department of Transportation negotiated the, but he doesn’t want the ferries to be entirely without artistic decor.

“We’re not going to have a Soviet-era look to our ferries. We have a lot of art that’s in the state museum and archives. We have a lot of stuff on the old ferries. I’d like to see us use the stuff we have,” Stedman said.

Instead, Stedman would rather the new ferries incorporate are from the old ones or borrow from museums. The state is building two ferries, which two young Alaskans suggested be named Tazlina and Hubbard. They’re under construction at the Vigor Alaska shipyard in Ketchikan and due to be completed in 2018.

Stedman stood watching as the Governor signed Senate Bill 3 into law. Looking on was Alaska’s First Lady Donna Walker, the state’s transportation commissioner Marc Luiken, Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins and members of the Allen Family. Everyone got a pen.

Governor Walker signs Senate Bill 3. Looking on, from left to right, are Allen Marine’s Zadie Allen, Zia Allen, Lauren Allen, Dave Allen, and Jamie Cagle, Senator Bert Stedman, DOT Commissioner Marc Luiken, Representative Jonathan Kreiss Tomkins, and DOT legislative liaison Alida Bus. (Emily Kwong/KCAW photo)

The ceremony over, boat work resumed. Walker was then whisked away to Crescent Harbor where he was presented with a gleaming salmon by a large crowd of fisherman. Thursday, August 10th was the 2nd Annual Alaska Wild Salmon Day. The sun was out. The mountains postcard ready. One of the presenters wore a dress layered with 22,000 salmon bones.

Holding the coho, Walker seemed truly overwhelmed by Sitka’s reception.

“Since I’ve become Governor, I have not been able to get out and recreate nearly as much as I used to. I’ve been out fishing twice in the last week and this is the first one I’ve actually caught,” Walker said, eliciting laughter. “So, I love fishing. Catching is optional. But fishing is mandatory. There’s no question about that.”

Alaska’s legislature has been fishing too for solutions to budget problems all year. And with compromise hard to come by, you could say this wastewater bill is a major catch for Southeast.

Categories: Alaska News

BlueCrest is latest company to stop work, citing state’s defunct cash-for-credits scheme

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2017-08-14 12:13
BlueCrest Energy Inc.’s operation in southern Cook Inlet. The company announced that it will be putting a temporary hold on drilling new wells while it seeks financing. It says the state owes the company more than $75 million in unpaid tax credits. (Photo Courtesy Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority)

Earlier this month, BlueCrest Energy Inc. announced that it is going to pause its drilling operation in Cook Inlet. The company blamed Alaska’s controversial cashable tax credit program, saying the state still owes them nearly $100 million. Without that money, BlueCrest said it cannot afford to keep drilling.

Alaska has a nearly $1 billion bill hanging over its head. The tab comes from a program that the state used to entice smaller, independent companies to explore new fields and, hopefully, develop them into producing oil and gas.

But when oil prices crashed, first the governor, then the legislature said that the state could no longer afford the program. And so in this year’s marathon budget negotiations, it got cut.

Companies waiting to get reimbursed for cash credits they’d already earned — they’re going to be waiting for awhile. Larry Persily is a longtime oil and gas analyst and Kenai Peninsula Borough Chief of Staff

“The state’s reluctance, failure, to confront the hundreds of millions of dollars it owes, I think it has done more to freeze investment by the smaller companies in Alaska than any debate over the actual tax rate itself,” Persily said.

Now as lawmakers struggle to balance the budget, Persily said the state has left a “Dear John” letter of sorts to its small and independent companies.

“Gee, I’m sorry we can’t pay you,” Persily said. “I understand you can’t keep working if you don’t get paid. Hopefully we can figure this out soon. Let’s keep in touch.”

In response companies have one-by-one announced that work has to slow.

First, Caelus Energy, an independent North Slope operator, cut about a quarter of its workforce in 2016. Then, the company announced that it wouldn’t drill an appraisal well at a potentially massive new find at Smith Bay.

Cook Inlet Energy also delayed drilling a well in West Cook Inlet in 2017. The company said it wouldn’t make the investment citing uncertainty with the state’s tax credit system.

BlueCrest is the latest of these smaller companies to fall victim to the now-defunct cashable credit program. It announced on August 1 that it couldn’t afford to keep drilling on the Kenai Peninsula and that it would be laying off about 150 people.

The Texas-based company has been developing the Cosmopolitan field in Cook Inlet since 2012.

Its founder and CEO Benjamin “Benji” Johnson said he chose to do business in Alaska in part because the state’s tax regime was friendly and offered an irresistible lure for the risk of exploration and development — cash.

“Now what those credits were was basically a co-investment with the independent companies,” Johnson said.

And with the state as an investment partner of sorts, Johnson said BlueCrest calculated that it could spend about $525 million to develop the Cosmopolitan Unit, drill several wells and produce thousands of barrels of oil a day.

Johnson said the company expected $125 million in cash rebates from the state and raised the other $400 million it needed. Then, it spent that money.

But now, Johnson said the state’s paid back just $27 million and owes the company another $75 million.

And so far, state records show the company is only producing about 200 barrels of oil a day: not nearly enough to cover its operating costs, much less pay for new drilling.

Johnson said they have two more wells to bring online; those should start producing in September. But after that?

“We can’t continue spending the enormous amounts to drill new wells right now,” Johnson said.

Johnson said the company is actively seeking out investors to raise the money it needs to keep drilling.

But while it searches, the slowdown is resonating in other parts of the economy.

Jimmy Doyle, Vice President of Weaver Brothers Inc., said BlueCrest’s decision to stop drilling is a kick to the already struggling oil and gas economy on the Kenai Peninsula.

When business is booming, the company’s cornflower blue rigs haul everything from oilfield construction equipment to petroleum products to asphalt throughout the Interior and Southcentral Alaska.

But when oil prices fell and the economy contracted, Weaver had to let a few people go to help cope with the loss of business. He said it still hasn’t fully recovered.

“Not to as busy as we were from, you know, 2012 – 2014 as far as having the amount of manpower dedicated to that piece of the business, we haven’t recovered,” Weaver said.

And the layoffs will have a ripple effect.

“One company hires 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 or 10 or 20 or 30 people and then that causes other businesses to hire people to supply them. So the trickle-down effect is huge and especially at a time when, because of the oil prices, other companies are already pulling in their horns a little bit,” Doyle said.

Doyle understands the argument that the state can’t afford to pay subsidies to oil companies like it did in the past. But, he doesn’t think that program or others like it are going to substantially change the state’s economy.

Doyle said that all depends on the price of oil.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: Friday, Aug. 11, 2017

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2017-08-11 17:55

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

Listen now

Lawsuit to evict ADN over unpaid bills threatens paper’s future

Zachariah Hughes, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage

The state’s largest newspaper is in serious financial trouble, according to a lawsuit brought by GCI over $1.4 million in unpaid bills, and more in additional claims. It’s one of several lawsuits against the paper.

Permanent Fund Corp. headquarters to undergo $4 million renovation

Andrew Kitchenman, KTOO – Juneau

The renovation will open up space. Some internal walls will be torn down. And the new space will let the corporation hire more workers, so more of fund is managed by corporation employees.

Hilcorp reports another spill in Cook Inlet

Shaylon Cochran, KDLL – Kenai

Hilcorp has reported another spill this week. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation confirmed the spill happened Monday on the Steelhead platform the company operates in the Trading Bay oil field in Cook Inlet.

How books and buses are fighting summer hunger in rural Alaska

Anne Hillman, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage

Summer meals programs for getting food to hungry kids don’t work in rural areas, especially in Alaska. People in Talkeetna are overcoming that problem with the help of books, buses, and backpacks.

Alaska officials proceed with hydroelectric plant expansion

Associated Press

The Alaska Energy Authority will continue with its plans for a $46.4 million expansion at its Bradley Lake hydroelectric plant near Homer following the approval from its board of directors.

Delta Junction state parks user fees to stay the same this year

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

User fees at Delta Junction area state parks will stay the same this summer as the facilities transition to private management.

AK: Metlakatla residents celebrate their community’s 130th birthday

Emma Atkinson, KRBD – Ketchikan

Every year on August 7, the Metlakatla Indian Community celebrates its founding with a day of art, food and prayer.

49 Voices: Sierra Anderson of Nome

Wesley Early, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage

This week we’re hearing from Sierra Anderson from Nome. Anderson is a junior in high school who hopes to study architecture after graduating.

Categories: Alaska News

Lawsuit to evict ADN over unpaid bills threatens paper’s future

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2017-08-11 17:16
A recent edition of the ADN, along with two lawsuits brought against the paper.

The state’s largest newspaper is in serious financial trouble.

According to a lawsuit filed Friday, the Alaska Dispatch News is being brought to court by GCI for $2.9 million, much of it over unpaid bills. And it’s asking the court to evict the newspaper from the warehouse space that houses the printing press, at a time when ADN has nowhere else to produce the paper.

Media watchers say a combination of industry trends and business mismanagement are putting one of the state’s main news sources in jeopardy.

In a complaint filed in state court against ADN’s owner and publisher, Alice Rogoff, lawyers for GCI say the trouble goes back to 2014. That’s when Rogoff paid $34 million to buy the Anchorage Daily News and merge it with her online news company, The Alaska Dispatch. The deal involved selling the paper’s building in Airport Heights to GCI. Rogoff’s newly merged media company, Alaska Dispatch News, has its main offices in Midtown. But the paper is still printed in the old building. Under the original lease terms, ADN had 18 months to disassemble the press, fix up the warehouse space and move out. According to GCI, that still hasn’t happened.

“The main concern is the lack of payment for past rent,” said Heather Handyside, GCI’s head of corporate communications.

“We also have concerns about the lack of payment of their utilities,” she added. “ADN has not paid utilities since early February.”

GCI’s complaint says that for months the company has been covering utilities associated with ADN’s production operations, spending $1,500 a day in electric bills to keep the press running.

Handyside said in total, ADN owes just under $1,390,180 for past expenses, and another $1.5 million GCI thinks it will take to remove the printing press from the property, along with any additional incidental damages. GCI wants to recoup its money, and is asking a judge to evict ADN from the warehouse in the Airport Heights building.

“We want the Alaska Dispatch News, the state’s largest paper, to be operational and successful, and that’s why we have been supporting it over the last two years,” Handyside said. “But we just don’t see the progress, and we haven’t seen the progress for many, many months.”

ADN is also facing multiple other lawsuits over allegations of unpaid bills and breached contracts. Most publicly, the founder of the original Alaska Dispatch is suing Rogoff for nearly a million dollars he said he is owed as part of a deal they inked on a cocktail napkin. Another lawsuit is less sensational, but more fundamental to the paper’s daily operations. Since last year, ADN has been trying to set up a new printing press at a different location. The contractor who was handling renovations at the new space on Arctic Boulevard is suing for $508,809 in unpaid work and supplies.

Pat Dougherty is the former editor of the Anchorage Daily News, and left just as the companies were merged. He thinks that without a new press set up, production of the physical paper is in question if the eviction goes through.

“They seem to have really messed up in a way that’s got them in a deep hole in terms of expenses, and they still don’t have an operational press and there’s no sign they’re going to have an operational press in the future,” Dougherty said.

Ads in the physical paper are the biggest source of revenue for the company. But those don’t appear to be covering costs. The newspaper industry’s long-term trend has been declining ad revenues, so for the last decade companies have had to shrink staffs, scale back operations and come up with inventive new ways to bring in money in order to stay in business. Dougherty said in the three years since Rogoff acquired the paper, there’s been very little of that dexterity.

“I’ve seen nothing new, original, creative, innovative in terms of how to produce revenue,” Dougherty said.

When the two companies merged there were very few layoffs, creating a larger staff that cost more to pay. The new ADN also took down a paywall, further diminishing revenues, though expanding reach online.

It’s clear that ADN has a cash problem. In court documents, a shortage in “cash flow” is mentioned as early as 2015, and comes up multiple times as a reason for not being able to cover expenses. This April, Rogoff began putting up assets as collateral with her lender, Northrim Bank. That includes her ownership stake in the paper, along with a Wells Fargo account and funds identified in court documents as “marital agreement payment streams.”

Dougherty said its a tough time for the news business, but he lays a lot of the blame on Rogoff’s management and business decisions.

Rogoff did not respond a request for an interview. In a brief statement she wrote the newspaper is in active discussions to keep the company “alive and robust for the sake of our readers and the community.”

In a separate email sent to ADN staff recently and obtained by Alaska Public Media, Rogoff wrote that the paper is “challenged by changing economic and financial circumstances,” and that as a result she is in “discussions with several potential new investors.” Details of those deal are not public, but Rogoff wrote that “resolution should become clear within the next few weeks.”

It’s not obvious what comes next, but many people contacted for this story worry Alaska will lose one of its main sources for news and muscular reporting.

Larry Persily is a former long-time Alaska journalist who’s worked in newspapers across the state, including stints at the old ADN. He said if the paper can’t pay it’s bills it means there’s something severely wrong with the current business model, threatening the whole operation.

“Losing the newspaper would be a serious loss to Alaska, to Anchorage. (We) need news organizations to tell us what our elected officials are doing, what’s happening at the other side of town,” Persily said. “Losing another source of that information hurts, hurts the community.”

ADN’s current circulation is 41,684. Recently it went from a daily to printing six days a week.

Categories: Alaska News

Walker signs SB 88, Mental Health Trust land exchange

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2017-08-11 16:05
Gov. Bill Walker hold up a signed Senate Bill 88, the Alaska Mental Health Trust land exchange. (Photo by Leila Kheiry/KRBD)

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker was joined in Ketchikan on Thursday by U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, state Sen. Bert Stedman and state Rep. Dan Ortiz to sign a bill accepting a land trade between the U.S. Forest Service and Alaska Mental Health Trust.

The trade puts parcels of Trust land close to communities in Ketchikan and Petersburg into Forest Service ownership, in exchange for federal land that the Trust plans to log.

The Ketchikan Public Library has a huge picture window in its large activities room. The view is Deer Mountain – the iconic backdrop to Alaska’s First City.

Walker pointed to the mountain, clear against a bright blue sky, noting to the small audience gathered for the signing that they picked this spot on purpose.

“This couldn’t be a better location,” Walker said. “You’re really looking out at the fruits of your labor.”

Until Walker penned his name to Senate Bill 88, a large chunk of that mountain belonged to Alaska Mental Health Trust, which uses its land to make money for mental health services.

In Southeast, the easiest way to make money from the land is resource extraction. Logging.

But, nobody wants Deer Mountain logged.

The Trust and the U.S. Forest Service have been working on a plan for about 10 years to get Deer Mountain and other sensitive parcels close to Southeast neighborhoods exchanged for more remote Forest Service sites.

That was moving slowly, though. And so, following threats last summer from Mental Health Trust officials that they would log Deer Mountain, lawmakers sped the process up.

Walker noted that the exchange required action from the House and Senate in Washington, D.C., and Juneau.

“It took all four bodies to make this happen,” Walker said. “It’s one of those things that, everybody knew it was the right thing to do, but it just took a while to get there.”

Murkowski was on hand for the signing. She said the land trade will benefit all the stakeholders.

Mental Health Trust will be able to make money off its land; the timber industry will get a source of trees to keep them in business; and the communities of Ketchikan and Petersburg will not be harmed by logging activity close to homes.

“It’s really one of those win-win-win situations,” Murkowski said.

Stedman represents much of Southeast Alaska. He thanked Walker for his work on this bill, and other efforts for the region.

“He’s been very dogmatic in helping us create and maintain jobs in Southeast,” Stedman said. “I really appreciate that. It’s definitely made a difference. We see it all across Southeast, and we’re particularly going to see it on Prince of Wales coming up here.”

Viking Lumber on Prince of Wales will be a big beneficiary of the logging activity that the Trust now can move forward with.

The federal land that now belongs to the Trust includes parcels on Prince of Wales and in the Shelter Cove area of Revilla Island.

Ortiz noted the hard work that legislative staff members put in to getting the various bills passed, and local efforts organized by residents of Ketchikan and Petersburg.

A Ketchikan group called Save Deer Mountain was founded by Ray Troll and Bob Weinstein. Both were there to witness the successful end to their efforts.

“This is an example of how local communities, local governments, state governments and federal governments can all work together on an issue and agree,” Weinstein said. “When they do, it’s a success.”

Weinstein said it’s nice to know that the beautiful view out the library window will be preserved for future generations.

Also on Thursday, Walker signed another bill at the Ketchikan shipyard.

On the deck of the not-yet-finished state ferry Tazlina, surrounded by shipyard employees, Walker signed a bill officially naming the ferry and its sister ship, the Hubbard, which will be built by Vigor Alaska after the Tazlina is complete.

Categories: Alaska News

49 Voices: Sierra Anderson of Nome

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2017-08-11 15:03
Sierra Anderson of Nome (Photo by Wesley Early, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage)

This week we’re hearing from Sierra Anderson from Nome. Anderson is a junior in high school who hopes to study architecture after graduating.

Listen now

ANDERSON: It looks like a lot of fun to like design your own house that no one’s ever thought of before — just like build your own stuff.

I thin it started when we built our own cabin out at at Nome. I’d kinda just sit there looking at my dad and my uncle cutting out the boards and putting it all together. It just seemed really cool to me. It’s like a huge puzzle, and when it comes out in the end it’s your own house or your own cabin.

I have been outside the state twice: once in D.C. for a school trip and another time in Florida to see family. Their structure of building is a lot thinner in the Lower 48, because it’s hotter, but in Alaska we have to do outside wall, insulation, inside wall, so it’s a lot thicker walls up in Alaska. And smaller too, to conserve the heat. But down in D.C., there’a all these big, open buildings.

When we went down to Washington D.C, there was a group of people who thought we had polar bears as pets, igloos as houses and stuff… We have an actual house. We have actual cars. We don’t always use dog sleds.

So after work, after my parents’ work, we’d probably go out and berry pick. But one time we went on a berry picking trip and came back with a moose, so it’s kinda just like whatever happens, happens. We went out for salmon berries and came back with a moose, which is… it was funny.

We can drive out and there’s a bridge we can go bridge-jumping off of. We can go and ride four-wheelers on the beach. In the winter, we can ride snowmachines and sled down the hill. So it’s kinda like, we’re isolated but we have a lot of activities ’cause we got used to it and we just use our surroundings, so it doesn’t feel so isolated.

Categories: Alaska News

Permanent Fund Corp. headquarters to undergo $4 million renovation

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2017-08-11 14:58
Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. CEO Angela Rodell stands in the corporation headquarters on Wednesday. (Photo by Andrew Kitchenman/KTOO)

The Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. will be renovating its headquarters in Juneau. Its goal is to modernize its offices and help its workers communicate more easily. It’s budgeted to cost $4 million. Supporters say it may be a small price for the state to pay if it makes a difference in growing the $60.7 billion fund.

The Permanent Fund Corp. office looks a lot like other offices, though the computers have more screens. That allows fund managers to keep their eye on the markets.

But when CEO Angela Rodell looks around, she sees limitations: in space, in the ability for fund workers to communicate and in the optimal use of technology. She motions toward a long hallway lined with doors.

“It feels like a beehive to me right now, right? Lots of little warrens, low ceilings, tight narrow spaces,” Rodell said.

The renovation will open this space up. Some internal walls will be torn down. Rodell will be able to see more of the staff during her frequent walks around the office.

“You can see, it’s like these long, narrow hallways, lots of offices,” Rodell said. “People sit with their backs to the door. It’s very hard, it’s unapproachable if you want teamwork.”

Another major reason for the change is to accommodate hiring more workers, which the current office configuration limits. This will allow more of the fund to be managed by corporation employees.

“All these walls, ceiling, everything comes down,” she said. “The light will be allowed to flow through to the rest of the building, so that everybody will have access to a lot of natural light, which as you know in Juneau is really important to all of our work spaces.”

The Alaska House of Representatives briefly debated in June whether to approve the money for the renovation, which will be drawn from fund earnings.

North Pole Republican Rep. Tammie Wilson questioned whether the corporation justified the expense. She said there should have been more details about the renovation.

“I mean, who spends $4 million, without telling us how? That’s just crazy, in my world,” Wilson said. “I don’t do it for a thousand dollars, much less 4 million.”

But fellow Republican Rep. Lance Pruitt of Anchorage said the expense was justified. Pruitt said it’s important to seek any possible advantage to managing the fund.

“I see it as a good investment in ensuring that the people that are helping us to make sure that we have funding to provide for government as well as for our dividends, that they have the means at their disposal to invest our money correctly, appropriately and in real time,” Pruitt said.

The Permanent Fund is coming off a year of major gains, increasing by $7 billion. Rodell said that much of the gains in recent years are due to value the corporation’s staff adds. She said that over the past five years, the fund grew more than $4 billion more than if it had been invested passively.

“If we want to maintain that high level of excellence, we need to keep reinvesting in the resources,” Rodell said. “We can’t keep using 1980 work styles to generate that kind of return.”

The House defeated an amendment to remove the funding by a vote of 31 to 9 before the Legislature passed the capital budget.

Some details of the renovation design are still being worked out. Construction is expected to begin later this year.

Categories: Alaska News

AK: Metlakatla residents celebrate their community’s 130th birthday

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2017-08-11 14:38
William Duncan’s Residence, 1907 (Photo courtesy Ketchikan museum)

A small crowd gathered outside a two-steepled white church. It’s early in the day, but the sun is already beating down, glinting off of the lone headstone that stands beside the church. There lies Christian missionary William Duncan, a controversial and key figure in the story of this Southeast community’s history.

“No matter what anyone may think of him, William Duncan did what he thought was best for us,” Metlakatla resident David Robert Boxley said.

Boxley explained to the crowd the origins of the town’s founder.

Mr. Duncan, as he is known, strove to convert the Tsimshian community to Christianity. In 1887 Duncan arrived at Annette Island with about 800 Tsimshians from British Columbia and founded what is now Metlakatla Indian Community, about 15 miles south of Ketchikan. That arrival is marked on August 7 and celebrated as Founder’s Day.

During the wreath-laying ceremony at Duncan’s grave, Boxley reads remarks off his cell phone, alternating between English and s’malgyax, Metlakatla’s indigenous language.

“He loved us,” Boxley read. “And he worked hard to show us a good way to live.”

Boxley asked for a moment of reflection and prayer. Those in attendance bowed their heads as a wreath was laid next to the headstone. Boxley is a renowned artist and co-chair of the Haayk Foundation, a non-profit aimed at preserving the s’malgyax language. The foundation is hosting and co-sponsoring the Founder’s Day feast later this evening.

“Have a wonderful Founder’s Day, and we’re gonna get back to work,” Boxley said. “Thank you.”

The day is filled with religious significance. In this small town, the line between the duties of elected officials and dedication to the Christian faith is blurred. About 50 people convene at the Metlakatla longhouse for a community church service.

“It’s very important that our children understand the word of the Lord and they grow to know that this is the norm and this is how it should be,” Mayor Audrey Hudson said.

There are many schools of thought on how the role of missionaries like Duncan affected Native Alaskan culture. Despite the historical suppression of many Tsimshian customs, the last 30 years has seen an increase in Tsimshian cultural pride.

The interior of the longhouse is itself evidence of the ongoing cultural revival in Metlakatla. The floor and ceiling are all made of gleaming cedar. Artwork and handmade artifacts line the walls.

Founder’s Day is about more than the town’s beginning, though. It serves as a homecoming of sorts for those who were raised in Metlakatla.

David A. Boxley is David Robert’s father.

“My son did a good job,” Boxley Sr. said.

The senior Boxley was raised in Metlakatla. He lives in Seattle now, but comes back every year for Founder’s Day.

The father-and-son team have carved many totem poles together and the elder Boxley’s carving work is on display at institutes and museums all over the country. He gestures to a pole just down the street.

“My son and I did that totem pole right there for all the women who started the children’s dance groups years ago,” the senior Boxley said.

Boxley Sr. talked excitedly about the schedule of events for the day, including a parade, foot races and dance performances.

“It’s like 4th of July anywhere else, you know.”

There are even fireworks.

Standing beside William Duncan’s grave, Boxley thinks the missionary changed the Tsimshian community for the better.

“It’s really important. You know, our culture, our tribe,” Boxley said. “When this man came among our people, [he] changed our future. Absolutely changed our future. And his history, since he was 30 years old, is our history.”

Hundreds of Metlakatlans head toward town. Around the street corner and into the ballfield comes the parade procession. A little girl dressed as Disney princess Moana sits on top of a papier-mâché canoe. Representatives from the Tsimshian tribes follow, dressed in traditional regalia and beating taught, tan drums.

Kimberly Wellington is part of the Wellington Clan. She said they are descended from Arthur Wellington Clah, the man who taught William Duncan to speak s’malgyax.

Wellington and her two sons are wearing matching purple shirts with her family’s crest and s’malgyax words emblazoned on the front.

“The saying on the top means ‘love one another,’ which was my grandmother’s favorite saying, and so this is in honor of her,” Wellington said.

Many, many people milling around the ballfield are wearing these matching shirts. Wellington said making T-shirts has become a Founder’s Day tradition for the Wellington clan.

“Every year we do some sort of design with some sort of remembrance — for somebody within the family,” Wellington said.

On the 130th anniversary of Metlakatla’s founding, it’s clear that Tsimshian residents are intent on keeping traditions alive – even newer ones that call for matching T-shirts.

Categories: Alaska News

Hilcorp reports another spill in Cook Inlet

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2017-08-11 13:55
2017 has seen a number of spills and violations by oil and gas producer Hilcorp.

Hilcorp has reported another spill this week. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation confirmed the spill happened Monday on the Steelhead platform the company operates in the Trading Bay oil field in Cook Inlet.

DEC spokesperson Candice Bressler said two hundred gallons of an oil-based drilling mud was released from the platform, of which, two gallons ended up in Cook Inlet.

The cause of the spill is still under investigation, and Bressler says DEC is working the company to review safety protocols. Hilcorp owns 15 of the 17 drilling platforms in the Inlet. Routine tests were performed on Steelhead in June to make sure blowout valves were working properly. A natural gas pipeline running from the platform was the source of a subsea gas leak earlier this year.

Categories: Alaska News

Wild Alaska salmon not on menus in China…yet

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2017-08-10 17:59
Salmon displayed in China. Qiujie “Angie” Zheng says a recent consumer study found that Chinese shoppers are interested in buying wild Alaska salmon bones and skin for fish broth and stocks. (Photo courtesy of Alaska Sea Grant)

About a third of the salmon caught in Alaska gets shipped to China for processing. But a recent consumer study suggests that at least some of that wild salmon should stay in the Chinese markets.

Listen now

Qiujie “Angie” Zheng didn’t grow up eating much salmon in her hometown near Beijing, China. When she did, she ate farmed salmon, prepared raw — sashimi style.

“After I moved up to Alaska, I realized wild salmon…is different than farm-raised salmon dominating China market,” Zheng said.

Zheng is now an associate professor of economics at the University of Alaska Anchorage. She said most Chinese consumers are familiar with Alaskan salmon. It’s been popularized by fish oil pills for decades, but few have dined on it.

What you can find in Chinese markets is farmed salmon, from places like Norway and Chile. Zheng came across wild Alaska salmon only once — in a market in Hong Kong. That salmon was over $50 a pound.

“That’s very expensive,” Zheng said. “So actually, that triggered me to think if we can export more Alaska wild salmon to China market. Especially, large mainland market, definitely there is potential.”

Most of the wild salmon that’s sent to China is processed and shipped back to the U.S. or on to Europe. Zheng said very little of it actually stays in China.

So Zheg wanted to know if Chinese consumers would be interested in eating it — rather than just exporting. For her recent study, she had graduate students interview shoppers at 30 different stores in three large Chinese cities. And they found that  the majority would buy wild Alaska salmon, just not at such a steep price. Zheng said if more fish were to hit the stores, that could ultimately lower the cost.

Still, Zheng thinks part of what’s driving new interest is China’s changing demographics. More Chinese are joining the middle class, and they want to know where their food comes from.

“Due to the environmental pollution and the number of food safety scandals in China in recent years, the consumers also have growing concerns about food safety and possible contamination of their food supply,” Zheng said.

Zheng said when people in China imagine Alaska, they think pristine waters. But there’s still a ways to go before its salmon actually shows up in the stores. Zheng thinks small seafood producers across the state should form a coalition to explore the option.

And in a few years, wild Alaska salmon sashimi could start cropping up on the menu in China.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2017-08-10 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

Listen now

Sullivan wants 28 more interceptors at Ft. Greely

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

The missile defense system based at Fort Greely has a spotty test record, but Sen. Dan Sullivan says he has confidence it can shield the nation. He is one of the Senate’s biggest boosters of missile defense and says Congress should add more interceptors to the Alaska site.

As Fairbanks police deal with spike in violent crime, low pay complicates filling vacancies

Tim Ellis, KUAC – Fairbanks

The Fairbanks Police Department remains understaffed, despite a recently approved hiring bonus. Police Chief Eric Jewkes told City Council members this week the substandard pay is driving high turnover and making recruiting difficult.

Two murders occur within two hours; Anchorage police say they’re unrelated

Casey Grove, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage

Anchorage logged its 17th and 18th homicides of the year in less than two hours Wednesday night.

Nearly 30 people hurt in Skagway tour accident

Abbey Collins, KHNS – Haines

Nearly 30 people were injured Wednesday on a tour in Skagway.

The future of an oil state: What’s next for Alaska?

Elizabeth Harball, Alaska’s Energy Desk – Anchorage

When the giant oil field at Prudhoe Bay was discovered in 1968, it held more oil than anyone in Alaska had dared to imagine. But today, Prudhoe and the other legacy fields on the North Slope aren’t producing oil like they used to. That’s an economic problem for the state — but it’s also an engineering problem.

What’s next for Nunavut Alaska? A vote

Christine Trudeau, KYUK – Bethel

After last week’s Nunavut Alaska Constitutional Convention, concerns were raised in the community about what comes next.

Global warming makes expedition to ice-locked North Pole possible

Emily Kwong, KCAW – Sitka

Two specially-equipped sailboats are attempting a voyage that’s never been done before – a trip to the North Pole. Led by a British explorer, the international crew has moved the boats from their home in Sitka up to Nome, where they’re hoping to launch for their journey to the Pole this weekend. Melting sea ice in the Arctic could make their voyage possible for the first time in history.

Wild Alaska salmon not on menus in China…yet

Elizabeth Jenkins, Alaska’s Energy Desk – Juneau

About a third of the salmon caught in Alaska gets shipped to China for processing. But a recent consumer study suggests that at least some of that wild salmon should stay in the Chinese markets.

Categories: Alaska News

Sullivan wants 28 more interceptors at Ft. Greely

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2017-08-10 17:40
A ground-based missile interceptor is lowered into its silo at Fort Greely, Alaska, in 2007. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Day by day, the leaders of the U.S. and North Korea are ratcheting up the threats of fiery destruction. The missile defense system based at Fort Greely, southeast of Fairbanks, is intended to shield the entire nation from attack. The system has had a spotty test record, but U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan said he has confidence in it. In fact, Sullivan wants Congress to invest in more anti-ballistic missiles at Fort Greely.

Listen now

Sullivan is one of the Senate’s biggest boosters of missile defense. He’s been warning that one day, through news reports or from intelligence agencies, we would learn that the threat is at our doorstep.

“And when that happens,” Sullivan said, restating the warning, “we want to make sure our leaders have the capacity, and the capability and the strategic time and space, to say, ‘America whether it’s Anchorage or Chicago or New York, we’ve got you covered.'”

Sullivan said we’re living the kind of scenario he’s been warning about. So how sure is he that America is covered?

“I’m confident,” Sullivan said. “But we can do more.”

Sullivan sponsored a bill to increase the number of interceptors at Fort Greely by 28. That’s on top of the 40 that are already installed, or will be by year’s end. (Most of his proposal has been wrapped into the annual defense bill that’s pending in the Senate.)

Each missile costs roughly $80 million, so this is a multi-billion dollar proposal. Sullivan said he’s not sure exactly where the money for the expansion would come from.

“But it’s a good question, right? Because obviously the defense budget is limited,” Sullivan said. “What I was arguing in the (Senate Armed Services) Committee as we were marking this bill up was that sometimes you need to re-prioritize defense spending. And nobody can tell me that this hasn’t become a priority.”

Whether it comes at the expense of other defense spending or from elsewhere in the budget, Sullivan said missile defense is a good value.

“Buying that kind of insurance for everybody, not just Alaska but for every city in America, to me is a price that almost any American would want to pay,” Sullivan said.

To date, the U.S. has spent about $40 billion on its ground-based missile defense system. It’s designed to destroy an enemy missile in space, before it begins descending toward North America. But the system has had technical problems. It has failed to intercept a mock warhead in about half of its last 18 tests. Sullivan said the Missile Defense Agency is addressing the problems. Besides, he said the U.S. has more than one interceptor it can shoot at a North Korean launch, so even without an expansion, he believes the missile shield would work.

“So I’m confident, but … we should have a belt and suspenders approach to this,” Sullivan said.

Philip Coyle is skeptical the ground-base missile defense system can reliably do the job.

“I’m not very confident. Not very confident at all,” Coyle said.

Coyle is a former assistant defense secretary who was in charge of operational testing and evaluation at the Pentagon. He’s now a senior fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. Looking at the tests since the start of 2010, Coyle said the success rate of the system that’s housed at Fort Greely system is only 40 percent.

“Meaning … out of 10 tries, it would miss six of those,” Coyle said.

Coyle agrees with Sullivan that the U.S. would aim multiple interceptors at a single missile. But, he said the strategy hasn’t been tested, and the enemy missile would only be in space for so long.

“You basically run out of time,” Coyle said.

Coyle said he’s not entirely familiar with Sullivan’s bill. Parts of it aim to advance the technology, and Coyle said they may be good. But he cautions against building more of the same defensive missiles we already have.

“The problem with building more and more interceptors, especially if they don’t work very well to start with, is we just encourage the enemy to build more and more offensive missiles to attack us so that they can overwhelm our defenses,” Coyle said. “So you get the enemy building more and more missiles, which is exactly the opposite of what we would want.”

A different U.S. missile defense system has performed better in tests. That system is called THAAD, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense. A THAAD interceptor launched from Kodiak last month hit its target in a test. But, even if THAAD were deployed in Alaska permanently, it wouldn’t do much good.

Coyle and other experts say that system can’t protect from an Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile. It’s designed to knock out slower, shorter-range missiles and to protect a smaller area. He said it would take thousands of THAAD missiles, planted everywhere, to protect a land mass the size of the U.S.

Categories: Alaska News

Two murders occur within two hours; Anchorage police say they’re unrelated

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2017-08-10 17:05

Anchorage logged its 17th and 18th homicides of the year in less than two hours Wednesday night.

One victim, a woman, was shot in Spenard. The other, a man, was stabbed in Midtown.

Police say they believe the two deaths were unrelated and – though there have been no arrests in either killing – Anchorage residents should not be alarmed.

MJ Thim is a police spokesperson.

“We understand their concerns, but we want to reassure that we are working to close these cases, but at this time there is no threat to the public,” Thim said.

Thim says it was a little before 9 last night that someone shot the woman in the Spenard neighborhood. He says detectives think the shooting was drug related.

“She was shot and struck by a vehicle fleeing the scene,” Thim said.

The vehicle struck a multi-plex close by. Officers interviewed the driver, and while it was unclear if that person was connected to the shooting, Thim said the driver was released without charges.

Police are withholding the woman’s name pending notification of her next of kin. Thim says investigators have no suspect information to release.

Then, Thim says, shortly before 11pm, police responded to a 911 call and found a man bleeding from multiple stab wounds near Midtown.

“Investigators believe that the victim and the parties involved are homeless,” Thim said. “Indications are this was an isolated incident and not random.”

Thim did not give a possible motive for the stabbing and said investigators also have no suspect information to release, nor have they made any arrests.

Categories: Alaska News

What’s next for Nunavut Alaska? A vote

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2017-08-10 16:48
Chariton Epchook is the Chairman of the Nunavut Alaska Provisional Government, which formed last week. (Christine Trudeau / KYUK)

After last week’s Nunavut Alaska Constitutional Convention, concerns were raised in the community about what comes next.

What a group of representatives from roughly 13 of the 56 Yukon-Kuskokwim tribal villages were able to do when they convened was agree to hold a vote on November 7.

In the provisional government’s first press release, they say that a “ballot will [also] show candidates for President, Vice President and Clerk,” as well as a vote for a united government. But the road ahead won’t be easy.

Over the three days that the provisional government met, they were only able to touch on a few topics such as land jurisdiction, taxation, education, health care, and the courts, along with various specific issues impacting the YK Delta like domestic violence. These are all areas that attendees said that they hoped to improve under a united government, once one is created.

But on the KYUK Friday call-in show “Talk Line,” several callers voiced their concerns, some anonymously, that not all 56 Tribal villages were represented and that 13 villages did not constitute a quorum. Some callers said that the convention translated into taking action without majority consent.

“I like the vision alright, but how they’re trying to introduce themselves, it’s just not right. A lot of the people are like, ‘oh, you know, if they were doing it the right way somebody upstairs powerful would allow it to happen, because he’s the master of all events,” one anonymous caller said.

The Nunavut Provisional Government did not set about creating a governing body for the region’s villages just yet. That would only come about if tribal citizens of the 56 villages in the YK Delta approve it during the proposed November 7 vote.

Nikki Hoffman (left), Nunavut secretary and former Bethel City Council woman, and Harold Napoleon (right), constitutional convention organizer.
(Christine Trudeau / KYUK)

“Like one of the elders said here, we’re a sleeping giant. Our region controls AFN, majority of our people, but we are fragmented: Calista, YKHC, AVCP. We’re going north, south, east and west; there is no direction and there’s a lot of voices,” George Guy with Kwethluk Incorporated said.

For instance, even the new government’s name “Nunavut”, which means “our land,” is just a placeholder until citizens of all 56 tribal villages vote on it. Guy, like many at the meeting, was concerned with tribal villages not being able to exercise fundamental rights – a point which even the anonymous caller may agree on.

“I have observed the past 30 years the political regime in our region, it’s like a record player. One sing, one record player going around and around. We are in the 21st century, but we live in the 19th century. That’s why they call us the last frontier,” Guy said.

Read the full Nunavut Provisional Government press release by clicking here.

Categories: Alaska News

Global warming makes expedition to ice-locked North Pole possible

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2017-08-10 16:35
Arctic Mission’s crew hails from Britain, the Netherlands, and the United States. From left to right: Jaap van Rijckevorsel, Tim Gordon, Pen Hadow, Nick Carter, Frances Brann, Heather Bauscher, Erik de Jong, Krystina Scheller, Fukimi, Tegid Cartwright and Conor McDonnell. (Photo by Conor McDonnell)

Two specially-equipped sailboats are attempting a voyage that’s never been done before – a trip to the North Pole. Led by a British explorer, the international crew has moved the boats from their home in Sitka up to Nome, where they’re hoping to launch for their journey to the Pole this weekend. Melting sea ice in the Arctic could make their voyage possible for the first time in history.

The North Pole has long been locked in ice. But climate change is breaking the Arctic apart, turning a polar landscape into something far more friendly for boats.

Like the Snow Dragon II.

With its big white sail, the yacht looks like a pleasure craft but is sturdy enough to collide with sea ice at full speed without breaking apart. Explorer Pen Hadow is actually taking two boats on the trip: the Snow Dragon with its aluminum hull and the Bagheera, which is made of steel. He hopes their journey will send a powerful message to world leaders that something isn’t right at the top of the world.

“We are not going to be able to carry on mindlessly taking whatever we want from the environment and I think a lot of people are looking to this as a symbol for a new debate,” Hadow said.

The Bagheera and Snow Dragon II are polar yachts attempting to sail to the North Pole. They are currently tied up in the Port of Nome. (Photo by Conor McDonnell)

If two sailboats can get there, a whole universe of economic activity opens up – including shipping and fishing. Both Russia and Denmark have filed a claim for the seafloor of the North Pole and other countries want to expand northward too. Unlike the South Pole, the North Pole has no legal protections. Hadow wants to shine a spotlight on the vulnerability of this region, by being the first to get there.

“It is a strange challenge and ambition indeed working very hard to put together a project that you don’t want to succeed,” Hadow said.

Because success means the ice is going or gone. Hadow calls the project Arctic Mission. His crew of ten includes lead scientist Tim Gordon, who will collect data from creatures both well-known and mysterious.

“When the ice melts polar bears struggle to hunt seals, but there’s a lot going on beneath the waves that we know much less about.”

Like bacteria, plankton, and other species living in frigid temperatures and total darkness. In studying them, Gordon wants to create a snapshot of how human action is changing the world.

“Now that the ice is melting, they are all of a sudden going to be exposed to commercial fishing, to commercial shipping, to a whole wave of new competitor animals that will come in.”

In other words, Gordon says, the whole food chain could be altered without ice to protect the region. There’s broad scientific consensus that the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet.

Categories: Alaska News

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