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Get Alaska statewide news from the stations of the Alaska Public Radio Network (APRN). With a central news room in Anchorage and contributing reporters spread across the state, we capture news in the Voices of Alaska and share it with the world. Tune in to your local APRN station in Alaska, visit us online at APRN.ORG or subscribe to the Alaska News podcast right here. These are individual news stories, most of which appear in Alaska News Nightly (available as a separate podcast).
Updated: 41 min 20 sec ago

Alaska News Nightly: Friday, June 23, 2017

Fri, 2017-06-23 18:20

Stories are posted on the APRN news page. You can subscribe to APRN’s newsfeeds via email, podcast and RSS. Follow us on Facebook at alaskapublic.org and on Twitter @aprn

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What’s next for the legislature after narrowly avoiding a shutdown?

Andrew Kitchenman, KTOO – Juneau

The Legislature avoided a state government shutdown by passing an operating budget on Thursday, eight days before the deadline. But they haven’t addressed the capital budget, or other important issues facing the state’s future.

Ombudsman reports show failures at OCS

Anne Hillman, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage

The state’s Ombudsman’s Office has released reports for two investigations into the Office of Children’s Services – both involving the same caseworker.

No answers for low Kuskokwim king run

Anna Rose MacArthur, KYUK – Bethel

The driving question over the last several years, and the one that’s being asked again as biologists warn that 2017 could be the lowest king salmon run on record, is: why is the king run on the Kuskokwim so low?

Yukon salmon runs offering opportunities for harvest

Tim Bodony, KIYU – Galena

Yukon River king and summer chum salmon runs are shaping up to be some of the strongest in years.

Paddler sought life off the beaten path, respite from ‘paying to live’

Jacob Resneck, KTOO – Juneau

Coast Guard Lt. Joey Schlosser looked out his kitchen window to see a man on a raft with a dog trying to paddle Gastineau Channel. After being rescued by the Coast Guard, Brandt Smith explained to KTOO what he was trying to accomplish.

AK: How do you grow a zoo in Anchorage?

Zachariah Hughes, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage

The Alaska Zoo has dramatically transformed over the last five decades. The process of expanding a collection of rare animals isn’t easy. None the less, there have been some acquisitions lately. The process of integrating new wildlife into the facility combines non-profit budgeting with the whims of mother nature.

49 Voices: Nanne Boorgeart of Anchorage

Wesley Early, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage

This week we’re hearing from Nanne Boorgeart from Anchorage. Boorgeart is originally from the Netherlands and has lived in Alaska for five years.

Categories: Alaska News

Ombudsman reports show failures at OCS

Fri, 2017-06-23 18:12

The state’s Ombudsman’s Office has released reports for two investigations into the Office of Children’s Services – both involving the same caseworker.

In the first investigation, a father who lived out of state was trying to gain custody of his daughter. According to the Ombudsman, the father called the caseworker more than 130 times to try to start a complicated interstate placement agreement. During that time, the 8-year-old girl was sexually abused by her foster father. The caseworker was alerted to the possible abuse by multiple people, including the girl’s teacher and her counselor, but it was several months before she investigated and removed the child from the home. The foster father is currently awaiting trial for nine counts of sexual abuse of a minor.

In the second case, a baby was taken from her mother at birth about three years ago. The mother told the caseworker to contact the child’s great-grandfather in Arizona so he could take custody of the girl. OCS is legally required to try to place foster children with relatives first. Instead, the girl was placed with a non-relative foster family in Alaska. The caseworker was asked 27 times to contact the great-grandfather but didn’t for more than two years. She told the court twice that she had started the out-of-state placement process even though she hadn’t.

Out-going state Ombudsman Linda Lord-Jenkins said the cases show that in the foster care system, failing to complete administrative tasks can have long-term impacts.

“In both of these cases relatives were very interested and took very proactive steps to try to get OCS to initiate the studies that could lead to the children being placed with them,” Lord-Jenkins said during a phone interview. “And the caseworker didn’t initiate them and didn’t initiate them for long periods of time despite the obligations and reminders to do so. And that’s very distressing.”

Since 2015, there have been eight complaints against this worker. Lord-Jenkins recommended that OCS review all of her cases to see if there are other problems. But OCS Director Christy Lawton said that wouldn’t necessarily help because many of these problems stem from excessively high caseloads.

“Which isn’t to say it’s okay for there to be delays or untimely communications,” Lord-Jenkins said. “But that is the reality when caseworkers are carrying twice or three times the recommended average, which has been the case, particularly in our Mat-Su office for the past year.”

Additionally, Lawton said the worker is now being overseen by a different supervisor.

Lawton said with the high caseloads — more than 3,000 kids are currently in foster care — these types of problems are not unique to this caseworker. She said her employees are doing the best they can.

“I think if we reviewed any number of cases, we would find similar problems where everything wasn’t done to the ‘T’ that it should in terms of every single policy, every single phone call returned, every single thing happening timely,” Lawton said. “It’s simply impossible to do that virtually for every single caseworker we have, who has more than the recommended national average of cases. It’s an impossible job.”

OCS recently underwent a federal review and the agency will be implementing their recommendations over the next few years to try to improve, Lawton. Additionally, legislation that would increase the number of caseworkers and decrease their case load, House Bill 151, is working its way through the state legislature.

Ombudsman Lord-Jenkins said she hopes OCS will start examining how they handle different administrative processes to potentially prevent these problems in the future.

“I would like the public not to lambaste these folks who are doing the best they can with what they’ve got,” Lor-Jenkins said. “But to also recognize that these things should not happen.”

The state’s Ombudsman’s office can only make recommendations. It cannot force any agency to do anything.

Categories: Alaska News

What’s next for the legislature after narrowly avoiding a shutdown?

Fri, 2017-06-23 17:43
The Alaska Capitol. (Photo by Heather Bryant/KTOO)

The Legislature avoided a state government shutdown by passing an operating budget on Thursday, eight days before the deadline. But they haven’t addressed the capital budget, or other important issues facing the state’s future.

To discuss this, Alaska Public Media’s Lori Townsend spoke with Andrew Kitchenman of Alaska Public Media and KTOO.

TOWNSEND: What paved the way for the budget?

KITCHENMAN: Well, throughout the year, pressure was growing on both the House and Senate majorities to avoid a shutdown. This is really getting pretty intense in the last couple of weeks. And that’s not just for the effect on government workers, but for the impact on private sector jobs like commercial fishing. So the House and the Senate showed a willingness to give ground. The Senate agreed to a budget including a smaller cut than what it had passed. This budget also includes a $9 million increase for school funding, rather than the $65 million cut that the Senate had passed. The House agreed to drop a nearly $2 billion payment to fund schools in the future. But no one wanted a shutdown. And workers could breath a sigh of relief today when the state officially rescinded their layoff notices.

TOWNSEND: And what about the Permanent Fund Dividend?

KITCHENMAN: PFDs are going to be $1,100 in October. That’s $100 more than last year. But they’re only half of what residents would receive under a formula set by state law. So it’s the first time the Legislature hasn’t fully funded PFDs since the reduction last year came from a veto from Gov. Walker. House Speaker Bryce Edgmon says more PFD could be added in the capital budget, but even if the Senate agreed to that, which is a big if, Gov. Bill Walker could veto the money like he did last year.

TOWNSEND: Andrew, there’s some major items the legislature hasn’t passed.

KITCHENMAN: That’s right Lori. This year has seen the fewest bills passed of any year since statehood. Gov. Walker didn’t include anything but the budget in his call for the second special session last week. So the Legislature hasn’t agreed on a plan to balance future state budgets. I spoke with longtime budget expert Gunnar Knapp about where things stand.

KNAPP: “The good news is, the state government’s not going to shut down. The bad news is, it’s barely a dent in, you know, facing up to the continuing problem we have with our, you know, the imbalance between the spending and its revenues.”

KITCHENMAN: The Senate majority insists the state doesn’t need new taxes. The House majority says they won’t draw from Permanent Fund earnings without taxes, such as more taxes on the oil and gas industry, or a broad-based tax like an income or payroll tax.

TOWNSEND: What else did not happen?

KITCHENMAN: Well, there’s no capital budget. The state faces an informal deadline of the end of September in order to benefit from federal funding.

TOWNSEND: Okay. So what’s next for the Legislature, Andrew?

KITCHENMAN: Walker added a bill making changes to oil and gas taxes to the special session agenda late last night. Lawmakers and aides say informal talks could ha[[en outside of Juneau in the coming days to decide how to handle the Governor’s request to consider the bill. But the two sides are far apart on the oil tax bill. And it’s also not clear if Walker will add the capital budget to the agenda. Here’s what House Speaker Bryce Edgmon has to say about where things stand.

EDGMON: “At this point, I think the Legislature is going to stand down for some time, work with the governor, and we have more work to do on the capital budget. And I think the governor may at some point later on want the Legislature to address fiscal measures.”

KITCHENMAN: We may know early next week about whether the Legislature plans to do anything more during the special session which ends on July 15th, or whether it will wait for Walker to call another special session later on this year.

Categories: Alaska News

Breaking through the political divide

Fri, 2017-06-23 17:02
The sign outside the Anchorage Legislative Information Office, March 4, 2016. (Photo by Megan Ahleman)

Alaska lawmakers avoided a state government shut down by passing an operating budget, but the deal doesn’t address long term stability and both Republicans and Democrats expressed disappointment over things they had to give up. The political divisions remain.

HOST: Lori Townsend

GUESTS:

  • Mike Navarre – Kenai Borough mayor, former Democratic lawmaker
  • Statewide callers 

Participate:

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

LIVE Broadcast: Tuesday, June 27, 2017 at 10:00 a.m. on APRN stations statewide.

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

Categories: Alaska News

49 Voices: Nanne Boorgeart of Anchorage

Fri, 2017-06-23 15:10
Nanne Boorgeart of Anchorage (Photo by Wesley Early, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage)

This week we’re hearing from Nanne Boorgeart from Anchorage. Boorgeart is originally from the Netherlands and has lived in Alaska for five years.

Listen now

BOORGEART: I went to study at Colorado School of Mines two years before that where I met a girl who graduated that year and then moved up to Alaska, so I followed her two years later.

I’m a student nowadays again, since a month ago. Before that, I was an engineer. I was dissatisfied with my profession. So now I want to become a teacher.

I worked at Endicott. And that’s a very large difference in view. Most of the operators up there, I think, are very like-minded. And in town, not the same as the ones on the slope. Everything goes more out of a… I work with engineers, so people have a little more of a sciency approach to everything. So it’s not just like a standpoint is a standpoint. You can debate everything. We could talk about stuff and pull in some research and that kind of stuff. And it’s a way more multicultural environment because the engineers that I worked with were from all over the world, so that’s a big difference.

I’ve been to Norway a lot, which is fairly similar. This is like a rough Norway, I think. With everything, it’s wilder. Norway has all the pretty nature. It just all feels more civilized. It more structured. I think there’s more trails. There are huts. The narture’s still veery pretty, but here you’ve got bears, you’ve got moose. They don’t have the wildlife and stuff.

I like the freedom you have here — to go to the mountains after work. You can just… 20-minute drive and you’re up in a mountain. In winter you can ski everywhere. It’s something you can’t see anywhere else.

Categories: Alaska News

Yukon salmon runs offering opportunities for harvest

Fri, 2017-06-23 14:55
“Chinook salmon, Yukon Delta NWR.” (Photo: Craig Springer, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)

Yukon River king and summer chum salmon runs are shaping up to be some of the strongest in years.

Fish and Game’s sonar project on the lower Yukon at Pilot Station estimated about 25,000 kings and 280,000 summer chum on Wednesday alone – some of the highest daily passage numbers seen over the past ten years.

Fish and Game Yukon River Summer Season Manager Holly Carroll said that the Yukon king run is on track to come in at the upper end of the Department’s pre-season projection, but it will likely fall short of the huge king runs of the 1980s and early 1990s.

“Run sizes used to be around 300,000, so if we see a run size of around 190,000 this year we will definitely be happy, and that should be sufficient to meet escapement goals,” Carroll said. “But there have been restrictions on subsistence fishing – so we are not out of the woods yet. We are still in conservation mode, but we can certainly be hopefully right now.”

King salmon management on the Yukon over the past few years has focused on protecting the first pulse of fish, many of which are bound for Canada. Any subsistence fishing opportunities for kings have been provided near the end of the run. As Carroll explained, Fish and Game has a different approach for subsistence openings.

“While it is important to protect the first pulse of fish headed for Canada, we have a lot of other stocks, [such as] lower river, middle river, Koyukuk stocks,” Carroll said. “And you want to be careful that, when you are allowing harvest on a run, that you are spreading that harvest across all stocks and across all age classes. So it is really important that, in order to protect one stock we don’t over-harvest on another.”

Commercial fishing for Yukon king salmon has not occurred since 2007, and no commercial king openings are planned for this year. Commercial fishing for the Yukon’s abundant summer chum salmon is occurring with selective gear types only, such as dip nets, beach seines, and live release fish wheels. Just under 100,000 summer chum had been harvested commercial on the lower Yukon as of June 22.

Categories: Alaska News

AK: How do you grow a zoo in Anchorage?

Fri, 2017-06-23 14:53
A brown bear stretching out at the Alaska Zoo, June 20, 2017 (Photo: Zachariah Hughes, Alaska Public Media)

The Alaska Zoo has dramatically transformed over the last five decades. Its origins are with an Anchorage grocer who won a baby elephant in a contest sponsored by a paper company. The two-year-old elephant, Annabelle, was kept in a heated stall at a horse ranch in South Anchorage, and over the years a zoo grew up around her.

That process of expanding a collection of rare animals isn’t easy. None the less, there have been some acquisitions lately. The process of integrating new wildlife into the facility combines non-profit budgeting with the whims of mother nature.

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On a recent weekday afternoon under a mild drizzle, a mother musk ox named Maya chomped on branches, while her tiny new daughter nibbled at a pile of Fireweed tossed in their pen.

“This one was born here, and her name is Sarah Elizabeth,” Patrick Lampi, the zoo’s executive director, said.

Sarah Elizabeth, a month-and-a-half old musk ox at the Alaska Zoo, June 20, 2017 (Photo: Zachariah Hughes, Alaska Public Media)

The long-legged musk ox toddler was born right around Mother’s Day last month. And Lampi said that of all the ways his zoo acquires new animals, births like this are the rarest.

“We have a pretty limited breeding program here,” Lampi said. But he added that when it comes to musk oxen “we know there is a need for them.”

What Lampi means is that a lot of zoos around the world want one of these hearty prehistoric goats. But they’re hard to come by. And though zoos can’t sell animals to one another, there is a system in place that facilitates global exchange. The last musk ox born to Maya was sent down to the Port Defiance Zoo in Tacoma.

But the majority of new animals that arrive at the Alaska Zoo are wildlife rescues. That includes a different baby musk ox living just a few dozen feet away. He was orphaned from a herd in Nome, where the males kept chasing him off.

“It wouldn’t have survived more than a couple days out there,” Lampi said. He’s tiny, and so young he hasn’t even been given a name yet.

“I think he’s pushing a month now. Not too much bigger than a newborn,” Lampi said. As the knee-high ball of fuzz trundles silently over to the fence where we’re standing I am reminded that petting baby animals at the zoo, even when they look very soft, is not allowed.

When this musk ox gets bigger and healthier he’ll be sent up to live at the university in Fairbanks. And that’s a lot of what the zoo does with injured and orphaned animals: basically provide foster care until they can be placed in a permanent home. In Alaska, there are some species this happens with so often that the zoo has no need to try breeding them.

A watchful coyote at the Alaska Zoo, June 20, 2017 (Photo: Zachariah Hughes, Alaska Public Media)

“Like brown bears, or black bears, or moose calves,” Lampi rattled off. “There’s usually so many orphans that there’s not really need for us to be breeding those, it’s better to try to finding homes for the orphans that are out there.”

We headed to the other side of the grounds to see one such luckless little cub, but en route we get side-tracked by a pack of wolves.

“They’re all from one litter,” Lampi said as four of the five siblings studied us from the other side of their enclosure.

The pack is from an area outside McGrath where the state has allowed a lot of predator control, the controversial practice of opening wolves and bears to expanded hunting in an effort to boost moose and caribou populations. According to Lampi, the zoo approached the state and offered to take in a litter, which would accomplish the same goal of relieving pressure on area ungulates. The state agreed. That was 11 years ago, and the pack is now a fixture at the zoo.

In front of a group of kids, Lampi coaxed the wolves from mild whimpers into a full-blown chorus of hows.

“Come on, you guys can do better than that,” Lampi chided, like some kind of choir director.

The pack belted out a yowling harmony that kept getting louder and louder, to the delight of everyone around.

Even though Lampi’s worked at the zoo for 31 years, he still stops to listen every time the wolves sing.

A black bear examining its hammock at the Alaska Zoo, June 20, 2017 (Photo: Zachariah Hughes, Alaska Public Media)

We headed down a side-trail to peak at a tiny little black bear orphaned in Valdez this winter. Eventually it’ll head to the San Diego Zoo. Which is lucky, because Lampi and his staff can only take in animals when they know they can find them a permanent place.

“If there’s no way we can take care of them for the rest of their lives, and we don’t have a home for them to go to, then they just let nature take its course out in the wild,” Lampi said.

Soon after, we walk by a trio of playful, chortling otters, pass a stern-eyed owl and some damp yaks, then wind up in front of two snow leopards. These animals are extremely rare. The female, Malala, came from a zoo in New York this May. The couple is napping on separate boulders partitioned by a thin chain-link fence.

“They’re still checking each other out,” Lampi admitted. Snow leopards live solitary lives in the wild. And while coupledom is common in captivity, it isn’t a given.

Like every other zoo, this one has a wish-list of animals they’re hoping to add. And an acquisition like Malala’s from a peer institution is the last way that a collection expands: more common than births, but less frequent than taking in orphans from the wild. For months, the two zoos exchanged information, audited finances, ran background checks, and coordinated logistics. The process seems like the hardest parts of both adoption and filling a fine-arts museum.

“Animals like a snow leopard have to fly on FedEx and have two people travel with it,” Lampi explained of Malala’s journey to Anchorage. Much of the global travel by mega-fauna heading to different zoos is facilitated by commercial and cargo airlines.

A pair of trumpeter swans at the Alaska Zoo, June 20, 2017 (Photo: Zachariah Hughes, Alaska Public Media)

Since Lampi took over as director, the non-profit zoo’s budget has doubled to $3 million. But that hasn’t gone to expanding the site’s foot-print in South Anchorage. Instead, the growth has mostly been geared toward improving animal habitats and adding staff, particularly educators to work with visitors.

Lampi said it’d be nice if they could get money from a state capital appropriation or municipal bond to buy up new land, build fancy new exhibits, and add new creatures, ideally more weasels, extra leopards, and possibly a rare Chinese goat called a Takin. But the fiscal landscape isn’t promising for that kind of expansion. Instead, his priority is fixing up more of the facilities on site, and growing the zoo from within.

Categories: Alaska News

No answers for low Kuskokwim king run

Fri, 2017-06-23 14:31
King salmon at a market in Seattle. (Creative Commons photo by Jill /Blue Moonbeam Studio)

The driving question over the last several years, and the one that’s being asked again as biologists warn that 2017 could be the lowest king salmon run on record, is: why is the king run on the Kuskokwim River so low?

“The simple answer is we really don’t know,” Zach Liller said. He’s the leading Kuskokwim researcher for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. “We expected the return to be very similar to last year.”

That’s when an estimated 177,000 kings swam up the river.

But instead, half-way through this season’s run, we’re seeing numbers similar to 2013, the year the king salmon stock crashed and about 94, 000 of the fish ran the Kuskokwim.

Why was the predicted run so much higher than the return?

Locals were concerned that state fish biologists were being too optimistic months before the first kings showed up on the river.

The models that predicted this season’s forecast are currently under review by third parties.

Fish and Game Commissioner Sam Cotten said the state is discussing with federal managers how to provide fishing options for subsistence users while protecting the collapsing kings.

“We are considering an opportunity to allow drift gillnets to target sockeye and chum salmon,” Cotten said. “We recognize that’ll be some incidental catch involved with that. That if you’re using gillnets, that that’s just going to allow for some chinook take as well.”

Managers are seeing strong numbers for both sockeye and chum so far this season.

Another option the state will consider is an elder opening, Cotten said. That’s when an elder goes fishing with a family member during a designated time to give elders a taste of fresh fish.

As to concerns that conservation efforts to avoid harvesting salmon could be depleting whitefish, Fish and Game fishery manager Aaron Poetter said that the state cannot measure those numbers.

It has no data on whitefish populations in the Kuskokwim. The best indicator they have to determine changes in these stocks is fishermen’s observations.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is meeting with the Kuskokwim Inter-Tribal Fish Commission today to consider opening a gillnet opportunity.

Categories: Alaska News

Paddler sought life off the beaten path, respite from ‘paying to live’

Fri, 2017-06-23 14:22
Brandt Smith, 32, paddles his modified inflatable raft on June 7 in Gastineau Channel near Juneau. A Coast Guard boat crew intervened and took Smith and his dog Sam to Douglas harbor. (Photo courtesy Lt. Joey Schlosser/U.S. Coast Guard)

As KTOO reported, the Coast Guard pulled a man, his dog and a makeshift raft out of Gastineau Channel on June 7. As is usually the case, there’s always more to the story.

Coast Guard Lt. Joey Schlosser was standing in his kitchen on his day off.

He has a nice view of Gastineau Channel and it was a beautiful sunny day.

“I was making breakfast and noticed something coming down Gastineau Channel,” Schlosser said in an interview. “I grabbed a pair of binoculars that I have there in the family room. And it looked like a kayak at first – I was like, ‘I don’t know what the hell that is.’”

As he got a better view he decided he’d better call the office.

“This is gonna be kind of a funny phone call,” Schlosser told the duty officer. “So I’m home and I’ve got a guy going by my house on Gastineau Channel on what looks like a makeshift float out of duct tape and god knows what else … I can’t see a visible life jacket and he’s a got a dog on this thing.”

His concern was for Brandt Smith, 32, and his black dog Sam.

“He’s paddling away right now but this thing is janky as hell,” Schlosser said. “So I figured I’d just give you guys a heads up because this probably doesn’t look like it’s going to end well for this guy.”

A few days later Smith and his black dog Sam visited KTOO’s studio to explain himself.

“My original plan was to get somewhere kind of off-the-beaten path and build like a log barge that I could pull behind me on low tide so I could walk along the shoreline,” Smith said in an interview. “And then I was at Fred Meyer picking up some last-minute supplies and they had this sale for these small, little inflatable rafts. They were only like $22 bucks and so I decided to go ahead and buy that.”

What Schlosser saw from his kitchen window concerned him.

“I’m a search-and-rescue controller here in Juneau so I’m looking at something that just doesn’t look inherently safe,” Schlosser told KTOO. “What kind of set my sensors off is when a barge went by and once the wake caught up to him he got waked out pretty good. And that’s when I was like OK, we have some issues here.”

“I was trying to get down a little past Snettisham,” Smith said of the fjord about 30 miles south of Juneau. “I mean, I was gonna try and modify the little inflatable raft as I went. Because it was going to take me a few days, maybe even a week to get down there with the raft. But that kind of didn’t really pan out.”

The Coast Guard launched a 25-foot lifeboat at about 2 p.m.

“When I saw the orange bowed Coast Guard thing I was like ‘Aw, crap,’” Smith recalled. “They were trying their best to figure out ways to try and tow me down there – they really tried.”

Both sides report the interaction to be positive.

“They’re always going to try and give the mariner the benefit of the doubt,” Schlosser said. “Up here in Alaska when someone’s trying to go somewhere that’s pretty far out and visually you’re taking a look around and you don’t see proper safety equipment, that’s where we tend to intervene.”

The Coast Guard crew loaded Smith, Sam the dog and the makeshift raft into their boat and took them across the channel to Douglas harbor.

In a wide-ranging interview, Smith explained he’s in Alaska to establish a homestead even though he knows it’s no longer legal.

“I was planning on going out there and kind of just making myself a little kind of home-away-from-home area where I could grow some food and maybe have some little inconspicuous house or something and be there for a little bit,” Smith explained.

Smith used to live and work in Juneau.

“I used to be a helicopter mechanic. Actually I used to work here for Coastal Helicopters – that was four years ago, almost five,” Smith said.

Coastal Helicopters’ management confirmed this.

“I kinda got burnt out on working on helicopters, got burnt out on pretty much everything,” Smith said. “I kind of saw the world as a bleak side of life where all you’re doing is paying to live.”

Smith has since set up camp outside of town and said he’s already got his cold weather crops in the ground. His goal is self-reliance, he said.

“Hopefully if I keep myself quiet enough and not make a nuisance of myself, hopefully where I’m at, I can be left alone,” Smith said. “I mean, it’s not a permanent thing and I’m fairly discreet – but I just don’t want to become another homeless person in the city of Juneau because there’s only two ways out of this friggin’ town: one by air and one by boat.”

Smith has already tried the boat.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: Thursday, June 22, 2017

Thu, 2017-06-22 17:54

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

Compromise to avoid state shutdown could happen soon

Andrew Kitchenman, KTOO – Juneau

State lawmakers are working on a budget compromise to avoid a government shutdown that could be completed as soon as tonight.

‘Sense of relief’ as cuts to UA system are less than expected

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The University of Alaska learned it would face cuts, even though UA president Jim Johnsen said the cuts were less than expected.

Walker signs bill granting health insurance to dependents of fallen police, firefighters

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

Governor Bill Walker has signed legislation which requires the state to provide health insurance for the dependents of state law enforcement officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty.

Murkowski’s take on health bill? Stay tuned.

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

Sen. Lisa Murkowski wouldn’t say how she’ll vote on the health care reform bill Senate leaders released Thursday, but it does things she has said she’s against, like shrinking Medicaid expansion and defunding Planned Parenthood.

Body of missing boater recovered on Bering Strait beach

Associated Press

The body of a man missing on a boating trip out of the Bering Strait village of Wales has been recovered.

“Doesn’t he know it’s frozen?” How Alaska almost overlooked Prudhoe Bay

Elizabeth Harball and Zoe Sobel, Alaska’s Energy Desk

You could argue — and a lot of people do — that  Alaska would be a completely different place if it weren’t for a man named Tom Marshall.

Fish and Game shoots black bear thought to have killed 16-year-old runner

Casey Grove, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage

That bear had been shot once already during an effort Sunday to recover the 16-year-old’s body.

Man charged in 2015 Wasilla double murder

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

Court documents detail the case against a Wasilla man accused of a double murder along the Denali Highway.

Alaska trail advocates warn Governor Walker of transportation funding lapses

Henry Leasia, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage

Advocacy group Alaska Trails has 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.

Categories: Alaska News

Compromise to avoid state shutdown could happen soon

Thu, 2017-06-22 17:36
State workers protested a possible government shutdown outside of the Capitol, June 22, 2017. The House and Senate appeared close to a budget compromise to avoid the shutdown. (Photo by Andrew Kitchenman/KTOO and Alaska Public Media)

State lawmakers are working on a budget compromise to avoid a government shutdown that could be completed as soon as tonight.

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The outline of an agreement became clear Thursday afternoon. The primary source of school funding would not be reduced. Alaska Permanent Fund dividends would be cut in half to $1,100. Future state purchases of oil and gas tax credits would end. And the $4.2 billion budget includes a cut in state government spending of $129 million, or 3 percent.

A conference committee of House and Senate members agreed to these pieces on today. Homer Rep. Paul Seaton said both chambers got some things they wanted.

“There are a number of items that are House,” Seaton said. “There are a number of items that are Senate. And so this is very much a compromise budget. And we want to prevent a shutdown to the state that would be very costly, very disruptive, really hard on the economy of the state as well.”

Both chambers were waiting on members to return to Juneau to vote on the package.

To close the $2.5 billion budget gap, the state would draw from the same piggy bank it has used in other years. It’s known as the Constitutional Budget Reserve, or CBR.

But drawing from the CBR isn’t a sure thing. It requires three quarters of the members of both chambers supporting the draw. That means at least eight members of the Republican House minority caucus must back it.

Anchorage Republican Rep. Lance Pruitt expressed misgivings about the compromise. He didn’t spell them out.

“I felt there was a different direction that we should go,” Pruitt said. “But obviously, there’s a lot of other moving pieces here and so – I’ll leave it at that.”

The CBR draw would allow the state to avoid tapping earnings from the permanent fund for the first time, in order to close the budget gap.

Both sides gave up something. The House majority didn’t get a $1.7 billion deposit into the public education fund, which they hoped would pay for future school budgets. And the Senate majority agreed to a higher level of spending than it had sought.

If the compromise passes, it would avoid the first state government shutdown in Alaska history.

Permanent Fund Dividend office worker Bradley Johnson led about 30 state workers across Fourth Street from the Capitol in a protest against a shutdown. He said they wanted to send lawmakers a message.

“I find it better to expect the worst and then have a, you know, hopefully have a better outcome,” Johnson said.

The compromise doesn’t address the fact that the state government only brings in about 40 cents for every dollar it spends. For the second straight year, the House and Senate failed to agree on changes that would balance the budget in the future.

And time is running out. There isn’t enough in the CBR to cover a similar budget gap next year.

Even if they agree on the operating budget, the Legislature’s work isn’t done. The two chambers haven’t agreed on a bill intended to curb overdose deaths from opioid drugs. And they haven’t agreed on a capital budget to fund roads and other infrastructure.

There are key differences over the capital bill. The House included more money for permanent fund dividends, which would allow PFDs to be the full $2,200 mandated by state law. It’s not clear when lawmakers would meet to resolve their differences. The second special session must end by July 15.

Categories: Alaska News

‘Sense of relief’ as cuts to UA system are less than expected

Thu, 2017-06-22 17:16

The University of Alaska learned it would face cuts, even though UA president Jim Johnsen said the cuts were less than expected.

Speaking at a special regents meeting, President Johnsen reflected on a 317 million dollar allocation included in the yet to be finalized legislative budget compromise.

”There are no high-fives here,” Johnsen said. “I think I can say there’s a sense of relief that the number is not 303 or a $22 million cut. The number is not 309. There’s the likelihood that we’ll continue operations. So that’s a positive. So it’s more a sense of relief than of celebration.”

The last reference is to a now unlikely state government shutdown, that would have effected university operations. The $317 million state allocation is $8 million less than last year’s funding, and Johnsen said UA will be $11 million short when compensation and other cost increases are accounted for. He said the situation means another tuition increase, continued program and service reductions, but also investment in focused areas.

”We’ve got to keep investing in our high priorities,” Johnsen said. “Otherwise, it just… this downward spiral continues and continues with all of the people, program and other implications of that decline. And so I think it’s critically important that we try to, again, take a deep breath, manage through these reductions and then really focus on investment and growth.”

Areas targeted for $6 million in investment, include enrollment, marketing and advertising, workforce and on line development, and automation. Johnsen also spoke to concern about yet to be finalized state capital funding, noting that UA is again budgeting for $45.9 million in deferred maintenance.

UA is hosting town hall budget meetings at its three main campuses on Friday.

Regents are scheduled to meet again on the 27th to approve an FY18 spending plan.

Categories: Alaska News

Murkowski’s take on health bill? Stay tuned.

Thu, 2017-06-22 17:11
U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski speaks with reporters following her annual address to the Alaska Legislature on Feb. 22, 2017. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

In the U.S. Senate, Republicans released a draft of their health care bill Thursday. Sen. Lisa Murkowski wouldn’t say how she’ll vote on it, but the draft has elements she has said she’s against, like shrinking Medicaid expansion and defunding Planned Parenthood.

Murkowski said late Thursday afternoon she hasn’t had a chance to read the bill.

“I’m not drawing any lines in the sand until I read what’s contained in this draft,” Murkowski said, adding that she also intended to talk to people at the state and those doing the serious number-crunching.

Murkowski said on the one hand, the tax credits seem better for Alaska than what’s in the House bill, because they are based in part on the prevailing insurance costs, and Alaska’s are the highest in the nation.

On the other hand…

“We’ve got a discussion draft … that has, based on what I’ve been told, a lot of things that cause me concerns,” Murkowski said.

The Senate bill, for instance, ramps down federal funding for expanded Medicaid. Murkowski promised in her speech to the Alaska Legislature this year that she wouldn’t vote to repeal the expansion so long as Alaska leaders want to keep it. Some 34,000 Alaskans are now insured due to that expansion.

Murkowski said she’s heard different views of what exactly the Senate bill means for Medicaid expansion.

“So again: devil is in the detail,” Murkowski said.

For all of Medicaid, the bill would leave states on the hook for more of the costs, as would the House-passed bill. A state-funded report estimates the House bill would cost the state $2.8 billion in Medicaid funds over six years.

The Senate bill would also suspend government insurance reimbursements to Planned Parenthood for a year. Murkowski said in Juneau she wouldn’t vote to deny Alaskans access to the health care services Planned Parenthood provides.

For Alaskans who buy their insurance policies on the exchange, the Senate bill keeps the subsidies but lowers the income threshold for eligibility. So, a 50-year-old Alaskan earning $59,000 a year now qualifies for about $10,000 in annual subsidies. Under the Senate bill, that person would get no subsidy, though people earning less than about $44,530 would still be eligible.

The bill repeals most of the taxes the Affordable Care Act imposes, like the taxes on tanning beds, medical devices and investment income. But it keeps the ACA’s so-called Cadillac Tax, which would have outsized impact on Alaska. It’s intended to apply only to deluxe, high-premium insurance plans. But in Alaska insurance costs a lot more, so the Cadillac tax would apply to average employer-funded plans. Both Alaska senators sponsored a bill to repeal it. The Senate’s insurance reform bill delays the Cadillac tax until 2026.

Murkowski is considered a moderate swing vote. Several conservative Republicans have already announced they can’t vote for the bill in its current form because it doesn’t repeal enough of the ACA.

The Senate bill has $50 billion over four years to stabilize the ACA’s insurance marketplaces, but it’s not clear how the money would be distributed.

Sen. Dan Sullivan, like a lot of senators, said he’s still reviewing the bill. His office responded to an interview request by sending a video he recorded before the draft bill emerged.

In it, Sullivan gave something of a defense for the secretive process Senate leaders employed to craft the bill. The senator said they could have been more open, but he said the stakes are high.

“Something has to be done, and it has to be done soon,” Sullivan said.

Becky Hultberg, president of the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association, said her members are concerned the Senate bill will leave too many Alaskans uninsured and the state unable to pay the increased costs of Medicaid, although she acknowledges Alaska has some serious problems under current law.

“But the answer to those problems is not simply shifting costs and reducing coverage, and that essentially is what this bill does,” Hultberg said.

The Congressional Budget Office is expected to produce its analysis of the bill early next week, ahead of the Senate vote.

Categories: Alaska News

Man charged in 2015 Wasilla double murder

Thu, 2017-06-22 17:02

Court documents detail the case against a Wasilla man accused of a double murder along the Denali Highway.

42-year-old Bruce Floyd Dowd Butler is charged with killing his estranged wife: 42-year-old Lynn Butler, and her friend: 61-year-old Richard Casler, over the July 4th weekend in 2015.

Their bodies were found in a storage container at a remote site near mile 79 of the Denali Highway. Autopsies determined that Lynn Butler died of gun shots, and that Casler was shot and beaten to death.

A complaint filed in superior court in Anchorage compiles evidence collected at the murder scene, cell phone records, witness statements, and Bruce Butler’s own communications in recommending double first degree murder charges.

Among the evidence are domestic violence incidents involving the Butlers, and statements made by a former friend, alleging Bruce Butler told him he killed his wife.

The complaint also includes a confession Butler is alleged to have made to a person he met at a state park campground in Sterling earlier this (June) month.

Bruce Butler was arrested at his Wasilla home Tuesday.

Categories: Alaska News

Walker signs bill granting health insurance to dependents of fallen police, firefighters

Thu, 2017-06-22 16:28

Governor Bill Walker has signed legislation which requires the state to provide health insurance for the dependents of state law enforcement officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty.

On Wednesday, Walker signed House Bill 23 in North Pole at a memorial park in North Pole established to honor Trooper Gabe Rich and Sergeant Scott Johnson, troopers killed while responding to a call in the village of Tanana in 2014.

Sergeant Johnson’s widow was among fallen officer’s family members attending yesterday’s signing ceremony. Brandy Johnson was instrumental in pushing the health insurance bill thorough the legislature. The legislation allows local municipalities to opt into the state insurance program.

Categories: Alaska News

“Doesn’t he know it’s frozen?” How Alaska almost overlooked Prudhoe Bay

Thu, 2017-06-22 15:33
Tom Marshall was a geologist and a land selection officer for Alaska in the 1960s. He was the driving force behind the state’s Prudhoe Bay selection. (Photo by Elizabeth Harball/Alaska’s Energy Desk)

You could argue — and a lot of people do — that  Alaska would be a completely different place if it weren’t for a man named Tom Marshall.

Marshall’s now 91 years old and lives in a little brown house in Anchorage. He won’t bring it up himself, but for many Alaskans, he’s a hero. There’s an award tucked between the photos lining his living room wall, for “professional discernment and courageous foresight.”

Marshall earned this award for something he did in the early 1960s, when he worked for the brand new state of Alaska. Back then, the state depended largely on federal dollars and a few resource industries, like salmon fishing. Marshall remembers it as a tense time; with a tiny economy and population, it was a real question whether Alaska could support itself.

“There was a great deal of anxiety of just how we were going to accomplish this,” Marshall said.

But under the statehood act, Congress handed Alaska something like a scratch off lottery ticket. While the federal government still controlled much of Alaska’s 375 million acres — the state could select over 100 million acres to develop as it pleased. If Alaska picked land with valuable resources, it would have a winning ticket.

“This land would put us in a position to pay our bills,” Marshall said.

That’s when Marshall, a petroleum geologist, quietly became one of Alaska’s most important employees. He was tasked with picking the land.

A ragged chunk of Arctic coast called Prudhoe Bay caught his eye. The geology reminded Marshall of big oil basins he’d seen in Wyoming. Marshall thought this could be the jackpot Alaska needed.

But when he suggested selecting a remote chunk of tundra on the icy ocean, Bill Egan, Alaska’s first governor, was not impressed.

“Gov. Egan’s comment was, ‘doesn’t he know it’s frozen?’” Marshall said.

Still, Marshall kept pressing Gov. Egan to select Prudhoe Bay. And some people thought Marshall was on to something. A handful of oil companies were intrigued with Alaska’s Arctic. The federal government had started leasing land on the North Slope in 1958, and a few companies were laying plans to drill there.

It took years and a combination of pressures from the oil companies, Marshall and others, but Egan relented and selected Prudhoe Bay for the state in 1964.

But there were also a lot of skeptics. When the Prudhoe Bay selection was posted, Marshall remembers someone scrawled a note across the map in 5-inch-tall letters:

“They wrote ‘Marshall’s Folly’ on there,” Marshall said.

Harry Jamison worked for one of the oil companies taking a risk on the North Slope. Like Marshall, Jamison hoped there might be a billion-barrel oil field hiding there. It would take that much to justify the astronomical cost of transporting the oil from the Arctic to market.

Jamison knew it would be a challenge.

“Billion-barrel oil fields don’t come along every day. There have been very, very few ever discovered in the United States,” Jamison said.

And soon, dreams of a billion-barrel oil field in Alaska’s Arctic started seeming like a long shot.

Starting in 1963, BP and Sinclair Oil Corp. teamed up and drilled six wells on federal land near the Brooks Range. All six were dry. After that, a series of other companies came up short, too. Eventually that included Jamison’s company, ARCO.

The oil companies that had taken a risk on Alaska’s North Slope started hemorrhaging money.

“It was extremely discouraging,” Jamison said. “The whole industry was really down on the North Slope by that time.”

As well after well came up dry, Marshall’s Prudhoe Bay selection started to seem like a mistake. By 1967, Jamison said most oil companies had given up.

But then, ARCO and Humble Oil teamed up and moved the only drill rig left on the North Slope to Prudhoe Bay. It was the oil industry’s last shot.

A young geologist named Gil Mul was there, working at the well. Mull said for weeks, drilling the well wasn’t all that exciting.

“Almost like watching grass grow,” Mull said.

Then one day, they tested the well’s pressure. When the crew opened the valve, Mull said there was a powerful burst of gas.

“It sounded like a jet plane overhead. It’s shaking the rig. It’s a rumble. It’s a roar,” Mull said.

The crews ignited the gas rushing from the pipe. It sparked a 50-foot flare that burned in the darkness of the North Slope sky for more than eight hours.

A few months later, the companies drilled a second well to confirm the size of the oil field and discovered it was huge. Initial estimates were that Prudhoe Bay held 9.6 billion barrels of oil – at the time, it was the biggest oil discovery in North America. It’s still the biggest ever found in the U.S.

Alaska’s leaders knew the state would never be the same.

“Alaska has become established as America’s greatest oil province,” Egan said in a 1970 speech. “Ponder for a moment the promise, the dream, and the touch of destiny.”

Finding Prudhoe Bay came down to a few things going exactly right. If the companies hadn’t decided to drill that one last well, if they hadn’t found enough oil and if Marshall hadn’t pushed the governor to select the land in the first place, there’s no question the state would be very different.

Marshall’s not one to brag about his contribution, though. He said he was just doing his job.

But that’s not to say Marshall doesn’t get any satisfaction out of it. Asked if it still bothers him that so many people doubted him for so long, Marshall burst out laughing.

“Oh, not at all, because they were so wrong!” Marshall said. “I mean, let’s face it — Prudhoe Bay oil field was the largest oil field ever discovered on the North American continent. Why should I feel bad about that?”

This story is part of Alaska Energy Desk’s series, Midnight Oil, about the pipeline that shaped Alaska. It contained contributions from both Eliazbeth Harball and Zoe Sobel with Alaska’s Energy Desk.

Next week, the story of how the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act came to be. Listen on Alaska Public Media or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. 

Categories: Alaska News

Juneau tops national list of smallest cities with most millionaire households

Thu, 2017-06-22 14:18
Downtown Juneau on Aug. 4, 2008. (Creative Commons photo by Sam Beebe)

Do you have a million dollars lying around? Chances are one out of every 13 households in Alaska’s capital city qualifies as a millionaire.

The business publication Kiplinger is reporting that Juneau tops the list of small cities with the highest concentration of households with the proverbial big bucks. Juneau has 1,109 millionaire households out of a total of 12,986.

Its list is based on rankings of 915 urban areas by Phoenix Marketing International and census data.

Here’s the top 10 list:

  1. Juneau, Alaska
  2. Torrington, Connecticut
  3. Williston, North Dakota
  4. Edwards, Colorado
  5. Fredericksburg, Texas
  6. Easton, Maryland
  7. Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts
  8. Concord, New Hampshire
  9. Truckee-Grass Valley, California
  10. Gardnerville Ranchos, Nevada

They defined millionaire households as having $1 million or more in investable assets, excluding real estate, employer-sponsored retirement plans and business partnerships.

Categories: Alaska News

Fish and Game shoots black bear thought to have killed 16-year-old runner

Thu, 2017-06-22 14:13

In response to the fatal bear mauling last weekend of 16-year-old Patrick Cooper in a mountain running race south of Anchorage, wildlife officials shot and killed four black bears, including the one thought to have killed the teen.

That bear had been shot once already during an effort Sunday to recover the 16-year-old’s body.

It was tentatively identified by the State Department of Fish and Game after being killed Tuesday — because the animal had a broken jaw, a recent wound likely caused by a shotgun slug.

Fish and Game said it is conducting a necropsy on the bear to make sure it was the animal responsible for the first fatal mauling in Anchorage since two people were killed in 1995.

Fish and Game said ground searches had been unsuccessful in finding the animal, so aircraft were used to spot and shoot the bears.

The three other bears that were killed were seen close to where the boy was killed, in steep brushy terrain near the Bird Ridge trail, according to Fish and Game.

Fish and Game said the terrain made it impractical to use tranquilizer darts on any of the animals.

Categories: Alaska News

State eyes Alaska Permanent Fund earnings draw without plan

Thu, 2017-06-22 09:49
The Alaska Permanent Fund Corp.’s exterior sign. (Photo by Skip Gray, 360 North)

Lawmakers have proposed drawing money from the Alaska Permanent Fund earnings to pay for state government for the first time. But as the Legislature focuses on preventing a government shutdown, it’s increasingly likely the draw won’t be based on any one plan. And that’s raising concerns with lawmakers, the fund’s leader and a bond-rating firm.

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Ever since a few years after the Permanent Fund was approved by voters in 1976, its earnings have been used for two purposes: to grow the fund, and for Permanent Fund dividends. But with the state bringing roughly 40 cents in taxes, fees and oil royalties for every dollar it spends, both the House and Senate have passed bills to draw from earnings to cover the gap.

But they haven’t agreed on a plan on how much to draw. And without a plan, they’ve proposed two very different amounts.

The House passed a budget last Thursday that would draw nearly $5 billion from fund earnings – 40 percent of the current $12.5 billion earnings account. The Senate would draw half that amount.

Eagle River Republican Sen. Anna MacKinnon said the House draw is too large, adding that it would “devastate revenue coming into our state, as well as the security of Alaska’s dividends.”

There are two big reasons why the House draw is larger. One is that the House included $800 million more for PFDs after it voted to restore full dividend checks last week. House members said the state should only cut PFDs from more than $2,000 to roughly half that amount under one condition: There are other new sources of money for the state, such as higher taxes on the oil and gas industry, or a broad-based tax.

Anchorage Republican Gabrielle LeDoux of the House majority explained her side’s position.

“One thing that we all were in agreement on was that a comprehensive fiscal plan should not be composed of simply reducing the Permanent Fund dividend,” LeDoux said. “It had to be comprehensive. That means everybody needed to be at the table, including the oil companies.”

So that’s one reason why they differ. The other difference is that the House included $1.7 billion for an account appropriated for future school budgets. The Legislature used to do this, before the budget gap grew in the past few years. The Senate didn’t include any draw for this future funding.

Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. chief executive officer Angela Rodell expressed concern earlier this month about a large draw from earnings without the Legislature passing a plan to use it.

“Part of my concern will be, if that doesn’t pass, … the unknown quality of how much money they’re going to use,” Rodell said. “Because under the current construct, they’re allowed to take and to appropriate as much as they need out of the earnings reserve account.”

Rodell noted that the Legislature has handled Permanent Fund earnings based on rules set by state law. At least that’s been true up until now.

“I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to get back to a more of a rules-based strategy, like we’ve had in the past, going forward,” Rodell said.

When Gov. Bill Walker included only the operating budget on his call for the second special session last week, he focused the Legislature’s attention on preventing a shutdown. But without the bills that would set up a plan for future Permanent Fund earnings draws, the Legislature may now spend earnings without a plan.

That has bond ratings firm Standard & Poor’s concerned. S&P issued a negative watch on Tuesday, saying that it would likely downgrade the state’s debt if the Legislature doesn’t pass a plan to balance the state’s future budgets. This downgrade could make it more expensive for the state to borrow in the future.

Walker has said he’ll add more topics for the Legislature to consider, such as a plan for Permanent Fund earnings, after lawmakers agree on a budget. The state government will shut down on July 1 if there’s no budget by then.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Wed, 2017-06-21 20:55

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

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State eyes Alaska Permanent Fund earnings draw without plan

Andrew Kitchenman, KTOO – Juneau

Lawmakers have proposed drawing money from the Alaska Permanent Fund earnings to pay for state government for the first time. But as the Legislature focuses on preventing a government shutdown, it’s increasingly likely the draw won’t be based on any one plan. And that’s raising concerns with lawmakers, the fund’s leader and a bond-rating firm.

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

Elizabeth Harball, Alaska’s Energy Desk – Anchorage

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.

Borough Assembly approves funding for Port Mac repairs

Phillip Manning, KTNA – Talkeetna

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.

Man dies in Army Corps industrial accident in Alaska

Associated Press

The Army Corps of Engineers has identified a man killed on an Alaska construction project as a Chicago employee on temporary assignment.

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

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

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.

Bristol bay reacts to influx of fishermen population

Caitlin Tan, KDLG – Dillingham

The Bristol Bay Borough swells from a year round population of about 1000 to closer to 10,000 for the summer fishery. Almost all of the fishermen, seafood processors, and thousands of sport fishing and wildlife viewing visitors on the east side of Bristol Bay pass through one very busy small terminal in King Salmon.

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

Avery Lill, KDLG – Dillingham

As Bristol Bay’s population swells with seasonal workers, organizations opposed to mining in the area are redoubling their outreach efforts.

Assembly member wants to turn fallow land into an urban farm

Zachariah Hughes, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage

The 15-acre property in question is the former site of the Alaska Native Hospital, which one Assembly member wants to see turned into an urban agriculture center.

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

Robert Woolsey, KCAW – Sitka

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.

Categories: Alaska News

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