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Alaska and Yukon Headlines

Bethel residents seek class action lawsuit against GCI

Thu, 2014-04-24 21:06
Bethel residents seek class action lawsuit against GCI Four Bethel residents are leading a class action lawsuit against Alaska telecom GCI, saying the company "over-promised" and "under-delivered" on wireless communication services in western Alaska.April 24, 2014

PHOTOS: 500 Alaska students test strength, skill in 2014 Native Youth Olympics

Thu, 2014-04-24 19:54
PHOTOS: 500 Alaska students test strength, skill in 2014 Native Youth Olympics

Ready for the two-foot high kick? The seal hop? Student athletes from across Alaska, some dressed in matching T-shirts and colorful kuspuks, were in Anchorage Thursday to represent their heritage, community, or school at Alaska's 44th annual Native Youth Olympics.

April 24, 2014

VIDEO: Baby musk ox, Jasper, born at Palmer farm

Thu, 2014-04-24 19:21
VIDEO: Baby musk ox, Jasper, born at Palmer farm

The first baby of the season at Palmer's Musk Ox Farm, Jasper was welcomed into the world on Thursday, April 24.

April 24, 2014

Will Fish and Game have any juice left to protect fish and wildlife in Alaska once Parnell is done?

Thu, 2014-04-24 19:20
Will Fish and Game have any juice left to protect fish and wildlife in Alaska once Parnell is done? The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is repealing and rewriting every management plan that regulates development in the state's wildlife refuges, sanctuaries and critical habitat areas, areas established by the Alaska Legislature.April 24, 2014

In the Arctic, it’s not Natives who are restless

Thu, 2014-04-24 19:19
In the Arctic, it’s not Natives who are restless OPINION: Balancing interests when it comes to development means recognizing multiple uses. Like any other community, we Iñupiat don’t speak with one voice, but our voices matter, and our perspective is fundamentally different from other parties. We aren’t just staking a claim in the Arctic. We’re part of it, and we always will be.April 24, 2014

Closing arguments heard in Kodiak double murder case

Thu, 2014-04-24 19:19
Closing arguments heard in Kodiak double murder case As the murder trial of James Michael Wells came to a close, assistant U.S. attorney Bryan Schroder argued that on April 12, 2012, Wells executed a carefully planned attack, killing two co-workers who were steadily replacing his cherished role in their shared workplace at a U.S. Coast Guard communications installation.April 24, 2014

Traveling Music 4-27-14

Thu, 2014-04-24 17:52

Traveling Music

Shonti Elder

4-27-14

Concerts mentioned:  Bela Fleck, Chick Corea Sunday 4-27, 7 PM, PAC

David Bromberg, Saturday, May 3, 8 PM, Wendy Williamson

 

Format:

Song Title

Artist / Composer

CD Title

Label

Duration

 

Blue is Fallin’

David Bromberg and Tim O’Brien / Tim O’Brien

Use Me

Appleseed Recording

4:08

 

Nobody Knows the Way I Feel This Mornin’

David Bromberg / Tom and Pearl Delaney

Only Slightly Mad

Appleseed Recordings

6:35

 

Wonder

David Francey / David Francey

Late Edition

www.davidfrancey.com

3:27

 

Hard Times Come Again No More

Mustard’s Retreat / Stephen Foster

Back To Back

Red House

3:00

 

It’s Just a Matter of Time

David Bromberg and Linda Rondstadt / Brook Benton

Use Me

Appleseed Recording

3:08

 

Whoever it was that brought me here will have to take me home

Martyn Joseph / Martyn Joseph, Stewart Henderson

Whoever it was that brought me here will have to take me home

Appleseed Recordings

5:46

 

Little Bird

Emmy Lou Harris / Emmy Lou Harris, Kate and Anna McGarrigle

Stumble into Grace

Nonesuch

3:14

 

One Love

Keb’ Mo and others / Bob Marley

Playing for Change

www.playingforchange.com

5:00

 

Long Brown Hair

David Francey / David Francey

Late Edition

www.davidfrancey.com

2:04

 

There’s a Dance

Mustard’s Retreat / David Tamulevich

Back To Back

Red House

3:17

 

Stand By Me

Roger Ridley and others / Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller, Ben E. King

Playing for Change

www.playingforchange.com

5:11

 

Bring it with you when you come

David Bromberg with Levon Helm /

Use Me

Appleseed Recording

3:38

 

Gather the Family

Mustard’s Retreat / Michael Hough, David Tamulevich

The Wind and the Crickets

Palmetto

1:45

 

Southcentral Foundation Reaches Historic Settlement With IHS

Thu, 2014-04-24 17:41

Anchorage based Southcentral Foundation announced a settlement with the Indian Health Service over contract payments that at $96 million represents the largest IHS settlement in history.

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Lloyd Miller is one of the attorneys who brought suit against the IHS on behalf of tribes. Miller says after the U.S Supreme court in 2005 ruled the federal government was liable for underfunding tribal contracts, tribes filed hundreds of suits, but the IHS still refused to pay or settle, until the Supreme court reaffirmed their ruling in 2012.

“That signaled the beginning of a very long and very arduous settlement process because by late 2012, the agency was facing claims by over 200 tribes and inter-tribal organizations totaling in excess of $2 billion,” Miller said.

Miller says no claims were settled until 2013. But he says over the last 3 or 4 months, the logjam of disagreement over how to proceed with settlements has broken. Other payments in Alaska have happened in recent weeks, and Miller says the Yukon Kuskokwim settlement in December was the second largest in history behind Southcentral.

“Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation settled in December for $39 million and also settlements have been achieved for the Manillaq Corp, the Ketchikan Indian Corp, the Arctic Slope Native Association and the Bristol Bay Health Corporation,” Miller said. “All of those have been resolved and there are many more in active negotiations right now.”

Miller says the money will have great impact for Alaska tribes.

Katherine Gottlieb is the President and CEO of Southcentral Foundation. She says signing the agreement was a relief.

Alaska Food Policy Council Hosts Bethel Town Hall Meeting

Thu, 2014-04-24 17:41

Members of the Alaska Food Policy Council hosted a town hall meeting in Bethel last week to gather information they’ll use to guide statewide food policy.

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More Tourists Expected In Petersburg This Year

Thu, 2014-04-24 17:41

More tourists are expected to visit Petersburg this summer than in recent years. Located on Mitkof Island, the small town cannot accommodate large cruise ships because of the shallow channels. But that’s just the sort of thing that some visitors are looking for.

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It’s tough to put an exact number on how many tourists come to Petersburg every year, but it’s definitely in the thousands. The closest figure might be from the Alaska Visitor Statistics Program, which shows about 14,000 came in 2011. That number includes visitors by plane, cruise ship and ferry.

Dave Berg looks over a spread sheet of this year’s visitors at Viking Travel, Inc. (Photo by Angela Denning, KFSK – Petersburg)

Dave Berg has operated Viking Travel, Inc. in Petersburg for 31 years.

“It looks like it’s going to be a better year for us,” Berg said. “We’re seeing a great increase in the number of independent visitors than we’ve seen in the past.”

“Independent travelers” is an industry term that means people who visit on their own outside of the large cruise ships.

“Most of the time they have Petersburg as part of an overall Alaska experience,” Berg said.

The phone lines in Berg’s office are busy these days. He’s dealing with people from all over the world. He says the increase in tourists is partly due to his business buying out Alaska Ferry Adventures in Homer. They were doing the same line of work—setting up travel packages for visitors. He’s now trying to get those people to come to Petersburg.

The main local draw is whale watching. There are also kayaking trips, the Bella Vista garnet mine, and the nearby Anan Bear Observatory. But Berg says it doesn’t have to be that adventurous. People just appreciate walking around the harbors and talking to fishermen.

“Just the small town atmosphere, the village that we have, the village feel of Petersburg versus places with the large cruise ships,” Berg said. “There’s a big difference in the experience that people have by coming to small towns.”

Marilyn Menish-Meucci runs the Petersburg Visitors Information Center.

“The independent traveler loves Petersburg,” Menish-Meucci said. “All the businesses here are locally owned. The only chain we have that is a national chain is Wells Fargo. And so that is huge to people because every time they buy an item in this town, the money stays in this town.”

Menish-Meucci says keeping it local is not only good for attracting tourists but also for local businesses.

Petersburg’s Chamber of Commerce Director, Cindi Lagoudakis, agrees.

“There’s more fuel sales, the gift shops see an increased business and I think some pretty steady clientele in the summertime from independent travelers,” Lagoudakis said. “The food businesses certainly see an uptick and in part that’s why some businesses are only open in the summertime as we have more people coming through town and can support those additional businesses and those dollars flow through town.”

It didn’t hurt that Yachting Magazine recently designated Petersburg as one of the best small towns in the country to visit.

“So, we’ve had a lot of people calling on the phone asking more questions about what Petersburg is like what we have to offer, questions about our harbors, and some really increased interest in what we have to offer here in Petersburg,” Lagoudakis said.

She says it’s often the small town charm that they’re after.

“What I hear again and again from folks that are visitors to town is how friendly the community is,” Lagoudakis said. “I think in part is because we don’t have so many people. There’s enough new people but not so many that you feel bombarded by it. And people will say hi to people in the street or they will offer to help you find something or tell you a little bit about why they like Petersburg and it makes it a very desirable place to visit and to live.”

Petersburg’s tourist season runs roughly from May 15 through September 15.

There will be one large ship– the Caledonian Sky—which is scheduled to be here twice but won’t be able to dock at the harbors because of its size. It carries about 150 passengers and will have to anchor out in Scow Bay or Frederick Sound.

A Gold Rush theme ship is scheduled to be here 12 times. Last year, it came up twice.

Alaska News Nightly: April 24, 2014

Thu, 2014-04-24 16:53

Individual news stories are posted on the APRN news page. You can subscribe to APRN’s newsfeeds via emailpodcast and RSS. Follow us on Facebook at alaskapublic.org and on Twitter @aprn.

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Ferry Dock In Skagway Sinks

Rosemarie Alexander, KTOO – Juneau

The state ferry in Skagway remains underwater and is closed indefinitely.

Southcentral Foundation Reaches Historic With IHS

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

Anchorage based Southcentral Foundation announced a settlement with the Indian Health Service over contract payments that at $96 million represents the largest IHS settlement in history.

Lawmakers Make Tentative Deal On Education Bill

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

Negotiators from the State House and Senate have reached a deal on the governor’s education bill, and it includes a mix of permanent and one-time funding increases.

As Legislature Make Progress On Adjourning, KABATA Bill Falls Apart

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

Less than two hours after the combative House and Senate seemed to reach a truce on education, a bill dealing with the proposed Knik Arm Bridge fell apart on the House floor.

Investigation Attributes USCG Death To Faulty Equipment, Work Practices

Lauren Rosenthal, KUCB – Unalaska

The Coast Guard has finished investigating a Bering Sea rescue that left a 28-year-old crewman with fatal head injuries late last year.

According to a review board, faulty equipment and work practices developed by the crew of the cutter Waesche put Petty Officer Travis Obendorf in harm’s way.

Customers Suing GCI For Poor Cell And Data Performance

Shane Iverson, KYUK – Bethel

GCI is facing a lawsuit filed by customers along the Kuskokwim River in Western Alaska.  The suit alleges that the communications company has been ripping off customers in the YK Delta.

Alaska Food Policy Council Hosts Bethel Town Hall Meeting

Daysha Eaton, KYUK – Bethel

Members of the Alaska Food Policy Council hosted a town hall meeting in Bethel last week to gather information they’ll use to guide statewide food policy.

NOAA Investigating Rare Whale Beachings

Anna Rose MacArthur, KNOM – Nome

Three rarely seen whales beached on Alaska’s coast last year, and NOAA Fisheries is investigating whether human activity contributed to the strandings.

More Tourists Expected In Petersburg This Year

Angela Denning, KFSK – Petersburg

More tourists are expected to visit Petersburg this summer than in recent years. Located on Mitkof Island, the small town cannot accommodate large cruise ships because of the shallow channels. But that’s just the sort of thing that some visitors are looking for.

Ferry Dock In Skagway Sinks

Thu, 2014-04-24 16:00

The AMHS dock in Skagway sank overnight. (Photo courtesy Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities)

The Skagway ferry terminal dock is fully submerged, according to state transportation officials.

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DOT spokesman Jeremy Woodrow says an engineer is on his way to Skagway to find out what happened. Apparently the dock started to sink overnight and by early this morning it was totally underwater.

The 160 foot by 120 foot dock is about 12-feet deep. It is made of 24 individual concrete chambers.

“The words that the engineer used is he’s perplexed,” Woodrow says. “We actually have inspected everyone of those individual chambers in the last year and there was no indication of any wear.”

Woodrow says the cause of the collapse remains a mystery until an engineer gets on site and a diver gets an underwater look.

No ferries are scheduled into Skagway today (Thursday), but the LeConte is to sail there tomorrow. Woodrow says marine highway officials are working out a plan.

This is a breaking story. Check back for details.

Note:  Previous reports indicated the dock had collapsed. That connotes structural failure and DOT’s Woodrow says the extent of the damage is still unknown.

Investigation Attributes USCG Death To Faulty Equipment, Work Practices

Thu, 2014-04-24 15:32

The Coast Guard has finished investigating a Bering Sea rescue that left a 28-year-old crewman with fatal head injuries late last year.

According to a review board, faulty equipment and work practices developed by the crew of the cutter Waesche put Petty Officer Travis Obendorf in harm’s way.

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Obendorf and the rest of the Waesche crew had been on patrol in the Bering Sea for three months when they were called to help the Alaska Mist. It was a large fishing vessel that lost propulsion and started drifting near Amak Island.

Cutter Waesche. (Photo courtesy U.S. Coast Guard)

The Waesche reached the fishing boat on November 11. Chief Warrant Officer Allyson Conroy says the situation was urgent.

“They had 22 mariners on board; they were disabled,” Conroy said “The Coast Guard needed to get the non-essential personnel off the Alaska Mist.”

Although they had access to a helicopter, Conroy says the Waesche crew wanted to send their rescue boat to pick up the crew. It’s a 24-foot inflatable Zodiac, with hard sides.

Conroy says the crew conducted a risk assessment of their rescue plan.

“With this particular mission, they had already done so many small boat operations in the environment that they were in on November 11 that they were more concerned about rescuing these people, and they were comfortable with conducting the operation,” Conroy said.

The Waesche had used the small boat 130 times during their patrol in the Bering Sea. It always went smoothly – except for the fact that the boat launch and recovery system was broken.

It was a capture net and line, designed to snag the rescue boat when the crew it back into its compartment at the back of the cutter. The system was supposed to secure the vessel without any human intervention.

But on the Waesche, it only worked about 40 percent of the time. The other two national security cutters also had problems with this system, but not as consistently.

Chief Warrant Officer Conroy says the cutters formally requested improvements to the boat capture system about four years ago.

“The safety implications were not evident at that particular time,” Conroy said. “Of course, retrospectively, the changes were incorrectly prioritized among numerous high-priority configuration change projects.”

In the meantime, the Waesche decided to work around it.

Conroy says they started posting a crew member at the very front of the small rescue boat. That person would manually secure the vessel after a mission. It wasn’t common practice, but it worked – until it was time to rescue the Alaska Mist.

Petty Officer Travis Obendorf – a 28-year-old Idaho native – was assigned to sit at the front of the rescue boat. They gathered five non-essential fishermen off the Alaska Mist and started to take them back to the Coast Guard cutter.

According to the Coast Guard’s investigation report, they faced rough seas – worse than what the rescue boat was rated to operate in. That made it hard steer the back into the compartment aboard the Waesche.

The rescue boat was halfway inside when a series of swells washed in behind it. The boat slid underneath the capture net, and the net shoved Obendorf backwards. He was slammed into the center console of the rescue boat and lost consciousness.

Obendorf had been wearing a helmet, but he still had severe head injuries. A medical crew aboard the Waesche responded as soon as possible, and Conroy says they called for a medevac.

“He was then medically evacuated from the Waesche and taken to Cold Bay,” Conroy said. “From Cold Bay he was taken to Anchorage; after Anchorage, he was then transported to Seattle for continued care.”

“And then, on December 18, he died in a Seattle hospital.”

Conroy says the Coast Guard started making changes to its national security cutters almost immediately after Obendorf was injured. They got rid of the rescue boat that the Waesche crew had been using and replaced it with a slightly larger model.

“There’s also been guidance put out that commanding officers are not to put any crewman forward of the center console, which is what happened in the incident with Petty Officer Obendorf,” Conroy said.

But Conroy says that within a few months, there shouldn’t be a need to put crew members in that position anymore. The Coast Guard is going to fix the system for launching and recovering rescue boats from cutters, so it’s fully automatic.

The repairs are similar to what the national security cutters requested back in 2010. And Conroy says that fact has prompted the Coast Guard to rethink the way they prioritize upgrades to their fleet.

“They are taking a closer look at the recommendations that are coming into the field, and specifically looking to see if they have a safety aspect and reevaluating those recommendations,” Conroy said.

In the end, Conroy says the Coast Guard is not taking disciplinary action against any personnel connected to the rescue operation or the accident. And Conroy says there haven’t been any lawsuits related to it, either.

NOAA Investigating Rare Whale Beachings

Thu, 2014-04-24 15:13

Three rarely seen whales beached on Alaska’s coast last year, and NOAA Fisheries is investigating whether human activity contributed to the strandings.

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The Stejneger’s beaked whales beached last fall: one on St. Lawrence Island and two in Valdez. Neither of those places are where Stejneger’s are usually found, and each animal showed indications of trauma.

A Stejneger’s beaked whale from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Marine Mammal Program, (Photo courtesy of Toshio Kasuya)

“They had bubbles of air within the blood vessels,” Dr. Kathy Burek Huntington, from the Alaska Veterinary Pathologist Service, said. “And this is true in all the cases—the animals in Valdez and also the animal up in the St. Lawrence Island area. You know, this is just a classic lesion that you see when there’s an animal that suffered from barotrauma.”

Huntington performed the necropsies on the whales and said barotrauma is like the bends in humans— often caused by rising too quickly to the surface from a deep dive. But Stejneger’s are built for deep dives. They’re usually found over a half mile below the water.

“They should have certain behaviors that should allow them to avoid that situation if they’re acting normally,” Huntington said.

Loud noises can send the whales rocketing to the surface, and seismic activity can also damage barriers within the whales’ bodies between gas-filled areas and the bloodstream. Both situations can cause trauma. “For example,” Huntington explains, “if there’s blasting going on in an area, underwater blasting, that can create this kind of thing. It’s thought that really high intensity sonar is another possibility. “

Beaked whales’ tendency for deep dives makes their presence in the shallow waters of the Bering Strait Region and Valdez unusual. Aleria Jensen, the NOAA Fisheries Marine Mammal Stranding Coordinator for the Alaska Region, said beachings occur for many reasons, like disease, entanglement, and ship collisions.

So far, she said there’s no evidence of any of those in these whales.

“So it leads us back to the gas bubbles pointing to some kind of acoustic trauma, so we want to see what was going on in the area during that time,” Jensen said.

NOAA Fisheries is investigating the cause of the strandings and if noise from human activity contributed.

Huntington said there were reports of seismic activity in Valdez in the area of the beaching, but the investigation is ongoing.

Customers Suing GCI For Poor Cell And Data Performance

Thu, 2014-04-24 15:09

GCI is facing a lawsuit filed by customers in Bethel and along the Kuskokwim. The suit alleges that the communications company has been ripping off customers in the YK Delta.

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The complaint was filed in the Bethel Courthouse on Tuesday, April 22, by The Law Office of Jim Valcarce and the Law Office of David Henerderson. Henederson says the allegations against GCI are over the poor quality of their data plans and cell phone service, despite advertising that both are fully functional.

There are four plaintiffs currently listed including Mary Pete, Robert Sundown, William Howell and Lynda Kvamme. They allege GCI has been advertising their 3G network in rural Alaska, and specifically the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta regardless of the fact that their smartphone and data plans were not supported by sufficient infrastructure.

The suit alleges GCI’s data almost never works and that dropped call rates are often between 50 percent and 100 percent.

Henderson says they are petitioning the court to make the suit into a class action suit that could affect thousands of customers in YK Delta

GCI did return a call from KYUK by print time.

Kotzebue Man Charged With Animal Cruelty For Shooting Dogs

Thu, 2014-04-24 15:06

A Kotzebue man is behind bars and faces a felony animal cruelty charge after State Troopers say he killed four sled dogs while drunk.

Alaska State Troopers say 42-year-old Carl Henry Jr. showed up drunk at a family member’s cabin about 23 miles east of Kotzebue around 7:30 on the night on April 9.

The family member got in a fight with Henry, who Troopers say then left the cabin.

Photo of Kotzebue. (Photo by Neal Herbert/National Park Service, Alaska Region)

That family member then went out to feed a lot of sled dogs, only to find blood on the ground and four dogs missing.

The family member told Troopers Henry shot the four dogs and then dragged them away on his snowmachine. The family member told police they feared what Henry might do if he returned. Troopers say the family member then walked the two miles from the cabin to Camp Ivik to call for help.

When officers responded around 11:30 that night they found a second man—whose name is being withheld because he has not been charged with a crime—who told Troopers he and Henry had been drinking.

That’s when the man said Henry became angry that the dogs wouldn’t stop barking. The man told Troopers Henry began to “shoot his gun up in the air to scare them to shut up.” When the dogs wouldn’t quiet down, the man said Henry shot four of them.

Troopers found several dogs tied to trees, but noted four were missing. Troopers said Wednesday they were not able to find the remains of the dogs Henry is accused of shooting, but said all four are presumed dead. The dogs were worth about $500 apiece, the family member told Troopers.

Troopers weren’t able to find Henry at the scene and subsequently issued a warrant for his arrest. A Monday Trooper dispatch shows he was arrested by a Village Public Safety Officer in Koyuk—about 142 miles South of Koetzbue—on Sunday afternoon. Court records show he was taken to Nome before being formally charged in Kotzebue on Wednesday.

Henry faces two felony charges, one for criminal mischief and another for cruelty to animals. He faces a third misdemeanor charge for assault.  His bail was set at $2,500 and requires a court-approved custodian.

Pilot error cited in fatal hunting season crash in Alaska

Thu, 2014-04-24 14:14
Pilot error cited in fatal hunting season crash in Alaska The National Transportation Safety Board determined an aircraft that crashed in September 2013, killing pilot Michael Zobel was caused by failure to maintain proper airspeed at low altitude.April 24, 2014

GOP candidates for U.S. Senate oppose repeal of oil-tax cut -- some mildly, some fiercely

Thu, 2014-04-24 14:10
GOP candidates for U.S. Senate oppose repeal of oil-tax cut -- some mildly, some fiercely Speaking to a pro-industry audience, Dan Sullivan landed an early blow against Joe Miller over the controversial oil-tax cut, while Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell said he once solicited the help of a national Republican group to knock off the bipartisan coalition in the state Senate that had blocked the measure.  April 24, 2014

Dock’s startling vanishing act took 90 minutes

Thu, 2014-04-24 14:02
The ferry dock in Skagway sank this morning for reasons unknown to Alaska state officials.

We have fufilled our obligations: mining company

Thu, 2014-04-24 13:59
We have fufilled our obligations: mining company

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