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Alaska and Yukon Headlines

Will Finland’s proposed nuclear plant affect Sweden’s North?

Fri, 2014-01-10 13:06
Will Finland’s proposed nuclear plant affect Sweden’s North? A Finnish delegation is headed to Sweden to hear concerns about potential cross-border impacts to natural resources that might be caused by the proposed  Pyhäjoki nuclear plant. January 10, 2014

Permitting, the Public Process, and House Bill 77

Fri, 2014-01-10 13:00

The Legislature is going to go back into session next week, and one of the big issues they’re expecting to grapple with is permitting. A controversial bill that would put restrictions on water rights and limit who can appeal state decisions has been criticized by Native groups and fishing interests, but the Department of Natural Resources says it’s needed to streamline the agency’s work.

HOST: Alexandra GutierrezAlaska Public Radio Network


  • Ed Fogels, Deputy CommissionerDNR
  • Natasha Singh, General Counsel, Tanana Chiefs Conference
  • Callers Statewide


  • Post your comment before, during or after the live broadcast (comments may be read on air).
  • Send e-mail to talk [at] alaskapublic [dot] org (comments may be read on air)
  • Call 550-8422 in Anchorage or 1-800-478-8255 if you’re outside Anchorage during the live broadcast

LIVE Broadcast: Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 10:00 a.m. on APRN stations statewide.

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Legislative researchers predict negative fallout from Medicaid decision

Fri, 2014-01-10 11:29
Legislative researchers predict negative fallout from Medicaid decision A new report from the nonpartisan Legislative Research Services office, requested by a Democratic senator, finds that Gov. Sean Parnell's decision not to expand Medicaid may result in lost jobs, increased costs and even preventable deaths.January 10, 2014

Alaska Health Officials Concerned About Measles Due To Philippine Outbreak

Fri, 2014-01-10 11:14

European Immunization Week. Photo courtesy Gates Foundation, Flickr Creative Commons.

Alaska public health officials are keeping an eye out for cases of measles, especially in residents who travel to and from the Philippines.

That country’s health department this week declared an outbreak of the disease in parts of Manila, the capital.

Alaska has a large Filipino population, many of whom traveled home for the holidays or who have been back there to help rebuild after Super Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines in early November.

The Centers for Disease Control has issued a travel notice for people going to the Philippines. The agency says all travelers to the country should get routine vaccinations, including the measles, mumps, and rubella shot. Most travelers are encouraged to get immunized against hepatitis A and typhoid as well.

Dr. Mike Cooper, an epidemiologist with the state Department of Health and Social Services, says the risk of Alaskans contracting measles is pretty low, but “what’s going on right now in the Philippines is a great reminder that we live in a very global world. Ease of travel has increased, and so things like measles, unfortunately, are still around.”

Measles is a highly contagious virus that spreads through coughing, sneezing, and close personal contact with an infected person.

“People get a fever, sometimes very high, they can get red eyes, and a runny nose, and a cough,” Cooper says. “And after usually four days or so they’ll present with a rash – kind of a generalized splotchy rash that can start on their head and then move downward.”

Cooper says the disease can be serious, even deadly, especially for the very young, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems.

Dante Reyes is president of Juneau’s nonprofit Filipino Community, Inc. About 3,000 Filipinos call the Capital City home, and Reyes says many of them travel to and from the country at least once per year.

“I know that some of our members were traveling in the Philippines,” Reyes says. “And actually they were there and they left maybe in the last part of December, early January.”

Reyes says he always goes to a doctor before traveling to the Philippines to make sure he’s up-to-date on his vaccinations. He says most of his friends and relatives who live in Juneau do the same.

He says phone service is still spotty in Tacloban, where Super Typhoon Haiyan did most of its damage. Members of Juneau’s Filipino community who travel in the country often keep in touch with friends and relatives in the Unites States using social media sites, like Facebook.

“I have no idea if some of our members were affected by that epidemic in the Philippines right now,” says Reyes. “I think it’s in Manila, and some of them were in the metro Manila area and some of them were in the provinces.”

In 1996, Juneau had the largest measles outbreak in the United States, with 63 confirmed cases – mostly school children. Two years later, Anchorage had the nation’s largest outbreak, with more than 30 confirmed cases.

After that the state started requiring two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine for public school students. Dr. Cooper says there haven’t been any outbreaks in Alaska since then.

“It’s one of those diseases where we’ve done a good job in the U.S. of lowering rates and getting rid of homegrown disease,” Cooper says. “But then when you get pockets of people that are not immunized – whether they declined it, or didn’t get immunized when they were children, or as they got older their immunity waned – they’re vulnerable.”

Kate Slotnick, Southeast Alaska regional nurse manager for the Division of Public Health, says the agency will reach out to local Filipino groups in the area to share information about the measles outbreak in the Philippines.

Other than that, public health officials say they’re just reminding doctors and nurses to be vigilant and watch out for the disease.

Police Find Deceased Akiachak Man In Bethel

Fri, 2014-01-10 10:59

Police on Wednesday afternoon found a deceased man who was partially frozen to the ground. He was identified as 37-year-old Marvin Paine of Akiachak. Andre Achee is the Bethel Police Lieutenant. He says police took a call about a body at the 150 block of Akakeek street in a cul-de-sac.

“They said the person was unresponsive and partially frozen to the ice. Officers and medics responded to the scene and found that person was deceased,” said Achee.

His next of kin has been notified. Police believe that Paine had been drinking, but they don’t know to what degree. Police say there were no obvious signs of trauma and foul play is not suspected. They think he was at the location for less than 24 hours.

“We suspect that on the evening hours on the 7th, he probably went down in that area around that time. In the evening time, it did get down to about 20 degrees, cold enough to freeze. In the daytime, it was warmer, so you will have standing water, and in the night time, it did freeze, so that’s how we suspect he got into that position or predicament,” said Achee.

The State Medical Examiner Office was contacted and the remains will be transported to Anchorage to determine the cause of death. That exact cause of death is not known, but some signs do point to exposure.

“It’s premature, we suspect that, it’s just a suspicion that it will be an exposure death, but we’re waiting for the determination to be made by the state medical examiners office,” said Achee.

There have been efforts locally to prevent outdoor deaths. The Bethel Winter House opened up this winter with a goal of having zero deaths due to exposure. Last winter, four people died in Bethel from the cold.

State Considers Closing Kusko Salmon Fishing For Most Of June

Fri, 2014-01-10 10:58

Subsistence salmon fishing on the Kuskokwim will likely be very different this coming summer. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is proposing closing subsistence salmon fishing for most of June to protect the King salmon run. State biologists are presenting their plan in a two-day meeting of the Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Working Group in Bethel.

The preliminary plan includes very limited fishing windows on the main stem of the river, all restricted to 6-inch gear. The lowest part of the river would get three, four-hour fishing periods in the month of June. From just below the Johnson River up to Tuluksak, there would be just one four-hour period in June. From Tuluksak up to Chuathbaluk, there would be one six-hour period in June.

Starting the first week in July, the main stem would see rolling openings for salmon fishing with 6-inch gear. That would start July 3 for the lowest part of the river, July 6th for section two and so on. The state is proposing to close fishing in the tributaries from June 1 to July 25. They also want to close king salmon sport fishing.

During people to be heard Wednesday, several spoke about the need for some fishing opportunity in June.

Tim Andrew is the Natural Resources Director for the Association of Village Council Presidents. He warned the group that residents may not support a full closure if they aren’t allowed to fish for species besides Kings. He said they could see another 2012 when fishermen fished during closures anyway.

“Whenever you do not allow a chance to harvest other abundant species over a long period of time, people are going to react,” Andrew said. “If people go in a long period of time in the summer in the drying season and they don’t see any salmon hanging in their racks, whether it be chums, reds, kings or otherwise, people start thinking about their winter food security. It’s really important that there is opportunity to harvest other species of salmon during that time period.”

Andrew suggested that the group consider using dip nets like fishermen did on the Lower Yukon River this past summer. Fishermen were targeting chums, not kings.

“It is extremely effective for the commercial fishery that occurred there,” Andrew said. “The King salmon that are caught are being released pretty much alive. I’m not aware of any circumstances where there’s any mortality.”

John Andrew of Kwethluk said that fishermen near his village are not happy with the proposed closure in June, which would give them just one, four-hour fishing period in the June.

“That’s not even enough time,” John Andrew said, “because as you know, even with experienced fishermen when we go out there, there are some days when we can’t get any fish in front of our river.”

State research biologist Kevin Schaberg gave an in depth presentation on the projection of the King salmon run which is expected to be poor again this year.

On Wednesday, the Working Group voted to support the following objectives:

  • To achieve the management escapement goal of 85,000 Chinook salmon.
  • To provide for reasonable opportunity to harvest other salmon species.
  • To ensure harvest opportunity will be equitable to all subsistence fishermen on the Kuskokwim.

Although the group supports these objectives, they have not agreed on specific recommendations on how to achieve them.

AK Beat: YKHC president to retire

Fri, 2014-01-10 08:52
AK Beat: YKHC president to retire Gene Peltola, who has led the organization for more than 20 years, notified the board of his decision last month.January 10, 2014

Susitna Dam Appropriation; And Set Net Initiative Rejected

Fri, 2014-01-10 08:27

Gov. Parnell seeks a smaller appropriation for the proposed Susitna dam. A Tatitlik village administrator goes to jail for misusing funds. Supporters of the marijuana initiative have enough signatures to make the primary election ballot. The flu is everywhere. What is in store for the oil and gas industry in 2014? Lt. Gov. Parnell rejects the set net initiative. The Municipality of Anchorage hires CH2M Hill to manage the port re-design. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Mark begich both support extend unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed.

HOST: Michael Carey


KSKA (FM 91.1) BROADCAST: Friday, January 10 at 2:00 p.m. and Saturday, January 11 at 6:00 p.m.

Alaska Public Television BROADCAST: Friday, January 10 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, January 11 at 4:30 PM.

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The strange, too-short life of Genghis Muskox

Thu, 2014-01-09 22:17
The strange, too-short life of Genghis Muskox A free-spirited wanderer named Genghis Muskox seems almost destined to end up in Alaska. But destiny also may have brought him together with Paul Vermillion, the 30-year-old Iraq War veteran who is now accused of killing Muskox during a night of drinking on the Kenai Peninsula.January 9, 2014

Fairbanks could use a clear discussion on air pollution

Thu, 2014-01-09 20:18
Fairbanks could use a clear discussion on air pollution OPINION: The proposed air quality regulations offered by the state are reasonable steps in the right direction. January 9, 2014

Lawmakers propose adding Alaska Native languages to list of official tongues

Thu, 2014-01-09 20:07
Lawmakers propose adding Alaska Native languages to list of official tongues Right now, English is Alaska's only official language, but a bipartisan group of lawmakers proposes to add the state's 20 Native languages to the list.January 9, 2014

The missing rink: No skating this year in Anchorage's Town Square

Thu, 2014-01-09 20:05
The missing rink: No skating this year in Anchorage's Town Square The ice rink that has for years graced Town Square Park in the heart of downtown Anchorage exists only in memory this year. The reason? Depends on who you ask.January 9, 2014

Scientist witnessed wreckage in Alaska after 1964 earthquake

Thu, 2014-01-09 20:03
Scientist witnessed wreckage in Alaska after 1964 earthquake One of the most searing scenes that geologist George Plafker witnessed was Chenega Bay, where 25 of the 76 residents died. “There was not one single livable house there,” he said.  January 9, 2014

Potential new evidence pops up in Rumrunners trial

Thu, 2014-01-09 20:02
Potential new evidence pops up in Rumrunners trial The trial of Rumrunners Old Towne Bar and Grill -- a downtown Anchorage establishment that closed a year ago after multiple allegations of assault and more liquor law violations than any other bar in Alaska -- and a former bouncer was set to begin Thursday, but potential new evidence postponed the proceedings.January 9, 2014

State Goes On Charm Offensive Against Wal-Mart Over Salmon Dispute

Thu, 2014-01-09 18:21

Wal-Mart executives tour DIPAC on January 8, 2014. (Alexandra Gutierrez/APRN)

For months, Wal-Mart and state officials have gone back and forth on whether Alaska salmon should be sold in their stores. The dispute is over a tiny blue sustainability label from the Marine Stewardship Council, which Wal-Mart requires for their seafood. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez reports that a trip by Wal-Mart executives to Juneau has left state officials optimistic for a resolution.

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As executive director of DIPAC, Eric Prestegard is used to giving tours. Every year, tens of thousands of people visit the hatchery in Juneau to see how they raise salmon.

PRESTEGARD: This is the kind of thing you’re only going to see in Alaska. This is very unique to Alaska, what you’re seeing in here. These are incubators.

On Wednesday, his tour group is a little unusual. It’s made up of half a dozen Wal-Mart executives, fresh in from Arkansas to learn about Alaska seafood. Prestegard takes them to a dark room that looks like a server farm. Instead of computer equipment, the towers are full of tiny, young salmon with fresh water flowing through them.

PRESTEGARD: So you can see the fry swimming in there … See ‘em?

GROUP: Oh, yeah!

PRESTEGARD: And you see the little pink belly? So they still have their yolk sac. They’re not ready yet. See the pink belly?

DIPAC was just one of the stops for the Wal-Mart crew. They visited Alaska Glacier Seafoods; they talked with state biologists; and they ate a catered meal of — what else? — Alaska salmon.

This was all part of the state’s charm offensive to make sure Alaska salmon stays in Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club freezers. Since June, Alaska politicians have been at loggerheads with the company because of a policy to only carry seafood that has a Marine Stewardship Council logo on it. While nearly all of the state’s salmon fisheries have been certified by the MSC more than once, some Alaska seafood processors no longer want to pay the extra fee for their label. They think going through the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute’s certification process should be enough to prove they operate sustainably, since those measures are based on United Nations guidelines. On top of that, the MSC has been slow to re-certify hatchery salmon in Prince William Sound, which has ruffled some in the industry.

While Wal-Mart’s executives weren’t available for reporter questions during the tour, Prestegard says the whole situation’s left Wal-Mart in a pickle, having to choose between the industry standard for sustainability and Alaska fish.

Oddly enough, I feel a little bit bad for Wal-Mart, because I kind of like they’re in [between] a rock and a hard spot,” says Prestegard. “They have one side — these NGOs and whatnot — that are kind of hitting on them, saying, “You said you were going to do X, Y, and Z, sustainability, blah, blah, blah” And then they have the fact that they’re a huge U.S. retailer, and they can’t buy from the U.S. And I think that does go to their core.”

While this whole conflict has played out, Wal-Mart has continued to stock Alaska salmon. And now that the Wal-Mart executives who handle seafood and sustainability issues have visited the state, Commerce Commissioner Susan Bell is hopeful that they’ll keep on stocking it, even if it doesn’t carry an MSC label.

“They’re committed to Alaska seafood,” says Bell. “It’s important to their customers, and they’re not bound by to a single certifier.”

Keeping Wal-Mart as a customer isn’t just an important financial move for the state. While the company does buy millions of pounds of Alaska salmon, the reputational impact that would come from losing them might be as — or even more — vital than the dollars directly attached to their decision.

“We want to be sure that any cloud that comes over Alaska and the sustainability of our fisheries, that we address that immediately,” says Bell.

The flip-side of that is keeping Wal-Mart committed to MSC products is also important to the London-based sustainability organization. While MSC declined an interview for this story, they’ve traded volleys with the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute over the past year over whose certification program is more rigorous.

For its part, Wal-Mart seems optimistic that they can carry Alaska salmon without going back on their sustainability pledge. In a statement, Vice President of Meat and Seafood David Baskin wrote that “Walmart has proudly sourced seafood from the state of Alaska for many years, and we continue to do so.”

Army Corp Of Engineers Finalizes Deep-Water Port Recommendations

Thu, 2014-01-09 18:13

As the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers finalizes details of its deep-water port recommendations the agency is anticipating continued heavy development in Northern and Western Alaska. The plan expects not only increased vessel traffic in the Bering Straits region, but offshore drilling in the Chukchi Sea and graphite production at a fledgling mining claim on the Seward Peninsula.

Download Audio

Senate Debates Emergency Unemployment Policy Extension

Thu, 2014-01-09 18:12

The U.S. Senate has been debating all week whether to extend emergency unemployment compensation for the long-term unemployed. Some 6,500 Alaskans were receiving the extended benefits before Congress let the program expire Dec. 28.

Download Audio

Parnell Names Folger Public Safety Commissioner

Thu, 2014-01-09 18:11

Gov. Sean Parnell has appointed a new Public Safety commissioner.

Download Audio

Gary Folger, who retired from the department as a colonel last May, has been chosen to replace Joe Masters. Masters resigned in October after five years in the post.

The appointment is subject to legislative approval.

Col. Keith Mallard had been acting as interim commissioner.

According to biographical information provided by the governor’s office, the 55-year-old Folger began his law enforcement career in 1979 with the Division of Fish and Wildlife Protection in Cantwell.

Folger graduated from the Public Safety Academy in 1981, joined the Alaska State Troopers and rose in the ranks, being promoted to colonel in 2007 and overseeing the Division of Alaska Wildlife Troopers. While with the department, he also was a pilot and boat operator.

Meeting On Wood Stove, Boiler Pollution Draws Big Crowd

Thu, 2014-01-09 18:10

There continues to be concern in Fairbanks about proposed state regulations aimed at reducing fine particulate pollution from wood stoves and boilers. The latest in a series of public meetings on the proposals, a hearing and open house this week, drew big turn outs.

Download Audio

Alaska Supreme Court Weighs Labor Law Referendum

Thu, 2014-01-09 18:09

The Supreme Court is now weighing whether to allow a voter referendum that would repeal Anchorage’s controversial labor law.

Attorneys on both sides of the issue made their cases before the justices on Wednesday.

Download Audio

Union supporters rally in protest of AO37 outside an Assembly meeting in February. Photo by Daysha Eaton, KSKA – Anchorage.

About two dozen people sat in the audience while attorneys for the Municipality of Anchorage and Labor supporters argued before five Supreme Court Justices.

Attorney Michael Gatti argued for the city that the referendum should not go ahead. He said the labor law is inherently administrative in character not legislative, something the municipality has argued from the beginning, and therefore should not go before voters.

“We believe that this is not a matter that is subject to direct democracy an not subject to the referenda,” Gatti said.

The referendum allows voters to decide whether the labor ordinance, also known as AO-37, should be reversed. The Assembly passed the law last March despite protests. The ordinance takes away municipal workers right to strike and restricts collective bargaining rights. It would affect more than 2,000 city employees.

Related: Anchorage Labor Law Headed For Alaska Supreme Court

Attorney Susan Orlansky who represented labor supporters argued the referendum should proceed.

“What’s really going on here is that this ordinance in it’s entirely makes new law that fundamentally shifts the balance of power between labor and management in Anchorage,” Orlansky said. “And that’s what we’re asking the public to vote on.”

The overarching question, Orlansky says, is: does Anchorage want management to have more power and labor less?

Andy Holleman who is President of the Anchorage Education Association and one of the people who brought the case to court says it’s a simple decision that voters are equipped to make.

Municipal Attorney Dennis Wheeler and Anchorage Assembly Attorney Julie Tucker discuss the Mayor’s veto power with Assembly Chair Ernie Hall as Assembly member Dick Traini rushes back to his seat in Assembly Chambers at Loussac Library Tuesday.

“What we’re doing is reversing the Assembly’s action on a given night,” Hollemans aid. “This puts it back like it was and the city can come forward again with different aspects that they think matter.”

“And hopefully they can do it in the right way with real input from everybody in advance this time.”

Anchorage Municipal Attorney Dennis Wheeler disagrees and says if the Supreme Court allows the Referendum to go ahead and it passes it could undermine the power of the city’s legislative body and spur more litigation and referenda around labor issues.

“You know we already have a lot of give an take in our labor negotiations. We have arbitrations over what the contracts mean. We have grievances over what the contracts mean. We have nine different unions to deal with. We have budgetary issues every year,” Wheeler said. “So yeah, I was always worried that this would open a flood gate.”

A flood gate that would be hard to close, he says.

The Deputy Clerk for the Municipality requested the judges have a decision by late February so that she would have time to prepare ballots for elections slated for April.

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