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Alaska and Yukon Headlines

Vic Fischer: Thank you, everyone working to repeal Alaska's oil giveaway

Wed, 2014-01-08 20:35
Vic Fischer: Thank you, everyone working to repeal Alaska's oil giveaway OPINION: Thanks to the hundreds of volunteers and tens of thousands of people who signed the referendum petition, Alaskans can now vote yes on Proposition 1 in the August primary.January 8, 2014

Wal-Mart, state hash out sustainability of Alaska salmon

Wed, 2014-01-08 20:27
Wal-Mart, state hash out sustainability of Alaska salmon After two days of meetings, state and industry leaders appear to have convinced the retail giant that Alaska salmon is sustainable enough to stay in 4,000 U.S. stores whether or not it's certified by the Marine Stewardship Council.January 8, 2014

Geomagnetic storm may create brilliant Alaska aurora displays

Wed, 2014-01-08 18:58
Geomagnetic storm may create brilliant Alaska aurora displays A geomagnetic storm is expected to create luminous northern lights displays visible as far south as some Lower 48 states for several days. It's a great time to keep your eyes to the skies, but a terrible time for a space walk.January 8, 2014

Mat Su Fish Commission, Mayor Don’t See Eye To Eye

Wed, 2014-01-08 18:26

 

The Mat- Su Borough’s Fish and Wildlife Commission has been working to bring back the area’s diminished salmon runs. According to Commission member Howard Delo, seven of the state Board of Fish’s ten stocks of concern are Mat Su salmon stocks. Diminishing salmon returns, especially of Chinook and coho salmon, are hurting the Borough’s once lucrative sport fishing economy. At Tuesday night’s joint Mat Su Assembly and Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting, Delo outlined the Commission’s priorities for spending the legislative funding available to the Borough for fishery research.

 ” I would say the most important fish economically to the Borough are silvers, cohos. And, quite frankly, with that drop in angler days, people are not coming to the Borough to fish, like they used to five years ago.”

 Delo said genetic testing has indicated that 8 to 13 percent of the commercial sockeye catch in Cook Inlet in 2011 are Northern District-bound fish. He says the Commission wants the state Board of Fisheries to authorize changes to the Northern District Salmon Management Plan so it focuses less on commercial interests in order to provide more fish for sports fishers upstream. He also said that with 1100 active commercial fishing permits compared with 400 thousand sports and dipnet fishers in Cook Inlet, it’s not right that the fisheries are managed primarily for commercial interests.

“The drift fleet is the big commercial group that intercepts Northern bound fish. “

Larry Engle, interim chair of the Commission, told the Assembly that funding for continued genetic research is essential for next year’s budget request.

Engle wants a genetic identification program for coho salmon since there is so little information on cohos in the Northern District.

The fish- centered dialogue continued, covering hatcheries, habitat, — even problems with Northern Pike.. but took a sharp turn when Assemblyman Jim Sykes brought up a letter signed by Engle, that the Commission had sent directly to Governor Sean Parnell.

 Engle’s mid-December letter, addressed concerns the Commission has with a HB 77/ SB26 and the bill’s restrictions on applications for instream flow reservations for salmon creeks. The letter praises the efforts of private citizen’s groups in work to reclaim Borough salmon habitat. Engle’s letter says “eliminating the ability of private partners to participate in fisheries stewardship will not benefit our fisheries” and asks the governor to withdraw the bill.

 But a week later, Borough mayor Larry DeVilbiss fired off his own letter to the governor, on Borough letterhead, applauding the goals of the governor’s bill and explaining that the Borough Assembly had twice voted not to weigh in on the pending legislation. The mayor’s letter made former Mat Su Assemblyman Warren Kehoe angry

“And mister mayor, not only have you come down squarely on the wrong side of the issue, but you are once again making unauthorized policy Borough policy statements. “

 Assemblyman Sykes than moved to direct the Borough manager to write another letter in support of the Commission’s view, to avoid perception of a conflict within the Borough.

 But that motion was flattened by a later move to postpone any more action on the issue until Assembly members can learn more about the governor’s legislation. Sykes said afterward he only wants the legislature to know that the Assembly supports the position of the Commission

 ”All I was asking here is to support what the work of the Wildlife Commission was. They operate on facts.”

 Mayor DeVilbiss, for his part, says he thinks that the Borough Assembly is only aware of one point of view on the proposed legislation.

“It was not an issue that the Assembly hadn’t already addressed. So to send a contrary signal required some backup information, and that’s all it was. It’s obviously not the end of the issue, because we are going to sit down and get educated on it, with DNR.”

 

A workshop has been scheduled so that the Borough Assembly can meet with the Department of Natural Resources to learn more about the governor’s bill.  

 

 

As courts consider Anchorage labor law rewrite, city uses it to negotiate with unions

Wed, 2014-01-08 18:25
As courts consider Anchorage labor law rewrite, city uses it to negotiate with unions As the Alaska Supreme Court hears arguments about whether a recall referendum can go on the ballot, the municipality has already seen some success in negotiating union contracts using the AO-37 labor law rewrite.January 8, 2014

Army Cuts Will Be Small For Alaska Military

Wed, 2014-01-08 18:15

Alaska will lose about 400 soldiers from U.S. Army Alaska operations and the announcement is being portrayed as good news from military officials in the state.

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JBER Spokesman John Pennell says Anchorage operations will lose 780 positions but Fort Wainwright will gain 367 for a net loss of around 375 soldiers by the end of 2015.

Pennell says the positions will largely come from cutting smaller units within the 2nd engineer brigade.

“Others will move to different headquarters within U.S. Army Alaska. For instance, the 6th Engineer Battalion, they’re an airborne qualified Engineer Battalion,” Pennell said. “They will move to the 425th airborne brigade combat team and become an engineer battalion within that brigade.”

The cuts were not a surprise; they are part of the 80,000 soldier draw down called for in the Budget Control Act of 2011. But Pennell says if you consider losses in other parts of the nation, Kentucky’s Fort Knox will lose 3800 to 4000 soldiers, an entire brigade combat team, the small cut to Alaska’s military positions is good news. Pennell says the Army values Alaska’s strategic position.

“Not only for the Arctic but also for the entire Pacific theater,” Pennell said. “And so, our two brigade combat teams, one here in Anchorage, the airborne team and one in Fairbanks, the Stryker Brigade team, they are valuable assets in a very strategically valuable location.”

Pennell also stressed that the smaller loss here is a reflection of the strong community support that Alaskans have always shown for the military.

He says mostly positions will not be re-filled as soldiers rotate out or retire. He says there will be some that will have their tours shortened but that will be on a case by case basis.

Marijuana Initiative Sponsors Submit Petition To Division Of Elections

Wed, 2014-01-08 18:14

Sponsors of an initiative to legalize marijuana in Alaska turned in their petition Wednesday to the Lieutenant Governor’s office.

(Marie Richie/Flickr)

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Initiative sponsor Tim Hinterberger says over 45,000 Alaskans signed the petition. And he is confident it has the statewide support it needs.

“The success of the signature drive was based on Alaskan voters’ desire to end marijuana prohibition and we expect that momentum to carry through to Election Day in August,” he said.

Hinterberger says the initiative lays out a regulation plan similar to that of alcohol.

“The initiative will replace the failed policy of prohibition in Alaska with a system of regulated production, sales and it will provide for taxation of sales in a regulated environment of sales that will require consumers to present ID and show proof of age,” he said.

The initiative would require buyers to be at least 21 years old.

If the Division of Elections certifies the petition, the initiative will appear on the primary election ballot in August.

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Researchers Say Ocean Acidification Could Make Fish Anxious, Impact Fisheries

Wed, 2014-01-08 18:13

Scientists have been saying for years that more carbon dioxide in the oceans is hurting sea life.

But a new study says the impact goes beyond the physical. It says ocean acidification is changing behavior in fish.

That could be a problem throughout the ecosystem – including for fisheries in Alaska.

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Researchers know that ocean acidification can be harmful. The change is caused by an increase in carbon dioxide in ocean water. More CO2 means a more acidic habitat. It can wear away crab shells and fish scales, and it makes it harder for them to grow back.

But what about how acidification is making those species feel?

Martín Tresguerres is a marine biologist based out of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California. In a recent study, his team set out to look at what goes on in the brains of juvenile rockfish when they live in acidified waters. He says rockfish have predictable behaviors, so it’s easier to see changes happening in what they do.

“The normal fish, they’re used to moving between the shaded and light parts of the kelp forest,” he says. “For example — looking for food, or interacting with other fish.”

They wanted to see whether acidification would make the fish behave differently. To find out, they looked at certain neurons in the fishes’ brains. Those neurons are known to change what they do when fish has a high blood acid level. In a previous study on Australian clownfish, the change affected sense of smell.

Tresguerres says this study was looking at the same neurological process. For their experiment, they took a rockfish that lived in acidified waters and put it in a tank with two different-colored walls: one light, and one dark.

He says the acidified fish wanted to stay by the dark wall — and so did a fish that had been dosed with an anxiety-inducing drug.

“Ocean acidification affects their neurons in a way that maybe they feel more threatened and they prefer to stay more sheltered,” he says.

It might not sound too significant. But it points to something bigger — acidification was making the fish do the opposite of what they’d normally do.

“Depending on the species, if they normally go offshore at a certain period of time, or they might go to a certain area to spawn and reproduce, it might affect the way they interact with other fish,” he says. “So the potential implications are pretty big.”

Tresguerres’ co-author on the study is Trevor Hamilton, a neuroscientist based out of MacEwan University in Edmonton, Canada. He says the changes they saw would be really long-term in the wild — they looked at the kind of acidification that takes place over a hundred years.

But he says any species of fish in acidified waters is vulnerable to these same effects. Eventually, it could shake up the entire ecosystem.

“What could end up happening is the fish will spend less time leaving their safe environments,” he says. “There is potential for them to get caught by less nets, essentially, and get eaten by less predators. So it could have an effect all the way up the food chain as well as for general fishing for humans.”

And that’s a problem in the Bering Sea. Here, and in other places with colder waters, more carbon dioxide gets absorbed into the ocean, faster. That means these long-term changes might happen sooner.

“So in Alaska, you may see this effect happening a bit sooner, and it may be more pronounced,” he says. “And that would actually be a really, really interesting question to study — lower the water temperature and see what the effect would be.”

That’s part of their next phase of research. Hamilton and Tresguerres hope to do more field work after this. And they want to look at how fish might adapt to the effects of acidification — because that could mean behavioral changes, too. They call it a domino effect.

Hamilton says while this isn’t something that’ll wipe out any species overnight, it’s important for fishermen and regulators to be aware of.

“If this mechanism does actually occur in the future, we will see fish that are more likely to stay closer to their home environment, and explore different situations a lot less,” he says. “We don’t know if it will happen, but it’s something we should definitely be concerned about.”

Hamilton says they picked rockfish for their first study in part because the species is harvested commercially. He says if ocean acidification continues at its current rate, fishermen may see fish acting differently than they’re used to — and they may see fewer fish where they usually expect to find them.

Alleged Anchorage teen shooter gets $30,000 bail

Wed, 2014-01-08 18:13
Alleged Anchorage teen shooter gets $30,000 bail The teenager who allegedly shot a 22-year-old man in the back of the head early Tuesday morning in Anchorage had his bail increased to $30,000 during an initial court appearance Wednesday.January 8, 2014

Bethel Artists To Learn About Fish Skins

Wed, 2014-01-08 18:11

There aren’t a lot of luxury items that come out of southwest Alaska. But there is group of artists working with a product that Alaskans know quite well, if they’ve ever put away fish. Local artists have a chance to learn to work with fish skin and bring it to new audiences and customers.

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Fish skin has a long history in Alaska, but you probably haven’t seen it in garment or gallery form for a while. Fish skin disappeared with the introduction of other types of fabrics like cotton and Gore-Tex. But you should keep an eye out:

“Fish skin is really hot right now as a medium, mainly in Iceland, it’s become a type of fashion. People are creating garments and spiky three inch heels, and handbags, as well home decor like wallpaper.”

That’s Trina Landlord, the executive director of the Alaska Native Arts Foundation, a nonprofit that works to build markets for Alaska Native arts. She points to renewed interest in the material in Alaska. It makes sense. Fish skins are abundant and they’re often just thrown away. It makes for a strong and workable material with beautiful scales and the durability of leather. More and more artists have been taking up the medium, and locally, artists have requested training opportunities.

The group is putting on a week-long workshop in Bethel in February. It will be taught by Marlene Nielson, who is Yupik from the Iliamna area, and Joel Isaak who is an Athabascan artist. Alaska’s a natural place for fish skin innovation, and Landlord says people are beginning to notice.

“People are starting to revive that material. They’re dying it, they’re creating halter dresses and corsets. We’re taking that sort of international flare and honing it and bringing it home to Alaska,” said Landlord.

The class will help artists to learn both to work with the material, and to make a business of it.

“To help artists and to really build skills to market themselves, also develop biz skill and build on the foundation of their culture in able to be able to promote themselves as entrepreneurs in their art form,” said Landlord.

The group is looking for artists who are enthusiastic about opportunity and willing to share that knowledge with others. Partners include the Alaska State Council On Arts, the Cultural Center, and UAF. The application for the course is available  online.

Holly Brooks Hopes To Ski Past Her (Younger) Competitors

Wed, 2014-01-08 18:11

Anchorage resident and U.S. Ski Team Member Holly Brooks is in the middle of her World Cup Season. And she just made her second Olympic team.  Four years ago, Brooks had just started pursuing her long-shot Olympic dream. Now as she prepares for Sochi, she’s in a very different position, with several years of international experience behind her.

Holly Brooks

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On a frigid day at Hatcher Pass, north of Anchorage, Alaska, cross-country skier Holly Brooks glides up to a start line.

This race is just a practice with her Alaska Pacific University teammates. It’s a chance for Brooks to test her skills before heading to Europe for the busy World Cup season, and then to Sochi in February for the Winter Olympics. Brooks is now a seasoned member of the U.S. Ski Team, but a little more than four years ago, she was on the sidelines.

On July 4, 2009, that all changed.

Brooks was competing in Mount Marathon, the Super Bowl of Alaskan sports. It’s a rugged mountain running race, straight up and back down a nausea-inducing incline.

“It was actually this really awkward and odd epiphany,” Brooks says. “I was leading, and I suffered [an] extreme case of dehydration, and I passed out right in front of the emergency room, which is conveniently along the course of Mount Marathon.”

She was just a few tantalizing blocks from the finish line.

“And just how close I came to winning, it’s like it flipped this switch in my mind and my body. And I was laying in the emergency room, and I said to myself — I didn’t tell anyone — ‘I want to go to the Olympics.’ ”

It was an improbable goal. At the time, Brooks was 27, at least a decade older than most cross-country skiers who set their sights on the Olympics. Brooks had done well in two popular recreational races, but had zero international experience. The Winter Games in Vancouver were just seven months away.

“You know, there were a lot of people that told me, ‘Oh, with your background, you can never do this,’ ” Brooks says. “Or, ‘You’re too old; the U.S. Ski Team will never nominate you.’ You know, ‘You’re past your prime.’ ”

But Brooks believed she had a shot, and so did many of the athletes she coached, like Don Haering, whom she coached when he skied in high school and college. He says that when the team was training, Coach Brooks was always right there with them.

“I knew Holly was fast,” Haering says. “It’s not like she would stand there on the side of the trail and tell you where to go; she would go ski with you the whole time, and if you did a hard interval set, she might do the whole thing with you. And then you go home and rest, and meanwhile, Holly has another session to do, and I would assume she would do the same thing with them, too.”

Brooks pursued her dream with “reckless abandon,” as she puts it, and it paid off. In 2010, she eked her way onto the Olympic squad; four years later, she has a shot at a relay medal in Sochi. Looking back, Brooks says she can’t exactly recommend her unusual path to other skiers. But she says her background gives her something many of her younger competitors lack: perspective.

“You know, I am the oldest one on the team,” Brooks says. “I know that I don’t have 10 more years in my career, so there’s a certain amount of — I hesitate to call it urgency, but I’m really excited for what’s to come.”

Back at Hatcher Pass, Brooks is rounding the last corner of the racecourse, eyeing the finish line. This race may be just for practice, but Brooks doesn’t hold anything back. She wins by 3 seconds and finishes exhausted — but with a huge smile on her face.

Pacific High: A (New) Century Of Education In Downtown Sitka

Wed, 2014-01-08 18:10

“The greatest iteration yet,” is how Pacific High co-principal Phil Burdick describes the remodeled school, which has been an educational center for over a century. Photo by Emily Forman, KCAW – Sitka.

Sitka’s Pacific High School students returned from winter break yesterday, to find one last holiday gift: a new school. For the past two years, Pacific High has been housed in the Southeast Alaska Career Center, while the Lincoln Street building was remodeled from the ground up. KCAW’s Emily Forman visited the all-new Pacific High the day before students arrived and learned how this state-of-the-art facility has been over a century in the making.

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It’s the first week of the New Year. Resolutions are fresh, and we’re still optimistic that they’ll stick. It’s a time focused on new beginnings, and Sitka’s Pacific High School is honoring that sentiment in a big way – with a brand new building.

KCAW: So here I am this is the new building.
Burdick: Looks great doesn’t it? It’s hard to see on the radio but…
KCAW: Describe it
Burdick: Looking from office you get this great rotunda. Which has this light from the sky coming down in this scoop. So, we have this great space where everyone can meet and gather. That’s my favorite spot.

If it sounds quiet for 11:30am on a Monday, that’s because the students are still on break. When I ask Phil Burdick co-principal of Pacific High about how the renovation came to fruition, he starts from the beginning. The very beginning. All the way back to the late 1800s.

Education was segregated for a long time in Sitka and this place where we sit now was a part of that history. This site has gone through many many incarnations.

Tracking the history is a little murky, but the point is that for well over 100 years the Lincoln Street site has been dedicated to education. And today’s version is worlds away from the original: a one room, segregated, Native training school. Burdick is confident that the current iteration is the best.

KCAW: So are there way in which the curriculum will be able to be expanded because of this space?
Burdick: Yeah, if you look around every classroom has door to the outside, which ties into our model that learning happens out in the community. It doesn’t have to happen in the school. So, everyone has an opportunity to get out, everyone has an opportunity to get messy, everyone has an opportunity to find a quiet space, everyone has an opportunity to learn in the way that suits them best.

This building is all about options. For instance, Burdick loves the “flex” room – a room flanked on either side by large glass door that lead to two additional classrooms. The doors slide open – transforming what was three separate rooms into a large open space.

My name is Mandy Summer and I teach English and health.

Summer says the space is a huge luxury. It’s roomy compared to the career center where teachers had to share classrooms. Once Summer started listing the new perks, it was hard to stop.

Summer: It’s nice to have sinks in our rooms. The little things that you don’t realize. And it’s just new, I have only worked here with the ceiling dripping on me, and moldy tiles above my head. That’s the only Pacific High I’ve ever known. So, this is really nice.

Hillary Seeland teaches English, History and Government and really appreciates her large windows overlooking crescent harbor.

Seeland: And the windows are really lovely, I love all the light in here. I love the color pallet in here. I love the storage.
KCAW: Look at your view.
Seeland: I know right!
KCAW: How many teachers have this kind of view?
Seeland: No one.

Rest assured that the Pacific High crew is feeling pretty grateful, and optimistic about 2014.

Burdick: There’s a lot of history on this site and we’re just the latest and hopefully greatest iteration of what has gone on here.

Bernice Joseph Dies At Age 49

Wed, 2014-01-08 18:09

Alaska Native leader Bernice Joseph of Fairbanks died of cancer yesterday at age 49. Joseph was a professor and administrator at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, but she maintained strong ties with rural Alaska.

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Alaska News Nightly: January 8, 2014

Wed, 2014-01-08 17:58

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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Army Cuts Will Be Small For Alaska Military

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

Alaska will lose about 400 soldiers from U.S. Army Alaska operations and the announcement is being portrayed as good news from military officials in the state.

Marijuana Initiative Sponsors Submit Petition To Division Of Elections

Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage

Sponsors of an initiative to legalize marijuana in Alaska turned in their petition Wednesday to the Lieutenant Governor’s office.

Researchers Say Ocean Acidification Could Make Fish Anxious, Impact Fisheries

Annie Ropeik, KUCB – Unalaska

Scientists have been saying for years that more carbon dioxide in the oceans is hurting sea life.

But a new study says the impact goes beyond the physical.   It says ocean acidification is changing behavior in fish.

That could be a problem throughout the ecosystem – including for fisheries in Alaska.

Mat-Su Mayor, Fish & Wildlife Commission Divided Over Legislation

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

What should have been a routine meeting of the Matanuska – Susitna Borough Assembly and the Borough’s Fish and Wildlife Commission took a political turn on Tuesday evening.  It seems the Borough mayor and the Commission members have a distinct difference of opinion when it comes to divisive state legislation.

Bethel Artists To Learn About Fish Skins

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

There aren’t a lot of luxury items that come out of southwest Alaska. But there is group of artists working with a product that Alaskans know quite well, if they’ve ever put away fish. Local artists have a chance to learn to work with fish skin and bring it to new audiences and customers.

Holly Brooks Hopes To Ski Past Her (Younger) Competitors

Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage

Anchorage resident and U.S. Ski Team Member Holly Brooks is in the middle of her World Cup Season. And she just made her second Olympic team.  Four years ago, Brooks had just started pursuing her long-shot Olympic dream. Now as she prepares for Sochi, she’s in a very different position, with several years of international experience behind her.

Pacific High: A (New) Century Of Education In Downtown Sitka

Emily Forman, KCAW – Sitka

Sitka’s Pacific High School students returned from winter break yesterday, to find one last holiday gift: a new school. For the past two years, Pacific High has been housed in the Southeast Alaska Career Center, while the Lincoln Street building was remodeled from the ground up. KCAW’s Emily Forman visited the all-new Pacific High the day before students arrived and learned how this state-of-the-art facility has been over a century in the making.

Bernice Joseph Dies At Age 49

Tim Ellis, KUAC – Fairbanks

Alaska Native leader Bernice Joseph of Fairbanks died of cancer yesterday at age 49. Joseph was a professor and administrator at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, but she maintained strong ties with rural Alaska.

Greenpeace activist says Russia should apologize

Wed, 2014-01-08 16:12
Greenpeace activist says Russia should apologize Dima Litvinov, one of the recently released "Arctic 30," says Russian authorities treated Greenpeace activists as "hardened" criminals for what was a typical protest.January 8, 2014

Federal emergency food program gets $126 million boost

Wed, 2014-01-08 15:54
Federal emergency food program gets $126 million boost Sen. Lisa Murkowski helped lead the effort that ended with the Agriculture Department deciding to purchase food under the Emergency Food Assistance Program. The program buys surplus food from American farmers for distribution through food banks when economic conditions show increased need among low-income citizens.January 8, 2014

Army to trim Alaska staff levels

Wed, 2014-01-08 15:53
Army to trim Alaska staff levels Anchorage's Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson will lose nearly 800 personnel, while Fort Wainwright will see an increase of 367, for a net loss of 373 soldiers in the state.January 8, 2014

Fewer homes are changing hands, data show

Wed, 2014-01-08 15:26
As the territory’s house prices continue to rise, fewer are being sold.

Local pharmacists look to administer vaccines

Wed, 2014-01-08 15:23
Imagine dropping by the drug store to pick up a prescription, a few items for the house and getting a flu shot while you’re there.

Speaker to address hydraulic fracturing

Wed, 2014-01-08 15:22
The co-ordinator of the British Columbia Tap Water Alliance will be in the territory next week to share his concerns about hydraulic fracturing with Yukoners.