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Alaska and Yukon Headlines

Mushing series concludes with thriller

Thu, 2014-04-10 13:16
Musher Jon Lucas wrapped up his season with the most important race win of all – the last one.

Graham Nishikawa to lead guided ski

Thu, 2014-04-10 13:13
The Whitehorse Cross Country Ski Club is excited to welcome home Graham Nishikawa,

Children, husband, dogs -- the whole town must have winter flu

Thu, 2014-04-10 13:12
Children, husband, dogs -- the whole town must have winter flu This morning, my husband Chip woke up and groaned that he had caught the flu, but it felt like food poisoning.  Which brings us full circle. He is still in bed with a pillow over his head and Pearl is sleeping sympathetically in my spot.April 10, 2014

Rangers beat EDI to force final showdown

Thu, 2014-04-10 13:11
A goal less than a minute into last night’s oldtimer hockey game spelled trouble for EDI.

Yukon drops to 0-2 at broomball nationals

Thu, 2014-04-10 13:09
The Yukon Coates Lead Dawgs dropped two close games to open their round robin at the Canadian Senior Broomball Championship in Calgary yesterday.

FEMA Head Meets With Mat Su Officials

Thu, 2014-04-10 11:47

A year and a half ago, a series of severe windstorms hammered Southcentral Alaska. The first toppled hundreds of trees in Anchorage, but a later storm combined with torrential rains to swell rivers and creeks in the Matanuska Valley.

 Well over one hundred Valley homes were damaged and several  were declared a total loss. The Borough  received an emergency declaration in the wake of the storm, and FEMA representatives soon arrived on scene to assist those who filed damage claims. But there have been glitches. In a meeting with FEMA adminstrator Craig Fugate, Mat Su Borough manager John Moosey said the Boro is still facing challenges due to the spread of the damage. During the storm, pockets of flooding affected the Borough from Talkeetna to Palmer

“..and it was unusual, because usually you have flooding in a smaller area. The Borough is the size of West Virginia, and it occurred in a large portion.”

 ”We are going to be hurting if we don’t correct the glitches going forward”,  Moosey told a group of Borough and FEMA officails.

 Casey Cook, the Borough’s emergency response manager, outlined some problems with 2012 flood response paperwork and building plans.  Cook said it was not possible to meet a FEMA three year deadline, due to Alaska’s extremely short building season. To which Fugate responded:

 ”So I’m wondering if this is something we’re driving on our end, or is this something internal. Because, I’ve got projects that go far past three years.” 

Fugate said FEMA allows extensions in paperwork and reporting all the time.

 Fugate told them thatthe Sandy Recovery and Improvement Act of last year made changes to the Stafford Act.  The Stafford act is the 1988 legislation that provides the legal authority for the federal government to provide assistance to states during major disasters.  Fugate said the changes  to the law   simplify the  repayment and reimbursement  process. Prior to the changes, FEMA could only reimburse actual costs, not cost estimates.

“Congress gave us new authorities under the Sandy Recovery Improvement Act. Where instead of now having to do everything [based on] actual cost, give me an estimate on the project. We agree that this will be for projects over a million dollars. If we agree to that, we write the project worksheet, obligate the funding at the front end, and we are done.”

 Fugate said, now if repairs cost less than estimated, the saved dollars can be used for disaster mitigation, rather than returned to FEMA.

Cook told Fugate that, during the flood emergency, the Borough spent 100 thousand dollars on emergency responders’ pay, but did not get reimbursed under the FEMA rules. FEMA does not reimburse normal working hours for Borough staff, but does reimburse overtime hours for emergency work, Fugate explained.

One big problem the Borough faces is the available flood plain mapping data.  It is not up to standard with the Lower 48,   Moosey said.

“We are behind on that, and so the new laws really don’t match up well, and kind of put people in tough spots and having to spend additional personal funds to try to correct something that should be corrected already. I think the staff will take a look at that. I believe and after our conversation that they understand what our needs our , our concerns and how we are different and how we are behind at times. “

 The Borough is relying on flood plain maps that are no longer accurate, Moosey said.  Insurance companies want accurate data when assessing flood insurance costs.  Homeowners who applied for FEMA assistance in 2012 got a nasty shock when they were informed what flood insurance costs would be if they rebuilt in a flood plain.  Up to date mapping helps to determine exactly where those flood plains are.

 Borough emergency manager Cook said that the FEMA rule  changes only apply to a few small projects  the Borough is completing.

Teachers in remote northern communities face higher workloads, says Canadian study

Thu, 2014-04-10 11:38
Teachers in remote northern communities face higher workloads, says Canadian study Teachers in remote and rural communities work five more hours a week than their urban counterparts, the study found. April 10, 2014

VIDEO: Kayak surfing Turnagain Arm bore tide

Thu, 2014-04-10 10:59
VIDEO: Kayak surfing Turnagain Arm bore tide

Ride out the bore tide with whitewater kayakers in this video shot in Anchorage's aquatic backyard.

April 10, 2014

GOP puts minimum wage bill on fast track to help boost prospects for oil tax law

Thu, 2014-04-10 09:59
GOP puts minimum wage bill on fast track to help boost prospects for oil tax law Republican leaders in the state House have scheduled a floor vote on a fast-track measure to raise the minimum wage in Alaska, a plan that has far more to do with oil politics than anything else.April 10, 2014

AK Beat: Ketchikan man in custody allegedly sought sex with minor

Thu, 2014-04-10 07:49
AK Beat: Ketchikan man in custody allegedly sought sex with minor A Ketchikan man has been charged with a host of crimes, including sending videos to a minor of himself masturbating.April 10, 2014

Microphones Cut During Senate Hearing On Oil Production

Wed, 2014-04-09 22:45

After rejecting a request that oil industry experts be required to testify under oath, the Senate Resources Chair cut off microphones when the Minority Leader attempted to explain why he thought the request was appropriate.

Sen. Cathy Giessel, an Anchorage Republican, said it was “inappropriate” and “unprofessional” of Sen. Hollis French to “spring an under-oath requirement on invited citizens” during a Wednesday hearing of the Resources Committee. Representatives from Exxon, BP, ConocoPhillips, and Repsol were there to give updates on how their work was proceeding under a new oil tax regime.

When French – an Anchorage Democrat — asked for a chance to respond, he was again denied.

GIESSEL: As the chair it is my decision, and I’ve gotten a legal consultation on that.
FRENCH: I guess I’ll just — As a point of person privilege I will say that …
GIESSEL: Sen. French, you are out of order.
FRENCH: The only …
GIESSEL: Brief at ease.
FRENCH: I’m going to keep talking …

What followed was a half-minute of silence on the Legislature’s official recordings of the proceedings, even though French continued to address the committee and its audience in the room.

French and Giessel later sparred on the Senate floor, through a pair of seething speeches.

In his address, French said his request complied with statute, even if that statute was rarely used. He also argued that the state has historically been too trusting of the oil industry.

“What does it say about us when we think it is unprofessional to use these statutes in the furtherance of our duties, of our obligations as Alaska state legislators?” French asked the body.

Giessel responded by pointing out that the last time the statute to compel testifiers to speak under oath was last used in 1997.

“I think that if we distrust the citizens who are coming, than we need to execute a different process. But simply asking for informational reports to a committee does not justify placing them under oath,” said Giessel.

Giessel also noted that it was “unfortunate” that the tension between the two senators had come to a verbal “duel” on the floor.

Keep all of Alaska's criminal records public

Wed, 2014-04-09 20:55
Keep all of Alaska's criminal records public Community policing is an important public safety tool. Because the government cannot protect its citizens day-to-day, the public should be empowered with access to information for its protection.April 9, 2014

$2.1 billion capital budget includes $245 million for new UAF power plant

Wed, 2014-04-09 20:34
$2.1 billion capital budget includes $245 million for new UAF power plant The Senate Finance Committee added the University of Alaska Fairbanks power plant to the capital budget Wednesday, a $245 million addition that pushes the total plan to $2.1 billion.April 9, 2014

State Senators Prefer To Leave Minimum Wage Question On Ballot

Wed, 2014-04-09 19:48

While a minimum wage bill that could pre-empt a ballot initiative is on the fast track in the Alaska State House, Senate leadership says the idea is unlikely to get traction in their body.

Sen. Lesil McGuire, an Anchorage Republican who is in charge of scheduling bills, says some members of her caucus feel the question of raising the minimum wage is best left to voters.

“The public is fundamentally suspicious of the Legislature interceding on a minimum wage bill, because we did this in the past and we changed it,” says the Rules Chair.

Majority Leader John Coghill, a North Pole Republican, also expressed doubt that the bill would advance in the Senate at a press availability on Tuesday.

The last time a minimum wage initiative was certified to appear on the ballot, the Legislature kept it off by passing their own version. A year later, they gutted the legislation by removing a provision that pegged the minimum wage to inflation.

The House held its first and only hearing on the bill on Wednesday, and initiative supporters were blunt in their testimony that they did not trust the Legislature with this issue. The House could hold a vote on their bill as early as Thursday.

Air Force predicts summer shutdown for powerful HAARP transmitter in Alaska

Wed, 2014-04-09 19:32
Air Force predicts summer shutdown for powerful HAARP transmitter in Alaska The end could be near for the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program near Glennallen unless the Air Force finds an organization to run the facility. The Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks hopes to put together a plan to take on the task.April 9, 2014

Anchorage man faces 7 counts of possession, distribution of child pornography

Wed, 2014-04-09 19:30
Anchorage man faces 7 counts of possession, distribution of child pornography Investigators said they found multiple videos and images of child pornography on the computer and iPod of Anchorage man Andres Barbosa, who has been living in Alaska for about a year.April 9, 2014

Experiment finds wicking fabric battles 'frost boils' on Dalton Highway

Wed, 2014-04-09 19:29
Experiment finds wicking fabric battles 'frost boils' on Dalton Highway A few miles from the Arctic Circle on the United States' only Arctic highway, there’s a sloped area notorious for a series of dips and buckles  caused by seasonal thaw and subsurface meltwater. The "frost boils" of Beaver Slide may have met their match.April 9, 2014

Personal questions about victims' families slow Kodiak murder trial

Wed, 2014-04-09 19:18
Personal questions about victims' families slow Kodiak murder trial Since the beginning of the federal murder trial against James Michael Wells, defense attorneys have argued the possibility of another culprit. The defense has probed witnesses about the allegedly turbulent marriage of James Hopkins, one of the victims.April 9, 2014

Troopers Name Two Pilots Killed In Crash Near Bethel

Wed, 2014-04-09 17:32

Two pilots are dead after a fiery plane crash Tuesday night just outside Bethel.

Alaska State Troopers have identified the pilots who were onboard the Hageland Cessna 208 Caravan as Derrick Cedars, 42, of Bethel and Greggory McGee, 46, of Anchorage.

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Ravn Alaska spokesperson Steve Smith confirms the downed plane was a Hageland training flight.

 “We are sending an investigator from the Anchorage office of the NTSB. His name is Chris Shaver. We also have two other individuals who are going to be joining the investigative team, one investigator from the Federal Aviation Administration, the FAA as well as an additional investigator from a technical side from Cessna aircraft,” Clint Johnson, Chief of the Alaska Regional Office of the National Transportation Safety Board, said. ”Hopefully they’ll be on site there later this afternoon and possibly make it to the accident site tonight to at least start their on scene potion of the investigation.”

 Troopers say the crash happened just after 6 p.m. Within the hour a pilot reported burned wreckage near Three Step Mountain close to a fishing weir. The Alaska Army Guard in Bethel dispatched a Blackhawk helicopter with local fire personnel and Alaska State Troopers on board in an attempt to locate survivors.

Troopers arrived on scene and observed a large debris field and the willows around the crash site were burned and charred.  Troopers were able to locate remains in the wreckage. They’ll return to the crash site Wednesday to further investigate as well as continue recovery efforts.

Next of kin for the pilots have been notified.

Hageland Aviation flies under the banner of Ravn Connect, a company operated by Ravn Alaska, formerly known as Era Alaska.

Four people died in November when an Era Cessna 208 Caravan passenger flight crashed outside St. Mary’s. The exact cause of that crash has not been determined.

Murkowski Signs Onto ‘Regulatory Fairness Act’

Wed, 2014-04-09 17:30

Leaders in the Bristol Bay area say they’re upset U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski has co-sponsored a bill that would undo their biggest regulatory success in fighting the Pebble Mine project.

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