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Alaska and Yukon Headlines

Wasilla man charged in toddler's death

Sat, 2014-04-05 12:31
Wasilla man charged in toddler's death Jyzyk Sharpe was taking care of a 1-year-old at his home when the boy died; a forensic medical expert compared the child's injuries to those that might be sustained by a pedestrian struck by a car.April 5, 2014

State DEC head rejects agency's sulfolane spill ruling

Sat, 2014-04-05 11:36
State DEC head rejects agency's sulfolane spill ruling The arguments over spilled sulfolane up to 3 miles from the Flint Hills Refinery took a new twist Friday when the Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner ruled that the agency may have misinterpreted its regulations in setting a cleanup level.April 5, 2014

AK Beat: North Slope apparel printer wins $25K entrepreneurship grant

Sat, 2014-04-05 10:05
AK Beat: North Slope apparel printer wins $25K entrepreneurship grant Manuluuraq Designs will put the money toward lowering prices in hope of adding employees as the design company grows.April 5, 2014

Positively un-Alaskan ban on Cook Inlet setnetters must not go before voters

Fri, 2014-04-04 20:16
Positively un-Alaskan ban on Cook Inlet setnetters must not go before voters OPINION: A small group of urban-based, privileged individuals  are seeking to destroy a critical foundation of our local economy in favor of their own interests. They are willing to destroy the livelihoods of hundreds of Alaska setnetters like myself.April 4, 2014

Alaska's struggling education system can ill-afford to spend money on private schools

Fri, 2014-04-04 19:24
Alaska's struggling education system can ill-afford to spend money on private schools OPINION: Instead of chasing amendments to Alaska's constitution, let’s focus on the educational investments that experts agree are critical -- adequate state funding, early learning, and making sure students are ready to learn.April 4, 2014

Minimum wage bill has ballot initiative supporters on edge

Fri, 2014-04-04 19:24
Minimum wage bill has ballot initiative supporters on edge The Alaska House of Representatives introduced a bill mirroring a ballot initiative that would increase the minimum wage by $2 in the coming years, and that has supporters concerned.April 4, 2014

Not sure of your vote in Alaska governor's race? Pick a team

Fri, 2014-04-04 19:07
Not sure of your vote in Alaska governor's race? Pick a team OPINION: If you vote for the candidate and not the party, choosing can be hard. But picking a leader isn’t nearly as complicated as it seems when you start with the team.April 4, 2014

Alaska families look to creative solutions for finding -- or sharing -- breast milk

Fri, 2014-04-04 19:04
Alaska families look to creative solutions for finding -- or sharing -- breast milk As the Blood Bank of Alaska looks to create a breast milk bank, families are working outside the box to secure breast milk for their infants if they can't provide it through normal means.April 4, 2014

With Education Vote Postponed, Parent Group Rallies For More School Funding

Fri, 2014-04-04 18:17

Mary Hakala of Juneau, a member of the Great Alaska Schools coalition, speaks during a rally on the Capitol steps, April 4, 2014.(Photo by Skip Gray/Gavel Alaska)

The Alaska State House has delayed its vote on an omnibus education bill to Monday, giving lawmakers more time to wrestle with questions over teacher retirement policy and treatment of rural schools. But even though debate on the bill was delayed, that did not stop a crowd of parents from gathering on the Capitol steps to rally for more education funding.

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For the past week, there have been a lot of parents running around the State Capitol letting their legislators know they want more money put into education. They’ve united under the name “Great Alaska Schools,” and they describe themselves as a coalition of 1,500 families that support the public system.

On Friday, they stopped going door-to-door and went out into the street instead. They had one message: “B-S-A! Raise today!”

Cat Coward is a physical therapist, a jazz singer, and a mom to an 8th grade student at Romig Middle School in Anchorage. She flew down for the Juneau rally, because she has seen changes in the quality of education at Romig as the budget has been strained.

“They’re losing counselors there. Class sizes are increasing,” says Coward.

Coward says the proposals that have gotten traction in the Legislature don’t do enough to offset the cuts she’s seeing. The bill that the House is considering bumps the base student allocation — or the amount of money schools get per kid — by $300 spread out over the next three years.

Coward believes they should double that. She says that kind of increase to the base student allocation amounts to a little more than one percent of the overall budget.

“Our kids who are in school right now will never get another chance for this. This is it, this is the only time to fund these kids,” says Coward. “You know, we can put money at other capital projects or other things later, but we can never invest in these children ever again.”>>

To illustrate their point, Great Alaska Schools brought plenty of pie to their rally, to symbolize that they just want a larger cut of the fiscal one. There was blueberry, apple, you name it. And when the rally was over, Coward and other participants dropped off slices to their legislators in hopes that it would sweeten them up before Monday.

Third suspect arraigned in murder of Anchorage teenager

Fri, 2014-04-04 18:07
Third suspect arraigned in murder of Anchorage teenager Karlie West, 21, allegedly drove the getaway vehicle in the murder of a 15-year-old Anchorage girl who died in the early morning of April 1. West was arraigned Friday as the victim's family looked on. April 4, 2014

Committee amends gas line bill to allow non-resident board members

Fri, 2014-04-04 18:05
Committee amends gas line bill to allow non-resident board members Republican leaders in the House are trying on two fronts to amend state law to allow a Texas consultant with four decades of industry experience to serve on the Alaska Gasline Development Corp. board. A separate bill and an amendment to Gov. Sean Parnell's gas line legislation have the same goal.April 4, 2014

Minimum Wage Bill Introduced Amid Sponsor Outcry

Fri, 2014-04-04 17:32

A bill that could supplant the minimum wage initiative has popped up in the Legislature.

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The House Rules Committee introduced the bill on Friday, and it’s modeled after a citizens’ initiative that’s slated to appear on the August primary ballot. It would raise the minimum wage up from $7.75 to $9.75 over the course of two years, and it would peg the minimum wage to inflation. If the bill is enacted into law, it would make the citizens’ initiative moot and remove the question off the ballot.

Initiative organizers strongly oppose any effort to pre-empt their initiative out of concern the Legislature might try to water it down. When a different minimum wage initiative was introduced in 2002, the Legislature passed a similar bill to keep it from getting on the ballot. A year later, lawmakers came back and stripped the inflation component.

Ed Flanagan, an initiative sponsor and former labor commissioner, says he’s worried the same tactic could be used again.

“It’s not like we didn’t see it coming, but I guess you still hope that people will have some sense of — I don’t know what you call it — shame or anything else such a bold-faced attempt to circumvent the will of the people,” says Flanagan.

If a new minimum wage law is enacted through the ballot, legislators may not touch it for two years.

House Majority Leader Lance Pruitt has said that conversation around a minimum wage bill has not been politically motivated, and instead has focused on public approval of raising the minimum wage. Recently, the House Majority Caucus released a poll by Dittman Research showing that 69 percent people they surveyed supported increasing the minimum wage.

The bill is scheduled to be heard by the House Labor and Commerce Committee on Wednesday.

Deal Reached For Susitna-Watana Dam Land Access

Fri, 2014-04-04 17:31

A land access dispute that threatened to delay progress on the Susitna-Watana Hydroelectric Project has been resolved, though the agreement has come later than expected.

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Friday afternoon, the Alaska Energy Authority issued a press release stating that a “complex” land access permit had been reached between AEA, six Cook Inlet village corporations, and Cook Inlet Region, Inc to allow access to Alaska Native-owned land that is in the study area for the proposed megaproject.

Over the past two years, discussions over land access have been ongoing, and were occasionally complicated by allegations of trespassing by contractors hired by AEA. Details of the deal were not immediately available.

The agreement could have an impact on funding for the Susitna-Watana project this year.

Governor Sean Parnell has asked the Alaska Legislature for a $32.7 million budget supplement for the current fiscal year.

Alaska Shield Exercise Testing Military’s Emergency Readiness

Fri, 2014-04-04 17:30

The SSGT Robert T. Kuroda is docked at the Port of Anchorage. It’s the largest boat in the Army and sailed from Hawaii to be part of simulation exercises meant to test the readiness of the military to respond to a disaster situation where the port is rendered inoperable.  (Jolene Almendarez/APRN)

More than 550 military personnel from around the country are gathered at the Port of Anchorage this week for an Alaska Shield exercise, meant to test the readiness of the military to provide emergency support to areas impacted by natural or human-caused disasters.

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Senate Ratifies Treaties to Stop Fish Piracy

Fri, 2014-04-04 17:29

The U.S. Senate yesterday ratified two international treaties that Alaska’s senators say will help crack down on illegal international fishing. One is an agreement to restrict ships from using ports if they engage in what’s known as IUU fishing. Sen. Mark Begich says the practice robs legitimate fishermen of some $23 billion a year.

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“I know lots of times we talk about illegal, unreported, unregulated,” Begich said on the Senate floor yesterday. ” I like to simply call it pirate fishing. These are people who steal our fish out of our waters and then try to sell it back to us.”

He and other advocates of the treaty say it will also help deter human trafficking. The Port State Measures treaty takes effect after 25 countries ratify it. That’s how many initially signed the treaty, but only the U.S., the European Union and nine smaller countries that have gone all the way to ratification or full approval. Russia has signed and not ratified. China is on neither list.

A second treaty would create an international organization to regulate fishing in international waters of the North Pacific to protect fish habitat. Sen. Lisa Murkowski said it’s “critically important” to the sustainability and management of the resource.

“We’re trying to play be the rules,” she said. “We expect others to be doing the same.”

The treaties were approved by voice vote. Murkowski says they’re the first treaties ratified by the Senate since 2010

State, Feds Wrestle Over Navigable Water Control

Fri, 2014-04-04 17:28

The State of Alaska is continuing to fight the federal government over control of navigable waters in two cases involving Interior rivers.

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The Alaska Department of Law has filed a friend of the court briefing in support of Central resident Jim Wilde’s latest appeal.

Wilde is contesting the National Park Service’s authority to enforce regulations on the state owned Yukon River, inside the Yukon Charley Rivers National Preserve.

State Senior Assistant Attorney General Anne Nelson says the state has tracked the case from its start in 2010.

“The state’s position is that the Park Service doesn’t have the authority to regulate navigable waters within National Parks as if they were a part of the National Park,” Nelson said. “And so we’ve filed these amicus briefs to keep that issue in front of the court.”

In December a federal judge upheld Jim Wilde’s conviction of misdemeanor offences for resisting National Park Service rangers, who pulled him over for a boat safety inspection in September 2010. Wilde’s appeal is one of two challenging the federal agency, that the state of Alaska is involved in.

Federal judges have repeatedly rejected the state’s arguments in both cases, and this week the U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider Alaska’s appeal concerning similar issues in the Katie John subsistence case. The state’s Nelson says the case frames the Wilde and Sturgeon appeals under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.

“What it means is that we are continuing to work with the status quo, which is the Ninth Circuit’s ruling that certain navigable waters are considered public lands under ANILCA because the federal government has a reserved water right in them for purposes of administering ANILCA’s rural subsistence priority,” Nelson said.

She says the state’s focus in the Wilde and Sturgeon cases is on challenging the extent of Park Service authority over navigable waters inside parks. The state just filed its brief in the Wilde case. Briefs are due in the Sturgeon case by the end of the month.

Both appeals are before the federal 9th circuit court.

Food Tastes Better When It’s Shared

Fri, 2014-04-04 17:27

Chuck Miller(R) and son Jay harvest roe-on-hemlock. (KCAW photo/by Emily Forman).

It’s crisp, crunchy, and salty – and you’ll never find it in a bag in the grocery store. Dipped in seal oil or eulachon oil (hooligan), it is a traditional Southeast Alaskan delicacy that signals spring as surely as a warm, sunny day. But, gathering herring eggs-on-hemlock branches is about a lot more than food.

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ANB Harbor. Stall 10. Small boat on the left. That’s Chuck Miller’s response to anyone looking for herring eggs. Miller has the means to harvest this traditional food in the traditional way. So, sharing the resource is a no brainer. “Food tastes better when you share with people and that’s the way our Native people are,” says Miller.

Like many subsistence fisherman, Miller practices the roe-on-hemlock harvesting method. He invited me to join him and his son, Jay, on a recent harvesting trip.

Miller: We are ready to get some fuel.
EF: With the fuel and everything how much does a trip like this cost you?
Miller: Over 200 dollars easy but it’s worth it.

That includes engine repairs and two trips out to Middle Island. Miller says it’s worth it because he’ll end up feeding at least a dozen people. But within minutes, I learn that he has deeper reasons for the practice. Jay explains.

Jay: The first time I went out I was 6 years old.
EF: Do you remember what that was like?
Jay: Yeah, I went with my uncle Eli my Dad’s brother.

Miller: The yellow buoy that’s on there is my brother’s buoy and my brother’s been passed away now for ten years. He was 5 years older than me. We used to do this together. This is the last of the gear that he had that he used.

As we pull into a cove on the backside of Middle Island the water abruptly changes from deep blue to a milky aqua. That’s what happens when you add a whole lot of fish sperm — or milt — into the mix.

Jay Miller helps his dad harvest herring roe. (KCAW photo/ by Emily Forman)

Miller: So it is still spawning in here.

Plastic bottles and milk jugs speckle the shallow water – all tied to submerged hemlock branches. A handful of those have “Miller” written on them in bold black sharpie ink.

He says people have stolen his sets in the past – which isn’t unusual when branches are left unsupervised overnight to gather eggs. As a result he’s mildly apprehensive around other fisherman.

Miller: He’s probably just staring me down because he doesn’t know who I am. But I’m gonna let him get a good look at me because I lived here my whole life.

Miller has a way of diffusing the tension.

Miller: Hey are you taking my sets? Haha! You guys look like you got a good set in!
Miller: K it’s coming up on your side. Right there, right there, right there!

Jay grabs the milk jug attached to his Uncle Eli’s yellow buoy. He clutches the trailing thick rope. Using all of his body weight he wrestles the egg-laden branch to the surface.

Miller: Get it to where you got some leverage. is it moving? It’s probably super heavy?

When its ready to harvest, a branch can weigh well over 400 pounds.

Miller: What we do is clip off pieces of it to get it in the boat. Holy smokes! That’s a good one right there!

Miller hoists the dripping branch into the boat. It’s coated with eggs and looks like it was dipped in a vat of rubber cement.

Miller: See this is the thickness you want, some people get them a little thicker, but not much more than that.

It’s a bountiful harvest, which according to Miller is thanks to his brother’s buoy.

Miller: It’s my good luck buoy and usual that’s the one every year that produces quite a bit it’s like my brother is looking out for us.

He tosses the leftover branch overboard.

Miller:Gunalcheesh! Thank you! We used the tree to help us.

Take away the power boat, and plastic milk jug buoys, and it isn’t difficult to picture this practice taking place long before Western and Native cultures met.

Miller: If i don’t start sharing what I know right away… I might not be here tomorrow.

When we return to ANB harbor, and pull into Stall 10. I realize that gathering herring eggs on hemlock branches is an expression of gratitude. Gratitude for the the teachings of his ancestors, gratitude for food, and the chance to pass on this way of life.

300 Villages: Moose Creek

Fri, 2014-04-04 17:26

This week, we’re heading to Moose Creek, a village of about 600 people in central Alaska. Jeff Jacobson is the chief of staff for the Fairbanks North Star Borough.

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AK: Book Club

Fri, 2014-04-04 17:25

Community outreach librarian Andrea Hirsh points something out to club member Mike Ricker. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

Several people at Juneau’s downtown shelter and soup kitchen The Glory Hole are part of a new club. Every Tuesday, they come together on the second floor of the facility to discuss a different topic. The club is helping to build a different kind of community within the homeless shelter, a community not based on need, but on the exchange of ideas.

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Topics for The Glory Hole Book Club change every week. This session, the club discussed the space program. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

It’s called The Glory Hole Book Club, but it’s really more of a discussion group. Instead of everyone reading the same book, community outreach librarian Andrea Hirsh says there’s a theme that everyone comes prepared to talk about each week.

“The first day, everybody who was here wrote down five ideas of stuff that they thought would be so neat to talk about and we threw them in a hat, and then we pulled it out. And it works really well because it makes it open for anybody who wants to come,” Hirsh says.

Topics range from philosophy to fantasy. Hirsh says book club members can relate the topic to an article they may have read or a movie they watched. Oftentimes, group discussions stem from personal experience.

“We pulled, like, agriculture once and I thought, ‘That one is going to be terrible.’ But we talked a lot about animal husbandry and, like, growing crops, and most of the people here have worked in agricultural fields. It was a great topic,” Hirsh says.

Sheila Higgins (left) has been to every session of The Glory Hole Book Club, which started in January. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

Six people, who have come to this club session, sit in a circle of chairs. All eyes are on Hirsh as she holds up the book “Packing for Mars.”

She talks about a test performed on want-to-be astronauts:

“They have, like, eight candidates and they keep them all in one room and they’re monitored 24/7. They have no privacy and they can’t leave each other because they’re simulating, like, what’s going on in the international space station.”

The Glory Hole Book Club was a test as well when the shelter paired up with Juneau Public Libraries to try something new.

Steve Albright is a member of The Glory Hole Book Club. (Photo by Lisa Phu/TKOO)

“I did not think that The Glory Hole Book Club would be a very successful activity but I think it’s really wonderful for people to have an opportunity to not think about the fact that they’re homeless and that they’re struggling and they need to get out of the situation,” says shelter director Mariya Lovishchuk

Club member Sheila Higgins was a psychic for 25 years out of Fairbanks and Anchorage. She also spent some time working on the North Slope. When she moved to Juneau in 2012 for a different job, things didn’t work out. She’s lived at the Glory Hole for about a year.

Since the club started in January, Higgins has gone to every session. She says those that attend have become closer.

“I think we get to know each other on a different level. We don’t see ourselves as homeless people here. We just see each other as brother and sister.”

At the end of every club session, a member pulls out the topic for next week. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

The book club also adds another dimension to The Gory Hole. Most of the action takes place in the day room on the first floor, where all the meals are served.

“That’s kind of their forum down there, the people who run the place. Up here it’s ours, OK? It’s ours. This is our club,” Higgins says.

Club members freely share their opinions and listen. After several weeks of this, Higgins says they’re grown to respect and support one another.

“Nobody’s here because they want to be, you know. We’d all rather be in our own homes living different lives, but as long as we’re here, we’re going do the best we can for each other,” she says.

For Kidd Perez, the book club is also just fun.

“It’s spontaneous for sure and it’s just a tight knit group. We all are acquainted well enough here to just let it go, let it ride. You can comment and say pretty much what you think. It gets kind of crazy sometimes, but that’s part of the fun,” Perez says.

Perez is an auto mechanic. He says he goes where the money is. With summer approaching, he has hopes of moving out of the shelter.

“Could be sometime this month, because the season’s coming around and that means more work for a lot of people this time of year, so we’ll see what happens,” Perez says.

But as long as Perez is at The Glory Hole though, he’ll continue going to the club.

As the session on the space program wraps up, Hirsh holds out “The Book Club Hat.”

“Why don’t you pick out our topic for next week,” she says to club member Mark Trammell.

“Oh wow, psychology,” Trammell announces to the group.

Chatter and laughter break out among club members as they get up to leave, their minds already on next week’s club theme.

Alaska News Nightly: April 4, 2014

Fri, 2014-04-04 17:12

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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Parents Rally For Education Funding

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

The Alaska State House has delayed its vote on an omnibus education bill to Monday, giving lawmakers more time to wrestle with questions over teacher retirement policy and treatment of rural schools. But even though debate on the bill was delayed, that did not stop a crowd of parents from gathering on the Capitol steps to rally for more education funding.

Minimum Wage Bill Introduced Amid Sponsor Outcry

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

A bill that could supplant the minimum wage initiative has popped up in the Legislature. The House Rules Committee introduced the bill on Friday, and it’s modeled after a citizens’ initiative that’s slated to appear on the August primary ballot. It would raise the minimum wage up from $7.75 to $9.75 over the course of two years, and it would peg the minimum wage to inflation.

Lawmakers Shelve Controversial Permitting Bill

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

A controversial permitting bill has been sentenced to die in committee. Senate Resources Chair Cathy Giessel sent out a press release yesterday announcing the resources committee will not hold any more hearings on HB77.

Deal Reached For Susitna-Watana Dam Land Access

Phillip Manning, KTNA – Talkeetna

A land access dispute that threatened to delay progress on the Susitna-Watana Hydroelectric Project has been resolved, though the agreement has come later than expected.

Alaska Shield Exercise Testing Military’s Emergency Readiness

Jolene Almendarez, APRN – Anchorage

More than 550 military personnel from around the country are gathered at the Port of Anchorage this week for an Alaska Shield exercise, meant to test the readiness of the military to provide emergency support to areas impacted by natural or human-caused disasters.

Senate Ratifies Treaties to Stop Fish Piracy

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington DC

The U.S. Senate yesterday ratified two international treaties that Alaska’s senators say will help crack down on illegal international fishing. One is an agreement to restrict ships from using ports if they engage in what’s known as IUU fishing.

State, Feds Wrestle Over Navigable Water Control

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The State of Alaska is continuing to fight the federal government over control of navigable waters in two cases involving Interior rivers. The Alaska Department of Law has filed a friend of the court briefing in support of Central resident Jim Wilde’s latest appeal. Wilde is contesting the National Park Service’s authority to enforce regulations on the state owned Yukon River, inside the Yukon Charley Rivers National Preserve.

Food Tastes Better When It’s Shared

Emily Forman, KCAW – Sitka

It’s crisp, crunchy, and salty – and you’ll never find it in a bag in the grocery store. Dipped in seal oil or eulachon oil (hooligan), it is a traditional Southeast Alaskan delicacy that signals spring as surely as a warm, sunny day. But, gathering herring eggs-on-hemlock branches is about a lot more than food.

AK: Book Club

Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau

Several people at Juneau’s downtown shelter and soup kitchen The Glory Hole are part of a new club. Every Tuesday, they come together on the second floor of the facility to discuss a different topic. The club is helping to build a community within the homeless shelter, one not based on need, but on the exchange of ideas.

300 Villages: Moose Creek

This week, we’re heading to Moose Creek, a village of about 600 people in central Alaska. Jeff Jacobson is the chief of staff for the Fairbanks North Star Borough.