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Alaska and Yukon Headlines
As dogs teams drop onto the Yukon River, Iditarod mushers will find out how their race plans are playing out. The next 140 miles of long, flat river will shine some light on who has the most speed and who needs a little more rest.
No one is quite sure exactly what’s going on with race strategies this year. In fact even the most experienced mushers are scratching their heads.
“I realized that I’m probably a better dog training than a dog racer,” four-time champion Martin Buser, who was just waking up from a nap in Ruby, said. “But this team deserves to be raced properly, so that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Clearly exhausted, Buser downs a steaming cup of coffee.
“I just know you have to push so hard and it’s just tough and I’m not into toughness all that much,” he said.
As he talks, Buser pulls at the little finger on his left hand. It’s dislocated, white and swollen. He keeps it wrapped in a spare dog bootie. His feet are bare and his left ankle is purple – also swollen. He sprained it badly somewhere between Rohn and Nikolai.
“The way I look at is we have the toughest individuals in front of us those dogs are so superior to anything else,” he said. “We might as well toughen up buttercup. They are unbelievably strong and tough and willing to give so we might as well give a little bit too.”
Buser is putting all his energy into proving that lots of rest early in the race can pay big dividends later. It’s a strategy Kelly Maixner is also testing with his dogs.
“It seems like they recover a lot better earlier,” Maixner said. “So, say you do a long run at the beginning of a training session, they seem to recover faster at the beginning, so they get back to normal.”
Maixner is running the Iditarod for the fourth time. He’s a pediatric dentist by day. He knew coming into the race he’d surprise a lot of people.
“I’ve had a couple rough years the last couple years,” he said. “I just had injuries and illnesses during the race the last couple years that really bummed me out and this year I trained a lot harder than I ever have and this year I started my own practice so I was able to switch my schedule. I put probably 75 percent more miles on than I have in the past.”
Nicolas Petit is also no stranger to high volume training.
“Considering the lack of snow all over Alaska, basically my dogs haven’t seen a dog house since about New Years,” Petit said. “We’ve just been traveling around using the truck as a home base…training from there.”
Petit’s strategy is to hold a strong steady pace. He doesn’t like to run too fast. But he’s been at the front of the pack since the start. He was surprised to see his run time into Ruby.
“Apparently I got here faster than everybody else and that’s fun, but we were just trotting along,” he laughs.
Petit says he hasn’t looked at another dog team since he left Willow.
“I don’t really look at other people’s teams,” he said. “I just look at mine because it’s enough to worry about when you have 16 animals.”
Mushers will have plenty of time to look around as the head out on the Yukon River. The miles are long and flat for more than 140 miles. Teams are required to take a mandatory eight-hour rest before the get off the river in Kaltag.
Espionage, intrigue and love all come together in David Henry Hwang’s Tony Award winning play, M Butterfly. Join director Jessica Jacob and actor Alder Fletcher from UAA Department of Theatre and Dance as they visit Stage Talk to talk about their upcoming production of this moving drama based on a true story opening March 21st and running through April 6th.
- Jessica Jacob, Director, UAA Department of Theatre and Dance’s M Butterfly
- Alder Fletcher, Actor, UAA Department of Theatre and Dance’s M Butterfly
ORIGINAL BROADCAST: Friday March 7th, 2014 at 2:45 p.m.
SUBSCRIBE: Get Stage Talk updates automatically — via:
Legislation that would provide for state participation in the gas line moves forward. Fetal alcohol syndrome is a scourge. Some of those affected explain why. Gov. Parnell “absolves” a future buyer of the Fl;int Hills refinery of cleanup costs. Parnell sues past and current owner over the cleanup. Alaska public life and policy is different if not unique – here’s some of the reason why. The emerging problem of scarcity. Idaho compared to Alaska.
HOST: Michael Carey
- Kyle Hopkins, ADN.
- Tim Bradner, Alaska Journal of Commerce.
- Mark Trahant, UAA.
KSKA (FM 91.1) BROADCAST: Friday, March 7 at 2:00 p.m. and Saturday, March 8 at 6:00 p.m.
Alaska Public Television BROADCAST: Friday, March 7 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, March 8 at 4:30 PM.Listen now:
Aliy Zirkle took the lead in the 2014 Iditarod early Friday morning leaving Ruby almost two hours ahead of Martin Buser who also took off from Ruby Friday. Both mushers dropped dogs at the layover and were racing with 14 dogs.
Arron Burmeister was about two hours behind Buser and out of Ruby. His team was down to 12 dogs.
Buser has taken both of his mandatory layovers. Neither Zirkle nor Burmeister has taken an 8-hour layover.
Jeff King and Sonny Lindner led the pack much of Thursday but were still in Ruby early Friday morning.
Last year’s winner – Mitch Seavey – was in Ruby early Friday morning and in 10th place.
Two Rivers’ Abbie West led the rookies. She was out of Cripple and racing towards Ruby Friday morning.
In the beginning, this year's Iditarod was more about surviving treacherous conditions, but it has shifted to a chess match as the leaders reach Ruby. Whose moves will pay off biggest is anyone's guess.March 6, 2014
Jeff King was first to Ruby on Thursday in the 2014 Iditarod but Sonny Lindner was not far behind. The two leaders were joined by Martin Buser later Thursday night.
Racing in fourth place was Aliy Zirkle who had yet to reach Ruby by 9:00 p.m.
Buser and Zirkle have taken their 24-hour mandatory stop. King and Lindner – prior to reaching Ruby – had not.
Throughout his administration, Gov. Sean Parnell has accused the Environmental Protection Agency of “overreaching” on Alaska affairs. Now, it looks like the EPA may have reached into Parnell’s own home. The Governor’s Mansion appears on a list of construction projects requiring EPA intervention for lead violations.
Lead poisoning is nasty business. It can cause headaches and seizures, and result in miscarriages. If you’re a child, the symptoms are especially bad.
“Lethargy. Inability to pay of attention. At high enough levels, it can cause death,” says Wallace Reid.
Reid works out of the EPA’s Seattle office, and his team handles investigations into lead violations. Because a lot of modern cases of lead exposure are caused by home repairs, the EPA implemented a rule in 2010 requiring contractors to be certified in lead paint removal if they’re working on a house that was built before 1978.
Like the Alaska Governor’s Mansion.
The building is a century old, and the state hired Alaska Commercial Contractors to restore the whole exterior a couple of years ago. And that meant removing lead paint, which the company was not certified to do at the time.
“We first became aware of it – this problem in Alaska – because of an anonymous tip and complaint that this work was going on and that there were problems associated with it,” says Reid.
Reid says that as soon as the EPA learned of the violation, they sent two inspectors to check the area for lead paint. They found paint chips on the lawn and on the street.
“When we do this kind of work, all of the lead paint chips and dust has to be maintained within a contained area,” says Reid. “In this case, it was not. And the company was not certified, and the employees were not trained. So those were fundamental violations of our rules.”
Because of the violations, Alaska Commercial Contractors ended up settling with the EPA for $32,000. Their subcontractor, Van Pool Painting, was also dinged $10,000. While the settlements were finalized in September, the EPA only recently made the violations public.
Alaska Commercial Contractors declined to do a taped interview for this story, because there are still outstanding legal questions related to the construction project. But in a written statement, company president Doug Courtney emphasized that Alaska Commercial Contractors cooperated fully with the EPA, and that they became certified in lead paint removal shortly after the incident.
So, why did the state hire a company that was not certified in lead paint removal in the first place?
When asked about that, Administration Commissioner Curtis Thayer declined an interview because of ongoing challenges related to the contract. At $1.5 million, Alaska Commercial Contractors was the highest bidder for the project, and two rival contractors whose bids came in under $1 million appealed the award. The Office of Administrative Hearings rejected both of those protests, but Silver Bow Construction is appealing the decision to the Alaska Supreme Court.
Alaska Commercial Contractors has also requested that the State pay out $150,000 to cover their EPA penalties and legal fees, because they allege that Department of Administration misled them on the scope of the project. The Department of Administration found no merit to that request in January, but the decision is subject to appeal.
Gov. Sean Parnell also declined repeated requests for an interview. Instead, his office referred questions to Larry Hartig, the commissioner of Environmental Conservation.
Hartig says his department’s involvement in the renovation problem was limited. They mostly helped the EPA get access to the governor’s home to make sure the lead paint didn’t pose a health hazard.
“Obviously, there was concerns about the safety of the governor’s family,” says Hartig. “And so they were interested in what was going on – we all were – in making sure that if there is an issue here that would impact the governor and his family, we wanted to be on top of that.”
Hartig says there was no real risk to the Parnell family. He says even the governor’s yellow Labrador, the most frequent user of the mansion’s backyard, was kept safe from lead exposure.
“Annie’s doing fine the last time I saw Annie.”
A former employee of the State Crime Lab in Anchorage has been charged with six felonies, including drug misconduct and tampering with evidence.
The Department of Law in says 53-year-old Stephen Palmer was arrested today.
He’s charged with scheme to defraud, drug misconduct and four counts of evidence tampering. He’s also charged with four misdemeanor counts of official misconduct.
Alaska State Troopers launched an investigation seven months ago after detecting irregularities in lab reference standards, the controlled samples of illegal drugs kept at the state crime lab.
Prosecutors say investigators also determined drug evidence was missing in cases worked by Palmer.
Prosecutors say they don’t believe the irregularities discovered in reference standards affected the validity of testing performed by other analysts.
Borough mayors are asking to be part of the discussions on terms related to a mega-liquefied natural gas project that will affect local communities.
An agreement signed by the state and companies pursuing the project says subject to consultation between the state and local governments, payments in lieu of property taxes would be paid by the companies.
The mayor of the Kenai Peninsula Borough, Mike Navarre, told the Senate Finance Committee that consultation is not a strong word.
The mayors are seeking greater assurances for the level of input they will have as the process moves forward.
The committee is weighing a bill that would make the state an equity partner and allow for the project to move into a phase of preliminary engineering and design.
Jeff King is resting at the Yukon river checkpoint of Ruby. The four time Iditarod champion is technically in the lead at this point, but Martin Buser, Aliy Zirkle and Robert Sorlie are closing in, and they’ve already completed their 24 hour layovers. Once teams leave Ruby, they’ll have a chance to take advantage of any remaining speed they have on the flat river miles ahead.
The United States and four other Arctic nations have tentatively agreed to prevent commercial fishing in the high Arctic.
The Canadian Press reports that Canada, Denmark, Norway, and Russia signed on to the ban after three days of meetings in Greenland last week. The measure was originally pitched by the United States, and it didn’t have support from Norway or Russia until now.
The details of the ban are still being worked out. But the basics are clear: The countries have to do more scientific research on Arctic fish stocks. In the meantime, they will not engage in commercial fishing in the Arctic Ocean outside their 200-mile exclusive economic zones.
In the United States, that area begins at the northern edge of Alaska. Fishing has already been banned within the American Arctic since 2009.
Because this new moratorium applies to international waters in the Arctic Ocean, there’s no guarantee that other countries will choose to honor it.
The next step is to get more nations on board beyond these five Arctic states. In a statement, the Arctic group said they plan to spend the rest of the year lobbying for broader support.
Kuskowkim fisherman are expected to face serious restrictions on subsistence salmon fishing this summer in efforts to bring more king salmon to the spawning grounds. With fishing closed possibly all of June, the working group is asking that dipnets be used selectively to harvest non-Chinook salmon.