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FDA Adds Alaska Salmon Testing To Radiation Monitoring Program

Alaska and Yukon Headlines - Tue, 2014-04-01 17:21

Alaska fish are being tested for radiation contamination from Japan’s leaking Fukushima Nuclear energy plant.

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The power plant was damaged during an earthquake three years ago and continues to releases radioactive water into the sea.

Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation State Director of Environmental Health Elaine Busse Floyd says samples of Alaska fish have been submitted to a Federal Food and Drug Administration testing program.

“We were able to just encourage the FDA to add 20 samples of Alaskan fish to their annual monitoring program to specifically look and test fish for radionuclides,” she said.

Floyd says each Alaska fish sample, is made up of multiple flesh samples from various species including halibut, pollock, sable fish and salmon, including Copper River and Bristol Bay stocks. The samples were sent to an F.D.A. testing lab in Massachusetts in March, the first time Alaska fish has been submitted for testing.

The action follows public concern that prompted the Fairbanks City Council and North Star Borough Assembly to pass resolutions last month urging the state and federal governments to investigate Fukushima radiation in Alaska. Assembly resolution sponsor John Davies pointed to history in advocating for more information.

“And the troubling thing is that this type of situation follows a pattern; it’s the same pattern that happened after Chernobyl, the same pattern than happened after Three Mile Island, and in fact going back to the atomic test days of the 50s,” he said.

Davies said in the previous incidents Alaskans found out about radiation issues after an initial lack of concern. He says a search for answers on the state website only yielded outdated information.

“But nothing, not data, specifically about Fukushima, and then we read that there are fish companies that are actually paying to have their samples tested because the market is beginning to tell them that they don’t trust,” Davies said.

The state’s Floyd points to federal testing of non-Alaska Pacific fish stocks as well as Alaska air, water and marine debris samples that have shown no significant levels of Fukushima radiation.

“But, I understand that the public feels if you can detect it, it might be an area of concern, but there’s a lot of misinformation and fear about radiation out there and, quite frankly, there’s more background radiation that we are around every day than what we’re at all getting from the Fukushima diasaster,” she said.

Floyd says results from Fukushima radiation testing of Alaska fish are expected back from the FDA in late April.

Study: Forecasts For Summer Arctic Sea Ice Lack Reliability

Alaska and Yukon Headlines - Tue, 2014-04-01 17:20

Year-to-year forecasts of summer Arctic Sea Ice extent aren’t reliable.  That’s according to a report out from the National Snow and Ice Data Center. But A two-day workshop that starts Tuesday in Colorado will focus on ways to improve sea ice extent predictions.

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Every year various groups set out to predict summer Arctic sea ice extent.  The information is useful for ship navigators, biologists who study marine mammals and scientists who consider sea ice a sensitive climate change indicator.  A new study finds that the forecasts aren’t always reliable.

“The wildcard really still is the summer weather patterns,” Julienne Stroeve, a Senior Research Scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center, said.

She and colleagues looked at more than 300 forecasts from the last six years.  She says improved summer weather predictions as well as satellite measurements of sea ice thickness and concentration could help forecasting.

“We don’t predict the summer weather yet and because of that the sea ice is still sensitive to what happens in the summer time which makes these predictions difficult during those anomalous years,” Stroeve said.

Arctic sea ice reaches its minimum extent in September. Stroeve says 2012 and 2013 were anomalous years when predictions fail.  She says that’s because the extent of the ice strayed from what has otherwise been accepted as a general downward trend since satellites started keeping track in 1979.

“It didn’t seem to matter so much as a group what method your were employing to do the sea ice forecasting,” Stroeve explained. “So, if you were using a statistical approach to forecast what the September ice extent would be, or if you used a model sophisticated modeling approach where you’re initializing sea ice atmospheric models with boundary conditions of where the ice is and what the atmosphere is, and then run those forward, those didn’t do any better.”

She says when forecasting takes place also doesn’t affect accuracy.

“The forecasts for what was going to happen in September also didn’t necessarily get any better if you initialized your forecast in June, July or August and I thought that was curious because you would think as the summer progresses, you update your forecast with the current ice conditions that probably you should do a bit better forecast for what’s going to happen in September.”

She says looking back at old forecasts could be helpful for future forecasts. ““You’d call that hindcast model evaluation so, go back in time and say ‘Well, would you have actually predicted the extent right if you had had all the relevant data that you needed, or is there a problem with the forecasting method itself?’”

Stroeve and colleagues are in Boulder this week for a Sea Ice Prediction workshop to discuss how to improve future forecasts.

Study Says Melting Permafrost Emitting More Carbon Than Tundra Can Offset

Alaska and Yukon Headlines - Tue, 2014-04-01 17:19

The Arctic is warming two to three times faster than the rest of the globe. As temperatures increase, permafrost melts, releasing carbon dioxide, and the growing season lengthens, absorbing CO2.

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However, a study being conducted by the Woods Hole Research Center and published in the journal Ecology, finds that the thawing permafrost emits more carbon dioxide than the tundra’s vegetation can offset.

Dr. Susan Natali is an Assistant Scientist at Woods Hole Research Center and the lead author on the study. She says permafrost covers one-fourth of the Northern Hemisphere’s land area and contains twice the amount of carbon than what currently exists in the atmosphere.

“So the permafrost thaw is putting us at risk, because even if a small portion of this carbon is released into the atmosphere, it’s a significant emission of greenhouse gases,” Natali said.

Natali says most models predicting future greenhouse gas totals do not account for emissions from permafrost. This research provides data on how this massive carbon sink reacts to rising temperatures.

“So our estimates of temperature changes as a result of human input from fossil fuels isn’t yet accounting for these additional carbon inputs that we may see from permafrost thaw,” Natali said. “And this is a really large pool of carbon.”

The permafrost acts as a carbon cache, because during the growing season, plants through photosynthesis remove CO2 from the atmosphere and store it in their tissue. At the end of the season, the plants die and freeze before they fully decay. So for tens of thousands of years, permafrost has been collecting this carbon-rich material.

As long as the permafrost stays frozen, the carbon remains locked. But when the permafrost thaws, microbes begin breaking down that organic matter, releasing CO2 and methane. As these greenhouse gases are emitted, more warming occurs, spurring more thawing and more decay. Dr. Richard Houghton is a Senior Scientist at Woods Hole. He says the cycle creates an amplifying system.

“Just think of it as a layer of organic matter and it’s frozen, not at the surface, but in the permafrost it’s frozen,” Houghton said. “And as you’re warming the earth, the warming keeps penetrating into deeper and deeper depths of this organic carbon. And so it’s a large source ready to be released over time.”

The research is in its fifth year on the Eight Mile Lake Watershed in Alaska’s Northern Interior.

‘Fairbikes’ To Open In Fairbanks

Alaska and Yukon Headlines - Tue, 2014-04-01 17:18

A bike share business plans to start operating in Fairbanks this summer. “Fairbikes” owner Jennifer Eskridge previewed what’s planned for the North Star Borough assembly last week.

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Board to Review Proposal Limiting King Salmon Fishing to Federally Qualified Subsistence Users

Alaska and Yukon Headlines - Tue, 2014-04-01 17:17

With salmon fishing just a few short months away, the Federal Subsistence Board will consider a special action request to limit king salmon harvest in the Kuskokwim drainage to federally qualified subsistence users.

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Steven Maxie is the tribal administrator for the Napaskiak Traditional Council, the group that made the request. They are asking for the change because of the anticipated strict king salmon closures.

“Well it will give us hope, all this winter, we are hearing there’s going to be pretty good restrictions, that there won’t be much open opportunity for subsistence fishing for Chinook. It creates hopelessness for the people,” Maxie said.

Federally qualified subsistence users are people who are residents of rural communities and live in a community or area with a customary and traditional use determination. In this case, they must live in the Kuskokwim River fishery management area. Maxie says the people here are the ones whose livelihood depends on king salmon.

“We don’t need people coming in from the big cites or the state coming in to participate because during these conservation measures, we should focus on local people to harvest our Chinook. We’ll share it, but we want to try this,” Maxie said.

The tribe also wants to have what is known as a section 804 analysis, named from the portion of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, or ANILCA that can determine how to restrict the resource further among subsistence users. It depends on three criteria: customary and direct dependence upon king salmon as the mainstay of livelihood, local residency, and the availability of alternative resources.

The proposal will first go to the Yukon Kuskokwim Regional Advisory Council for a recommendation. The Federal Subsistence board can then take up the request. The Office of Subsistence Management is currently analyzing the proposal with partner agencies.

There will be a regional advisory council meeting at 10am on April 7th at Yuut Elitnaurviak to discuss the proposal and a public hearing, at 1pm on April 8th.

The board is also accepting comments.

Fax: (907) 786-3333
E-mail: subsistence@fws.gov.

April Fools: Balloons Are Future Of Brown Bear Relocation

Alaska and Yukon Headlines - Tue, 2014-04-01 17:16

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Residents in Alaska’s largest city are distressed by the increasing human/bear encounters in Anchorage parks, along the coastal trail and area streams. In the lead up to salmon spawning in local waterways, an Anchorage biologist is working on a brown bear relocation program. Dr. Robert Bastic has developed a plan that will safely take bears away from the heavy population of Anchorage while also providing a unique tourism experience. The method? Hot air balloons.

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Townsend – Hi, Bob.

BASTIC – Hi Lori. Thanks for having me.

TOWNSEND – How did you come up with this idea?

BASTIC – The idea hit me while watching these hot air balloons carrying passengers above the low mountains near Temecula California. It’s such a gentle ride, I realized you could dart a bear, strap it into a sling harness, lift off and relocate them far into the wilderness of the Chugach Mountains where they won’t bother humans and be at risk of being put down as a nuisance.

TOWNSEND – Where does the tourism element come in to this concept?

BASTIC – That’s actually one of the best parts! Tourists would pay to be part of the relocation effort, staying safely away from the bear until it’s sleeping soundly. Then, while the bear is being moved they would have tremendous photo opportunities from the air as they travel over the city and into the wilderness for the bear drop off. It would be built in to the budget to sustain the program.

TOWNSEND –What would your start up costs be and where will the money come from?

BASTIC – We’re hoping to get some funding from the legislature. Anchorage based lawmakers are desperate to find a solution to this bear encounter problem in the city. And then we’re developing a kick starter campaign. We’ll need about 300,000 to get a large enough balloon, the harness and other equipment.

TOWNSEND – Dr. Bastic, It sounds a bit farfetched. Have you ever heard of a similar effort for animal relocation?

BASTIC – Well, few people realize that this was the original plan for Maggie the elephant, when she was going to relocate to the elephant sanctuary in California. But the lift required was considered too much for most hot air balloons, so the expense got out of hand and the military stepped in and offered a plane to take her instead.

TOWNSEND – So, really, there’s been nothing like this?

BOB BASTIC – Well, no, but Alaska is a pioneering and innovative place! It’s really quite perfect. Hot Air balloons can only operate in cool conditions, if the air gets too warm they don’t work properly so when the bears wake up, we’ll be ready to dart them, harness them in the sling and take them a few hours away into the wilderness and return in ideal, cool air temperature conditions for maximum balloon lift. And most of the cost will be offset by enthusiastic tourists and their kids wanting pictures with a cute, sleeping bear. Really – what could go wrong?

TOWNSEND – Yes, really, what could. Thank you Dr. Bastic, we’ll watch the skies over Anchorage later this spring.

BASTIC – Thank you Lori. We hope the inaugural trip will happen sometime in May.

TOWNSEND – Dr. Robert Bob Bastic is leading the effort to relocate brown bears out of Anchorage by hot air balloon. There’s not more information at our website because it’s April Fool’s day people.

Jury hears of grisly murder scene at Coast Guard base on Kodiak Island

Alaska and Yukon Headlines - Tue, 2014-04-01 16:45
Jury hears of grisly murder scene at Coast Guard base on Kodiak Island Alaska State Trooper Dennis Dupras said nothing inside was disturbed, “except for the victims.” He did not spot signs of a struggle.April 1, 2014

The U.S. Geological Survey is reporting a 8.0 magnitude earthquake off Chile. No...

Facebook Feed - Tue, 2014-04-01 16:23
The U.S. Geological Survey is reporting a 8.0 magnitude earthquake off Chile. No reports of tsunami warnings yet, but we'll keep you updated.

Summary - M8.0 - 79km WNW of Iquique, Chile 2014-04-01 23:46:48 UTC
USGS Earthquake Hazards Program, responsible for monitoring, reporting, and researching earthquakes and earthquake hazards

Massive Quake Off Chile Triggers Tsunami Warning

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-01 16:21

The United States Geological Survey says the quake measured 8.2. Chile ordered an evacuation of its coastal areas.

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A timeless prank turns 40

Southeast Alaska News - Tue, 2014-04-01 16:15

Despite his reputation as a prankster, Porky Bickar was civic-minded. He alerted local authorities to the prank — with the notable exception of the Coast Guard, which sent a plane from Juneau.

The Museum of Hoaxes puts it at number 16 on the list of Top 100 April Fools Hoaxes of All-Time.

The Eruption of the Mt. Edgecumbe Volcano was staged in Sitka 40 years ago today, on April 1, 1974. The prank was orchestrated by Porky Bickar and a group of co-conspirators known as the “Dirty Dozen,” using a helicopter and two sling loads of old tires. KCAW’s Robert Woolsey produced the following piece in 2009, to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the hoax.

Listen to iFriendly audio.

The Harlem Hellfighters: Fighting Racism In The Trenches Of WWI

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-01 15:58

The Harlem Hellfighters broke barriers as the first African-American infantry unit to fight in World War I. Their story is retold in a new graphic novel written by Max Brooks, author of World War Z.

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Parnell Signs Law Excluding Homer Harbor From Habitat Area

Alaska and Yukon Headlines - Tue, 2014-04-01 15:30

The Kachemak Bay Critical Habitat Area just became a little bit smaller. Governor Sean Parnell signed a bill into law Tuesday that excludes the Port and Harbor of Homer from the habitat area.

Under the new law, the harbor is excluded from the Kachemak Bay Critical Habitat Area (Photo by Aaron Selbig, KBBI – Homer)

Senator Peter Micciche and Homer Representative Paul Seaton say the bill had their support. Seaton says the previous boundaries of the critical habitat area, which included parts of the Homer harbor, were most likely the result of a mistake. When officials with the state Department of Natural Resources first drew up the boundaries, Seaton says they used already-established section lines, which had the unintended consequence of including the outer part of the harbor, including the Deepwater Dock.

Seaton says the new map will keep established industrial areas on the east side of the Homer Spit, from the Deepwater Dock north to the barge basin, out of the critical habitat area.

In a news release Wednesday, Parnell said the law is about “recognizing the balance between jobs and environmental protection.”

Parnell pointed out that Homer is the only year-round ice free, deep water port in Cook Inlet.   The Homer harbor has been designated as a Port of Refuge by the U.S. Coast Guard and maintains the assets required to improve marine safety, respond to emergencies at sea and to enhance environmental protection.

The Kachemak Bay Critical Habitat Area was created in 1976. Its management plan forbids all oil exploration vessels from operating in the bay.

Ketchikan women remember life in the 1950s

Southeast Alaska News - Tue, 2014-04-01 15:24

From left, Cathy Bellon, Ernestine Henderson, Kathy Bolling, Elinore Jacobsen and Alaire Stanton. Photo by Lois Munch

Last week, in celebration of Women’s History Month, the University of Alaska Southeast Ketchikan Campus Library hosted a panel of women who moved to Ketchikan in the 1950s. They talked about how they arrived, what life was like at that time, the different jobs they held and the social scene.

On the panel were Cathy Bellon, Ernestine Henderson, Elinore Jacobsen and Alaire Stanton. A packed audience filled the university library for the talk, and some in the audience joined the conversation.

Bellon said she moved here in 1955. Her husband was a city police officer, and had a habit of buying boats. The two also worked in the commercial fishing industry, and later owned one of Ketchikan now historic bars.

“He said stick with me and we’ll go places,” she said. “I never dreamed it would be the Potlatch Bar.”

Henderson, a retired clerk of court, officiated at countless weddings over the years. Her mother-in-law owned June’s Café, and her husband worked in construction.

Lois Munch talks with Cathy Bellon and Ernestine Henderson before the panel discussion.

Henderson worked at “Mother June’s” restaurant for a while, then at the Stedman Hotel, owned by Gordon Zerbetz. This was back when many women didn’t work outside the home, and Henderson’s husband decided she shouldn’t either.

“So I gave Gordon Zerbetz about three months (worth of) two-weeks’ notice, and he would never hire anyone,” she said. “So finally I just didn’t show up for work. He didn’t want me to quit! I was enjoying it, but my husband said no, absolutely you can’t do that.”

Henderson got back into the job marker later, though, and worked many years for the state before retiring.

Elinore Jacobsen is a retired nurse, who worked at the old health center and hospital, which both were downtown. She also would fly out to remote communities to provide health care for people who couldn’t afford to come to Ketchikan.

“I would sort of screen the patients and get a general, and then categorize them,” she said. “That was really an interesting experience and something I think the State of Alaska did and should have done for those individuals who had no access to health care.”

Alaire Stanton is a former city mayor, City Council member and Pioneers Home director, among her other volunteer positions. She moved to Ketchikan in 1954. She was 18, recently married and her husband had just been hired at the brand-new pulp mill. She also was pregnant.

“During the first summer, there was hardly any movement back and forth between the West End and downtown because they were reconstructing Water Street,” she said. “When I had to go to the doctor for my appointments because I was pregnant, I had to walk from basically the Lutheran Church down to the MBA Building. And that was a very cumbersome

Elinore Jacobsen and Alaire Stanton.

way to get downtown because often it was a couple planks alongside a building. It was a frontier experience that first summer.”

While not one of the panelists, Gerry Gnasiak is another 1950s arrival. She joined the conversation, and talked a little about the racial divide that she experienced here in the 50s.

“I was probably the only multi-racial person on the island when I arrived here,” she said. “There was a divide. And there never is a divide that’s pretty. It was pretty ugly in some cases.”

Henderson, who is African American, said she never noticed any racism in Ketchikan at that time. Stanton noted that there was another kind of division, centered on the pulp mill.

“There were a lot of old-timers in the town, including the merchants, who never really accepted the mill people until 1965, when the mill workers went on strike and the money dried up at the merchants,” she said. “And then they realized what an impact the mill workers had on this town.”

On a lighter note, the women recalled how they adjusted to life in Alaska’s First City. Henderson said she bought the equivalent of a rain jacket for the baby stroller, so she could walk with her kids in Ketchikan’s typical downpours.

Knasiak remembered a lesson in footwear that she immediately learned.

“I arrived in 3-inch heels, a suit, a hat and gloves,” she said. “That’s the way we did it. It was 1955, and the streets were planked, I got off and the first thing I did I caught my heel and pitched forward. Happily there was a guy in back of me and he caught my coat, or I would have been toothless.”

Knasiak says she never wore 3-inch heels again.

Listen to the full panel discussion below.

Congress Sends Ukraine Aid, Russia Sanctions Bill To White House

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-01 15:12

After weeks of wrangling and in a rare show of bipartisanship, Congress approved a bill calling for $1 billion in aid to Ukraine and new sanctions on Russia over its annexation of Crimea.

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School For Making Toast: The Best Food Fooling 2014

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-01 15:07

The San Francisco Cooking School invited us to explore the "wonder" of sliced bread, and perfect techniques for light to extra dark toast. Would you pay to learn the secrets of fancy toast?

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Why Is Guinea's Ebola Outbreak So Unusual?

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-01 15:05

The virus does not typically spread as far afield as it has in Guinea — and that makes it much harder to stop.

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AK Beat: Man charged after dead black bear discovered in thawing snow near Juneau

Alaska and Yukon Headlines - Tue, 2014-04-01 14:56
AK Beat: Man charged after dead black bear discovered in thawing snow near Juneau A 36-year-old Southeast Alaska man is charged with taking big game in a closed area after he allegedly shot a black bear with a bow last fall before it wandered into a neighbor's yard and died, only to be revealed by melting snow come spring.April 1, 2014

Done with hockey, soccer, Kelter, Clifford join women’s rugby team going to China

Alaska and Yukon Headlines - Tue, 2014-04-01 14:56
Done with hockey, soccer, Kelter, Clifford join women’s rugby team going to China The last time they were teammates, Alev Kelter and Lorrie Clifford were at Chugiak High School in 2009April 1, 2014

‘We do not have to be the lemmings going over the cliff’

Alaska and Yukon Headlines - Tue, 2014-04-01 14:19
Yukon Energy’s plans for a new $42-million back-up generating plant using natural gas to power the engines was thoroughly thrashed at Monday night’s public meeting.

City planners recommend against rezoning

Alaska and Yukon Headlines - Tue, 2014-04-01 14:16
City planners are recommending council bring forward second reading of a bylaw which would rezone a property on 14th Avenue to allow a live-in suite, but only so the rezoning can be defeated.

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