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Alaska News Nightly: January 2, 2014

Alaska and Yukon Headlines - Thu, 2014-01-02 18:22

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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Exxon, Chevron Make Big Contributions To Preserve New Oil Tax Law

Alexandra Guiterrez, APRN – Juneau

Exxon and Chevron have made major contributions to a campaign that wants to preserve a controversial oil tax law that passed this year, according to recent filings with the Alaska Public Offices Commission.

New Energy Politics Changes Likely To Affect Alaska

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington DC

In Washington, at both the White House and in Congress, 2014 brings changes to the politics of energy that are likely to affect Alaska.

CH2M Hill Selected to Rescue Anchorage Port Project

Daysha Eaton, KSKA – Anchorage

The Engineering firm CH2M Hill has been selected to manage the troubled Port of Anchorage project. The project was shut down after construction problems a few years ago and remains tied up in lawsuits, but today officials said it could be back on track again this year.

Legislative Task Force Clashes Over Education Funding

Alexandra Guiterrez, APRN – Juneau

Members of a legislative task force clashed over funding as they worked on a blueprint for addressing education in Alaska.

New Mat-Su Trooper Unit Gets First Arrests

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

A new Alaska State Trooper crime unit in the Matanuska Susitna Borough area has already nabbed its first criminals.  In mid December, Troopers announced a new property crimes unit, to start work on January first of this year.

Expansion Planned For Nome Graveyard

Zachariah Hughes, KNOM – Nome

A recent draft report prepared by the Fairbanks-based company Northern Land Use Research Alaska found what is likely about a hundred unmarked graves in Nome’s cemetery. The company conducted a Ground Penetrating Radar Analysis of the areas around Nome’s existent graveyard as part of a planned expansion for the grounds. Josie Bahnke is Nome’s city manager and says the cemetery expansion is steadily moving forward.

Alaska Air National Guard Finds Missing Snowmachiner

Dave Bendinger, KDLG – Dillingham

The Alaska Air National Guard was called to Bristol Bay Wednesday night to help look for an overdue snowmachiner from Koliganek.

Climate Change, Arctic Activity Expected To Multiply Pollutant Concentrations

Anna Rose MacArthur, KNOM – Nome

Climate change and increased Arctic activity are projected to offset declines in toxic human emissions. A recent study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology predicts warmer temperatures will cause contaminants stored in the earth to re-emit back into the atmosphere. In addition, increases in Arctic vessel traffic and oil and gas drilling will multiply pollutant concentrations.

‘Targeted Hunt’ Aims For Moose Near Roadways

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

Matanuska – Susitna Borough drivers run down hundreds of moose each year on their travels to and from Anchorage.  Now a special hunt, called a “targeted hunt” allows winter hunting to reduce the number of moose near roadways.  The hunt was established by the state Board of Game in 2011.

Yukon Commercial Fishermen May Be Able To Use Purse Seine Gear

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

As fish managers attempted preserve the Yukon River king salmon last summer, commercial chum fisherman tried out some new gear. They used dip nets and beach seine gear by emergency order during the many king salmon closures. They brought in nearly 200,000 fish, but some say that’s not enough for their income, or for the future of the fishery.

CH2M Hill Selected to Rescue Anchorage Port Project

Alaska and Yukon Headlines - Thu, 2014-01-02 18:03

The Engineering firm CH2M Hill has been selected to manage the troubled Port of Anchorage project. The project was shutdown after construction problems a few years ago and remains tied up in lawsuits. but today officials said it could be on track again this year.

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Photo by Daysha Eaton, KSKA – Anchorage.

The role of the project manager will be to oversee the day-to-day operations of the construction project moving forward, setting timelines and benchmarks and selecting and supervising the work of subcontractors. CH2M Hill will not be involved in designing or building the port.

On the top floor of city Hall, Mayor Dan Sullivan said over the past few years his administration has been working to do several things:

“Determine what went wrong with construction; who’s responsible for what went wrong; what is the best path forward, including a review of the design parameters,” Sullivan said. “And then going forward putting together a team to make sure that as this project proceeds into the future that we’ve got the right team on board.”

The right team, Mayor Sullivan said is from CH2M Hill, a Colorado-based engineering firm with offices in Anchorage. The port project was started back in 2003 under Mayor George Wuersch and Port Director Bill Sheffield. The Design was approved in 2006 Under Mayor Mark Begich.

The Sullivan administration has led the push to get the Municipality reimbursed for it’s losses.

The U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administration managed the previous project. CH2M Hill released a report earlier this year saying the previous project had failed because of a patented ‘open cell sheet pile’ design that crumpled or separated during construction. CH2M Hill purchased the now defunct Veco Corporation, which was involved in the work that had the problems and is now party to a lawsuit by city. But Mayor Sullivan says that won’t be a problem.

“We think we can compartmentalize that lawsuit,” Sullivan said. “Again it goes back to Veco before they were acquired by CH2M Hill. So we’re confident that we’ll be able to keep the lawsuit separate from any progress going forward on the construction and design.”

Sullivan says the next steps will be selecting a new design, and contractors to build it. CH2M Hill was selected Sullivan says, for their expertise and experience in building ports in areas with seismic activity.

Stacey Jones, a vice president with CH2M Hill who will lead the team says unlike the Maritime Administration, which was criticized for managing the project from afar, CH2M Hill will work closely with the Port of Anchorage, setting up and Anchorage office right in the Port to develop the new project.

“I believe one of the reasons that CH2M Hill was selected is because of extensive experience in managing projects,” Jones said. “We are ranked number one in the U.S. for project management as well as environmental management. We have the skills and the tools and the expertise to do this.”

She added that the previous ‘open cell sheet pile’ design will not be used again but did not specify what design her firm favors. The contract with CH2M Hill is for 30 million dollars over five years with the option for two extensions at 12 more million dollars each.

Design and and engineering work is anticipated to take 18-months to two years with construction likely beginning again in 2016. The selection of CH2M Hill will go before the Anchorage Assembly for approval at it’s Jan. 14tmeeting.

The municipality has been investigating problems with the port project since they arose 2009. They’ve spent upwards of 300 million public dollars on the project so far and are requesting 100 million more from the legislature this year.

Commentary – John Murgas highlights committee discussion of senior sales tax exemption

Southeast Alaska News - Thu, 2014-01-02 17:56

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Consortium Threatens To Pull Plug On Panama Canal Expansion

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-02 17:43

Grupo Unidos por el Canal, made up of Spanish, Italian, Belgian and Panamanian firms, says it will halt work if it doesn't get paid for $1.6 billion in cost overruns in the next three weeks.

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Medicaid Expansion Boosted Emergency Room Visits In Oregon

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-02 16:50

If people have insurance coverage, the theory went, they won't end up in the emergency room as often. But an analysis of Oregon's expansion of Medicaid found that people who gained coverage were 40 percent more likely to go to the emergency room.

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KIC admins sign complaint against Tribal Council

Southeast Alaska News - Thu, 2014-01-02 16:43

In late November, 11 senior administrators at Ketchikan Indian Community sent a letter of complaint to the KIC Tribal Council, alleging violations of tribal ordinances.

The letter claims that some members of the Tribal Council have interfered with personnel matters, including demanding access to confidential information and encouraging employees to circumvent the chain of command. It also alleges that some Tribal Council members have harassed KIC employees, interfered with the operation of KIC programs and issued directives to senior management that were outside of tribal law.

The letter doesn’t provide any details or examples of those alleged violations, but it demands that Tribal Council members adhere to all of KIC’s ordinances, uphold their oaths of office, and remove two Tribal Council members: Andre Lecornu and Norman Arriola. The letter claims that those two members have continually violated tribal regulations.

When reached by phone, Arriola declined to comment for this story. Lecornu did not return a message seeking comment.

The Nov. 22 letter also states that if action was not taken by the Tribal Council, those who signed it would make public their accusations.

The letter was sent anonymously to KRBD, postmarked Dec. 30. It’s signed by Camille Booth, director of KIC’s Southern Southeast Alaska Technical Education Center; Education Director John Brown; Interim Health Administrator Steve Hudson; Housing Authority Director Bonnie Newman; Social Services Director Sue Pickrell; IT Director Rod Short; Medical Director Rachel Cuevas; Youth Coordinator Sonya Skan; and Nursing Director Joan Strutz-Ozan.

The letter also was signed by the former Human Resources Director Colleen Scanlon; and former KIC interim Tribal Administrator Arlene Dilts-Jackson. Scanlon is no longer a KIC employee, and in early December, Dilts-Jackson was replaced by Charles Edwardson.

Dilts-Jackson returned to her job as the KIC transportation director.

Scanlon declined to comment for this story. Dilts-Jackson did not return messages seeking comment. Neither did other administrators who had signed the letter nor Tribal Council President Irene Dundas.

Edwardson initially agreed to speak on the record for this story. However, he did not show up for a scheduled interview Thursday afternoon.

The KIC Tribal Council has eight members. The annual election is this month. Four seats are up for election, and are currently held by Lecornu, Delores Churchill, Donna Frank and Rob Sanderson.

KIC is a federally recognized tribe. It was incorporated in 1940, and runs numerous local programs, primarily serving Alaska Native residents. Its largest programs are the health clinic, vocational training center and housing authority.

Foes in court, friends in port? Anchorage hires CH2M Hill to oversee stalled project

Alaska and Yukon Headlines - Thu, 2014-01-02 16:30
Foes in court, friends in port? Anchorage hires CH2M Hill to oversee stalled project The Municipality of Anchorage has chosen a company to oversee work at its beleaguered port, but it's also a company Anchorage is suing over work already done on the project.January 2, 2014

More changes for Sealaska leadership.

Facebook Feed - Thu, 2014-01-02 12:30
More changes for Sealaska leadership.


Kookesh to step down as Sealaska board chair
www.ktoo.org
The company also announced the deadline to apply for its president and CEO position, as Chris McNeil prepares to retire.

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