Individual news stories are posted on the APRN news page. You can subscribe to APRN’s newsfeeds via email, podcast and RSS. Follow us on Facebook at alaskapublic.org and on Twitter @aprnDownload AudioKuskokwim Fishers: Stop Commercial Openings, Call in FedsDaysha Eaton, KYUK-BethelThe Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Working Group wants the state to end to all commercial openings for the remainder of the summer. The say despite unmet subsistence needs the state has allowed commercial salmon openings. Some upriver fishermen are fed up with the state, and want the Federal Subsistence Board to manage the river from here on out.Community Protests Enstar Rate VolatilityAnne Hillman, KSKA-AnchorageCommunity members packed the hearing room of the Regulatory Commission of Alaska Wednesday morning in Anchorage. They pushed for consistent gas pricing from Enstar in response to a recent big jump in rates.Judge Rules In Favor of Commercial Set Netting BanAlexander Gutierrez, APRN-JuneauA superior court judge has ruled in favor of an initiative to ban commercial set netting for salmon in urban areas. Earlier this year, Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell blocked the initiative sponsors from collecting signatures to appear on the ballot, based on a recommendation from the Department of Law that the measure would qualify as an unconstitutional appropriation. The state also argued that such an initiative would count as an allocation to sport fishermen and that it would erode the power of the Board of Fisheries.State Releases New Guidelines for Mercury and FishJoaquin Palomino, KSKA-AnchorageThe state Epidemiology office has released a new mercury contamination risk determination for Alaska fish. The new guideline basically increases the number of Alaskan fish that they say can be eaten safely and without restriction. Ali Hamade, Environmental Public Health Manager for the state, says Alaska fish has a lot going for it.Arctic Birds Show More Signs of MercuryThea Card, KDLG-DillinghamA new study from the journal Waterbirds shows there’s an increasing amount of mercury occurring in birds in Alaska’s Arctic coast.Canadian Environmental Officials Give OK to Mine NE of KetchikanEd Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska-JuneauCanadian environmental officials just gave provisional approval to a controversial mine planned for an area northeast of Ketchikan. Their counterparts in British Columbia have done the same.New App Out for Cup’ik LanguageCharles Enoch, KYUK-BethelThe Cup’ik language is about to get its biggest audience yet. A new app has been developed to help Cup’ik students learn their language and show it off to the world.Dee Daniels Teaching Jazz to Fine Arts CampersRobert Woolsey, KCAW-SitkaThe Dee Daniels Vocal Jazz Workshop is underway this week in Sitka. For the last two years, Daniels has interrupted her touring and teaching schedule to live at the Sitka Fine Arts Camp, and coach a half-dozen students of widely-ranging ages and ability.
The University of Alaska Anchorage released a comprehensive prioritization report Wednesday examining both academic and support functions.Download Audio:Two task forces were assembled to take an in-depth look at every program and function at the university.One group focused on the academic side of things, while the other investigated support functions.Their goal: to determine which programs align with UAA’s mission, which one’s don’t, and which ones need an even closer look.Academic Task Force Report (PDF)Programs like Alaska Native Studies, Art, English, and Women’s Studies are ranked high, while ones like Economics, Political Science, and Music landed in the lower categories.UAA Vice Chancellor Bill Spindle says just because a program was identified as a low priority doesn’t necessarily mean it is facing imminent cuts.“All it means if you’re in one of these lower categories is we’re gonna do further review,” Spindle said. “We may determine by the further review that my gosh, we keep you where you are, we need to add stuff to you.”“We may realize that we can combine this with something else, but we’re gonna take a thorough look.”Spindle says one thing the reports have made clear is the breadth of programs and functions offered at UAA.“It’s like a small city,” he said. “We take care of everything here; from a police force, to a maintenance organization, to facilities, grounds keeping.”“Everything you can think of that goes on in a municipality, we do here.”Support Task Force Report (PDF)The task forces reviewed over 300 academic programs and nearly 180 support functions.Though the administration is still reviewing all of the information, Spindle says the task forces’ recommendations have given the university a good starting point.“What this report has done for us is it gives us a clear mandate for change,” Spindle said. “We can look and see, where do we want to head from here?”That’s the big question for the university. And Spindle says it’s one they can’t quite answer yet.University officials expect to have a plan on how to move forward by December. And changes stemming from that plan could begin as soon as next summer.
Download AudioThe licensed captains and officers who navigate Alaska Marine Highway System vessels have rejected a tentative contract agreement with the state.
Stories are posted on the APRN news page. You can subscribe to APRN’s newsfeeds via email, podcast and RSS. Follow us on Facebook at alaskapublic.org and on Twitter @aprnDownload AudioTour Bus Rollover on the Parks Highway Results in One Fatality Phillip Manning, KTNA – TalkeetnaA tour bus rollover near Mile 173 of the Parks Highway has resulted in at least one fatality. Alaska State Troopers say the report of the rollover came in just after 8:00 a.m. Friday.Kiana Teacher Arrested on Missouri Child Sex Abuse Charges Matthew Smith, KNOM – NomeA Missouri man who spent the last four years teaching throughout Western Alaska has been arrested on charges of sexually abusing his adopted daughter—and is alleged to have subjected his other adopted children to “years of physical abuse and neglect.”Huge Increase For Healthcare.gov Insurance Rates In Alaska Annie Feidt, APRN – AnchorageAlaskans who buy health insurance on the Affordable Care Act marketplace will have to pay a lot more next year. The state Division of Insurance says consumers can expect an increase of more than 30% on average for coverage.Snow Falls In Near Tok Dan Bross, KUAC – FairbanksThis week’s cooling trend brought snow to the Alaska Range.Mayor Calls For Federal Review of Fairbanks Four Case Dan Bross, KUAC – FairbanksThe mayor of the city of Fairbanks is calling for federal review of long questioned murder convictions of 4 Native men. The mayor joins numerous leaders and groups pressing for review of the Fairbanks Four case.Reaction to Alaska Voting Rights RulingDaysha Eaton, KYUK – BethelPlaintiffs in a voting rights lawsuit are reacting to news that a Federal Court Judge has ruled in their favor. Wednesday a judge ruled that the State of Alaska violated the Voting Rights Act by failing to provide translations into Native languages.Foundation Swoops in to Save Sacred Alaskan Artifacts at Auction Lisa Phu, KTOO – JuneauAs early as the 1700s, European visitors and explorers in Alaska wrongly took objects that were sacred and important to the indigenous people. Several of these items were set to be auctioned off in Paris last December, despite protest from tribal groups. It was a done deal, until an anonymous buyer stepped in.AK: Military TrainingMonica Gokey, KSKA – AnchorageIn a forested area outside of Fairbanks, the U.S. Army operates a remote facility where military servicemen and women train in a cold, mountainous environment. It’s called the Northern Warfare Training Center. And in August, they hosted an elite unit of Army Rangers.300 Villages: Edna BayThis week we’re heading to Edna Bay, a tiny community on its own large island near Prince of Wales Island. Myla Poelstra is the treasurer for Edna Bay.
About 800 Alaska Court System employees will be forced to take two days unpaid leave around the holidays — a result of state budget cuts.Download Audio:For more about Alaska’s possible government shutdown and layoffs, visit the 360 North government shutdown page.Except for emergency business, the court system will be closed the day after Thanksgiving, Friday, Nov. 27, and Christmas Eve, a Thursday, says spokeswoman Mara Rabinowitz. They’re typically light work days.Court employees aren’t affected by the executive branch layoff notices mailed Monday.Dimond Court Building in downtown Juneau. (File photo by Matt Miller/KTOO)
The University of Alaska Fairbanks has announced it will cut $20 million from its budget this upcoming year.The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports that some of the cuts come from 150 eliminated positions, reduced campus services and widespread consolidation. The detailed budget plans were released Wednesday.UAF academic programs plan to slash 68.5 full-time positions, as well as 17 teaching assistants and adjunct faculty jobs. UAF spokeswoman Marmian Grimes says students will likely see more crowded classrooms and fewer duplicate offerings of required introductory courses.The cuts come as the greater University of Alaska system faces declining state funding.This is the third year UAF has dealt with major budget gaps, which now total more than $42 million.
(Google Maps)State troopers have concluded an on scene investigation but still have not released details as to what led to a young boy’s shooting death in Kokhanok over the weekend. Kokhanok is a village of about 160 people on the south shore of Iliamna Lake.Five-year-old Kadin Mann was accidentally shot Saturday, according to troopers, and flown to Anchorage for medical care. He died there Sunday.Troopers, including a member of the Alaska Bureau of Investigation, were on scene, apparently using specialized equipment. They’ve not said how Mann was killed or who fired the gun.A GoFundMe account set up Sunday to help the family with funeral arrangements has raised more than $4500.Mental health counselors are meeting today with students and the community members dealing with the tragedy.
What does rural healthcare in Alaska have to do with jobs? A lot, according to The Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation. The regional healthcare provider is opposing the Donlin Gold mine. And a big part of an anti-Donlin resolution the corporation passed last month focuses on the potential for jobs to leave the region if the mine is developed.Download AudioDonlin runway and camp site in summer 2014. (Photo by Dean Swope, KYUK – Bethel)In 2010 a group from YKHC and state officials hopped in a boat to tour the Kuskokwim villages closest to the Donlin site. They wanted to see how the mine could affect the region’s health. One of the travelers was Dr. Joseph Klejka, YKHC’s Corporate Medical Director.“It was a very interesting trip, a lot of surprising information, not what we thought people would say,” Klejka said.Klejka said villagers were worried about losing people to urban areas if the mine opened. They had already lost some people during the mine’s exploration phase between 1996 to 2010 when the mine hired about 300 locals.“Once they had a salary, they moved to Anchorage,” Klejka said. “Because it didn’t matter where they lived, the mine would pay for them to come in and out for the job.”Klejka said the health corporation wants to improve living conditions for the region. It wants to see basic amenities like running water and flush toilets in every village. But improvements like that require local money. Klejka says if that money and the people earning it leave, that has a big impact on the villages.“You leave behind the very young and the very old who are more of a drain on our system,” Klejka said.But Maver Carey, President and CEO of the The Kuskokwim Corporation, said people have been moving out of the region for years, regardless of whether or not Donlin’s camp has been operating.“We’ve seen a huge increase of people leaving the region and moving to the Anchorage area,” Carey said.TKC owns the surface rights to the mine and serves as the native corporation for 10 villages along the middle Kuskokwim. Carey said when the mine’s exploration phase began about 20 years ago, half of TKC shareholders lived in the region. Last year, that number dropped to a third.TKC doesn’t know why they left, but the native corporation’s priority is to help its shareholders, which it sees the mine doing. Carey said where those shareholders live is up to them.“It’s the individual’s responsibility to determine where they want their family to live,” Carey said. “It’s not up to us to dictate to anybody that they should stay in the region.”The Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation isn’t just worried about losing people. It’s also concerned about losing subsistence resources to possible mining hazards like mercury and cyanide.Carey with The Kuskokwim Corporation says those fears are unfounded. She said their elders partly chose the Kuskokwim land for its minerals when forming the corporation, and responsibly extracting the minerals can co-exist with the subsistence lifestyle.“Responsibly is the key word. Responsibly developing our land is going to benefit our shareholders over time,” Carey said.But YKHC Board Chairman Esai Twitchell said the risks to that land outweigh possible benefits.“What we do right now, what we do today affects the next generation or the generations after that that live in our region,” Twitchell said. “They’re going to be here when we’re long gone.”The mine expects to provide about 3,000 jobs during construction and 1,000 during operation.
The Alaska Permanent Fund Corp.’s exterior sign. A judge ruled in favor of the corporation and upheld Gov. Bill Walker’s veto of half of dividend funding. (Photo by Skip Gray, 360 North)Governor Bill Walker’s veto of half the Permanent Fund dividend money will stand for now. A judge found Thursday that Walker had the authority to cut the money.Listen Now In a lawsuit, Sen. Bill Wielechowski sought to reverse Gov. Walker’s veto of $666 million. He argued in court that the constitutional amendment establishing the Permanent Fund also allowed the legislature to dedicate money that governors can’t veto.But Anchorage Superior Court Judge William Morse said there’s no record that lawmakers wanted to eliminate gubernatorial power to veto parts of the budget. In an exchange with Wielechowski, Morse said that if they wanted to make such a big change, they would have said something about it.“You’re telling me that what they secretly were trying to do was eliminate the governor’s veto authority – but they never mentioned that,” Morse said.Wielechowski replied: “It wasn’t a secret, your honor. We think it’s very clear that if the legislature’s allowed to dedicate funds for a specific purpose, then it just naturally flows from that.”Walker’s veto cut the dividend from $2,052 per Alaskan to $1,022.Walker said the decision was painful, yet necessary to preserve dividends into the future, and to help close the state’s budget gap.Opponents said the state should cut the gap in other ways – such as raising oil and gas taxes or cutting more state spending – before considering a PFD cut.Assistant Attorney General Margaret Paton-Walsh defended Walker’s position. She said that other than money set aside for the Permanent Fund itself, the legislature appropriates all state spending each year, including the Permanent Fund dividends. And the governor can veto any of that money.“I mean, the reality is the legislature has been appropriating this money throughout the history of the dividend program,” Paton-Walsh said. The legislature didn’t appropriate the money the first year of the PFD, but started appropriating it in the second year.Morse said the Alaska Constitution gives the governor a lot of power to veto spending. He noted it takes a three-quarters vote of the legislature to override a budget veto.“That’s an enormous dislocation of legislative power and it gives to the governor in this unique view an enormous amount of authority to eliminate spending,” Morse said. “I don’t think that the Permanent Fund amendment intended to eliminate the governor’s role in the spending of the income from the principal of the Permanent Fund.”After about an hour and a half of oral arguments, Morse immediately gave his verdict from the bench: the state won, and the plaintiffs lost.“I applaud both sides for very fine briefing, very fine and helpful oral argument, and I wish all of you the best of luck in front of the Supreme Court,” Morse said.Wielechowski and his fellow plaintiffs, former legislators Clem Tillion and Rick Halford, are expected to appeal soon. And with no facts in dispute, the court could make a final determination on the case quickly.Walker said in a statement that he’s pleased with the timeliness of the ruling, and it allows his administration to continue focusing on resolving the deficit.The money Walker vetoed will stay in the Permanent Fund earnings reserve. It will be available for future budgets.
In this episode we take a look back at the 2016 Iditarod, including: The Seavey dynasty, Jeff King and Aliy Zirkle’s dangerous encounter with a snowmachine near Nulato, and Brent Sass withdraws from the 2017 Iditarod.Listen now
The proposed timber sale area on a map created by Haines Planner Holly Smith. (Image courtesy Haines Borough)The Haines Assembly is asking the University of Alaska to press pause on a proposed timber sale which has alarmed local residents.Listen nowA couple weeks ago, the university put 400 acres of its Chilkat Peninsula land up for bid.The timing of the sale was motivated by the threat of new local regulations.At a recent special meeting, Assembly chambers were filled with residents who live out Mud Bay Road, south of Haines.They were surprised that a timber sale of this this size could be allowed in their quiet neighborhood.“It seems unbelievably clear that the intention and all the ordinance and code around it is not to have this kind of resource extraction or commercial use of the land in this area,” Heidi Robichaud said.But that’s the problem that triggered this 400-acre proposal.Mud Bay zoning code does not explicitly allow or restrict resource extraction.Borough attorneys say the general rule in regulating private property is that unless something is explicitly prohibited, it’s allowed.Since discovering this apparent oversight a few months ago, the planning commission has brainstormed what restrictions, if any, to implement in Mud Bay code.“The public testimony by and large thought that small-scale resource extraction was fine, people selling a few trees or a few truckloads of trees to support local businesses was fine,” planning commission chair Rob Goldberg said. “People were generally opposed to large-scale resource extraction.”But as the commission moved toward regulations on resource extraction, the Alaska Mental Health Trust and University of Alaska objected.Both agencies own significant acreage in the Mud Bay area. And the university’s board of regents took action. The group put 400 acres of land up for timber sale.The university uses money from sales like this to fund student scholarships.A couple Haines residents, including Andrew Gray, spoke in support of the university’s right to profit off its land.“If you do attempt to restrict this, I want to remind you that it would be incredibly clear message to send to the state of Alaska when we are fighting for services, to deny one of the state agencies who is attempting to profit off an allowed use of their land,” Gray said. “I don’t think that bodes well in terms of us fighting for state services.”But Assembly members agreed with the concerns of Mud Bay residents – the timber harvest seems out of character with that area.Assemblywoman Heather Lende is one of several people who questioned whether the borough really needs explicit restrictions on resource extraction to prevent this type of sale.Lende pointed to other parts of code which indicate the Mud Bay service area is intended to prioritize residential over commercial uses.“An outside entity proposing a 400-acre timber sale, I don’t know how that fits in with the intent of rural residential,” Lende said.The Assembly wants to have a conversation with the university about all of this.The group voted unanimously to request an in-person meeting with both the university and the mental health trust. The Assembly also is asking the university to delay awarding a contract for the timber harvest until after this discussion occurs.The timeline right now is tight. The university is accepting comments and bids on the sale until Oct. 23.Assembly member Tom Morphet said there might be room for negotiation. He quoted from a letter written by university land manager Christine Klein.“‘UA advertised its Chilkat Peninsula Competitive Timber Sale to protect out interests because the Haines Borough Planning Commission was not engaging us,’” Morphet read. “To me that suggests that the university is maybe not a in a big rush to log out there, but put forward this sale to a certain extent to get our attention.”If the university doesn’t postpone the timber sale, the Assembly may consider legal action.The group met in executive session with the borough attorney for more than an hour to discuss the issue.Members did not say anything publicly about what they discussed with the lawyer.
Most of the zinc concentrates produced by Constantine would be sold to DOWA, a Japanese metal producer that has a 49 percent stake in the Palmer Project. The copper is likely to end up with smelters in other parts of Asia, while the barite would be shipped to oil and gas producers in Canada and the Midwest. Constantine has been exploring minerals at the Palmer Project for over a decade. The main mineral deposits that have been discovered contain copper, zinc, gold, silver and barite. While the PEA provides a general picture of what a mine would look like, two highly detailed feasibility studies must be carried out in the future before development can begin. Cornejo says that the company is still working to better understand the mineral deposits as well as the infrastructure needs of the project. A drill site at the Palmer Project north of Haines. (Photo courtesy of Constantine Metal Resources) Constantine Metal Resources has completed a Preliminary Economic Assessment of the Palmer Project, a controversial mineral exploration project near Klukwan and Haines. The assessment is a tool for investors that outlines the economic potential for a mine and the logistics of mine development. Constantine will release the full technical report for the PEA within the next 45 days. Cornejo says that in addition to economic information, the PEA also helps people understand how the mine would operate. But not all of the rock taken from the ground will be exported for sale. Many residents and environmental groups worry that waste rock and mine tailings will degrade rivers downstream from the project. Cornejo says the conceptual plan outlined in the PEA would minimize the amount of waste produced. Now the company has completed its first economic assessment of the site. Constantine Vice President of External Affairs Liz Cornejo says the document will be shared with investors in hopes of securing funding to develop a mine. “With the PEA some of the important numbers people look for with these assessments is how much is it going to cost to construct the mine, how much does it cost to operate the mine,” Cornejo says. “Both waste rock and tailings can be non-acid generating or potentially acid generating,” Cornejo said. “In this case, there would be enough space underground that is created that we would be able to put all of the potentially acid-generating waste rock and remaining tailings back underground. The only tailings remaining on surface at mine closure are designed to be non-acid generating.” According to the PEA, Constantine expects a mine at the Palmer Project would operate for 11 years and provide a total of 260 full-time jobs. The PEA estimates that the project will require $418 million in funding over the entire life of the mine, from pre-production to closure. The estimated net profit over the lifetime of the project is $266 million. In terms of scale, the mine would produce 3,500 metric tonnes of ore concentrates each day. “We can answer some of those questions that people have had and use it in our discussions as far as assessing well what might a mine here look like. How big would it be? How long would it operate? How many people would be involved?” Cornejo says. “The material comes out of the mountain, goes through the mill, it gets ground up and sorted into different products. And then would be trucked into Haines. Currently, there is not an ore terminal for loading, so we would be shuttling it over to Skagway for loading and shipping out to the buyers,” Cornejo said. However, according to the PEA, some potentially acid generating rock would be stored at surface during the first few years of operation until there is enough space available underground for disposal.
“So this is not going to go away,” Mattice said. “We have to do the work. It is a statutory obligation and now unfortunately — it’s simply unfunded.” The legislature has until Friday to override the governor’s vetoes. A spokesman for the state’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management didn’t respond to requests for comment on Monday or Tuesday. A line item veto deleted $225,000 to be distributed among 21 Local Emergency Planning Committees: local officials and volunteers who plan for disasters and train others in an emergency. Without the $15,500 in state funding, Juneau’s biannual safety and preparedness expo will be canceled this fall. A young crowd gathers around the earthquake simulator in August 2016 during an emergency preparedness event organized by Juneau’s Local Emergency Planning Committee. Gov. Dunleavy’s veto canceled funding for LEPC causing this year’s expo to be canceled. (Photo by Tripp J Crouse/KTOO) In rural areas, LEPC members say the lost funding is an even bigger deal. But in filings with the legislature, the governor’s budget office wrote that the state’s fiscal reality demands cuts across agencies. “Communities can apply for grants through other sources including Department of Commerce Community and Economic Development and the Federal government,” it said. “It’s not a tremendous amount of money,” said Juneau’s emergency programs manager Tom Mattice. “But it is the seed money that brings us together to coordinate and organize in a multi-agency fashion to ensure that we’re all on the same page on the day of a big event.” “For a lot of the rural communities, the LEPC money is the only emergency management or emergency planning money that the community or the region receives,” said Templin, who also works as Craig’s city planner. “So it definitely will have an impact around the state.” In the city of Craig, Southern Southeast LEPC Chairman Brian Templin says the funding was used to train volunteers across Prince of Wales Island. The veto doesn’t erase individual LEPC’s state and federal mandates. That includes logging the location and quantity of hazardous materials in a community in case of a spill or other calamity. Gov. Mike Dunleavy has eliminated funding for local emergency planners around Alaska.