Child sex abuse charges filed against Sitka education liaison

first_imgPublic Safety | Sexual Abuse & Domestic Violence | SoutheastChild sex abuse charges filed against Sitka education liaisonSeptember 23, 2015 by Emily Kwong, KCAW Share:A Sitka man is facing fifteen felony counts on sex-related crimes.Brandon J. Snyder, 33, was indicted Friday on six counts of sexual abuse of a minor and seven counts of indecent viewing or photography.Snyder was dismissed on Monday from his position at the Sitka Tribe of Alaska as the Home to School liaison for the tribe’s language and education department. He’s held the position since last winter. His job involved him in activities with the Sitka Boys and Girls Club.Tribal Chairman Mike Baines released a letter on behalf of Sitka Tribe of Alaska, saying, “STA will not permit any person to use a position of trust to prey upon anyone, most especially a child who is a tribal citizen.”The letter adds that STA is taking extra precautions to ensure all potential employees are screened and receive background checks. Snyder cleared all background checks at the time of his employment.Baines said that STA has been meeting with the Sitka Police Department and Sitkans Against Family Violence.“Our staff and counselor are pretty traumatized emotionally, but everyone seems committed to pulling through this,” Baines wrote.Children or families affected by these allegations should contact the Sitka Police Department or SAFV at 747-3370.Read the full letter from Sitka Tribal Chairman Mike Baines here.A press release from the Sitka Police Department announcing the charges against Brandon J. Snyder.Share this story:last_img read more

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Obama denies Newtok’s request for disaster declaration

first_imgAlaska’s Energy DeskObama denies Newtok’s request for disaster declarationJanuary 18, 2017 by Rachel Waldholz, Alaska’s Energy Desk Share:The village of Newtok, seen from above in the summer of 2016. (Photo courtesy of Romy Cadiente)President Barack Obama has turned down a request from the western Alaska village of Newtok for a disaster declaration.Audio Player Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Newtok applied for relief based on erosion and thawing permafrost that are expected to destroy the village within three years. It was a test of whether the nation’s disaster laws apply to slow-moving impacts linked to climate change.On Wednesday, the answer from the White House was: no.Newtok’s village relocation coordinator, Romy Cadiente, learned the village’s request for a disaster declaration had been turned down in a phone call Wednesday, Jan. 18. “I was shocked,” he said. (Photo by Eric Keto/Alaska’s Energy Desk)Romy Cadiente, Newtok’s village relocation coordinator, heard the news in a phone call Wednesday morning from Kenneth Murphy, the regional administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA.“We were shocked,” Cadiente said.After years of trying to scrape together funding, Cadiente said he thought the disaster declaration was Newtok’s best chance to access the tens of millions of dollars needed to move the village out of harm’s way.A recent engineering report estimates the village is losing an average of 70 feet of land per year to the Ninglick River, and Cadiente said the situation is now dire.“We’re going to lose homes this year,” he said. “We’re going to lose our water supply this year. It is dangerous for our village. Where do we put these people? Do you ship them off to Bethel, and if so, who pays for all that stuff?”Erin Ward is a spokesperson for FEMA Region 10, which covers Alaska, Washington, Oregon and Idaho. She said, as a matter of policy, the agency doesn’t offer details on why a president chooses to deny a major disaster request, adding only that Newtok’s request did not fit the requirements of the Stafford Act, the law that governs disaster relief.“Based on a review of all the information available, a major disaster declaration under the Stafford Act is not appropriate to address the situation,” she said.Newtok’s request was unusual. It identified damage that has taken place over multiple years, as well as damage expected in the coming three years. Disaster declarations are usually issued in response to a single specific event.Newtok attorney Mike Walleri argued that the president had the authority to declare a disaster for a multi-year event. (Photo by Eric Keto/Alaska’s Energy Desk)Mike Walleri is the village attorney. He said the existing system fails communities like Newtok.“What this means as a practical matter is the village is going to have to wait until these homes are destroyed, rather than taking any preemptive disaster response,” Walleri said.That approach is inefficient, expensive and unsafe, he said.Cadiente said the decision was particularly disappointing given that Obama visited Alaska in 2015 to draw attention to climate change, and the president even mentioned climate refugees during his farewell address earlier this month.“Without bolder action, our children won’t have time to debate the existence of climate change,” Obama told a cheering crowd in Chicago. “They’ll be busy dealing with its effects: more environmental disasters, more economic disruptions, waves of climate refugees seeking sanctuary.”That’s Newtok, Cadiente said.“And when the storms get more severe, the flooding, the erosion, the permafrost degradation, what happens to us?” he asked. “What do we do now?”In the near term, Newtok plans to appeal the decision. The village has 30 days to submit an updated request to the incoming Trump administration.Longterm, Cadiente said, the village will continue working with state and federal agencies to try to move the village piece by piece.“We’re never going to give up on this,” he said. Share this story:last_img read more

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Another mine opens close to the Alaska border

first_imgEnergy & Mining | Environment | Fisheries | SoutheastAnother mine opens close to the Alaska borderAugust 9, 2017 by Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska News Share:Seabridge Gold’s Brent Murphy points to a valley to be dammed to hold tailings from the KSM mine during a 2014 tour. The tailings dam was granted a key federal permit needed for development this summer. (Photo by Ed Schoenfeld/CoastAlaska News)A new gold mine has gone into production near British Columbia’s border with Southeast Alaska, one of several prospects under exploration near creeks or rivers that flow into the region.Audio Player Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.The Brucejack Mine pours its first gold bar in June of 2017. The mine is about 25 miles from the Alaska border. (Photo courtesy Pretivm Resources press release)The Brucejack Mine had what’s called its “first pour” — or when refined ore is melted down to make a project’s first bar of gold — this summer.The high-altitude mine is about 25 miles from the Alaska border and about 80 miles east of Wrangell. It’s within the watershed of the Unuk River, which drains into the ocean northeast of Ketchikan.Officials at Vancouver-based mine owner Pretivm Resources did not return calls by this report’s deadline.But in an earlier interview, vice president Michelle Romero said the company is building on a previous owner’s work.“There was existing underground excavation done and we had used that access to get to the heart of the project, which is the Valley of the Kings,” she said.A company news release said its main ore body has proven reserves of 1.6 million ounces, worth about $2 billion in U.S. currency. It projects total reserves of four times that much gold, plus a significant silver deposit.Brucejack is far less controversial than some other British Columbia mining projects across the border from Southeast Alaska.Heather Hardcastle is a fisheries-business owner and campaign director for the environmental group Salmon Beyond Borders.“It is a lot smaller than the other mines in the transboundary region and it is an underground mine,” she said. “As far as the disposal of tailings go, we certainly feel better about their plans to put the tailings and the waste back underground.”Tailings are ground-up rock, often containing hazardous minerals, that are leftover from processing ore. Mine critics say the common practice of mixing them with water and storing them behind dams threatens downstream fisheries.Rigs drill through snow into the Iron Cap deposit in July, 2017, as part of Seabridge Gold’s KSM exploration project. (Photo courtesy Seabridge Gold)Hardcastle said her main concern is that it’s part of a larger effort to develop more than a half-dozen projects that would use tailings dams.The largest of those is Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell, which is next to Brucejack.What’s known as KSM won a key permit from Canada environmental officials this summer.Brent Murphy is vice president of environmental affairs for Toronto-based developer Seabridge Gold.“The permit that we got was essentially an amendment to the federal law that allows us to go in and deposit essentially waste material into streams that are frequented by fish,” he said.Murphy said the permit requires the company to post an appropriate bond and create twice as much fish habitat as it destroys.This summer is KSM’s 11th for exploratory drilling. Murphy said work continues to better define its high-value ore bodies.“We have a crew of about 25 people in there, the camp has been open since early May and we’re also continuing with our ongoing environmental monitoring and it’s actually our 10th year of collection of baseline data,” he said.KSM will store its tailings in a valley that’s part of the watershed of the Nass River, which enters an ocean inlet about 20 miles south of the Alaska border.Hardcastle, who fishes out of Juneau, said that’s close enough to pose a threat.“Commercial fishermen from the United States do and are allowed to catch a certain number of Nass fish,” she said. “Commercial fishermen from Alaska especially contend that we very much have concerns about what goes on in the headwaters of the Nass.”The KSM project is supported by the Nisga’a Nation, the tribal government for the Nass River Valley. Both signed an agreement promising environmental protections, jobs and financial support.Seabridge Gold works on decommissioning the fuel tank farm at the closed Johnny Mountain Mine, about 20 miles from its KSM project, in July 2017. (Photo courtesy Seabridge Gold)Seabridge Gold continues to seek investors for the multi-billion-dollar project.The company also is exploring ore deposits in a nearby area. The Iskut Project is about 20 miles northwest of the KSM and approximately 10 miles from the Alaska border.Seabridge acquired the area about a year ago. Murphy said the company has been drilling to find out more about what’s there. The prospect includes a mine that closed in 1990.“We know there’s gold mineralization at Johnny Mountain,” he said. “We started there last year, trying to understand the geology, and we’re moving a little bit further afield this year.”Part of the purchase is a multi-year cleanup plan, including removal of asbestos tiles, mercury lamps and a fuel-tank farm.One transboundary mine that’s going nowhere is the Tulsequah Chief, on a Taku River tributary about 40 miles northeast of Juneau. It closed more than a half-century ago and two attempts to reopen it failed.Acidic drainage from the Tulsequah Chief Mine, discolors a containment pond next to the Tulsequah River in British Columbia in 2013. (Photo courtesy Chris Miller/Trout Unlimited)The company holding its assets filed documents earlier this summer suggesting it had found a new investor. But mine critic Chris Zimmer, of the group Rivers without Borders, said officials have told him the company is no longer interested.“Now, we’re kind of back here in a little bit of limbo. There’s no company up there, the mine continues to leak acid mine drainage and now we’re kind of unsure what the B.C. government is going to do next,” he said.The province’s previous top mine official committed to cleaning up pollution from the Tulsequah Chief after a visit two years ago.But a new mines minister just took over and isn’t ready to discuss the situation.Share this story:last_img read more

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Haines Assembly asks university to press pause on 400-acre timber sale

first_imgLocal Government | Southeast | Timber | University of AlaskaHaines Assembly asks university to press pause on 400-acre timber saleOctober 9, 2017 by Emily Files, KHNS-Haines Share:The Haines Assembly is asking the University of Alaska to press pause on a proposed timber sale which has alarmed local residents.A 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.Audio Player Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.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.The proposed timber sale area on a map created by Haines Planner Holly Smith. (Image courtesy Haines Borough)“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,” said planning commission chair Rob Goldberg. “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.She 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.Share this story:last_img read more

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Juneau Assembly punts decision over future of Cornerstone Campus property

first_imgCommunity | Housing | JuneauJuneau Assembly punts decision over future of Cornerstone Campus propertyMarch 19, 2018 by Jacob Resneck, KTOO Share:The facility at 9290 Hurlock Ave. formerly housed an emergency shelter for at-risk youth before Juneau Youth Services vacated at the start of the year. (Photo by Adelyn Baxter/KTOO)The Juneau Assembly has narrowed the choice to two contenders vying to take over the former Cornerstone Campus in the Mendenhall Valley. Juneau Youth Services vacated the Hurlock Avenue property late last year after leasing it for nearly 50 years.The Assembly was unable to decide Monday between Gehring Nursery School, a childcare facility, and Alaska Legacy Partners, an assisted living center for seniors.Both are for-profit entities that have indicated they’d buy the property at fair market value. The city had indicated it might lease the property to a nonprofit below market rates.Juneau Mayor Ken Koelsch said that putting off the decision will allow more time for community input.“Both of them say, ‘I’m going to give you the fair (market) value,’” Koelsch told fellow Assembly members during Monday’s committee meeting. “And then you take those two before the Assembly and we decide what’s more important – or needed right now – to this community: childcare or senior care?”The city-owned property was recently appraised for $350,000. The appraiser factored in the cost of demolishing the 6,400-square-foot building that city staff say is in poor condition. The other applicants included Polaris House, which offers support and recovery services for mental illness; Aunt Margaret’s House, which offers transitional housing for recently released prisoners; and Prama Home, a facility that would simultaneously house seniors and offer daycare for children. A sixth applicant was Juneau’s downtown homeless shelter, the Glory Hole, which proposed moving its services to the Mendenhall Valley. But the nonprofit withdrew its application last month.Share this story:last_img read more

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We’re drowning in plastic trash. An engineer wants to save us

first_imgEnvironment | Nation & World | NPR NewsWe’re drowning in plastic trash. An engineer wants to save usJuly 24, 2018 by Christopher Joyce, NPR Share:Waste engineer Jenna Jambeck of the University of Georgia surveys plastic waste in a southeast Asian village, where it will be recycled to make raw material for more plastic products. Jambeck advises Asian governments on how to keep plastic trash out of waterways. (Photo courtesy Amy Brooks)When a huge floating gyre of plastic waste was discovered in the Pacific in the late 1980s, people were shocked. When whales died and washed ashore with stomachs full of plastic, people were horrified. When photographs of beaches under knee-deep carpets of plastic trash were published, people were disgusted.Though some of it came from ships, most, presumably, was from land. But how much was coming from where?No one really knew until 2015. That’s when Jenna Jambeck, an environmental engineer at the University of Georgia, did the math. Her groundbreaking study suggested there were hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of times as much plastic washing into the sea as people were seeing in those ocean gyres.Jambeck’s findings helped galvanize a worldwide movement to stop plastic pollution.When I first meet the scientist for an interview, the first thing she says is: “So what we’re going to do for the next 24 hours is to record everything that you touch that is plastic.”My microphone has a plastic grip. “So let’s write it down,” she says with a smile and an air of efficiency.We go through my recording kit: plastic ID card, the zipper on the bag, a plastic data card and the plastic audio recorder …. I can tell this is going to be a long day.Jambeck started her career as an engineer specializing in solid waste management. She has become a connoisseur of trash, and what I carelessly call “the dump.”“Landfill!” she says, correcting me.Her interest in trash started when she was growing up in rural Minnesota, Jambeck says. There was no garbage collection in her area, so she’d borrow a truck to take her family’s trash to the dump every week.“I was always pretty fascinated by going there and just seeing what I would see,” she remembers. “I fell in love with studying waste.”Trash, she explains, has a history; each discarded teddy bear or broken bicycle has a story behind it.The single largest use for plastic is packaging, Jambeck says. At this recycling center in southeast Asia, much of the waste is thin-film plastic that was once used to package single-use beverage containers. (Photo courtesy Amy Brooks)We drive out to her favorite landfill, just outside Athens, Ga., and Jambeck makes it clear that we’re not just going to view the garbage pile from afar. We’re going to climb up onto it.“It’s such a beautiful day out here,” she says. That’s true. The sky is brilliantly blue. There are also vultures hovering overhead, and the aroma is — challenging. The ground is mushy, but that doesn’t slow Jambeck; she came prepared, wearing green rubber boots.“All right, I want to go farther,” she says. She wants me to get a better idea of what plastic does in a landfill. Or, rather, what it doesn’t do.To me, the several-acre mound is a pile of dirt and muck about 50 feet high. Trucks crawl over it, dumping their loads of trash in plastic bags. Miscellaneous objects poke up out of the ground.But Jambeck sees something different.“I see, like, a living breathing thing,” she says. “This whole system is actually an ecosystem. Microbes break down the organic garbage into its constituent chemicals. Metal corrodes and dissolves. Almost everything returns to the earth. Except …“Plastic,” she says with a sigh. “Plastic would be the thing that doesn’t break down.”It’s the intruder. I look a little closer and see that almost all the junk on the surface of this pile is made of plastic. “A container of toothpaste,” Jambeck points out. “That looks like the top of a detergent bottle.” There’s PVC pipe. Water bottles. A chip bag.There are numerous types of plastic. Over time, much of it will break down into smaller pieces. But no one knows how long those pieces linger in the environment.When people discovered big floating patches of waste plastic in oceans, they wanted to clean it up. Jambeck agrees that the famous giant garbage patch in the Pacific is a nightmare. But upon seeing it, her thought was: Wait a minute. Let’s find out where it’s coming from.If you leave the tap on and bathwater floods your home, bailing water isn’t the first thing you do, she points out. You shut off the faucet.“What we can do is keep plastic from going in the ocean in the first place,” she says.Jambeck worked with a team of scientists at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis in California to find the sources of all that plastic. Their seminal paper, published in 2015 in the journal Science, produced new information and astounding numbers. Most of the trash along beaches and in the ocean is single-use plastic, Jambeck says — cigarette butts, grocery bags, bottles and caps, straws, utensils and packaging. Historically, most of it has been produced in the West, but China is now the top producer, and exporter of plastic goods.Many countries, including the U.S., contribute plastic pollution, and it all adds up. For example, in 2010 alone (the year’s worth of data that Jambeck’s Science study was based on), a total of 8 million metric tons of plastic entered the world’s oceans.The research made a big splash. In 2017, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee invited Jambeck to testify about the problem.Holding up a bag full of plastic trash, she explained to the senators that 8 million metric tons of plastic is equal to “a volume of five grocery-sized bags filled with plastic for every foot of coastline in the world.”She predicts the “8 million” could be 10 times as large by 2025, if current trends continue. Half of the waste comes from China, the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam. (Note: Though Vietnam puts nearly as much plastic into the ocean per person as China does, the Chinese population is so much greater than Vietnam’s that China’s overall contribution to total plastic in the ocean is much larger).All these countries have growing consumer economies and haven’t yet developed widespread and efficient methods of waste management. And they have lots of ocean-facing shoreline.Research shows that the population density along the shoreline largely determines how much trash winds up in the ocean there: more people, more trash.For Jambeck, the plastic litter in all our lives is a sign of society’s failure.It’s our era’s footprint, she says. “Is that really the story we want to tell future generations?”Jambeck is trying to change that story.In 2017, the U.S. State Department sent the “plastics ambassador” to advise other governments on how to manage plastic waste. She’s also an adviser to the Ocean Conservancy, an environmental group working to stem the problem.Jambeck helped develop an app called Marine Debris Tracker for smartphones so that anyone can report on where they find plastic debris, anywhere in the world. Her students at the University of Georgia use it to track plastic waste on campus.Jambeck believes that kind of data-keeping — showing people just how ubiquitous plastic is — shapes public opinion.“Now around the world people are reacting to that and trying to figure out what to do,” she says.Scientists in her laboratory, as well as many in the private sector, are looking to broaden and improve the range of biodegradable substitutes for plastic utensils or packaging.In many places around the world, consumers and government leaders are starting to pay more attention to what they use and throw away, and what they can recycle, Jambeck says. She’s collaborating with a team of scientists looking for a model for plastic waste management that communities can adopt.And she still finds time to visit landfills, for sentimental reasons, among others: She was at a landfill in 2001 when she met the man who would become her husband. They were both doing research, digging into the very bottom of the landfill to see how things decomposed. To their surprise, they pulled up an immaculate piece of lunchmeat.“It was a piece of bologna,” she says with a laugh. How did she know?“Because it looked exactly like a piece of bologna from a package.”And why did that surprise her? “Well, it still looked like a piece of bologna you could eat,” she says with amazement. “It hadn’t broken down.”A romantic “bonding moment,” as Jambeck tells it, for this pair of professional garbage explorers. But she’s a bit more hesitant to eat lunchmeat.Meanwhile, the aroma at the Georgia landfill is ripening as the sun reaches its zenith, but Jambeck seems in no hurry to leave. A noisy truck groans up the bank with a fresh load for a waiting bulldozer and a compacter, and she wants to explain the process to me.“So they’re going to dump, and then the bulldozer is going to come and move it and then the compactor gets his turn to drive over it” — to compress it, to maximize how much waste can be stored here.Our day isn’t over. My plastic count is due. Back at Jambeck’s office, we share the list. I touched 52 plastic items, all told: a credit card, restaurant menu, soap dispenser, my glasses, a ketchup container, an elevator button, a hotel chair — the list goes on and on.In five minutes, she puts together graphs and a pie chart that show what kinds of plastic all these objects are made of — whether they can be recycled, and what sorts of plastic in the overall “taxonomy” of global plastic waste I’ve come in contact with that day.“One of my goals,” Jambeck says, “is to get people more in touch with, and to be thoughtful [about], the waste they generate.”Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit this story:last_img read more

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Alaska House primary has the most candidates in 22 years

first_imgPolitics | Southcentral | Southeast | State GovernmentAlaska House primary has the most candidates in 22 yearsJuly 30, 2018 by Andrew Kitchenman, KTOO and Alaska Public Media Share:A voter casts a ballot at the Bethel City Hall in 2016. The House primary this year has the most candidates since 1996. (Photo by Adrian Wagner)Alaska is headed toward an unusually competitive primary in just over three weeks. And that competition is mostly within the Republican Party.Audio Player Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.At the top of the ticket, both of the competitive primaries for governor and lieutenant governor are in the Republican Party. There are seven Republican candidates to be governor and six from the party running to be lieutenant governor.Most of the attention right now is focused on the leading candidates for governor: former Wasilla Sen. Mike Dunleavy and former Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell of Anchorage.Dunleavy has built up a lead, according to polls. Treadwell is trying to make up ground, arguing that he’s better qualified.In the House, there are 109 primary candidates running, the most since 1996. Twenty-four of the 29 competitive primaries in the Senate and the House are on the Republican side.Alaska Republican Party Chairman Tuckerman Babcock gave two potential causes for the interest.One is the fact that the House had a Democratic speaker for the first time in 24 years.“There’s a lot of interest and excitement in taking the House back. And that’s generated candidates,” Babcock said.He said the second cause arises from debates within the Republican Party. One of those debates is over whether to repeal the 2016 law known as Senate Bill 91, which overhauled the state’s criminal justice system. And there’s also been a debate on whether to restore permanent fund dividends to the amount set by the formula used until 2016.The Alaska Republican Party has voted to take the position that dividends should be restored to the full amount.Share this story:last_img read more

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No one is sure why Mulchatna caribou are disappearing in Southwest Alaska

first_imgEnvironment | Western | WildlifeNo one is sure why Mulchatna caribou are disappearing in Southwest AlaskaNovember 22, 2019 by Anna Rose MacArthur, KYUK – Bethel Share:Thousands of caribou, like this one, traditionally cross the Kobuk River near Onion Portage in the fall.  (Photo courtesy National Park Service)Three years ago, there were over 27,000 caribou in the Mulchatna Caribou Herd. Now there are less than half of that, only 13,500, according to Alaska Department of Fish and Game surveys. There are suspects for the decline but no identified causes.Perhaps the animals trampled their food, but the herd was not at the peak numbers it once had decades ago. Perhaps there was heavy predation, like from wolves. But, predators don’t usually cause a population to drop by half. Then there’s a theory of over-hunting, which could be a contributing factor.“If caribou are changing their behavior and coming into greater contact with villages than they have in the past, there’s the potential that more people are harvesting more animals than we might realize,” said Lauren Watine, lead wildlife biologist on the Mulchatna herd for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.And the herd has changed its behavior. It’s roaming more in the western part of its range near the Kuskokwim River and Bristol Bay region, an area with more and bigger communities than in the herd’s eastern range. With more communities come more hunters.Caribou harvests often go unreported. There isn’t as much oversight on the animals as on other large game, like moose or muskox. Also, because caribou cluster densely together, it’s easy to accidentally wound or kill more animals than hunters might intend.Just 238 caribou were reported harvested last year, but Alaska Department of Fish and Game surveys of households throughout the Mulchatna herd’s range indicate that more people are using caribou than harvest reports suggest.The herd’s decline came as a surprise to wildlife biologists, but indications of the population drop started the year before. Veteran biologists surveying the herd in 2018 were seeing fewer caribou than usual.“Anecdotally, they were seeing less animals in the group than in previous years,” Watine said.Now, with the herd at an estimated 13,500 caribou, state and federal managers have imposed restrictions to conserve the population. The state reduced its bag limit to one caribou. Federal managers did the same for Mulchatna caribou taken on federal lands. In the Western Game Units, regulations are even tighter. In Units 18, 19A, and 19B, that single caribou must be a bull, and hunters must be federally qualified, local subsistence users.Some of those users want the hunt shut down, fearing that this hunting season could wipe out the herd, but Watine doesn’t see that happening.“If people follow the rules of this hunt, they won’t wipe out the Mulchatna,” she said.As of Nov. 15, 79 caribou had been reported harvested. State and federal managers are considering what criteria could close the hunt early. To help them make these decisions, they’re encouraging hunters to report their harvests as quickly as possible.Share this story:last_img read more

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Alaska health department recommends postponing non-urgent or elective procedures

first_imgCoronavirus | Health | State GovernmentAlaska health department recommends postponing non-urgent or elective proceduresMarch 16, 2020 by Julia O’Malley, Alaska Public Media Share:Entrance to Anchorage’s Providence Hospital emergency room. (Photo by Josh Edge/Alaska Public Media)Alaska’s health department asked Monday that providers postpone non-urgent or elective procedures for the next three months “to decrease the overall impact on the Alaska health care structure,” the department said in a statement.The recommendation comes from U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams and the American College of Surgeons.“Given Alaska’s distances and limited health care capacity, it is especially important to open acute health care beds for anticipated COVID-19 care,” the statement said. “The state of Alaska believes that by delaying non emergent procedures, individuals will receive optimal care.” Alaska health department issues advisory for travelers returning from other countries and statesShare this story:last_img read more

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Pebble offers to pay annual dividend to residents of Bristol Bay, hotbed of opposition to Pebble’s mine

first_imgEconomy | Energy & Mining | Environment | SouthwestPebble offers to pay annual dividend to residents of Bristol Bay, hotbed of opposition to Pebble’s mineJune 18, 2020 by Liz Ruskin, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage Share:Members of the media walking to an exploratory drill rig at the Pebble Mine Exploratory site in 2013. (Photo by Jason Sear/KDLG)The proposed Pebble Mine has always faced fierce opposition in Bristol Bay. Now, Pebble is offering to pay every adult resident of the area an annual dividend.Pebble Chief Executive Tom Collier says he wants to share the benefits of the mine with the region, even before the mine delivers its first load of ore. Pebble says it will pay at least $3 million a year in dividends, divided among those who register to receive it.“(If) 3,000 sign up, it’ll be $1,000 a year,” Collier said. “And as the project becomes profitable, it will be much more than that.”Collier says he’s making good on a commitment he made to the region.Pebble CEO Tom Collier, left, waits to testify at a U.S. House of Representatives hearing in 2015. (Photo by Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media)Ultimately the company says it will pay 3% of net annual profits to residents. But he wants to start before there are any profits to share.“We’ve decided that it didn’t really make sense to force everyone to wait for six or seven years, until all the financing for the project have been paid back, before it became profitable,” he said. “So we decided that we would start doing minimum payments as soon as we went into construction.”Collier says for most people, the dividends will begin in about three years. The deadline to register is Aug. 31, but Pebble has added an incentive to register early.“If you sign up by the end of July, we’re gonna draw names out of a hat,” Collier said, “and the five that we draw – their dividend will start immediately and be paid annually through the life of the project  … For everybody else, it starts when we go into construction.”Alannah Hurley, executive director of United Tribes of Bristol Bay, calls it a “false promise” that reeks of desperation.“It’s predatory and it’s shameless,” she said.Her organization is one of the stalwart opponents of the mine. They say Pebble will devastate the salmon fisheries at the heart of the region’s economy and culture. Hurley said residents have to make their own decision about whether to sign up for Pebble’s dividend.“I would say that if you register, then you are preparing – you know, you will be used by the company to try and portray local support for this project,” she said.Collier said he hopes everyone will register for the dividend regardless of how they feel about the mine.Pebble is making the offer to people whose primary home is in an area that stretches from Port Alsworth to Ivanof Bay. It includes the commercial fishing hubs of Dillingham, Naknek and Togiak.The Army Corps of Engineers plans to complete the environmental impact statement on Pebble this summer and then issue a decision on a wetlands permit, the primary federal permit the mine needs.Pebble’s parent company, Northern Dynasty, is running a deficit of about $415 million, according to a report in E&E News based on regulatory filings.Collier said the company will have to raise more money by the end of the year.If the Corps issues a permit, the project will become much more attractive to investors.Share this story:last_img read more

Read more on Pebble offers to pay annual dividend to residents of Bristol Bay, hotbed of opposition to Pebble’s mine