Bird death reports are up In Homer, food sources possibly to blame

first_imgEnvironment | Southcentral | WildlifeBird death reports are up In Homer, food sources possibly to blameAugust 4, 2015 by Quinton Chandler, KBBI Share:The Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge is receiving multiple reports indicating a significant increase in dead and dying birds found on beaches in the Homer area over the last two weeks. The reports are coming from beach walkers and local citizen scientists dedicated to surveying seabird populations. Leslie Slater is the Gulf of Alaska Unit Biologist for the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. She says the number of birds reported is in the dozens.Bishops Beach. (KBBI file photo)“So it’s hard to give a real exact number of the normal number. I would say on a given stretch of beach we normally don’t find more than one within a couple of miles stretch.”Slater says there are a lot of potential reasons for the increase in fatalities but the prevailing cause is likely tied to the birds’ food sources.“What we’re seeing more precisely is that birds seem to be starving. That’s sort of the ultimate cause of their deaths but something might be happening before that. We might be having a PSP (Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning) outbreak or another situation called domoic acid where these biotoxins can build up through the food chain and ultimately cause the deaths of these birds.”These deaths don’t seem to be isolated to Homer’s beaches. There are reports of similar deaths down the Alaska Peninsula and the eastern edge of the Aleutians. Slater says it’s possible they could be related to dead whales found near Kodiak. To narrow down causes of death Slater says the refuge will send carcasses of Homer’s birds to the National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin.“There they have a whole team of expert epidemiologists and other wildlife disease specialists who will be able to examine them and probably come up with a real good conclusion.”Slater expects the center to receive the carcasses by the end of this week and believes there could be a reply within two weeks. She asks that people continue to call in dead birds with the species name and specific directions to the bodies’ location. She warns the public not to touch dead birds because they could be carrying disease. Share this story:last_img read more

B.C. meeting with Tulsequah Chief Mine owner

first_imgEnergy & Mining | Juneau | Southeast | SyndicatedB.C. meeting with Tulsequah Chief Mine ownerSeptember 21, 2015 by Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska News Share:The Tulsequah Chief Mine installed a water treatment plant to treat acid rock drainage. But it was shut down due to high operational costs. (Photo courtesy Chieftain Metals)A top British Columbia official is meeting with owners of the Tulsequah Chief Mine, which is leaking pollution into a river that flows into Alaska.During a recent visit to the state, B.C. Minister of Mines Bill Bennett said his province should deal with the problem.The mine, which closed more than 50 years ago, is leaking into a tributary of the Taku River. The fisheries-rich waterway empties into an ocean inlet about 25 miles northeast of Juneau.Bennett Chief of Staff Cynthia Petrie says the minister has had several conversations with Tulsequah owner Chieftain Metals since his Alaska visit. She says no solution has been agreed upon.She says discussions are ongoing and will include British Columbia’s Environment Ministry.Chieftain Metals plans to reopen and expand the gold, zinc and copper mine. It says it’s put more than $100 million Canadian into the project.Chieftain built and briefly used a water treatment plant at the site about three years ago. But the company shut it down, saying it was too expensive to operate.Bennett and Chieftain cite studies saying the mine leakage is doing no damage. Critics say the studies were inadequate.The Toronto Stock Exchange lists Chieftain’s value at 5½ cents per share. That’s about 1/100 of when it went on the market almost five years ago.Share this story:last_img read more

Voters renew Juneau sales tax, add extra 3% for marijuana

first_imgJuneau | Local GovernmentVoters renew Juneau sales tax, add extra 3% for marijuanaOctober 4, 2016 by David Purdy, KTOO Share:(Creative Commons photo by Laura Thorne)Shoppers in Juneau will continue to pay the same sales tax rates, for now. Local voters chose to renew the city’s 3 percent temporary sales tax through Proposition 2 in Tuesday night’s municipal election by a 3-1 margin, but shot down another question that asked to make it permanent.Voters have renewed the temporary sales tax every four or five years since 1983, according to the city’s voter information pamphlet. City Manager Rorie Watt says it brings in about $25 million every year.“So we use the sales tax for police, fire, road maintenance, libraries, parks and rec, city manager, everything,” Watt said.The temporary sales tax is set to expire in 2022 if it’s not renewed again. The 3 percent is part of the city’s overall sales tax rate of 5 percent; there’s also a permanent 1 percent tax and another temporary 1 percent that is used for special projects, such as the Mendenhall Valley Library, building maintenance and sewer expansion. The 1 percent temporary tax is set to expire in 2018.Voters also overwhelmingly backed a special 3 percent sales tax on marijuana products through Proposition 1. This brings the total marijuana tax to 8 percent — the same rate as alcohol. City staff forecast that the 3 percent increase will bring in an extra $65,000 to $175,000 a year. The money will go into the city’s general fund.Share this story:last_img read more

Washington congresswoman will likely lead Trump’s Interior Department

first_imgAlaska’s Energy Desk | Environment | Federal Government | PoliticsWashington congresswoman will likely lead Trump’s Interior DepartmentDecember 9, 2016 by Elizabeth Harball, Alaska’s Energy Desk Share:Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers during a markup in the Energy & Commerce Committee this year. (Photo courtesy office of Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers)Multiple national news outlets are reporting President-elect Donald Trump is set to pick Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Republican congresswoman from Washington state, to lead the Department of Interior.She’s seen as friendly to industry, drawing criticism from some environmentalists. But others think she’s a relatively moderate pick.McMorris Rodgers is one of the highest-ranking Republicans in the House of Representatives, where she’s served since 2004. She chairs the House Republican Conference and sits on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.Many Americans got to know McMorris Rodgers when she delivered the Republican rebuttal to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union in 2014.“I grew up working at my family’s orchard and fruit stand in Kettle Falls, a small town in Eastern Washington, getting up before dawn with my brother to pick apples,” McMorris Rodgers said in her speech. “My dad drove a school bus and my mom worked as a part-time bookkeeper.”State leaders hoped an Alaskan would land the Interior job; former Gov. Sarah Palin and former Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell were both rumored possibilities. But some Washington insiders say the fact that Trump picked a leader from a Western state is a good sign for Alaska.“You’ve got a Westerner that understands the need for the Department of Interior to be a good neighbor and to work with the states,” said Robert Dillon, a former longtime staffer for Senator Lisa Murkowski who now works for the American Council for Capital Formation, a Washington, D.C. think-tank.About 60 percent of land in Alaska is federal, and much of it managed by the Interior Department. McMorris Rodgers will oversee pivotal decisions on oil exploration and drilling on federal lands and waters. Dillon says McMorris Rodgers is likely to take a different view on these issues than the current Interior secretary, Sally Jewell.“What you’d hope to see is a rebalancing that takes into account the economic needs of the state and the people of Alaska,” said Dillon.A number of environmental groups have already released statements objecting to McMorris Rodgers. She has often voted to expand oil and gas exploration on public lands, including a bill that would have allowed drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. She has also voted in favor of limiting the president’s ability to designate national monuments. Kristen Brengel is with the National Parks Conservation Association.“Sadly, many of the votes that she’s taken haven’t been Park-friendly or pro-public lands,” Brengel said. “A lot of them have sided with special interests.”Addressing climate change has been a big priority for the current Interior secretary. Environmental advocates note McMorris Rodgers has been noncommittal on whether climate change is caused by humans. But some conservation groups say even though she wouldn’t be their first pick, McMorris Rodgers is someone they can work with. Whit Fosburgh, President of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, sees her record as a mixed bag.“Her reputation is, and our dealings with her, is that she is somebody who will listen,” Fosburgh said. “We may not always agree with her, but I think we get a fair hearing with her.”President-elect Trump hasn’t yet formally nominated McMorris Rodgers for the position. And experts say even if she’s confirmed, reversing Obama-administration policies on federal lands won’t happen overnight.Share this story:last_img read more

Juneau police to increase enforcement of drunken driving laws on New Year’s Eve

first_imgJuneau | Public SafetyJuneau police to increase enforcement of drunken driving laws on New Year’s EveDecember 28, 2016 by Tripp J Crouse, KTOO Share:(Creative Commons photo by quite peculiar)If your New Year’s plans include impairing substances and going out, the Juneau Police Department wants you to plan for a designated driver.Juneau police will be doubling down on officer-patrolling efforts for New Year’s Eve.Sixteen officers will be on duty, including four who are assigned to investigate drunken driving, according to a department news release. Participating businessesAlaska Cache LiquorLouie’s Douglas InnThe Island PubAlaskan Hotel & BarLucky LadySquirezDuck Creek MarketMcGivney’s Sports Bar & GrillTriangle ClubHangar on the WharfMoose LodgeViking Lounge & Billiard ParlorImperial SaloonRendezvousThe local branch of CHARR, the Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant and Retailers Association, is also sponsoring its Safe Ride Home Program from participating locations.Those wishing to use the Safe Ride program can have a bartender or server at a participating location call a special number and a free cab will come and pick them up.Participating cabs will have signs and a green, flashing light. They’ll go to listed establishments first.The holiday also brings increased use of fireworks.Two people were cited Monday for using concussive fireworks during a prohibited time. Concussive fireworks, Juneau police say, go “boom.”Safe use of concussive fireworks will be OK from 10 a.m. New Year’s Eve to 1 a.m. New Year’s Day. Using concussive fireworks outside of this time period, and south of Cohen Drive, is prohibited.In November, Juneau Assembly postponed a proposed ordinance restricting fireworks use until April. In the mean time, the assembly encouraged police to enforce the city’s disturbing the peace code to tackle fireworks use.The draft ordinance would restrict the use and possession of fireworks to holidays, such as New Year’s and the Fourth of July.Share this story:last_img read more

More snow means moose move to roads

first_imgInterior | Southcentral | Transportation | WildlifeMore snow means moose move to roadsJanuary 24, 2017 by Dan Bross, KUAC-Fairbanks Share:(Photo via U.S. Fish and Wildlife)Recent heavy snow accumulation is pushing moose onto Alaska roads increasing collision danger.When snow piles up, you’re more likely to encounter moose on roads.Alaska Moose Federation Director Don Dyer said “along the Parks Highway from Big Lake to Talkeetna I counted 40 moose.”He saw the animals while driving the 50-mile stretch of highway last week.He said deep snow has moose moving to where the going is easier.”It’s tough for them to walk in the forest and the other areas, so they resort to walking on the roads,” Dyer said.Dyer said about 400 moose are killed by vehicles on Alaska roads every winter, most in the Kenai and Matanuska-Susitna areas but some in Fairbanks as well.The nonprofit Moose Federation salvages road kill moose and provides the meat to charities.Dyer said road kills have tracked a little under normal this winter, but numbers are increasing with the snowpack.“There’s been more activity in Fairbanks,” Dyer said. “Not as much as Mat-Su, but it’s definitely been an uptick in moose collisions.”Dyer said the situation could get worse if a crust forms on the snow, making it even more difficult for moose to get around.Share this story:last_img read more

Divisions deepen as lawmakers tinker with Alaska’s oil tax credits

first_imgAlaska’s Energy Desk | Economy | Energy & Mining | State GovernmentDivisions deepen as lawmakers tinker with Alaska’s oil tax creditsMay 3, 2017 by Rashah McChesney, Alaska’s Energy Desk – Juneau Share:The sun rises on the North Slope between drill rigs, Nov. 6, 2012. (Creative Commons photo by Kevan Dee)Lawmakers in Juneau are still tinkering with the state’s oil tax credit system. Ranking members of both the Senate and the House seem to agree that the state needs to break free of a system that will leave it owing nearly $700 million in cash payments to oil companies by the end of the year. But Senate Republicans have completely rewritten the House’s version of a reform bill.Audio Player Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.So far this session lawmakers in the majority parties in both the House and the Senate seem to agree that the state oil tax credit system needs a change, but exactly what will change is unclear. A Democrat-led House bill that kicked off this year’s fight over oil tax credits passed into the Senate last month, and the  Republican-led Senate has crafted a version that looks a lot different. “I would say the Senate version of the bill is unrecognizable from the House bill, it’s that different,” said Anchorage Democrat Geran Tarr.Her House resources committee led the charge to push an oil tax credit reform bill through this session. When it passed, primarily along caucus lines in the House, it was designed to cut oil tax credits, a key part of her caucus’s plan to balance the state’s budget. The House’s bill cut credits that went to legacy fields like Prudhoe Bay. It doesn’t allow companies to dip below the state’s 4 percent minimum tax. And, it axed a credit that companies could trade to the state for millions in cash payments.  It would have raised North Slope oil taxes by up to $100 million per year in the next few years, according to the Department of Revenue.Industry is calling it a significant tax increase. And that bill landed with a thud in a Republican-led Senate that has agreed that some reform needs to happen but seems largely uninterested in substantively hiking taxes on the industry.  There lawmakers have crafted a bill that narrows the focus of the bill. Cathy Giessel’s Senate resources committee wrote the Senate bill. “In fact, you could argue that they’re the same issues that the House also has consensus with the Senate on…and the governor. That primary issue is the cashable credits simply have to be repealed,” Giessel said. ” We can’t afford them.”Under the cash credit program the state owes companies about $700 million in unpaid credits now and that could balloon up to $1 billion next year. Giessel said the Senate version of the bill also hardens the state’s minimum tax, but it allows companies producing new oil to take credits that would dip them below that minimum. The Senate version of the bill will have to go back to the House for a concurrence vote and it will likely run into opposition there. Tarr said, in it’s current form, it’s too generous. “This is not a version of the bill that will be supported by a majority in the House,” she said.Both the Senate and House versions of the bill have drawn criticism from oil and gas producers and an industry trade association, who have repeatedly asked lawmakers not to raise taxes during a low oil price environment. They’ve also warned of further layoffs and delays in developing projects. In public testimony,  some Alaskans have echoed those arguments.For some, like Alex Vaughan, the impact of low oil prices and budget cuts have already hit and  they’ve hit hard. He told a Senate Finance committee that he is leaving the state. “A year ago, I was working for Caelus Energy and they shut down the rig, which subsequently meant that I lost the job,” Vaughan said. “And likely within the next month, I’ll be headed to Texas, which is horrible.”Vaughan said his sister has been laid off from work in the industry as well. He was among the majority of people who told that finance committee they want to see a stable tax structure that would encourage growth in the oil and gas industry. The bill has a long way to go. The Senate finance committee has hearings scheduled to take it up every day for the rest of the week. If its version of the bill passes through the Senate, it will go back to the House. If it doesn’t pass there, the two bodies will have to form a committee to negotiate on it together. Share this story:last_img read more

Rep. Eastman stands by controversial abortion statements, attacks media

first_imgHealth | Politics | Southcentral | State GovernmentRep. Eastman stands by controversial abortion statements, attacks mediaMay 8, 2017 by Phillip Manning, KTNA Share:Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, speaks during a House Minority press availability on April 6, 2017. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)Last week, Rep. David Eastman made national news by claiming that there are women in Alaska villages who are “glad” to become pregnant in order to travel to Seattle or Anchorage for an abortion – paid for by Medicaid. Now, Eastman is blaming the press for the furor over the comments.The Mat-Su Valley Republican received significant criticism, including from his own caucus. Many saw Eastman’s singling out of women “in villages” as targeting Alaska Native women. Legislators on both sides of the aisle are now calling for Eastman to apologize.Over the weekend, it appeared Eastman might do just that. On Saturday evening, Eastman appeared live on KTVA television. Here’s how Eastman began the interview with anchor Bonney Bowman:“First, the media is a circus — literally a circus — and that’s about the nicest thing I could say about some people in the media right now.”Eastman spent the majority of the 12-minute interview reiterating his position and blaming the media for the anger many people are directing at his comments.While the word “apologetic” did come up in the KTVA interview, Eastman did not directly apologize for what he has said.“I am very apologetic that anyone would think I was targeting them, or that I was thinking that somehow abortion is a good thing. I don’t think it’s a good thing. I think it hurts women, and certainly it hurts children.”Legislators representing rural Alaskans have been sharply critical of Eastman’s comments. Last Friday, four representatives, including Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon, sent Eastman a letter demanding an apology, and Anchorage Democrat Geran Tarr called for Eastman to be censured.Eastman has not provided verifiable evidence to back up his controversial claims. In a statement by email on Monday, he said that he is protecting anonymity, including of one case in which he said the state of Alaska pressured a woman to go through with an abortion after she changed her mind. In the same statement, Eastman said Medicaid travel policies should be evaluated, and he has called on the state to look into their abuse.Sen. Donny Olson, a Democrat from Golovin, said he is pro-life, but told his fellow senators on Monday that Rep. Eastman’s comments went “beyond the pale.” Olson is a medical doctor with more than 30 years of experience in rural Alaska. He said Eastman’s claims, in his experience, are simply not true.“They do not go out there and get pregnant so they can get a trip to Anchorage to terminate the pregnancy. Quite the contrary, people in my area, especially amongst the Alaska Native culture in rural areas, have an integrity and morality that enshrines throughout and adores babies.”House Minority Leader Charisse Millett was unavailable for an interview on Monday. The minority caucus issued a press release on Friday distancing itself from Eastman’s comments, and calling on him to apologize.Share this story:last_img read more

North Pole Council urges water-system expansion to help Moose Creek deal with tainted groundwater

first_imgAudio Player Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.The North Pole City Council unanimously passed a resolution in Monday’s meeting stating its support for expanding the city’s water system to Moose Creek.Mayor Bryce Ward said it’s the best long-term solution to providing drinking water to the community.“We just wanted to let (the) Air Force know that if this is something that the community is interested in, the city could be a viable option,” Ward said.Ward said expanding the water system is the best of seven alternatives outlined in an Air Force study of the groundwater contamination that’s spread from nearby Eielson Air Force Base.The study, which will be presented in a town hall meeting at the Moose Creek Fire Station, includes other alternatives, such as setting up tanks or water-filtration systems at each residence or business affected by the contamination.“Y’know, (over) the period of 30 years, that water delivery or the maintenance of a water-treatment filter system is quite a bit higher and quite comparable (cost), if you will, to that of a water system,” Ward said.The Air Force’s Interim Feasibility Study estimates to expand the system about four miles south to Moose Creek and maintain it over 30 years will cost $34 million to $40 million.Ward says that’ll provide water to 169 parcels in the area where two types of perfluorinated compounds have been found in groundwater at levels that could harm human health.“Although it is not necessarily the cheapest option, it provides the least amount of liability to those involved and affected, and the greatest security over that 30-year period and even longer,” Ward said.The Air Force will pay the estimated $25.3 million to build the system, Monte Garroutte said.He manages the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s Eielson contamination-remediation project.“The infrastructure and all that – yes, they’ll definitely be paying for that,” Garroutte said.Garroutte said the federal government probably will not pay for maintenance and operation of the expanded water system.He said once the Air Force and community come to an agreement on a drinking-water solution, the agency will then focus on cleaning up the contamination.“We still have to go through all the investigation and the feasibility study for the remediation as well, to determine what the possible solutions are,” Garroutte said.Ward said North Pole knows quite a bit about that process, because for years it’s had to deal with a bigger groundwater-contamination problem caused the leakage of sulfolane, an industrial solvent, from the Flint Hills refinery, which the company shut down in 2015.Ward said the city hopes to hire a contractor this year that, if all goes well, will begin work in the spring on a larger water-system expansion project for homes and business affected by the sulfolane contamination.That project is estimated to cost nearly $100 million, 80 percent of which will be paid-for by Flint Hills.The mayor said adding the second expansion to Moose Creek would enable the city to take advantage of the economies of scale that would result from both projects.Share this story: Environment | Interior | Local Government | Military | Public SafetyNorth Pole Council urges water-system expansion to help Moose Creek deal with tainted groundwaterJuly 20, 2017 by Tim Ellis, KUAC-Fairbanks Share:U.S. Air Force and New Jersey state fire protection specialists from the New Jersey Air National Guard’s 177th Fighter Wing battle a simulated aircraft fire with Aqueous Film Forming Foam at Military Sealift Command Training Center East in Freehold, N.J. on June 12. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Amber Powell/Released)Officials with the Air Force and other agencies are asking members of the public to weigh in on several proposals to provide drinking water to Moose Creek residents who can’t use their wells because of groundwater contamination.The pollution came from Eielson Air Force Base’s use of firefighting foam in years past.North Pole City Council members made it clear Monday that they believe expanding their municipal water system to Moose Creek is the best alternative.last_img read more

Mother, yearling brown bear euthanized in Sitka

first_imgPublic Safety | Southeast | WildlifeMother, yearling brown bear euthanized in SitkaAugust 7, 2018 by Emily Kwong, KCAW-Sitka Share:The Alaska Department of Fish and Game killed a brown bear sow and her yearling after Sitka Police were unsuccessful in attempting to haze the bears with rubber bullets.Local biologists say the bears behaved “boldly” and posed a public safety risk.The brown bears were spotted by multiple residents digging through trash and pawing windows near Cedar Beach Road and Shotgun Alley.In consultation with the Sitka Police Department, the two nuisance bears were killed July 31 with high powered rifles by Fish and Game during an evening patrol.The bears became more active in daylight hours – treating garbage as a food source.Wildlife biologist Stephen Bethune said that’s the kind of behavior that poses a risk to humans.“People were putting their trash out correctly on the morning of trash pickup and the bears were coming out in the daytime, and hitting those trash cans before the garbage trucks got to them. Things just escalated really quickly,” he said.Sitka General Code states that all trash that’s a known bear attractant, like meat scraps and dirty diapers, must be put out after 4 a.m. on pickup day.Putting the two bears down was a tough decision, Bethune said, but he determined euthanization was a safer option than tranquilization and relocating the bears to another place.“The drugs take several minutes to take effect,” Bethune said. “You have a situation, potentially at night with a sow and a cub, and you dart one of them. Are you able to find them? It may take several days to be successful at that. In this situation, we just felt like there was too much of a public safety risk to take that step.”Bethune sees the potential for creative solutions, such as electric fences and storage sheds to surround garbage cans.But adopting a city-wide solution would take money.“There are other types of aftermarket garbage cans that are much more bear-resistant than what the city is currently using right now. It comes down to people’s priorities,” Bethune said. “Somebody has to pay for these upgrades. At this point, the bears are paying for it.”Share this story:last_img read more