Alaska News Nightly: July 25, 2007

A national legal and ethics think tank filed a complaint today against Senator Lisa Murkowski for her Kenai river land deal. Plus, federal and state agencies are investigating the float plane crash that killed four cruise ship passengers near Ketchikan. Those stories and more on tonight’s Alaska News Nightly, broadcast statewide on APRN stations.

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Kenai River land deal nets ethics complaint against Murkowski
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
The National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC) filed a complaint against Senator Lisa Murkowski today with the Senate Ethics committee. The complaint says Murkowski’s Kenai river land purchase was improper because the price was based on the assessed value, not the market value. NLPC chairman Ken Boehm said the complaint was filed because the purchase appears to be a clear-cut example of an improper gift.

Congressman Young officially under federal criminal investigation
The Associated Press (read by Lori Townsend, APRN)
A source with the investigation confirmed to The Associated Press today that Congressman Don Young faces a criminal investigation. Young joins Senator Ted Stevens as a federal investigation target — Stevens has acknowledged he has been told to preserve records of a house remodeling project involving VECO, the Anchorage-based oil field service company. A federal law enforcement source said Young was under scrutiny and that part of the inquiry involves his campaign finance practices, an element that would be investigated in Washington rather than in Alaska. The investigation was first reported late last night by the Wall Street Journal on its Web site. Young’s spokesperson said his office would not discuss the investigation.

Investigations into flightseeing crash begin in Ketchikan
Deanna Garrison, KRBD – Ketchikan
Federal and state agencies are investigating a crash that killed four cruise ship passengers and pilot Joseph Campbell yesterday near Ketchikan. The float plane crashed in Misty Fjords National Monument. The flightseeing tour was operated by Taquan Air in Ketchikan.

Photos provided by the Alaska State Troopers

Army Corps to unearth mystery near Tok — might be Agent Orange
Libby Casey, KUAC – Fairbanks (read by Lori Townsend, APRN )
The Army Corps of Engineers starts work next month unearthing what may be barrels of Agent Orange buried in the ground near Tok. The Corps’ Alaska District spokeswoman Pat Richardson says they’re not entirely sure what’s buried at the site — located less than a mile from the Alaska Highway. An electromagnetic survey conducted last year simply revealed metal.

It’s taken more than four years to begin the actual work to dig up the area, since Alaska’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) was initially tipped off that there might be toxic chemicals buried there — possibly 55-gallon barrels of Agent Orange. A notorious anti-foliage chemical most associated with the Vietnam War, Agent Orange would likely have been used in the area during a pipeline construction project in the 1960’s. The chemical has since been banned due to toxic and carcinogenic effects.

Improvised explosive kills Copper Center soldier on duty in Afghanistan
The Associated Press (read by Lori Townsend, APRN)
The Department of Defense today says an Alaska soldier and three others died of wounds they sustained when an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated near their vehicle in Afghanistan. The department said Private First Class Jessy Rogers died Monday in Afghanistan’s Sarobi District. Rogers, from Copper Center, was 20 years old. The military says he was assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, based in Italy.

Murkowski and Stevens sign on to tobacco control bill in U.S. Senate
Joel Southern, APRN – Washington, D.C. (read by Lori Townsend, APRN)
Bipartisan legislation co-sponsored by Alaska’s senators to regulate tobacco products started moving through the U.S. Senate Health Committee today. The bill would give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the power to regulate the content of smoking products and smokeless tobacco. The FDA would also be able to clamp down on tobacco advertising, stop sales of tobacco products to children and bar the industry from making false or misleading health claims about smoking and alternative smoking devices now being developed.

Marketing Alaska’s seafood starts with visits in Alaska, ends with visits in Ukraine
Joe Viechnicki, KFSK – Petersburg
An international marketing representative and a photographer working with the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) visited Petersburg, Juneau and Unalaska this month, meeting with seafood industry members and stockpiling pictures of the scenery and commercial fishing. ASMI is hoping to boost consumption of canned, frozen and fresh salmon in northern Europe along with some new markets in western Russia and the Ukraine.

Large fish die-off near Galena may be heat-related
Tim Bodony, KIYU – Galena (read by Lori Townsend, APRN)
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists in Galena have observed an unusually high number of dead whitefish and pike on lakes and rivers across the northern and western Interior. Residents of Huslia have been calling Fish and Wildlife with the same observations. Wildlife Biologist Jenny Bryant was among the first to notice the fish die-off last week, at a lake about eight miles east of Huslia. Upon reaching the lake, she noticed around a hundred dead fish floating on the water. Bryant cautioned it’s too early to pin down a cause for this fish die-off, but the combination of low water and warm weather is the leading theory right now. Communities across the Interior saw record high temperatures in early July, reaching 90 degrees at some spots. But since then, temperatures have dropped and water levels have come up.

DEC expands botulism warning in Alaska
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks (read by Lori Townsend, APRN)
The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is warning Alaskans about food that may be contaminated with botulism. Processing malfunctions at a Castleberry’s Food Company plant in Georgia that resulted in the contamination of canned human and pet food existed longer than initially thought and officials this week expanded a botulism warning and recall to include Alaska. Brenda Duty with DEC’s Food Safety and Sanitation Program in Fairbanks says bacteria-caused food born illness is rare in the U.S.

A long list of potentially botulism tainted products, some of which may be in Alaska, include everything from chili to barbecue sauce sold under the Castleberry, Kroger and several other name brands, as well as some varieties of canned dog food with the Natural Balance label.

Archaeologists pushed by climate change to quickly preserve ancient Point Barrow burial sites
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
The effects of climate change impact the daily lives of all Alaskans, particularly those who live in rural, primarily subsistence, communities. It also impacts those who have gone before us. In Barrow, archaeologists have been hard at work for the past few summer seasons moving old burials from Point Barrow before rapid erosion washes any more of them into the Chuckchi and Beaufort seas.
Photo: Archaeologists at Point Barrow in June 2007; photo by Lori Townsend, APRN