Alaska News Nightly: August 17, 2007

Officials are investigating the second fatal flightseeing crash near Ketchikan in less than a month. Plus, Chena Hot Springs debuts the state’s first hydrogen production facility. Those stories and more on tonight’s Alaska News Nightly, broadcast statewide on APRN stations.

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Five dead, four injured in second Ketchikan-based small plane crash
Deanna Garrison, KRBD – Ketchikan
Five people are dead and four were injured after a float plane crashed yesterday evening in Traitors Cove, about 27 miles north of Ketchikan. This is the second fatal plane crash near Ketchikan in the past three weeks.

Photos provided by the Alaska State Troopers

Forest Service and employee sparring over whistle blowing and possible retaliations
Matt Lichtenstein, KFSK – Petersburg
U.S. Forest Service officials have been considering whether to fire a whistle-blower employee who successfully challenged some of the agency’s road building and timber sale activity in the Tongass National Forest last year. The Forest Service has declined to comment publicly about its allegations against the biologist. Glen Ith believes his employers are retaliating against him for challenging their decisions.

‘Columbia’ suffers piston damage, heads to port for repairs
Matt Lichtenstein, KFSK – Petersburg
The state ferry Columbia will be out of commission for the rest of the summer season. The vessel lost its starboard engine Monday because of a failed piston rod. Department of Transportation (DOT) spokesperson Mike Chambers says it will take several weeks to get the parts needed for repairs.

Chena Hot Springs generating its own hydrogen supply — an Alaskan first
Libby Casey, KUAC – Fairbanks
Chena Hot Springs, the resort northeast of Fairbanks, has achieved another energy breakthrough. A year after opening the planet’s first low-temperature geothermal power plant, the resort has the state’s first hydrogen production facility.

Does Anchorage still need its vehicle I/M program?
Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage
Both Anchorage and Fairbanks have an I/M testing program to help the two cities meet federal clean air standards. Anchorage’s program has proven very successful — so much so that even the city’s mayor is wondering if the I/M program is still needed. So do others. A majority of those speaking at a public forum last night urged doing away with the tests or at least changing them.

Alaska Railroad introducing whistle-stop service into Kenai backcountry
David Shurtleff, APRN – Anchorage
Starting next Thursday, a new whistle-stop train will give passengers backcountry access to the eastern half of the Kenai Peninsula. Chugach National Forest officials previewed the service yesterday on a trip to Spencer Glacier in the mountains south of Portage Valley. Railroad ad Forest officials previewed the new service yesterday for Ted Stevens, Lisa Murkowski and the press.

View photos from the Alaska Railroad train trip here — photos by David Shurtleff, APRN

Students exploring the science of salmon in Bristol Bay
Anne Hillman, KDLG – Dillingham
The summer’s adventures are winding down. Last week, seven high schoolers from around Bristol Bay closed up their Salmon Camp. But they weren’t catching salmon — they were studying them.