Alaska News Nightly: August 21, 2007

A Fort Richardson soldier in Iraq talks candidly about his brigade’s tough deployment. Plus, researchers spot the largest concentration of blue whales off Canada’s west coast in 50 years. Those stories and more on tonight’s Alaska News Nightly, broadcast statewide on APRN stations.

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Octopus, sponges, and anemone; photo courtesy Greenpeace

Greenpeace documents wildlife habitat in Pribilof undersea canyons
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
A crew aboard the Greenpeace vessel Esperanza has just concluded three weeks in the Bering Sea researching and mapping coral and sponge habitat in two submarine canyons off the Pribilof Islands. John Hocevar is an oceans specialist with Greenpeace. He says the organization has been working for years with fisheries groups trying to protect the habitat in the canyons, but he says the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council has concluded that although the canyons are rare habitats, not enough is known about them to put protections in place.

Coral (sea fans called Plumarella) with rockfish (Pacific Ocean Perch); photo courtesy Greenpeace

John Hocevar operating Deep Worker submersible, Zhemchug Canyon; photo courtesy Warshaw/Greenpeace

Anemone, sea star, basket star, shrimp, hermit crab; photo courtesy Greepeace

Marine Research Institute opens in Juneau
Weld Royal, KTOO – Juneau
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Service officially opened the new Ted Stevens Marine Research Institute in Juneau today. The opening is the culmination of a 15-year effort to create Alaska’s largest fisheries research center. Officials said it will help shape future research.

Blue whales seen in waters south of Ketchikan; first in 30 years
John Ryan, KTOO – Juneau
The largest animal that has ever lived has been spotted off the Queen Charlotte Islands, south of Ketchikan. A Canadian Coast Guard ship conducting a whale survey has found at least five blue whales, including a mother and calf. Researchers with Fisheries and Oceans Canada say it’s the largest concentration seen off Canada’s west coast in more than 50 years.

Denali Kid Care coverage unaffected by federal changes; Alaska may be underfunding care
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
Children from low-income families in Alaska will not be affected by new health care restrictions put in place by the Bush Administration over this past weekend. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services limited family income for beneficiaries of state-run Children’s Health Insurance (S-CHIP) programs at 250% of the poverty level. The Federal program reimburses 70% of medical costs to the states.

An Alaskan paratrooper in Iraq, Part 1
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
Alaska’s paratrooper soldiers in Iraq are nearing the one-year mark in their deployment. 3,500 soldiers from the 425th paratrooper brigade based at Fort Richardson are serving in Baghdad and surrounding areas. Major Craig Whiteside is second in command of a battalion stationed in Iskandariyah. Whiteside is the military liaison for local businesses and community leaders in the city of 70,000 people.

NTSB intensively investigating last week’s Ketchikan plane crash
Deanna Garrison, KRBD – Ketchikan
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has begun what it describes as a “major investigation” of a fatal float plane crash in Traitors Cove near Ketchikan. The NTSB says there were 9 people on board the 8-seat plane when it crashed on takeoff Thursday evening. Five of those onboard the flightseeing tour died and another four were seriously injured.

Kodiak’s Alutiiq Museum issuing CD of traditional Kodiak music
Casey Kelly, KMXT – Kodiak
The Alutiiq Museum is set to release “Generations: An Alutiiq Music Collection.” The CD features 27 tracks of both traditional and contemporary songs and stories from Kodiak Island.