Alaska News Nightly: February 15, 2008

A convicted Alaskan killer is sentenced to 99 years for a 2003 murder. Meanwhile, the Coast Guard ends its search for a Japanese balloonist lost in the north Pacific. Plus, black gold may flow from Valdez in a one-way shipping lane and an already huge yellow gold mine in southwest Alaska may be much, much larger than expected. Those stories and more on tonight’s Alaska News Nightly, broadcast statewide on APRN stations.

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Bethany Correira’s killer sentenced to 99 years
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
A judge in Anchorage today sentenced Michael Lawson to 99 years in prison for murdering Bethany Correira. Judge John Suddock said Lawson needs to be isolated for the rest of his life. Lawson shot Correira in 2003. At the time, Lawson was her boss and the manager of the apartment complex she had just moved into.

Coast Guard calls off search for Japanese balloonist
Charles Homans, KIAL – Unalaska
The Coast Guard has ended its search for missing Japanese balloonist Michio Kanda. Kanda’s hot air balloon disappeared in the North Pacific south of Adak Island in the Aleutians on January 31. Bad weather had hampered the Coast Guard’s search, and damaged one of its ships.

Legislature continues to debate education funding bill
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
The Senate Finance Committee today began consideration of a bill that rewrites the way the state pays for local school operations. The bill is the result of findings of the House-Senate Education Funding Task Force that met over the summer.

State Supreme Court hands down ruling on TAPS rates
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
The state Supreme Court today wrote what could be the final chapter in the litigation between the state and the other owners of the Trans Alaska Pipeline over in-state rates charged to producers.

Gold reserves at Donlin Creek mine much larger than expected
Shane Iverson, KYUK – Bethel
Developers at the proposed Donlin Creek Gold Mine announced there’s even more gold on site. Donlin Creek is located about 200 miles up the Kuskokwim River from Bethel. It was already touted as one of the largest undeveloped gold resources in the world, but the new estimate expands on previous claims by 77%.

One-way zone discussed for Valdez Arm
Amy Bracken, KCHU – Valdez
Each year oil tankers pass through Valdez Arm about 600 times. That’s a dramatic decline from when crude was flowing through the pipeline at its peak rate. Cruise ship traffic is also much lower than it once was, with Princess planning only eight visits to Valdez this summer. But every once in a while, two ships will pass one another between Valdez Narrows and Buoy 9, near Rocky Point. Critics say that’s unacceptable and it’s unclear whether a meeting on the issue this week signaled any progress.

Yukon Quest leaders watching the clock tick in Dawson City
Dan Bross, KUAC – Dawson City and Libby Casey, KUAC – Fairbanks
A dozen Yukon Quest teams are resting in Dawson City, the race’s half-way point. The latest to pull in was Dan Kaduce of Chatanika. He arrived at 4:16 p.m. Yukon time this afternoon. Teams must rest for 36 hours before taking on the Quest’s second half. Dawson is the only place in the race where handlers are allowed to help take care of the dogs. Mushers get a break too, and can take advantage of Dawson’s hospitality. Race leaders Lance Mackey and Ken Anderson will leave Dawson early tomorrow morning and head to the next checkpoint of Pelly Crossing.

Bad weather challenges Iron Dog racers
Tim Bodony, KIYU – Galena
Snow, wind and poor visibility along the Yukon River challenged the frontrunners of the Iron Dog snowmachine race this morning. Defending champion Todd Palin, husband of Governor Sarah Palin, crashed while leading a group of racers into the village of Galena.

Alaskans commemorate Elizabeth Peratrovich
Rosemarie Alexander, KTOO – Juneau
Elizabeth Peratrovich day was established by the Legislature to commemorate the signing of the Anti-Discrimination Act. The work of Elizabeth Peratrovich and her crucial testimony in 1945 on an equal rights bill spurred the territorial legislature to pass the measure.