Alaska News Nightly: March 5, 2008

The State Senate passed a bill today the saves billions of dollars in two reserve funds. Plus, the latest Iditarod update from the trail and an original music composition celebrating the International Polar Year. Those stories and more on tonight’s Alaska News Nightly, broadcast statewide on APRN stations.

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Alaska Senate set to sock away billions for rainy day
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
The State Senate today passed a supplemental budget that increases the current fiscal year’s spending. While its normal purpose is to cover unforeseen expenses that have arisen since last year’s budget was written, this year the Senate is using the plan to increase the amount of money not spent — putting $2.6 billion into the Constitutional Budget Reserve and another $1 billion into what might be called short-term savings — the statutory reserve.

Steller sea lion numbers improving in southeast, declining in Aleutians
Charles Homans, KIAL – Unalaska
The National Marine Fisheries Service has issued its final recovery plan for Alaska’s long-troubled population of Steller sea lions and it includes good news and bad news for the marine mammal.

Legal settlement restores BIA money to Chugach resource projects
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
A lawsuit filed by the Chugach Regional Resources Commission against the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) over program funding was recently settled. The Commission operated a fish hatchery, oyster farm and other natural resource programs in communities still suffering from the Exxon Valdez oil spill. The settlement restores full funding to the program. The BIA created a mariculture operation for the region after the spill disaster to fulfill trust obligations for assisting Native communities. But attorney Lloyd Miller says a year ago things changed.

Rural Alaska entrepreneurship success possible, but elusive
Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage
A new report maintains that while starting a business in bush Alaska is very difficult, it is possible to be successful. That is, provided certain conditions exist.

Gebhardt leads the Iditarod for now
David Shurtleff, APRN – McGrath
Paul Gebhardt was the first musher out of the Ophir checkpoint this afternoon. He left at 12:52 p.m. and is now leading the Iditarod. Mitch Seavey is now in second place. But he was the first into Ophir at 10:00 a.m. this morning. He was followed into the checkpoint by Hugh Neff, Zach Steer, Ed Iten and Martin Buser. But it’s getting tricky to rely on the standings, as many mushers are taking their 24-hour layovers, including a handful at McGrath and Takotna.

Palin names director of Alaska Energy Authority
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
A former CEO of Golden Valley Electric will take over the job of coming up with an energy strategy for the state and coordinating energy projects. Governor Palin today named Steve Haagenson as director of the Alaska Energy Authority. In appointing him, Palin said the state has had energy planning documents and studies gathering dust for decades. And Haagenson’s job is to pull it all together to provide reliable affordable energy for Alaskans. Haagenson says he isn’t interested in more long-term plans. Instead, he said his first task is to identify resources and technology that can quickly help reduce the public’s energy costs.

UAF professor composes official International Polar Year theme
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
University of Alaska Fairbanks professor Jim Bicigo has composed some new music — celebrating the International Polar Year. It includes five movements, each highlighting a polar theme from the Aurora to “break up” and climate change. It’s also available to download as a ringtone. Bicigo says he was originally asked to compose a short piece to kick off the International Polar Year. It was such a success, organizers asked him to expand it into a full length composition. Bicigo’s composition is called “Polar Synthesis.” The piece will premiere this Saturday in Fairbanks.