Alaska News Nightly: September 22, 2008

Jury selection for the federal trial of U.S. Senator Ted Stevens got underway today in Washington, DC. Plus, the low fish returns in Southeast this summer have been tough on the region’s hatcheries. Those stories and more tonight on Alaska News Nightly, broadcast statewide on APRN stations.

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Stevens trial opens with jury selection and more than 200 listed witnesses
Libbey Casey, APRN – Washington, DC
Powerful lawmakers and prominent Alaskans are on the list of more than 200 potential witnesses in the federal trial of U.S. Senator Ted Stevens. Alaska’s senior Senator faces 7 felony counts of lying on his financial disclosure forms.

Marine debris growing into trash tsunami
John Ryan, KTOO – Juneau
The National Research Council says 20 years of regulations and international treaties have failed to tackle the problem of garbage in the ocean. The Congressionally-chartered study concludes the problem of marine debris is likely to get worse without substantial effort at the national and international levels. It calls for the United States and the international maritime community to adopt a goal of zero discharge at sea. Lead author Keith Criddle is a Juneau-based professor of marine policy at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He says nets, traps, and other derelict fishing gear can remain in the water for many years.

Should Alaska build a road from Fairbanks to Nome?
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
Western Alaska access was a central topic at a think tank sponsored conference in Talkeetna over the weekend. The Institute of the North event considered energy, transportation and resource development in looking at a controversial high-dollar road or railroad project. Nils Andreassen with the Institute says opening up a Fairbanks to Nome corridor is aimed at addressing economic woes in rural Alaska.

Southeast Alaska fishery worrisome for fish and fisherman
Matt Lichtenstein, KFSK – Petersburg
Southeast Alaska seine fishermen had a far-below-average pink salmon total this year. While dockside prices were up substantially, effort was down and there was a lot less time and area to fish because of the poor pink returns. Those low numbers are troubling to fishery managers who say many northern Southeast Alaska streams did not meet escapement goals.

Low Southeast Alaska fish returns threatening hatchery viability
Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock, KCAW – Sitka
While low fish returns are tough on fishermen, they’re also tough on hatcheries, which generate a significant portion of their revenues from “cost recovery” — or harvesting and selling some of their adult fish returns.

Southeast Conference pushes on importance of Census accuracy
Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau
Southeast Alaska’s organization of business and government leaders says new Census Bureau methods could harm the region. The Southeast Conference is asking federal officials to make sure rural residents are fully counted. The census issue is one of several addressed by conference delegates during their annual meeting.

Tragedy on the Alsek River, Part 2
John Ryan, KTOO – Juneau
Disaster struck two raft trips on the Alsek River this summer, leaving a father and son dead on one trip. Another trip was nearly ruined when a calving glacier flooded the boaters’ campsite. KTOO’s John Ryan reported Friday on the preparations one group took to avoid a similar fate in the remote wilderness north of Glacier Bay. In part two, we see the lengths rafters will go to to avoid being trapped by icebergs.

First crab fishermen, now Iditarod racers seeking ‘reality’ fame
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
The drama of the Iditarod will reach millions of Americans beginning next month when a new reality show based on the “Last Great Race” debuts. Two-time defending Iditarod champion Lance Mackey of Fairbanks is one of seven mushers central to the Discovery Channel program.