Alaska News Nightly: January 12, 2009

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Juneau power switches to diesel following avalanche
Rosemarie Alexander, KTOO – Juneau
Once again, an avalanche has destroyed a tower along the Snettisham Hydroelectric Project south of Juneau, knocking out low-cost power to the capital city. Diesel generators are now providing electricity to Juneau. A borough-wide power outage lasted less than an hour and a half this afternoon. While Alaska Electric Light and Power crews were flying over the Snettisham line to search for the cause, the company started diesel generators.

Supreme Court hears Kensington Mine toxic waste case
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington, DC
The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments today on whether mining company Coeur Alaska can dump tailings in a lake near Juneau. The waste from the gold mine would kill everything in Lower Slate Lake, but the company and the Army Corps of Engineers say the lake would eventually be revitalized. The case could set precedent for how mining waste is disposed of in the nation’s waterways.

Izembek deal approaching U.S. Senate passage, part of $10B lands bill
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington, DC
The U.S. Senate has advanced a massive lands bill, which includes a land swap in the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge on the Alaska Peninsula. The huge package brings together 160 lands and parks bills and designates 2 million acres of wilderness throughout the U.S. It would cost $10 billion.

Anchorage Medicare forum seeks solutions to patient, doctor problems
Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage
If the goal of Friday’s forum on Medicare was to find a local way to bring immediate relief to Anchorage seniors, it probably failed. However, if the idea was to strengthen the resolve of those working for some partial assistance, the 3 hours appeared well-spent.

Can Alaska bring back college graduates with proposed State program?
Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau
A southeast Alaska lawmaker is trying to get more college students to come back to the state. He’s filed a bill that would help graduates in some hard-to-fill professions pay back their loans. The measure is one of more than 100 bills pre-filed by lawmakers Friday.

Sitka recycling continues despite collapse in profitability
Robert Woolsey, KCAW – Sitka
The collapse of the market for recycled materials late last year has lowered income for the Sitka recycling program, but has not made recycling any more expensive than handling regular trash. Local officials want to maintain the growing recycling program in its current form until the global commodities market rebounds.

‘Christmas Bird Count’ tallies 6,000 birds, 60 species around Sitka
Robert Woolsey, KCAW – Sitka
Sitka residents counted nearly 6,000 birds during the Audubon Christmas Bird Count this year. The annual count was held in Sitka in early January to accommodate busy holiday schedules for the participants. Despite bad weather, 33 people managed to identify 60 species of birds, including many shore birds seen from the beach. Count organizer Jen Cedarleaf says the rarest sighting was a pair of yellow-billed loons, one of which had been observed in the Sitka Channel long before the official count.