Alaska News Nightly: January 22, 2009

Alaskans who served in the Territorial Guard will no longer be able to count their service towards Army retirement benefits.  Plus,
New Interior Secretary Ken Salazar renews pledge to clean up the department. And Mark Myers is returning to Alaska to serve as the State’s Pipeline Coordinator.

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Territorial Guard retirement benefits in jeopardy
Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage
Alaskans who served in the Territorial Guard will no longer be able to count their service towards Army retirement benefits. The largely Native militia formed to guard the territory of Alaska from the threat of Japanese attack during World War II. 27 surviving members of the Territorial Guard currently qualify for benefits, which include health care and monthly payments. On the Senate floor this evening, Senator Lisa Murkowski demanded the benefits be reinstated and asked for an apology from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates

New Interior Secretary Salazar renews pledge to clean up the department
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington, DC
The Interior Department’s new Secretary, Ken Salazar, addressed his employees around the nation today from Washington, and reiterated his pledge to clean up the Department.  The Interior Department has vast influence in Alaska, where it manages millions of acres of land, and has trust responsibility for Alaska Natives.

Senator Begich questions Transportation Secretary nominee about Alaska projects

Libby Casey, APRN – Washington, DC
Alaska Democratic Senator Mark Begich participated in his first high-profile confirmation hearing yesterday.  As a member of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, he questioned President Barack Obama’s nominee for Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood.  Begich asked LaHood about the Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline.

Senator Olson calls for decisive energy assistance for rural villages
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
Nome Senator Donald Olson is hoping Governor Palin will address the urgent need for assistance in rural Alaska in her annual address to the legislature tonight. Olson a Democrat from the small Seward Peninsula village of Golovin says a recent trip to fill a 100 gallon fuel tank for his mother was troubling.

New numbers show impact of fishing on Alaska’s economy

Anne Hillman, KUCB – Unalaska
A new study shows that Alaska’s fishing industry has nearly a $6 billion impact on the state’s economy.

Mark Myers to become Alaska’s Pipeline Coordinator
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
Mark Myers is returning to Alaska to serve as the State’s Pipeline Coordinator. Most recently Myers has been headquartered in Washington DC as director of the US Geological Survey – and before that as the state’s Director of Oil and Gas.   Myers says he’s excited about the challenge of getting Alaska’s gas to the lower forty eight.

The Legislative Ethics committee points a finger at Senator Kevin Meyer

Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
The Legislative Ethics Committee has found “probable cause” to a charge that Anchorage Senator Kevin Meyer used state resources to mail what could be construed as campaign material at state expense. The committee found that no corrective action is necessary.

Petersburg approves permitting process for hydro-electric project
Matt Lichtenstein, KFSK – Petersburg
Petersburg will move forward with permitting for a proposed hydro-electric project at Ruth Lake in Thomas Bay, on the mainland north of town . The city council voted unanimously, Monday, to turn in a preliminary permit application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. There was support for the proposal at a public presentation earlier in the day. However, some residents who favored the public project also worried it could bolster controversial plans for private hydro-development at other mountain lakes in the bay.

Coast Guard limits monitoring to certain EPIRBS

Erik Wander, KMXT – Kodiak
Beginning February 1st, the Coast Guard and other search-and-rescue personnel will only monitor and receive distress alert broadcasts using digital 406 megahertz Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons, or EPIRBs.

TransCanada puts its wallet behind Yukon Quest
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
The Yukon Quest is working its way back toward a full purse for next month’s race.  Yesterday organizers announced that recently secured sponsorship means at least 150 thousand dollars can be guaranteed for payout to mushers.  The biggest boost in race support comes from Trans Canada.  Quest Yukon territory Director Stephen Reynolds says the pipeline company is moving beyond the level of support it’s put toward the race since coming on board on 2007.