Alaska News Nightly: March 6, 2009

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Former Don Young aide indicted
Associated Press, Anchorage
A grand jury has indicted Fraser Verrusio, one of  Don Young’s former congressional staffers, on corruption charges for taking a free trip to the 2003 World Series.

FERC takes an interest in in-state gas line

Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
State legislators attending the Energy Council in Washington DC say they were surprised to hear that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is taking a heightened awareness in what they had considered Alaska-only issues.  In particular,  the in-state – bullet – gas line that would deliver natural gas to the railbelt and South Central.

Alaska Delegation takes aim and new bypass mail increase
Shane Iverson, KYUK – Bethel
Alaska’s Congressional Delegation is warning that the upcoming increase on postal rates will have devastating consequences in Rural Alaska.  Parcel post rates are going up across the country on May 11th.   That increase will be most dramatic for Bypass Mail Customers and will amount to a 50% increase for the largest packages.

US Interior Secretary Salazar to visit Alaska in April

US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says he’ll visit Alaska next month, but only the state’s biggest city.  The Interior Department is holding hearings in four states on off-shore oil and gas development.  One will be in Anchorage, with others in San Francisco, New Orleans, and Atlantic City.

Anchorage gets mixed reviews on “quality of life”
Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage
Thanks to tourist promotions, most Anchorage residents are aware they are living a “big, wild life.”  But how does the city fare in an assessment of “quality of life” indicators?  A study released yesterday gives mixed reviews.

State unemployment rose 1% in January

Rebecca Sheir, KTOO – Juneau
Across the state, Alaska’s unemployment rate reached 7.9% in January, slightly higher than the national rate for the same month.  The Alaska rate is more than a percentage point higher than December.  State Labor Department economist Dan Robinson says the rise is partly due to annual processing revisions. Revised data from a previous calendar year don’t strictly compare to rates in the current year.

Mushers ready for 2009 Iditarod
Lori Towsend, APRN – Anchorage
67 teams are preparing for tomorrow’s ceremonial Iditarod start in downtown Anchorage. The real thousand mile race to Nome begins Sunday in Willow. The field is significantly smaller than last year, when 96 teams started the race.

Special Coast Guard stike team works to prevent leaking from grounded vessel

Anne Hillman, KUCB – Unalaska
The Coast Guard called in a special strike team to prevent oil, fuel, and other pollutants from leaking out of a grounded vessel in the Pribilofs. The 112-foot Mar-Gun went aground on the north side of St.George Island Thursday morning in a particularly sensitive area.  The vessel is stuck on Staraya beach, near fur seal and sea lion rookeries and haul outs as well as an ancient Aleut village site with marine mammal bones dating back 2,500 years. The island also hosts numerous sea bird rookeries.

Lituya back in service
Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau
The state ferry Lituya resumed sailing yesterday. The vessel has been out of service since it blew away from Metlakatla in late January and grounded on nearby rocks. Hull and other repairs were completed earlier this week at Alaska Ship and Drydock in Ketchikan.