Alaska News Nightly: April 28, 2009

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State Health Department Prepares for Swine Flu
Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage
The State Health Department set up an Emergency Operations Center today to respond to the threat of the swine flu outbreak. There are no confirmed cases yet in Alaska, but 64 people have fallen ill in the United States.

Mexican Consulate in Anchorage Fielding Calls About Flu Concerns
Ellen Lockyer, APRN- Anchorage
Health officials say it is only matter of time until the flu gets here, given the frequency of travel to and from Mexico and infected areas in the Lower 48. In Anchorage, the recently opened Mexican consulate is fielding calls from concerned Mexican citizens.

Efforts Underway to Remove More Oil From Drift River Terminal
Ben Stanton, KDLL – Kenai
Efforts are underway to remove more oil from the storage tanks at the Drift River Terminal operated by Cook Inlet Pipeline Company. A spokeswoman with the Unified Command says by Thursday afternoon the process should be complete.

State Reaches Agreement with Shipping Companies On Oil Spill
Anne Hillman, KUCB – Unalaska
The state reached a settlement agreement yesterday with the owners of the Selendang Ayu. The IMC Shipping Company and Ayu Navigation will pay the state almost $845 thousand dollars to settle oil spill, wreck removal and lost fish tax claims.

Obama Rolls Back Changes to Endangered Species Act
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC
The Obama Administration has rolled-back a change to the Endangered Species Act instituted at the end of President Bush’s term in office. Federal agencies WILL again have to consult with federal wildlife experts before taking actions that might affect a threatened or endangered species.

HHS Secretary Wins Nod Despite Sen. Murkowski’s Opposition
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC
Senator Lisa Murkowski cast a vote this afternoon against President Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services. Despite that Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius was successfully confirmed on a vote of 65 to 31.

Officials Gathering Ideas for New Marine Highway Fleet
Rebecca Sheir, KTOO – Juneau
Public hearings have been held throughout Southeast and in Anchorage, to take suggestions and answer questions about a new generation of the Alaska Marine Highway fleet. More meetings are scheduled for this evening in Wrangell, and for next month in Skagway and Haines.

Gov. Palin To Accept Most Federal Stimulus Funds
The Associated Press
A spokeswoman for Governor Sarah Palin says she is going to accept most federal stimulus funding. Spokeswoman Sharon Leighow says Palin is only likely to reject $29 million for a State Energy Program because she believes it to be tied to developing a statewide energy code.

State’s Largest Tribal Organization Testing New Directions
Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau
Southeast’s largest tribal organization is moving in some new directions. Tlingit-Haida Central Council officials discussed innovative programs at their recent general assembly in Juneau. Some are funded by federal stimulus money.

State and Federal Bilogists Predict Poor Salmon Returns for Yukon River
Angela Denning-Barnes, KYUK – Bethel
State and federal biologists are predicting a poor Chinook or king salmon return this summer on the Yukon River and are preparing to restrict fishing.