Alaska News Nightly: July 30, 2009

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Railbelt Fires Prompting More Response
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
Operations are ramping up at the Railbelt Complex fires.  The management team is leveling up, and eight additional crews are being assigned to the fires, bringing staffing to around 350 people. The biggest fire in the complex, The Minto Flats South blaze has consumed in excess of 340,000 acres, or about 600 square miles.

Fairbanks is Socked In
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
Fairbanks is socked in with wildfire smoke, and air quality is in the unhealthy range. A borough air quality specialist says conditions have been deteriorating since the winds shifted early Thursday.

Largest Firefighting Plane Comes to Fairbanks
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
The world’s largest firefighting aircraft is in Fairbanks.  The new one of a kind Evergreen aviation Supertanker is a converted 747 that holds 20,000 gallons of water and retardant.

Bethel Fire Station is in Danger of Collapsing
Shane Iverson, KYUK – Bethel
The Bethel fire station is in imminent danger of collapse. That’s the conclusion of an independent engineer. The fire department runs a skeleton crew inside the building, while the City looks for money to replace it.

Senators Introduce Offshore Energy Bill
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington
US Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) has teamed up with Louisiana Democrat Mary Landrieu to introduce a bill that would give coastal states revenue from offshore oil and gas development. States like Alaska would get a 37.5 pct. stake in developing energy projects off shore.

New Fish Panel Wants to Connect with Rural Alaskans
Jesse Zink, KNOM – Nome
The panel that shapes federal fish policy for Alaskan waters is launching a new committee to connect with rural residents of the state. Some regional leaders says the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council’s new Rural Community Outreach Committee still falls short of the goal of full council membership.

Homer Might Allow Small Wind Systems
Casey Kelly, KBBI – Homer
The Homer City Council is considering an ordinance that would change city code to make it easier for private property owners to install small wind energy systems on their homes and businesses. The council will take public comment on the matter twice before it comes up for a final vote.

Seward Still Battling Floods
Ben Stanton, KDLL – Kenai
Seward is still dealing with flooded areas after many days of rain.  A flood advisory remains in effect.

Millions of Salmon Are Harvested but Only a Part Makes a Fillet
Jay Barrett, KMXT – Kodiak
Millions of salmon are harvested every summer in Alaska waters, but only part of the fish is turned into fillets.

Crystal Ball for Ferries Shows Many Options
Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau
A look into Southeast Alaska’s crystal ball shows more ferries and roads … or maybe less. Options for an updated Southeast Alaska Transportation Plan include a tunnel to Sitka, a ferry to Gustavus, and a shuttle ship to Thorne Bay. But proposals also include cuts in existing ferry service.