Alaska News Nightly: September 30, 2009

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Loss of Rudder Doomed Fishing Vessel Last Year
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC
The loss of a rudder appears to have caused the fishing vessel Alaska Ranger to take on water, and sink in the Bering Sea in March 2008. The National Transportation Safety Board met in Washington, DC on Wednesday to go over findings, issue conclusions, and make recommendations it hopes will prevent future disasters.

Somoans Gather to Mourn Disaster Victims
Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage
Somoans in Anchorage are gathering in homes and churches today to comfort each other as they watch the devastation play out on their home island, thousands of miles away. At least 30 people have died in American Samoa and another 90 in neighboring Samoa after Tuesday’s 8.0 earthquake was followed by a destructive tsunami.

Subsistence Advocates Celebrate Federal Court Decision
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
Subsistence advocates are celebrating a court decision that re-affirms some of the original tenets of the Katy John subsistence lawsuit that forced federal agencies to identify all waters in Alaska that it had ownership interest in and ultimately resulted in the federal government taking over subsistence management on federal lands in Alaska. Since 1997, there has been dual jurisdiction with respect to subsistence fisheries in Alaska.

State Argues for Billions in Pension Suit
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
State Attorneys are explaining in court on Wednesday their $11 billion lawsuit against the company giving actuarial advice when the state’s shortfall in pension funding arose. The state claims that Mercer, Inc. was guilty of malpractice, breach of contract, fraud and misrepresentation while it was under contract to calculate the amount of money that employers should contribute to their workers’ retirement plans.  Mercer says the state is incorrectly blaming the company for investment losses, increases in health care costs, and decisions made by the retirement board that counteracted its advice.

Juneau To Decide on Cigarette Tax Hike
Anne Sutton, KTOO – Juneau
Juneau residents will soon decide whether smokers should pay more taxes. If voters approve the proposition on Tuesday’s municipal ballot, it would bump the local tax on a pack of cigarettes by 70 cents – from the current 30 cents – to $1.

State Narrowing Access Choices for Gravina Island
Deanna Garrison, KRBD – Ketchikan
The state has whittled down its list of potential access options to Gravina Island in Ketchikan. The alternatives include three bridge and three ferry options. The possibilities range in cost from $16 million to $304 million.