Alaska News Nightly: February 9, 2010

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DC Snowed Under – Inner Alaskan Emerges
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington
Snow has shut down the federal government in Washington, DC.  It’s snarled roads, broken tree limbs, and caused many DC area schools to cancel classes for the entire week.  But Alaska’s Congressional offices are still open in the nation’s capital.

Halibut Operators To Get New Permits
Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau
By this time next year charter halibut operators in Alaska will have to carry a permit in order to take clients fishing. The application period for the permits started last Thursday and runs through April 5th. Although permits won’t be issued until late summer, somepeople who qualify are already planning to sell theirs.

Spending for Capital Projects Spark Debate
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
A legislative dispute is already developing this year over the amount of spending that will appear in the capital projects budget now in the House and Senate Finance Committees. Senate President Gary Stevens, a Republican from Kodiak, says Governor Parnell has told members they should limit the amount of money spent on their projects to one hundred million dollars this year.  That has been about the average amount spent in recent years when state revenue is tight.  But Stevens says the Senate does not intend to honor that limit.  He says while members respect the Governor and some of the administration’s large capital needs,  Parnell is not recognizing last year’s budget that set aside money for savings and didn’t include any legislative projects.

$1 Billion Endowment Proposed for State Projects
Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau
Some Southeast lawmakers want to create a $1 billion endowment to pay for road, airport and ferry improvements. They say it’s the best way for Alaska to replace declining federal transportation funding.

Parnell Wants Changes Made to Oil Tax Regime
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
Governor Sean Parnell (R-Ak) on Tuesday formally sent the legislature a bill listing changes he wants to make to the state’s oil tax regime.  The bill puts details on the proposals he made January 14th that he said would increase industry investment in the state.

Are Whales Eating the Herring in Prince William Sound?
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
Pacific herring declined dramatically in Prince William Sound after the Exxon Valdez ran aground there in 1989, although studies have not  conclusively linked  the herring population crash to the oil spill.  Now, new research indicates that humpback whales are moving into Prince William Sound as year-round boarders, and that the whales may be
foraging on herring.

Baby It’s Warm (er) Outside
Robert Woolsey, KCAW – Sitka
While fierce winter weather continues to make headlines across the country, parts of Southeast Alaska are experiencing far above normal temperatures for this time of year. In fact, with blossoming salmonberry bushes, blooming bulbs, and the first bear visit of the year, Sitka is enjoying a false spring.

Gatt First into Eagle in Yukon Quest
Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage
The Yukon Quest race leaders are still at the Eagle checkpoint, about 400 miles into the thousand mile trail. Hans Gatt was first in, around 12:30 today, followed closely by Zach Steer, Hugh Neff and Lance Mackey. The four mushers arrived at Eagle within a 20 minute time span. The next checkpoint after Eagle is Dawson City, the first scheduled stop for the mushers across the border, in Canada. It’s a 150 mile run from Eagle. Ken Anderson, Sonny Linder and Gerry Willomitzer are running several hours behind the leaders. They left Slavens Roadhouse Monday evening.