Alaska News Nightly: February 16, 2010

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Wade Admits Two Killings
Mindy Schloss, AP
Joshua Alan Wade has admitted to killing two women, according to court papers filed today. The documents are terms of a plea agreement between federal prosecutors and the 29 year old. He’s accused of the 2007 torture and death of his neighbor.

Seward Celebrating…A Steller Sea Lion is Expecting
Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage
The Seward Sea Life Center is celebrating big news. One of the center’s female Steller sea lions is pregnant. It’s the first time in two decades a Steller has been expecting a pup in captivity in the U.S. And researchers hope monitoring the experience will offer clues into why the population is struggling so much in the wild.

Beluga Hearings Draw Anchorage Crowd
Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage
The National Fisheries Service public hearing on Friday evening over its proposal to declare more than 3,000 square miles of Cook Inlet critical habitat for the area’s beluga whales drew well over 100 attendees.

Alaska Snowboarder Falls in Cross Event
Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage
Alaska snowboarder Callan Chythlook-Sifsof didn’t make it past the qualifying round in Tuesday’s snowboard cross. The Girdwood athlete apparently fell in both qualifiers. She completed the first run far behind the field and didn’t finish her second run. Dense fog made for difficult conditions. Snowboard cross was Chythlook-Sifsof’s only Olympic event.

Cruise Ship Gambling Draws Criticism
Dave Donaldson, ARPN – Anchorage
The state last year received $6.8 million from gamblers on cruise ships running casinos in Alaska waters. Anchorage Democrat Harry Crawford doesn’t want that money.  He says it comes with a downside. The cruise ships are not allowed to break out the dice when they are in port, but gambling is not specifically forbidden in state waters. And, although not permitted, the cruise ships must give the state a third of their take.

Begich Wants to Keep Acushnet in Service
Maria Dudzak, KRBD – Ketchikan
Alaska Senator Mark Begich, a Democrat, and Ketchikan Gateway Borough officials hope to keep the Coast Guard cutter Acushnet in service or expedite the production of two fast response vessels that would replace it. The Ketchikan-based cutter is slated to be decommissioned next year.

New NOAA Director is Introduced
Jay Barrett, KMXT – Kodiak
The new director of NOAA Fisheries introduced himself to the press Tuesday morning with a nationwide conference call. Eric Schwaab  was named the assistant administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service by NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco late last week.

Young Suggests Salmon Hatcheries to Enhance Runs
Steve Heimel – APRN, Anchorage
Tuesday was the last day for public comments on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s plan to control the number of Yukon River Chinook Salmon caught incidentally by the Pollock trawl fleet in the Bering Sea. With even subsistence king fishing on the river shut down this summer to meet the requirements of a treaty with Canada, and a federal fisheries disaster declared, villagers have been campaigning for stronger measures to curtail the bycatch. On Tuesday’s public radio call-in show, Talk of Alaska, Representative Don Young – a Republican – said it might be time to consider enhancing the Yukon River’s salmon runs with hatcheries.

Fisherman Invents New Protective Device
Mike Mason, KDLG – Dillingham
A long time Bristol Bay drift fisherman has invented a device intended to help keep salmon from being bruised, cut and stepped on as they are being picked out of nets.

Kate Shugak Back on the Case
Ellen Lockyer – KSKA, Anchorage
Kate Shugak is on a case, and won’t be making a personal appearance, but the city of Palmer has designated Tuesday as “Kate Shugak Day.”  The fictional heroine of Anchorage author Dana Stabenow’s mystery series is becoming well known around the country, well enough to inspire a television series.