Alaska News Nightly: March 8, 2010

Photo by Ellen Locker, KSKA – Anchorage

Wattie McDonald of Stonehaven, Scotland gets a smooch from his pooch prior to the ceremonial start in Anchorage on Saturday.

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Fast Pace Marks First Hours of Iditarod
Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage
This year’s Iditarod is shaping up to be a fast one. The leaders are already out of the Rainy Pass checkpoint. Whitehorse musher Sebastian Schnuelle is in front. He left the checkpoint at 2:20 Monday afternoon. But he doesn’t have much breathing room- John Baker from Kotzebue and Warren Palfrey from British Columbia are only about 20 minutes back. Ray Redington Jr and Zack Steer and Paul Gephardt are also close behind. A number of teams are resting at Rainy Pass, including Hans Gatt, Cim Smyth, Aliy Zirkle and Jeff King.

Rookie’s Grandpa Made Original Serum Run
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
Unalakleet musher William ‘Middie’ Johnson is a rookie, but his grandfather, Henry Ivanoff, was on the original serum run in 1925.  His nickname Middie is from his younger days when his grandmother called him Mr. William and younger kids who couldn’t quite say Mister, called him “Middie” and it stuck. Johnson says his father carried mail and worked for the army hauling freight with dogs. His father has been gone for many years, but he says dogs have always been in their family.

Game Board Eliminates Wolf Buffer
The state Board of Game voted late Friday to eliminate the buffer zone on state land along the eastern boundary of Denali National park. The buffer has been in place to prevent hunting and trapping of wolves that range outside park protection. The board also placed a moratorium on any new proposals on buffer zones there for 6 years. The decision stunned Alaskans who favor protection of the wolves and was a big disappointment to Denali park officials. Chris Fister is a park spokeswoman. She says NPS for the first time submitted their own proposal seeking an expansion of the buffer zone.

Greenpeace Critical of Murkowski
Libby Casey, APRN – Anchorage
Members of the environmental group Greenpeace unfurled a giant banner in a U.S. Senate Building on Monday criticizing Alaska Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski.

Hoonah Makes List for Next Round of Renewable Energy Funds
Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau
Only one Southeast project is slated for funding in the next round of Alaska Renewable Energy Fund grants. It’s work toward a small hydropower plant for Hoonah.

Legislature Makes Move to Separate Oil Tax from Gas Tax
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
The first steps toward separating oil taxes from gas taxes are ready for formal consideration — and they’ll begin Tuesday. Two bills were introduced in the Senate on Monday that will be in front of the Finance Committee for the rest of this week.

Mat-Su Creamery Gets State Loan
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
Matanuska Valley’s Matanuska Creamery has received a $200,000 loan from the state Board of Agriculture and Conservation this month, but a legislative report questions the move. Valley Dairy, Inc., the company that runs the creamery, was established two years ago to give Mat Valley dairy farmers a market for their milk.  Later that year, the company asked the Agriculture board for two loans from the Agricultural Revolving Loan Fund. The board approved both loans, a long term loan for $430,000 and a short term loan for $200,000.A legislative committee looked into the loans and determined last year that the long term loan was risky. Valley Dairy general manager and CEO Karen Olson says that’s not so.

Su Valley High Finally Gets Settlement
Sue Deyoe, KTNA – Talkeetna
After exhaustive discussions with insurance companies, the Su Valley High school finally has an insurance settlement.  The school burned to the ground in June 2007 and borough officials and others have been working since that time on a settlement.

Arctic Games Open in Alberta
Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau
Opening ceremonies for the 21st Arctic Winter Games were held over the weekend in Grande Prairie, Alberta. The international competition pits young people from Alaska, Greenland, and three northern Canadian regions against each other in sports such as skiing, snowboarding, figure skating, and hockey, as well as Native games and cultural events.