Alaska News Nightly: April 12, 2010

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Scholarship Legislation Makes it to Senate Floor
The Associated Press
Major scholarship legislation tacked on to a bill to retain dentists, pharmacists and optometrists in Alaska is going to the Senate floor. The Senate Finance Committee advanced a bill today to significantly expand two existing scholarship programs with a more than $11 million first-year price tag. An expanded and renamed UA Scholars program would provide between half and full tuition to the top 15 percent of every graduating Alaska high school class. The scholarship would only apply to the University of Alaska. The bill also ups the maximum awards in the needs-based AlaskAdvantage Education Grant program, from $2,000 a year to $5,000. The committee’s action comes while a separate scholarship bill by Gov. Sean Parnell is stalled.

Cruise Lines to Drop Suit if Parnell Prevails
Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau
Nine cruise lines have agreed to end a lawsuit against the state, if Governor Sean Parnell’s head-tax legislation passes. Versions of the bill are before the House and Senate Finance Committees. They would reduce the $46-per-passenger fee to $34.50. And they would refund passengers $15 each if they pay local head taxes in Juneau and Ketchikan. The majority of cruise ships stop at the two Southeast cities. So the overall tax would drop to $19.50, nearly a 60 percent reduction.

Senate Puts off Voting on Capital Budget
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
The Senate on Monday put off amending and voting on its capital projects budget that is essential to ending the legislative session this week.  Meanwhile, the House has delayed until Monday night its daily floor session as members put the final touches on a bill authorizing a package of general obligations bonds to put before voters this fall. Several other high profiles bills are still in the works.

Baker Wins Kobuk 440
The Associated Press
Musher John Baker of Kotzebue has won the Kobuk 440 sled dog race. The race started Friday afternoon and ended Sunday morning. It starts in Kotzebue and weaves through Northwest Alaska villages, loops around Kobuk before mushers return to Kotzebue. Baker crossed the finish line at 8:46 a.m., followed by Hugh Neff of Tok and Annie Lake at 10:19 a.m. Twelve mushers competed in a race known for windy conditions.

Clean Harbor Effort Underway
Marcia Lynn, KBBI – Homer
A statewide “Clean Harbor Certification” program is in the works for Alaska’s harbors. It is a voluntary process that encourages managers and users to reduce pollution of the state’s harbor.

Predator Control Controversial in AK and in Lower 48
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
Alaska’s predator control program has caused controversy out of state and at home.  The justification is that removing predators will encourage the expansion of moose populations for the benefit of subsistence hunters, but that doesn’t do much to balm the ire of conservationists and animal advocates who decry the practice.  But there are other ways of growing more moose, and some may be surprising.

Work Underway to Assess Potential Problems with Chena Flood Control
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
Work is underway in North Pole to address concerns about potential seepage or failure of the Chena Flood Control project.  The Army Corps of Engineers operated Moose Creek dam and spillway are used to hold water diverted from the Chena River during flood events to protect Fairbanks.  Integrity concerns at the facility arose during a nationwide Corps dam safety review.  Chena Flood Control project manager John Schoke  says two recently awarded contracts address risk, beginning with clearing of trees and brush along the floodway.

Fairbanks Getting Grant to Experiment with CO2 and Oil Exploration
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
The Fairbanks Economic Development Corporation is getting $2.4 million to look at using CO2 to force more oil from the ground on the North Slope.  FEDCO CEO Jim Dodson says his organization will team with North Slope producers on the study. Dodson says the grant money was put in the military budget by Representative Don Young (R-AK). The idea is to consider CO2 as an alternative to the natural gas and water currently used to pressurize aging oil reservoirs.

Changing Tickets Could Get More Expensive on Alaska Air
Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau
Changing out-of-state Alaska Airline reservations is getting a lot more expensive. But altering in-state tickets is becoming cheaper. The Seattle-based carrier continues to charge $75 to change most tickets involving Lower 48 travel.

Energy Board to Hear Final Arguments on Mackenzie Gas
Allison Devereaux, Canadian Broadcast Corp.
People with strong opinions about the Mackenzie Gas Project in the Northwest Territories have one last chance to make their case.  The National Energy Board is in Yellowknife this week to hear final arguments.  Proponents and intervenors will try to persuade the NEB to approve or deny the project.