Alaska News Nightly: May 26, 2010

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BP Begins Top Kill to Plug Wellhead
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC
Oil company BP is trying to plug the gushing spill in the Gulf of Mexico by forcing drilling mud into the well.  The “top kill” method aims to counteract the oil pressure so BP can seal the wellhead with cement.  As APRN’s Libby Casey reports, the Obama Administration and Congress weighed in today on what’s next and what may be ahead for Shell’s drilling plans in Alaska.

Alyeska Pipeline Remains Shut Down After Spill
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
The Trans Alaska Pipeline remains shut down following a spill at a pump station yesterday.  Up to several thousand barrels of oil are estimated to have overflowed from a storage tank, into a lined containment area at the Pump Station 9 near Delta Junction.  State Department of Environmental Conservation on scene coordinator Tom DeRuyter says the overflow has slowed to a weep, and the spill has not caused any environmental damage.

Eagan says problems resulted when the auxiliary power failed, while testing a fire suppression system during a planned shut down. DeRuyter says the lack of power prevented tank oil level monitoring, which contributed to the overflow. North Slope production has been reduced to 16 percent of normal and oil is being cached in upstream storage tanks. Eagan says that can be sustained through midday Thursday, after which throughput would have to be ratcheted down even further if the shutdown has to be extended.

Many Legislature Incumbents Running Unopposed
Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau
Most of this year’s incumbent legislators will get free trips back to Juneau next year.  That’s because – so far – the majority of statehouse races are uncontested.  With a filing deadline at the close of business next Tuesday, no one standing for re-election in the Senate is being challenged.  In the House, only eight Republicans and five Democrats have challengers.

Extremely Dry Conditions Hindering Firefighting Efforts
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
Fire weather warnings remain in effect across much of the central and eastern interior again today.  Eleven new wildfires were reported statewide yesterday.  Most of the fires, a mix of lightning and human caused starts, are being contained quickly, but six are requiring extended response, including the state’s largest, the 46,000 acre Toklat fire southwest of Nenana.  Fire Information Officer Pete Buist says acreage gains have been modest since the blaze blew up late last week.  He says several factors are working to slow the fire despite recent day’s hot weather.

Extremely dry conditions have officials looking at upping suppression efforts on backcountry wildfires.  The potential for large wildfires developing is high, and Alaska Interagency Fire Coordination Center manager Dave Curry says they’re considering taking more aggressive action.

Clitheroe Center Detox Unit Closed
Annie Feidt, ARPN – Anchorage
The state has temporarily shut down the detox unit at a Salvation Army treatment facility in Anchorage. The Clitheroe Center says a serious violation of its safety protocol prompted the state action.

Group Forming Coalition to Prevent Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorders
Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau
A group of Southeast Alaska parents and professionals are forming a coalition to prevent Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, or FASD, and advocate for people affected by the conditions.

Sherri Wes’s adopted daughter has FASD. She says the Southeast Alaska FASD Coalition will bring together parents, policy makers, law enforcement officials, care providers, doctors, and educators – just about anyone who works with people affected by FASD. Wes says the idea for the group came out of the three-day conference on the disorders held in Juneau this February. A conference report should be published soon, according to Wes.

Assembly Delays Action on Camp Seizure Ordinance
Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage
The Anchorage Assembly seems prepared to change the city’s ordinance permitting police to clear out homeless camps and seize their belongings–but not quite yet.

Hmong Musician Gets Rasmuson Foundation Backing
Michelle Theriault, APRN – Anchorage
The Khaen, a bamboo flute indigenous to the Hmong people of Southeast Asia, is more than a musical instrument – it’s the center of cultural and religious ceremonies. But for immigrants in Alaska, the knowledge of how to play the instrument is slowly fading. One young Hmong musician in Anchorage wants to change that, and now he’s got the Rasmuson Foundation behind him.