Alaska News Nightly: June 4, 2010

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King Fishing Closed For June
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
Sport anglers will not be allowed to fish the Kenai River this month, due to a poor king salmon run.  The closure goes into effect Saturday, and the ban is expected to extend to other local streams.

Lawsuit Fuels Controversy Over Cook Inlet Belugas
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
The state is suing the federal government over the listing of Cook Inlet beluga whales as an endangered species. The lawsuit was filed Friday in Washington DC.  The state claims that the federal government did not follow its own laws when it put the belugas on the endangered species list two year ago.

The state is naming the National Marine Fisheries Service and US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke in the suit.  McAllister says the suit demands NMFS follows its own procedures.

Iditarod Fans Mourn Passing of Jerry Austin
Laureli Kinneen, KNOM – Nome
Iditarod fans and the community of St. Michaels are mourning the death of long time Iditarod musher, Jerry Austin. He was 63 years old.

Vetoing of Denali KidCare Draws Prayer Vigil
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
A prayer vigil was held at noon today outside Governor Sean Parnell’s Anchorage office. The vigil was organized by Anchorage Faith and Action Congregations Together or AFACT – which is a coalition of 15 different denominations from around the city.

The vigil was in response to yesterday’s announcement that Governor Parnell was vetoing the expansion of Denali KidCare because of his concerns that money could be used for medically necessary abortions.

Governor’s Cuts Criticized
Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau
Southeast Alaska is home to about 10 percent of Alaska’s population. But Panhandle projects made up around 20 percent of the capital-budget vetoes Governor Sean Parnell made Thursday.

The cuts include hydro projects, roads, tourism infrastructure and a variety of small, community improvements. The lawmaker who assembled most of the budget says the vetoes went far too deep.

$100 Million in Anchorage Projects Nixed
Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage
Among Parnell’s budget vetoes yesterday was a $100-million cut to projects for Anchorage. However that still leaves $460 million in appropriations for the city and Anchorage School District.

Port MacKenzie Rail Extension Funding Okayed
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
The Matanuska Susitna Borough’s Port MacKenzie Rail Extension project has received $35 million in state funding. The appropriation was signed into law Thursday by Governor Parnell.  The infrastructure project is expected to create thousands of jobs and will shorten the rail distance from the Interior to tidewater.

The rail spur will connect Port MacKenzie to the Alaska Railroad at an, as yet, undetermined point.  A federal railroad board will make the final decision on where the connection will be.  The state funding will be used to build the first miles of rail and to purchase right of way for the final route.

Alyeska Pipeline Spill Cleanup Complete
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
Clean up crews working on the contained spill at Pump Station 9 on the Trans Alaska Pipeline are making progress. Alyeska spokeswoman Michelle Egan says the clean up of the pooled oil is complete.

Egan says the tank that overflowed is not back in service yet. The spill estimate is in the 5,000 barrel range. More exact numbers will be released when the clean up is complete.

Bethel Senior Center Back to Full Service Soon
Angela Denning-Barnes, KYUK – Bethel
Bethel’s Senior Center will be back to full services starting next week. This comes after dramatic cuts were made by the local tribe due to lack of funding.

58-Year-Old Shipwreck Oil Removed
Matt Miller, KTOO – Juneau
Divers have finished pumping oil out of the Princess Kathleen.

Operations at the Point Lena shipwreck north of Juneau have ended with at least 110,000 gallons of bunker or heavy fuel oil removed. The total is over 146,000 gallons when counting the rest of the oily water and other oils sucked out of the wreck.

The joint State, DEC and Coast Guard operation started in February after continued reports of sheens from the 58-year old shipwreck. The main contractor started actual pumping of the oil in late April.

Two Alaskans Compete in National Spelling Bee
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
Two Alaska regional spelling champions made it to the national competition in DC before being eliminated.

Oliver Price, a home school student from Anchorage, made it to round three Thursday evening before being eliminated and 14-year-old Fairbanks resident, Rory O’Donoghue, stayed in the competition until this morning, when he expected to be third, but when the first two didn’t make it, he suddenly found him self in the starter slot.

The word that tripped him up? Ostrichism. The competition began Wednesday with 274 spellers from around the nation and other participating countries.