Alaska News Nightly: June 7, 2010

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Judge Sides with Federal Government in Predator Control Case
Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage
The state lost its court bid on Monday to begin targeted aerial predator control this week in its effort to boost the Unimak Island caribou herd. A federal court judge sided with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, who manages most of the island as the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. But the judge also said the state’s arguments appealed to “common sense.”

Damp Weather Helps Crews Subdue Flames
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
Damp, cool weather has allowed crews to make good progress on the highest priority wildfire response in the state.  Over 700 fire fighters are working the Eagle Trail Fire, which has burned more than 18,000 acres over the last two weeks near Tok.

Sarloos says the perimeter of the fire is about 18 miles long and most of it is in remote country, requiring access by helicopter or boat on the Tanana River.  She says cool misty weather has subdued flames, but the fire is not out.

Eco-Label Added onto Alaska Flatfish
Alexander Gutierrez, KUCB – Unalaska
The Marine Stewardship Council’s eco-label is supposed to make grocery shopping easy for the environmentally conscious. It’s just like the “free range” sticker on chicken or the “organic” tag on produce. You pick out your fish, look for the blue label, and take home your sustainable dinner. This week, the Marine Stewardship Council decided to add its
eco-label to Alaska’s flatfish fishery, certifying a number of trawl-caught species. But some conservationists think this is a mistake that could mislead consumers.

Potential Sheldon Jackson College Operator Pulls Out
Ed Ronco, KCAW – Sitka
The University of Dubuque has walked away from a deal to operate part of the Sheldon Jackson College campus in Sitka. The private Iowa University was exploring the possibility of launching some sort of operation in Sitka, but its president said on Monday that Dubuque, the City of Sitka and the management of the former Sheldon Jackson College could not agree on how to move forward.

UAF Faces Budget Shortfall
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
The University of Alaska Fairbanks is facing a budget shortfall. University Vice Chancellor of Administration Pat Pitney says UAF is $5.5 million short, while it’s rural and Tanana Valley Campuses have a $700,000 deficit.

Pitney attributes the stagnation in research to space limitations for laboratory and other work at UAF   She says that’s why the university has been pushing for a new life sciences facility. That project will go before voters as part of bond package, but Pitney says, in the meantime, UAF has to re-focus on covering existing commitments and priority programs.  She says job losses will result.

Waterman Trial Delayed Until January
Maria Dudzak, KRBD – Ketchikan
The first-degree murder trial of Rachelle Waterman has been delayed until January. Scheduling a new trial date was the subject of a status hearing Friday in Ketchikan Superior Court.

Surveying Southeast Sea Otters
Deanna Garrison, KRBD – Ketchikan
The US Fish and Wildlife Service plans to survey Southeast Alaska’s growing sea otter population this summer. The federal agency discussed its survey plans and heard from concerned commercial divers during a community forum in Ketchikan last week.

Strong Mayor Form of Government Possible in Mat-Su
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
Matanuska Susitna Borough voters will be asked to decide on a new form of government come October.   At present, the Borough’s manager directs the day-to-day operations of the Borough.  This week, the Borough Assembly approved a measure that would allow voters to repeal the management style in favor of a strong mayor form of government.

Current Borough manager John Duffy has handed in his resignation, and will leave his job at the end of June.  Colberg says Duffy’s resignation prompted new discussions on the strong mayor question. The Borough is searching for a new manager.