Alaska News Nightly: July 14, 2010

Individual news stories are posted in the Alaska News category and you can subscribe to APRN’s news feeds via email, podcast and RSS.

Download Audio (MP3)

Taylor Highway Motorist Considered Missing
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
State Troopers believe there may be a person missing along the flood damaged Taylor Highway.  Spokeswoman Megan Peters says officers checked a vehicle found in a flooded creek bed on the road, and found no occupants. Troopers believe the driver of the vehicle may be Charles Collins, age 56 of Eagle River. He is unaccounted for and considered missing. Peters says Troopers flew into the area where 18 vehicles and 20 to 30 people are cut off by washouts and mud slides north of Chicken.  She says most have decided to stay put and wait for road repairs.

Heavy weekend rains swelled rivers and streams in the Forty Mile region, severely damaging sections of the Taylor Highway about 100 miles between Chicken and Eagle. The State Department of Transportation is working get a rough, one-lane road open soon so stranded motorists can get out.  It may be next week before the road is re-opened to general public traffic.

McCarthy Gains Wireless Broadband Internet
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
The tiny village of McCarthy is soon to be on the front lines of the technological revolution.  More than $5 million dollars in stimulus funds is headed to Alaska to provide wireless broadband connectivity and cell services to the remote Wrangell Mountain town and surrounding communities.

American Indian, Alaska Native Women Experience Highest Rates of Violence
Joaqlin Estus, KNBA – Anchorage
American Indian and Alaska Native women still experience the highest rates of violence of any group in the nation, according to a report that came out yesterday.  The report covers a project launched in 2002 by the Family Violence Prevention Fund.

Lawmakers Revise State’s Policy in Fight Against Meth
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
On Wednesday, state lawmakers began work to come up with new legislation and a re-direction of state money to deal with the state’s current fight against methamphetamine.   The step follows up on laws passed in 2006 that focused on the home-based manufacture of the drug.

Deputy Attorney General Rick Svobodny heads the Department of Law’s Criminal Division.   He reported that the new law has worked by restricting access to the basic ingredients of meth – primarily pseudoephedrine available as cold and sinus medicine. He said the number of meth labs has decreased from 37 in 2005 to nine last year.

However, he told the House Judiciary Committee that the illegal sale and use of meth has increased since the law was enacted.  He says that indicates it is being imported – and that the consumption is spreading throughout the state.

Mat-Su Republican Carl Gatto said that those results come as no surprise to anyone who was involved in working on the 2006 bill.  Lawmakers at the time had no illusions that they would diminish use of the drug.

Police Investigating String of Fatalities
Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage
In less than 12 hours, Anchorage police responded to four incidents resulting in fatalities.   KSKA’s Len Anderson has details on this string of deaths that began late Tuesday afternoon and ended early Wednesday morning.

Village Public Safety Officer Program Expands
Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau
The Tlingit and Haida Central Council is expanding its Village Public Safety Officer program.

T & H recently added four VPSO positions – two in Kake, one in Hydaburg and one in Pelican. That’s in addition to officers already in Angoon and Thorne Bay. Program coordinator Jason Wilson says the Central Council is looking to fill positions in Gustavus, Kaasan and Saxman.

The Parnell administration and state legislators this year appropriated more than $11 million for VPSO programs statewide. That’s an increase of more than $1.5 million from last year.

While funding and program oversight comes from the Department of Public Safety, VPSOs are employed by local Native organizations. Tlingit and Haida received nearly $680,000 in this year’s operating budget to manage the program in Southeast – up about $211,000 from last year. Wilson says having a VPSO can make a huge difference to a community.

Wilson says the Central Council and state troopers work closely with local tribal councils and governments to find a good VPSO for each community. VPSOs don’t carry guns, but do investigate crimes and can make arrests. There are currently 71 VPSOs serving small communities in Alaska.

Missile Defense System Upgrade on Track
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
The missile defense system at Fort Greely is on track to be completed by 2012.  That was the word from Assistant Missile Defense Agency Director Colonel George Bond during a presentation on for the Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce yesterday.  Bond says the last of three missile fields is being constructed.

Bond says missile field one will go out of service.

Missile defense system development in Alaska is not restricted to Fort Greely at Delta Junction.  Bond says Clear Air Force Station in Anderson, which currently provides early warning for intercontinental and sea launched ballistic missiles will receive a major upgrade to more directly support Fort Greely missile defense.

Bond says the plan for the upgrade is not complete yet, but the project will likely take place between 2013 and 2015, and cost $200 million.  He says while Clear’s mission will increase, there are no plans to bump up staffing at the Anderson based station.  The 35 billion mid course missile defense system also includes four interceptors at Vandenberg Air Force base in California, which additionally serves as the system’s testing facility. Interceptor tests results have been spotty.  During the latest trial, held in February, an interceptor launched from Vandenberg failed to hit a dummy target missile launched from a South Pacific island.  The contract for development of the system, currently held by Boeing, is up re-bid this fall.

King Fishing Closed on Kuskokwim
Angela Denning-Barnes, KYUK – Bethel
Fishing for King salmon is closed on two rivers on the Kuskokwim due to low numbers of the fish.

Fishing for Profit
Alexandra Gutierrez, KUCB – Unalaska
For the past dozen years, fisheries management experts have held that boats go after the biggest fish first. Now, biologists at the University of Washington are challenging the idea that people “fish down the food web.” They say fishing is a business, and that fishermen go for whatever is most profitable, whether it be crab or cod.

Park Service May Seek Reimbursement for Rescue
Associated Press
The National Park Service says it might seek reimbursement from a solo climber evacuated from Denali last week. The Park Service called on military helicopters to take 25-year-old Andrew Randolph off the mountain after camp doctors determined his behavior was erratic. The removal operation cost tens of thousands of dollars. The park service is investigating whether criminal charges or the climber’s insurance can help cover the cost.

John Leonard, a Denali National Park and Preserve ranger, says Mount McKinley sees only about a dozen solo climbers a year. Those climbers encounter higher rates of trouble than those who are part of a group.