Alaska News Nightly: July 30, 2010

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Multiple Bids During TransCanada Pipeline Open Season
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Anchorage
TransCanada Pipeline says there were multiple bids submitted by potential users of a gas pipeline from the North Slope to North American Markets. In announcing the results of the Open Season process that closed at the end of business today, TransCanada’s Tony Palmer said the bids came from the natural gas industry and they totaled a significant volume.

Without giving details, Palmer said the company – working within the state permit granted by the legislature – still must resolve key details of the bids.   He said however, that the company is encouraged by the initial response.

C-17 Crew Identified
Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage
The Alaska Air National Guard released the names today of the four crew members who died Wednesday in the C-17 crash on Elmendorf Air Force Base. They were Major Aaron Malone, Major Michael Freyholtz and Master Sergeant Thomas Cicardo and Air Force Captain Jeffery Hill.

Malone is from Anchorage and was an instructor pilot for the C-17 and a former pilot with Alaska Airlines. Hayes says Major Michael Freyholtz joined the Air Force in 1998, according to Major Guy Hayes, a public affairs officer with the Alaska National Guard.

Captain Jeffrey Hill earned his officer commission in December 2002. He was assigned to help start the new C-17A squadron in Alaska in 2007.

Master Sergeant Thomas Cicardo served in the military for 28 years. He served in the US Marine Corp, US Army and the Air Force Reserve prior to joining the Alaska Air National Guard in September 1997.

Alaska PFD Grows By 12 Percent
Adam Kane, KDLG – Dillingham
The Alaska Permanent Fund grew nearly 12 percent during the 2010 fiscal year which ended on June 30th.

NOAA Investigates Whale Struck By Cruise Ship
Rosemarie Alexander, KTOO – Juneau
On Friday, nearly a dozen NOAA scientists conducted a necropsy on a 43-foot female humpback whale struck Wednesday by a Princess Cruise ship.

They’re trying to determine if the whale died from the blow, or was injured, or dead, before the Sapphire Princess struck.

The carcass was removed Wednesday from the ship’s bulbous bow and beached on the backside of Douglas Island in a spot suitable for the necropsy.

NOAA spokeswoman Julie Speegle says a team of marine mammal biologists took preliminary samples Thursday in preparation for today’s necropsy.  They also measured the whale.

Initial observations indicated the whale was a juvenile humpback, but it turned out to be much bigger. Female humpbacks generally measure between 35 and 45 feet in length.

Speegle says NOAA Law Enforcement officers also have begun their investigation and have a good idea now as to when the Sapphire Princess hit the whale.

She says NOAA’s law enforcement team has interviewed the ship’s captain and some officers and is still in the process of gathering and reviewing evidence.

She says today’s necropsy team is led by veterinarians from NOAA Fisheries and the Alaska Sea Life Center.

Mat-Su College Names New Director
Associated Press
The University of Alaska Anchorage has named former state Attorney General Talis Colberg as director of its Mat-Su College in Palmer.

Colberg, who is mayor of the Mat-Su Borough, plans to resign from that part-time office within a “reasonable time,” and before the end of his term in 2012. Colberg says it was Chancellor Fran Ulmer’s preference that he step down and he agreed that would be best. He will begin with the college on August 16.  Colberg was then Governor Sarah Palin’s attorney general and a central figure in the Legislature’s investigation into her firing of her public safety commissioner.

Mat-Su Borough Searches For New Manager
Diana Haecker, KTNA – Talkeetna
The search for a new Mat-Su Borough manager has produced a list of 42 applicants. Long time borough manager John Duffy left the post last month and the borough is looking for a replacement.

Acting borough manager Elizabeth Gray says the position is open until filled and the borough is still accepting applications.

She says it’s up to the Assembly to decide whether or not to hire a new manager before the October elections in which Mat-Su voters will decide if they want to change the way the borough is managed.  Currently, a borough manager oversees the borough’s day-to-day operations. Assemblyman Mark Ewing proposed in May that the borough should switch to a strong-mayor form of government where the mayor would play a larger role in daily business decisions of the borough.

Development Corporation Predicts Anchorage Economy Set To Improve
Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage
Anchorage’s economy is strengthening and gradually emerging from the national and international recession.  And according the analysis from the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation presented this week, the city should see job growth by next year.

Hoonah Sawmill Owners Hope To Resume Full Operation Soon
Matt Miller, KTOO – Juneau
A week after a fire destroyed a sawmill in Hoonah, its owners say they hope to resume full operation as soon as possible.

Wes Tyler, of Icy Straits Lumber and Milling, acknowledges that it’s a tough business to be in – especially with the current economy.

He says they’re trying to find a replacement sawmill. Tyler says it’ll likely be smaller, but more efficient and still able to do round log breakdown work.

After he secures financing, Tyler would like the sawmill on-site by the end of August

The previous sawmill was valued at about $800,000. Tyler says insurance will barely cover the loan on the destroyed building.

All the other facilities – the generator, planer, and air drying sheds, moulder, and dry kiln – were untouched by the fire that started the morning of July 22. The inventory was also unaffected.

Tyler says he has twelve employees. Most will be able to stay busy in the meantime with secondary manufacturing.

The state fire Marshall believes that something ignited the sawdust inside the building – triggering a series of explosions that destroyed the sawmill.

Lakina Bridge Passable Again
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
The state has patched up a damaged bridge on the McCarthy road.  The Department of Transportation reports that the Lakina Bridge is passable again.

Overhead supports on the steel span were hit by an oversize vehicle earlier this week, and the state closed the bridge after computer models revealed structural concerns.  Bailey says emergency actions were taken.

The Lakina Bridge, which is about 15 miles outside McCarthy along the community’s only road link, is open daily between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. until a permanent fix is completed.  D.O.T. personnel are on site making sure only vehicles weighing under 6,000 pounds cross the compromised span.  Bailey says no decision has been made on whether the driver of the vehicle that hit Lakina Bridge will be held responsible for repair costs.

Anchor From Cruise Ship Recovered Near Sitka
Lily Mihalik, KCAW – Sitka
It’s not often that a cruise ship loses its anchor, but one was recovered on yesterday from the waters near Sitka.

And, as KCAW’s Lily Mihalik reports, retrieving an anchor from the bottom of the sea is far from simple.

Dealing With Human Waste in Remote Areas
Sue Deyoe, KTNA – Talkeetna
A Talkeetna man is organizing an unusual worldwide conference taking place this weekend in Golden Colorado. Alaskans from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Fairbanks and other areas are participating in the discussion of dealing with human waste in remote areas.

Yukon Quest Sets $150k Purse
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
The Yukon Quest will offer a $150,000 purse for the 2011 race. The prize money is on par with what’s been paid out the last two years. Quest Alaska executive director Marty Steury  says the race organization is announcing the purse earlier than normal in anticipation of the August 7th opening day of musher signups.

Steury says maintaining the purse is challenging, and that the Quest is keeping the entry fee at $1,500.

All mushers who sign up either in person on August 7th at the Fairbanks or Whitehorse Quest offices, or by that date through the mail, are entered into a drawing that refunds a $1,000 to one lucky musher.

There are a few changes that will take effect for the 2010 Quest.  For instance, veteran mushers will no longer  have the option of getting dogs checked pre-race by their own veterinarians.  Steury says rookie and veteran teams will be examined by Quest vets a couple days before the start.

Steury says the change is in response to Quest mushers as a way to jump start the relationship with race vets. Another change being implemented this year moves up where start differential times are accounted for.

Steury says that will happen at the first checkpoint to avoid any confusion about who’s really leading as the race progresses. In the past the interval start differential hasn’t been accounted for until the halfway point at Dawson City.