Alaska News Nightly: August 13, 2010

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Plane Crash Near McGrath Claims Two Lives
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
A plane crash near McGrath has claimed the lives of two people.  Alaska National Guard rescuers reached the downed flight early this morning.  Guard spokesman Major Guy Hayes says the crash site is about 37 miles northeast of McGrath.

Hayes says the names of the victims are not being released at this time.

Hayes says foul weather prevented rescuers from staying long enough to recover the bodies of the victims.

The crash site is at the 2,000 foot level in the Sunshine Mountains.

Ron Duncan Speaks With APRN About Fatal Crash
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
GCI President and CEO Ron Duncan spoke to APRN today about the Monday night crash that claimed the life of Senator Ted Stevens, GCI senior Vice President Dana Tindall, Tindall’s 16 year old daughter Corey, William Phillips and the pilot Terry Smith.

Frequently fighting tears, Duncan said all those on board were close, long time friends stretching back 30 years.

Duncan said last Saturday, August 7, the group had arrived at GCI’s Agulowak Retreat for four days of fishing. On the morning of the crash, pilot Terry Smith said there was too much turbulence and he felt they should wait for a while before heading to the fish camp. They had a late lunch, and pilot Smith determined things had improved so he took off with the eight passengers for the Nushagak river to fish for kings.

Duncan and his wife, who is a doctor, decided they would take off in their own plane and do some flightseeing that day. Duncan said they flew about a 60-mile circle and the weather was extremely variable from places where the ceiling was 3,000-feet to areas where the rain was beating hard and visibility was extremely reduced. He said the weather patterns were changing rapidly.

After they returned to Agulowak and sometime after 6:00 p.m. he was told that a call to the fish camp to see when the fishing party would return for dinner revealed that they had never arrived. He said they called local air services to start looking for them. His wife grabbed her medical supplies and they went up also. A Bristol Bay pilot radioed to tell Duncan to fly to the south of the main flight path as he was flying along the north side.

Duncan said a memorial service for Dana Tindall is scheduled for 4:00 p.m Monday at the Dena’ina Convention Center in Anchorage.

Crash Victims Likely Died Soon After Impact
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
The state’s medical examiner, Katherine Raven said the five victims of Monday’s crash likely died soon after impact.

Greg Wilkinson, a spokesman for the state Department of Health and Social Services, says privacy requirements prevent additional comment.

Ballot Measure One Funding Source Hit by APOC Penalty
Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage
The Alaska Public Offices Commission has levied a penalty of nearly $340,000 against Alaskans for Open Government.   According to the commission, the group failed to meet the APOC reporting requirements in a timely fashion.

Construction Brings New Jobs to Mat-Su
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
Construction projects in the Matanuska- Susitna Borough have created 70 new jobs this summer, according to Borough media representatives.   The projects are related to Port Mackenzie expansion.  A barge dock there is growing from eight to 16-acres.   The $5 million dollar barge dock expansion makes it an ideal area for large industrial projects, according to Borough spokeswoman Patti Sullivan.

Construction of a one-mile rail loop that will be able to handle a 100-car train has helped to boost employment numbers, too.  The related projects are expected to make Port MacKenzie the only place in the state where the Alaska Railroad can offload bulk materials in an efficient loop.

Akutan Seeks Geothermal Energy
Alexandra Gutierrez, KUCB – Unalaska
For years, the Aleutian village of Akutan has seen the energy potential in its hot springs and fumaroles. Now, it looks like that potential might be realized.

In July, work began on two exploratory wells. The first one was drilled on July 16, and it’s producing hot water at more than 360 degrees. The exploration team is drilling a second well, and they’re optimistic that the water will be similarly warm.

If it is, the exploration phase will end and the city of Akutan will start working on a power plant that would harness the steam from the ground and use it to power electrical turbines. Ray Mann is Akutan’s project manager, and he’s been working closely on the exploration project. He explains that Akutan – with its hot water at shallow depths – is particularly well suited for a renewable energy project like this.

Right now, Akutan uses diesel as its main energy source.  Mann says because the cost of energy is already high and expected to get higher in the future, a geothermal plant could help save Akutan’s residents a good deal of money.

There are plenty of other places in Alaska that have geothermal potential. In Unalaska, the presence of the Makushin Volcano means that a similar project would be possible. But no place is as far along with its exploration work as Akutan.

The exploration team hopes to have a power plant online by 2012.

Coho Season Stronger Than Normal in Southeast
Melati Kaye, KFSK – Petersburg
Southeast troll fishermen have had a better than average year. Coho are coming in fatter at the start of this season than they were at the end of last year’s run. Prices are looking up and Chums add variety to the catch. From Petersburg, KFSK’s Melati Kaye walked the docks and caught up with some long time fishermen to find out more.