Alaska News Nightly: August 18, 2010

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Thousands Gather at Anchorage Baptist Temple
Annie Feidt and Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
Thousands of mourners and a long list of dignitaries gathered at Anchorage Baptist Temple this afternoon to say goodbye to Senator Ted Stevens. It was a somber occasion, but there were also plenty of laughs as those who knew the Senator shared their favorite stories.

Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski quickly set the theme for the ceremony.

Murkowski talked about the number of young Alaskans Stevens helped raise. She said he would recognize their talent and help encourage their success. And she said he taught everyone in Alaska the value of not giving up.

After Murkowski spoke, Vice President Joe Biden offered the first of three tributes to Stevens. Biden served with Stevens in the Senate for 37 years. And he started things off with a light hearted reference to Stevens’ ability to bring federal dollars to Alaska.

Biden also talked about his first days in the Senate in 1973, when he was still reeling from the death of his first wife.

Biden said he was able to offer support to Stevens when his first wife, Ann died five years later. He ended his tribute with this message.

Senator Mitch McConnell, who is also minority leader, talked about Stevens’ “legendary grit”. He said Stevens’ contributions to Alaska were as great as the state itself. McConnell noted that most lawmakers in Washington would invite you to dinner, but Stevens was different.

Senator Daniel Inouye a Democrat from Hawaii was one of Ted Stevens’ closest friends, both in and out of the daily workings of Congress. They called each other brother and Inouye said when Stevens was sworn in on December 24, 1978, he was a Christmas gift to Alaska. He said when oil was discovered in Prudhoe Bay, Stevens called him and asked him to come to his office.

Inouye listed years of accomplishments, trips together to Iraq and Afghanistan in times when they slept in tents with no electricity or other services and work to help the two distant states meet the needs of their citizens.  Inouye said their personal and Congressional relationship helped set the tone for getting things done.

Dignitaries, Family Talk About Stevens
Libby Casey and Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
When the ceremony ended, the honor guard carried the casket out of the church, followed by the family, the dignitaries including the vice president and friends.  The family stayed behind to talk to those who attended the service at a reception.

APRN’s Libby Casey attended the memorial service today and talked to host Lori Townsend.

Memorial Attendees Share Memories, Thoughts of Stevens
Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage
As soon as the doors of the Anchorage Baptist Temple opened before the service at noon today, a steady stream of people flowed through the two entrances.   KSKA’s Len Anderson collected a few of their reflections as they were in line.

Biological Opinion May Shut Down Mackerel, Cod Fishing Near Kiska
Steve Heimel, APRN – Anchorage
A tense meeting of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council went into recess this afternoon so members could attend the Ted Stevens funeral, but they will be back at work tomorrow on the issue of Steller Sea Lions.  The Council is looking at a Biological Opinion – or Bi-Op – from the National Marine Fisheries Service that would shut down all Atka Mackerel and Pacific Cod fishing west of Kiska Island to reduce the possibility of depriving endangered Steller Sea Lions of food.

The fishing industry has come up with its own set of fishing cutbacks, which they laid out yesterday to the Council’s Advisory Panel.  The industry plan would still allow some fishing, but would also involve some more severe curtailments than the Bi-Op calls for.

Candidates Race for Lieutenant Governor
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
There is no shortage of Republican and Democratic hopefuls for lieutenant governor this year. The slate of candidates crowds both major party ballots for the state’s number two job.

Body of Missing Eagle Customs Agent Found
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
The body of a missing Eagle customs agent has been found.  Charles “Chuck” Collins body was discovered along the Yukon River near Eagle Sunday night. Eagle resident Dave Helmer says he was out looking for poles for a fish wheel when he spotted a body on a drift wood pile.  Helmer says Collins body was carried a long way by the water back to Eagle.

Collins was last seen before driving out of Eagle on the Taylor Highway July 11 as heavy rain began to fall.  His damaged vehicle was later found empty in Obrien Creek, where it ended up after sliding off the road down a 200 foot embankment.

Exploring Ballot Measure One
Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage
Next Tuesday’s primary election contains two ballot measures.   Backers of Ballot Measure One tout it as a much needed anti-corruption tool directed against state government.  Opponents warn its impact would gag thousands of Alaskans from political participation.   In the first of a two part series on the ballot measures, KSKA’s Len Anderson focuses on number one.