Alaska News Nightly: September 8, 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)

Internal Report Released Concerning Deepwater Horizon Blowout
Steve Heimel, APRN – Anchorage
The results are beginning to come in from the many investigations of BP’s Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico.  The company posted its own 193-page internal report on its website today.  It says there were a number of warning signs that were not heeded.  The report says that the gas that caused the explosion likely came up inside the casing of the well.  The report blames both BP management, and the drilling contractor, Transocean, for not spotting trouble signs and for giving the okay to remove drilling mud from the riser – the pipe that extended from the wellhead to the surface.  The report also blames Haliburton for a messy cement job inside the well casing that apparently left gaps that allowed the gas to pressure through.  According to the internal report, there were signs that gas was coming up the riser 40 minutes before the explosion, but the crew did not become aware of it until eight minutes before the blowout, which killed 11 workers and sank the drilling platform.

Another report that was released today came from an oversight board set up within the Interior Department, recommending ways to overhaul federal monitoring and enforcement of offshore drilling.

Southcentral Gas Supplies Stronger This Year
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
Gas supplies for Southcentral are looking better going into this winter than they were last year.  And there’s new opposition – and support – for an Export License for the ConocoPhillips/Marathon Liquefied Natural Gas Plant in Cook Inlet.

Taylor Highway Closed for Repairs; Will Reopen Thursday
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
The Taylor Highway is closed Wednesday from Chicken to the Top of the World Junction to allow for repairs.  Department of Transportation spokeswoman Meadow Bailey says fabric and fill are being used to shore up water damaged road bed.   She says the technique has already been successfully employed to stabilize an area at about mile 118, where a massive slide, took out the road on the way to Eagle.

The Taylor Highway remains closed between the junction and Eagle.  The D.O.T. has led convoys in and out of Eagle in recent days, and Bailey says more will be scheduled. She says the first section of Taylor, from Chicken to the junction, will re-open Thursday.

Alaskans Fighting Against Foreclosures
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
Alaska’s housing providers are getting increased funding to fight foreclosure.  The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, will provide an additional $5 million to Alaska Housing Finance Corporation to continue work in assisting local housing providers to pursue projects that improve neighborhoods.   Mary McBride, HUD’s Northwest Regional Administrator, said in a teleconference Wednesday that the funds represent the second round of  Neighborhood Stabilization Program monies to come to the state.

The HUD money is flexible, McBride said, enabling local housing agencies to purchase, demolish, or redevelop blighted properties.  The money awarded to Alaska provides targeted assistance to local governments and their community partners.  One of those partners in Anchorage is the Cook Inlet Housing Authority.  Carol Gore, with the CIHA, says an earlier HUD grant enabled the agency to purchase 15 blighted sites, in Anchorage’s Mountain View neighborhood and in Wasilla.  None of the sites were occupied, she said.

The most recent round of HUD dollars will benefit housing providers in Fairbanks, the Kenai Peninsula, Anchorage and Juneau.

An earlier round of Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds totaling $19.6 million was previously awarded to Alaska. The money comes from the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

Hundreds Accompany Slain Officers Back to Hoonah
Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau
Hundreds of mourners accompanied the remains of Hoonah Police Officers Tony Wallace and Matt Tokuoka to Hoonah this morning aboard the state ferry Malaspina. Wallace and Tokuoka were shot and killed by a lone gunman last month as they chatted with each other and their families on Hoonah’s Front Street. KTOO’s Casey Kelly spoke with some of those traveling to Hoonah for the officers’ memorial service.

Lost Villages Project Enables Elders to Visit Homes of Their Ancestors
Alexandra Gutierrez, KUCB – Unalaska
For the past two years, the Lost Villages Project has made it possible for some Alaska natives to see the places their ancestors called home. Last week, a group of about a dozen elders and descendants of Unangan villages braved harsh weather to visit Biorka and Kashega in the Aleutian Islands.

Fairbanks Tourism Rebounds From Slow 2009 Season
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
Fairbanks tourism showed some signs of rebound this summer. Fairbanks Convention and Visitor’s Bureau President and CEO Deb Hickock says one indicator, city bed tax revenue, showed some improvement over last year’s very weak season, but nowhere near the record level of 2008.

Hickcock cautions that Borough and North Pole bed tax revenue hasn’t been calculated, and that August receipts, which she expects to be relatively strong, also aren’t in yet.  Cruise ship companies reduced Alaska sailings this summer, so any bump in visitation is being attributed to independent travelers. Matt Atkinson with the Northern Alaska Tour Company says independents helped cushion the cruise decline.

No individual operators report anything dramatic, but there’s optimism among all.  Steve Frank who runs a restaurant, hotel and R.V. Park says the season was encouraging.

Deb Hickock says cruise companies are giving some indication they may increase Alaska sailings by 2012.

Author Discusses “Legend of a Suicide”
Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage
There was a time when David Vann thought his book, “Legend of a Suicide,” would never be published. He spent 10 years writing it and then another 12 fielding rejections from editors and agents. But it may have been worth the wait.  The book is now it’s being published in nine languages in 50 countries and has been called “an American Classic” by one reviewer. The book is mostly based in Alaska, where Vann was born and spent a lot of his childhood. On a recent trip back to the state, he spoke with APRN’s Annie Feidt.