Alaska News Nightly: October 27, 2010

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Judge Sides With Democratic, Republican Parties About Write-In List Issue
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
Wednesday, an Anchorage judge sided with both the Alaska Democratic Party and the Republican Party of Alaska against the State Division of Elections.  At issue is the public display of a list of write-in candidates for this year’s election.  As KSKA’s Ellen Lockyer reports, even as the courts issue a temporary restraining order against the practice, that decision is facing a new challenge.

Multiple Lawsuits Arise Leading Up to General Election
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
The court case involving polling place violations is only one of the legal actions marring this year’s general election.

Yesterday’s release of U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller’s personnel records by the Fairbanks North Star Borough came after a freedom of information suit was  filed against the Borough by several news organizations.

Miller had worked part time for the Borough as an attorney and was disciplined by his employer for having used borough computers for political purposes, violating the borough’s ethics policy.   Miller has fought the release of the records since mid summer, but recently admitted in public that he had been put on leave and docked pay.

Rene Broker, the Fairbanks North Star Borough’s attorney who was Miller’s boss, said he worked for the Borough for seven years and was considered a friend and a colleague.

The personnel records depict Miller’s behavior when confronted about his actions by co-worker Sue Dolan.  Miller had used three borough computers to vote in a poll, then attempted to wipe out evidence of that use by clearing the computer’s internet histories.  That actually led to the discovery of his acts, as Dolan asked why the histories had been cleared on three computers.

One memo from Broker, dated March 26, 2008, notifies Miller of an investigation and possible disciplinary action for being “dishonest about your conduct and about the reasons for your conduct.”

Other records contain emails pertinent to Borough affairs. Broker worries about email correspondence regarding TAPS litigation.

Apparently, when Miller finally resigned from his employment with the Borough, he wiped out his Borough emails, some pertaining to the litigation, which Broker considers public records.

Broker says she’s still trying to find out why Miller did that.

Broker said most of the missing emails were later recovered.

Weekend Vandals Smash Windows Across City
Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage
Anchorage police are looking for those responsible for a weekend vandalism spree that spread across the city and caused about a quarter of a million dollars in damage.

Program Underway to Label Farmed Fish
Steve Heimel, APRN – Anchorage
There is yet another program afoot for sustainability labeling of seafood.  This one concentrates on farmed fish.  It’s a sustainability index that its creators hope will come into increasing use by marketers and consumers.  It’s called the GAPI, which stands for Global Aquaculture Performance Index.  There are sustainability scores for the aquaculture programs in most countries that raise fish in ocean pens.  It was created for the Lenfest Foundation by Doctor John Volpe for the University of Victoria, Canada.

The index looks at factors like the amount of energy used in production, the burden on the environment outside the pens, and the amount of drugs used on the fish.

Fish farming is growing fast, and has been vehemently opposed by Alaska fishermen, who saw farmed fish devastate the salmon market, forcing big price reductions and big changes in the marketing and handling of wild salmon.  But the new sustainability index shows that concerns about farmed salmon may be dwarfed by other sectors of the industry that are quickly expanding in many parts of the world.

The index is based on 2007, the most recent year for which data is available.  It rates how sustainable the fish farming program is for each species in each country, and also what the cumulative impact is.  Because the salmon program has been around for decades now, many of its problems have been solved, Volpe says, and salmon raising countries scaled up their programs some time ago

Doctor Volpe says some salmon farming is now scoring quite well, for example the Chinook salmon program in New Zealand.  And he says that Atlantic salmon production is already peaking out, while the farming of other species, in other countries, is expanding rapidly:

The GAPI scores for Asian countries reflect this.  China, Taiwan and even Japan score quite low. And fish farming in those countries is growing rapidly.

The program looked at 20 different species – only fish that are raised in saltwater.

Volpe said fish farms are now taking up tens of thousands of square kilometers of the oceans, and many of the programs are far more energy intensive than land agriculture.

Alaska Native Children Experience Much High Rates of Tooth Decay
Joaqlin Estus, KNBA – Anchorage
Dental disease is a serious health problem among Alaska Natives. A recent evaluation of about 400 Alaska Native people found untreated tooth decay in more than half the children, 60 percent of the teenagers, and 77 percent of adults. Among American Indian and Alaska Native 2-4-year-olds, tooth decay is five times the national average… however, as Joaqlin Estus reports, tribes are developing a program that may help fill the unmet need.

Bears Break into Pelican Homes
Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau
A family of bears is making a mess out of cabins near the Southeast Alaska town of Pelican. A sow and two cubs have broken into about a half-dozen homes in the past five or six days.

Harbormaster Dave Duffey is one of the affected homeowners in the Sunnyside neighborhood, about two miles north of town.

He says the homes are not strongly built, so they’re easy for the bears to get into. He’s beefed up his entryways to prevent a repeat visit.

“I’ve got two-by-fours and two-by-eights bracing up my doors. I’ve got plywood over windows and doors. It’s kind of limited access to my own buildings. Right now I’m going through a window to get in and out of my house,” he says.

Pelican’s village public safety officer could not be reached for immediate comment.

Duffey says residents have asked state authorities for help. A trooper, who happened to be passing through, looked at some of the damage. But so far, so action has been taken.

“They’re kind of talking about going after it themselves. But there are legalities too. We talked to somebody who has a (bear) tag and maybe he’ll show up,” he says.

He says the area is quiet, since many of the homes are unoccupied this time of year. He also says it’s nerve-wracking knowing the sow and cubs connect people with food.

“It’s dark when I come in in the morning and it’s getting darker when I get home at night. I don’t think she’s been aggressive toward people but she’s destroyed all these houses. It’s just a nightly thing so I make a lot of noise when I go through the woods,” he says.

Sitka’s state wildlife office could not be reached for immediate comment.

Pelican is about 80 miles north of Sitka and about 70 miles west of Juneau. The Chichagof Island town has about 120 residents.

Plans Updated for Potential Hydro-Electric Plant
Joe Viechnicki, KFSK – Petersburg
The company hoping to build a hydro-electric power plant on the mainland north of Petersburg has updated its plans for the development. Officials with Cascade Creek LLC say they are reducing the potential impacts of the project by choosing an underwater power line in Thomas Bay. The company also says it plans to reduce the hydro plant’s impact on Swan Lake, the high mountain lake that will be used for generating power.