Alaska News Nightly: December 16, 2010

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Obama: US Will Sign UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington
President Obama pledged to keep listening to and advocating for Alaska Natives and Native Americans on Thursday, at his second Tribal Nations Summit. The Interior Department in Washington hosted hundreds of leaders from the country’s federally recognized tribes, including those from Alaska, who filled the front rows of the auditorium. President Obama’s biggest announcement was that the US will sign on to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – something Alaska leaders said going into Thursday’s conference was a top priority.

Tribal Leaders Hopeful About Next Steps but Want More Accomplished
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington
The Interior Department in Washington hosted hundreds of leaders from the country’s federally recognized tribes, including those from Alaska, and many Alaskans came away with hope – but also a desire to see more accomplished after the meetings.

Federal Highway Administration Approves OKs Knik Arm Bridge
Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage
The Federal Highway Administration on Wednesday approved construction of the Knik Arm bridge, an estimated $700-million plus project linking Anchorage and Point MacKenzie. The state agency in charge of its construction described the federal okay as an important step, but hardly the final one before construction can begin.

Groundfish Quotas to Increase Next Year
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
Alaska’s groundfish quotas will be increased next year.  The North Pacific Fishery Management Council approved catch limits for Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands harvests at its December session in Anchorage.

Troopers Get New Leader
Adam Kane, KDLG – Dillingham
Beginning this Friday, Alaska State Troopers will be under new leadership. Alaska Department of Public Safety spokeswoman, Megan Peters says Keith Mallard, a 14-year veteran of the Troopers has been appointed to the top position. Colonel Mallard is a graduate of the FBI national Academy and the DEA Drug Unit Commanders Academy.  Prior to becoming a trooper, Mallard worked as a municipal police officer and a deputy sheriff. Megan Peters says that in his 14 years as a State Trooper, he has served the division in many different assignments.

Gardner Named New Director of Legal Services
Rosemarie Alexander, KTOO – Juneau
Juneau District Attorney Doug Gardner is the new director of Legal Services for the State Legislature.  He was hired Tuesday by the Legislative Council to replace Tamara Cook, who is retiring after nearly 30 years as the top legislative lawyer.

Judge Banned from Seeking Other Judicial Offices

The Associated Press
An Anchorage judge who was voted off the bench in November will not be allowed to seek judicial office again in the state.  That’s the findings of the Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct in the case of Judge Richard Postma. The Commission’s disciplinary hearings regarding  Postma  ended on Wednesday when Postma agreed that his behavior amounted to “wilful misconduct in office. ” Postma was accused of engaging in conduct that created an appearance of impropriety that did not promote public confidence in the integrity of the judiciary.

Troopers Arrest Deserter In Fairbanks
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
Alaska State Troopers have arrested a Fairbanks man who ran away from the Navy in Virginia and re-invented himself in Alaska. Troopers spokeswoman Beth Ipsen says Troopers were alerted by federal Diplomatic Security Service agents about U.S. Navy deserter Royce Allen Eagle’s presence in Fairbanks. Ipsen says the 26-year old Eagle was living under a new identity.

Rescue Crews Searching for Missing Teller Resident
Ben Matheson, KNOM – Nome
Search and rescue crews are looking for Teller resident Kenny Lee. Teller is about 20 miles north of Nome.  Alaska State Troopers were notified early this morning that Kenny Lee had left Brevig Mission on snowmachine late last night and has not made it to Teller. Teller search and rescue coordinator Frank Miller says crews did a thorough search of Grantley Harbor and have moved on to Deese Creek, located south of the harbor.  Miller says the ice is moving in spots.

Diesel Fuel Spills at Unalakleet Utility Cooperative
The Associated Press
State environmental officials say an estimated 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel spilled at a utility cooperative in Unalakleet. Officials from the Unalakleet Valley Electric Co-op told the Department of Environmental Conservation that a power house tank was overfilled and fuel was released into a secondary containment area covered by ice and snow. The incident occurred Sunday during fuel transfer operations. A DEC responder was scheduled to reach the community Wednesday to aid in the response and to evaluate the containment area. The agency says final cleanup likely will wait until spring or summer.