Alaska News Nightly: December 21, 2010

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Murkowski Voting Yes on START Treaty
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC
Senator Lisa Murkowski committed today to vote for START, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. The new START over nuclear arms with Russia is one of President Obama’s top priorities for the waning session of Congress, and on Tuesday enough Republicans signaled they will vote “yea” to reach the needed two-thirds vote of the Senate.

START May Affect Fort Greely
Tim Ellis, KUAC – Fairbanks
Delta Junction city officials say they don’t believe the New START treaty will threaten the missile interceptor base at Fort Greely. Others aren’t so sure.

Flags Lowered for Former Legislator’s Passing
Rosemarie Alexander, KTOO – Juneau
Former legislator, commissioner, and lobbyist “Wally” (Walter) Kubley has died at the age of 89. Governor Sean Parnell ordered state flags lowered Tuesday in Kubley’s memory.

Kubley served in the Alaska State House of Representatives during the Second and Third Legislatures. He was a senior advisor and legislative liaison to Governor Wally Hickel, and was commerce commissioner under Governor Keith Miller.

He also was a long-time lobbyist in the state capitol working on Southeast issues. In later years, his son Don Kubley lobbied with him. He says the Ketchikan shipyard is one of the highlights.

When Kubley served in the legislature, not long after statehood, he helped write the 1963 legislation that established the state division of Marine Transportation and the Alaska Marine Highway System.

Wally Kubley served in the U.S. Coast Guard during World War Two. When he returned to Ketchikan, he built the now famous Sourdough Bar as well as Ketchikan’s first bowling alley. Other businesses include The Sportsman Bar and Restaurant in Wards Cove, and Model Laundry and Dry Cleaners.

He was elected to the Ketchikan City Council, and was a long-time member of the Ketchikan Volunteer Fire Department.

He’s survived by two sons and a daughter, and six grandchildren. Any memorials should go to the Ketchikan or Juneau Little League Associations.

Missing Snowmachiner Found by Search Team
Shane Iverson, KYUK – Bethel
A snowmachiner missing for three days was found by Search teams late Monday afternoon. The traveler had just a little food. But an extensive search between the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers came through for him in time.

2010 Census Shows Growth in Alaska
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
The US Census Bureau released the first 2010 results today. The figures show that the resident population of the country on April 1 of this year was nearly 309 million people (308,745,538).

That’s a 9.7 percent over the 2000 resident population.

Hector Moldonado, a partner specialist with the Census Bureau says for Alaska, the population increase was higher than the national average at 13.3 percent.

Middle Schoolers Build Underwater ROVs
Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau
Seventh graders at Floyd Dryden Middle School are learning advanced math and science concepts this year by building underwater remote operated vehicles. The SeaPerch program trains teachers to build the robots and gives them ideas for classroom use. The first National SeaPerch Challenge will be held in Philadelphia next May. And as KTOO’s Casey Kelly reports, some Floyd Dryden students hope to compete.

State Will Sue Over Polar Bear Habitat Designation
Associated Press
The state of Alaska says it will sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over protections recently put in place to help polar bears faced with the effects of climate change.

Polar bears are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, and as such more than 187,000 square miles of critical habitat in the Arctic has been designated to help the species recover.

The state says the critical habitat includes areas where there is little or no evidence that the areas are crucial to polar bear conservation.

The state on Tuesday put the federal agency on notice that it intends to sue unless the critical habitat designation is changed. If no action is taken in the next 60 days, the state will file a lawsuit.

UAF Scientist Tapped to Lead Polar Bear Study
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
A University of Alaska Fairbanks scientist is being tapped by the state to look at how polar bears have adapted to climate changes historically. The Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development is providing a $400,000 grant for a study led by Matt Cronin, a UAF animal geneticist based the Palmer Experimental farm. Cronin says the idea is to gain perspective on how the bears may respond to current climate warming.

Cronin’s past research has included work for the oil industry, and other partisan funders, but he says he’s not concerned about his data being misused to advocate for a particular position.

Cronin will work with scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and three other universities on the state of Alaska funded polar bear genetics project. He says they’ll also be reviewing existing genetic data on sea lions and Beluga whales, two other species whose decline has been linked to climate change, and for which protective measure threaten development in Alaska.

Eagle River Composer Rejoices in Chilly Weather
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
Tuesday marks the Winter Solstice, the official first day of the season. Dark afternoons and blustery snowfalls sometimes bring groans even from hardy Alaskans. But Eagle River composer Kevin Barnett finds reason to rejoice in the chilly days at year’s end, and his new cd, Alpenglow, is proof.