Alaska News Nightly: December 28, 2010

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Judge Dismisses Miller Suit
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage and Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
Joe Miller’s bid for an election contest has been turned down by a federal court. U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline Tuesday afternoon dismissed Miller’s suit against the state division of elections, saying that the Republican candidate’s latest, amended complaint charging U.S. Constitutional violations of state election laws cannot trump the Alaska Supreme Court’s decision upholding voter intent.

Beistline threw out Miller’s complaint on both counts, that of the Constitution’s Election Clause, which puts the manner of conducting elections squarely on the shoulders of the state legislature, and on the Equal Protection Clause, which requires specific standards on the part of elections officials.   The judge said that the state election division’s manner of counting write-in ballots complies with the Alaska Supreme Court’s interpretation of the state’s statutory language.  And, Beistline said, the determination of challenged ballots was made by one individual, the director of elections, giving a uniform standard to the count. APRN reached Joe Miller at his Fairbanks office minutes after the decision was released, and asked him, what’s next?

A spokeswoman for the division of Elections says election officials are reviewing the judge’s decision and are withholding comment at this time.

Meanwhile, the state of Alaska plans to seek nearly $16,000 in legal fees from Joe Miller’s team over litigation surrounding the U.S. Senate race.  The Department of Law says its attorney fees related to Miller’s challenge in state Superior Court totaled $79,722.50. The department says it is allowed to recover 20 percent of the fees and is seeking $15,957.55.

ANB Opposes Fish and Game Commissioner
Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau
Cora Campbell’s appointment as Fish and Game commissioner continues to raise objections from Native organizations. The Southeast-based Alaska Native Brotherhood says it may try to block her confirmation by the legislature. But both sides also say they’re willing to talk.

Mat-Su Still Searching for Borough Manager
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
The Matanuska Susitna Borough is still in need of a borough manager.  After narrowing down a field of dozens of applicants to only three, the Borough Assembly has decided to hire a national executive search firm from Florida.  Colin Baenziger and Associates will continue the process of locating and hiring a borough manager.  Patty Sullivan, Borough spokesperson, says the Assembly met this week to discuss the matter.  Assembly members shared what qualities they are looking for in a new manager and asked how the search firm can promote the Borough.

Currently, representatives of the company are touring the Matanuska Valley’s points of interest.  The successful manager applicant will replace former borough manager John Duffy, who resigned in June of this year.

Mat Su voters will head to the polls to elect a new Borough mayor in a special election on January 11.  Eight mayoral candidates have thrown their hats into the ring.  The election winner will fill a partial Borough mayor term which ends in October of 2012.

Project Bringing Broadband to Bristol Bay is Boosted
Mike Mason, KDLG – Dillingham
The massive project to bring true broadband internet coverage to the Bristol Bay region by 2013 got a big boost recently with the selection of a group of contractors.

Northwest Parents, Law Enforcement Trying to Increase School Attendance
Susan Bucknell, KOTZ – Kotzebue
Northwest Alaska educators are taking a hard look at school truancy rates, and are joining with parents and law enforcement to try to boost school attendance.

Bedbugs Not a Problem in Fairbanks so Far
Tim Ellis, KUAC – Fairbanks
There’s been a lot of concern about bedbugs lately, but for Fairbanks, so far, they’re not really a problem.

Mining Company Planning Mineral Exploration in Bristol Bay Area
Adam Kane, KDLG – Dillingham
One more Canadian mining company has announced plans to explore for gold, copper and molybdenum in the Bristol Bay area next year.

Vancouver-based Millrock Resources, has staked more than 266 claims covering more than 66 square miles of land located 50 miles northeast of Dillingham.

Millrock named the site Humble Property and says the geological, geochemical and geophysical characteristics there are similar to those believed to exist at the Pebble deposit.

Millrock has planned a limited drilling program for 2011 which will be funded primarily by a subsidiary of Kinross a large multi-national mining corporation. Kinross is currently operating the Fort Knox Mine in Alaska and has other operations in Washington State as well as Chile, Russia, Canada and Brazil.

Millrock Resources currently has 12 active exploration projects including nine gold and copper properties in Alaska and three copper prospects in Arizona.

Scientists to Study Juvenile Red King Crab This Summer
Matt Lichtenstein, KFSK – Petersburg
Scientists will conduct field experiments on juvenile red king crab this summer in Southeast Alaska. It’s all part of a larger study that could someday lead to a king crab hatchery program. KFSK’s Matt Lichtenstein spoke with one of the lead researchers and has this report.