Alaska News Nightly: December 29, 2010

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Rescuers Continue Search for Man Missing Near Nome
Ben Matheson, KNOM – Nome
Search and rescue crews from Nome and Teller are continuing the search for John Koezuna. The Rescue Coordination Center is dispatching an aircraft today and aircraft from State Troopers, Fish and Game, and the Fish and Wildlife service will also be used in the aerial efforts.

State Will Certify Election on Thursday
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski will be sworn in as Alaska’s Senator come January.  According to the state, the results of Murkowski’s race with Joe Miller for the seat were certified Tuesday by the State Division of Elections.

Governor Sean Parnell will officially sign certification papers for a U.S. Senator Thursday.

U.S. District court Judge Ralph Beistline ruled on Joe Miller’s suit against the State Division of Elections Tuesday, dismissing Miller’s challenge to the results of the Nov. 2 election and upholding a prior appeals decision by the Alaska Supreme Court.

In his ruling, Beistline said that he did agree with Miller on one point, and that was the varying interpretation of the state statue regarding the manner in which U.S. Senate elections are to be conducted.  Although Beistline upheld the interpretation of the statute by the Alaska Supreme Court, he wrote that the statute was poorly drafted and suggested the Alaska legislature should act to clarify it.  Treadwell says when the legislative session begins, the elections division will move on that advice.

The governor’s certification of the election must be received in Washington, DC by Jan. 3.

Miller to Announce Future Plans on Friday
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
Joe Miller said today he plans to announce by Friday whether he’ll continue his legal fight over the Alaska Senate race.

Miller spokesman Randy DeSoto says Miller is weighing his options.

Miller can appeal Tuesday’s federal court decision. He has said he’s willing to go to the U.S. Supreme Court but is taking legal steps one at a time.Anchorage attorney Tim McKeever says Miller faces an uphill battle to get his appeal heard. McKeever is one of the lawyers who represented Senator Lisa Murkowski in the election litigation. He says there is strong preference in federal law to allow state courts to decide issues of state law. In this case the state superior court and the Alaska Supreme Court ruled against Miller as did federal district judge Ralph Beistline.

McKeever says there does not now appear to be any remaining challenges that could block Murkowski being certified.

McKeever says other states have dealt with write-in ballot and voter intent concerns, but he says Miller’s case was unusually complicated because he initially filed in federal court to address state issues.

Along the way, Miller attempted to raise other concerns that he alleged were examples of possible fraudulent voting or a lack of proper oversight in security as ballots moved from the state to the precincts and back. McKeever says the state has a comprehensive system in place to monitor and secure the ballots from printing to counting.

McKeever says although Miller has the right to appeal to the 9th Circuit, he thinks overturning the current decision is unlikely.

Savoonga Residents Struggle With Power Outages
Associated Press
The village of Savoonga on St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea is continuing to struggle with power outages.

The Alaska Division of Homeland Security says the power outages began Monday when lines became laden with ice and winds caused arcing.Electrical technicians have been able to restore power to the new section of town and most of the old section, but about 25 homes and the village store remained without power Wednesday. Phone communication also has been affected, and some pipes are frozen.

Homeland Security spokesman Jeremy Zidek says at one point about 90 percent of homeswere without power. He says some people are staying at the school.About 700 people live in Savoonga.

Young Named Chairman of Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs
Associated Press
Alaskan Congressman Don Young has been named Chairman of the Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs, a newly established subcommittee under the House Natural Resources Committee.

Oversight and legislative responsibilities for Indian and Alaska Native matters were previously handled by the Full Committee.    Young says he’s honored to be the new chair of the subcommittee.

Begich Middle School Gains Support for Wind Turbine Project
Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage
Earlier this month, Begich Middle School teacher Scott McKinn went before the Anchorage School Board to get its support for a school wind turbine project.   With the board’s unanimous approval and on the last day of before the holiday break, McKinn and his students went before another group with their wind turbine project – the Muldoon neighborhood.

Book Sale Brings End to Stratton Library Story
Robert Woolsey, KCAW – Sitka
In the three years since Sheldon Jackson College in Sitka closed, there’s been much attention directed at the efforts to settle the school’s debts while leaving something behind for  a future institution.  That legacy will not include a library.   Earlier this year Sheldon Jackson’s trustees announced that the Stratton Library will be sold to the state. The building will join the Sheldon Jackson Museum next door and become part of the state museum system.  Only the building is going to the state. The future of the books inside is a different story.  As KCAW’s Robert Woolsey tells us, local librarians  have been working hard to redistribute the most valuable items in the  collection, and earlier this month, gave the public a chance to buy books right off the shelf.

Local Actors Reflect on ‘Whales’
Shane Iverson, KYUK – Bethel
The movie production “Everybody loves Whales” has received a lot of attention in Alaska for actually being shot in Alaska. The film is based off an incident in 1988 when three gray whales became trapped in sea ice near Barrow.    When Alaskans go see the movie one thing they’ll be watching for is how they’re portrayed.

Shane Iverson, from KYUK in Bethel, spoke to the Alaskan actors in the film to see what it was like be part of the production and to find out what they think it could mean for the State’s first peoples.