Alaska News Nightly: January 10, 2011

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Company Planning Bypass to Restart Trans Alaska Pipeline
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
A plan is in the works to get the Trans Alaska pipeline restarted.  The line has been shut down since oil was discovered Saturday leaking into the basement at Pump Station 1 on the North Slope.   The booster pump facility moves oil from storage tanks to the main line, and leaky feeder lines are suspected.  The pipes are encased in concrete and Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation On Scene Coordinator Tom DeRuyter says the idea is to go around them.

DeRuyter says it’s unclear how long it will take to install a new line circumventing the 160-foot section of problem pipe, but time is a factor.  Cold weather can freeze water in the oil, blocking the pipeline, or the crude itself can get too thick to pump.  Temperatures have been unusually warm at Pump 1, and DeRuyter says that’s buying time for the bypass and re-start operation.

North Slope production has been cut to 5-percent of normal and the oil is being stored in large tanks at Pump Station 1.  Meanwhile, DeRuyter says most of the 400 gallons of crude oil estimated to have leaked into the pump house basement have been picked up with a vacuum truck.

DeRuyter says no oil reached the tundra, but it’s unclear if any crude has been released into the gravel covering the feeder lines.

Shootings Raise Questions About Congressional Members’ Security
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC
Alaska’s Congressional delegation reacted with shock and horror at the attack on their colleague, Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, on Saturday.  The Democrat was shot in the head at a public constituents event in Tucson.  Six people were killed and 14 wounded, including Giffords, who is hospitalized.  22-year-old suspect Jared Loughner is in custody.  As APRN’s Libby Casey reports, the violence is raising questions for Alaska’s Congressional members about security – and about the anger in political debate.

Wainwright Soldier in Custody in Connection With Death of Wife
Associated Press
An Army spokesman says a soldier stationed at Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks is in military custody in connection with the death of his wife. Neither the name of the soldier nor that of his wife has been released. The soldier called Fairbanks police Sunday night to report his wife was dead at their home.  Fairbanks police notified military police, who found the body at the home. The case is under investigation by military investigators. No charges have been filed.

Search for Kodiak Man Ends in Tragically
Jacob Resneck, KMXT – Kodiak
A search for a man who had gone skating on Kodiak’s Island Lake ended tragically Monday morning after volunteers pulled the man’s body out of about 10 feet of water.

Jake Berkowitz Wins Copper Basin 300
Tony Gorman, KCHU – Valdez
Jake Berkowitz won the Copper Basin 300 this morning. The Big Lake musher upset four-time Iditarod champ Lance Mackey.

New Company to Oversee Development of Southeast Mineral Deposit
Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau
A new company has been formed to oversee development of a major mineral deposit on Southeast Alaska’s Prince of Wales Island. It’s investing millions of dollars into an operation some say could be as large as the Juneau area’s Greens Creek mine.

Project Aims to Study Cold Weather Vehicle Emissions
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
The contribution vehicle emissions make to Fairbanks fine particulate pollution is the subject of a study. The State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Fairbanks Borough are working together on the project.  Borough Air Quality specialist Jim Connor says the study is aimed at assessing cold weather fine particulate emissions from cars and light trucks.

The state and borough are requesting vehicles from borough residents for use in the study.  They’ll be paid $50 a day for loaning their car or truck for testing. Connor says tail pipe emissions will be captured as vehicles are run on a treadmill.

Connor says the facility was developed for carbon monoxide emissions testing when the pollutant was a local problem.  He says the same set up works for assessing fine particulate emissions, and that the borough conducted tests on a few vehicles last winter.  The project is being paid for with federal transportation funds.

High Pressure System May Cause Problems for Pilots
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
An unusually high pressure system has the National Weathers Service warning pilots.  Air pressure exceeding 31 inches of mercury is forecast for areas of northern Alaska, the central and eastern interior, and Meteorologist Dan Hancock says if that level occurs it’s a problem for altimeters on some aircraft.

Hancock says that’s a serious issue for visual flight, and precludes safe instrument flying. Hancock says extreme high pressure normally occurs in the arctic, but is only seen in the interior every five to 10 years.

Sitka Fine Arts Camp Taking Control of Core Sheldon Jackson Campus
Ed Ronco, KCAW – Sitka
The core campus of the former Sheldon Jackson College is being given to the Sitka Fine Arts Camp. The arts camp, which runs programs for 500 students every summer, will take ownership of the central campus on Feb. 1. A ceremonial transfer will happen when the trustees hold their final meeting on campus March 12.

According to a statement from the college’s trustees, the name Sheldon Jackson will stay attached to the property, which was Alaska’s oldest higher-education institution before it closed in 2007.  That’s history now. The future will be up to the arts camp.

Russian Orthodox Followers Celebrate Slavi Over Weekend
Anne Hillman, KUCB – Unalaska
This weekend Russian Orthodox followers celebrated Slavi, or Russian Christmas. According to the Gregorian calendar, Christmas falls on Jan. 7 instead of Dec. 25. The holiday includes three days of going house to house following a large star that represents the star of Bethlehem and singing Russian carols. KUCB’s Anne Hillman joined the celebration in Unalaska.