Alaska News Nightly: January 12, 2011

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Family of Alaskan Trapped After Haiti Quake Takes in Rescuer
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
A year ago today, former Anchorage resident Christa Brelsford was stuck underneath the rubble of a house in Haiti.

The young man who saved Christa, Wenson Georges, is now in Anchorage living with the Christa’s parents. He arrived last night and will soon begin his junior year at East High School. Wenson says after the earthquake he used a pick ax to break apart the cement walls of the house that had trapped Christa. Christa’s brother Julian wasn’t injured in the earthquake, but Christa’s leg was crushed. Her mom Terry says it was terrifying not knowing what was happening with her children.

Christa was eventually evacuated to Miami, where her lower leg had to be amputated.  It took many months for the Brelsford family to arrange for Wenson’s student visa. Taylor Brelsford says the logistics were daunting. The family originally hoped he could go to school in Pennsylvania, where there is a larger Haitian community. When that didn’t work, Taylor says they began thinking about a plan b.

Taylor says the family believes in the basic goodness and compassion in people and the last year has strengthened that. Now they are giving back. And he says despite the struggles ahead for Haiti, he is hopeful.

Wenson plans to finish high school in the U.S. and then go onto college. He eventually will have to return to Haiti. But right now, he’s focused on learning English and is not too concerned about the snow and cold.

Wenson is taking an English proficiency test Thursday and hopes to start at East High next week.

157 Malnourished Dogs Taken From Breeder, Placed in Care of Mat-Su Animal Shelter
Diana Haecker, KTNA – Talkeetna
The Mat-Su borough animal shelter is overcrowded Wednesday as the borough removed 157 malnourished dogs Tuesday night from a dog breeder in the Montana Creek area near Talkeetna and placed them in their care.

Mat-Su Shelter Workers Cope With Sharp Influx of Rescued Dogs
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
The Matanuska Susitna Borough shelter has had plenty of ups and downs in its short history.  Only last October, the shelter celebrated its one-year anniversary as a no-kill cat shelter.  Since then, the shelter has marked close to a year as a no-kill dog shelter.   And, last November, shelter workers rescued a dozen dogs, six of them newborn puppies, from an abandoned tent outside of Talkeetna.  Workers had to reach those dogs by snowmachine. But nothing like this week’s influx of 157 dogs had been anticipated.   Mat Su Borough public information officer Carol Vardeman is now on scene at the shelter.   She says workers are coping, with the help of volunteers.

Vardeman says it appears that all the rescued dogs will be housed at the shelter for now.

The rescued dogs need to be brought back to health before they become adoptable.  Shelter officials are spending donated cash on medicine.    Vardeman says a Mat Su radio station is hosting a fund-raiser to buy micro chips for the dogs.   She says, as the incident unfolds, needs will change.

More than 3,500 animals have passed through the shelter in the past year or so.   And staff have helped to return 561 lost pets to their owners.

Pipeline Temporarily Restarted to Prevent Freezing
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
Oil began flowing down the Trans Alaska Pipeline again Tuesday night after an over 80 hour shut down caused by a leaky pipe.  Resumption of service comes due to fears about the line freezing up, and despite continued work to fix a leaky feeder pipe on the North Slope. Environmental Protection Agency spokesman Mark McIntyre says the response balances concerns.

The Alaska Pipeline carries more than 10 percent of U.S. crude oil production. The plan is to temporarily run the line at sub peak capacity, enough to warm up the oil and allow North Slope producers to ramp up production, averting freeze issues, while a fix for the leaky feeder line is in the works.  McIntyre says the pipeline is running at a 400,000 barrels a day rate, about 200,000 barrels short of normal. He says measures have been taken to handle the oil leak at Pump Station One so the pipeline can operate.

The pipeline will have to be shut down again in few days when a new pipe to bypass the leaking feeder line is ready.  This week’s shutdown was the second longest in the 33-year-old pipeline’s history.

Forest Service Greenlights Sitkoh River Restoration
Robert Woolsey, KCAW – Sitka
The Sitka Ranger District has the green light to move ahead on the restoration of fish habitat in the Sitkoh River on Southeast Chichagof Island.

The $290,000 project will attempt to repair damage done to the watershed by logging practices prior to the implementation of the Tongass Land Management Plan – or TLM – in 1979.

Coast Guard Releases New Report on Alaska Ranger Sinking
Anne Hillman, KUCB – Unalaska
The Coast Guard’s new report on the 2008 sinking of the Alaska Ranger says that the ship went down because of flooding in the rudder room likely caused by the vessel’s poor material condition. According to the Coast Guard, an analysis showed that problem stemmed from the Kort nozzle struts. The report says that the struts at the stern of the vessel created excessive local stresses where they were attached to a corroded area of the hull.

During a press conference in Seattle Wednesday, Captain John Nadeau, Chairman of the Marine Board of Investigation, said that it’s difficult to say if the accident could have been prevented.

Officials also noted that three of the ship’s engineers were not qualified to operate the vessel. The chief engineer and his assistant were not rated to run at 7,000 horsepower ship and the other assistant had no qualifications at all.

The 189-foot fish processing vessel was 130 miles west of Unalaska when it sank in the early hours of March 23, 2008. 42 of the 47 people on board were rescued by the Coast Guard and by the Alaska Ranger’s sister ship, the Alaska Warrior. Five people died in the incident and one of the bodies was never found.

Young Seeking to Make Sure Gun Laws Not Tightened
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC
Alaska’s Congressman Don Young is not joining in today’s outpouring in the House of tributes and well-wishes for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the other victims of Saturday’s Tucson shooting.

Throughout the day, members of the U.S. House of Representatives took to the floor to honor the six people killed and 13 injured in Arizona. But Congressman Young’s office says he was busy with meetings Wednesday.

Young said earlier this week that he was horrified by Saturday’s attack.  He says as people react to it, he wants to make sure there aren’t any moves to tighten gun laws.  He points out that Congresswoman Giffords is a supporter of gun rights, too.

Young says he’s going to continue his practice of carrying a firearm where ever he can, and that if someone ever attacks him, he plans to shoot back.

Young thinks there’s too much security on Capitol Hill – much of which was implemented after the 9-11 Terrorist Attacks.

DeVilbiss Likely New Mat-Su Mayor
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
Matanuska Susitna Borough voters elected Larry DeVilbiss as their new Borough mayor in a special election on Tuesday. DeVilbiss beat seven other candidates for the position. Unofficial election results indicate DeVilbiss garnered 3,395 votes, taking 57 percent of the ballot.

According to Borough officials, about 1,400 absentee and questioned ballots still have to be counted.  The election will be certified on Jan. 20.

The new mayor will fill out the term of former Borough mayor Talis Colberg, who left the post to take a job with the Matanuska Susitna College.

Novel Ponders Life After Civilization
Shane Iverson, KYUK – Bethel
Here’s a question to consider: What if civilization as we know it came to end? And, how would Alaskans, and especially, rural Alaskans survive? A new novel coming out by an author born and raised in Bethel explores that topic. It’s called “The Raven’s Gift.”