Alaska News Nightly: April 18, 2011

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First Day of Special Session Coming to a Close
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau and Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
The House and Senate gaveled in their special session Monday afternoon to deal with 10 bills that the governor gave them last night after the end of the regular session.  By the end of this afternoon’s floor session, they had already dispensed with two of those measures.

Legislature Passes Bill Banning Fake Pot
Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau
Fake pot will be illegal throughout Alaska starting this summer under a bill passed by the state legislature on Saturday.

Sold in smoke shops under names like K2 and Spice, synthetic cannabis is a blend of dried vegetable matter and herbs coated with chemicals, which when smoked produces a marijuana-like high.

House Bill 7 banning the stuff was sponsored by Juneau Representative Cathy Munoz. Anchorage Senator Kevin Meyer sponsored companion legislation in the Senate. Since Munoz’s bill moved first, Meyer said it was his “honor” to carry it in the Senate.

“Some people think Spice, K2 is safe alternative to marijuana, but they are very much wrong. It’s considered much more potent than marijuana. In fact, people who have used this substance have had elevated heart rates, blood pressure up, extreme anxiety, hallucinations, vomiting, and even death sometimes. It’s a very dangerous substance,” Meyer said.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration recently barred the sale of five chemicals used to make synthetic marijuana while the federal agency studies whether to outlaw it nationwide.

Anchorage and Juneau have already passed laws banning it. But it remains widely available in other parts of the state. Anchorage Senator Hollis French said the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony that the substance’s popularity may be due to it being undetectable by drug tests.

“We heard from a businessman on the Kenai Peninsula who sells this product in his shop, and said that he’s selling close to $40,000 per month of this material. He said it was mostly to guys pulling up in trucks with gun racks. He took them to be North Slope workers, who were looking to avoid the drug testing provisions that they impose there,” French said.

HB 7 classifies synthetic pot as a 3A controlled substance in Alaska. Drugs currently classified as 3A include hashish and narcotics like opium.

The bill now heads to Governor Parnell for his signature.

Begich Tries to Smooth Way for Creating OCS Coordinator Position
Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage
Senator Mark Begich is hoping to convince Congress to create a new federal position to help smooth the way for offshore oil and gas development in Alaska. He announced the new legislation at a news conference Monday morning in downtown Anchorage, with industry representatives at his side. The new job would be modeled after the federal gas line coordinator position.

Russian, US Cutters Visit Kodiak Base
Jacob Resneck, KMXT – Kodiak
Flagship cutters from the U.S. and Russian coast guards are in Kodiak this week as the two nations meet to strengthen cooperation in enforcing in each other’s fishing grounds in the Bering Sea. The U.S. Coast Guard’s National Security Cutter Bertholf is in port preparing for its first patrol in the North Pacific .Moored alongside is its Russian counterpart, the cutter Vorovsky which arrived from Russia on Sunday.

Fish and Game Extends Unimak Island Region’s Wolf Hunting, Trapping Season
Daysha Eaton, KDLG – Dillingham
Although the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the wolves on Unimak Island should be left alone. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is using another – perfectly legal – way to get rid of some of them. They are extending the wolf hunting and trapping season for the entire region. The wolf hunting debate revolves around declining caribou herds.

Experts Say ‘Net Zero’ Energy House Possible in the North
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
Building experts say a “Net Zero” energy house: a home that renewably generates all its own heat and power, is possible in the north.  Workshops happening this month around the state are sharing construction techniques, like two-foot thick walls, and R-90 ceilings key to the green standard.  The sessions, including one in Fairbanks last week, are taught by Canadian contractors pursuing the challenge.  Peter Amerongen, of Edmonton, Alberta says Net Zero in the north requires specialized design.

Amerongen says a highly insulated south facing house, with efficient appliances and lighting can collect enough solar energy to cover heating and electricity.  That wouldn’t seem possible in Fairbanks, but local contractor Thorsten Chlupp has developed solutions to get around the darkest coldest part of the winter.

Chlupp says his home uses a 5,000-gallon water tank to store 5 million BTU’s of solar heat. His only other heat source is a masonry wood stove, but he says he hasn’t fired it up since mid February. The addition of photo voltaic panels for electricity, will make Chlupp’s home fossil fuel free.  Chlupp’s latest project is scaling up the technology for a 25,000 foot warehouse. The biggest challenge of Net Zero construction is up front cost, but that’s being leveraged by rising energy prices.

Delta Junction Woman Turns 100
Tim Ellis, KUAC – Fairbanks
A Delta Junction woman turns 100 today.  More than a hundred friends and well-wishers from around the Interior turned out Saturday in Delta to celebrate Fran O’Leary’s big birthday.

Peter Kaiser Wins Kobuk 440
Susan Bucknell, KOTZ – Kotzebue
The 2011 Kobuk 440 wrapped up at 9:50 Sunday morning when Pete Kaiser of Bethel appeared out of the fog to cross the finish line on the ice in front of Kotzebue.

This marks the first big win for 23-year-old Kaiser, who has placed in the Kuskokwim 300 and the Iditarod.

Pete Kaiser’s dad Ron was among the crowd at the finish line, he says his son has won some races but nothing of the caliber of the 440.

Kaiser was followed in second-place by Ken Anderson. Cyndi Barrand (Buh RAND), running a team of John Baker’s 2011 Iditarod dogs, came in third. She was followed by John Schandelmeier, a last-minute stand-in for wife Zoya Denure who injured her knee the day of the 440 start. Chuck Schaeffer took fifth, followed by Hugh Neff, Ruth Iten, Brent Sass and Robert Nelson. Debbie Moderow rounded out the top ten.

Kobuk 440 red lantern winner Dempsey Woods, crossed the finish line at 6:59 this morning.

Mushers had extraordinarily good weather and good trails for a race that can be known for some tough conditions. Past years races have seen severe cold, snow storms that pinned mushers in place, or dogs swimming through overflow.