Alaska News Nightly: May 23, 2011

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Crews Make Progress in Containing Moose Mountain Fire
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
Substantial progress has been made on corralling a Fairbanks area wildfire.  The Moose Mountain Fire has burned more than 940 acres in an area just northwest of the city since Friday.

Kobuk Cleaning Up After Weekend Flooding
Susan Bucknell, KOTZ – Kotzebue
People in Kobuk are cleaning up after high water flooded village streets with ice over the weekend. The water started rising on Friday. By Saturday morning, residents of one home, including children and an elder of 94 years, were evacuated by boat to the village clinic. They reported their house was shaking as large chunks of ice crashed into it.

Residents say this is the worst flooding Kobuk has experienced in many years. The river rose five feet above flood level, and people were paddling and motoring their boats through the streets and between houses. Some people reported that the water level was very close to the glue-lam beams under their houses, only a foot or so below floor level.

Water was down by Sunday but it left lots of ice around town, with some roads not passable by vehicle because of the chunks of ice.

Kobuk residents are used to the threat of flooding, and prepare for the possibility every year. There were no injuries, but there will be a lot of cleaning up to do.

The village of Buckland in Northwest Alaska escaped flood damage this year after several days of flood warnings last week. Roads were underwater, as ice jams above and below the village raised water levels and threatened to flood homes.  But the ice came through without spilling over and damaging homes right along the river bank.

Coast Guard Rescues Five After Pleasure Craft Sinks
Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage
Five Anchorage residents are safe after their pleasure boat, the Nordic Mistress, sank yesterday 85 miles north of Kodiak.  The boat’s operator called in a mayday to the Coast Guard just before noon yesterday, saying their 60 foot vessel was taking on water. Four men and a teenager were on board. Petty Officer Jonathan Lally says a helicopter was dispatched from Kodiak to search for the boat:

The survivors were lifted into the helicopter and flown back to Kodiak. It isn’t known how much fuel was on board the Nordic Mistress, but no pollution from the incident has been reported. At the time of the rescue, the winds were about 15 miles per hour with six foot seas. The coast guard office in Anchorage is investigating the sinking, but no cause has been determined yet.

Rash of Dead Birds Piques Biologist’s Interest
Jay Barrett, KMXT – Kodiak
An increasing number of dead birds have been showing up in downtown Kodiak. The die off is attracting the interest of federal officials, who were initially concerned the birds were dying from an avian disease. Robin Corcoran is the bird biologist for the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge. She says it’s a bit of a mystery but someone may be poisoning or shooting the birds. She says there’s another possible explanation too.

The majority of the dead birds are pigeons, which are not indigenous, but Corcoran has collected crows and a seagull as well.

Corcoran is concerned that if some of the birds are being poisoned, eagles, which are protected under federal law, could become poisoned, too.

Corcoran says if the bird deaths expand to migratory or protected species, they could span local, state and federal jurisdictions.

Corcoran says there are two hunting seasons for crows, but not in the summertime. Pigeons are fair game year-round, and there is no bag limit.

Tlingit Leader Walter Soboleff Passes Away
Rosemarie Alexander, KTOO – Juneau
The Reverend Doctor Walter Soboleff has died — at the age of 102.  He passed away Sunday morning at his home in Juneau.

He was the first Alaska Native pastor in Juneau during segregation — but his church was open to all.

While Walter Soboleff has often been called the spiritual and cultural standard bearer of the Tlingit people, his influence went well beyond.

Ross Soboleff is his youngest son.

He is survived by four children and several grandchildren. Services are pending.

On his 102nd birthday last November, Soboleff reflected on his life with KTOO’s Rosemarie Alexander.

Kenai Cattle Drive Captures Cowboy Spirit
Ben Stanton, KDLL – Kenai
Alaskans sometimes like to boast that their state is twice the size of Texas.  But surely Texas can always brag about their cowboy heritage.  Well, at least for one day recently, some Kenai Peninsula residents got a taste of that as well.  With, what else, but a cattle drive on horseback outside Soldotna. KDLL’s Ben Stanton tried to follow along and capture the story of the eight mile round trip.

Joy Harjo Releases Fifth CD
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
Muscogee/Creek Nation musician and author Joy Harjo is in Alaska as the artist in residence for Koahnic Broadcast corporation in Anchorage. Koahnic is the parent company for station KNBA and Harjo is spending time performing and traveling around the state. Although she says she was one of the shyest kids at Indian school in New Mexico, she overcame the discouragement of a music teacher who told her girls couldn’t play the saxophone and a step father who forbid her from singing in the house to become one of the premiere Native musicians, poets and authors in the country.

Her new CD, Red Dreams – A Trail Beyond Tears, is her fifth release.