Alaska News Nightly: May 27, 2011

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Plane Crash Kills Five Near Birchwood
Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage
At about 10:15 this morning Anchorage police responded to a plane crash near the Birchwood Airport in the Chugiak area.  All five people aboard were killed.

Marlene Lammers is with the police department’s information office.

The five killed were all from Eagle River and spanned three generations of the same family.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash.

Chugiak is about 20 miles north of the Anchorage bowl and is part of the municipality.

Lawmakers Preparing to Head Back to Juneau
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
There’s no word yet on whether a special session will be held next week to deal with the single issue of keeping the Coastal Management program alive. However Senate officials are meeting on Sunday to make a final decision. Lawmakers were instructed to proceed as if there will be a special session and were asked to make travel plans to be in Juneau on Monday, May 30th.

Nome Democrat, Senator Donny Olson says he doesn’t think a special session would need to last longer than a couple of days, but first a deal needs to be worked out.

Olson expressed frustration at what he says were past promises by administration officials to fix the problem of a lack of input allowed by local communities into development in their area. It didn’t happen. He says a simple extension of the current program wouldn’t be satisfactory because there’s been plenty of time and lots of warning to the Governor that the coastal management program needed to be dealt with.

Olson says he thinks the Parnell administration is biased toward industry and isn’t concerned enough about local community input.

Governor Parnell was not available for comment today but a statement he posted earlier this week on Facebook says in part that the Coastal Management bill became too weighted toward environmental concerns and not enough toward jobs and the economy. He wrote that employees with the ACMP program are currently looking for work elsewhere and the administration is exploring how Alaskans can participate in the federal permitting process.

Top Veterans Affairs Official Visiting Alaska
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC
The top U.S. official who oversees veterans’ issues will be in Alaska on Memorial Day. Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki will be with Senator Mark Begich in Anchorage on Monday at Memorial Day events. They’ll also travel out to rural Alaska that afternoon, which Begich says will give Shinseki insight into what Alaskan veterans face when trying to get services.

Begich says it’s important that Shinseki really see what it means when you can’t hop in a car and drive across the state for treatment.  To that end, they’ll go together to Bethel and the village of Kwigillingok.

The two will also hold a listening session on Tuesday afternoon at the Loussac Library in Anchorage, along with Senator Lisa Murkowski.

The delegation plans to honor Memorial Day: Murkowski will do so in Fairbanks at a wreath-laying ceremony, and Congressman Young will attend a national celebration on the U.S. Mall.  He’s not traveling to Alaska because unlike the Senate, the House is not on recess next week.

This week Senator Begich helped garner attention for a new report about how reliant veterans are on Social Security payments.  It was paid for by pro-vets groups including the Paralyzed Veterans of America and Vietnam Veterans of America.  It finds that one-third of Social Security recipients are veterans, and that the program pays out benefits to more than 9 million vets nation-wide and 77,000 in Alaska.

Begich says those numbers may surprise people who think of the program as only helping older Americans.

Begich says that should be factored into debates right now over whether to alter Social Security to save money.

360 North Carrying Soboleff Memorial Service
Rosemarie Alexander, KTOO – Juneau
Memorial services for the Reverend Doctor Walter Soboleff will be carried live on statewide television Saturday.

Beginning at 2 p.m., Doctor Soboleff will be remembered at a Grand Camp Alaska Native Brotherhood and Alaska Native Sisterhood service followed by a community memorial.

The public affairs channel 360 North will televise the entire event.  Sealaska Corporation and Sealaska Heritage Foundation are sponsoring the special broadcast.

360 North can be seen on GCI cable channel 15 throughout Alaska, and over-the air on KTOO, KAKM and KUAC public television in Juneau, Anchorage and Fairbanks.  360 North is also available on Dish Network and DirecTV, and is streamed on the Internet at

The “Doctor Walter Soboleff Memorial Page” is available on Facebook for people wishing to post remembrances.   A memorial account has been set up at Wells Fargo bank.

The beloved Tlingit elder and Presbyterian minister passed away on Sunday at the age of 102.

Dozens of New Fires Ignite
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
A dozen new wildfires were reported in Alaska Thursday, a mix of lightning and human caused blazes.  Several are being fought, including an over 1,000 acre lightning start in the Delta Junction area, where more than 50 firefighters and air resources are working.

The largest fire in the state is the Coal Creek Fire, burning in remote country northeast of Healy.  That fire was re- mapped yesterday at 4,800 acres.  It’s burning in largely uninhabited country, but two fire fighters were dropped in to protect remote private properties.

Meanwhile, over 300 firefighters continue to secure the perimeter of the Moose Mountain fire in Fairbanks.  The blaze consumed over 900 acres last weekend before being stopped by a massive aerial assault.  90 percent of its perimeter has been secured, but crews continue to hand cut through steep terrain and to widen the buffer.

Forestry Officials Warn About Interior Fire Conditions
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
State Forestry officials are cautioning interior residents to be careful with anything that could spark a wildfire.  Memorial Day weekend will see Alaskans out recreating during stretch of very hot dry weather, and Forestry spokeswoman Maggie Rogers says the chance of accidentally starting a wildfire is high.

The state also lists cigarettes, yard burning and target shooting as potential wild fire starters. There are burn restrictions in place in some areas, including Fairbanks. That means all burning, except for small warming fires, is banned.

Kenai Peninsula Fire Conditions Elevated
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
Elevated fire risk on the Kenai Peninsula has division of forestry officials concerned about warming or campfires this weekend.

As Alaskans and visitors make their way to the popular recreation area for a long weekend of camping, division of forestry fire prevention officer Paul Pellegrini says one of the things campers need to be mindful of is the wind.

There is a peninsula-wide ban on open burning right now because the risk of wild fire is so high.

Pellegrini says even though there is a ban on burning lawn debris or trash barrels, you can still have a warming or cooking fire.

Pellegrini says having a rock border around your campfire can help keep it contained as wood gets piled on later in the evening.

He says a shovel and pail of water are also important to have at the ready.

Citizen Calls Important to Traffic Enforcement
Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage
A recent study by the Anchorage Police Department shows citizen involvement is a key factor in keeping city streets safer.  On Wednesday, Police Chief Mark Mew asked citizens to be extra vigilant during the upcoming weekend.

Interior Elders Can Receive Special Care
Jeremy Scott, KIYU – Galena
Elders within Alaska’s interior can now receive special care.

The Yukon Koyukuk Elder Assisted Living Facility is now open for business in Galena.

A ribbon cutting was held Thursday to mark the event.

The opening comes twenty years after a bill was passed to build the center.

The Galena building can house 10 elders at a time.

Facility Consortium President Shirley Cleaver says that’s just a start.

Cleaver says she hopes to branch out service in the coming years.

The center’s construction was finished in May of 2009.

Congress Approves Patriot Act Provisions Extension
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC
The U.S. Congress voted this week to extend controversial provisions of the Patriot Act, but not with the help of Alaska’s delegation.

The bill lets federal officials continue for four more years conducting surveillance of suspected terrorists.  Alaska’s Congressman Don Young, Senator Lisa Murkowski and Senator Mark Begich say it goes too far, and infringes on civil liberties.

It lets authorities conduct surveillance on so called “lone wolf” suspects – ones not known to be linked to terrorist organizations, but still deemed suspicious.  It also let’s authorities do roving wiretaps on multiple phone carriers and lines of suspects, and it grants them access to suspects’ business transactions.

In the Senate it passed 72 to 23.  Most of those voting against it were Democrats, but four Republicans also said no.

It passed the House on Thursday 250 to 153 mostly with Republican support, although more than 50 Democrats heeded the request of the Obama Administration to vote for it.

White House officials warned that any interruption in the Patriot Act provisions could harm national security. But opponents wanted more debate about exactly which provisions arenecessary.

Restoration Work Scheduled on Chief Shakes Island Project
Charlotte Duren, KSTK – Wrangell
In Wrangell, restoration work is being scheduled on the Chief Shakes Island Project. The tiny island in the middle of Wrangell’s harbor is home to a replica of Chief Shakes original clan house built in 1939.

New Film Festival Looking for Entries from Alaskan Filmmakers
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
A new film festival is looking for entries from filmmakers who live or were born in Alaska. The Never Sets Film Festival is planning two days of screen in Anchorage in August. And instead of judges selecting the entries, community members will vote for their favorite films that qualify from three different regions of the state.

Woodruff Laputka is festival director. He says the idea is to bring filmmakers together with movie goers to decide which films will make the cut.

Woodruff Laputka is director of the Never Sets Film Festival. The first submission deadline for films is June 15th. For more information go to