Alaska News Nightly: June 2, 2011

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Natural Resources Commissioner Educates Washington DC About Alaska

Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC

Alaska’s Commissioner of the Natural Resources Department was in the nation’s capital today, playing a role very familiar with Alaskan politicos: educating Washington about home.

Abuse Victims Take Case to Federal Court

Jessica Robinson, NNN – Portland

One of the largest clergy sex abuse cases in the country has turned into the case of a lifetime for one Northwest attorney. The settlement between the Northwest Jesuits and abuse victims, including those in Alaska, will soon go before a federal judge in Portland for confirmation.

The north Idaho attorney who helped negotiate this $166 million deal says he was a small town “nobody” before the case. Northwest News Network Correspondent Jessica Robinson tells the story of how going up against the Catholic Church shook up his own long-held beliefs.

Fire Risk in Fairbanks Decreases

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The hot, dry weather in the interior is showing some signs of easing. Fairbanks is expected to top out at 70 degrees today, with clouds, higher humidity and a few rain showers.  National Weather Service Meteorologist Ted Fathauer says the interior conditions are transitioning slightly.

That’s significant following a hot, dry May that spawned a lot of wildfire activity.  Fathauer says May in Fairbanks will go down among the driest in 105 years of local weather records.

Fathauer says May’s precipitation in Fairbanks was just 7 percent of the normal six-tenths of an inch.  He says a weather front currently moving through the area likely won’t result in much rain, but will increase relative humidity into the 40 percent range, a significant change from the teens and twenties that have made for volatile wildfire conditions in recent weeks.

Weather May Help Fight Hastings Wildfire

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

Wildfire mangers are hoping to capitalize on the cooler, wetter weather.  As KUAC’s Dan Bross reports, major work is planned for the Hastings Fire northwest of Fairbanks, which saw massive growth earlier in the week.

Anti-Pebble Ballot Measure Gains Certification

Daysha Eaton, KDLG – Dillingham

A ballot measure to stop any mining activity that damages salmon streams in the Lake and Peninsula Borough has been certified to be put before the voters.  Owners of the Pebble mining claims have asked the courts to over-rule the certification, saying it would unconstitutionally restrict the powers of the Borough government.

Infection at Providence ICU on the Decline

Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage

An infection that struck Providence Hospital’s Newborn Intensive Care Unit in Anchorage in March now appears to be on the decline.  A hospital administrator says Providence–working with state epidemiologists–carefully monitored the situation and instituted new procedures to protect the infants and assure the parents.

Red Tide in Sitka has Potential for Toxic Blooms

Robert Woolsey, KCAW – Sitka

A bloom of red tide over the weekend alarmed many Sitkans, but the plankton that caused it is different than the one responsible for deadly paralytic shellfish poisoning. And while this particular kind of plankton may not present a threat to humans, conditions are ripe for other more toxic blooms to occur.

Red Salmon Return Early Ahead of Projections

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

A surge of red salmon is headed up the Copper River. Alaska Department of Fish and Game Glennallen area biologist Mark Sommerville says the early return is well ahead of the pre-season projection.

The state’s preseason Copper River salmon forecast calls for a strong red year. A little over 2 million sockeyes are expected, an increase over last year, and on the high side of the 10-year average.

The large early return triggered a supplemental harvest opportunity that takes place June 6-12, when the surplus fish are expected at Chitina. But there’s no supplemental harvest during the season’s first dipnet opening June 4-5.