Alaska News Nightly: June 10, 2011

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Judge Calls for Deeper Look into Cruise Ship Wastewater Issue

Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau

A Juneau judge says state regulators need to take another look at cruise ship wastewater treatment systems.

Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins ruled the Department of Environmental Conservation failed to consider stronger options for some ships.

Earthjustice Attorney Shawn Eisele says the ruling could lead to cleaner water along cruise-ship routes.

The Campaign to Safeguard America’s Waters and Friends of the Earth challenged the wastewater permit system through an administrative appeal. That failed and they took it to state court.

The ruling, issued as of June 6, poses a series of questions that the state must answer. It also reverses DEC’s rejection of the groups’ administrative appeal.

State Attorney Ruth Hamilton Heese says officials are reviewing the judge’s decision.

She says the state has 30 days to decide whether to appeal the decision to Alaska’s Supreme Court. It would not start considering issues raised by the environmental groups until that decision is made.

The industry has said cruise lines are doing the best they can and discharge far less pollution than municipalities. Meanwhile, a state science panel is studying technologies that could improve treatment.

Palin Emails Reveal Struggle with Sudden Public Attention

Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau

Emails released today by the state of Alaska show that as Alaska governor, Sarah Palin struggled with the gossip about her family and marriage.

As the newly minted Republican vice presidential nominee, she was dismayed by the sudden onslaught of questions from reporters. She also dealt with death threats from as far away as Belgium.

The glimpse into Palin came in more than 24,000 pages of emails released today from her first 21 months as governor. They showed Palin involved closely in the day-to-day business of the state while trying to cope with the increasing pressures that came with her rise from small-town mayor to governor to national prominence.

The national media descended on Juneau earlier this week in anticipation of the release, which comes nearly three years after the initial public records request.

Alaskan Reaction to Palin Emails Apathetic

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

While the mainstream media is whipping itself into a frenzy regarding the release of Sarah Palin’s emails, ask any dozen Alaskans at random what they think about it, and get a very different reaction.

I hit the street this afternoon to hear what Alaskans think about the long-awaited email revelations.

Frustrations Over Hastings Wildfire Rising

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

Cooler, wetter weather has allowed crews battling the Hastings wildfire, north of Fairbanks, to make headway.  Progress is reported on line construction on the over 24,000 acres. Borough Mayor Luke Hopkins told the borough assembly June 2 that local government is cooperating to protect populated areas of Goldstream Valley on the fire’s southern perimeter.

Assembly Member Diane Hutchison expressed concern about sentiments she’s heard from some people that fire fighters are not putting full effort into stopping the Hastings fire that’s burned for almost two weeks.

Over 800 fire fighters are battling the Hastings Fire, and a Type 1 team is managing the response the state’s highest priority wild fire.

North Bering Sea Plan Delayed for Further Research

Laureli Kineen, KNOM – Nome

In 2008, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council closed the Northern Bering Sea to bottom trawling. It was open to all kinds of bottom trawling until then…it just hadn’t occurred. In December, the council was supposed to receive a draft research plan in what is called the Northern Bering Sea Research Area. That will not happen.

First Catch Report from Kodiak is In

Jay Barrett, KMXT – Kodiak

The first catch report from the Kodiak commercial salmon fishery is in, with a first-day total of more than 32,000 fish harvested. The bulk of the catch is sockeye salmon, accounting for 29,530 of the total. Almost 3,000 are chum salmon. There were 129 kings and 11 early and eager pinks rounding out the catch.

EPA Won’t Block Bridge Crossing Tanana River

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The Environmental Protection Agency will not hold up an Army Corps of Engineers permit for an Alaska Railroad bridge across the Tanana River.  The EPA had objected to the proposed bridge’s location at Salcha due to fish passage and other concerns, but according to a statement from Northwest Regional Administrator Dennis McClerran the agency will not seek a national level review of the Army Corps’ permit.  The statement says the agency will continue to work with the Corps to address any potential environmental impacts of the project.  Maryanne Holsman with the EPA regional administrator’s office says the decision follows a review of a complete package of information not previously available.

The $180+ million bridge will be the longest in Alaska, but initially only provide the military access to training grounds on the other side of the Tanana River.  Alaska Railroad president Christopher Aadneson says the bridge is the first phase of a long term plan to extend the Alaska Railroad south.

Aadneson says the, railroad’s extension could leverage development of mineral resources along a planned route that would eventually reach all the way to Canada. Over $100 million of the bridge funding is coming from military grants that were endangered if construction did not start this summer.  The rest of the money is coming from the state.

Pelican Woman Becomes Tourist Attraction

Ed Ronco, KCAW – Sitka

This is AK on Alaska News Nightly. Today we’re launching this new show within a show, but really we should say we’re reviving it. Many of you may remember the hour long AK that went off the air in 2008. Regrettably we can’t bring back the whole show, but each Friday Alaska News Nightly will include a shorter version of the award winning program. It’s a chance to look at the quirkiness of Alaskan life, finding the unique stories that don’t make their way into the traditional news line up.

And there is no better place to start then in the Southeast town of Pelican, where a woman named Rose has spent the last 38 years serving drinks and sometimes dinner to anyone who finds her bar along the city’s short boardwalk. She has become one of the town’s major tourist attractions. And she’s made friends far and wide – something that becomes apparent every time she has a birthday.