Alaska News Nightly: June 13, 2011

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Redistricting Leads to Big Election Year in 2012

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

State voting district boundaries have changed so substantially under the new map drawn by the Alaska Redistricting Board that every state senator but one will face election next year, even though many were not scheduled for election until 2014.

An election schedule for the senators was approved Monday by the board.

Under the plan, only Sen. Dennis Egan, a Juneau Democrat, will not face election in 2012.

Board attorney Michael White says Egan’s district includes nearly 87 percent of the same population in 2010. The other nine senators who didn’t face election until 2014 included at most 55 percent of the original population.

The board approved an election schedule for senators this morning and anticipates giving final approval to the new district lines today.

Talkeetna Woman Found, Hospitalized After Search Called Off

Sue Deyoe, KTNA – Talkeetna

Missing Talkeetna resident and former Iditarod musher Melanie Gould was found alive and unharmed on Saturday. Local Talkeetna residents launched a search after the Troopers official ground search halted on Thursday and said they found her close to Cantwell unharmed but cold and tired.

Trooper Spokesperson Megan Peters said that Gould contacted them Saturday. Gould was transported to Mat-Su Regional Hospital on Saturday afternoon.

The Facebook site dedicated to finding Gould announced Saturday afternoon that she was found alive and unharmed and later that day it was taken offline.

A spokesperson for the family said they are eternally grateful for all the assistance they received from Talkeetna residents, that Gould is in good care and a formal statement will most likely be made later this week. Gould’s family has traveled to be with her.

Gould was reported missing after she didn’t show up to work Tuesday, May 31. A search was launched and on Saturday, June 4, Alaska State Troopers found her truck about 18 miles from Cantwell on the Denali Highway. From there, an intense ground and air search was initiated. Dozens of individuals and search dogs were involved in the search.  The official search was called off 10 days after she went missing.

Vote Delayed on Bycatch Reduction Alternatives

Laureli Kinneen, KNOM – Nome

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council voted Saturday to delay the initial review of chum salmon bycatch reduction alternatives in the Bering Sea Pollock Fishery.  It does not set a date for the review, but the council plans to meet in September and December of this year. They also set a hard cap in the Gulf of Alaska Pollock Fishery.

Port Moller Test Fishery to Receive Boost

Mike Mason, KDLG – Dillingham

The effort by a handful of organizations to provide more and better information to the commercial fishing fleets, processors, and other stakeholders in Bristol Bay should get a boost in the next few days as the Port Moller Test Fishery gets ramped up.

Kohring Gets Public Defender In Case of Retrial

Associated Press

A federal judge has appointed a public defender in case the government decides to retry former Wasilla-area Republican State Representative Vic Kohring.

The Anchorage Daily News reports Kohring told U.S. Magistrate Judge John Roberts that he is broke, and had to borrow a vehicle and $40 to get to Monday’s hearing. He also told the judge he has less than $1 in four combined bank accounts.

Kohring was convicted in 2007 of conspiracy to commit extortion, attempted extortion and bribery and sentenced to three and a half years in prison. He was released in 2009 while his case underwent further review. A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in March ordered a new trial after finding prosecutors withheld information that could have been favorable to the defense.

Plane Crash Lands in Cold Bay

Associated Press

Four people are unhurt after a Universal Airlines plane crash landed in Cold Bay on Sunday. The plane, a DC-6, landed without landing gear extended.  Federal Aviation Administration officials say the plane was substantially damaged. The runway was closed for several hours after the crash. Fuel spilled was cleaned up. The DC-6 was in Cold Bay to pick up commercially caught salmon.

No Date Given for Next Batch of Palin Emails

Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau

The State of Alaska must still release another batch of emails from Sarah Palin’s time as governor. But don’t expect them anytime soon.

Somewhat lost in the hubbub over Friday’s release of thousands of pages of emails, was the fact that it only covered the first 21 months of the Palin administration. Several news outlets have requested records from the rest of her time in office. But Assistant Attorney General Dave Jones says the governor’s office has yet to send them to the Department of Law for review.

State Administrative Services Director Linda Perez also isn’t sure how long it will take to release the next batch of emails, which will cover October 1, 2008 through Palin’s resignation on July 26, 2009. Perez says news outlets began requesting the additional records in the last six months.

The state came under fire for taking two and half years to process Friday’s release. But Jones says it takes time to review the emails for privileged information, which he says cannot be done electronically.

The next email release will actually be the fourth document dump related to Palin’s time as governor. Last year the state released about 3,000 pages of Todd Palin’s emails, showing the hands-on role the former “First Dude” played in state government. Some emails related to the so-called Troopergate investigation have also been released.

Several news organizations have posted all the Palin emails released to date onto the web.

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Ice Alaska Aims for ‘Disneyland of the North’

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The World Ice Carving Exhibitor’s Association is poised close on purchase of a new venue for the annual ice art championships and kids park in Fairbanks. The nonprofit group better known as “Ice Alaska” is buying 25 acres off the Johansen Expressway for $2.3 million. The property is near where the group has leased Alaska railroad land for 22 years. The organization unsuccessfully tried to work a deal to buy the Railroad acreage, and Ice Alaska President Dick Brickley says ownership is the biggest advantage of the new site.

Ice Alaska is putting together the land deal with $800,000 from an organization board member, and $1.5 million in state grant money. The state awarded Ice Alaska the grant for a new building, but the money was later turned over to the Fairbanks Borough due to the land issue. The Borough assembly gave Ice Alaska until the end of June to finalize a property deal or see the money awarded through a competitive Request for Proposal process. Other local organizations have expressed interest in the money and taking over the event, but Borough Mayor Luke Hopkins told the assembly at its Thursday meeting, the grant will go to Ice Alaska.

Work has already begun to dismantle and move Ice Alaska’s headquarters and other infrastructure to the new venue.  The new site has a bigger pond for ice harvesting, and a mix of shaded and open areas for ice sculptures. Brickley says the annual February, March event will continue, and grow, at the new site.

Brickley has long promoted a “Disneyland of the north” concept for Ice Alaska, in which winter and summer tourist activities are incorporated into the ice carving venue. He says it will take a few years to figure out how best to grow the event at the new site, but that Ice Alaska organizers are happy to finally have a permanent venue to work with.

Report Recommends Growing Forest, Seafood, Visitor, and Renewable Energy Jobs

Joe Viechnicki, KFSK – Petersburg

A new government report outlines 33 recommendations for creating new jobs in the forest products, seafood, visitor and renewable energy industries in Southeast Alaska. The recommendations were developed by four groups of industry, government and stakeholder representatives, called “cluster groups.” The report is part of an ongoing Department of Agriculture strategy called the “Transition framework” aimed at diversifying the economy in the region.

Wildfire Calms Under Wet Weather

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The big wild fire north of Fairbanks has calmed down with recent showery, cool weather.  The Hastings fire has been burning for two weeks, but its growth has slowed in recent days. Information Officer Sarah Sarloos says weather conditions have varied across the over 23,000 acre burn area.

Sarloos says the wet weather is allowing hand-crews to work the fire perimeter directly in areas where subdivisions could be threatened if things dry out again.

Sarloos says the fire remains between the Chatanika River on the south and Washington Creek to the north. Weather has also helped crews working the 58 thousand acre East Volkmar fire northeast of Delta Junction.  There are six other staffed wildfires in the state.

Camp Kids Reassemble Orca Skeleton

Emily Bender, KCAW – Sitka

A group of students in Sitka is working on an orca skeleton that was recovered near Sitka in March. They’re learning about the messy work that goes into preparing those remains for display in the Sitka Sound Science Center.