Alaska News Nightly: June 14, 2011

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Kuskokwim River Closed to King Salmon Fishing by Emergency Order

Shane Iverson, KYUK – Bethel

The largest king salmon subsistence fishery in the State will close for four days amid concerns that not enough fish are reaching their spawning grounds.

The Department of Fish and Game has issued a rare emergency order that will close the lower part of the Kuskokwim River this Thursday.

State Closes Anchor River to Fishing

Associated Press

State fish and game officials will close fishing at the Anchor River early Wednesday morning.

The Peninsula Clarion reports the closure is in effect until June 30.

The river is being closed to sport fishing to protect king salmon returning to the river.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game says it’s unable to predict with certainty that the sustainable escapement goal of king salmon would be met this year.

The escapement of Anchor River king salmon as of Sunday was 1,405. The goal is 3,800 to 10,000 king salmon.

The king salmon season is also getting off to a rocky start in the Yukon River.

The first wave of kings hasn’t even hit the river, but the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has already closed subsistence fishing in the lower Yukon.

The department on Monday closed a 36-hour subsistence fishing period as part of the agency’s plan to get more king salmon to their Canadian spawning grounds.

AK Pride Pays Forward Their ‘Today’ Show Donations

Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage

Mao Tosi didn’t believe it when he received the first call from NBC “Today” Show personality Al Roker’s “Lend a Hand Today,” charity road trip. They told him that AK Pride — the non-profit that Tosi runs — and other local charities would receive $1.9 million worth of merchandise and donations. Tosi says it took awhile for that reality to sink in.

AK Pride works with young people to emphasize the importance of education and success in and after high school, using music, art, dance and athletics as an incentive tool.

A long list of items were donated to AK Pride, but Tosi says that not all of the items are necessarily things that his organization can use. So now he is looking at where the stuff can do the most good.

For example, the 2,400 donated strollers will go to organizations like the United Way of Anchorage and Covenant House. Also, around $100,000 worth of ham will probably go to the Alaska Food Bank.

Among the other donated items were a multitude of clothes, toys, musical instruments and many other things.

Tosi hopes that these donations will not only strengthen old partnerships, but also foster new cooperation throughout the community.

Currently, the donated items are stacked up on AK Pride’s dance floor, but Tosi is working quickly to make sure the merchandise goes to the organization where it can do the most good.

Redistricting Board Holds Ceremonial Signing of Plan

Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage

On Tuesday in Anchorage, Alaska’s Redistricting Board held a ceremonial signing of its final plan for the state’s legislative districts. It was a second signing of sorts. To meet the 90 day deadline demanded by the Alaska Constitution the board actually approved the plan yesterday.

Senators Split Vote on Ethanol Subsidies

Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC

Alaska’s U.S. Senators split their votes Tuesday on whether to consider getting rid of the hefty subsides that go to ethanol producers. Senator Lisa Murkowski says it’s time to discontinue the ethanol tax credit and import tariffs prized by farming states.

She voted to move forward legislation by fiscal hawk Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. Senator Mark Begich voted against advancing the amendment. It needed 60 votes but failed 40 to 59. Begich’s office says he’s looking at “both sides of the ethanol issue,” and voted against it because Senator Coburn forced the vote without time for debate.

Murkowski’s spokesman on the Energy Committee Robert Dillon says the subsidies aren’t justifiable given the tight budget.

Ethanol, made from corn, is blended into auto fuel. The ethanol subsidies are a 45 cent per gallon tax credit on ethanol blended into gasoline, and a 54 cent tariff slapped on any imported ethanol.

Tuesday’s vote put a handful of farming state senators on the defensive, but Dillon says ethanol gets other benefits, like through the Renewable Fuel Standard.  He says it should not pit oil and gas states like Alaska against ethanol heavy states.

The amendment that failed to move Tuesday sets up a debate expected to play out during the coming months over what tax breaks to keep in place, and which ones to get rid of.

‘Friends of the Children’ Eyes Fairbanks for Newest Branch

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

A national child mentoring program is eyeing Fairbanks for its newest branch.  Duncan Campbell, founder of the Philadelphia-based nonprofit “Friends of the Children”, is in Fairbanks meeting with community members to gauge local support for the program for at-risk kids. Cambell, who started Friends of the Children in 1993, says it makes a difference in the lives of kids facing tough odds.

Cambell says the program uses paid mentors to work with kids.  The group’s model is the subject of a national grant-funded study, and Cambell third-party verified statistics show it works.

Cambell says each child enrolled in the program spends four hours a week with their mentor, a mix of academics, sports and other activities. Friends of the Children has come to Fairbanks at the prompting of community members, including State Senator Joe Paskvan, who got $2 million put into the state budget to start-up money for Fairbanks. Another program advocate, Linda Setterberg, executive director a faith-based nonprofit that runs Joel’s Place Skate Park and Youth Center in Fairbanks, says Friends of the Children will fill an important niche.

Setterberg says the group has good track record of maintaining a single mentor through the time period a child is involved. Cambell says his group would likely start out by mentoring between 60 to 100 Fairbanks youth, but he estimates there are over a thousand kids that could benefit.  Friends of the Children largely relies on community donations, and Campbell says local response will determine the fate of a Fairbanks chapter.

Juneau Conservation Study Published

Rosemarie Alexander, KTOO – Juneau

Three years after an avalanche severed Juneau from its main source of low-cost power, the capital city remains the international example of conservation.

How residents conserved is the subject of an article in the latest edition of the journal, Energy Policy.

Dental Pioneer Robert Lathrop Leaves Legacy of Service to Rural Communities

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

Kotzebue dental pioneer Robert Lathrop died on June 8, in Anchorage. He was 87 years old.  Lathrop worked for the Territorial Department of Health’s  Mobile Marine Unit on the ship MV Health, during the 1940s, traveling from Kodiak to Point Hope to provide dental care. During the 1950s, Lathrop worked for the Alaska Native Service in Barrow, establishing the city’s first dental clinic there. After that, he spent 10 years in Kotzebue providing dental care, often traveling by dogsled to give emergency care to villagers.

Lathrop received the Superior Services Award and the Oveta Culp Hobby award. He was recruited by the U.S. Civil Service to the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service, where he spent the final years of his dental career working out of state.

Lathrop and his wife, Margaret, who also worked as part of his dental team, loved travel, and spent many years after his retirement traveling the globe. But he loved the Arctic, and often said the best year of his life was the one in which he and his wife lived in Point Hope, learning about living off the land. As a dentist, he touched many people, and taught villagers about dental hygiene.

Funeral services are planned in Anchorage on Thursday.  Memorials in Lathrop’s name may be sent to Aqqaluk Trust, Lathrop Dental Scholarship Fund in Kotzebue.

Matt Montavon Finishes 1,100-Mile Run to Homer

Aaron Selbig, KBBI – Homer

With its moniker “The End of the Road,” Homer has been the end point of many journeys over the years. One of the more unusual – and daunting – trips came to a close last Friday afternoon on the Homer Spit.