Alaska News Nightly: June 17, 2011

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Salazar Announces Acceleration of Lease Sale in NPR-A

Associated Press

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced on Thursday that the department of the Interior will accelerate a lease sale in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, holding it before the end of this year and annually after that.

Salazar says as part of President Obama’s comprehensive energy strategy, the department is moving ahead with concrete steps to continue to expand responsible and safe domestic oil production.

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates the reserve and adjacent state waters contain 896 million barrels of conventional, undiscovered oil and 53 trillion cubic feet of conventional, undiscovered non-associated gas.

Arctic Council Reports Record Temperatures Since 2005

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

A report out from the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program, of the Arctic Council,  indicates that surface temperatures in the Arctic since 2005 have been higher than for any other five year period since records keeping began more than one hundred years ago. The rate of sea ice decline has been higher than that predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007.

The Arctic Council monitors the Arctic and provides advice on Arctic environmental protection.

Former Mayor of Sitka Ben Grussendorf Dies of Illness

Ed Ronco, KCAW – Sitka

Ben Grussendorf, a former speaker of the Alaska House of Representatives and a former mayor of Sitka, died Friday morning after a brief illness. He was 69.

Arrangements for Ben Grussendorf are pending.

Parnell Administration Optimistic About Gas Pipeline

Dave Donaldson, APRN – Anchorage

Despite skepticism from Alaska’s congressional delegation about the future of a natural gas pipeline from the North Slope to North American markets, the Parnell administration is still optimistic – and they’re still working on what they consider the opening steps of a long project.   We reported yesterday that Congressman Don Young and Senator Lisa Murkowski believe that U.S. gas markets will not support a supply source in Alaska because of current low gas prices in the lower 48.  But the Director of the state’s project office, Kurt Gibson, says current pricing isn’t a factor to an investor who’s going to face a $35 billion decision.  He says financial markets are more interested in the regulatory and engineering levels – risk assessment work that’s going on now.

Gibson says while no one can make an accurate prediction right now on a gas line project, the goal is to help gather the information needed. And it is much too early to predict the outcome.

Gibson says the administration’s goal is to create alliances among the gas producers, the pipeline company and the state so that each shares some of the project’s risk and cost.

Ft. Wainwright Soldier Dies After Injuries from IED

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

A 19-year-old soldier from central Wisconsin is dead and two other soldiers wounded after their Stryker vehicle hit an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan.

The Defense Department says Pvt. Ryan J. Larson of Friendship, Wisconsin died Wednesday in Kandahar Province.

Larson had been in the U.S. Army for only a year. The infantryman joined the Army last June and arrived at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, in October.

Larson and the two wounded soldiers were assigned to the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division at Fort Wainwright. They deployed to Afghanistan with their 4,000-soldier brigade in April.

The two wounded soldiers were not seriously hurt.

A Ft. Wainwright soldier killed in Afghanistan earlier this month was honored at a memorial service in Fairbanks Thursday.

Gold Miner Drowns Near Nome

Ben Matheson, KNOM – NOme

An offshore gold miner drowned last Saturday west of Nome.

Firefighter Injured Working Hastings Wildfire

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

A fire fighter working the Hastings wild fire was injured when a tree fell on him Thursday night.  Incident Commander Tom Kurth says the man, from a Mt. Hood, Oregon-based crew, was working the 23,000 acre burn north of Fairbanks, when the large fire weakened tree came down.

Kurth says fellow firefighters trained in emergency medicine provided first aid, but that evacuation of the injured man was not immediately possible. The accident occurred in a relatively remote area along the fire’s southeast perimeter, and Kurth says fire fighters had to clear a spot for a rescue helicopter to get in. He was then taken to Fairbanks Memorial.

Kuth says the man was later transferred to Anchorage due to concerns about his head injury, but he is recovering well. Kurth says trees with fire weakened roots can fall suddenly, and he urges the public to stay clear of burn areas. The Thursday night incident was the first serious injury on the Hastings fire, since it started almost three weeks ago.  At peak, the response included nearly a thousand fire fighters. The fire is now 40 percent contained, and the response is ramping down.

Anchorage’s Wind Farm Finds Customers

Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage

On Thursday, Anchorage’s wind turbine farm power project received the first of two corporate board blessings it needs to become a reality.

This Week in AK: Fly Fishing in Bristol Bay

Daysha Eaton, KDLG – Dillingham

This week on AK, we go fishing.

Most fly fishing guides in Bristol Bay come from Outside. But the Bristol Bay Fly fishing and Guide Academy is working to train young people from the region. Although many have been fishing since they were in diapers, their knowledge about fly fishing mostly comes from the movies. This year the Academy brought eleven students from across Bristol Bay to King Salmon.

Time now for our weekly trip around the state. This week we’re visiting the village of Aleknagik, at the Southeast end of Lake Aleknagik.