Alaska News Nightly: June 21, 2011

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State Receives Record Number of Bids on Cook Inlet Lease Sale

Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage

The state has received more than 100 bids for this year’s Cook Inlet oil and gas lease sale. That’s the highest number since 1983. At the lease sale Wednesday morning in Anchorage, the state will learn the dollar amount of the bids and which tracts companies are interested in. Jonne Slemons manages leasing and permitting for the Alaska Department of Natural Resources. She is cautiously optimistic about participation in the lease sale but says it will be good to have more information on the bids:

Last year, Governor Sean Parnell signed legislation encouraging natural gas development in Southcentral Alaska, where supplies of the resource are dwindling. The legislation increased tax credits for capital investments in Cook Inlet gas production. DNR received only five Cook Inlet bids in 2009 and 37 in 2010.

Two Yakutat Men Drown After Boat Capsizes

Associated Press

Alaska Wildlife Troopers say two Yakutat men drowned after their 20-foot boat capsized.

Another man in the commercial fishing party survived Monday’s accident at the mouth of Dangerous River in Yakutat.

Troopers identified the victims as 29-year-old Wayne Gray and 18-year-old Rex Newlun. The survivor was 30-year-old Jonathan Pavlik, also of Yakutat.

Troopers say Pavlik was able to climb on top of the skiff and was spotted later by a passing aircraft. Local residents rescued him.

Missing Musher’s Brother Speaks About Disappearance

Sue Devoe, KTNA – Talkeetna

Melanie Gould’s brother is speaking out about the effort to find his sister earlier this month. Gould was found alive and unharmed June 11 after a ten-day search along the Denali highway. Since then, Gould’s brother has been busy taking care of her. But he has a different take then state troopers on what happened when she was missing.

Scientists Use Drones to Study Stellar Sea Lions

Alexandra Gutierrez, KUCB – Unalaska

For years, scientists have tried figuring out why the western stock of Steller sea lions has continued to decline. Now, a team of university researchers, commercial fishermen, and military contractors are testing a new way to monitor the endangered animals.

Mayor Itta Criticizes State on Arctic Resource Development

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

North Slope Borough mayor Edward Itta addressed the Arctic Imperative Summit in Girdwood Tuesday, in a speech that criticized the state of Alaska for not stepping up to a leadership role in Arctic resource development.

Subsistence Fishing Shuts Down on Kuskokwim River

Shane Iverson, KYUK – Bethel

Subsistence fishing on the Kuskowim River will shut-down for the longest time in recent memory later this week. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game declared an emergency, five-day closure just as the river was re-opening from a previous closure. But unlike that closure, the Kuskokwim advisory group was split this time.

Weak King Salmon Run Results in Restrictions

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The King run on the Yukon River is weak. State Arctic Yukon Kuskokwim Regional Management Supervisor Dan Bergstrum says the Department of Fish and Game has been assessing the early run since the first pulse of kings began moving upriver a week ago.

The situation has resulted in fishing restrictions. The state pulled the first subsistence fishing period to allow the early Canada-bound kings upstream in an attempt to meet escapement goals and international salmon treaty stipulations. The state has also halved the length of a subsequent lower river fishing period from 36 to 18 hours. Bergstrum says the number of kings making it upstream will determine if the time restriction is also implemented in upriver fishing districts.

While the Yukon king run is weak, Bergstrum says summer chums are coming in strong. He says the chum run could total around two million fish, the strongest in four years.

Soldotna Man Takes Lead in Homer Halibut Derby

Associated Press

A Soldotna man has taken the lead in the Homer Halibut Derby. Chad Aldridge fished Sunday near Seldovia, and landed a 350.5-pound whopper after an hour and 20 minutes. Aldridge’s took the lead over Eileen Bachtol of Homer, who had landed a 277.8-pound halibut this month on board a charter. A 350.5-pound fish would have won in the derby in all but five years of the contest, held since 1986.

UAF Scientist Offers New Insight into Comet and Planet Formations

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

A University of Alaska Fairbanks scientist is helping shape our understanding of the formation of the solar system. Don Hampton, the optical science manager at Poker Flat Research Range is part of team analyzing images of a comet taken by a NASA spacecraft. Hampton says spectral images confirm comets are comprised of condensed matter leftover from the formation of planets.

Hampton helped design cameras and other instruments for an unmanned NASA spacecraft used to collect images of an over mile long comet named Hartly 2 last fall. Spectrographic cameras collect images of sunlight reflected by gases emitted from the comet. Hampton says the mission provided a rare look at comet composition.

Hampton also participated in a 2005 NASA mission that used the same imaging spaceship. The data gathering ship is still in orbit, and Hampton says it’s available for additional research, but subsequent projects hinge on funding. An article on the Hartly 2 Comet research was published in last week’s edition of Science magazine.

Bethel Students Get Crash Course in Filmmaking

Heather Aronno, APRN – Anchorage

A group of students from the Lower Kuskokwim school district had the chance to find their inner-Spielbergs earlier this month. The high schoolers participated in an intensive, eight-day filmmaking workshop. They learned skills like screenwriting, cinematography, lighting, and acting. The course wrapped up with a premiere of their finished work on the big screen.