Alaska News Nightly: June 28, 2011

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Parnell Vows to Veto Coastal Management Bill

Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau

The State house is prepared to take final action on a bill intended to extend the state’s coastal management program. The measure passed by the Senate late yesterday got an extensive hearing today in the house and is ready for a final floor vote. But the final action is now moot as Governor Sean Parnell said today he would veto the measure if necessary:

Parnell Proposes to ‘Secure Alaska’s Future Initiative – Oil’

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

Despite his stance on the Coastal Management Program, Governor Sean Parnell outlined an ambitious program to get the state’s economy moving at the annual meeting of the Resource Development Council in Anchorage on Tuesday.

Parnell wants to arrest oil decline and move one million barrels of oil a day through the Trans Alaska Pipeline System in the next decade.

The governor criticized the federal government for turning on the Strategic Oil Reserve tap.

Parnell’s plan to get domestic production rolling in Alaska is highlighted in a new “Secure Alaska’s Future Initiative – Oil “, which is setting its sights on five targets: among them boosting the state’s competitiveness and investment climate.

Other aspects of the program include facilitating the next phase of North Slope oil development, the governor said. Part of that is improving infrastructure access and lowering costs of resource development. He said the budget he’ll sign this week assures that.

Parnell also wants to reduce the backlog of water and land use permit applications by hiring more positions in the permitting area.

The governor also stressed the importance of forging national partnerships, to facilitate increased exploration and investment in oil in the state.

Parnell said more details on the program will be released shortly, promising that there are specific plans for each phase of the program.

Estimate of Cook Inlet Natural Gas Reserves Increased by 10x

Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage

The federal government says there are huge amounts of undiscovered natural gas reserves in Cook Inlet. The United States Geological Survey assessment finds almost 10 times the amount that was estimated in 1995. But it’s unclear whether any of that gas will eventually reach Southcentral consumers.

NASA Wraps Up ICESCAPE Mission

Alexandra Gutierrez, KUCB – Unalaska

NASA may be shutting down its manned space flight program, but it’s increasing its presence in a place that’s almost as foreign to most humans – the Arctic. The agency is wrapping up its first oceanographic mission, ICESCAPE.

Superintendent Comeau Announces 2012 Retirement

Associated Press

One of Alaska’s most prominent educators is retiring after nearly four decades of working with students in the state’s largest city.

Anchorage School District Superintendent Carol Comeau says she is stepping down from the high-profile post she has held since 2000. Her last day will be June 30th of next year.

The 69-year-old Comeau made the announcement today in Anchorage.

She has worked for the school district since 1974, serving in various capacities including aide, teacher, principal and central office administrator. She was president of the Anchorage teacher’s union in 1984 and 1985.

Comeau stepped in as acting superintendent when former superintendent Bob Christal resigned suddenly because of controversy about his new contract.

Speaker Requests On Title 21 Denied By Assembly Chair

Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage

The Title 21 Rewrite Project covering land development and building requirements is not on this evening’s Anchorage Assembly agenda.  But that’s not to say Title 21 won’t be drawing a group of interested–if silent–citizens.

Taylor Highway Open After Washout

The Taylor Highway is open again after a washout and slide made two sections of the road impassable. The State Department of Transportation reports that repairs have been completed at mile 83, near Chicken, where a creek cut into the roadbed, and between mile posts 114 and 116 on the way to Eagle, where a slide came down.  D.O.T. spokeswoman Meadow Bailey says the slope is a trouble spot, where a major slide blocked the road for an extended period last summer.

Bailey says a repair crew has done what it can to try to stabilize the hillside.

Last summer the state spent millions of dollars repairing the Taylor Highway following heavy rains that resulted in numerous slides and washouts, closing sections of the road for much of the summer.

Senators Weigh In on Controversial Update to Juneau’s Floodplain Maps

Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau

Alaska’s U.S. Senators are weighing in on a controversial update to Juneau’s floodplain maps.

City officials have asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency to delay the update, citing concerns over the maps’ accuracy, as well as a lack of notice on FEMA’s 90-day public comment period, which ended Friday.

Senators Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich Tuesday wrote letters to FEMA officials backing the city’s request for a 30-day extension of the comment period.

CBJ Community Development Director Dale Pernula says there are issues with the maps, especially around Gold and Vanderbilt Creeks.

Juneau’s floodplain maps were last updated in 1990. A FEMA consultant prepared new maps last year. Modern weather and storm data, as well as new streets, and land rebound from glacier and ice field melt put a number of new properties in areas deemed at risk for floods. Pernula says the city is concerned that Juneau residents will be forced to buy unneeded flood insurance as a result.

The Senate is currently considering reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program – set to expire at the end of September. Writing to FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate on Tuesday, Senator Murkowski says it’s important for her to “have confidence that the people of Juneau, and other communities around Alaska, are treated fairly in the flood insurance rating process.”

If FEMA does not grant an extension, the agency would deliver the finalized maps to the city this fall. The Juneau Assembly would then have six months to adopt them.

$1 Million a Month Spent on Mineral Exploration at Niblack Mine

Deanna Garrison, KRBD – Ketchikan

Investors are spending upwards of $1 million a month on mineral exploration at the Niblack mine on the southern end of Prince of Wales Island. If exploration continues to go well, British Columbia-based Heatherdale Resources hopes to begin construction on the mine in 2015.

Petersburg Welcomes New Reality Show

Joe Viechnicki, KFSK – Petersburg

Family and friends welcomed the cast and crew of a new reality TV show as they pulled their jet skis up to the dock in Petersburg’s North Harbor Wednesday afternoon. Three of the five cast and crew members have ties to Petersburg and the group plans to film along the coast of Alaska for the next few weeks.