Alaska News Nightly: July 4, 2011

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Troopers Shoot, Kill Palmer Man
Associated Press
Alaska State Troopers  have fatally shot a 19-year-old Palmer man they say was threatening officers with a gun.

Troopers say Adrian Spindler died at the scene of the shooting early Monday morning.

Troopers responded to a home after getting a 911 call shortly before 1 a.m. indicating there was a suicidal man with a gun there. Wasilla police also responded.

According to the Troopers, officers negotiated by phone and in person with Spindler for about an hour. Two women inside left the home safely.

Troopers  shot Spindler after he exited the home and threatened officers with a gun.

The shooting is under investigation.

Fish and Game Head Questioned About Low Chinook Returns
Melati Kaye, KDLG – Dillingham
The head of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commercial Fisheries Division was in King Salmon recently to check on the Bristol Bay salmon season.      KDLG Fisheries Reporter Melati Kaye checked in with Jeff Regnart and asked him about the Chinook salmon declines across the state.

Officials Ponder Coastal Zone Management Program Successor
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
The doors are now locked on the state’s Coastal Management Program.   That’s the bottom line result of the legislature and governor’s action last week in not extending it.

Now officials are wondering what it will take to reconstruct a new program to fit into the federal system.

Kotzebue’s Reggie Joule, a Democrat who’s a member of the majority caucus,  began answering that question during a meeting last week of the House Finance Committee.

Joule referred to issues such as endangered species, critical habitat, and wild lands in which the state routinely challenges the federal government.  He says the state action is to clear the way for development.  Joule agrees with the administration’s idea that Alaska can still voice its opinion on coastal matters, but he says it won’t be with the same authority that the Coastal Management Program carries.

Attorney General John Burns was at the committee’s witness table while Joule made his comments. In reply, Burns recognized Joule’s look at the future of the program – saying he, too, is concerned about the polarizing effect of putting the Program away.   But Burns says he sees an opportunity to rebuild a system that will work.

Joule told the committee that he is concerned about Alaska losing its reputation in all resource development management questions – especially when it is seen as not being able to manage its coastal issues.

Court Rules Against Bill Restricting Online Distribution of Adult Material
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
Local independent booksellers and First Amendment protection groups are applauding a federal judge’s decision against criminalizing the sale of material that could be considered harmful to minors.   U.S. District court judge Ralph Beistline, in a decision last week, struck down specific provisions of an Alaska law which makes electronic distribution of indecent material to minors a crime.  Beistline said the law could have a chilling effect on protected speech, because there is no way sellers of online materials could know the age of those accessing their communications.

Beistline’s decision bars enforcement of that section of Senate bill 222.

The suit was filed last August, and in October of last year, the courts granted a preliminary injunction against enforcement of certain parts of the statute. David Cheezum, co-owner of Fireside Books in Palmer, is one of the plaintiffs in the suit.

Cheezum says Thursday’s ruling is in line with the preliminary injunction. He said the Alaska law was not possible to comply with, because of its requirements.

Although judge Beistline said the state has a compelling interest to protect minors, he said the government “may not reduce the adult population to only what is fit for children.”  John McKay, an Anchorage attorney who worked on the suit, says the state statute had applied to both in store and electronic sales.

McKay says the state statue was aimed at guarding against online child predators.

Beistline said that if the state deems additional protections for minors necessary, the legislature can draw up a more narrow statue.

Before ruling on the case, the state requested that the federal court ask the Alaska Supreme Court to answer questions about the scope of the statute, but the Alaska Supreme Court declined to answer the questions.

Plaintiffs in the suit included the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska, Title Wave Books and Bosco’s in Anchorage, and the Alaska Library Association.

Denali Climbing Season Wrapping Up
Sue Deyoe, KTNA – Talkeetna
The Denali climbing season is starting to wrap up.  There are only a couple hundred people left on the mountain and only a few left to check in at the Talkeetna Ranger station to start their climbs. With less than 2 weeks left in the regular climbing season the Kahiltna Glacier has yawning crevasses and climbers are being forced to only travel at night.

Juneau Will Retain Mail Processing Center
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC
Juneau’s postal service will not change.  The U.S. Postal Service was considering closing Juneau’s mail processing center and transferring its operations to Anchorage, but it’s nixed the
idea.  USPS spokesman Ernie Swanson says officials thought the change would not have a big impact, but in the end decided it wouldn’t save enough money to be worthwhile.

An analysis by the Postal Service shows closing the Juneau processing center would have saved about $150,000 to $200,000 a year.

If the plan had gone forward, any mail going in and out of Juneau would have been routed through Anchorage.

Oyster Farms Beginning to Take Hold
Deanna Garrison, KRBD – Ketchikan
Slowly but surely, Southeast Alaska’s fledgling aquaculture industry is beginning to take hold. KRBD’s Deanna Garrison recently sat down with one of the industry’s local pioneers, who has been operating an oyster farm in the region since 1980.

Wrangell Celebrates Totem Pole’s Return
Charlotte Duren, KSTK – Wrangell
Last month, a piece of Wrangell’s history was welcomed home. Wrangell’s Cooperative Association threw a parade to celebrate the return of a totem pole created by the late Master Carver Tom Ukas.