Alaska News Nightly: July 5, 2011

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Study Shows Natural Gas Pipeline Could Deliver Directly to Anchorage

Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau

North Slope Natural Gas could be in Anchorage’s future. On Tuesday, the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation  released the results of a year-long study that shows a project – independent of the gasline from the Slope to markets in Canada and the lower 48 – that could be delivering gas to Alaska customers in 2019, at a cost only a little higher than what customers are now paying. The corporation was set up by the legislature last year. CEO Dan Fauske says the project is large, but it can be done.  He says the plan shows how the stand-alone pipeline would deliver gas to Anchorage users at $9.63 a million BTU’s. That compares to the current $8.85 price. Fairbanks’ prices would fall under the plan – from $23 now charged to $10.45 under the new project.  Fauske says he expected the study to show costs would be much higher.  And the viable price makes the project something to pursue.

Fauske says he still supports continuing with work on a pipeline to North American markets as a revenue source for the state. The smaller line is something Alaska can do on its own to assure energy source for its own residents. The plan estimates the overall cost of the project at seven and a half Billion dollars. And Fauske says the legislature should give serious consideration to owning the line – but not operating it, primarily because it would pay less to borrow the capital than it would take to build the project.

Fauske says with new oil and gas discoveries recently made in Cook Inlet, there is enough gas in the system to last until the project is complete. However, predicting economic and social chaos in Anchorage and Fairbanks if those places were to go dark, he recognizes that there is no time to spare.  He said getting power to a half million Alaskans is the goal of the line.

Pelican Struggles with Absent Fish Economy: Part One

Ed Ronco, KCAW – Sitka

The Chichagof Island city of Pelican has long prided itself on being “closest to the fish.” Its placement in Lisianski Inlet made it an ideal spot for fishermen to drop off their catch and quickly head back out to the fishing grounds.

That’s how Pelican started in 1938, when Charlie Raatikainen, aboard the fishing vessel “Pelican,” established a cold storage facility here. But that complex is now closed, and as a result, the local economy has suffered.

This week, KCAW looks at Pelican in a three part series. In parts two and three, we’ll look at the perseverance of local residents and their hopes for the future.

In this first installment, KCAW’s Ed Ronco reports on the loss of the cold storage, and what it’s meant for Pelican.

DNR Withdraws Approval for Sutton Coal Mine

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

The state Department of Natural Resources has withdrawn a decision allowing a coal mine project to go forward near Sutton. On July 1, DNR announced that it would not allow Ranger Alaska, an Australian owned mining company, to develop a surface strip mine and an underground coal mine at Jonesboro. Castle Mountain Coalition spokesman Kirby Spangler says it’s a win for local residents who are opposed to coal development

Castle Mountain Coalition, Chickaloon Village Tribal Council and other groups have been outspoken against the coal development in the area. A number of coal projects near Chickaloon and Sutton have sparked opposition, based on environmental concerns regarding salmon habitat, air and water pollution and proximity to land considered sacred by Alaska Natives.

Appeals against the coal permit focused on DNR’s failure to respond to public comments and its failure to require mine owners to meet statutory deadlines. Geoffrey Stauffer, an attorney representing the Chickaloon Village Tribal Council, says the matter is in DNR’s hands now.  Stauffer says Ranger Alaska needs to file a whole new permit.

Backyard Chicken-Keeping Gains Momentum in Anchorage

Heather Aronno, APRN – Anchorage

Backyard chicken-keeping is gaining momentum in Anchorage. Partly due to increased attention to food costs and sustainability, but largely due to an ordinance passed back in April. Now that chicken owners can be more open about their lifestyle choice, we can get a peek into what it’s like to raise poultry in an urban environment. Or at least as urban as it gets in Alaska.

I’m in Peggy Wilcox and Theo Graber’s backyard in downtown Anchorage. I’m standing in front of what is called a “chicken tractor” a small chicken coop with wheels for easy mobility. To Theo, it’s not just a coop, it’s a lovingly-constructed masterpiece. The windows have custom-made trim, and the roosting box is easily cleaned because of the drawer that Theo installed. It’s time for a treat, a mix of seeds and barley called “Chicken Scratch” that the birds love to eat.

Peggy and Theo have had their chickens for two months now. They decided to embrace the chicken keeping lifestyle after the assembly passed an ordinance allowing Anchorage residents to keep up to five chickens.

“We were talking about it once the Assembly started talking about it, and then as soon as they passed it, Theo built this great chicken tractor.”


“And we went and got some chickens and it’s actually been really, really fun.”

Originally put off at the thought of naming chickens that they might end up eating, they found a compromise.

“We didn’t know what to name the chickens, we were a little nervous about naming them because we were afraid that eventually we might end up eating them. So we named them after food. The white one is the spunkiest one, so she became General Tzao. Then the three golden comets are Stewed, Fried, and Baked.”

“And you can tell them apart fairly easily?”

“No, they’re kind of collectively stewed, fried, and baked. If we spent more time with them, sure we could tell them apart. But we don’t so much. We just refer to them generally as chickens.”

They like their chickens so much that they wanted to keep an eye on their coop, even away from the house.

“We have a chicken cam. It is a remote camera so we can watch them from inside or listen to them to make sure the dog’s not going after them.”

With so many Alaskans like Peggy and Theo who want to keep chickens, the UAF Cooperative Extension Service holds workshops called “Chicken University. Stephen Brown teaches the workshops around Alaska. He covers how to house and care for chickens properly, which can be more complicated than a lot of people think.

“The big thing is making sure that people know what they’re getting into. It’s more than just buying a bird.”

But he says people shouldn’t let the potential start-up costs intimidate them.

“We jokingly say that any good Alaskan has enough stuff in their front yard to keep chickens if you’re clever enough.”

Brown got started teaching the Chicken University workshop when he noticed an increased interest in raising chickens in Alaska. But he also noticed that a lot of people didn’t have much information to start with, and some were being taken advantage of.

“What really prompted my most recent interest is we saw ‘guaranteed laying hens’ were being advertised for $100, and people were buying them.”

Certain varieties of chicken can run into the hundreds, but it’s more common to find laying hens available for $15 to $20, or even for free.

Brown says people choose to raise chickens for a variety of reasons.

“People realize that in Alaska, we’re at the end of the food chain. And if something interrupts that, we’re in trouble. So, keeping chickens is a way of having food security. Another reason is that people want to know where their food is coming from.”

Brown says that while there has been a definite increased interest in raising chickens in Anchorage, not much has changed since the ordinance passed two months ago.

“I haven’t seen a big increase since that ordinance went through, which tells me that people who wanted to keep chickens were already keeping chickens.”

While Peggy and Theo did wait until it was legal to keep their chickens, they don’t see a reason for people to wait anymore.

“And it’s what, 10-15 square feet? What, four feet tall? Takes up very little room. It’s fun, you get to have chickens around, and you get to have fresh eggs. There’s really no downside that we’ve seen.”

Stephen Brown can be contacted at scbrown4(at) or by phone (907) 735-3639

Thieves Target Sarah Palin Statue

Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau

A likeness of Alaska’s most famous former governor has become a popular target for thieves in Juneau.

A high-quality wooden cut-out of Sarah Palin wearing fishing gear and holding a salmon has been stolen twice from the Alaska Shirt Company store on South Franklin Street. The most recent theft happened over the weekend.

The prop usually sits on the front steps during business hours, and store manager Darren Booton says it’s a hit with tourists.

Juneau Police were able to recover the cut out – valued at 14,000 – from a parked vehicle in the Mendenhall Valley. It’s currently stashed in an evidence locker while officers investigate the theft.

The real Palin was spotted in Iowa last week at the premier of a flattering documentary about her two-and-half year tenure as governor.

Anchorage’s Strabel, Randall Win 84th Mount Marathon Race

Ben Stanton, KDLL – Kenai

At the 84th running of the Mount Marathon race in Seward, runners from Anchorage placed in the top two spots for men and women. Eric Strabel came in about 20 seconds ahead of Brenton Knight.  In the ladies race, Kikkan Randall came in about 20 seconds before Holly Brooks.  In this story we find out a little about two other runners.  They are in their mid-fifties, and each has done the race for more than a decade.  Neither was expecting to come in first, but hoped to enjoy themselves and push themselves physically and mentally.

Randall Keeps Mount Marathon Victory a Family Tradition

When Kikkan Randall won Mount Marathon for the first time on Monday, her mom Deborah was there to celebrate. Deborah is a past Mount Marathon Champion herself. And she was probably the only person collecting condolences over Kikkan’s win. That’s because she’s held her own mount marathon victory over Kikkan’s head through the years.

Deborah says she didn’t have high expectations for her daughter before yesterday’s race, because Kikkan has been so focused on ski racing this year. But she was absolutely thrilled when she won.

Winning the race runs in the family. Deborah’s sister Betsy Haines won three Mount Marathon’s in a row in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Deborah’s own win came before Kikkan was born.

And as for whether she was a little bit sad to see Kikkan take away the one sports endeavor she could brag about besting her daughter in? Not a chance.

Deborah says she is very happy being a spectator these days.