Alaska News Nightly: July 6, 2011

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One Borough Plans to Sue Over Redistricting, Others May Join

Daysha Eaton, KDLG – Dillingham

The Fairbanks North Star Borough is planning to sue over Alaska’s new redistricting plan. And the Aluetians East Borough has passed a resolution opposing the plan and is considering joining the lawsuit.

Legislators Pore through Gasline Report

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

State legislators are poring through copies of an instate gasline report released Tuesday, but it will be some time before the project gains or loses approval.

The report, authored by the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation, indicates that building a pipeline to carry North Slope natural gas to the state’s Southcentral region can be done at a cost of seven and a half billion dollars.

The line would follow a Parks Highway route south from Fairbanks, according to Alaska Gasline Development Corporation President Dan Fauske, who delivered the report to legislators in Anchorage. Fauske said the project is commercially feasible, would lower consumer costs substantially in Fairbanks, and would pose an alternative to importing liquid natural gas to Southcentral to offset natural gas shortages there.

Governor Parnell told the group via teleconference that the report is a positive step forward and that it merits review.

House Speaker Mike Chenault chaired the meeting.

Bill Stoltze, co-chair of the House Finance Committee, said Fauske’s address is encouraging.  Stoltze said that Matanuska Valley constituents are face to face with looming energy shortages

Fauske said the instate gasline project would not compete with the much larger AGIA project, which would bring gas to the lower 48. But Anchorage Representative Les Gara has concerns about moving ahead with the instate project

Fauske said the instate natural gasline would carry 500 million cubic feet of gas a day. He envisions project completion by 2018, with first gas by 2019.

Fauske recommends the state appropriate $210 million next session to complete the next phase of the project design.

Documentary Airs About Alaska’s Century-Old Schooners

Rosemarie Alexander, KTOO – Juneau

A small fleet of Seattle-based wooden halibut schooners still work Alaska waters, though they’re nearly a century old.

The Tordenskjold is 100 years old this year. She’s expected to work well into her second century.

The Tordenskjold and other working ships in the fleet are the subject of a television documentary, premiering at 8 o’clock Wednesday on the Alaska channel, 360 North.

Sutton Mine Continues Development During Renewal Process

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

Friday’s withdrawal of a decision to renew a Sutton area coal permit will only temporarily halt further action on the development. Department of Natural Resources coal regulatory program manager Russel Kirkham says the permit held by Ranger Alaska is renewed every five years.

Kirkham says the company has to apply for renewal 120 days before the expiration of the permit, but the company has the right to continue operations under the permit until the renewal is finalized.

The Chickaloon Village Tribal Council and other groups have commented in opposition to the underground coal development at Jonesville near Sutton.  Kirkham says one of those comments was omitted from the decision to renew Ranger Alaska’s permit, causing DNR to withdraw the renewal approval

Kirkham says DNR is now back to making a final decision on Ranger Alaska’s renewal.  He says the next step is to address the missing comment, reissue the decision to renew the permit and then open up a hearing phase for those opposed to the decision to have their concerns heard.

Feds Want Public Input on Exploratory Drilling in Beaufort Sea

Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage

The federal government is looking for public input on Shell’s plan to do exploratory drilling in the Beaufort Sea next summer. The company plans to drill four test wells about 20 miles off Alaska’s coast. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will spend the next 30 days evaluating the plan. And as part of that process, the agency is accepting public comments until July 15th.

Shell also wants to drill exploratory wells in the Chukchi Sea in 2012. But that proposal isn’t ready yet for public comment.

Southeast Tribal Reps Discuss Environmental Issues

Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau

Southeast tribal representatives met in Juneau last week to discuss environmental issues and programs. The four-day conference attracted about 40 people who talked about traditional knowledge, recycling and working with government agencies. CoastAlaska’s Ed Schoenfeld reports.

Alaska Begins Training for Broadband Internet Expansion

Mike Mason, KDLG – Dillingham

The state of Alaska is preparing for the expansion of broadband internet to much of rural Alaska by starting a new training program to get technicians ready to maintain personal computers and networks in the remote villages of Alaska.

Southeast Celebrates Big on 4th of July

Melati Kaye, KDLG – Dillingham

Small towns in Alaska have a tradition of going big to celebrate the 4th of July. KDLG’s Melati Kaye attended the festivities in Togiak and brought back this report.