Alaska News Nightly: July 15, 2011

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Maniilaq Association Lays Off Unspecified Number of Employees

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

Kotzebue based Maniilaq Association will be laying off around 40 employees effective immediately.

Maniilaq President Ian Erlich made the announcement Friday morning on radio station KOTZ in Kotzebue.

Erlich had sent an email to employees this week indicating the cuts, saying that some programs would no longer be in service as Maniilaq moves into FY 2012.  The new fiscal year starts in October.

Erlich blamed the federal government for the health provider’s budget shortfall.

Erlich said that  Maniilaq’s revenue projection for the coming fiscal year did not materialize due to Congressional action, and  the reductions in  federal funding caused in-house budget shortfalls, which have boomeranged into program cuts.

He said Maniilaq’s board of directors approved the move.

Maniilaq communications manager Maija Lukin says affected employees have already been notified.  Lukin says Maniilaq is attempting to minimize the impact of the reductions by moving laid off employees into vacant jobs in-house.  Lukin would not specify the number of jobs lost, saying only that they would be in the programs Maniilaq subsidized.

Rachelle Waterman Sentenced to Three Years

Associated Press

Rachelle Waterman has been sentenced to three years. The Craig woman, who was 16 when her mother, Lori Waterman, was kidnapped and murdered, was tried by an Anchorage jury earlier this year and convicted of criminally negligent homicide.

Waterman was sentenced on Friday in her hometown of Craig.

She was acquitted of charges of conspiracy to murder and 1st degree murder.

Lori Waterman was murdered by two of Rachelle Waterman’s boyfriends in 2004.

Prosecutors say the guilty verdict means that Waterman should have known that Jason Arrant and Brian Radel, both 24 at the time, posed a substantial risk to her mother given her interactions with them.

Arrant and Radel are serving long prison sentences. Waterman’s first trial ended in a hung jury.

Indian Affairs Committee Investigating Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault Rates

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

The Senate Indian Affairs Committee held a hearing Thursday looking at the issue of the staggering rates of domestic violence and sexual assault perpetrated against Native women. Entitled Protecting, Shielding and Safeguarding our sisters, mothers and daughters, committee chairman Hawaii Senator Daniel Akaka said many Native women find themselves in unbearable situations. The numbers are bleak. One in three will be sexually assaulted and two in five will be the victims of domestic violence.

Senator Lisa Murkowski is a committee member. She lamented that even though Alaska has struggled to try to improve those statistics, she says she meets with far too many women who say the bad behavior continues and ripples through communities. She also agreed with Senator Akaka that sex trafficking is real and happening to young Native women in Alaska.

Tom Perrelli is an associate Attorney General at the U.S. Justice department. He testified that violence in Native communities is a very high priority for the Justice department. He said DOJ is formally consulting with tribes about how best to protect women. He said the current legal structure is not well suited to combat the escalating violence. But he says he sees tribal authority gaps that congress can address.  He says there is at least one ruling that says tribal courts can’t issue or enforce protective orders against non-Indians who reside on tribal lands.

He says it’s also important for federal law to follow states that have developed more severe sanctions as bad conduct increases.

Senator Akaka stressed the hearing record would be open for two weeks and he encouraged the submission of written comments.

Mat-Su Mayor Surprised by Anchorage’s Suit Against Knik Arm Crossing

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

Matanuska Susitna Borough Mayor Larry DeVilbiss says he was taken by surprise last week by Anchorage’s suit against the Knik Arm Crossing. DeVilbiss says he’s in talks with city mayor Dan Sullivan to find a solution to the municipality’s concerns about having the bridge have its city side situated at the Port of Anchorage

The municipality of Anchorage filed a lawsuit against the federal government over the proposed Knik Bridge project, which would link the Borough and the city. The suit seeks to have the court require the Federal Highway Administration set aside its decision made last December in favor of the bridge project, and send it back to the FHA for further investigation.

DeVilbiss says concerns about the Port of Anchorage expansion plan prompted the legal action.

DeVilbiss says it’s too early now to tell what all the options are, but there seems to be room for both port and bridge

Sullivan is on record in support of the Knik Arm Crossing. DeVilbiss, who took office in February, said he didn’t know there were unresolved issues at the port concerning the bridge design.

DeVilbiss says the matter is getting priority attention now, and he has hopes it will be resolved as quickly as possible.

The Knik Arm Bridge and Toll Authority on Thursday sent out a request for companies to submit their qualifications to be chosen as developer of the proposed project.

Biologists Hard at Work on Whale Census

Jake Neher, KBRW – Barrow

The International Whaling Commission meetings wrapped up in Jersey, England Thursday, North Slope officials, including Borough Mayor Edward Itta were pleased with the tone of the meetings. The real test will come next year when Alaska’s five-year bowhead whale quota will be up for renewal. In preparation for that, North Slope biologists have been hard at work on a whale census. New data on the Bowhead population count was given the IWC scientific committee during the just concluded meetings.

Earlier this spring, KBRW’s Jake Neher went out on the Arctic sea ice with researchers to see how the census is done, and how the results could affect the way subsistence whaling is viewed around the world.

This Week on AK: Bees

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

This week on AK… bees.

“We’ve all seen them, fat and fuzzy, zigzagging from flower to flower in a seemingly erratic flight to somewhere. Bumblebees were so named for their clumsy trip from bud to bud, not to mention their signature sound, like tiny buzzsaws. But now they are disappearing, and that could have dire consequences for the human race. But it’s not too late. AK’s Ellen Lockyer tells us how we can help save the tiniest threatened species.

And now it’s time for our weekly escape to an Alaskan village. Today, we’re heading to the same place as all the tourists: Skagway. The small town at the northern end of Lynne Canal booms every summer with cruise ship traffic. We talked with three people in town to get a sense of what it’s like, starting with the mayor:

That was Tom Cochran, Blaine Mero and Collette Hisman talking about Skagway. 300 villages is AK’s attempt to put every community in Alaska on the radio.