Alaska News Nightly: July 25, 2011

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Two Bodies Found in Plane Wreckage Near Eaglecrest Ski Area

Rosemarie Alexander, KTOO – Juneau

Two bodies have been found in the wreckage of a small single-engine plane that crashed Sunday near Eaglecrest Ski Area in Juneau. A debris field was found Sunday at the base of a 50-foot cliff after searchers traced an emergency locater transmitter signal. An alpine mountaineering team from Juneau Mountain Rescue returned to the site today, at about the 31-hundred foot level of Mount Ben Stewart, outside the ski area boundary. Alaska State Troopers coordinated the ground search, which included representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Board. Doug Wesson of JMR is the search team incident commander.

Wesson says positive identification of the victims has not been made. The plane was flying early yesterday morning from Hoonah to Juneau. The pilot had contacted Juneau flight service about ten miles from the Juneau airport, but failed to make the last scheduled check-in. The plane was reported missing to the U.S. Coast Guard at 6:43 a.m.

According to the FAA Registry, the plane is a Cessna 182, registered to Charles Woodrow Luck, Junior, of Anchorage.

Four Rescued from Floatplane Crash in Cook Inlet

Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage

Four people were rescued after the Cessna 185 they were flying in crashed in Cook Inlet, around 22-miles southwest of Kenai.

A state trooper in a helicopter was on patrol nearby and was able to drop a life raft to the pilot and three passengers, who were standing on the still-floating tail section of the plane.

After dropping off the raft, the trooper contacted people at a nearby fish camp, who were able to take a skiff to bring the four back to the camp where they were picked up by a National Guard helicopter and flown to the Valley.

Scott Johannes, age 48, of Wasilla, was the pilot of the plane.

No injuries have been reported.

Survival Camp Teenagers Attacked by Bear

Sue Deyoe, KTNA – Talkeetna

A month-long course on backcountry wilderness skills turned into a fight for survival over the weekend. Two National Outdoor Leadership School students were critically injured in a bear attack Saturday night. The group of seven students was in the wilderness east of Denali State Park. Two students are still being treated for their injuries at Providence hospital in Anchorage.

Village Public Safety Officer Shot in Napakiak

Angela Denning-Barnes, KYUK – Bethel

A Village Public Safety Officer was shot in Napakiak over the weekend, but he survived.

Parnell Administration and State Legislature Give Details on Energy Projects

Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau

The Parnell administration and the Legislature on Monday presented details on two energy projects that will cost an estimated, combined $12 billion when they’re done – primarily for the railbelt and SouthCentral. And they say both the Susitna-Watana hydro project and the North Slope Bullet gasline are necessary.

Administrative Pressure for Susitna-Watana Project Raises Eyebrows

Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau

Sue Deyoe, KTNA – Talkeetna

Richard Leo, with the Coalition for Susitna Dam Alternatives, says there are reasons to oppose the Susitna-Watana project – especially considering the speed with which the administration is getting to work on it.  He says the state should direct its efforts towards tidal, solar, wind or geothermal power sources instead:

Governor Parnell, at his press conference Monday said there is an effort to include stakeholders – and that will be expanded during the permitting process that could take up to six years.

Alaska Native Corporation Closes Newspaper Operations

Mike Mason, KDLG – Dillingham

The Alaska Native Corporation that owns several newspapers that serve rural Alaska announced last week that those newspapers will cease operations sometime in August.

Calista Shutting Down Chamai Newspaper Printing

Tony Gorman, KCHU – Valdez

Calista is also shutting down the company that printed its papers. Chamai Printing inked its own papers and several others around the state. And as KCHU’s Tony Gorman reports, many will struggle to find a new company to work with.

Congressional In-Fighting Holds Up FAA Authorization Bill

Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC

Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau

Shane Iverson, KYUK – Bethel

Fights in Congress are holding up approval of the bill that authorizes the Federal Aviation Administration.  Because lawmakers missed a deadline of Friday night to get it passed, the FAA is in partial shut-down mode. That’s put projects on hold and furloughed 4,000 employees nationwide – including 79 in Alaska.

Flights are still going and air traffic controllers are on the job.

But furloughed employees were sent home with no pay until Congress acts.

The off-the-job employees in Alaska are all based in Anchorage, according to the FAA.  Eighteen of them work for the division that issues grants for the Airport Improvement Program.  They also do the environmental reviews required before improvement projects move forward.  Until they’re back at work no more improvement project money will be released.

Steven Hatter, the state’s deputy commissioner for airports and aviation, says that means a hold up.

One of the projects that will likely be held up due to the partial shutdown of the FAA is the rehabilitation of the Deadhorse Airport.

It was on the cusp of getting funded, but that’s now on hold, and officials are worried that if the shutdown lasts too long the brief summer construction season will end.

The Department of Transportation says all told, nearly $70 million in construction dollars for Alaska are threatened, and in the immediate term, $7 million is on hold.

Para-Cycle Race Under Way in Ester

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The Sadlers Alaska Challenge para-cycle race got under way in Ester, outside Fairbanks, this morning. The wheelchair and hand-cycle event is back on the Fairbanks to Anchorage route it ran for 24 years. The race switched to a bi-annual format in 2007, and in 2009, the 25th anniversary event hit new communities, but as KUAC’s Dan Bross reports, the Alaska Challenge has come home.

Alaska Redistricting Lawsuits Consolidated

Associated Press

Three lawsuits over Alaska’s new political boundaries have been consolidated and will be heard in Fairbanks.

The executive director of the Alaska Redistricting Board says a status hearing in the case is set for next week.

Two of the lawsuits had originated in Fairbanks. The third was from Petersburg.

Separately, the board expects to submit its plan to the U.S. Department of Justice for review within the next week or so. This review is to ensure the plan is in line with Voter Rights’ Law.