Alaska News Nightly: August 4, 2011

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Seward Highway Crash Leaves 1 Dead, 14 Injured

Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage

The Seward Highway has been closed in both directions due to a three-vehicle crash near Indian.

Reports say two vehicles collided head-on and a third ran into the crash…leaving one dead and 14 injured, two of them seriously.

Alaska State Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters says that one of the vehicles involved appears to be a large van, which was full of passengers.

Peters said some onlookers climbed rocks to get a better look, and one person broke a leg after falling off.

The highway will likely be closed until around 7 p.m.

Shell Gets Conditional Drilling Approval

Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage

The federal government has given conditional approval to Shell’s plan to drill exploratory wells in the Beaufort Sea.  The company wants to drill up to four shallow wells there starting next July. Environmental groups are calling it a “dangerous and disappointing leap” toward offshore drilling in the arctic.

Congressional Deal Allows FAA Employees to Return from Furlough

Daysha Eaton, KDLG – Dillingham

Furloughed workers are breathing a sigh of relief after Congress threw together a bipartisan deal today to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration’s funding. The deal will put more than 70,000 transportation and construction workers back to work across the U.S., and 4,000 FAA employees, including 79 in Alaska. But for Alaska, some say, the damage may have already been done.

Alaska Hit Hard by Debt Ceiling Agreement

Joaqlin Estus, KNBA – Anchorage

The details of the debt ceiling legislation signed into law on Tuesday are still emerging but one thing is clear: Alaska is going to feel the effects.

Fish and Game’s Emmonak Office Will Close Due to Safety Concerns

Shane Iverson, KYUK – Bethel

The Department of Fish and Game has announced they will be close down their field office in the village of Emmonak. Personnel there say they no longer feel safe.

Steady King Salmon Stream Will Likely Meet Canadian Passage Objectives

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

A steady stream of king salmon moving up the Yukon River past Eagle in recent days, means Canadian border passage objectives will likely be met.  As of Wednesday, 44,200 chinook had been counted by a state run sonar near the border at Eagle. State biologist Steve Hayes says the third and final pulse of kings has been encouraging.

That’s significant as Yukon River Canadian king salmon passage objectives were not met four out of the last five years. Yukon king runs have been consistently weak, and managers have relied on fishing restrictions to help get more salmon upriver. Hayes credits this year’s success to additional fishing restrictions, including recent closures in the Eagle area. He says the effectiveness of a reduced net mesh size requirement implemented this year will take longer to determine.

Hayes says fishers have reported catching smaller kings this summer, a sign the mesh size reduction is working. The bigger fish bounce off the smaller mesh, enabling them to continue upriver to spawn.

Utilities Team Up to Truck Natural Gas to Fairbanks

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

It’s not a pipeline, but a project announced Thursday will get North Slope natural gas to Fairbanks.  As KUAC’s Dan Bross reports, the deal will provide relief to the community currently strapped by high oil prices.

Mysterious Orange Goo Washes Up In Kivalina

Associated Press

An orange-colored substance that washed up on the shores of the village of Kivalina and causing concern for residents that it may have been toxic, is not man-made.

Coast Guard Petty Officer David Mosely tells KTUU that it’s not a petroleum substance.

More tests are being conducted, but it might be a type of algae.

Pictures taken by resident Mida Swan show an orange sheen across the harbor and close-ups of the matter on beaches in the village on the state’s northwest coast, about 625 miles northwest of Anchorage.

City Administrator Janet Mitchell told the Associated Press the village is requesting that an algae expert from the University of Alaska Fairbanks investigate.

She also says some residents are dumping water collected in rain buckets for consumption because it too has a color.

K-300 Sled Dog Race Will Happen After All

Angela Denning-Barnes, KYUK – Bethel

There will be a K-300 sled dog race next year after all. The Bethel-based mushing organization has hired a new race manager.

Regulatory Fees Increase for Alaska Phone Lines

Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau

Telephones in Alaska became a little more expensive this week. As of Monday, regulatory fees increased on both land-lines and wireless phones for all the state’s phone companies.

Court of Appeals Orders Forest Service to Re-Examine Timber Sales

Deanna Garrison, KRBD – Ketchikan

The U.S. Court of Appeals is ordering the Forest Service to revisit its decision to offer four timber sales on the Tongass National Forest.

The court sided with two environmental groups that challenged the sales on the basis of how the federal agency evaluates deer habitat.

In a ruling issued on Tuesday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals determined that the Forest Service had not adequately explained its decision to approve the sales.

At issue is the Forest Service’s assessment of deer habitat.

Greenpeace and the Cascadia Wildlands challenged the timber sales, citing concerns about the effect on deer and their predator, the Alexander Archipelago wolf.

Larry Edwards is a campaigner for Greenpeace in Sitka.

The court ultimately ruled that the Forest Service violated the National Forest Management Act.  The Forest Service and U.S. Department of Justice declined to comment for this story. Alaska Forest Association Executive Director Owen Graham could not be reached for comment.