Alaska News Nightly: August 17, 2011

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Woman Charged With Murdering Infant Daughter

Associated Press

A 33-year-old Anchorage woman has been accused of suffocating her three-week-old infant with a plastic bag.  33 year old Sarah Bentley Johnson has been charged with first-degree murder in the infant’s August 5 death. She made her first court appearance in Anchorage Wednesday.

According to the Anchorage Daily News, Johnson told family members she had been feeling overwhelmed since the baby was born and confessed to killing her daughter. Johnson initially told police the girl died in her sleep. She was arrested Tuesday.

Man Dies in Port of Anchorage Accident

Associated Press

A workman died Wednesday afternoon in an accident at the Port of Anchorage.  The city’s fire department responded to an emergency call after a bulldozer fell into the water at a construction site at the north end of the port.  Rescue crews found the man was pinned beneath the bulldozer.  The fire department confirmed the death.  Officials used heavy equipment to lift the bulldozer off the man.

Pipeline Coordinator Reminds Senate That the Project Needs More Than a Statute

Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau

The State Senate committee looking at the state’s energy future Wednesday got a reminder from the federal pipeline coordinator: the state statute setting up a pipeline project from the North Slope to North American markets will not – by itself – bring about a gas line.

Man Safe After Plane Crash Near Valdez

Tony Gorman, KCHU – Valdez

The Alaska Air National Guard was able to locate and rescue a man who crashed his plane near Valdez overnight.  Rescue crews arrived on scene to find the man okay.

Mine Drilling OK’d in Two Roadless Areas

Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau

Tuesday, the Forest Service OK’d exploratory drilling at two Southeast Alaska mine sites.

The work will be done in roadless areas of the Tongass National Forest. That means they needed approval from agency Chief Tom Tidwell.

The Greens Creek mine is allowed up to three drilling sites totaling less than an acre. The operating multi-metal mine is on Admiralty Island, about 20 miles southwest of Juneau.

The Niblack project is OK’d for eight drilling sites, also totaling less than an acre. It is a multi-metal project is on Prince of Wales Island, around 30 miles southwest of Ketchikan.

Alaska Regional Forester Beth Pendleton says helicopters will move equipment to and from the sites. She says no roads will be built and reclamation will follow drilling operations.

“They would be permitted then to go in and actually construct the drilling pad sites and proceed with geotechnical and exploration drilling at those sites,” she says.

Greens Creek and Niblack were part of a recent court agreement listing mine, hydropower and other projects that would be allowed in roadless areas of the Tongass. An earlier court ruling imposed the nationwide roadless rule in Alaska after years of exemptions.

Drilling will help determine the extent and makeup of mineral deposits. Pendleton says other exploration has taken place outside areas designated as roadless.

“We’re able to expedite this process, but just to insure that any kind of incidental cutting of trees is acknowledged. And we’ve moved forward now with the approvals so the operators will be able to continue their exploration and drilling,” she says.

The Forest Service earlier this month approved tree-clearing for two other Southeast exploration projects. One is on Woewodski Island, south of Petersburg. The other is at Bokan Mountain, on southern Prince of Wales Island.

Greens Creek is owned by Idaho-based Hecla Mining Company.

Niblack is a mineral prospect being developed by Vancouver, British Columbia, based Heatherdale Resources. Its size and employment potential has been compared to Greens Creek.

The mines’ operators could not be reached for immediate comment.

Wildlife Managers Raise Lower Kuskokwim Moose Harvest Quota

Shane Iverson, KYUK – Bethel

The moose hunting season begins in just a few weeks for residents of the Lower Kuskokwim River. This season hunters will have a better chance of killing a moose than in previous years. That’s because wildlife managers are bumping up the harvest quota. The move comes after a surprising study on the Kuskokwim moose population.

Sitka Students Head to Kodiak for Cultural Exchange

Ed Ronco, KCAW – Sitka

A group of students from Sitka are in Kodiak this week for the second half of an exchange with the Woody Island tribe. Like many exchange programs, this one aims to foster better understanding between two cultures. But it also could help preserve traditions lost to either side, and foster healing between two cultures with a difficult history.

UAF Receives Endowment for School of Mining and Geological Engineering

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The University of Alaska Fairbanks has received a major gift from private industry.  Kinross Ft. Knox mine presented the UAF school of Mining and Geological Engineering a check for $990,000 Tuesday. Kinross North America vice president Lauren Roberts says the gift will fund a research endowment that’s developed out of a partnership with UAF.

The UAF mining program endowment will fund graduate student research.  Program chair Rajive Ganguli says that’s important because university level mining programs have dwindled nationwide since a major research funding source, the federal Bureau of Mines, closed over a decade ago.

Ganguli says the research endowment will extend after the Ft. Knox open pit gold mine north of Fairbanks is closed and reclaimed.  The financial boost comes during a global boom in the industry, but Dean of the College of Engineering and Mines Doug Goering says mining also faces challenges.

The UAF mining program provides skilled workers for an industry in the midst of an employee shortage.  Kinross’s Roberts says his company alone needs to hire about 7,000 people for projects worldwide in the next five years. The Kinross gift qualifies the company for state and federal tax credits under the Alaska Education Tax Credit program.

Charter Captains Campaign Against Proposed Catch Sharing Plan

Aaron Selbig, KBBI – Homer

Fisheries officials got an earful at a meeting in Homer last week about the new proposed catch sharing plan for Southcentral halibut fishermen. Local halibut charter captains are actively campaigning against the plan, saying it could cut the Homer fleet by a third.

Police Recover Stolen ‘Portugal. The Man’ Equipment

Associated Press

Chicago police have recovered the equipment of the rock band Portugal. The Man , which was stolen, along with its touring van and trailer after an appearance at the Lollapalooza music festival.

A mechanic was accused Tuesday of buying items, including vintage guitars and amps, keyboards, effects pedals, drums and microphones, at a flea market on Chicago’s South Side. Juan Ocampo was charged with one count of felony theft and was ordered held in lieu of $10,000 bond.

Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney Erin Antonietti says police found about $80,000 worth of the equipment Monday, including some of the instruments, inside Ocampo’s apartment.

The band is based in Oregon, but originally from Wasilla, Alaska.


And finally tonight two corrections.

The first one is for a story that aired last week about the invasive tunicate found in Sitka’s Whiting Harbor. That report said Charlie Swanton, director of sport fish for the Alaska Department of Fish & Game, told the Sitka Assembly on August 9th that the presence of the tunicate put a nearby oyster farm out of business. That is incorrect. Responding to a question from the Assembly, Swanton did say he believes the oyster farm is out of business, but he did not say it was as a result of the invasive species in the harbor.

And in a story Tuesday, we reported that The Supreme Court of Alaska had granted a motion by the State of Alaska for ’emergency review’ of the case of the Pebble Partnership versus the Lake and Peninsula Borough. The Pebble Partnership had requested a review of the case, but the Supreme Court has yet to decide on that issue.  However the State did not request an emergency review of the case, instead they requested an emergency review of *their motion to participate in the case as a friend of the court. The Supreme Court did grant that motion.