Alaska News Nightly: August 18, 2011

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Orange Goo Determined to Be Plant Fungus Spores

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

The orangey goo that gunked up Kivalina’s shores earlier this month was first thought to be some kind of microscopic egg.  But now, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration researchers say it’s actually the spores of a plant fungus.  Steve Morton identified the stuff. He’s the research oceanographer with NOAA in South Carolina. Morton says he used high powered electron microscopes to get a closer look and was surprised by what he found.

State Getting More Attention in Foreign Policy

Steve Heimel, APRN – Anchorage

The old slogan “Alaska – North to the Future” was once considered wishful thinking, but now it’s coming true.  With the growing importance of the Arctic as a potential mineral, transportation, and maybe even fishery resource, the nation’s only Arctic state is getting more attention in the foreign policy area. That was made clear in an Anchorage speech by a senior State Department official Thursday.

BOEMRE Says it Has Corrected Flaws Made Prior to Chukchi Sea Lease

Associated Press

The federal agency overseeing offshore petroleum drilling says it has corrected flaws in environmental work done ahead of a 2008 lease sale in the Chukchi Sea.

Environmental and Alaska Native groups disagree, saying the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management still has not addressed crucial information gaps, such as how to clean up a spill in ice-choked waters.

The groups are appealing to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to delay proposed drilling by Shell Oil and others in the Chukchi.

The federal agency Thursday released a final supplemental environmental review and said it addresses concerns raised by a federal judge in July 2010.

The federal agency held public hearings in Alaska communities and received more than 360,000 comment letters or cards.

Walrus Start Hauling Out Along North Coast

Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage

Walrus have started hauling out on shore along Alaska’s north coast. The sea ice has retreated far north of the continental shelf, leaving the animals with limited options for foraging. But only a handful of walrus have come to shore so far this year. Chad Jay is a walrus biologist with the United States Geological Survey. His team put 40 tags on walrus last month and he’s now monitoring their movements.

In late summer last year, 20,000-30,000 walrus hauled out on barrier islands a few miles from the village of Point Lay. Last year, the animals didn’t begin arriving in large numbers until late August. But with the sea ice coverage so low this summer, Jay says he’s surprised more walrus haven’t hauled out on land in Alaska.

Jay and colleagues are planning to put more radio tags on walrus near Point Lay next week. They’re tracking the animals to learn more about their foraging behavior. They want to compare how their feeding behavior changes when they’re forced to haul out on land instead of on the sea ice.

Checks Sent Out to Hundreds of Clerical Abuse Victims

Shane Iverson, KYUK – Bethel

Checks are going out now to hundreds of victims of clerical sexual abuse in the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta, and the greater Northwest Region. The payout is one of the largest in the Catholic abuse scandal that’s reached nearly every corner of the nation.  Parties on both side of the case say now it’s time to move on.

Blatchford Buys Seward Phoenix Log, Tundra Drums Newspapers

Angela Denning-Barnes, KYUK – Bethel

Calista Corporation announced late Wednesday that its last two weeklies–the Tundra Drums newspaper and the Seward Phoenix Log– have been purchased.

Supreme Court Rules SOS Initiative Can Go Before Voters

Daysha Eaton, KDLG – Dillingham

An Alaska Supreme Court decided late Wednesday to let a vote on the ‘Save Our Salmon’ initiative go ahead in the Lake and Peninsula Borough. The initiative could limit or stop the development of Pebble Mine.

Southcentral Foundation Gets Grant to Find Those Who Need Denali Kid Care

Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau

The Anchorage-based Southcentral Foundation has received a $700,000 federal grant to find more Alaska Native children who need to enroll in the Denali Kid Care program.   That’s the state program that combines with federal programs to offer medical services to children from low-income families. The federal grant was part of a $40 million national distribution – the second round of grants since the Children’s Health Insurance Program was reauthorized two years ago. Cindy Mann, with the Center for Medicaid Services, says the outreach services have been successful.

“A study by the Urban Institute released just this morning found that states have been making great progress.   Between 2008 and 2009 – even though the total number of eligible children increased in part due to the economy – so we had a greater number of kids who were actually eligible and uninsured – the number of children who were not enrolled and were uninsured actually dropped during this difficult economic time,” Mann said.

The federal emphasis on getting new clients will focus on using technology and schools to find eligible children – and to focus on teenagers who still qualify for medical assistance.

Staff Members Tour New Crime Lab

Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage

The new state crime lab under construction in Anchorage is almost a year away from completion, but recently a first group of staff members toured their future work spaces.

Whale Calf Freed From Fishing Gear

Matt Miller, KTOO – Juneau

A humpback whale calf has been disentangled from fishing gear near Juneau.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration spokesman Julie Speegle says the calf and its mother were spotted Wednesday morning by a charter fishing boat near Halibut Cove on Shelter Island. She says the five-person disentanglement team attached a transmitter to track the calf in case it raced away before they could free it.

The calf was freed from the fishing lines Wednesday evening just west of  Berners Bay.