Alaska News Nightly: October 10, 2011

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Lt. Governor Receives Petition to Revive Coastal Management Program

Dave Donaldson, APRN – Anchorage

Local government leaders have taken the first steps toward what they hope will reinstate a Coastal Management Program.  The application for an initiative petition, signed by some 200 people, was delivered to the Lieutenant Governor late Friday.

Before its sunset at the end of June, the Coastal Management Program worked with developers, local residents and state and federal permitting agencies to assist development along and near the state’s coastline. Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho – one of the sponsors – said it was disheartening to see the old program go away after the governor and legislature couldn’t come to terms that would extend it.

“Our initiative is intended to encourage our state leaders to redouble their efforts to create a credible coastal management program during the 2012 legislative session.  And if they are unable to do so, Alaskans will have an opportunity to express their support for Alaska’s coastal program in November 2012,” Botelho said.

The proposed initiative is not the same as the bill that was on the table during this year’s special legislative session. It is based on what the local, coastal governments see as needed to manage development in their areas. For example, the Department of Environmental Conservation is included in the proposed plan. Under the most recent law, and all the proposals the legislature considered, there was what is called a DEC “carve-out.”

“What we’ve tried to do here is design a program that we think is most suitable for Alaska. And part of that is looking and making sure that the permitting process is streamlined, that it encompasses all programs done by our resource agencies, and that it be done in a coordinated, collaborative way,” Botelho said.

Another sponsor, Mako Hagerty, is a Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly member.   He says he was disappointed with the legislative process and thinks the initiative is a better alternative.

“We’re not just going to be delivering signatures.  We’re going to be delivering a message that this is a program that the state needs to participate in,” Hagerty said.

The third sponsor is Kodiak Island Borough Mayor Jerome Selby.

The Lieutenant Governor has 60 days to determine whether the initiative meets the legal framework to go before the public.  At that point, the sponsors can begin collecting nearly 26,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot. Botelho says the goal is to finish before the legislature begins next year’s session. That would give lawmakers the option of passing a substantially similar law – or doing nothing again, which would put it on next fall’s ballot.

NOAA Scientists Investigating Killer Whale Deaths

Daysha Eaton, KDLG – Dillingham

A team of NOAA scientists are heading to Bristol Bay to investigate the death of two Killer Whales on the Nushagak River, and NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service is trying to locate the remaining whale. The three Killer Whales had been far up the Nushagak River for several weeks and were showing signs of fresh water stress.  A local resident found the two dead Orcas Saturday.

‘Super Committee’ Proceedings Remain A Mystery

Libby Casey, APRN – Anchorage
The 12-members of Congress charged with coming up with a way to carve $1.2 trillion from the deficit have been meeting for weeks – but just what they’ve been up to is a mystery.  They’re not talking much about what happens in their closed-door sessions.

Alaska’s Congressional members are split in their opinions of the process, one that could have huge repercussions for all Americans.

The deficit cutting panel has until Thanksgiving to craft a plan Congress will vote on, and if they fail, major cuts get triggered.

Alaska’s delegation is outside looking in on the so-called “Super Committee.”  That’s not  bothering Democratic Senator Mark Begich, who says members will speak loudest when it comes time to vote on the committee’s proposals.

“I don’t feel out of the loop at all. It’s like asking me about the rewrite of No Child Left Behind, I’m not on the committee, but I’m not out of the loop. You know, that’s how the process works here. You have committees but you’re never out of the loop if you want to be engaged. Now some members are just going to wait for the end product and make a decision then. We’re looking at everything we think is important and then making comments. That’s how we’re doing it,” Begich said.

Begich says he’s weighed in with ideas through letters and by banding together with other members to give added heft to their perspective. And instead of being frustrated by the tight-lipped Super Committee, he likes that its every action is not being reported in the press and used as political fodder by battling factions.

Alaska’s senior Republican Senator, Lisa Murkowski, finds the waiting more difficult.  She says it’s hard for the 94 elected Senators who don’t have a say in the discussions and are in the dark, and she senses that same feeling among Americans wondering what the committee is doing.

“It is a mystery.  And I think this is somewhat frustrating for those observing from the outside. But those observing from the outside, just imagine how frustrating it is for those of us elected to represent our constituents and we’ve got very limited opportunities for input into a process, that is really very exclusive at this point,” Murkowski said.

Murkowski says it would be fairer for all the members of Congress to have a say, but she’s still supporting the Super Committee’s efforts because she warns that if they don’t come up with a viable plan to save over a trillion dollars, the triggered cuts could be very painful – and left up to the White House rather than Congress.

Top members on House and Senate committees have been able to give the Deficit Reduction Group their priorities, so as the ranking Republican on Energy, Murkowski’s registered her input.

While Murkowski is pressuring the committee to bring a good plan before Congress, Representative Don Young has all but given up.  The Republican House member says no one is willing to tackle changing the entitlement programs like Medicare that are big spenders.

“What makes you think those 12 are any smarter than the rest of the congress?  I really don’t believe that.  Some are good friends, I’ve let them know issues like primary care, I want to make sure it’s still funded, I think that’s crucially important for the health of our country,” Young said.

Young says he’s picked some top issues to advocate for, but just how the Super Committee weighs other members’ input won’t likely be revealed for weeks.

And one thing the Alaska delegation totally agrees on – the seriousness of the task ahead… and the difficult consequences if the Super Committee can’t come up with something Congress can stomach.

Nome Man Arrested in Woman’s Death

Ben Matheson, KNOM – Nome

A 21-year-old Nome man was arrested Friday following the death of a young woman of the same age.

Searchers Find Missing Boater’s Body

Shane Iverson, KYUK – Bethel

The body of a missing boater from Western Alaska was found after a three-week search effort.

Over 200 ‘Occupy Anchorage’

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

More than 200 Alaskans spent a good part of their Saturday afternoon and early evening in downtown Anchorage’s Town Square, showing solidarity for the Occupy Wall street gatherings that are ongoing around the country. The Occupy Anchorage demonstration started when Anchorage resident Brian Macmillan came back to town after working as a carpenter all summer at Kenicott and caught up on the news of the national protests. Macmillan says money has too much influence in politics.

And many others based on the signs and the frustration in the voices of those attending. Some were speaking out against corporate influence and war spending. Jed Whittaker took the microphone and said the government does not represent the average person.

Others were concerned about the lack of adequate health care for many Americans. Tom Maccia works in the health care field and he said in the past he was in favor of a single payer health system.

Peter, who only gave his first name, was attending the rally with his nephew. He said he is a psychiatric nurse practitioner who works with the mentally ill. He says he votes in every election and believes deeply in democracy, but he says the system is broken and just voting isn’t enough.

Peter’s 25-year-old nephew Cameron Kohls said he wanted to dispel what he says is misinformation about the occupy gatherings. He says those attending aren’t Marxists or Communists.

The gathering started before 3:00pm and was breaking up about 7:30 in the evening as a man walked through those packing up food, instruments, sign-up sheets and banners. He brought a warning that Mayor Dan Sullivan had announced anyone camping in the square overnight would be arrested.

Newtok Residents Steadily Relocating to Mertarvik

Associated Press

Residents of one of Alaska’s most eroded villages are making steady progress relocating to higher ground nine miles away.

The Yupik Eskimo village of Newtok is leading the seemingly impossible task of moving to the safer site called Mertarvik, which means “getting water from the stream” in Yupik.

The community of 350 is located near Alaska’s storm-battered western coast and is among the most vulnerable among scores of villages in the state affected by erosion and flooding blamed in part to rising global temperatures.

Newtok is the only community to begin the actual physical labor at a new site, a process that began in 2009. The work has steadily continued with yearly short-term funding from a variety of sources including the federal and state governments.

Two Wounded, Two Dead in Anchorage Shooting

Associated Press

Two people have been killed and two wounded in a shooting outside a bar in Anchorage.

Police responding to 911 calls early Monday found the victims just after midnight.

The body of one man was found in the parking lot of J.J.’s Lounge. The body of another man was in the street.

Police Lt. Dave Parker says officers found another man and a woman wounded. They’ve been taken to a hospital with gunshot wounds.

Parker says police have been searching the Muldoon neighborhood for several people who fled on foot or in vehicles after the shooting. He says no arrests have been made, but police have been interviewing several witnesses.

A neighbor says he heard about eight shots.

A witness to the shooting says the gunman fired on one of the victims several times, including a couple of shots at point-blank range.

New Ferry Service Gets Federal Loan

Matt Lichtenstein, KFSK – Petersburg

Northern Prince of Wales Island, Petersburg and Wrangell could be connected by a new year-round ferry service as soon as this spring. The federal government has offered a loan of nearly $3 million to the fledgling North End Ferry Authority. Project planners say there’s more work to do, but that loan covers the major financing needed for startup.