Alaska News Nightly: October 18, 2011

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Voters Pass ‘SOS’ Initiative

Daysha Eaton, KDLG – Dillingham

The ‘Save Our Salmon’ Initiative passed in the Lake and Peninsula Borough by a narrow margin.     The final count was 280 to 246.     The initiative changes borough code to forbid the granting of permits for any big development, including a mine that would have a “significant adverse impact” on salmon streams.  But, the battle over the Initiative is far from over.

Fishermen, Politicians Fight Sea Lion Management Program

Alexandra Gutierrez, KUCB – Unalaska

The management of an endangered stock of Steller sea lions has pitted fishermen and politicians against federal scientists. That was especially clear at a special hearing on the issue held in Seattle on Monday.

‘Occupy Tundra’ Photo From Bethel Goes Viral

Shane Iverson, KYUK – Bethel

A picture, taken on the tundra of Western Alaska is generating a lot of interest worldwide.

Supporters of the Occupy Wall Street movement are enamored with a single protester’s snapshot taken in Bethel.

The photo has been featured on the LA times website, and it was  broadcast nationwide on NBC nightly news. It even got picked up on several major Russian TV networks.

From Member station KYUK in Bethel, reporter Shane Iverson spoke with the founder of the ‘Occupy the Tundra’ movement, and has this report.

Suit Challenging Redistricting Plan Moves Forward

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

A suit challenging Alaska’ proposed new voting district map is moving ahead, despite federal approval of the redistricting plan. The Fairbanks North Star borough, two local residents, and the city of Petersburg have sued to halt the plan. Plaintiffs are opposed to districts they say disenfranchise local voters. Fairbanks Borough Attorney Jill Dolan says last week’s pre-clearing of the plan by the U.S. Department of Justice is independent of the state court process.

Fairbanks plaintiffs are opposed to the plan’s grouping of areas of Ester and the Gold Stream Valley into a voting district that stretches to western Alaska.  The State Redistricting Board has to come up with a plan that protects the Alaska Native vote as required by the federal law, and meets state constitutional stipulations requiring compact and socio economically homogenous voter districts.  Board Executive Director Taylor Bickford says Alaska is one of 5 states covered by the 1971 Voting Rights Act and the board made adhering to it a priority.

Bickford calls federal approval of the Alaska plan a milestone, but the borough’s Dolan believes the redistricting board made procedural errors in putting together the new Alaska voting district map.

Dolan says the state court has determined that the municipalities have standing, and the normal  discovery process is proceeding in anticipation of a Jan. 9 trial.  She says a report from a voting rights expert prepared for the plaintiffs, was due Monday.

Alaska Railroad Selling Discount Firewood in Salcha

Tim Ellis, KUAC – Fairbanks

The Alaska Railroad is selling firewood at a discount in Salcha. It’s the first of several wood sales planned over the next three years during construction of new Tanana River bridge.

‘Club 49’ Waives Some Bag Fees for Alaska Residents

Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage & Matt Lichtenstein, KFSK – Petersburg

Alaskan residents will be able to avoid the dreaded baggage fee on Alaska Airlines flights to or from the state starting in November. The airline held Alaska Day open-houses at airports across Alaska to announce a waiver for up to two bags per trip, and new weekly deals.  Both are part of a free program the company calls “Club 49”.

Joe Sprague is Marketing Manager for the airline. He says the program is a response to a survey the airline conducted earlier this year.

Club 49 also entitles Alaskans to two certificates, good for a 30 percent discount on last minute one way tickets. But the baggage fee waiver was the biggest hit with the crowd at Petersburg’s airport . Lisa Hernandez looks forward to not having to pay for a couple bags the next time she travels:

Scott McMurren publishes the Alaska Travelgram e-mail newsletter. He says the program could be partly in response to new competition in the market.

McMurren lists Alaska Airlines as a sponsor of his Alaska TravelGram website.

The sale announced with the program today includes fares between Anchorage and Bethel, Barrow and Fairbanks and Ketchikan and Seattle. The sales fares are open to anyone. To get the other benefits, you have to sign up for the “Club 49”  program on the Alaska Airlines website.

New FEMA Flood Maps Cause Confusion in Juneau, Homer

Aaron Selbig, KBBI – Homer

The Federal Emergency Management Agency – or FEMA – has caused a wave of confusion in Juneau and Homer concerning the latest flood maps issued by the agency. According to the new maps, parts of the Homer Spit are now somehow lower in elevation than they used to be – and are therefore more susceptible to storm surges and tsunamis. City officials – and Senator Lisa Murkowski – are looking to FEMA for answers.

Story of ‘The Bight Before Christmas’ Revealed

Robert Woolsey, KCAW – Sitka

A Sitka author who penned a fishy parody of “The Night Before Christmas” nine years ago has discovered that even quick work can have long literary legs.

Will Swagel partnered with artist Colin Hereforth to publish an illustrated children’s version of “The Bight Before Christmas” in 2009. The book, and the story of how it was created, occupy the center spread of this month’s Pacific Fishing magazine.

CORRECTION: Tobacco Company Headed to Western Alaska Court

Shane Iverson, KYUK – Bethel

Finally, a correction. Last night we reported that tobacco giant Philip Morris owned several food products and restaurant chains, but that is not correct.

The company divested themselves of the Kraft brand, and several other brands in 2007.  Now they sell cigarettes and smokeless tobacco almost exclusively.