Alaska News Nightly: October 28, 2011

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States Files Suit OverPebble Mine Initiative
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
The state of Alaska wants to invalidate the results of the Lake and Peninsula Borough ban on large scale resource extraction that would adversely impact salmon habitat. Earlier this month, Borough voters approved the ban, which affects the proposed Pebble Mine project, located near the headwaters of Bristol Bay.

The state has filed a lawsuit against the Borough, claiming the initiative is trumped by Alaska law. The state’s suit asks a judge to keep the borough from enforcing the measure.

The lawsuit alleges the initiative usurps and conflicts with the state’s authority to govern the management and development of mineral resources.

Alaska Touts Lowest Neonatal Mortality Rate In Nation
Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage
The state is celebrating an impressive turn around for mortality rates for the smallest Alaskans- infants in their first month of life. In the 1980’s the state was ranked 49th in the U.S., with eight deaths for every 1,000 live births. Since then, the state has been slowly working its way up the list. And now Alaska is number one – with the lowest mortality rate in the nation for neonatal infants.

State Dismisses Militia Charges, Federal Charges Remain
Associated Press
The state is dismissing charges against an Alaska militia leader and others who are accused in a murder conspiracy plot targeting Alaska State Troopers and a judge.

Similar federal charges remain against four of the five Fairbanks-area residents, including Schaeffer Cox, who was accused in state charges of hatching the conspiracy. The four remain in custody.

Prosecutors say today’s decision was prompted by a Superior Court judge’s recent ruling to suppress all electronic evidence in the case.

Judge David Stewart said in his Oct. 17 ruling that audio and video recordings made during a six-month FBI investigation into Cox and his Peacemaker’s Militia are not admissible because they were made without a search warrant, violating the Alaska Constitution. The FBI has wider authority to obtain warrants.

Energy Authority Files Preliminary Permit Application for Hydro Project
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
The Alaska Energy Authority has filed a Preliminary Permit Application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the Susitna-Watana Hydroelectric Project, according to AEA’s project manager for external affairs, Karston Rodvik.

The Preliminary Permit Application gives a priority to AEA’s license application under the Federal Power Act. Rodvik says a formal application will be made by the end of this year. The later application identifies project details, anticipated impacts, and establishes a framework for the licensing process.

Governor Parnell’s bill authorizing the dam project unanimously passed the Legislature and was signed into law in July. The Susitna-Watana Hydroelectric Project will create an approximate 700-foot dam with a proposed power generation capacity of 600 MW.

Bering Sea Polluck B Season Limping to Close

Alexandra Gutierrez, KUCB – Unalaska
The Bering Sea pollock B season is limping to a close.

As of Saturday, 77,000 metric tons of fish remain unharvested with just a few weeks to go. That’s about 10 percent of what the fleet’s allowed to take this fall. Effort has dropped substantially according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric administration, and many crews have already packed up and flown home — even if they still have fish on the table.

Camilo Neto is the captain of the Starward, and his crew left the island on Tuesday. He says that with the sluggish pace of fishing, the low price, and the high cost of fuel, it just wasn’t profitable to ride out the rest of the season. He adds that the fleet has also been hampered by chinook salmon bycatch, something that hasn’t been a problem in shorter seasons.

As of October 15, about 19,000 chinook salmon had been taken as bycatch. That’s well below the 60,000-fish hard cap that would trigger a shutdown of the fishery. But some vessels have gotten close to their base caps, which has put them on edge for the coming A season.

Additionally, the pollock fleet has taken over 175,000 chum salmon – fourteen times what they took last year.

Brain Injury Network Attempts to Curb High Injury Rates
Daysha Eaton, KDLG – Dillingham
Alaska is number one in the country for traumatic brain injury. And in rural Alaska, where snow-machine travel is part of everyday life, the rates are highest. The Alaska Brain Injury Network is trying to get the word out that many of the injuries could be prevented by simply wearing a helmet.

Sawmill Cove Board Looks to Dock, Marine Services
Robert Woolsey, KCAW – Sitka
With some of their worst fears about the economic recession behind them, the board of Sitka’s Sawmill Cove Industrial Park would like to begin moving forward again.

Murkowski Suggests Gas Line to Fairbanks
Associated Press
Sen. Lisa Murkowski is suggesting the state look at investing in a natural gas pipeline to Fairbanks as a way to jumpstart seemingly stalled efforts to commercialize North Slope gas, according to her spokesman on Friday.

Thursday, Gov. Sean Parnell said that a proposed line to provide gas to the Lower 48 appears stalled, and if the market truly has changed, he wants the major North Slope players to get behind a proposed line to tidewater that would allow for liquefied natural gas exports.

The Senate energy committee, on which Murkowski serves, had planned a hearing next month on gas markets, including those for liquefied natural gas exports.

Murkowski said commercializing Alaska’s gas will be a part of the discussion.

AK: Palmer Reindeer Farm’s Spooky Surprise
Dave Waldron, APRN – Anchorage
And when you think of locations for Halloween fun, reindeer farms are probably pretty low on the list. But if you were to travel out to Palmer’s Reindeer farm this weekend, you’d find yourself in for a spooky surprise. One Alaska couple has made it their business to put a unique spin on Halloween.

300 Villages: Naknek and Ruby
Now it’s time for 300 villages, AK’s regular weekly trip around the state. Today we’re visiting Naknek, on the Alaska Peninsula, and Ruby, on the Yukon River:

That’s Sylvia Mejorada in Naknek, and William McCarty, Jr. in Ruby.