Alaska News Nightly: November 10, 2011

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Teller Man Missing After Storm

Ben Matheson, KNOM – Nome

State troopers and search and rescue personal are looking for a man missing in Teller. Trooper Ann Sears says 26 year-old Kyle Kohmok was last seen on a yellow 4 wheeler around 4 p.m. yesterday.

Teller search and rescue went through town to see if he was staying with anyone.  They also searched the lake behind Teller.  No tracks were found in that area.

Water, rocks, logs, and ice moved in on Nome last night.  The surge peaked just shy of 10 feet around 5 o’clock.  Rocks sprayed onto front street and water washed out a portion of the highway around 15 miles east of town.

Clean up operations were begun and in some cases finished early today.  Incident Commander Chip Leeper says the Nome road crew took care of the debris quickly.

Leeper says he saw less debris this time around than he did the 2004 storm. After Nome realigned its harbor, the dredged sand has moved in front of a potion of downtown.  Leepr says this mini beach may have helped to push out the crashing waves.

Echoing a common sentiment today, Leeper says it was not as bad as some scenarios predicted:

The city is now compiling expenses for reimbursement in case the situation is declared a  disaster by the state.

Communities Relieved As Storm Subsides

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

Two sentiments being expressed from coastal communities after the storm and ocean surges have subsided are relief and the importance of being prepared and organized.

Shishmaref mayor Howard Weyiouanna says all storm and flood warnings were canceled this morning for the area. He says high surfs started Wednesday afternoon and lasted until 4 this morning, resulting in significant erosion.

Weyiouanna says the ocean ate into the corner of the rock revetment and is now less than 100 feet from three homes. He says in the past ice formed in mid to late October but the Chukchi is still ice free.

In Kivalina, city council member Colleen Swan says things have settled down and are quiet now, but Wednesday evening the ocean crashed through the south end channel into the lagoon. She says it broke up the lagoon ice and was gauged at about 25 miles per hour and people began moving elders and children to the school. She says children in the community are stressed by the event and after the evacuation of 2007, she says her 12 year old son gets scared by storms.

Shaktoolik Returning to Normal

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

North of Unalakleet, the village of Shaktoolik appears to have weathered the storm well.  Shaktoolik Mayor Eugene  Asicksik  heads the emergency command center there.  He says in the village things are returning to normal. The debris and slush on the beach actually helped protect dwellings.  No injuries are reported and people have returned to their homes.

He says this storm did not reach previous storm heights, compared with 1974 and 2009.  Asicksic weathered both those storms.  A 1974 flood inundated old Shaktoolik, so the village was relocated to its present site.

Shaktoolik’s airport is dry and has received two flights today.  Asicksik says he’s not sure what will happen this evening.  A high tide is anticipated around 10pm.

New Storm Heading for Southwest Alaska

Angela Denning-Barnes, KYUK – Bethel

Another storm is brewing for Southwest Alaska. It comes on the heels of damaging strong winds experienced over the last two days.

Politics of Climate Change Subject of Conference

Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau

Like it or not, discussions about climate change in the United States are awash in politics

The vast majority of scientists agree the planet is warming as a result of man-made greenhouse gas emissions, which itself raises serious social and political questions. But skeptics say the problem is blown out of proportion.

Starting Thursday, the Juneau World Affairs Council hosts a three-day conference focusing on the politics of climate change.

Shay Charged With 81 Additional Child Pornography Counts

Associated Press

Authorities have charged a former Ketchikan city councilman with 81 additional counts of possessing child pornography.

Ketchikan police say two of the additional charges were filed after a homemade video was found showing John “Jack” W. Shay with a young girl.

The Ketchikan Police Department says in a release that the other charges stem from images found on Shay’s computer.

Shay was arrested last Friday night and charged with 10 counts after he took his computer and printer to a repair shop.

Escopeta Oil Claims Early Success in Cook Inlet

Steve Heimel, APRN – Anchorage

There was an announcement over the weekend of what looks like the biggest natural gas discovery in Cook Inlet in 25 years. Escopeta Oil claimed early success in the first well drilled by its jack-up offshore drilling rig, and the well is not complete yet.

New Natural Gas Find May Mean Cheaper, Cleaner Energy for Fairbanks

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

A new natural gas discovery in Cook Inlet offers another option for getting a cleaner more affordable energy source to Fairbanks.  The gas find by Escopeta has yet to be fully delineated, but is described as the biggest in the Inlet in 25 years.  As KUAC’s Dan Bross reports, it offers potential alternative to an in state gas pipeline from the North Slope.

NCAI Passes Variety of Initiatives

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

Alaska tribal members were in Portland last week for National Congress of American Indians or NCAI conference meetings where resolutions supporting a variety of initiatives passed.

Edward Alexander is the 2nd chief of the Gwichyaa Zhee Gwich’in tribal government in Fort Yukon. Alexander points to growing concerns about future control of traditional land and the disenfranchising of Alaska Natives born after 1971 who were left out of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.

Alexander says one of the resolutions addresses concerns about traditional lands that are now within Alaska Native Corporations. He says Alaska’s indigenous people need to build consensus for taking control of the future.

The resolution would form an Alaska Native Restoration Commission based on the Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin’s successful efforts in regaining their rights as a tribe after their tribal status was terminated by Congress and their successful logging operation was turned into a corporation that begin to have financial trouble. The Menominee fought and prevailed in getting their reservation lands or Indian Country status restored and brought their timber business back under tribal control. Alexander says he sees parallels in Alaska to the Menominee.

He says commission members must ask Native people if they think the social experiment of ANCSA has been good or bad.  The Fort Yukon Gwich’in transferred their land from their village corporation to the tribe and negotiated an agreement that allows the corporation to retain economic development rights, the tribe controls the land and if there are disputes, they are arbitrated by the tribal government. Alexander says he worries ANCs, like other corporations, could go out of business in the future and traditional land could be lost to bankruptcy or taxes.

Mallot Says ANCSA Work in Progress

Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau

But in a recent lecture in Juneau, Sealaska director and former CEO Byron Mallott says the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act is a work in progress.

Mallott kicked off Sealaska Heritage Institute’s annual Native American History Month lecture series last week, by calling the landmark piece of federal legislation “unfinished business.”

Sealaska is one of 12 regional Native corporations created by ANCSA in 1971. Each received land to settle the various aboriginal claims of Alaska Native people. The settlement also included compensation of nearly a billion dollars that was split between the companies. A thirteenth corporation was later formed for so-called “landless Natives.”

Mallott hopes ANCSA will be amended in the future to allow land swaps between Native corporations, tribes, and the federal government.

Cook Inlet Vessel Traffic Study Glimpses into Waterway’s Future

Tara Bicknell, KHNS – Haines

A new study on Cook Inlet vessel traffic is giving planners a clear idea of what the waterway’s future will look like.

The research is part of a larger risk assessment study which could lead to new laws or improvements at Cook Inlet ports.

Tara Bicknell has more on the study, which is currently out for public comment.