Alaska News Nightly: November 23, 2011

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Senators Prepare for More Budget Battles

Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC

If the Congressional Super Committee in Washington had reached agreement over how to tackle the federal debt, this week would have been one of announcements and negotiations.  But Capitol Hill is quiet with Congress gone for Thanksgiving recess and politicos ramping-up for partisan fights in December.

Survey Shows Increase in Bristol Bay Shareholder Opposition to Pebble Mine

Daysha Eaton, KDLG – Dillingham

A survey by the Bristol Bay Native Corporation says that shareholder opposition to the proposed Pebble Mine is growing.    The survey also collected information about what kind of development that shareholders do want.

High Tech Survey Shows More Gold Deposits Near Old Gold Rush Sites

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The state is releasing high tech survey for an area of the western interior that‘s produced abundant gold.  An airborne geophysical survey covered 850 square miles in the Iditarod and Innoko region, near McGrath.  The state says the area has produced 2.3 million ounces of gold.  Most of that has been placer gold, with little coming from hard rock lode sources.  State geologist Dave Szumigala says the survey has identified potential in new areas that could be the source of the placer gold.

Szumigala says past studies have indicated that the Iditarod and Innoko lode gold is in granite and rock in area mountains.  He says known deposits at Donlin Creek and Chicken Mountain, near Flat, have confirmed this, but the survey has identified new targets.

Szumigala says the state contracted survey employed helicopter borne electromagnetic and magnetic scanning that identifies rock types.   He says the information has to be followed up by on the ground mapping and drilling to confirm mineralization.  Some state land in the Iditarod and Innoko area is already staked but Szumigala says there’s room for new claims.  He says the new state data has already resulted in one prospector moving forward with an exploration plan in the survey area. The state spent about a half million dollars on the project, which is part of a statewide survey program.

Governor’s Advisory Group Opposes Sealaska Bills

Ed Ronco, KCAW – Sitka

A panel that advises the Parnell administration on federal issues has come out against federal legislation that would convey lands to the Sealaska Corporation.  A three-page letter was sent to the bill’s sponsor, Senator Lisa Murkowski, earlier this month (November). But just what impact it might have remains to be seen.

Kookesh Challenging Stedman for State Senate Seat

Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau

A pair of powerful Southeast lawmakers will face off in the 2012 election. Angoon’s Albert Kookesh and Sitka’s Bert Stedman will both run to represent a Senate district newly configured by redistricting.

Former Galena Air Force Base Cleanup Ahead of Schedule

Jeremy Scott, KIYU – Galena

Representatives from the Air Force Real Property Agency say efforts to clean up the former Galena base are well ahead of schedule.

When the project began nearly two years ago, over sixty sites had been marked as areas of concern.

Sample data on soil from those sites are now in the analysis stage.

18 other potential sites of concern had not even been investigated, but the Air Force is now close to having completed those investigations.

Environmental Coordinator Al Weilbacher says the work done over the past two years usually takes much longer.

The Air Force next plans to perform a feasibility study to determine the best way to clean up the contamination.

Fairbanks Non-Profits Team Up to Start Homeless Youth Shelter

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

Two Fairbanks non-profit groups are teaming up to start a youth homeless shelter.  Fairbanks Youth Advocates, which has been spearheading the project, is handing it over to the more experienced Fairbanks Rescue Mission.  The short term shelter for homeless teens will be run out of a downtown building owned by Fairbanks Youth Advocates.  Youth Advocates Director Mary Lee Bates told the Fairbanks City council Monday that the arrangement will help her fledgling organization grow the new service.

The two groups came before the council to urge the city to apply for a federal grant to renovate the shelter building, an empty tri-plex in need of major repairs.  Rescue Mission Director Rodney Gaskins said the Youth Homeless shelter operations can be incorporated into his organization’s budget.   

The council unanimously approved a resolution authorizing application for the $750,000 Community Development Block grant for the homeless youth shelter building renovation. Some council members had earlier expressed concerns about the city having to pay back the grant if the shelter fails to operate for a required five years.  Under the new arrangement, the Rescue Mission takes on that liability. Councilwoman Vivian Stiver said her concerns have been allayed.

The city will hear back in March whether the homeless youth shelter renovation is funded.  It has to compete against grant projects proposed by other communities around the state. Estimates put Fairbanks homeless youth population at about 800 kids.  The new shelter is designed to provide them short term care and counseling with the aim of re-uniting them with family.

Thanksgiving Blessing Project Enters Eighth Year

Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage

The Food Bank of Alaska and the faith community combined forces this week to distribute turkeys and all the trimmings for a Thanksgiving meal to families in Anchorage and the Mat Su Valley.   It’s the eighth year of the Thanksgiving Blessing Project and like the previous seven, this distribution drew more families than the year before.