Alaska News Nightly: December 8, 2011

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Former Garden Ornament Offers Insight Into Unangan Culture

Stephanie Joyce, KUCB – Unalaska

A stone that was used as a garden ornament for the last 50 years may turn out to be one of the most important archaeological finds in Aleutian history, offering new insights into Unangan culture.

North Slope Borough Responds To Run-Off Election Investigation

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

A hearing will be held on Monday in Barrow to investigate allegations of vote count discrepancies, bribery and other charges in the run-off election between North Slope Borough Mayor Charlotte Brower and her opponent, George Ahmaogak. Wednesday, we aired an interview with Ahmaogak’s attorney. Thursday, we have a response from the North Slope Borough.

Ethel Patkotak is the attorney for the Borough. She says the outcome of the investigation will have an enormous impact on the North Slope.

Woman Arrested, Charged In Fatal Hit-And-Run

Associated Press

Anchorage police say traffic detectives have arrested a 19-year-old woman charged in a fatal April hit and run crash.

Lt. David Parker said Ashley Bashore of Anchorage was arrested Wednesday. She was allegedly texting at the time of the accident. She’s been charged by a grand jury indictment with criminally negligent homicide, leaving the scene of an injury accident and tampering with physical evidence.

The April 24 crash killed 28-year-old Hubert Tunuchuk. He and his companions were crossing the Tudor Road overpass above the New Seward Highway on foot at the time.

‘One Anchorage’ Works To Put Equal Rights Initiative On Ballot

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

The advocacy group One Anchorage turned over more than 13,000 signatures to Anchorage’s municipal clerk on Thursday. “One Anchorage” wants to put an equal rights initiative on the next city ballot which will ensure the same rights for gay, lesbian and transgender individuals that are now guaranteed for women and minorities.

Article 32 Hearing Continues On Chopper Crash

Matt Miller, KTOO – Juneau

Day two of a hearing got underway Thursday in Juneau for a Coast Guard officer facing charges related to a helicopter crash off the coast of Washington State last year.

As KTOO’s Matt Miller reports, those who investigated the flight of Coast Guard 6017 said Wednesday that the crash’s only survivor shirked his duties as co-pilot of the aircraft. His defense says, that’s not true.

Officials Holding Public Hearings On OCS Leasing Schedule

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

Thursday in Fairbanks and Friday in Anchorage federal officials are having public hearings about the latest five-year schedule for leasing on the Outer Continental Shelf, including both the Beaufort and Chukchi lease areas. Last night the Army Corps of Engineers took public comment on a draft environmental impact statement for Exxon Mobil’s proposed development of oil and gas on-shore at Pt. Thompson, bordering the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The company proposes pumping natural gas liquids through a 23-mile pipeline to the existing Badami pipeline.  Army Corps Pointmpson project manager Hank Baij says there are four development alternatives in the draft EIS, including Exxon Mobil’s preferred plan.

All proposed development options involve wells, pipelines and gravel pads, but the size and distance of facilities from the coast, varies, and some favor seasonal ice, over gravel roads.

Pt. Thompson is presumed to hold oil as well as gas.  21 exploratory wells have been drilled in the field.  Exxon Mobil and the state have not released information on the area’s oil potential, but the company estimates pumping 10,000 barrels a day of gas condensate from Pt. Thompson.  Dry gas would be re-injected until there’s a way to export it.

State Joins Lawsuit Challenging NPS Navigable Waters Authority

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The state is joining a lawsuit challenging National Park Service authority to regulate navigable waters in Alaska.  The Governor’s office has directed the Department of Law to join a suit filed by Anchorage resident John Sturgeon.

Sturgeon used a hovercraft to moose hunt in the Yukon Charley Rivers National Preserve until 2007, when he was told the vessel was not permitted in the preserve.  Sturgeon filed a civil suit this fall challenging the Park Service’s authority.

The state owns all submerged lands in Alaska, but the National Park Service maintains it has the right to enforce regulations on waters flowing through parks. Federal law, including the U.S. Constitution and the Alaska National Interest lands Conservation Act mandate state ownership and management, but there are also provisions interpreted to allow some federal regulation.

Similar issues are at play in another case the state intervened in. Central resident Jim Wilde challenged charges stemming from a confrontation with Yukon Charley rangers last year.    Wilde is awaiting sentencing after being found guilty in October of interfering with the Park Service, violating a lawful federal order, and operating an unregistered boat.  An appeal challenging the agency’s authority on state navigable waters is likely in the Wilde case.

Alaska Allowing Use Of DocBookMD Application

Daysha Eaton, KDLG – Dillingham

Alaska was recently the first state in the U.S. to allow texting with a HIPAA-compliant mobile application, statewide.  Jim Jordan is the Executive Director of the Alaska State Medical Association, which recently endorsed use of the smart phone app DocBookMD. Jordan says it will improve service, especially when it comes to referrals between the bush and urban centers.

DocBookMD can be used with mobile devices such as iPhones, iPads, iPod touches and Android phones. ASMA endorsed the mobile app in July.  The Medical Exchange of California, a professional liability insurer in Alaska, is providing the app free-of charge to ASMA members.

The application is encrypted to protect confidential information. Before approval of DocBookMD app, doctor’s who texted information about patients were in violation of HIPAA regulations and could be charged with a felony offense. Jordan says he expects doctors to begin using the app by the New Year. That’s also when broadband internet service needed to operate the mobile devices used to access the app should begin in arriving in Southwest and Western Alaska communities.

Children’s Christmas Program Fills Homer Theatre

Aaron Selbig, KBBI – Homer

The Mariner Theatre at Homer High School was filled nearly to capacity Tuesday afternoon as children from Paul Banks Elementary School filed onto the stage to prepare for their annual Christmas program. KBBI’s Aaron Selbig was there and captured these sounds.