Alaska News Nightly: December 26, 2011

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State Gives $1.5 Million To Support Suicide, Substance Abuse Prevention In Southwest Alaska

Daysha Eaton, KDLG – Dillingham

The State has awarded The Center for Alaska Native Health Research at the University of Alaska Fairbanks nearly $1.5 million to support rural Southwestern Alaska Yup’ik communities in their suicide and substance abuse prevention efforts. The money will supplement a research program exploring how Alaska Native people are using ancestral knowledge and cultural traditions to promote well-being.

Mushers Add Another Alaska Race To Schedule

Laureli Kinneen, KNOM – Nome

For rural Alaska mushers, the race season is starting to wind up. In January, there’s the Kuskokwim 300 Sled Dog Race. In April, the Kobuk 440. Now in February, mushers will have another rural race in which to compete. The Norton Sound Sled Dog Club in Unalakleet is organizing the inaugural Paul Johnson Memorial Norton Sound 450 that will start in Unalakleet and end in Nome.

Federal Definition Of Homelessness Finalized

Jennifer Canfield, KMXT – Kodiak

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development last month finalized the federal definition of homelessness. The new definition reflects changing times. Now households that have more than one family living under the same roof are eligible for more assistance from the federally funded programs. Monty Hawver is the executive director for Kodiak’s Brother Francis Shelter. He says the change is especially beneficial for homeless children.

However, other changes aren’t as favorable. Hawver says now a family must be living at 30 percent or less of the federal poverty level to qualify for emergency assistance. Before, a family qualified at 50 percent of the poverty level. Also, the Fair Market Rent for Kodiak went down, despite increasing rents on the island. Hawver says both of these changes will make it more difficult for the Brother Francis Shelter to help struggling families.

Hawver estimates about 25 percent of the families that the shelter serves will become ineligible for emergency assistance because of these changes. Still, he’s hopeful that another source of funding will come through to fill in the gap. The money is certainly needed as more families slip into financial uncertainty.

A report released last week by the National Center on Family Homelessness shows an increase from about 5,500 homeless Alaskan children in 2006 to nearly 7,300 in 2010. That’s a 30 percent increase in just four years.

Budget Would Put New Trooper Helicopter In Fairbanks

Tim Ellis, KUAC – Fairbanks

Governor Sean Parnell has budgeted money for a new State Trooper helicopter in Fairbanks.  As KUAC’s Tim Ellis reports, the allocation is aimed at improving search and rescue response in the interior.

Japanese Tsunami Flotsam Appearing In Kodiak Waters

Jennifer Canfield, KMXT – Kodiak

A local beachcomber and a renowned oceanographer have found that Kodiak is already receiving some of the earliest arrivals of debris from the Japanese tsunami that resulted from a 9.0 earthquake last March. The tsunami killed nearly 16,000 people and devastated 400 miles of Japan’s coastline.

Back in September, avid beach comber Dave Kubiak  came across a large, white plastic float while out in his boat.

Kubiak moved on, not sure if the float was actually from the tsunami. But then he came across several more and then his friend- a fellow beach comber- also reported seeing the floats.

Kubiak’s friend actually pulled a few of the floats and stored them in the back of his truck. They took pictures and sent them to Dr. Curtis Ebbesmeyer.

Ebbesmeyer is well-known for his study of flotsam and how it travels through the ocean. He sent the pictures to the national media in Japan and asked for help identifying the floats.

Ebbesmeyer says debris will continue to wash up on shores from Kodiak to Oregon for the next few years. The ensuing reports from beach combers like Kubiak will make for better understanding of how flotsam moves through the ocean.

Ebbesmeyer says scientists are already hypothesizing about the effects of mass amounts of debris traveling through the Pacific Ocean’s currents. He points to an unprecedented number of sea turtles washing up on Vancouver Island.

Ebbesmeyer says people who find debris should be especially careful and respectful. Personal items and artifacts can still be reunited with people in Japan. He also suggests testing items for radiation, just to be prudent. Ebbesmeyer asks that people send him pictures and accounts of debris sightings through his website,

Panel Discusses NPFMC Process

Mike Mason, KDLG – Dillingham

The process to set federal fishing policy in the North Pacific relies on public input and sound science. That was the message that came out of a recent panel discussion held in Seattle.

Year In Review: Washington DC, Nome and Sitka

Ed Ronco, KCAW – Sitka

Matthew Smith, KNOM – Nome

Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC

In this last week of 2011, APRN and our member station reporters from across the state are taking a moment to reflect back on some of the stories that were significant for Alaskans. Today we’ll hear from the first three in our week-long series.

Tomorrow we’ll continue our look at 2011 with reports from Fairbanks, Dillingham and Juneau.