Alaska News Nightly: January 2, 2012

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Russian Tanker Renda Arriving In Dutch Harbor

Ben Matheson, KNOM – Nome

The Russian tanker Renda is arriving in Dutch Harbor Monday to load gasoline and be inspected before heading through the ice to Nome.

Kivalina Residents To Vote On New School Location

Associated Press

Voters in one of Alaska’s most storm-eroded coastal villages will decide Tuesday whether to build a new school seven miles away – a project one local official believes could hasten efforts to relocate the crumbling community.

Janet Mitchell, Kivalina’s city administrator, said a yes vote Tuesday also could speed construction of a long-desired road that would provide economic development and better access for subsistence hunters in the Inupiat Eskimo village.

Kivalina is a community of more than 400 people 625 miles northwest of Anchorage. It is built on an 8-mile barrier reef between the Kivalina River and Chukchi Sea, and is reachable only by boat or plane.

Sea ice historically protected the village, whose economy is based in part on fishing plus subsistence hunting of whale, seal, walrus, and caribou. But with climate change, the ice is forming later and melting sooner because of higher temperatures, and that has left it unprotected longer from storm waves and surges that pummel coastal communities in Alaska.

Mitchell said Kivalina was 54 acres in size decades ago and erosion has squeezed it to half that size.

Body Found On Beach West Of Nome

Ben Matheson, KNOM – Nome

The Nome Police Department responded Friday afternoon to reports of a body found on the beach west of town.   Police identified the deceased as 58-year-old Napolean Bergamaschi.

Bergamaschi’s body was located about a quarter mile down the beach.  Police say he has a camp nearby and was close to his residence when he was found.  He was dressed in several layers of winter gear.

Nome police said in a statement that they do not suspect foul play.  They do not know whether Bergamaschi died from natural causes or from exposure.  The body has been sent to the State Medical Examiner for an autopsy.  Temperatures last week in Nome were frigid, dipping as low as 32 degrees below zero.

Southeast Charter Halibut Size Limit May Be Eased

Matt Lichtenstein, KFSK – Petersburg

Guided anglers in Southeast Alaska may be able to keep some bigger halibut next summer. At a recent meeting, The North Pacific Fishery Management Council recommended a change in the size limit– that restricted charter businesses last season.

Groups Push For Reconsideration Of Trident Seafoods Settlement Terms

Alexandra Gutierrez, KUCB – Unalaska

The Clean Water Act settlement between Trident Seafoods and the Environmental Protection agency might not be quite settled. St. Paul’s

tribe, Native corporation and fishing association are pushing the federal government to reconsider terms that they say could lead to the closure of their only year-round processing plant.

Ocean Beauty To Keep Petersburg Plant Open

Joe Viechnicki, KFSK – Petersburg

The seafood processing company Ocean Beauty says it will keep its Petersburg plant open in 2012, despite another low pink salmon forecast.

The company shuttered the facility in 2010 because of a weak salmon run and processed pinks at another plant in Excursion Inlet near Juneau. Tom Sunderland, the company’s vice president of marketing, says the Petersburg plant will process salmon next summer.

Both the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game are forecasting another weak return in 2012. NMFS forecasts 19 million pinks harvested, while Fish and Game expects 17 million. The fleet caught 23 million in 2010, the parent year for the 2012 fish. This past summer saw a bumper crop of 59 million netted in Southeast.

Ocean Beauty typically has more than 160 workers during the summer season. Besides canned pink salmon, it also produces salmon roe, along with frozen and fresh chum, coho and sockeye. Sunderlund says the company will employ fewer workers than last year because of the low fish forecast.

Sunderland is optimistic the pink run will come in better than forecast. Ocean Beauty has operated the Petersburg plant since 1985. Icicle Seafoods has the only other canning operation in town.

State Releases 2012 Forecast For Taku River Chinook

Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau

For the sixth time in seven years, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is projecting a directed commercial fishery for Taku River King salmon in 2012.

The department says the number of Taku Chinook should be up from last season. The forecast calls for a summer run of about 48,000 Kings, with an allowable catch of about 6,700 for commercial fishermen in Alaska.

But fishery manager Kevin Monagle says projections don’t always turn into reality.

“In some cases we have had a number similar to this or maybe a little lower to go after, and we have decided to wait until we had in-season information and to make our management decisions based on that information alone, not the forecast,” says Monagle.

Case in point, in 2011 the forecast called for a run of about 41,000 Kings, with an allowable catch of about 1,500. But a directed fishery was not allowed once managers were able to collect in-season data.

Monagle says it can be a difficult fishery to forecast, because the Alaska catch is set according to a treaty with Canada, which shares the Taku with the United States. And Canada gets first crack at the fish.

“The first 5,000 fish surplus, Canada gets that and we get none of it,” says Monagle. “So, in recent years when you have very small surpluses to go after, if the forecast changes even a little bit – 2 to 4 percent – then that U.S. allowable catch goes away.”

Monagle says Canadian managers also regulate the Taku King fishery according to in-season data, and that biologists on both sides of the border are in regular communication before and after fishing starts.

May 1st is the first day a fishery is allowed to open in Alaska. Monagle says the department will release more information closer to that date.

Denali National Park Lowering Entry Fee

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The entrance fee at Denali National Park is changing for 2012. Effective immediately, the National Park service will only collect a $10 per person entry fee.  The pass is good for 7 days.  The agency is eliminating a former $20 vehicle fee.  Denali National Park spokeswoman Kris Fister says the change resulted from a national audit.

Fister says the entrance fee is also collected through campground reservations, but that people just stopping by the park won’t be accosted to pay.

Denali is the only Alaska National Park that collects an entrance fee.  Fister says a 1987 law instituted the charge as a way to pay for maintenance of Denali’s substantial infrastructure, including the 90 mile park road.  She says Denali entrance fees brought in $2.3 million in 2010.  80 percent of the money is withheld for use in Denali.

New Online Tool Throws ‘Career Ladder’ Idea Out The Window

Daysha Eaton, KDLG – Dillingham

The Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development recently added a new online tool to help those who have lost a job or just want to make a career change.   The online tool throws the old fashioned idea of a ‘career ladder’ out the window and replaces it with a ‘career lattice.’