Alaska News Nightly: January 23, 2012

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State Scholarship Bill Runs Into Opposition

Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau

A bill giving state money to private and religious schools ran into opposition Monday before the House Education committee.  The bill sets up a mechanism providing state scholarships to private school students.

Sulfolane Contamination Found In 285 North Pole Wells

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The state has released a new report on sulfolane contamination in North Pole.  Historic spills of the industrial solvent at a local oil refinery contaminated ground water in a large area, and 285 private wells have tested positive for the chemical.  The latest information from the state confirms earlier safety precautions.

Alaska Shows Greatest Potential For Ocean Energy Development

Alexandra Gutierrez, KUCB – Unalaska

With its lengthy stretches of coast line, rapid currents and big waves, Alaska could be capable of producing about a fifth of the nation’s electricity. That’s according to two new reports released by the United States Department of Energy that find that the state’s waters have enough energy in them to produce over 850 terawatt hours of electricity every year – that’s enough to run over 800 billion space heaters all day, year round.

Right now, only about 6 percent of the nation’s electricity comes from hydropower resources. The Department of Energy is aiming to boost water power usage up to 15 percent by 2030.

Mike Reed is the team leader for DOE’s water program, and he says the development of ocean energy could be a big part of meeting that objective.

According to one assessment, the most productive regions in Alaska are Cook Inlet, the Aleutian Islands, and Bristol Bay. Water program staffer Hoyt Beatty, says Alaska’s coastal and island communities are uniquely positioned to take advantage of ocean energy.

However, while Alaska’s waters are capable of producing plenty of energy, developing it all wouldn’t be cost-effective, especially in sparsely populated regions. The Department of Energy is conducting a technical and economic assessment of what developing ocean energy would entail, and how much potential energy could realistically be harnessed.

Name Change Proposed For Rat Island

Stephanie Joyce, KUCB – Unalaska

The rats are gone from Rat Island and the name might follow suit.  The Aleut Corporation and the Aleutian Pribilof Island Association recently voted to ditch the now-inaccurate moniker and revert to the traditional Unangan name.

Healy, Renda 115 Miles Away From Nome After Two Days

Matthew Smith, KNOM – Nome

The tanker Renda and the Coast Guard cutter Healy are 115 miles south-southwest of Nome after beginning their return journey through the ice two days ago. Ice conditions have been easier when compared to their initial trip north, but the ships are not yet halfway: they still have more than 300 miles of ice to go.

Kathleen Cole, the Sea Ice Program Leader with the National Weather Service, says the ice has continued to expand in the days since the ships first traveled through it: the ice grew by 60 miles during their weeklong anchor in Nome, and could grow by another 60 to 90 miles over the next ten days. Guiding the Renda through the ice is an experienced Russian captain who says this kind of fuel delivery mission is no big deal in his home country.

Rohn Buser Wins Kuskokwim 300

Angela Denning-Barnes, KYUK – Bethel

Rohn Buser of Big Lake won the Kuskokwim 300 Sled Dog race Sunday in Bethel. The 22-year-old beat out a field of veterans including reigning Iditarod champion John Baker of Kotzebue, who finished a half hour later in second place.

Yukon Quest Mushers Drop Off Food For The Trail

Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks

The start of the Yukon Quest is less than two weeks out, and a key pre race milestone, the food drop was held Saturday.  Mushers dropped off bags of food and supplies to be delivered to checkpoints along the thousand mile race trail.

Frank Reed Passes Away At 99

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

One of Anchorage’s best-known residents has passed away.  Frank Reed, who arrived in Alaska’s tent city on Ship Creek in 1915 as a toddler, died at Providence Hospital yesterday at age 99.

Reed, who would have celebrated his 100th birthday this coming December, was raised in the hotel business. His family ran the original Anchorage Hotel until the mid 1930s, and Reed often told a story about a famous guest, artist Sydney Laurence, who paid his hotel bill with a oil painting of Mt. McKinley.

Speaking on KSKA’s Hometown Alaska last December, Reed remembers the reaction of Alaskans the day Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941.

Over the course of his life, Reed worked as an electrical contractor, a developer, a bank vice president and head of the Small Business Administration in Anchorage.

Reed was married for 71 years to his wife, Maxine, who preceded him in death.  He is survived by his daughter Pauline Reed, and by numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren.  Reed’s family plans to hold a celebration of his life on December 22 of this year, the day on which Reed would have turned 100.