Alaska News Nightly: February 2, 2012

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US Attorney’s Office Recommends Reduced Sentence For Fuglvog

Stephanie Joyce, KUCB – Unalaska

The U.S. Attorney’s office is recommending a reduced sentence for Arne Fuglvog.

The former fisheries aide to Sen. Lisa Murkowski pleaded guilty in August to falsifying records for his sablefish catch in 2005. That year, illegal fishing earned Fuglvog an estimated $100,000. Court documents estimate the total value of Fuglvog’s illegal harvests between 2001 and 2006 at $1 million.

The terms of Fuglvog’s plea agreement included a $50,000 punitive fine, a $100,000 community service payment and a public apology in National Fisherman’s Magazine.

The plea agreement also recommended 10 months in jail, but in a sentencing memorandum released this week, the U.S. Attorney’s office reduced that recommendation to 5 months, citing Fuglvog’s cooperation during the investigation.

Sentencing is scheduled for 8 a.m. on Tuesday.

Bethel Cab Driver Found Dead

Angela Denning-Barnes, KYUK – Bethel

A Bethel cab driver went missing earlier this week, and was later found dead.

Northern Waters Task Force Report: Opportunities and Challenges

Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau

The Alaska Northern Waters Task Force has given the legislature its findings and recommendations on the effects of climate change in the Arctic – and how the state fits into national and international interest in the region.

January Sets Cold Records Across State

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

January 2012 will have a place in the weather record books. National Weather Service meteorologist Jim Brader says locations across the northern half of the state bested or came close to records.

January 2012 was the coldest month ever at Galena.  The average temperature at Galena -32.6, and there were four consecutive days at the end of the month with minus 60 degree lows, including -65 this past Sunday.  Other communities breaking cold records were Nome, McGrath, Tanana and Bettles.  It was the 5th coldest January on record at Fairbanks, with an average temperature of -26.9. Brader says the extreme cold was the result of a very persistent pattern in the upper atmosphere or jet stream.

February has seen an end to the cold weather pattern.  Brader says the jet stream has shifted.

Brader says it’s unclear how long the new pattern will hold, but it appears thing will stay on the warm side into next week.

Bethel Experiences Record Cold

Mark Arehart, KYUK – Bethel

Bethel also saw weather records broken. January shaped up to be on average the coldest in history there.

Geological Crack Threatens Haines Homes, Roads

Tara Bicknell, KHNS – Haines

A geologic phenomenon scientists are calling a “slow creeping event” is threatening homes and vital roadways in the Southeast Alaska town of Haines.  And warm weather in the forecast is only causing more concern.

Tara Bicknell has this update from Haines, where a large swath of residential land is slowly separating from the mainland.

Enstar Sold to AltaGas

Steve Heimel & Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage

Enstar, the natural gas utility in the Cook Inlet area, is being sold to a Canadian corporation. Enstar belongs to Semco Energy, which in turn was owned by Continental Energy Systems in Michigan. The company that is buying Semco is AltaGas, of Calgary, which already owns other natural gas distribution systems in the north and a hydro-electric project on the Iskut River in British Columbia. It is paying 1.135 billion dollars for a U-S presence.

Enstar spokesman John Sims says customers should see no change.

“It’s important to understand, or for customers to understand that this will have immediate impact on base rates. There won’t be an adjustment in rates until 2014, which our next scheduled rate case is, so, you know, from that perspective, to customers, it should be seamless,” Sims said.

Sims also says Enstar’s president and management team have been retained and it’s largely unionized staff’s contracts will be honored by AltaGas.

The transaction is expected to be closed in the third quarter of 2012.

Some Customers May Get Refund From Fairbanks Utility

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

A Fairbanks utility and the state have come to resolution in a long running rate dispute that will  result in customer refunds.  The settlement between the Regulatory Commission of Alaska and Fairbanks Sewer and Water will see about 8,500 past and present customers of Golden Heart and College Utilities repaid nearly $4.5 million as a result of rates the commission has determined were too high.  The Utilities Director of Administration Tiffany Van Horn says the settlement covers 2004 through 2006.

Van Horn says there’s no estimate on how much the average customer will get. She says some of the revenue from the effected years was set aside in an escrow account while the R.C.A. considered the rates. She says the refunds will come out of that account. The utility has maintained it needs higher rates due to increased operating costs, infrastructure replacement and lower water usage by customers. Meanwhile, the R.C.A. is considering a 2010 rate hike.  A decision on those rates is scheduled for September.

Push For New Information On Old Fairbanks Murder Gains Momentum

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

An effort to uncover new information about an old murder in Fairbanks is gaining momentum. Blogging and social networking are being employed in an attempt to exonerate four local men imprisoned for the 1997 killing of a Fairbanks teenager.

Anchorage Receives $13.2 Million To Help Start Small Businesses

Daysha Eaton, KSKA – Anchorage

The city of Anchorage has received a $13.2 million allocation from the Department of Commerce. The money is meant to help people start small businesses.

Chickaloon Author Releases ‘The Snow Child’

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

Chickaloon author Eowyn Ivey has hit the jackpot with her first novel, The Snow Child. Her story about two homesteading Alaskans almost a century ago is capturing the attention of readers from Norway to Australia.  The title was released in the US this week, to glowing reviews by writers and critics.   KSKA’s Ellen Lockyer spoke with the author at Fireside Books in Palmer, where she was signing copies of the novel.