Alaska News Nightly: February 3, 2012

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Missing Anchorage Woman Case Being Treated As Possible Abduction
Heather Aronno, APRN – Anchorage
A young woman working as a barista in an Anchorage coffee stand has been missing since Wednesday night. Few details are available, but the Anchorage Police Department is treating it as a possible abduction.

18-year-old Samantha Koenig has been missing since Wednesday evening. A barista at the Common Grounds coffee stand near the Old Seward Highway and Tudor Road, Koenig was supposed to close up the shop at 8:00pm. But, Lieutenant Dave Parker with the Anchorage Police Department says she never made it home.

“Ultimately yesterday, we got information from the family that she was a missing person, and the detectives in the homicide unit started working that case. They work our missing persons cases. Ultimately they determined she had been kidnapped or abducted from her work. And so now we’re working that case as an abduction,” Parker said.

Lieutenant Parker says the only detail being released at this time is the suspect is male.

“If there was anyone in the area of Old Seward Highway and Tudor Road, right in front of the Alaska Club there, on Wednesday night between 8pm and 8:30pm, and saw anything like a man and a woman walking from the area. We know that they left on foot. They should call the police department right away and share what they know,” Parker said.

Due to the critical nature of an abduction, he says many detectives from all kinds of units have been pulled in to look for Samantha.

Anyone with information is encouraged to call 786-8900.

Subsidized Air Travel In Alaska Included in FAA Reauthorization Bill

Steve Heimel, APRN – Anchorage

Federally subsidized air travel in Alaska is no longer under the threat of congressional budget cutting.  Friday, the U.S. House passed a compromised version of the Federal Aviation Administration re-authorization bill.  It keeps the Essential Air Service subsidy in place for rural Alaska communities, and it funds a number of airport improvements.  Representative Don Young was one of the “yes” votes.

The bill ran into opposition from organized labor because it would hasten the automation of air traffic control systems.

The FAA bill puts $3.5 billion per year into airport improvements.  Senator Mark Begich expects quick Senate action on the bill.  When he appeared on the public radio call-in show “Talk of Alaska” this week he had just come out of a caucus meeting where they decided to take it up first thing next week.

The FAA re-authorization bill also exempts shipments of hospital oxygen from security regulations that would have barred them flying, and it calls for more use of remotely piloted research aircraft.

Veteran Employment Measure Passes House, Senate

Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau

Alaska’s House and Senate have passed bills aimed at easing veterans’ chances of getting jobs.

The measures direct the state to consider military training and experience when granting professional licenses. Alaska licenses about 40 professions, from barbers to contractors to nurses.

House sponsor Bill Thomas, a Haines Republican, says about 1,200 Alaska-based service-members leave the military every year. And the unemployment rate among young veterans is about 22 percent.

“Many have already received quality training through the military. I use an example of mechanics who have the ability to perform the duties and then have to go through the process of being certified at the local level. The other one is a plumber who’s been in the Navy for 20 years,” Thomas says.

“There’s no reason for them to come back and start over again. It’s a way to help them come out, get a job and go forward,” he says.

The bills also tell officials to grant temporary, six-month, professional licenses to qualified veterans. They also direct the University of Alaska to consider military training and experience as credit toward degrees.

House Bill 282 passed without opposition February 1st.

A similar measure, Senate Bill 150, passed the Senate the same day.

Senate sponsor Bill Wielechowski, an Anchorage Democrat, says the measure recognizes veterans’ knowledge.

“There’s no special treatment here. What this bill does is it eliminates the need for duplicative education, classes and training. These service-members have already received this training,”

Wielechowski says. “They’ve already received this education. This will help them more quickly integrate and it’s very likely to lower the unemployment rate for veterans.”

The two bills are very similar. But they have some differences, such as the effective date. That means the House will have to approve the Senate’s version, or the other way around. Sponsors also could compromise and ask both chambers to approve a revised measure.

There’s no word yet on how or when that would happen.

Iditarod Trail Altered To Avoid ‘Happy River Steps’

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race organizers are deciding to make a change in the route for the 2012 race.   This year’s race marks the 40th run, and it follows the Northern route.

Race Marshall Mark Nordman says the race route will be altered somewhat to avoid the section known as the Happy River Steps.  That area is notorious for being a deal breaker for both rookie and veteran mushers, because of its steep terrain.   Erin MacLarnen is the Iditarod’s new spokesperson.  MacLarnen says there’s reasons for the change.

The alternate route has been made available because of a mining road constructed in 2010 that runs parallel to the Iditarod trail. The race route will use the mining road as an alternative to the Steps.

The 2012 Iditarod starts Saturday March 3 in Anchorage.  The race restarts in Willow on Sunday, March 4.  Sixty eight dog drivers are signed up for the annual trek to Nome.

Brevig Mission Man Arrested After Shooting At House

Ben Matheson, KNOM – Nome

State Troopers have arrested a man who was firing shots at a house in a Brevig Mission.  Nome Trooper Ann Sears says that 53-year-old Roy Henry of Brevig Mission fired three shots Wednesday night at around 10:30 into his neighbor’s home.

Sears says there were three adults and three kids inside the house at the time of the shooting, which lasted a half hour.  One adult in the house was nearly hit.

One bullet passed through two walls in the house and exited.   Another penetrated the door and became lodged in the wall.

Troopers in Nome were unable to respond Wednesday night due to ice fog.

Troopers flew in Thursday morning and arrested Henry.  The officers say alcohol was a factor.

Final Yukon Quest Preparations Taking Place

Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks

Mushers are finalizing their plans, and race officials are checking on trail conditions as Saturday’s start of 2012 Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race fast approaches.  This year’s race starts in Alaska.  KUAC’s Emily Schwing caught up with rookie and veteran mushers as they gathered for informational meetings in Fairbanks Thursday.

Weather Advisory In Place Over Steese Highway, Part of Yukon Quest Trail

Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks

There is a winter weather advisory in effect over the Steese Highway, including Eagle Summit and over 100 miles of the Yukon Quest trail until early morning, Saturday.

Dog teams are anticipated to start climbing over Rosebud and then Eagle Summit sometime early Sunday.  The weather advisory includes three checkpoints along the race trail: milepost 101, and the villages of Central and Circle.

Officials Urge Anchorage Residents to Stay Off Roads

Associated Press

State transportation officials are urging motorists in the Alaska’s largest city to stay home if they can so roads can be cleared as another winter storm blasts Anchorage on Friday.

DOT officials say crews can better manage snow removal if people aren’t driving on the streets.

It says resources are being sent to Anchorage from around the state to help remove the snow.

The storm is predicted to drop 6-10 inches of snow in Anchorage, with up to 10-15 inches on the upper hillside.

Newly Discovered Ledgers Offer Insight Into Aleutian History

Alexandra Gutierrez, KUCB – Unalaska

Today, AC Value Centers are ubiquitous in rural parts of the state, selling everything from groceries to sporting gear to bedding. But a hundred years ago, the Alaska Commercial Company was a force that played a major role in the early development of Alaska. There are plenty of detailed records about their early operations in Kodiak and Cook Inlet, but information about their Aleutian outposts has been scarce, up until now. KUCB’s Alexandra Gutierrez has this story about a newly discovered trove of primary source material from Unalaska Island.

AK: The Science of Ice

Stephanie Joyce, KUCB – Unalaska

If you’ve been following the news about the fuel delivery to Nome or the Bering Sea snow crab fishery’s hiatus you may recognize the name Kathleen Cole.  She’s a sea ice forecaster for the National Weather Service in Anchorage and her services have been in high demand this winter.

300 Villages: Anderson

And now it’s time for 300 Villages, our weekly trip around the state.  Folks in this community once took a ferry to get to Fairbanks, and if you listen closely, you’ll get a tip about how to win the Nenana Ice Classic.  If you guessed Anderson, you’re right. We got a change to speak with Randy Witte in Anderson.