Alaska News Nightly: February 7, 2012

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Fuglvog Sentenced To Five Months In Prison

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

Arne Fuglvog was sentenced in federal court this morning.  The former North Pacific Fishery Management Council member and former fisheries aide to Senator Lisa Murkowski who was convicted of illegal fishing will receive five months in federal prison.

Both Sides Appealing Redistricting Ruling

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

Both sides are appealing a Superior Court Judge’s ruling in the Alaska redistricting suit.  A mixed decision issued last week by Judge Michael McConahy remanded four districts proposed by the Alaska Redistricting Board back for re-working.  That includes House Districts 37 and 38, which incorporate western Alaska and interior communities in an attempt to protect the strength of the Alaska Native vote, as required by the federal Voting Rights Act.  The Alaska Redistricting Board voted today to seek review of Judge McConahy’s ruling that the sprawling districts should be re-worked to better comply with state and federal law.   Redistricting Board Executive Director Taylor Bickford says appeals are part of the redistricting.

The redistricting maps are drawn with public input by a Governor appointed board.  Allegations of partisan manipulation are standard, but Judge McConahy rejected gerrymandering claims in his decision. Plaintiffs disagree.  Attorney Mike Walleri, who represents two Fairbanks-area voters who sued to block the plan, says their appeal is based on concerns about fair representation for Fairbanks.  Walleri says the proposed plan protects local Republican legislative incumbents, while pitting two Fairbanks Democrats against one another in a new District.

Walleri says his clients are getting financial and in kind legal assistance in the case from the Fairbanks North Star Borough.  The Alaska Supreme Court has blocked out time in mid March to hear the appeals in the redistricting case.  A finalized map of voter districts has to be ready for the June first candidate filing deadline.

Haines Requesting Assistance For Displaced Residents
Tara Bicknell, KHNS – Haines

A Southeast town continues to watch five acres of residential land slowly migrate downhill toward the ocean.  As Tara Bicknell reports from Haines, the emergency situation is growing to involve state and federal assistance.

Legislators Anticipating Fresh Look At Oil Taxes

Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau

The Senate plans to take a fast, but completely fresh look at oil taxes when it begins work later this week on changes to the state’s tax regime.  A new bill that will be used to set up the plan will be introduced Friday morning and is already scheduled for a hearing in the Resources Committee that afternoon.

Resources  Co-Chair Joe Paskvan of Fairbanks, says the bill will not present a specific plan – but will leave the details open for public debate and decisions.

“Friday, I’m hoping to have the Department of Revenue spend its time defining what they perceive as the problem,  hoping they will not address their solution to the problem, but use their time to define the problem so you don’t bury a problem in a solution,” Paskvan said.

Finance Co-chair Bert Stedman says the deliberations will hit high gear next week as Resource Members are invited to join the Finance Committee in joint, daylong meetings.

“On Monday and Tuesday in Finance we’re going to have Pedro Van Meurs spend two days morning and afternoon – about an hour and a half each session — to go over Alaska’s fiscal regime and where we fit in and how the arctic fits in around the globe,” Stedman said.

Pedro Van Meurs is an international expert on oil and gas economics who consults for governments putting together tax regimes.   He has worked for former governors Tony Knowles and Frank Murkowski and presented material to legislators during the interim.

Stedman says that the state’s consultants and representatives from the oil companies tell him that the main issue that needs to come from any new bill is a realignment of what’s called the “progressivity” element.   That’s a variable tax rate that pays the state more as the price of oil increases.   He says the Finance Committee will deal with some of the finer fiscal points leading to a final version.

Senate President Gary Stevens says he expects to have the bill through both Senate committees in time to leave the House thirty days to deal with the measure before the statutory end of the session.

New Fuel Prices Set In Nome

Ben Matheson, KNOM – Nome

Bonanza fuel in Nome has raised prices after last month’s delivery through the ice.  Gas is selling at $5.94 a gallon and diesel at $6.19.  That’s up from $5.43 and $5.93 a gallon.  Sitnasuak Board Chair Jason Evans says the company was waiting until the icebreaker Healy and Russian tanker Renda were safely out of the ice before setting prices.

The slow trip through 400 miles of ice did not have a significant impact on the final bill to Sitnasuak.  Evans says much of the agreement with Vitus Marine was decided before the month-long journey. Even with the unconventional delivery, Evans says Bonanza’s new prices are close to what they expected with a scheduled barge shipment.

The recent weeks of 30 below temperatures have led to Bonanza selling around 30 percent more home heating fuel than during a normal winter.

To meet the higher demand for home heating fuel, Evans says a portion of the 1 million gallons of diesel from the Renda is being sold as heating fuel after being blended with existing inventories.   Even with greater demand, Evans says local inventories should be adequate.

The two vessels involved in the operation are finishing up the extended working season.  The icebreaker Healy arrived in Seattle Sunday morning.  Evans says the Renda is scheduled to arrive in Vladivostok this Friday.

Citgo Giving 200 Bethel Homes Free Heating Fuel

Angela Denning-Barnes, KYUK – Bethel

Two-hundred households in Bethel will be receiving free heating fuel through Citgo. That’s just a fraction of homes that received the donation last year.  But the program has gone through a lot of changes the past five years, that it’s been giving free fuel to Bethel.

AMF Granted Permit For Moose Feeding Stations

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

Unusually heavy snows in Southcentral Alaska this year are hurting moose populations.  Gary Olsen is executive director of the Moose Federation. He says snow conditions are forcing moose into dangerous situations.

Normally, feeding moose is illegal, but yesterday, state Fish and Game Department officials issued Olsen’s group permission to divert moose away from dangerous situations. Olsen says his group is working with large landowners to plow trails for moose and to find places to set up feeding stations for the ungulates.

The moose federation plans to plow moose trails to feeding areas to keep the animals away from dangerous roadways.

Lance Mackey Takes Yukon Quest Lead

Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks

Lance Mackey has taken the lead in the Yukon Quest sled dog race. He arrived at Eagle Checkpoint at 2:08 this afternoon, with Hugh Neff one minute behind. Allen Moore and Brent Sass are also resting at Eagle.   Meanwhile, a second musher has dropped out of the race. Rookie Jason Weitzel of Two Rivers scratched back at Circle.

Mushers in the race are logging a lot of miles on the Yukon River. As KUAC’s Emily Schwing reports from the Yukon Quest trail, the river offers its own set of challenges.

New Tlingit Encyclopedia Baffling To Scholars, Speakers

Robert Woolsey, KCAW – Sitka

A new encyclopedia of the Tlingit language has teachers in Sitka scratching their heads. The massive work by New Zealand scholar Sally-Ann Lambert is extraordinarily detailed, and the product of years of effort.

The problem is: The language in the book is not recognizable by contemporary scholars, or Native Tlingit speakers.