Alaska News Nightly: March 19, 2012

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USCG Admonishes Sitka Aviator In 2010 Crash

Ed Ronco, KCAW – Sitka

The Coast Guard’s commander in Alaska officially admonished a Sitka-based aviator over the weekend for his actions in a fatal helicopter crash.

Three of the four people on board Coast Guard helicopter 6017 died when it crashed in July 2010 near La Push, Washington. The helicopter’s co-pilot, Lt. Lance Leone, survived the crash and faced criminal charges that were dismissed earlier this month.

Leone met Sunday with Coast Guard Rear Admiral Thomas Ostebo to review a final report on the crash. Ostebo also entered remarks into Leone’s personnel file that could mean an uncertain future for the aviator’s military career.

Leone’s attorney says he’ll challenge the admiral’s official remarks.

Crews Plug Blown Out Repsol Well

Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage

The North Slope well that suffered a blow out last month has been plugged. Crews pumped cement into the well Sunday to seal it off. Repsol, the Spanish Company that owns the well, decided it was easier to abandon the well than get it working again. Jim Regg is a petroleum engineer with the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. He says cold weather hampered the well control operation.

The blow out happened on Feb. 15. Gas stopped flowing a day later but extreme cold slowed the well control operation. Crews started working today to clean up the drilling mud that ended up coating the snow covered area surrounding the rig. The Department of Environmental Conservation doesn’t know how long that phase of the operation will take. The Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is investigating the well blow out.

Galena Man Arrested For False Search And Rescue Call

Tim Ellis, KUAC – Fairbanks

A Galena man is being held at Fairbanks Correctional Center after making a fake emergency call that triggered a major search and rescue operation.

House Exempts Large Non-Profits From ‘Pick, Click, Give’ Audits

Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau

The House Monday exempted large non-profits from being financially audited as a part of their collecting donations through the Permanent Fund Dividend distribution. The audit was required as part of the Pick, Click, Give program that allows people to make donations from their annual dividend.

State House Authorizes Extension Of Renewable Energy Grant Fund

Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau

Monday, the House also authorized a five-year extension of the Renewable Energy Grant fund.  In continuing the program, the House informally agreed to contribute $50 million a year to projects fitting into the Fund’s requirements.

AVO Makes Detailed Observations Of Iliamna Volcano

Mike Mason, KDLG – Dillingham

The Alaska Volcano Observatory has been able to make some detailed observations of the Iliamna Volcano on the West side of Cook Inlet. In recent months the volcano has had elevated levels of earthquake activity.

State To Observe Recreational Beaches For Signs Of PSP

Matt Lichtenstein, KFSK – Petersburg

The State of Alaska plans to start monitoring recreational beaches for Paralytic Shellfish Toxins in a few communities this year. It will be the first time the Department of Environmental conservation tests non-commercially harvested clams and other shellfish for the dangerous substance.

Kenai Peninsula Attempting To Revitalize Moose Populations

Shaylon Cochran, KDLL – Kenai

As a tough winter winds down on the Kenai Peninsula, efforts are being made to revitalize the local moose populations, which have struggled in recent years.  The Alaska Department of Fish and Game approved aerial wolf hunting on the peninsula earlier this year and now, wildlife biologists have started a new, high-tech study to learn more about what can be done to bring back the moose.

Spring Marks Time For Talkeetna Ski Race

Lorien Nettleton, KTNA – Talkeetna

The Vernal Equinox means sunlight, warm snow and fast skiing. One Mid-March ski race has a distinctly spring break atmosphere that matches the community that hosts it. If it’s spring time in Talkeetna, it must be time for the Classic ski race.