Alaska News Nightly: June 21, 2012

Individual news stories are posted on the APRN news page. You can subscribe to APRN’s newsfeeds via email, podcast and RSS.

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Firefighters Respond To Interior Wildfire

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

A wildfire in the Northern Interior is drawing a major response.

Senate Passes Farm Bill With Minor Cuts To Food Stamps

Peter Granitz, APRN – Washington DC

The United States Senate passed a massive Farm Bill today. It cuts long-sacrosanct direct payments to farmers, but by and large maintains billions of dollars for food stamps.

Plankton Bloom Discovery Prompts Scientists To Rethink Arctic Food Web

Steve Heimel, APRN – Anchorage

A discovery of large blooms of plankton under sea ice off the coast of Alaska is forcing scientists to re-think their theories about the food web of the Arctic Ocean.

Officials Issue 33 Citations For Illegal Fishing On Kuskokwim

Angela Denning-Barnes, KYUK – Bethel

Alaska Wildlife Troopers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seized 21 nets and more than 1,000 pounds of salmon along the Kuskokwim River yesterday. They also handed out 33 citations to fishermen protesting the subsistence King salmon closures. KYUK’s Angela Denning-Barnes got out on the river and spoke with some residents as they fished.

Yukon To Close To Subsistence King Salmon Fishing

Matthew Smith, KNOM – Nome

This year’s Chinook salmon run on the Yukon is poor, and the Alaska Department of Fish & Game is preparing subsistence closures to meet escapement goals. The closures begin today, but with so few fish in the river, it’s unknown how long subsistence fishermen will be unable to fish.

Steve Hayes is Fish & Game’s summer season manager for the Yukon. He says the run is falling short.

By mid-June, only 4,500 kings had passed the Pilot Station Sonar site, about 120 miles from the mouth of the Yukon. Hayes says those numbers should be 10 times larger.

To hit escapement targets, and make sure enough king salmon make it upriver to spawning grounds in Canada, Fish & Game is closing subsistence fishing on the lower Yukon as the first pulse of king salmon move upriver. There will be 36 hour closures, one district at a time, amounting to about a five day closure.

Orville Huntington is the Wildlife and Parks Director for the Tanana Chiefs Conference, a tribal consortium of the 42 villages in Interior Alaska. He’s also a lifelong subsistence fisherman. He says most people were prepared for a bad year.

While subsistence fishermen hope for a strong chum run later in the season, Hayes says Fish & Game is prepared to implement more closures if necessary.

Wrangell Medical Center Board Of Directors Fire Hospital CEO

Charlotte Duren, KSTK – Wrangell

The Wrangell Medical Center’s Board of Directors fired the hospital CEO yesterday. That’s despite the fact that nearly every board member was recalled in a special election earlier this week and due to leave office. The dispute over the hospital board and leadership has divided the community of Wrangell over the past year and there is no indication the rift will heal any time soon.

State Senators Hose Alaska Rocket and Space Summit

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

Is Alaska ready for the space age? That’s the question on the mind of some state senators, who hosted the Alaska Rocket and Space Summit at the Anchorage legislative information office Thursday. The day-long session featured presentations from representatives of successful aerospace enterprises in Florida and Utah, and from Alaska agencies like the state Department of Transportation and the Alaska Aerospace Corporation.

Alaska Senate President Gary Stevens says the state needs to decide the level it wants to fund the developing aerospace industry.

He says Governor Parnell put $25 million into the budget this year to maintain the Alaska Aerospace Corporation, a state owned agency which operates the Kodiak Launch Complex.

Stevens says Lockheed Martin has also promised to put $100 million into a medium size lift facility at the Kodiak Launch site this year.

Lockheed Martin wants the Kodiak site for its Athena III rocket for West Coast launches.  Stevens says the Athena is able to launch payloads of 13,000 pounds into orbit.

Stevens says the testimony he’s heard indicates that satellites can be launched from Alaska as effectively and as economically as anywhere else in the country.

Law Will Require Insurers Cover Autism

Matt Lichtenstein, KFSK – Petersburg

Insurance companies will have to help pay for autism treatments in Alaska under legislation that’s now slated to become law. Governor Sean Parnell gave tacit approval to the measure this month by sending it back to the legislature without his signature.  The new requirement only covers a portion of the insurance market for now. However, supporters see it as an important step in providing relief for parents who struggle with the high cost of autism therapy and counseling.