Alaska News Nightly: July 16, 2012

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USCG Opening Temporary Base In Barrow

Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage

The Coast Guard is launching a temporary base in Barrow beginning July 16 in a response to increased Arctic shipping. The Coast Guard calls it a Forward Operating Location and it will remain in place through October. It’s the largest presence the Coast Guard has ever had in the Arctic, although it has been conducting arctic outreach in Alaska since 2008. Petty Officer Kip Wadlow is a spokesperson for the Coast Guard.

“With the decrease in the Arctic ice, we’ve seen an increase in vessel traffic coming through the Bering Strait and operating off the north coast of Alaska and because of this trend and because of our primary mission protecting lives at sea, we want to make sure we’re fully capable of assisting mariners who may be in distress off the north coast of Alaska during the summer ice free months,” Wadlow said.

The Coast Guard is basing two Jayhawk helicopters in Barrow, a maintenance crew and a communications team, about 30 people in all. In addition, Wadlow says two Coast Guard buoy tenders and two cutters will be making trips up to the Arctic to patrol the waters of the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.

The Coast Guard says the temporary base is not a response to Shell’s planned exploratory drilling in the Arctic Ocean this summer. But that operation is one of the reasons the North Slope Borough is welcoming the increased Coast Guard presence. Jacob Adams Senior is the Borough’s Chief Administrative Officer. He says the Borough has been waiting for the Coast Guard to show up for a long time.

“I mean just Shell alone has well over a dozen ships operating out there to support two drill rigs. So the Coast Guard’s presence does a lot to ease the minds of the people on the North Slope,” Adams said.

Adams wants the Coast Guard to establish a permanent base in Barrow, even if it’s a small one. The Coast Guard says that decision hasn’t been made yet. The Coast Guard has documented a steady increase in vessel traffic in the arctic over the last several years. More than 400 vessels went through the Bering Strait last year and about 200 made it to the Arctic Ocean.

Coast Guard, Shell Inspect Rig For Signs Of Grounding

Stephanie Joyce, KUCB – Unalaska

Investigators are trying to piece together information about whether one of Shell’s drill ships ran aground in Unalaska on Saturday.

141 More Ballots Found In Closet At Anchorage City Hall

Daysha Eaton, KSKA – Anchorage

Just when everyone thought the messiest chapter in recent Anchorage voting history was closed, Municipal Leaders confirm that they have found more than 100 uncounted ballots leftover from the flawed April 3 Municipal election.

Bering, Chukchi Sea Subsistence Polar Bear Hunters To Follow Quota

Matthew Smith, KNOM – Nome

Under a treaty with Russia, subsistence polar bear hunters in the Bering and Chukchi Seas will follow a quota for the first time. On Friday, the Alaska Nanuuq Commission and the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife were in Shishmaref to detail the new international quota.

Kuskokwim Subsistence Fishermen Going To Trial For Fishing With Illegal Gear

Angela Denning-Barnes, KYUK – Bethel

About two dozen Kuskokwim River subsistence fishermen will go to trial in the Bethel Court House after pleading not guilty to fishing with illegal gear.  Federal and State wildlife managers closed the Kuskokwim to salmon fishing for an unprecedented 12 days this summer in order to protect the low Chinook salmon run.

Felt Soled Waders: A Slippery Slope Toward Contamination

Brianna Gibbs, KMXT – Kodiak

As the salmon make their way up stream, and the rivers bustle with eager anglers, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game wants to remind sport fishermen about the ban on footgear with felt-soles. Anglers have used felt soles on their boots for years to provide better traction and stability on slippery rocks.

Family Calls Off Search For Missing Mount Marathon Runner

The Associated Press

The family of missing Mount Marathon runner Michael LeMaitre of Anchorage is calling off its search after more than a week of continuously looking for him on the mountain. The Seward Fire department also has suspended its search over the weekend because of depleting resources and poor weather conditions.

The Seward Fire chief says small search teams will resume when conditions improve.

LeMaitre’s son-in-law, Curtis Lynn, says the mountain is slick and becoming more dangerous. He says family does not want volunteers to continue risking injury. The 66-year-old LeMaitre vanished during the annual Fourth of July race in Seward.

Woman Wounded After Shootout With Wildlife Trooper

Aaron Selbig, KBBI – Homer

A woman was wounded by an Alaska State Trooper after an exchange of gunfire on the Sterling Highway near Anchor Point Sunday night.

Community Makes Effort To Memorialize Southeast Fisherman

Margaret Friedenauer, KHNS – Haines

It’s been just over a week since the Haines commercial fishing fleet and community lost a longtime resident and fisherman. But already a unique effort to honor and memorialize him has taken hold in the community.

Late-Senator Ted Stevens Inducted Into US Olympic Hall Of Fame

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

The late Senator Ted Stevens received a posthumous honor last week when he was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame. Stevens is credited with leading the congressional effort to pass the Olympic and Amateur Sports Act. It was later re-titled to include his name.