Alaska News Nightly: September 12, 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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Downsized Budget Reduced Scope Of Denali Commission

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

Decreased federal spending has downsized the budget and scope of the Denali Commission in Alaska. The independent federal agency was created by former Senator Ted Stevens in 1998 to address infrastructure in rural communities, but its financial clout is greatly diminished.

Japan Gives US, Canada $6 Million For Tsunami Cleanup

Peter Granitz, APRN – Washington DC

Japan is giving $6 million to the U.S. and Canadian governments to assist with the tsunami debris clean up. Some in Washington, D.C. hope it will spur action from the federal government.

ACLU Hopes To Change State’s Record Expunging Policy

Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage

Alaska is one of only a handful of states that don’t allow residents to expunge their records following an unlawful arrest. The ACLU is hoping to change that, filing suit against the state on behalf on a married couple in the Matsu who were arrested and charged for growing marijuana. A judge threw out the case because the search warrant request was mishandled.

Anchorage Construction Firm Owner Pleads Guilty To Fraud

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

An Anchorage commercial property builder pleaded guilty today in U.S. District court to 12 counts of making false statements to a credit union for more than $4 million in construction loan draws. Lee E. Baker, Jr. was the owner of Discovery Construction, Inc.

In 2004 Baker was approved for a $9 million loan to purchase property on Northern Lights and construct an 85 unit apartment building called Bryn Mawr. Assistant U.S. Attorney Retta Randall says between September 2005 and January 2007, Baker submitted one page construction loan draws itemizing work that he said had been completed.

Randall says the documents Baker submitted are supposed to outline the progress of the construction.

Randall says the loan was defaulted on and the Bryn Mawr property was sold. Baker will be sentenced by Judge Ralph Beistline on December 4th. He faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison, a fine of $1 million or both.

Railroad Gets OK For Port MacKenzie Rail Extension

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has given the go ahead to the Alaska Railroad to construct a rail extension linking Houston to Port MacKenzie.

The Corps announced Monday that it has issued the department of the Army wetlands permit under the Clean Water Act.

Work Begins On Tanana River Bridge

Tim Ellis, KUAC – Fairbanks

One year after an Alaska Railroad’s contractor began clearing land on the banks of the Tanana River at Salcha, the real work is about to begin on the state’s longest bridge.

Dockside Safety Exams Soon Mandatory For Many Fishing Boats

Matt Lichtenstein, KFSK – Petersburg

Commercial fishing boats, tenders and floating processors that operate more than three miles off shore will soon have to get safety exams every two years. Until now, those dockside exams were voluntary. Under the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010, they will be mandatory after October 16th according to Ken Lorenson, the Fishing Vessel Safety Coordinator for the Coast Guard in Alaska.

Group Asks For Mandatory Deadline To List Bearded, Ringed Seals As Endangered

Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau

The National Marine Fisheries Service has not followed through on its findings that two species of seals should be listed under the Endangered Species Act. The Center for Biological Diversity Wednesday asked the Federal Courts to order a specific date by which bearded and ringed seals be listed.

Assembly Approves $96.7M Blue Lake Construction Cost

Ed Ronco, KCAW – Sitka

Sitka’s Blue Lake dam expansion will move forward to provide more electricity to the community.

The Assembly yesterday unanimously awarded a $92 million contract to Montana-based Barnard Construction.

Alaska Cruise Season Winds Down

Matt Lichtenstein, KFSK – Petersburg

As the 2012 visitor season nears an end, cruise lines large and small have been making their last trips of the year through Southeast Alaska. Lindblad Expedition’s National Geographic Sea Lion recently made one more stop in Petersburg, where KFSK’s Matt Lichtenstein chatted with passengers on the dock about their trips.