Alaska News Nightly: Monday, Sept. 21, 2015

Stories are posted on the APRN news page. You can subscribe to APRN’s newsfeeds via emailpodcast and RSS. Follow us on Facebook at alaskapublic.org and on Twitter @aprn.

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2015 Permanent Fund Dividend is $2,072

Josh Edge, APRN-Anchorage
A record-breaking Permanent Fund Dividend was announced Monday, not from the Governor, but instead from 12-year-old student, because, according to Governor Bill Walker, the fund is really about the next generation. Shania Sommer, a 7th grader at Palmer Junior Middle School, is involved in the Alaska Native Science and Engineering program.

Alaska Senators sponsor legislation to repeal “Cadillac” tax

Annie Feidt, APRN-Anchorage
Alaska’s two U. S. Senators are co-sponsoring legislation to repeal the so-called Cadillac tax, which will impact high priced employer health plans starting in 2018.  Because health care is so expensive in Alaska, the tax will have a disproportionate impact in the state.

Hearings start on fighter jets coming to Eielson

Dan Bross, KUAC-Fairbanks
Local hearings are happening this week on the planned basing of 54 F-35 fighter jets at Eielson Air Force Base.  The sessions, in North Pole, Delta and Fairbanks, provide opportunity to comment on a draft Environmental Impact Statement on the basing plan.

Washington opens criminal investigation into walrus deaths

The Associated Press
The federal government has opened a criminal investigation into the death of 25 Pacific walrus found on an isolated northwest Alaska beach. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokeswoman Crystal Leonetti says agency investigators have not returned from the site at Cape Lisburne but that the case is now in the hands of the U.S. Attorney office. Initial reports last week said the walrus had been shot but the Fish and Wildlife Service refused to speculate on the cause of death until agency personnel had examined the carcasses.

Starfish losing arms to disease

John Ryan, KUCB-Unalaska
Starfish from Mexico to Alaska have been hammered by a wasting disease that causes their arms to melt and fall off. Sea stars in the Aleutian Islands have not been affected yet.

Newtok feeling nervous about relocation timeline

Charles Enoch, KYUK-Bethel
Charles Residents in the small coastal village of Newtok in Southwest Alaska have been preparing to move as erosion eats away at their village.  A dispute over who has tribal authority slowed the process, but now that dispute has been decided by federal courts, a new set of tribal officials are getting the relocation effort underway again. But with climate change accelerating the erosion many are getting anxious that the move can’t happen soon enough.

Tribal housing gets HUD grants to fight mold

Lori Townsend, APRN-Anchorage
Tribal housing in Alaska will benefit from more than $1 million in grants to address concerns over mold. An announcement was made announced by  Housing and Urban Development or HUD. The $1.6 million in grants were awarded to three tribal entities in the state specifically for mold remediation or prevention in more than 200 tribal homes through improved windows, doors and exteriors.

UAS to offer marine transportation degree program

Lisa Phu, KTOO-Juneau
Students and mariners will soon be able to get formal marine transportation education without leaving the state. The University of Alaska Board of Regents last week approved a new marine transportation degree program at the University of Alaska Southeast.

UAA engineering program attracting more Native students

Daysha Eaton, KYUK-Bethel
As college freshmen dig into their studies at the state’s universities this fall, more Native faces are appearing in science and engineering classrooms. That’s thanks to the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program, or ANSEP. Yup’ik students from the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta are among them.