Annie Feidt, APRN - Anchorage
afeidt (at) alaskapublic (dot) org | 907.550.8443 | About Annie
Even though the legislative session doesn’t start until tomorrow, lots of behind the scenes work is underway at the state capitol. APRN’s Annie Feidt wandered the halls today looking for activity and has this story.
The Tram at Alyeska Ski resort won’t be running again for at least another month. One of the tram cars was damaged in an accident on New Year’s Eve when a wind gust blew it into the tram tower. One guest suffered a minor injury in the incident.
Shell’s Kulluk drill rig has successfully been anchored in Kiliuda Bay, on the east side of Kodiak Island. It took the Kulluk about 12 hours to be towed 45 miles to the bay. It was re-floated a little after 10 p.m. last night.
It’s hard to imagine a person crazy enough to want to climb Denali alone in the depth of winter. But Minnesota adventurer Lonnie Dupre has tried – and failed – twice in the last two years. Earlier this month, heavy winds forced him to abandon his latest attempt and retreat back to base camp.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is one step closer to finalizing a management plan for the National Petroleum Reserve on Alaska’s North Slope. Salazar signed off today on the preferred alternative for the reserve and released the full details on what’s included in the plan.
The Interior Department is expected to finalize its management plan for the National Petroleum Reserve Alaska this month. The proposed plan sets aside half of the reserve for environmental protection. The state has several grievances against the federal government over NPR-A. But one of the thorniest issues involves dozens of exploratory oil and gas wells the government drilled decades ago but did not properly clean up.
Walruses face an uncertain future as sea ice disappears from the Arctic Ocean. But two recent scientific papers shed some light on their plight. One study looks at where walruses forage in the summer as the ice retreats far off the continental shelf. The other predicts how the disappearing sea ice could impact walrus population numbers in the years ahead.
A 5.8 magnitude earthquake shook Anchorage at 4:42 this afternoon. The earthquake was centered 27 miles directly west of Anchorage in Cook Inlet, right next to Tyonek.
This was a remarkable year for the federal government’s annual aerial whale survey in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas. Observers spotted several species that had rarely or never been documented in the more than 30 years the survey has been running. Researchers say the unusual sightings may be part of the “new normal” that has taken over the Arctic Ocean as global warming fuels sea ice retreat.
In Barrow, the sun has set until January. In Fairbanks, residents have five hours and 22 minutes of sunlight right now. So in comparison, Anchorage’s six and a half hours of sun each day sounds generous. Still, that leaves quite a bit of time for dark in the state’s largest city.
Governor Sean Parnell wants the State Board of Education to make student performance an important part of teacher evaluations. The board has been working for months on drafting a new rule that bases 20 percent of a teacher’s evaluation on student achievement. The Governor wrote a letter to the board this week, asking to boost that figure to 50 percent.
Democrat Hollis French has retained his state senate seat by just 54 votes. The Division of Elections released the final vote tally Wednesday. French’s race against Republican businessmen Bob Bell for a seat that represents southwest Anchorage attracted the most campaign spending for state races this election.
November is usually the second snowiest month in Anchorage, but this year, snow totals are well below average. So far, only about three inches of snow has fallen in the city. November usually sees an average of seven inches by now, with a total of a little more than 13 inches for the month. National Weather Service Meteorologist Dave Snider says total snowfall for the season is also well below normal.
The Coast Guard and other agencies are still working to determine the source of oil that’s coating birds and seals near St. Lawrence Island. In the meantime, the only living bird recovered in the incident – a juvenile thick billed murre – has been cleaned up and is recovering at the Bird Treatment and Learning Center in Anchorage.
Election workers were also scanning hundreds of absentee and questioned ballots at the Division of Election office in Anchorage today. Four workers fed stacks of paper ballots into Accuvote machines.
The most expensive Alaska Senate race was also the closest last night. Incumbent Democratic Senator Hollis French eked out a win for a newly drawn district that includes Sand Lake and West Anchorage. With 100 percent of precincts reporting, French has about 51 percent of the vote compared with 49 percent for his challenger, Anchorage businessman Bob Bell. They are separated by 247 votes and there are still more than 1,500 absentee ballots to count.
A conservative group is targeting a Superior Court Judge in Anchorage who is on the ballot for retention this year. Alaska Family Action is campaigning against Judge Sen Tan for decisions he made in the late 1990s on cases related to the issue of abortion. The Alaska Judicial Council is responding with an advertising campaign supporting Tan, calling him one of the highest rated judges in the state.
On the November ballot, Alaskan’s will vote on whether the state should hold a convention to amend or revise the constitution. The state constitution requires that the question appear on the ballot every 10 years.
Absentee voters in Alaska can now cast their ballots by email. Monday the state opened the new system to all absentee voters. Deployed military personnel have been able to vote by email since September. The system is designed to make it easier for Alaskans to vote. But voting integrity groups have big concerns about the security of email voting.
On Nov. 6, Alaskans will vote on a bond proposition that would allow the state to borrow close to half a billion dollars for transportation related projects around the state.