Alaska News Nightly: January 14, 2008

Lawmakers are preparing for tomorrow’s start to the legislative session. It will be the shortest one in state history at just 90 days. Plus, musher Allen Moore won the Cooper Basin 300 this afternoon, beating out front runner Sigrid Ekran who took a wrong turn and came in 4th. Those stories and more on tonight’s Alaska News Nightly, broadcast statewide on APRN stations.Individual news stories are posted in the Alaska News category and you can subscribe to APRN’s news feeds via e-mail, podcast and RSS.

Alaskans to vote on clean elections and clean water
David Shurtleff, APRN – Anchorage
There will be at least two initiatives on the ballot when Alaska voters head to the polls this fall. The sponsors of both the Clean Water Act and Clean Elections campaign each turned in their completed forms to the state this afternoon in Anchorage. The Clean Water Act intends to block new metal mines from dumping pollutants into salmon streams, and would ban the use of cyanide, sulfuric acid, and other chemicals in those watersheds. The “clean elections” initiative would create state-funded elections, limiting the influence of corporations and individuals who are able to make large donations to candidates. Either bill will become law with at least 50% of the popular vote this fall.

Legislative session starts with shortened calendar
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
Legislators are arriving at the capitol in Juneau today, getting ready for the shortest regular session in the state’s history. Voters last year gave them 90 days to get their work done.

Senator Elton focused on state government job losses in Juneau
John Ryan, KTOO – Juneau
State senator Kim Elton says capitol creep is hurting the Juneau economy, with 140 state jobs leaving the capital city in the past year and a half. Another 80 state jobs have moved to Juneau, leaving the capital city with a net loss of 60 jobs in 18 months.

Musher Allen Moore takes Copper Basin 300
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks and Amy Bracken, KCHU – Valdez
Allen Moore won the Copper Basin 300 sled dog race this afternoon. He beat out front-runner Sigrid Ekran of Fairbanks, who took a wrong turn during the last leg of the race and came in fourth. Iditarod and Yukon Quest winner Lance Mackey of Fairbanks came in second and Willow’s Linwood Fiedler took third.

Feds to mediate labor deal for public employees and Palin administration
Rosemarie Alexander, KTOO – Juneau
State supervisors in the Alaska Public Employees Association have again rejected a contract proposal from the Palin Administration and are asking for federal mediation.

Fairbanks aircraft training club takes flight tonight
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
A club starting up in Fairbanks promises to improve local flight training and access to aircraft. An organizational meeting for the Interior Alaska Aero Club is happening tonight. Long-time local pilot and flight instructor Clayton Cranor says the club fills a void left by the Air Force when it closed the Eielson Aero Club last month. Tonight’s organizational meeting for the Interior Alaska Aero Club is at Hutchison Career Center at 7:00 p.m.

Federal court approves offshore oil and gas leasing in Beaufort Sea
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
The U.S. District court in Alaska today released their decision in favor of the Minerals Management Service’s lease sale 202 in the Beaufort Sea. The sale was part of MMS’s previous 5-year offshore oil and gas lease sale that ended in 2007. North Slope Borough officials challenged the sale in March 2007, claiming MMS should conduct a new Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) rather than a shortened Environmental Assessment.

Unalaska Natives seeking restitution from Selendang Ayu owners
Charles Homans, KIAL – Unalaska
Unalaska’s Qawalangin Tribe is waiting to hear how the owners of the Selendang Ayu will respond to the tribe’s claim that the 2004 shipwreck inflicted cultural damage in addition to its environmental and economic impacts.

Kongiganak plans to farm plentiful southwest winds
Kenny Steele, KYUK – Bethel
A workshop in Bethel focused on wind energy last week sparked a lot of interest from villages in the region. One of the villages — Kongiganak — is already on the road to using alternative energy. The power company there is in the planning stages of building a wind farm.