Alaska News Nightly: February 29, 2008

The Supreme Court has heard the arguments in the Exxon Valdez lawsuit – what’s on their minds? Plus, the state Superior Court scrutinizes the clean water initiatives. Also, Iditarod mushers get set to hit the trail, and Ice artists compete at the world championships in Fairbanks. Those stories and more on tonight’s Alaska News Nightly, broadcast statewide on APRN stations.

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A glimpse into Supreme Court deliberations
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
Now that the Supreme Court has heard the Exxon Valdez punitive damages case, both sides will have to wait months for a decision. But there’s been some confusion over what alternatives the court has in making that decision. For some clarification, we called Bo Rutledge, a Supreme Court expert, who teaches law at Catholic University. He reviewed the oral arguments in the case and says the justices now have four options.

Clean water initiative under scrutiny in the courts
Eileen Goode, KDLG – Dillingham
A State Superior Court judge in Fairbanks has ruled that one of the two clean water ballot initiatives slated for this year’s election is unconstitutional. Clean Water I, the more strongly worded of the initiatives, would prohibit large metal mines from discharging any quantity of toxic pollutants into salmon streams or drinking water supplies. It would further ban mines from storing or disposing of waste that could generate toxic compounds. Judge Douglas Blankenship of Fairbanks has ruled that this version of the Clean Water Initiative is unconstitutional. His verdict contradicts an October ruling from another Superior Court Judge.

Salmon Parasite may be on the rise in Yukon River

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
Next week the Joint Technical Committee of the U.S./ Canada Yukon River Panel will meet in Fairbanks to set priorities for fisheries research on the Yukon. An ongoing management concern for Yukon salmon is the question over how prevalent the parasite Ichthyphonus may be in salmon heading up the Yukon for spawning grounds. The parasite lives in the tissues and organs of the fish and once it gains a foothold in the system weakens them.

Iditarod 2008 at the starting line
Ellen Lockyer, APRN – Anchorage
The hours are ticking down until the start of Iditarod 36. Almost 100 mushers will line Anchorage’s Fourth Avenue on Saturday morning for the first steps on the trip to Nome. This year’s field of dog drivers is a mix of seasoned Iditarod trail veterans and newcomers with solid
mushing experience.

Igiugig Village administrator dies from crash injuries
Eileen Goode, KDLG – Dillingham
Igiugig Village administrator and Borough assembly member Dan Salmon died Wednesday after his plane crashed near the village of Tyonek. The Air National Guard found Salmon’s downed aircraft and transported him to Providence Hospital in Anchorage where he died.

Services for Autism in the rural Alaska not always meeting the need
Matt Lichtenstein, KFSK – Petersburg
The state legislature is considering a long-awaited increase in money for special education this year. Specifically, it would boost funding for intensive-needs children who must be provided with a full-time aid, though the formula would remain the same for special-ed kids whose disabilities are not as severe. Children with autism can fall anywhere within that special-needs spectrum. Whatever the severity, the cost and availability of special education services can make things difficult for some families living with autism in rural Alaska. But they say life in a small town also has its advantages.

Ice Artists face off in Fairbanks
Libby Casey, KUAC – Fairbanks
The World Ice Art Championships are underway in Fairbanks. The Ice park opened just this week, and the Single Block sculptures are already complete. Its winners will be named at an awards ceremony tomorrow night.

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