Alaska News Nightly: January 23, 2009

Alaska’s unemployment rate is on the rise.  Governor Palin gives her State of the State address before the legislature. And Mark Myers is returning to Alaska to serve as the State’s Pipeline Coordinator.   ANd a group of 35 Alaskans has taken a one-year Americorp pledge to work in rural Alaska communities

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Alaska unemployment is on the rise
Rosemarie Alexander, KTOO – Juneau
Alaska’s unemployment rate has reached its highest level in nearly five years. The state Labor Department reports the seasonally adjusted rate rose three-tenths of a percentage point in December to 7.5%.  The national rate is 7.2%.

Governor Palin delivers State of the State address
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
Governor Palin last night  delivered her third state of the state address. She called for unity in working through the challenges
Alaskans face — and presented an agenda for improving the state’s economic conditions.

Legislature takes up constitutional issue over PFD
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
The question of the state’s constitutional authority to pay a permanent fund dividend this year is now before the legislature.
There are opposing legal opinions on the question, and lawmakers will need to decide which to accept before they authorize sending Alaskans more than a Billion dollars in dividends this fall.

Senator Begich given seat on Veterans Affairs Committee

Libby Casey, APRN – Washington, DC
Senator Mark Begich has secured a seat on the Veterans Affairs Committee.  It’s his third committee assignment, after Armed Services
and the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.  Begich says it’s a good fit, since Veterans make up 11 percent of Alaska’s
population.  He says they face especially big challenges, given Alaska’s remoteness and how far away it is from the major VA centers.

Salmon populations may be under threat from ocean acidification

Steve Heimel, APRN – Anchorage
While a lot of money is being spent researching ecological changes in the Bering Sea, only one instrument – miles to the south –
is currently measuring the acidity of Alaska waters.  Reserchers hope that will be changing soon.  Ocean acidity could have major
implications for the health of the salmon population.

The 30 year forecast for Alaska: colder

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
Cooler drier weather may be the long range forecast for Alaska. A climate pattern called the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, or PDO, is
showing signs of going into a cold phase for the North Pacific.  That was the word from Fairbanks based National Weather Service meteorologist Rick Thoman during a presentation yesterday. Thoman said falling mean temperatures in the North Pacific indicate a change in the general air flow over Alaska.

Fast-ferry Chenega struggles with winter weather

Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau
Winter weather has stopped the Chenega from sailing again. Gale-force winds kept the fast ferry from making today’s Juneau-Haines run. Wind also blocked Thursday’s Juneau-Sitka sailing. Today is at least the sixth time in as many weeks that rough weather kept the Chenega at the dock.  But ferry General Manager John Falvey says there are no plans to take the ship off winter sailings.

Ferry ridership continues to grow

Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau
The number of people riding state ferries continues to grow. Preliminary figures from 2008 show about 340,000 people getting on board. That’s a 6 percent increase over the previous calendar year. Vehicle numbers were also up. Close to 110,000 cars, trucks and vans traveled on the marine highway. That’s a 5 percent increase.

35 Alaskans Pledge to Help Rural Alaska Through AmeriCorp

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
In Anchorage today a group of 35 Alaskans took a one year Americorp pledge to work in rural Alaska communities on projects ranging fromhealth education and substance abuse prevention to recycling and community clean ups.