Alaska News Nightly: June 21, 2010

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Governor Signs Five Education-Related Bills
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
Governor Sean Parnell signed five education-related bills into law in Fairbanks on Monday.  One of the bills authorizes the state to bond for $397 million in K-12 schools and University of Alaska infrastructure projects.

The bond package includes 88 million dollars for the Life Sciences facility.  University Board of regents member Eric Drygas of Fairbanks welcomed its signing.

Beloved Sea Lion Dies at SeaLife Center
Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage
The Alaska SeaLife Center is mourning the death of a 17-year-old sea lion named Kiska and her unborn pup. The pair died late Friday. Until then, Kiska’s pregnancy had been worry free and the center was eagerly anticipating the arrival of her pup. It would have been the first captive birth of a Stellar Sea Lion in the U.S. in two decades.  

Elfin Cove Buildings Destroyed in Fire
Rosemarie Alexander, KTOO – Juneau
An Elfin Cove lodge, restaurant and another building were destroyed by fire over the weekend.

Jim Wild says he was awakened just before 2 a.m. Saturday by Coho Restaurant owner Shirley Perkins, who saw flames pouring out of the Cove Lodge. 

Man Dies in Helicopter Crash
Alexandra Gutierrez, KUCB – Unalaska
A helicopter crashed on Unalaska Island on Saturday evening, leaving the pilot dead.  Lonnie Kennedy, 48, had just dropped off two passengers and was attempting to take off from Chernofski Point when the helicopter skid caught the ground, causing the helicopter to roll over.

A call reporting the accident was made from the Fort Glenn cattle ranch on Umnak Island – where Kennedy lived and worked – at approximately 6:00 pm. The Coast Guard District 17 Command Center dispatched a response team, which arrived at 8:27 pm. Captain Gary Gray, an Unalaska Public Safety EMT, confirmed that the pilot was deceased. The two witnesses had already departed the area onboard another ranch helicopter.

Commercial Salmon Fisheries Open in Southeast
Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau
Commercial salmon fisheries opened on Sunday in northern Southeast Alaska. State biologists are forecasting weak to average returns for the region, which has been the recent trend in even years. But as KTOO’s Casey Kelly reports, fishermen should continue to benefit from a trend toward higher prices.

Kuskokwim Salmon Derby Kicks Off
Shane Iverson, KYUK – Bethel
Kuskokwim River king salmon have always been prized for their nutritional value, but this year a really big king could land a lucky fisherman some valuable fuel.  From member Station KYUK in Bethel, Shane Iverson has more this year’s Kuskoksim King, Fishing Derby.

PSP Suspected for Man’s Hospital Trip
Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau
The state Department of Health is reporting another suspected case of paralytic shellfish poisoning in Alaska – the fifth in the past two weeks. A Haines man developed symptoms of PSP after eating the viscera – or internal organs – of Dungeness crab Friday night. He was medevaced to Juneau Saturday and released from Bartlett Regional Hospital Monday morning.

PSP is not normally found in crab meat, but can be found in the viscera. The state Department of Health warns people not to consume internal organs from subsistence or recreationally harvested crabs.

Sealaska Buys Pit in Downtown Juneau
Rosemarie Alexander, KTOO – Juneau
Sealaska Corporation has purchased the so-called pit in the center of downtown Juneau for a Southeast Alaska Native Cultural and Visitors Center.

Sealaska executive vice president Rick Harris admits he feels like a lot of Capital City residents, who are tired of looking at the vacant lot on the corner of Front and Seward streets. It was once the site of the Juneau Towne Center, destroyed by fire in 2004.  Also known as the Skinner and Endicott building, the wooden structure on pilings was 108 years old when it burned.

Pata Fights for Native American Issues
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC
Jacqueline Johnson-Pata runs one of the most prominent Native American organizations in the country from Washington DC, but her roots are in Alaska.  As the executive director of the National Congress of American Indians, she advocates for a range of issues, including education.

Angoon Challenges State’s Role in Subsistence Management
Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau
Angoon’s tribal government is challenging the state’s role in subsistence management. The Southeast Alaska village’s action comes as four of its residents prepare to go on trial for allegedly overfishing their subsistence permits.

The Angoon Community Association sent a letter this month to Sitka’s regional office of the State Department of Fish and Game. It says the state should defer to tribes.