Alaska News Nightly: January 5, 2011

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Escaped Prisoner Recaptured in Wasilla
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
School children in the Matanuska Susitna Borough were kept indoors Wednesday after a prisoner escaped from the Mat-Su pre trial facility in Palmer. As KSKA’s Ellen Lockyer reports, the felon, considered dangerous by law enforcement officials, was nabbed in Wasilla early this afternoon.

Judge Decides Against Municipal Ordinance Against Illegal Campsites
Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage
A Superior Court judge has found Anchorage’s municipal ordinance against illegal campsites violates the campers’ rights to due process under the constitution and Alaska law. Judge Mark Rindner’s summary judgment in favor of the American Civil Liberties Union – Alaska means the city will have to rely on existing laws, come up with a new compromise procedure or take its case to a higher court.

Murkowski, Young Sworn In
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC
Two-thirds of Alaska’s Congressional delegation was sworn in for new terms today.

Republicans Senator Lisa Murkowski and Congressman Don Young each took the oath of office in their respective chambers. Senator Murkowski made history by being the senate’s first successful write-in candidate in more than 50 years, a fact not lost on her supporters today.

Young Prepares for New Term, New Goals
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC
Congressman Don Young started his 20th term in the House of Representatives today. He was sworn in with the rest of the House members in an en mass ceremony performed by newly elected House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio.

Young supports the Republicans first big agenda item: repealing the Democratic-lead health care bill. He says there are a lot of brand new Republicans this year who plan to shake things up, but says he’ll wait and see where things actually go.

Young had a reception this evening to celebrate with staffers and friends, but this is his first time in nearly 40 years of taking office without his wife Lu by his side. She died in 2009.

Sheldon Jackson’s Major Creditor Forgives Loans
Robert Woolsey, KCAW – Sitka
Sitka’s Sheldon Jackson College is finally out of debt – almost.

Alaska Growth Capital is releasing the balance on loans made to SJC over the past decade -loans which ultimately drove the school under. While some unsecured debt remains, the way is now clear for the Sheldon Jackson trustees to transfer the historic campus to another institution.

ASEA Still Hoping to Organize UA Employees
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
A union attempting to organize a group of University of Alaska employees isn’t giving up. The Alaska State Employees Association or ASEA garnered the required level of interest from the 2,500 support staff group last summer, and was approved by the state to go forward with a vote, but never scheduled an election. ASEA Administrator Jim Duncan says organizers felt they needed to reach more employees before moving ahead with a vote.

Duncan says it’s not unusual for labor organizing campaigns to re-group. The Alaska State Troopers are looking into allegations that names were forged on union interest cards distributed by ASEA last summer. Duncan says the claim was made by an outgoing employee, and there’s no merit to the allegation.

He says the ASEA hopes to be able to hold an election sometime this year, but that the union has to start the state approval process from scratch.

Duncan lists key issues as wages, health insurance, layoff protection and re-hire rights. UA support staff represent the only remaining unorganized group of university employees. The ASEA already represents 8,000 state and municipal employees in Alaska.

Icicle Seafoods Fined Nearly $6,000 for Violation
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
A Seattle-based fish processor has been slapped with a waste discharge violation by the Environmental Protection Agency. Icicle Seafoods has agreed to pay close to $6,000 in fines for Clean Water Act violations that occurred in Norton Sound in June of last year.

According to the EPA compliance officer Derrick Schrul, Icicle’s processing vessel, the R.M. Thorstenson discharged 4,000 pounds of seafood processing waste into Norton Sound for 15 hours without first obtaining a National Pollutant Discharge Eliminating System permit and that is a violation of the Clean Water Act.

The incident occurred outside the three-mile limit within federal waters, which are subject to federal permits. Schrul says Icicle did self report the incident.

The confusion could have come from a recent transfer of permitting authority from the EPA to the state.

Since its introduction in 1972, the NPDES permit program is responsible for significant improvements to the country’s water quality.

Commercial Troller Payment Deadline Set
Ed Ronco, KCAW – Sitka
Commercial salmon trollers have until Feb. 25 to apply for money meant to offset a drop in king salmon catches allowed under the Pacific Salmon Treaty. Anyone who held a hand or power troll permit in 2009 is eligible and has been sent a pre-printed application from the state’s Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission.

The Pacific Salmon Treaty is an agreement between the U.S. and Canada on the management of salmon. When it was renegotiated in 2008, Alaska’s share of the harvest was reduced by 15 percent. About $1.5 million was set aside to compensate Alaska trollers for the loss.
Howard Pendell has been power trolling for most of his 35 years as a fisherman. He’s also on the Northern Panel that advises the Pacific Salmon Commission. He says the 15 percent reduction has impacts beyond the fish themselves.

That money starts at $75 for anyone who held a hand troll permit in 2009. For power trollers, the payment begins at $150. From there, additional money is added on for those who actually commercially harvested a fish, and then again based on an individual’s percentage of the total Chinook salmon harvest from 2009. Pendell says the miney will help, but he’d rather have the fish.
Applications must be received by Feb. 25.

Tulsequah Chief Mine May Be Back in Business
Vic Ishchenko, Canadian Broadcast Corps.
The Tulsequah Chief Mine, south of Atlin, may soon be back in business.

Its former president has teamed up with new partners to buy the old mine out of bankruptcy.

As the CBC’s Vic Istchenko reports, they’re hoping some high profile new directors can help make the project viable.