Alaska News Nightly: January 24, 2011

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Johansen Vows to Fight Recall Efforts
Maria Dudzak, KRBD – Ketchikan
A Ketchikan lawmaker says he will “vigorously fight” an effort by fellow Republicans to recall him. In a statement Monday, state Representative Kyle Johansen said a recall attempt from within the District One GOP is an attempt to “thwart the will” of voters who last fall re-elected him.

After the election, Johansen had a falling out with the House GOP caucus and lost his position as the majority leader after he and Anchorage Representative Charisse Millett walked out over an organizational dispute.

The decision to try to recall Johansen was made during a meeting of house district one Republicans last week. Dick Coose, chair of the District One Republicans, says Johansen contacted the group at the beginning of the meeting to provide an update and answer questions. Coose says after speaking with Johansen, the group discussed the issue for about an hour.

During public meetings held in Ketchikan in November, Johansen told constituents he was confident he would be able to rejoin the caucus. Though Johansen remains outside the caucus, he was given a seat on the House Senate Affairs committee last week.

Coose says the District One Republicans on Nov. 26 sent a letter to Johansen requesting his resignation. He says the letter was not made public to give Johansen time to return to the caucus. When that did not happen, he says the group voted to work toward a recall. Coose says lack of trust was a major concern.

Coose says the District One Republicans are in the process of forming a recall committee. According to state rules, a recall application cannot be submitted until 120 days after the start of the legislative session.

Jury Finalized for Waterman Trial
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
Jury selection was finalized this morning in case of the state of Alaska versus Rachelle Waterman. The young woman from Craig is accused of conspiracy and murder in the 2004 death of her mother Lauri Waterman. In all she faces seven counts. The first trial was held in Juneau and ended with a hung jury. The second trial is getting underway in Anchorage.

Galena Deals With Aftermath of Fire Claiming School Shop Facility
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
Galena is dealing with the aftermath of a weekend fire that burned a school shop facility. Sidney Huntington School Assistant Superintendent Chris Reitan says the two-story building, and a lot of valuable shop equipment and supplies, were lost.

Reitan says local fire fighters and other responders who fought the Saturday night fire were able to pull some tools and materials from one bay of the workshop before the entire building was consumed. Firefighters were also successful in keeping flames from reaching the main school building nearby. Reitan says the shop classes will have to be squeezed into the other buildings, and make use of remaining tools and supplies. He says the community is taking a positive view given the situation.

Reitan says the cause of the fire is unknown but fire marshals are investigating. The building is insured for $500,000, an amount Reitan estimates is a little less than replacement cost. The Sidney Huntington School is one of two in Galena. The Yukon River community is also home to a boarding school, the Galena Interior Learning Academy. The schools share facilities and some high school students attend classes on both campuses. Reitan says the fire affects many of the 260 kids who attend the Galena city schools.

Commission Recommends Pacific Walrus be Listed as Threatened or Endangered
Associated Press
The federal Marine Mammal Commission has recommended that Pacific walrus be listed as threatened or endangered. The commission oversees marine mammal conservation policies carried out by federal agencies. The three-member panel says walrus face threats from the loss of sea ice that they rely on for foraging and giving birth. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is under a court-ordered deadline to decide by the end of this month whether to recommend walrus for the endangered species list.

Alaska Halibut Fisherman Facing Quota Cuts
Matt Lichtenstein, KFSK – Petersburg
Big quota cuts are on the table for Alaska fishermen again as the International Pacific Halibut Commission is meeting in Victoria, British Columbia this week.

Lodge Owner Banned from Further Guiding in Alaska
Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage
A District Court Judge has sentenced a Wasilla Lodge owner to jail time, heavy fines, confiscations and banned him from ever guiding again in Alaska.

Dillingham School Makes Finals of National Science, Environment Contest
Mike Mason, KDLG – Dillingham
A local public school in the Bristol Bay region has made the finals of a nationwide science and environment contest.

Gebhardt Wins Kuskokwim 300
Angela Denning-Barnes, KYUK – Bethel
Paul Gebhardt of Kasilof led 20 teams to the finish line of the Kuskokwim 300 sled dog race on Sunday.

Despite Scratching, Kusko 300 Racer Still a Hero in Aniak
Shane Iverson, KYUK – Bethel
There was only one racer to scratch in this year’s K300. Louie Ambrose of St. Michael never made it to the finish line. The musher wants to race the Iditarod in the future, and he saw the K300 as an opportunity to fortify his team. Running in last place, he called it quits in the village of Aniak, about 140 miles into the course. But even though he didn’t finish the race, he is a hero to one family in Aniak.

Yukon Quest, Quest 300 Mushers Prepare for Upcoming Race
Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks
Food and supplies for the 1,000 mile Yukon Quest, and the shorter Quest 300, are being sent out are being sent out for the upcoming sled dog races. As KUAC’s Emily Schwing reports, on Saturday, mushers in Whitehorse and Fairbanks dropped off bags for distribution to checkpoints along the race course.