Alaska News Nightly: December 22, 2011

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Coast Guard Cutter Will Break Ice For Nome Fuel Delivery

Ben Matheson, KNOM – Nome

The Coast Guard is confirming that the Cutter Healy will be used to break ice for a Russian tanker in the first-ever winter fuel delivery in Nome.

Slower Internet Likely To Persist In Rural Alaska

Stephanie Joyce, KUCB – Unalaska

A major reform announced last month by the Federal Communications Commission promises to extend high-speed internet access to people in rural areas across the country.  But the 27 percent of Alaskan consumers whose Internet comes through a satellite won’t see the same degree of improvement.

Anchorage Storms Cause Widespread Electric Utility Damage

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

A series of high wind events in Anchorage over the past several days have meant power outages due to storm damage.

Chugach Electric spokesman Phil Styer says it’s too early to estimate the cost of repairs

Styer would not comment on whether or not the electric utility would be receiving state or federal disaster funds.  He said that the company is still tallying up how extensive the damage is.

According to the Associated Press, Matanuska Electric Association  is approaching half a million dollars in costs from repairing damage from the storms, while the city’s Municipal light and Power has suffered light damage, due to its underground lines.

FEMA Makes Disaster Funds Available To Alaska

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced today that federal disaster aid has been made available to Alaska.

Federal money will supplement state and local recovery efforts in areas affected by severe winter storms and flooding in November.

Funds will be available for the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by storms in the North Slope Borough, and areas within the Bering Strait Region, the Lower Kuskokwim, the Lower Yukon, and the Southwest Region. Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide.

Jeff King Wins First Race Since Coming Out Of Retirement

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

Mushing legend Jeff King is back in the game.  In his first race since retiring following the 2010 Iditarod, the Denali Park musher posted a convincing come from behind victory in a big early season race this past weekend.

GIFT Draws 5,000 In-Need Families

Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage

This week the Food Bank and Salvation Army, along with Marine Corps Toys for Tots held Neighborhood GIFT.   The annual event drew nearly 5,000 families in need to six locations for holiday dinner fixings and toys.

Rep. Gara Pushes For Laptop Donations For Foster Kids

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

The festivities of the holidays can serve as a bitter reminder to foster youth that they are separated from their own families.  But Anchorage Representative Les Gara says, with a laptop of their own, foster children can keep connections alive with friends even if they move  from home to home.

Gara is launching the holiday effort in cooperation with the non-profit Facing Foster Care in Alaska.  The computer drive is in its’ second season, after a successful first run.  Over the past year the drive  resulted in over 60 matches for youth who use laptops for school and social connections.

16-year-old Anna Redmon got a laptop some months ago

Those wishing to donate a laptop can contact Gara’s office.  Laptops suitable for the program must not be more than four years old, and have word processing programs and internet capability.

Gara says he was a foster child himself for a time, so he knows the importance of supporting youth in foster care.

Fairbanks Awards Contract To Investigate Local LNG Distribution Expansion

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The Fairbanks North Star Borough has awarded a contract to investigate expansion of local natural gas distribution.  The $430,000 bid award to Northern Economics is for a two-fold study.

Borough Mayor Luke Hopkins says the company is charged with looking into the means, and effects of, getting natural gas to more Fairbanks residents.

The state legislature provided half a million dollars to the borough for the study.  The projects could bring North Slope natural gas to Fairbanks. Golden Valley Electric  Association and Flint Hills refinery are looking at trucking in North Slope gas.  Fairbanks Natural Gas is pursuing a similar project.  FNG currently trucks Cook Inlet gas to Fairbanks, supplying over a thousand customers on a limited piping network in the city.  Getting North Slope gas via truck or pipeline would open up the potential for larger volumes of gas and more people heating with the less polluting fuel.   Borough Assembly Presiding Officer Diane Hutchison says the study will look at the economics of getting gas to consumers outside the most developed part of the borough.

Hutchsion and Mayor Hopkins say once the cost of an expanded local distribution system is known, the figure can be taken to the legislature for possible state funding during the upcoming session.

Leaders Look To Improve Southeast Economy

Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau

How do you improve Southeast Alaska’s economy? Business, government, and nonprofit group leaders met in Juneau earlier this month to share and refine their ideas. CoastAlaska’s Ed Schoenfeld reports on the Southeast Alaska Economic Development Cluster Summit.

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