Alaska News Nightly: January 16, 2012

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Petition For Coastal Management Program Receives More Than Enough Signatures

Rosemarie Alexander, KTOO – Juneau

Organizers of a citizen’s ballot initiative to restore Alaska’s Coastal Management Program have well over the number of signatures required to  put it on the statewide ballot, says Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho.

Volunteers started gathering signatures less than a month ago.  26,000 are required. The signatures must be filed with the state division of elections Tuesday.

Botelho says volunteers will stop the petition drive at 6 p.m. Monday. The question now is whether they have the required district distribution.

Botelho and Kodiak Island Borough Mayor Jerome Selby are among several local officials who formed the Alaska Sea Party to bring back a coastal management program.  The Parnell administration shut down the program last summer, after the legislature and governor’s office failed to reach a compromise to renew it.

Sea Party organizers will hold a news conference tomorrow to update the initiative’s progress.

If the Legislature enacts substantially similar legislation this session, the initiative would not appear on the statewide ballot this fall.

Juneau Representative Beth Kerttula believes the Legislature will take it up. She says collecting more than 26,000 signatures in record time is a powerful message.

Alaska has nearly 40 percent of the entire coastline of the United States, and has no program to coordinate management.

Begich Returns From Afghanistan Trip

Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC

Alaska Senator Mark Begich says his confidence in the possible success of the war in Afghanistan is higher after a brief, intense trip to the country.  He spoke with reporters Monday after returning.

Board of Game Approves Kenai Peninsula Aerial Wolf Hunting

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

The Board of Game has approved aerial wolf hunting on the Kenai Peninsula for the first time. The Board unanimously passed two proposals Monday to implement the predator control plan in game management units 15a and 15c, on the Northern and Southern Peninsula.

Both plans call for reducing wolf populations to increase moose hunting opportunities.

Board member Ted Spraker said during discussion that the board couldn’t let the moose populations decline any further.

Spraker said this year’s intense winter snowfall is likely to increase both calf and adult moose mortality on the Kenai.

But critics of the plan are adamant that predator control is not the way to boost moose populations.

The Board of Game continues deliberations on game management issues, including the controversial bear snaring proposal, through Wednesday.

Renda Begins Pumping Fuel

Ben Matheson & Matthew Smith, KNOM – Nome

The Russian tanker Renda is pumping fuel.

After a 5,000 mile journey across the pacific and breaking through 400 miles of ice to Nome, the Renda began to transfer its payload of 1.3 million gallons of gas and diesel just before 4:30 this afternoon.  The fuel is running through 2,000 feet of hoses across the sea ice into the port’s headers and up to Sitnasuak’s tank farm.

Vitus Marine CEO Mark Smith says there will around-the-clock watch aboard the Renda and on the ice.

Sitnasuak Board Chair Jason Evans says the plan is to systematically empty the Renda’s payload, using the tanker’s powerful pumps.

The Commander for the Coast Guard in Alaska, Rear Admiral Thomas Osteboe was in Nome Sunday.  He says the mission for the Coast Guard is at a critical stage.

Joining the Admiral were Senator Lisa Murkowski, Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell, and several State Commissioners who flew in with a planeload of reporters. Senator Murkowski said the historic fuel delivery points to America’s needs in the Arctic.

Lieutenant Governor Treadwell also called for an increased Coast Guard presence in the Arctic.

The Healy is the Coast Guard’s only functioning icebreaker and is designed for research.

Copper Basin 300 Cancelled Due To Cold Temps, Impassable Trail

Tim Ellis, KUAC – Fairbanks

Organizers of the Copper Basin 300 canceled the sled dog race on Sunday less than halfway through the course, after mushers encountered extreme cold and an impassable stretch of trail.

Anchorage Animal Control Deals With Influx Of Rescues

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

Anchorage’s animal control facility is coping with rescue dogs and cats, even parakeets from two animal cruelty cases.

Two Eagle River men arrested Saturday have been charged with two counts of animal cruelty.   50-year-old Daniel Hoffman and 46-year-old Lester Mendez were brought to the attention of the police when a maintenance man entered their rental property and found kennels stacked to the ceiling.   There were also multiple cages of parakeets in the home, according to APD spokesperson Anita Schell.

Schell says there was no heat in the house. That same day, a second case of cruelty involving 22 cats was discovered.

Animal control spokesperson  Brooke Taylor says the city shelter is asking for help with supplies.

Taylor says she is not able to comment on the details of the case, pending a police investigation. She says staff veterinarians are working with the animals to determine their health.

She says the legal aspects of the case prevent the dogs, cats and parakeets involved from being adopted at this time.

Alutiiq Language On The Mend

Jennifer Canfield, KMXT – Kodiak

With fewer than 150 known fluent speakers, the Alutiiq language is just one of many indigenous languages worldwide that are in danger of extinction. However, with the concerted efforts from people like April Counceller, that won’t happen. Counceller is the language manager at the Alutiiq Museum and the director for a new Alutiiq studies program at the Kodiak College. Last week the museum was awarded a $40,000 grant to complete a book on the orthography of the Kodiak sub-dialect of the Alutiiq language, for which only 45 known fluent speakers remain. Counceller says the project comes at a key stage after many years of creating language materials and developing speakers.

Second Superintendent Candidate Visits City

Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage

The second of the two finalists hoping to succeed retiring Carol Comeau for the Anchorage School District’s  superintendent position spent three day’s interviewing and visiting the city last week. During that time, Stephen Atwater met with the local press.

Holly Brooks Takes Three-Week World Cup Break

Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage

Anchorage Skier Kikkan Randall picked two more silver world cup medals in Milan, Italy. On Saturday she placed 2nd in the individual sprint and on Sunday she repeated that performance in the team sprint. She is still the number one female sprinter in the world and in fourth place on the World Cup overall.

Meanwhile, her APU teammate Holly Brooks is taking a three week break from the World Cup tour. She is spending the time in Italy and Austria, recuperating from a broken wrist. With some good rest, she is hopeful she can heal enough to race again next month with a goal of making the U.S. Ski team next season.