Alaska News Nightly: April 25, 2012

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Exploratory Shale Wells Coming Within A Month

Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau

Great Bear Petroleum Wednesday morning announced it is within a month of drilling up to six exploratory shale oil wells this summer on its holdings along the Dalton Highway.

State Takes Feedback On Student Achievement Standards

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The state is taking feedback on proposed new student achievement standards.  Education Commissioner Michael Hanley is hosting meetings around the state, and was in Fairbanks Tuesday.  The new standards will replace the current package developed in the mid 1990’s, and are designed to clarify what’s expected of kids at each grade level.  Hanley says they’re based on a Common Core package developed by the National Governors Association and the council of chief state school officers.

UAF Could Get Funds For New Engineering Building

Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks

If the Governor signs off on the capital budget, the University of Alaska Fairbanks can move forward with plans for the renovation and construction of a new engineering building on campus.  The University says enrollment in the engineering program has doubled over the past five years. The new facility will keep the program competitive.

Election Commission Makes Recommendations For Muni Election Problems

Daysha Eaton, KSKA – Anchorage

The Anchorage Election Commission just released their report on the April 3 Municipal election. They are asking the assembly to adopt their report and certify the election. But they did find some problems with the election and made several recommendations.

Portion Of ‘Violence Against Women Act’ Upsets Alaska Tribal Advocates

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

Alaska tribal advocates are upset by a section in the federal reauthorization of the 2000 Violence Against Women Act. Section 905 of the act would expand tribal court jurisdiction by allowing those courts to issue protective orders against ‘any person’ including non-Native offenders. That expansion in the eyes of Congress was a problem in Alaska where the legal status known as ‘Indian Country’ does not exist as it does on lower 48 reservations. The expansion was meant for those tribes not Alaska’s. That caused language to be added that would have exempted Alaska’s tribes from even their current jurisdiction over their members. Senator’s Murkowski and Begich are working on a fix, something called a savings clause that will retain the current authority for tribal courts in Alaska. Native American Rights Fund Attorney Natalie Landreth says removing the exemptions is important, but the fact that the exemption was there at all is disturbing.

Indian Country means land jurisdiction.  Alaska tribes don’t have that status so to expand the authority here would mean new legislation and possibly public hearings. Natalie Landreth says, over the last three decades federal courts are moving away from land based jurisdiction to membership and interest jurisdiction. And she says there is a misunderstanding of tribal courts in Alaska.

Although the fix being crafted by Murkowski and Begich should take care of preserving Alaska tribal court authority, there’s no guarantee the Act will move out of the Senate by adjournment tomorrow. If it does pass, its fate is less certain in the House.

Organization Pushes For Changes In Sea Otter Management

Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau

Southeast Alaska’s largest tribal organization is pushing for changes in sea otter management. It was one of the issues before last week’s Tlingit-Haida Central Council Tribal Assembly.

UA To Get New Super Computer

Mike Mason, KDLG – Dillingham

The University of Alaska system will be getting a new state of the art “Super Computer” in the next couple of months. The computer already has a name, FISH.

Group To Renovate Northwest Alaska Boys And Girls Clubs

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

An organization that focuses on volunteerism will be in five northwest villages this summer renovating Boys and Girls Club buildings. Hope Worldwide is an international faith based group that helps match up local and Americorp volunteers with communities in need. The group will be conducting what they call Arctic Regeneration camps in villages blending leadership training and mentoring for young people with the work of sprucing up clubs.

Ray Nadon is the chapter executive for Hope Worldwide in Alaska. He says the organization began renovating village clubhouses a few years ago.