Alaska News Nightly: April 11, 2013

Individual news stories are posted on the APRN news page. You can subscribe to APRN’s newsfeeds via emailpodcast and RSS. Follow us on Facebook at and on Twitter @aprn.

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Scientists Study Peculiar Arctic Sea Ice Cracking Pattern

Steve Heimel, APRN – Anchorage

This spring the sea ice in the Arctic Ocean is breaking up early and scientists are scrambling to figure out why. It’s not unusual to see open water leads appear near Barrow, even in the middle of the winter, but there is something different about the open water this year. It’s adding fuel to a theory that the Arctic Ocean will be ice free in the summer months in a few years, instead of a few decades.

Measure Changing School District Health Plans Speeding Through Legislature

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

A measure that would put the state in charge of school districts’ health plans is speeding through the legislature.

Alaska’s Senators Fail To Block Gun Debate

Peter Granitz, APRN – Washington DC

The U.S. Senate voted Thursday morning to begin debate on a new package of gun regulations.

Neither of Alaska’s senators supported it.

Thursday’s vote was procedural. It does not create any new laws, but it does kick off what will be weeks of emotional debate.

Finance Committee Releases Version Of Oil Tax Overhaul

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

The House Finance Committee today released their version of a bill that would overhaul the state’s oil tax policy. It’s forecasted to cut taxes by $3.5 billion over the next five years, a smaller amount than the last proposal. That number is expected to appease swing votes on the bill.

Kobuk 440 Kicks Off In Kotzebue

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

The Kobuk440, Kotzebue’s annual sled dog race kicked off at 12:30 this afternoon. 18 mushers signed up this year and Kobuk440 board President Liz Moore says this numbers on the high end. She says they did have to make some team changes before the race got started.

State, Feds Continue Sparring Over Wildlife Policies

Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks

The National Park Service released its compendiums for 2013 this week.  They outline this year’s designations, closures and restrictions for national parks and preserves.  Some of the changes to Alaska’s compendiums this year come in response to state policies regarding predators like wolves and bears.

Yukon-Charley Wolf Population Drops By 50 Percent Since Last Fall

Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks

In a release today, the National Park Service states the wolf population in the Yukon-Charley National Preserve has decreased by 50 percent since last fall.  The Park Service says the decline “coincides with predator control efforts by Alaska Department of Fish and Game conducted near the preserve.”

In November, Park Service biologists counted 80 wolves in nine packs in the region.  They say hunters and trappers typically take about six wolves near the Preserve each winter.  This spring, biologists took advantage of the late season snow fall to survey wolves in the Preserve by air. They counted up to 39 wolves in six packs.  The agency says it‘s the steepest decline on record for wolves in the Yukon-Charley National Preserve.

Palmer Farmhouse Added To National Register Of Historic Places

Ellen Locker, KSKA – Anchorage

A farmhouse built in Palmer in 1935 has been added to the National Register of Historic Places. The Campbell House was one of the original Matanuska Colony farmhouses.

The house is a rare example of an intact frame-built home from the colony period that still has historical and physical integrity.   It joins more than 15 other Colony properties already listed on the Register, according to Judy Bittner, state historical preservation officer.

The house gets its name from George and Onabelle Campbell of Michigan, who drew Lot 54 in the lottery held for colonists to receive farm sites.

Particulate Pollution Plan Will Likely Include Burn Bans

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

A state fine particulate pollution implementation plan for the Fairbanks area due out this summer, will likely include burn bans. The yet to be released plan for getting Fairbanks into compliance with federal air quality regulations was previewed this week.

Senate Approves Creation Of A ‘Silver Alert’ System

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

A bill setting up a missing persons alert system for seniors with Alzheimer’s, veterans with post traumatic stress disorder, and other vulnerable adults passed the Alaska State Senate on Wednesday, after already getting approval in the House. The legislation tasks the Department of Public Safety and the Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs with creating a “silver alert system.” It would be triggered when adults with special needs go missing, much in the same way that amber alerts are used for children who have been abducted. The bill would make participation in the system voluntary for newspaper, radio, and television outlets. The measure was introduced by Rep. Max Gruenberg, an Anchorage Democrat. It’s the first bill from a member of the minority caucus that has gotten through the legislature. It passed unanimously in both chambers.

Galena Lays Groundwork For Biomass Project

Jeremy Scott, KIYU – Galena

Officials in Galena continue laying the groundwork to fund a community-wide woody biomass project.