The Big Stories of 2013

The year that’s about to end had more than its share of drama. As we turn the page on another year of news, APRN’s Steve Heimel has a look back at some of the highlights, with his list of the top 10 news stories of 2013.

Download Audio

What was big news in Alaska in some ways depended on where you were. If you were in Galena, it was flooding on the Yukon River in May. In fact, the river flooded again last fall, as a storm surge sent high waters up the river all the way to Russian Mission from the Bering Sea.

Also in the Bering Sea, the sea ice conditions were so jumbled that it was unsafe to hunt walrus, and both Gambell and Savoonga on Saint Lawrence Island declared economic disasters. And then in the fall, freezeup was so late that they were harvesting Bowhead whales in December.

If you were in Bristol Bay, you had a particular interest in one of the biggest stories of the year when mining giant Anglo American pulled its investment out of the Pebble Mine and the other big investor, Rio Tinto, gave strong signals that the public opposition was likely to persuade it to pull out as well.

You also were stunned by the death of an unarmed Village Public Safety Officer, Thomas Madole, who was shot in the line of duty responding to a person’s home in Manakotak.

And much of rural Alaska took an avid interest in a report by the bipartisan Tribal Law and Order Commission that said the state government is not capable of (centrally) maintaining law and order in villages “from an urban, centralized location” and should be working with tribal courts.

But there were some big news stories among the top ten of the year that were spread all over the state:

In Prince William Sound, two fishing tenders sank and spilled. And tenders also sank near Haines, Petersburg, and in Bristol Bay.

Governor Sean Parnell continued an anti-federal thrust that included an investigation of a federal enforcement raid on placer miners, legal action on federal stream jurisdiction, and most notably refused to expand eligibility to Medicaid, even though the federal government would pay for it, denied health care coverage to tens of thousands of Alaskans.

The oil and gas industry was heartened when the state legislature, at Governor Parnell’s urging, changed the tax regime, but opponents of that change soon gathered enough signatures to put repealing it on the ballot. And hopes for offshore oil and gas prospects in the Arctic Ocean got a major setback when Shell’s drilling rig “Kulluk” went aground while under tow.

Another big story still unfolding was the decision by major vendors not to sell Alaska salmon because it wasn’t certified for sustainability by the Marine Stewardship Council. Sedexo changed its mind, WalMart is still on the fence.

And rounding out the top ten stories was a major plane crash at the Soldotna airstrip that took the lives of ten people on their way out on a bear viewing trip. No probable cause has yet been released for that crash.