Anchorage is readying to take part in the Alaska Shield earthquake preparedness drill on Thursday, March 27. The city’s Office of Emergency Management is located in an anonymous building on a quiet side street in midtown. Inside, there’s a seemingly haphazard arrangement of desks, but there is a method in it all. Director Kevin Spillers, invited the media into the office a couple of weeks ago. OEM personnel wanted to show how they work, if, or when, disaster strikes. Spillers says the city’s Emergency Operations Center , or EOC, is located within OEM “We are stewards of EOC. we are lead agency for city’s emergency preparedness activities.. EOC is a facility, until it is activated, then becomes the lead agency for response and recovery activities ” Spillers says.The EOC is only activated in times of great stress, such as on September 11, 2001 or during the anticipated Y2K event at the turn of the century.According to Spillers, when the EOC is activated, it focuses on emerging response and sets priorities, so that other agencies don’t step on each others toes.Michelle Torres is the public information officer at OEM. She says Anchorage has three top threats:“Earthquake, wildfire and severe winter storms. With severe winter storms we see a lot of wind, but that is not all we want you to get prepared for.”The 1964 Alaska earthquake was the second largest ever recorded.. one in Chile in 1960 was larger. But the Great Alaska Quake, as it is termed, was the largest ever in North America. Torres says, this week’s drills will be earthquake and tsunami oriented. She says emergency officials estimate that in a city of roughly 300 thousand people.“If we had an earthquake in March of 2014, or whenever, we are looking at about 530 deaths, injuries in the 6000s, so we are looking to shelter over 42 thousand people, pets 19 thousand, slightly over, feeding and hydration.. 145 thousand people — 49 point seven percent of the population of Anchorage. So you know what that tells me right there. Our citizens and our residents are not prepared. So the question.. is how prepared are you at home?” Torres asked reporters. She urges everyone to have an emergency kit, and emergency escape route and a family emergency plan in the event of another disaster, like the one that struck Anchorage in 1964.Torres says many different aspects of emergency response must work closely together while avoiding overlap when the EOC kicks in in the event of a disaster. She says Alaska has more than half the earthquakes in the US. Spillers says, in the eventuality of evacuations, the city already has shelters lined up “We would use designated facilities, primarily rec centers and the schools. There are 22 of them,” he says. The municipality will hold a “Great Alaska Shakeout ” drill on Thursday, March 27 at 1:36 pm. All municipal departments will participate as will all schools within the Anchorage School District. Torres says, the international protocol of “Drop, Cover and Hold On” is recommended by official rescue teams the world over. If the Earth shakes, Drop to the ground, take Cover under a sturdy table or desk, and Hold on till the shaking stops. Many earthquake injuries are the result of flying glass and falling debris, rather than the result of collapsed housing. Also on Thursday, tsunami sirens may ring out in coastal communities, and a tsunami warning my hit television screens and radios between 10:15 am and 10:45 am. March 24 through 28 is Anchorage’s offical Earthquake Preparedness Week. I’m Ellen Lockyer
September 9, 2019
A federal district court judge has sided with plaintiffs who say the state is not doing enough to help non-English-speaking voters.Download Audio A “partial decision” Wednesday in a case against the state division of elections is aimed at protecting the voting rights of Alaska Natives.In Toyukuk v. Treadwell, plaintiffs argued that translation of state of Alaska ballot language from English into Yupik is not adequate to ensure voters’ understanding of the ballot.Four tribal councils filed the suit against the state division of elections last year, alleging the state violated the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution by not providing language assistance to Yup’ik and Gwich’in speaking voters in three census areas.State attorneys argued that because the languages are historically unwritten the Voting Rights Act requires only oral language assistance in these languages. The division of elections said it provides translators and bilingual poll workers.In a hearing Wednesday before a federal judge in Anchorage, Native American Rights Fund attorney Natalie Landreth argued for the plaintiffs.“But the federal court held this morning that [the state was] not providing even oral language assistance,” Landreth said. “Because they don’t ask or pay their outreach workers in the villages or bilingual poll workers to translate any of the information in the official election pamphlet. That was part of her holding today.”Landreth says, plaintiffs want written information translated. Under the current system, Yup’ik speaking voters do not get a written election pamphlet in advance of the election.“If you’re a Yup’ik speaking voter, the translated information you receive consists of three things: here’s the day of the election, here’s the time of the election, here’s where it will be. And then there will be language assistance available at the polling place,” Landreth said. “There’s no advance information about the candidates, no advance information about bond measures, nothing about constitutional questions, nothing about ballot measures.”“To such a degree that the plaintiffs and other witnesses testified that the first time they find out about ballot measures is often when they go to vote on election day.”Federal district court judge Sharon Gleason sided with plaintiffs. In a partial decision Wednesday, which addresses only the Voting Rights Act claims, Gleason said the division of elections has violated the Act by not providing substantially equivalent language assistance in Yup’ik and Gwich’in in the three census areas.The court has given the state until Friday, Sept. 5 to provide a proposal for additional language assistance measures that could be implemented in time for the November election. Alaska assistant attorney general Corey Mills says time is running out.“And the court also recognized the difficulty that the division of elections has in providing this type of assistance,” Landreth said. “So the state and the division of elections and the department of law are looking at that and what that proposal will entail.”The court did acknowledge the state’s efforts so far in providing ballot translations for Yup’ik and Gwich’in speakers, saying the state has been working diligently this year in providing language assistance.
Shell has gotten another green light for its oil exploration season in the Chukchi Sea this summer.The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management gave conditional approval for Shell’s exploration plan Monday morning.Download Audio:The Noble Discoverer in Unalaska in 2012. (KUCB-Unalaska file photo)Agency sokesman John Callahan says the conditions include getting permits from other federal agencies to actually drill for oil, work around marine mammals and discharge wastewater.“So while our agency has conditionally approved this plan, there are some things Shell still has to do before it can go out,” Callahan says.Shell has described a more concentrated campaign of activity than it had last time it attempted to drill in the Arctic. It plans to use two drill rigs and up to 40 round-trip helicopter trips a week — more than triple the number from its previous plan.The executive director of the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission asked the government last month to consider the effect of noise from Shell’s proposed operations. Arnold Brower Jr., on behalf of the commission, says they could create a “fence of sound” and displace the whales.Shell spokeswoman Megan Baldino says they’re hoping the environmental permits they wind up with will be ”practical” and “usable,” and will come through in time for a full summer season.“We achieved these permits in 2012 and we’re looking forward to their delivery for 2015,” she says.2012 was marked by a range of mishaps, including grounded drill rigs. And Susan Murray, a vice president for conservation group Oceana, says Shell’s not ready for another try.“If Shell hasn’t shown us yet they can take bad decisions out of the equation, and their contractors can’t take bad decisions out of the equation, they don’t belong in the offshore Arctic yet,” she says. “The risk is simply too high.”Shell’s rigs are still set to heard north in the next few weeks, though. Along with their permits, they’re waiting on a final plan from the Coast Guard for buffer zones around their rigs when they’re staged in Unalaska and Kotzebue.
Coast Guard Gears Up For Shell’s Chukchi SeasonLiz Ruskin, APRN – Washington, D.C.As Shell gears up to drill in the Chukchi Sea this summer, the Coast Guard is getting ready, too. At an Arctic Symposium in Washington D.C. this morning, the head of the U.S. Coast Guard outlined the difficulties the service will face in the Chukchi Sea this summer, and in the Arctic generally.Shellfish genetics could be the key to climate change adaptationShady Grove Oliver, KBBI – HomerA recent NOAA study found that by 2040, Alaskan shellfish hatcheries may no longer be sustainable because of ocean acidification, unless serious mitigation efforts are put in place. Yesterday, we reported on a hatchery in Oregon that’s become a model for adapting to these different conditions. But the long term solution may actually lie in shellfish genes.Report: Heroin Use is Skyrocketing in AlaskaAnnie Feidt, APRN – AnchorageA new report from the state health department shows a dramatic rise in heroin use in Alaska. The number of hospitalizations for heroin related causes nearly doubled in the state from 2008 to 2012.Education Lawsuit Heads Through Appeals ProcessLeila Kheiry, KRBD – KetchikanSeveral briefs were filed by the June 30th deadline with the Alaska Supreme Court in the Ketchikan Gateway Borough’s ongoing lawsuit challenging the State of Alaska’s requirement that local governments earmark a certain amount of property taxes for public education.Knik Arm Project Gets A Tentative Green Light from AdministrationEllen Lockyer, KSKA – AnchorageIn a letter to state Department of Transportation commissioner Mark Luiken, state office of management and budget director Pat Pitney has advised DOT to proceed within existing appropriations, to continue work on the Knik Arm Crossing.Falling Debris From Decrepit Apartments Closes Juneau ParkLisa Phu, KTOO – JuneauThe burnt out Gastineau Apartments in Juneau will finally be demolished by the end of November, according to Juneau’s city attorney. In the meantime, the city says the downtown buildings are a public safety concern. It’s temporarily closed the neighboring park due to falling debris.City Considers Amending Land Use Code to Address Child Care ShortageLakeidra Chavis, KTOO – JuneauThe Juneau Assembly is working on amending child care permit regulations in an effort to increase child care availability in Juneau.Nome Reindeer Ranch Cultivates A New Generation of HerdersLaura Kraegel, KNOM – NomeIn 1967, Larry Davis snow machined from Nome to Cape Espenberg. When he returned, he brought with him 200 reindeer — a herd that would eventually swell to 10,000 in the 1990s. Stories are posted on the APRN news page. You can subscribe to APRN’s newsfeeds via email, podcast and RSS. Follow us on Facebook at alaskapublic.org and on Twitter @aprn.Download Audio
Areas of the Interior have received rain in recent days, helping to slow wildfires that have charred more than 4.7 million acres, and fire season is far from over.Download AudioA swath of the interior, including the Fairbanks and Denali areas got a thorough soaking over the weekend. National Weather service meteorologist Benjamin Bartus credits a low pressure system that parked itself over the region, and is expected to yield additional showers before moving out. Longer range, he says it appears that the general weather trend has changed.The rain subdued some of the numerous wildfires around the interior at time of the summer when fire mangers reassess strategy. Division of Forestry spokesman Tim Mowry says mid-July is known as the conversion date.Not all areas received rain over the weekend and a few new fires have been reported, including a a lightning caused blaze on the Seward Peninsula. Mowry says some aircraft and personnel have been released from service in the state, but minimal demand in the lower 48 has allowed Alaska to retain a lot of suppression resources, including over 2 thousand firefighters. Given the amount and size of Alaska’s wildfires this summer, Mowry says plenty of work remains to be done in the state.Mowry says state and federal agencies have already spent about a hundred million dollars fighting fire in Alaska this summer.
Sitka will have to close one of its five boat harbors if a state matching-grant program is eliminated.Download AudioA summer sunset colors the waters of Sitka’s Crescent Harbor in 2014. Municipal officials want to improve three harbors using a state grant program that may be at risk. (Shaleece Haas/KCAW)The 10-year-old program funds half the cost of local harbor replacement or repair.Sitka Municipal Administrator Mark Gorman says it’s among state programs that could be reduced or eliminated as the Legislature looks for ways to balance the budget.“If that goes away, we’re going to have some very serious challenges maintaining our current infrastructure,” Gorman says. “In fact, we may have to drop one of our harbors in the next decade if we don’t have support from the state.”He says the issue came up at a recent staff meeting. No one harbor is being targeted for closure.The municipality hopes to receive up to $28 million in harbor matching funds during the next 10 or so years. Work would be done on Crescent, Eliason and Sealing Cove facilities.Gorman says harbor rates are already rising and further hikes would not cover the loss of state grants.The harbor issue came up during discussion of Sitka’s municipal priorities for the Legislature, which resumes meeting in January.They include airport upgrades, education funding, and water- and sewer-system improvements.One $6.3 million project would build a backup drinking-water source in Starrigavin Valley. Municipal Administrator Gorman says the state requires a secondary water source.“We know that we could activate a temporary filtration system for Indian River, but that’s prohibitively expensive,” he says.Sitka used that approach during construction of the Blue Lake Dam, which affected the water supply. He says that cost about $3 million over two months.“So if we can get a secondary water source for $6 million that we can use makes a lot of sense,” Gorman says.The legislative priority list was discussed Tuesday evening during a work session with school board and assembly members. It’s not finalized.Sitka officials also hope to win about $4.3 million in state funding for smaller projects, including waterline replacement, sewage lift stations and heating improvements.“We’re more optimistic about those programs being maintained because they’re tied to a lot of federal funding. And I think Gov. Walker recognizes that that’s money well-invested by the state to get the federal matching grants,” he saysMarine Service Center repairs, energy improvements and restored state-park funding are also on the list. So is funding for the ferry system, which faces deep cuts, especially in Sitka.
Mia Gottschalk, 9, rests at an emergency shelter set up in the Kenai National Guard Armory on Sunday. Her family lived in one of the four homes that was destroyed in a fire caused by a natural gas explosion after the earthquake Sunday morning. (Photo by Jenny Neyman/KDLL.)A neighborhood in Kenai was evacuated after a fire and explosions caused by a natural gas leak following the magnitude 7.1 earthquake that hit Southcentral Alaska at 1:30 a.m. Sunday. Four homes were destroyed in the fire.Download AudioFor most Kenai Peninsula residents jolted awake early Sunday morning, the initial shock of fear from the earthquake faded into a daylong buzz of excitement.But for some Kenai residents, the day only got worse. A section of town on the north end of Kenai was evacuated at 3 a.m. after a natural gas leak caused an explosion in a home at 1213 Lilac Lane and a fire that spread to three neighboring houses. Lilac parallels the Kenai Spur Highway on the bluff side, across the highway from Wildwood Correctional Facility.An emergency shelter was set up at the Kenai National Guard Armory. Sgt. 1st Class Albert Burns got the phone call from the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s Office of Emergency Management.“They called me at 3 o’clock this morning and said, ‘We have people displaced.’ And I go, ‘OK, I’ll be there in 15 minutes,’” Burns said. “I’d already been awake because of the earthquake and as soon as I got the call and Dan said his name, it was like, ‘OK,’ I knew what was going on. This isn’t the first time I’ve had to do this.”By midmorning, about 45 evacuees had been through the shelter, from Lilac Lane, Cook Inlet View Drive and Wells Way, with that number growing to 60 by the end of the day.Kenai Police officers came by regularly to give updates. By 10:30 a.m., Lt. David Ross reported that the fires were under control.“There’s still a problem with the natural gas there, Enstar’s got lots of equipment there, lots of people there,” Ross said. “The gas is bubbling out of the ground in some places so it’s still not a safe place to return to. The gas is shut off to the neighborhood, so that should dissipate and the fires are just about out. That’s the good news part of it.”Natural gas explosions and fires destroyed four homes on Lilac Lane following the earthquake at 1:30 a.m. Sunday. (Photo courtesy of the Kenai Fire Department)All residents of the four burned homes got out safely, with only one person sustaining mild burns. Pets were not so lucky, as there hadn’t been time to do anything but grab family members and run.Janice Gottschalk lives with her fiancée, brother and three kids, ages 9 to 12, at 1211 Lilac.“About 1:30 a.m. the earthquake hit, and probably about 1:40, 1:45 a.m. I heard my neighbor’s house blow up; the gas blew off the roof,” Gottschalk said. “They thankfully made it out. And then we were all told probably about five minutes later to evacuate our house, as well.”They went to a friend’s apartment across the street and waited with a dozen people while fire crews attempted to contain the fire. A little before 3 a.m. fire personnel smelled gas leaking at the east end of the street and evacuated more of the neighborhood. Another explosion damaged a second home, and the flames spread. Homes across the street sustained some percussion damage.“We made it out with everything on our backs; our house is a complete and total loss,” Gottschalk said. “But I’m thanking God that we made it out, thanks to the fire department and the police department.”Gottschalk said her kids were shaken but doing OK. Ten-year-old Sara alternated between reading a book and roaming the Armory, still in her pajamas.“Usually I just lie down,” she said. “That’s all I basically do, lie down and wander.”The American Red Cross took over operation of the shelter by Sunday afternoon and would help find temporary housing for the families that couldn’t return home.Lilac Lane offers mostly lower-cost housing for people with limited means. Gottschalk doesn’t know what her family will do in the immediate future, but has already been amazed at the support from business and individuals in the community.“I’m from Anchorage and I’m not used to this,” Gottschalk said. “It’s a dog-eat-dog world. And down here it’s so close knit and I’m just really overwhelmed and shocked right now.”Renee Duncan, of Soldotna, heard about the evacuations early Sunday morning and began calling businesses to secure donations. Walmart, where Gottschalk works, had started bringing donations of food, blankets, a TV, DVD player and other items within an hour of the shelter opening. McDonald’s, Safeway, Fred Meyer, Kaladi Brothers and Home Depot also helped out.“Went and gathered up a bunch of different stuff from them and brought it over,” Duncan said. “So I’m just going to spend time today and see if I can help out with anything.”Around 2 p.m. Kenai police opened Cook Inlet View Drive and Wells Way to residents, but closed the streets again around 3 p.m. due to elevated gas levels. Enstar was on scene all day Sunday working to contain the leaks.By 10 p.m. Sunday, Enstar reported that it had completed repairs and was testing the system. Natural gas service was restored to residents around Lilac by 11 p.m. Homer Electric Association restored power to most of the 44 meters in the area last night, as well. Fifteen meters were left without power at the request of fire officials due to hazardous conditions.A Go Fund Me site has been started for the Gottschalk/Smith family.
The Alaska Goldpanners baseball team officially announced its new contract with the Fairbanks North Star Borough Wednesday. Last year, the semi-pro ball club had tangled with the borough over the safety issues at its home field, Growden Park. Differences have been set aside so the tradition of the Midnight Sun Game continues.Download AudioBoth Borough Mayor Karl Kassel and Goldpanner Board president John Lohrke Wednesday expressed enthusiasm over the contract they inked last week. Six months ago it was anyone’s call whether the semi-pro non-profit ball club could come to terms with the borough over degraded facilities and safety concerns at Growden Park. But Wednesday, Mayor Kassel sprinkled his remarks with baseball metaphors in describing the partnership he envisions to restore the Goldpanners to glory.“We’re going to recruit some money,” Kassel said. “There’s foundations out there that are willing to play ball with us. And we’ll bring some of that resource to the plate.”Mayor Kassel dismissed earlier estimates it would take millions to bring Growden Park to safe and attractive standards. He said the borough has already ponied up $230 thousand dollars to tear down unsafe bleachers and order temporary replacements. John Lohrke, who was recently named President of the ball club’s Board of Directors, pointed to the expanded board as an example of the community spirit both he and Kassel anticipate.“We’ve really got different faces on the board,” Lohrke said. “We’ve got about 25 to 30 [on the] Board of Directors. And it’s active. There’s people involved. There’s people raising their hands saying ‘I’ll do that. I can take care of that.”The new four year contract covers five seasons, and more clearly outlines Goldpanners’ responsibilities at Growden. Under the terms of the agreement, the Goldpanners plan to provide a financial statement to the borough April 20.As for season, Lohrke said the club has already recruited it coaches and 22 players. He says after some out-of-town games it will be ready to meet the Fairbanks All Stars for the first home game of the season June 17th.
Stories are posted on the APRN news page. You can subscribe to APRN’s newsfeeds via email, podcast and RSS. Follow us on Facebook at alaskapublic.org and on Twitter @aprnDownload AudioBudget talks are quiet as Walker projects optimismAndrew Kitchenman, KTOO – JuneauProgress on the state government budget has slowed to a crawl this week. But Governor Bill Walker remains hopeful the Legislature can reach an agreement on an oil and gas tax bill that’s at the center of budget talks.Bill seeks to rein in state employees’ wages until oil prices riseAndrew Kitchenman, KTOO – JuneauState workers wouldn’t see pay hikes based on experience until oil prices rise sharply, under a bill introduced Monday in the House.Crucial cargo point only ‘marginally adequate’ say officialsZachariah Hughes, KSKA – AnchorageAn enormous share of Alaska’s food, fuel, and supplies come into the state through just a single access point: the Port of Anchorage. Even small communities in distant parts of the state rely on the steady flow of goods over the port’s docks. In the first part of a series on the port, Alaska Public Media’s Zachariah Hughes takes a look behind those numbers.One injured in Haines bear maulingJillian Rogers, KHNS – HainesA Fairbanks man and University of Alaska assistant professor was airlifted to an Anchorage hospital from Haines on Monday afternoon after being mauled by a bear nine miles west of town.Wildfire season getting an early startDan Bross, KUAC – FairbanksThe season’s first wildfires are getting attention. The Alaska Interagency Coordination reports a 25-acre blaze in the Palmer being worked by 13 firefighters, with smaller blazes in the MatSu, on the Kenai, and in the Fairbanks area, drawing responses or being monitored in recent days.Changing what it means to be a foster parentAnne Hillman, KSKA – AnchorageFoster kids who don’t feel like they belong act out. The solution? Foster parents are working harder to make kids into family.Senate authorizes funding for FAA air carrier services to DiomedeEmily Russell, KNOM – NomeFor decades, Diomede has scrambled to fund reliable air carrier service. Today, the small island community got one step closer to a long-term solution for passenger travel and mail delivery. The US Senate voted to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration with a new amendment that would guarantee federal funding for the island of Diomede.Fourth whale harvested by North Slope Borough this yearAssociated PressSubsistence hunters in Alaska’s North Slope Borough have harvested a 41-foot bowhead whale, marking the fourth animal that has been captured during the borough’s spring whale hunt.Audit: Skagway misspent CPV taxes on playground equipmentEmily Files, KHNS – HainesAlaska charges cruise ships that stay three or more days in state waters a $34.50 tax per traveler. It’s called the Commercial Passenger Vessel Tax. The tax brings in millions of dollars each year, much of which the state distributes to cruise ship port communities. An audit of the CPV program found some towns need to tighten standards for how they spend the money. And, it alleged that Skagway misspent some CPV funds on school playground equipment.
A flood of federal funding is coming to rural Alaska for water and sewer projects, and a big chunk of that is going to the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta.Listen nowMembers of several agencies met to announce funding for water and sewer projects at a press conference on August 30, 2016. The press conference was held at the YKHC conference room in Bethel, Alaska. (Photo by Katie Basile, KYUK – Bethel)Lisa Mensah, U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Undersecretary, arrived in Bethel from Washington D.C. on Tuesday to deliver the news.“I have the joy of announcing a combined total of $27 million in our water and environmental programs here in rural Alaska,” Mensah said.Let’s break down where that money is going in the Delta:Eek will get water and sewer lines for the first time.Toksook Bay will finish hooking up homes to its water and sewer system.St. Mary’s will expand its waste heat recovery system, saving the community about $10,000 a year in energy costs.The City of Bethel will get four new water trucks, three new sewer trucks, and rehabilitate its sewage lagoon, which means dredging 30 years of sewage from a tundra pond.USDA-Rural Development Under Secretary Lisa Mensah talks with YKHC CEO/President, Dan Winkelman. Secretary Mensah visited Bethel on August 30, 2016 to announce funding for water and sewer projects in the YK-Delta region.(Photo by Katie Basile, KYUK – Bethel)The Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation will continue its program to help operate water and sewer systems across the Delta.And seven YK Delta communities will assess their water and sewer needs and how to meet them.David Beveridge, Project Management Director with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, said that these projects affect both the quality of life and health of rural communities.“Studies have shown that there’s a strong relationship between infectious disease and sanitation service in rural Alaska,” Beveridge said.For example, an infant living in a community with honey buckets in the region is five times more likely to be hospitalized from a lower respiratory infection and 11 times more likely to be hospitalized with pneumonia than an infant in the rest of the United States.Ann Capela, Bethel City Manager, discusses funding to design and construct improvements to the sewage lagoon truck dumpsite, and purchase additional sewer trucks in Bethel. (Photo by Katie Basile, KYUK – Bethel)Running water also means that people wash their hands more often and use fresh water when they do.After a series of speakers from Alaska and D.C. talked about the various projects, Dan Winkelman, CEO/President of YKHC, ended the gathering with a thank you and a reminder that there’s still a lot of work to do.“Although we have been making progress,” Winkelman said, “I think it’s much too slow for a lot of people that are out in the villages. They’re the more remote communities now, so they’re harder to get to. Costs are going to be expensive, but we still need to endure and make sure that we finish getting the people hooked up to water and sewer. Because it does make a difference in the lives of the people.”Winkelman said that to finish providing running water alone, about 1,500 YK Delta homes would have to be connected.