Elwood Brehmer

Anchorage on pace for bed tax record

All they major indicators show Alaska’s tourism industry has fully recovered from the depths of the “Great Recession.”

That is particularly evident in Anchorage, where bed tax revenue outpaced 2013 — a record year for the key industry metric — over the first half of the year. Visit Anchorage President and CEO Julie Saupe said the second act of the year should continue the trend when the numbers are final.

“Our fall season is going to be fantastic,” Saupe said.

Senate candidates spar over resources, federal overreach

Alaska’s major Senate candidates stuck with what’s got them where they are while debating resource development issues as Election Day closes in.

Former state Attorney General and Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan took as many shots at Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Barack Obama as he did at Sen. Mark Begich. He continually attempted to link the three and pressed Begich on a voting record he claims is in-step with the administration’s positions, a record Begich continually denied.

Alaska Air Group turns a record quarterly profit — again

The cliché that “records are made to be broken” is taken to heart at Alaska Air Group Inc., where yet another record quarterly profit of $200 million was announced Oct. 23.

The third quarter adjusted net earnings result is the ninth record in the last 10 quarters for the company that owns both Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air. It is also the 22nd consecutive profitable quarter for the company.

The record profit was a 27 percent increase versus the third quarter of 2013, also a record at the time, and equated to $1.47 per diluted share.

Eagle River 'brake light hill' getting a winter makeover

The moniker “brake light hill” should begin fading from the vernacular of Glenn Highway travelers in about a year. That’s the goal of the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities’ Eagle River bridge project.

DOT began work in late September to add a third lane to the northbound Glenn Highway between the Hiland Road and Artillery Road exits. As part of that work, a new, northbound bridge will be constructed.

The northbound grade will subsequently be reduced from 6 percent to 4 percent, which should improve traffic flow over the bridge, according to DOT.

Forward-thinking on LNG paying off for Talkeetna Lodge

Could the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge be a model for other businesses in other areas of the state without coveted natural gas infrastructure?

The liquefied natural gas supplier to CIRI Alaska Tourism’s expansive luxury resort thinks so.

“When you have a location that has enough energy usage that you can justify the capital expense and results in a savings compared to the alternative then there’s a potential for that to take place,” Fairbanks Natural Gas President and CEO Dan Britton said.

Walker against Pebble and EPA, suggests 5% agency cuts

Independent gubernatorial hopeful Bill Walker said he is skeptical of Pebble and that he would deal with the state’s shaky fiscal situation by suggesting 5 percent cuts in agency budgets as well as prioritizing the state’s growing laundry list of major infrastructure projects.

“Based on what I know at this point I’m not in favor of Pebble,” Walker said during an Oct. 10 sit-down with Journal editorial staff.

CIRI files opposition to Buccaneer sale proposal

Cook Inlet Region Inc. objected on multiple levels to Buccaneer Energy’s proposed bid and sale terms for the bankrupt oil and gas independent’s assets.

The Southcentral Alaska Native regional corporation’s Oct. 13 filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas claims that Buccaneer’s Oct. 7 motion, which requests its assets be sold together under one bid with a “naked” auction, will not draw fair market value.

HUD awards $7 million to Native villages

Alaska Native groups have been awarded nearly $7 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for housing projects across the state.

HUD Secretary Julian Castro made the announcement during an Oct. 6 visit to Anchorage hosted by Sen. Mark Begich.

In all, 15 Alaska communities from all regions of the state received up to $600,000 in Indian Community Development Block Grant Program, or ICDBG, funds. Nationwide, about $60 million of the competitive grant money went to more than 90 tribal communities from 23 states.

Keynote speakers come together for AFN 'Rise as One' theme

A horrific crime brought Miriam Aarons and Mao Tosi together. On Oct. 23, the pair of community organizers will share a message of collaboration as co-keynote speakers at the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention in Anchorage.

“I never thought in a million years I would ever be an AFN co-keynote speaker,” said Aarons, 32.

The 37-year-old Tosi is of Samoan descent. A former professional football player for the Arizona Cardinals, Tosi grew up in Anchorage and said being asked to headline the state’s premier Native gathering is an honor he is proud of and thankful for.

Miller bids for Buccaneer as CIRI gas dispute continues

There is a new suitor for Buccaneer Energy’s Alaska assets and a tangled web of legal challenges continue for the bankrupt independent producer.

Miller Energy Resources Inc. announced its intent to spend $40 million to $50 million on  “substantially all” of Buccaneer’s Alaska holdings in a Sept. 15 release. The Knoxville, Tenn.-based independent entered a non-binding letter of intent with Buccaneer, according to the release.

Miller is the parent company of Cook Inlet Energy LLC, which has an office in Anchorage.

Canada, UK show promise for unmanned aircraft systems

Commercial unmanned aircraft use in other countries is demonstrating how they could be used in Alaska once proper regulations are in place.

Curt Smith, a technology director for BP, said the company, which commissioned the first commercial overland, unmanned aircraft flight in the country on the North Slope in June, implements technology not because it’s cool, but because it makes sense and improves efficiency.

It's official: day boats will be built in Ketchikan

Alaska’s newest ferries will be the first made in the state after all.

Gov. Sean Parnell announced an agreement Sept. 20 between the state and Vigor Alaska to construct two Alaska Class ferries at Vigor’s Ketchikan shipyard.

Vigor Alaska estimated in a company release that the pair of 280-foot Alaska Marine Highway System ferries can be built for $101 million total, less than the state’s $120 million Vessel Replacement Fund.

$4M drilling program underway at graphite prospect

Graphite One Resources Inc. is slowly checking steps off its to-do list in preparation for development of its graphite claims north of Nome.

The Vancouver-based exploration company holds title to 129 claims at its Graphite Creek prospect on the Seward Peninsula.

It is in the midst of a $4 million drilling campaign, the commencement of which was announced in an Aug. 27 release.

The exploration will continue for about six weeks, until Oct. 15, Graphite One Vice President of Exploration Dean Besserer said in an interview.

RCA: state needs major power transmission improvements

Alaska has an adequate power supply but an insufficient transmission system, which together could be strained by new Environmental Protection Agency requirements, according to Regulatory Commission of Alaska members.

RCA Chair Bob Pickett told a legislative energy roundtable Sept. 5 that utilities have invested about $1.2 billion in new power generation infrastructure in recent years. However the state still needs roughly $900 million in upgrades to its transmission lines to fully realize the benefit of that new generation.

Buccaneer bankruptcy leaves millions in unpaid Alaska bills

Buccaneer Energy Ltd. and its family of subsidiaries filed for bankruptcy in May, leaving millions worth of unpaid bills in Alaska.

The Australia-based independent’s debt in the state is more than $2.1 million, according a list of Buccaneer’s 30 largest creditors filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas, located in Houston.

The Alaska Department of Revenue is listed as Buccaneer’s ninth-largest creditor and the second-largest in the state, with a bill of $605,116.

New Alaska FAA chief focused on safety

As the new head of the Federal Aviation Administration in Alaska, Kerry Long is focused on one word: safety.

The fact that other topics sometimes overshadow the agency’s core mission of promoting safe flying is a testament to how effective the FAA is and should not be forgotten, he said.

“I’m pleased that we can focus on issues of efficiency, on issues of getting somewhere late, where we don’t have to worry about if we’re going to get there,” he said. “I think that gets lost in translation. Aviation is still by far the safest mode of transportation.”

Flint Hills refinery closure makes for higher-priced asphalt

As paving season peaks, getting asphalt to construction sites across Alaska has become more complicated and expensive since Flint Hills Resources closed its North Pole oil refinery.

The real price of asphalt oil has spiked about 20 percent over last year — about $150 per ton — for construction projects in Fairbanks and more remote locations, Exclusive Paving General Manager Travis Cline said.

The reason for the cost increase is asphalt oil used for state Transportation Department Northern Region projects must now be trucked up from Tesoro’s Nikiski refinery.

Mat-Su officials to meet with feds over $12.3M ferry bill

Matanuska-Susitna Borough officials are prepping for negotiations with the U.S. Transportation Department to resolve $12.3 million the borough owes the feds for its failed ferry plan.

In all, the Mat-Su Borough received $21.2 million from the Federal Transit Administration from three grants awarded between 2002 and 2009 to jumpstart ferry service across Knik Arm between Port MacKenzie and Anchorage.

Financing plan OK'd for Interior Energy Project gas plant

The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority board of directors unanimously approved a key deal with its Interior Energy Project partner at its Aug. 25 meeting in Anchorage.

The North Slope LNG Concession Agreement, as it is known, between AIDEA and Northern Lights Energy LLC, a subsidiary of MWH Global Inc., puts a legal framework in place as the AIDEA-MWH team works towards a financing plan for the North Slope liquefied natural gas plant — the foundation of the plan to truck LNG down the Dalton Highway to customers in and around Fairbanks.

Anchorage kicks off new port work; $300M needed to finish

The Municipality of Anchorage officially hit the reset button on its port project Aug. 18 with the kickoff of a weeklong design work session.

Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan told a group of nearly 50 stakeholders gathered at the Port of Anchorage offices that he is confident in their ability to jumpstart the stalled construction project.

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