‘Historic day’ as state partners with Tribes to provide child services

Alaska could save millions of dollars by transferring services through a “historic compact” signed by Gov. Bill Walker and tribes to provide child welfare services.

The new compact recognizes the authority of Alaska Tribes to provide services previously only delivered through the Office of Children’s Services. Lauded as the first of its kind in the U.S., it was signed at the 51st annual Alaska Federation of Natives Convention Oct. 19.

Movers and Shakers for Oct. 29

EPA designation for Yukon River complicates gasline plans

Alaska Gasline Development Corp. leaders are worried a special label the Environmental Protection Agency Region 10 office has placed on the Yukon River could challenge construction of both of their pipeline projects.

AGDC Senior Vice President Frank Richards said during the corporation’s Oct. 23 board meeting that the EPA has deemed the Yukon watershed an aquatic resource of national importance, or ARNI, as it relates to the in-state-focused Alaska Standalone Pipeline, or ASAP, and potentially the larger Alaska LNG Project.

ANWR fight far from finish line

Whether Congress opens the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling rigs could hinge on the fate of President Donald Trump’s tax plan.

The House and Senate have both passed budget resolutions that include provisions to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration.

Sweeney latest Alaskan tapped to join Trump administration

Arctic Slope Regional Corp. Executive Vice President Tara Sweeney’s nomination to assistant secretary of Indian Affairs is the latest signal that the Trump administration plans to involve Alaskans in helping to shape federal policies on everything from oil development to environmental cleanup.

Zinc prices help NANA rebound from oil crash

Strong returns from the Red Dog mine are helping NANA Regional Corp. overcome oil and gas industry losses.

NANA CEO Wayne Westlake said in an interview that the Northwest Alaska zinc mine is outpacing production forecasts at a time when zinc prices are high.

The open-pit Red Dog mine sits about 90 miles north of Kotzebue, the largest community in the region.

NANA, the Alaska Native regional corporation for the area, owns the mine that is operated by Vancouver-based Teck Resources Ltd.

Unique procedure gets Coast Guard medic back on track

U.S. Coast Guard medic Erin Murray had set her sights on search and rescue operations off Kodiak Island for the kind of work that involves being lowered from a helicopter to save drowning crewmen after a boat capsizes.

After years of being fit — soccer, tennis, workouts to maintain the regime of military fitness — at the age of 29 Murray found herself limping.

“In March of 2016, I had a knee injury and I couldn’t pinpoint the cause,” she said. “Working out made it worse. I couldn’t climb the stairs without holding on to the railing.”

GUEST COMMENTARY: Optimism for special session

We’re optimistic that our Alaska Legislature will be able to not only strengthen the course of criminal justice reform by passing SB 54, but also address our state’s fiscal crisis in the upcoming special session in Juneau. Here’s why:

Legislators and all Alaskans should be careful not to get so wrapped up in the ongoing debates over taxes, state spending and crime sprees, that we all miss the very real connection between our economy and the overall health of our state.

Senate approves budget that allows ANWR drilling

WASHINGTON (AP) — Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is one step closer to oil and gas drilling.

A budget measure approved by the Republican-controlled Senate late Thursday allows Congress to pursue legislation allowing oil and gas exploration in the remote refuge on a majority vote.

Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan of Alaska said Congress can create jobs and enhance energy security by opening a small section of the 19.6 million-acre site to drilling.

Alaskan picked to lead regional EPA office

Alaska state Commerce Commissioner Chris Hladick has been chosen to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's regional office based in Seattle.

Hladick will join the agency in December, the EPA said Tuesday.

Hladick will leave his state role Nov. 1, Alaska Gov. Bill Walker said. Mike Navarre, the outgoing mayor of the Kenai Peninsula Borough, will succeed Hladick at the state Commerce Department.

Hladick previously held city manager roles in several Alaska communities, including Unalaska and Dillingham.

AJOC EDITORIAL: Trump restores separation of powers

After President Barack Obama used Congressional intransigence as an excuse to upend the separation of powers spelled out in the Constitution, President Donald Trump is using the same reason to restore it.

Not once, not twice, but more than two dozen times, Obama told audiences and interviewers that the Constitution did not allow him to use an executive order to change the immigration status of millions of people brought to the country illegally as children.

INSIDE REAL ESTATE: Alaska housing agency should build on mission

Congratulations to the Alaska Housing Finance Corp. for being one of the best-managed public housing agencies in the nation. Established 45 years ago to provide “Alaskans access to safe, quality, affordable housing,” its mission is perhaps more important today than ever before.

FISH FACTOR: Dept. of Energy looks to seaweed as energy source

Kodiak is at the center of a national push to produce biofuels from seaweeds.

Agents from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, ARPA-E, recently traveled to the island to meet with a team of academics, scientists, businesses and local growers to plan the first steps of a bicoastal pilot project to modernize methods to grow sugar kelp as a fuel source.

The project is bankrolled by a $500,000 grant to the University of Alaska Fairbanks through a new DOE program called Macroalgae Research Inspiring Novel Energy Resources, or MARINER.

Electronic monitoring rolling out in 2018 after years of work

Alaska fishermen will see changes to the mandatory observer program next year.

After years of requests, testing and prepping, the National Marine Fisheries Service is rolling out a more-complete electronic monitoring program for small boat fishermen who are directed to have partial observer coverage as part of the 2018 observer program.

Electronic Monitoring uses cameras and sensors to record and monitor fishing activities, and help ensure the accuracy of catch records. Normally, that work is done by human observers who are placed on fishing vessels.

Major crab harvests down again, Tanners reopen

Biologists had some less-than-stellar news about Alaska’s crab fisheries this month: surveys have shown that several species’ biomass have declined in the past year, although Tanner crab are on the rebound compared to past years.

Last year, the big crab harvests — Bristol Bay red king crab, along with Tanner and snow crabs — were all cut, with Tanners closed completely, due to concerns about the amount showing up in surveys. So this year’s news was not out of the blue, and the reopening of the Tanner crab fishery was an upshot.

Karluk Tribe keeps up fight over ownership of river

Centuries of tides changed the Karluk River’s course and the Tribe that continues to claim ownership today.

Storms in Shelikof Strait altered the beach where the ancient Alutiiq people settled thousands of years ago on Kodiak Island. It sent up big boulders, not just sand and pebbles. Slate blue waters covered the homes of those people and when that wasn’t enough, swallowed the artifacts so that only divers can regain its past for future people. It made more modern generations move.

GUEST COMMENTARY: Congress should protect Alaskans’ rights to arbitration

In a recent class action lawsuit against Ticketmaster, the court ordered the company to pay out $42 million over four years, and no less than $10.5 million per year to consumers.

However, the reality of what consumers actually received is detailed in a New York Times article entitled, “Why You Probably Won’t Get to Use Your Ticketmaster Vouchers.”

Outlined in the article is the fine print of the settlement including the difficulty consumers have in actually receiving any remuneration.

‘Bioblitz’ turns up no new non-native aquatics

WHITTIER — When on the hunt for invaders, no news is usually good news.

That’s exactly the kind of good news Smithsonian Environmental Research Center scientists were able to report to the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council after a summer-long search in 2016 for non-indigenous species in the waters around Valdez.

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