The Alaska Board of Fisheries is in the midst of two weeks of meetings on potential changes to fishing regulations in the Upper Cook Inlet. The meetings have become the most recent venue for what are often referred to as the “fish wars.” Commercial, sport, and subsistence fishermen all depend on a finite resource, and all of them want to make sure they get their share of the stock. Often, discussions center around the Kenai and Kasilof, but the Mat-Su Borough is doing its best to shift some focus to the Susitna River as well. Acting Borough Fish Commission chair Larry Engel says that sustainability has become a serious problem for the Valley. (more…)
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Early Wednesday morning, a juvenile led Alaska State Troopers on a chase that ended in the ditch near the intersection of the Parks Highway and the Talkeetna Spur Road. The pursuit began near Mile 36 of the Parks, where a Trooper attempted to stop the driver for speeding, failure to dim headlights, and erratic driving. Instead of pulling over, the 17 year old male sped off. The Trooper learned shortly thereafter that the 1997 Toyota Rav4 that he was pursuing had been reported stolen just a few minutes before the attempted traffic stop.
The chase continued for over sixty miles, then ended abruptly when the stolen Toyota hit a patch of ice and veered off of the highway, according to Trooper spokeswoman Megan Peters. One of the two Trooper vehicles involved in the pursuit hit the same patch of ice and began to slide. The Trooper was able to keep enough control of the vehicle to end up in the southbound ditch in order to avoid potentially sliding into oncoming traffic. The Trooper’s vehicle rolled onto its roof once it was in the ditch. Neither the Trooper or the juvenile driver were injured, and both were wearing seat belts.
The driver was taken to Palmer, where he was charged with vehicle theft, eluding, reckless driving, and driving without a valid license.
This week, the Alaska House Energy Committee heard testimony from the Alaska Energy Authority. While the meeting was not initially intended to focus on the Susitna-Watana Hydroelectric Project, a multitude of questions from legislators, as well as the presence of members of the Susitna River Coalition, prompted a shift that saw about half the meeting center around the proposed dam. (more…)
This week, Sunshine Community Health Center Executive Director David Bryant sent communication to KTNA reiterating that after-hours service is currently being conducted by phone consultation only. This comes after the practice was called into question by members of the Clinic Board of Directors at the monthly meeting last Tuesday.
In the past, it was possible to receive limited care in-person at the Sunshine Clinic after hours. As of last fall, however, that was changed to a system of “phone triage,” meaning that patients could receive advice from a medical provider through a telephone conversation. That advice could range from calling 911 to using over-the-counter or existing prescription medication. Dr. Philip Hess, Interim Medical Director for the Clinic, says that a number of safety concerns led to the change. (more…)
By: Kaitlin Daly
The 2014 Su-Valley basketball season is underway, and both the men’s and women’s teams have their eyes on making it to the state tournament. K-T-N-A’s Kaitlin Daly spoke with both coaches, and has this story:
On Monday, the Talkeetna Community Council Board of Directors held its regular monthly meeting. Agenda items included the Talkeetna riverfront, the recent DOT survey concerning road development on the western side of the Susitna, and the Alaska State Trooper post. There were also several reports from standing committees.
During the audience participation portion of the meeting, the Council received updates from Sunshine Transit and the Talkeetna Library. Kim Schlosser, the new director of Sunshine Transit, introduced herself and said that the first big project she plans to tackle in her new role is connecting the Willow and Talkeetna Transit routes to make it easier for Willow-based passengers to reach Talkeetna destinations other than the Clinic. Librarian Ann Yadon said that the bid to construct the new Talkeetna Library and Community Center is open. Bids are due on February 12th, and she says that it is possible that a contractor could be chosen by early March. (more…)
On Monday, the National Transportation Safety Board released over 2,000 pages of documents related to the investigation of the crash of the Alaska State Trooper helicopter Helo-1 near Talkeetna last March. The crash took the lives of pilot Mel Nading, Trooper Tage Toll, and Talkeetna resident Carl Ober. Ober had become stranded in bad weather and was retrieved by Helo-1. The helicopter crashed approximately seven minutes after taking off with Ober inside.
The documents do not make a determination of what caused the crash, instead, they detail many of the circumstances on the night of the accident as well as the flight and service records of both Mel Nading and Tage Toll. The documents show that Mel Nading had received multiple commendations for his service as Helo-1′s primary pilot, and interviews with colleagues characterize him as being careful and professional.
The structure of the Alaska State Troopers’ air operations was also scrutinized. In one document, the former supervisor of the aviation unit says that when she took the position, she was the fifth to fill the role in five years. Over time, she says she realized that was due to a lack of authority within the position. The same former supervisor says that she expressed concern over structural changes that assigned pilots directly to Trooper detachment, but was told “that’s just what’s happening.”
Also on Monday, the Alaska State Troopers issued a press release detailing a number of changes to the aviation unit, including the assignment of a new safety officer. The Troopers say they are also re-evaluating their standardized training, and have begun using new GPS tracking equipment in their aircraft. One major change will mean that multiple people are involved in the launching of any airborne search and rescue. On the night of Helo-1′s, crash, pilot Mel Nading ultimately made the decision to launch.
A final determination of why Helo-1 crashed has not been made, and no firm timeline for its release has been set.
The draft version of the initial study reports for the Susitna-Watana Hydroelectric Project is now available. On Monday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission posted more than ninety documents submitted by the Alaska Energy Authority detailing the initial findings of the fifty-eight studies that brought scores of scientists, pilots, and other logistical staff to the Upper Valley last summer. Studies outlined in the documents range from ice formation on the Susitna River, to potential impact on wood frog habitat.
Currently, future studies are in a state of uncertainty. In December, Governor Parnell’s proposed budget fell about ninety percent short of what would be needed to complete the field work and other work necessary for AEA to apply for a license to build the mega-project. The reason given for the budget cut was lack of access to land owned by Alaska Native Corporations. That lack of access also poses a physical barrier to a large portion of the land that needs to be studied in order for the project to move forward. As a result, AEA has moved its timeline for permit application from late 2015 to late 2016.
The final version of the initial study reports are due on June 3. Afterwards, stakeholders will have 120 days to review the findings before the first round of meetings to discuss the potential impacts of the proposed dam.
On Tuesday, the Sunshine Community Health Center Board of Directors held its regular monthly meeting. Attending these meetings has become a regular practice for many in the community, and Tuesday was no exception. Nearly twenty community members attended, though, in a departure from previous meetings, none asked to be recognized as persons to be heard.
Near the beginning of the meeting, Board President David Sutton informed the attending staff and community members that the Board may be receiving assistance in the near future in the form of grant funding and guidance.
“The Board has contacted the Mat-Su Health Foundation. We’ve also been in contact with Foraker Group. The Mat-Su Health Foundation has offered a $15,000 grant to Sunshine Community Health Center–this has been solicited by the Board–for assistance to help the Board positively navigate the process.” (more…)