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Bears, bushwhacking and otherworldly peaks: 12 days in Gates of the Arctic National Park

Thu, 2019-04-18 17:18

This is an installment of Cautionary Tales, an ongoing series about lessons learned the hard way in the Alaska outdoors.

GATES OF THE ARCTIC NATIONAL PARK AND PRESERVE — It didn't sink in until after our pilot dropped us off on a gravel bar, the buzz of his plane fading into the steady current of the Alatna River: We were here, in Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve. This trip was actually happening. We wouldn't be back in civilization for another 11 days. And there was no turning back.

I and three friends — Andi Schweers, Jussi Ruottinen and Steven Claggett — had set out to explore the Arrigetch Peaks, a cluster of sleek, jagged granite mountains in the Brooks Range. Andi and Steven wanted to climb with an eye toward Caliban, a peak on which three Alaska climbers completed a new route earlier this summer. Jussi brought his camera gear to add to his portfolio of spectacular mountain images.

As for me, I wasn't sure what I wanted to get out of our trip. But I was happy to be part of the Arrigetch crew.

From left, Andi Schweers, Steven Claggett and Jussi Ruottinen hike in Arrigetch Valley in Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018. (Vicky Ho / ADN)
Jussi Ruottinen hikes along a ridge in the Arrigetch Peaks on Monday, Sept. 3, 2018. (Vicky Ho / ADN)
Vicky Ho, back, Andi Schweers, front left, and Steven Claggett take a break at the base of Caliban, one of the mountains in the Arrigetch Peaks, on Friday, Aug. 31, 2018. (Jussi Ruottinen)

It's not easy to get to Gates of the Arctic, a wilderness park that encompasses 8.4 million acres. With no roads or trails offering access into the park, visitors must hike in or fly in, the main gateway communities being Anaktuvuk Pass, Coldfoot and Bettles. And while 8,000 to 12,000 people stop at the park's visitors centers each year, in reality, just a fraction of that number will actually set foot in the park.

We left Anchorage around 4 a.m. in the quiet darkness of a Sunday morning, settling into the 12-plus-hour drive to Coldfoot. We dodged potholes on the Dalton Highway, at which point it dawned on us: This was the farthest north any of us had ever been.

From left, Jussi Ruottinen, Vicky Ho, Steven Claggett and Andi Schweers fly in Coyote Air’s 1953 de Havilland Beaver from Coldfoot to the Arrigetch Peaks. (Jussi Ruottinen)

The next day, by the time we had loaded everything into Coyote Air's 1953 de Havilland Beaver named Pumpkin, we were fidgety with anticipation. After an hourlong flight over winding rivers and rolling mountains, pilot Dirk Nickisch left us at the gravel bar. Then it was just the four of us, our packs and an Arctic wilderness none of us had previously explored.

Soggy days, cozy nights

After crossing two creeks and skirting around boggy flats, we hiked among alders that clawed at our arms and legs, occasionally thwacking our faces and snagging on gear. Our path took us over ankle-rolling tussocks and waterlogged tundra. Under normal circumstances, the hike would have been easy. With bulky 80-pound packs on, it was a tiresome slog through beautiful country.

Eight miles in, we reached a clearing suitable for establishing a base camp and squeezed the four of us into my three-person mountaineering tent. (If we weren't already comfortable with one another before, we were after several nights of dogpiling into that tent.)

Since Andi and Steven were focusing on climbing objectives, Jussi and I ventured off on scouting missions and set up satellite camps deeper into Arrigetch Valley and in the Aquarius Valley nearby. The autumn colors were a marvel, vibrant with the flaming reds and eye-popping oranges of autumn.

Clouds and light play on Caliban, one of the mountains in the Arrigetch Peaks, in Gates of the Arctic National Park on Aug. 31, 2018. (Vicky Ho / ADN)

Weather moved quickly in and out of the valleys, and on rainy days, we were enveloped in a mist and fog that played hide-and-seek with the mountains. When temperatures dropped, graupel pelted us from the sky. We’d wake up to frosty tents and, for some, frozen hiking boots. It rained often enough to where, as soon as we’d managed to dry our clothes during bouts of sunshine, the skies would pour down on us once more.

We started to reek of sweat, muck and perpetually damp socks. But at least the tundra smelled sweeter when the sun shined.

After a brief spell of rain, a rainbow emerges in the Arrigetch Valley on Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018. (Vicky Ho / ADN)

One of my favorite campsites was near the banks of Arrigetch Creek, which slows to a near-standstill in spots and picks up swiftly in others. I'd fill a bottle with frigid water where the creek runs fast and clear. Dwarfed by the peaks and surrounded by golden foliage, I took long, slow sips in a communion with nature — feeling more in, and of, the world.

Breakfast interrupted

One morning, I was taking the last bite of my breakfast — instant mashed potatoes gussied up with cheddar and salami — when I looked up and saw a hulking brown mass on the hill close by. A moose? I squinted in the sunlight.

Definitely not a moose.

The sow brown bear trailed by two cubs took a moment to evaluate the scene. I looked in their direction. They looked in my direction. I started shouting "Hey bear!" in low, authoritative tones, waving my arms just in case they had somehow managed to miss me standing in front of them.

They weren't impressed. Once they sauntered toward our cook site, I sidestepped and backed away slowly, trying not to trip on rocks while also scanning the terrain for Jussi, who had strayed while photographing the morning light on the peaks and left his bear spray near the tent.

The gnawed-on antlers and partial skull of a caribou lie on the tundra near Aquarius Valley on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018. (Vicky Ho / ADN)
Andi Schweers, top, and Steven Claggett climb a boulder, featuring Caliban in the background, in the Arrigetch Peaks on Friday, Aug, 31, 2018. (Jussi Ruottinen)
Jussi Ruottinen hikes up a ridge above the Aquarius Valley on Monday, Sept. 3, 2018. (Vicky Ho / ADN)

At last, I saw a small blue dot moving far into the valley.

"Jussi! BEAR!"

He could barely hear me, but he turned in my direction and replied with a loud, "What?"

"Bear! BEAR! Three of them!" I did my best pantomime of the situation, shouting and using language too colorful to publish to send him my way.

From left, Jussi Ruottinen, Andi Schweers and Steven Claggett hike up loose boulders near the base of Albatross, a mountain in the Arrigetch Peaks, on Friday, Aug. 31, 2018. (Vicky Ho / ADN)

Eventually, he got the message, and we watched as the sow rolled around on the tundra and the cubs frolicked behind. They'd gotten their paws on Jussi's pack and shredded a dry bag before lumbering down the berry-rich valley — about the best-case scenario we could've hoped for, all things considered.

Finding clarity

Over the course of 12 days, we roamed amid the stark beauty of the Brooks Range. We scrambled on boulders sculpted by water, ice and time. Lichen the color of paprika peppered fields of rock, giving the landscape a Martian feel. Quartz of pristine white littered creek beds and scree slopes like strewn treasure.

Through the course of a day, the sun would sweep through the sky in a long, low curve, arcing from ridge to ridge. At sunset, alpenglow set peaks ablaze with pinkish-orange light, as clouds streaming past gave the impression of smoke.

At one point, Jussi woke us up in the middle of the night to alert us to the aurora, which had stayed hidden until now. The northern lights filled the open sky as we emerged from the tent into the frozen cold. Pulsing in green with a hint of purple, the aurora shimmered, danced, swirled and wavered in all directions, every view brilliant.

Thrilled and captivated, we watched the display in hushed silence. Then, slowly, the lights receded into the night.

Approaching the end of our trip, Jussi and I hiked up tundra and talus to gain a ridge that leads to the Maidens, mirrored peaks that point into the sky with almost perfect symmetry. From the top we could peer into a valley we hadn't explored, and gained a new vantage point to appreciate the areas we had.

A beam of sunlight pierces through the clouds to illuminate the valley in front of Elephant’s Tooth, a mountain in the Arrigetch, in this panorama taken shortly before sunset on Monday, Sept. 3, 2018. (Vicky Ho / ADN)

The landscape lay outstretched before us, presenting the streams and mountains in a showcase of nature's glory. An evening sunray pierced the clouds above Caliban to spotlight a swath of tundra below.

I felt a familiar sense of what I call mountain delirium: a moment of exultant joy when I'm overwhelmed with awe and gratitude for life, for the opportunity to be in this place at this time.

One of my favorite moments from a 12-day trip to Gates of the Arctic National Park: Hiking to the top of a ridge and seeing the rest of the Arrigetch Peaks from a new perspective. Fall in the Brooks Range is a beautiful thing. #alaskalife

— Vicky Ho (@hovicky) September 12, 2018

That was when I realized: I may not have known earlier what I had come to the Arrigetch for. But whatever it was, at the top of that ridge, I found it.

Vicky Ho is the deputy editor/online at the Anchorage Daily News. An avid hiker and skier, she’s also a mediocre runner, terrible biker and part-time employee at a local outdoor retailer. Contact her at, on Twitter @hovicky or Instagram @hovcky.

The sunset casts pinkish light on distant peaks seen from a campsite in the Arrigetch Valley on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018. (Vicky Ho / ADN)
Jussi Ruottinen hikes across snow on Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018. (Vicky Ho / ADN)
Xanadu, Albatross, Ariel and Caliban — mountains in the Arrigetch Peaks — tower over Arrigetch Creek on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018. (Vicky Ho / ADN)
Vicky Ho admires the view of Arrigetch Valley while hiking in Gates of the Arctic National Park on Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018. (Jussi Ruottinen)

Chugiak middle school student arrested for threat on bathroom wall, police say

Thu, 2019-04-18 17:10

Mirror Lake Middle School, May 3, 2018. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes/)

A student at Mirror Lake Middle School in Chugiak was arrested Thursday after a threat was found written on a wall in a girls bathroom, according to the Anchorage Police Department.

Middle school staff informed a school resource officer of the threat at 11:43 a.m. Thursday, said an alert from police issued around 4 p.m.

“The threat was directed at the school for Friday,” police said.

The officer and staff identified a student suspect. She was questioned and arrested. No weapons were found, according to police. Charges were sent to the Division of Juvenile Justice.

Anchorage police weren’t releasing additional details Thursday, including the contents of the threat and at what time the officer contacted the student suspect, said Renee Oistad, police spokeswoman.

Catherine Esary, school district spokeswoman, described the threat as “unspecified." It made no mention of a weapon, she said.

Esary and Oistad said they didn’t believe the school went into a lockdown as a result of the threat.

“It was quickly contained,” Esary said.

[Why do students copycat? Experts break down the wave of threats that swept Anchorage schools]

This is the second threat connected to Mirror Lake Middle School within the last month. On March 25, police investigated a “a potential non-specific threat” posted by a student on Instagram, reported the Chugiak-Eagle River Star.

He’s from Western Alaska and using traditional Native skills to succeed on 'American Ninja Warrior’

Thu, 2019-04-18 16:57

Nick Hanson of Unalakleet trains this summer on the obstacle course he and friends built in the Western Alaska coastal village to prepare for “American Ninja Warrior.” (Photos courtesy of Isaiah Woods)

BETHEL – Under an I-beam gripping his way along an inch-wide lip, Unalakleet's Nick Hanson reached deep to hang on and move through the pain.

The challenge was the most grueling of those he faced on the June 1 season premiere of "American Ninja Warrior." The NBC competition show with an ultra obstacle course drew more than 6 million viewers and was the most-watched network program of the night.

"It's killer. You are hanging on by the tips of your fingers," Hanson said a few days after watching the premiere at his parents' Peace on Earth pizza place in Unalakleet. Everyone else was so on edge that he was shaking, too, even though he knew the ending: He made it into the next round. "I really just kinda used 100 percent willpower to get through that one."

Hanson, 28, has built his own training obstacle course in his Western Alaska coastal village of Unalakleet, home to fewer than 700 people. There's no rock climbing out there.

Still, in the village, there are plenty of ways to exercise, and Hanson is all about fitness. He lives ultrahealthy — no drinking, no tobacco. He's setting an example by intention, but he's also hard-wired for clean living in a harsh place.

"I don't even drink soda. That's how far I take it," Hanson said.

For "American Ninja," he drew on tests of self that others couldn't from his own experiences in the Arctic Winter Games and the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics.

Consider that I-beam challenge.

"I relate that obstacle to my knuckle hop in WEIO," Hanson said. Athletes in a fisted pushup position hop along their knuckles and toes for as long as they can stand it on a hardwood floor, shredding their hands along the way.


"It's really like one more hop, one more hop when you get to the end. You're dying. You're trying to push your body to the next level," Hanson said. "That experience in knuckle hop really helped me dig deep on the I-beam."

Earlier this year, Hanson, who is 5 foot, 10 inches and 170 pounds, won a gold ulu in the 2-foot high kick at the Arctic Winter Games in Greenland, a bronze in the knuckle hop and a number of fair play awards for his sportsmanship. His world record in the scissor broad jump, which requires four hops and steps without a loss of balance, still holds at 36 feet, 7 inches.

"Arctic Winter Games: Training grounds for the next American Ninja Warrior!" the games' Team Alaska exclaimed in a statement.

Village obstacle course

Hanson is documenting his experiences with YouTube videos under the name “The Eskimo Ninja” that, among other things, show his hand-built course at the end of a rugged world. He used new, sturdy plywood for his 14-foot warped wall, a curved obstacle that athletes on the show must get climb to ring the finish bell. But much of his course is built with driftwood, studs from a burned house and other scraps.

Nick Hanson of Unalakleet works out in May 2015 on his obstacle course. His dog Snapchat watches as Hanson hangs off the top of the warped wall. (Bret Hanson)

In one video from May, his friend Isaiah Woods is tying ropes on old doors dragged back from the town dump to replicate a challenge in which contestants must maneuver in the air from one suspended door to the next.

"Isaiah struggles a lot with figuring out how to tie stuff down, even though he's a fisherman," Hanson says. Woods fake-stumbles. "That about sums it up!" goes Hanson.

His videos are quirky and fun and sometimes serious. In this one, Hanson points to a "Play at your own risk" flyer posted on the obstacle course. He talks about how he made a minicourse for children and how the big one is for his training.

"If you get hurt, it's on you," he says.

A friend, Forest Strick, also helped him add onto the course this year. Strick moved to the village to train and is hoping to make it on the show in 2017.

In fifth gear

Children in the village who were fans of "American Ninja" last year convinced school coach Hanson to give it a try.

His submission video, produced with Woods, showed him building two obstacles always on the show, a salmon ladder – a pullup bar that contestants push up ever higher rungs – and the warped wall.

"But mostly it involved the Native games that I've played," Hanson said. "It's a TV show and they are not just looking for a strong guy. They could find those by the millions in Los Angeles. So they are looking for a different story."

He says he is doing the show for Native people and especially for the kids. If he can do something like that, so can they, he tells them.

He was squeezed out last year in the qualifying round by 3/10 of a second. But he had a blast trying.

"Technically, I lost," Hanson said of his first try. "I want to show them, 'Hey, I can come back.' Even though you lost, you stick to it. You can get better at things and learn from your failures."

This year, for the show's eighth season, he has his game face on.

"I put my training into fifth gear," he said.

The warped wall this season was 6 inches higher than before, higher than the one he built with a rock wall on the other side. But tough Bush conditions bring benefits.

"It's actually harder than the one on the show. It's on the beach so I have sand to run up against before I get to the top. It's a lot slipperier," Hanson said. And it's not on level ground, so tilts a bit forward. The inward curve is even more extreme.

"You really have to commit. If you don't commit to my warped wall, you are going to have to jump about 14 feet, back to the ground."

This season, Hanson was the first competitor on the show to make it up the taller wall.

A stormtrooper in Juneau

His father, Bret, is non-Native and from a lot of places. His mother, Davida, is Inupiaq with family roots in Barrow. Bret used to be a contractor but now is more of a entrepreneur. They run the pizza place, a bed and breakfast and a lumberyard.

Hanson hunts and fishes and lives a traditional life with now-extraordinary elements. He loves the dried black meat of bearded seal, or oogruk, and his all-time favorite food is muktuk, bowhead skin and blubber. He says he once got second in muktuk eating at the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics.

"Could eat 5 pounds of it without blinking," he said in an email.

A crew came to Unalakleet to film him for the state of Alaska campaign "Play Every Day." He traveled to Los Angeles to demonstrate Native games at a fundraiser for a suicide prevention and wellness program called "Popping Bubbles" created by Ariel Tweto, a reality TV star who also grew up in Unalakleet. Last year, after his first try on "American Ninja," he did a round of motivational speaking.

In May, Alaska's first lady Donna Walker honored him as one of 13 top volunteers of the year for the state for his work with community youth including starting a 5K fun run.

"Yeah, super intense," he says on his YouTube video about his trip to the capital for lunch with the governor. "The coolest part about landing in Juneau was this," Hanson says, pausing before turning his phone to a display case holding something startling for Alaska, a "Star Wars" stormtrooper costume. He gives the look and keeps on.

Nick Hanson of Unalakleet works out in May 2015 on his obstacle course. (Bret Hanson)

Hanson sees the despair around him even as he builds strength inside and out. Of the 12 teammates on Hanson's high school basketball team, six have killed themselves, he said.

"So that means, of my teammates, I have five left," he said.

Alcohol and suicide twist around each other into a deadly spiral, he said. He doesn't drink, never has. His mother is long sober but when he was young, he said, she drank.

"When she quit drinking, it was like the clouds were removed from the sky," Hanson said. "All of a sudden, the sun was brighter and everything was more positive."

'Careful, Nick'

In Unalakleet, he coaches cross-country, volleyball, Native Youth Olympics and a bit of basketball though he's dialed that one down to serve as assistant to the assistant so he can train and build his house. He's worked as a teacher aide and has been studying to be a teacher.

He played just about every sport as a kid.

"We've been chasing him around his whole school career," his father Bret said.

Hanson is working on his house and other construction projects in the village through the lens of a TV ninja in training. He'll climb a ladder as fast as he can, or skip it altogether if there's a ledge he can use.

When he competed in Los Angeles, he wore an atikluk – the Inupiaq word for kuspuk – to the arena. His parents and girlfriend Joanne Semaken were there with a crowd of his supporters, cheering him on. Even the athletes have to make their own way to the competition. GCI, which is featuring Hanson in its "Alaska Born and Raised" ad campaign, is covering some of his expenses. Others posted Facebook videos watching it at home.

"Careful there, Nick," an elder can be heard saying on one.

"Eskimo! Eskimo!" his fans in the studio audience yelled.

Hanson, whose Inupiaq name is Iligutchiak after a great uncle, said he embraces the word "Eskimo," even though it's out of favor among some. President Obama recently signed legislation replacing it with "Alaska Native" in federal laws.

Older people are the ones typically offended, Hanson said, but his aapa and his aaka – grandpa and grandma – up in Barrow call him Eskimo Ninja. Just think of the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics, he said. That's a huge gathering that celebrates sport and tradition, and it bears a name that brings pride.

Besides Los Angeles, the "American Ninja" competitions this year is in Atlanta, Indianapolis, Oklahoma City and Philadelphia. The LA finals, which will include Hanson, are set to air on NBC July 11. Hanson said he isn't allowed to talk about how he does before a show airs.

The top competitors end up in Las Vegas for national finals. If he won the $1 million prize, Hanson said he would finish his home and help his parents and other family members with anything they needed so everyone would have good shelter when winter comes. Then he would send his parents on a special vacation, he said. "A honeymoon again, so to speak."

He would stay in the village. It's his home, he said.

A couple of days after the premiere, Hanson posted a video thanking everyone who helped and backed him. He put in a plug for his Unalakleet running club and urged all runners to go out and do a mile.

“Peace out,” he said.

Gavel Alaska is vital to democracy in our state

Thu, 2019-04-18 16:42

The iPod that plays Gavel Alaska's "at-ease" music sits in the control room at KTOO, Juneau's public broadcasting station. (Gavel Alaska)

One item that has received relatively little attention so far in Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s draconian budget proposal is his plan to eliminate state support for public broadcasting. Many communities in rural Alaska depend on their public radio stations for news and information.

Included in the public broadcasting budget line is Gavel Alaska, which provides live coverage of the Alaska Legislature, including committee meetings, Alaska Senate and House floor sessions, press conferences and other legislative events. Each meeting is archived so that Alaskans can watch it even if they miss the original broadcast or livestream. Gavel Alaska allows Alaskans in in widely dispersed communities — with a state capitol that is off the road system — to keep themselves informed about what is happening in Juneau.

While it would be hard to impute specific motive to a budget poised to slash and burn all kinds of services to the public good in our state, we have to wonder if this is not an attack on democracy itself.

People all across Alaska, particularly in rural communities, watch Gavel Alaska to see how the Legislature works. Alaska was on the cutting edge back in 1995 when Gavel Alaska began, but now all 50 states have televised legislative sessions. Gavel Alaska, however, is known to be particularly robust because in addition to legislative meetings, it records oral arguments before the Alaska Supreme Court, administration press conferences and briefings, general government activities and other meetings about legislative issues or of political interest.

This is a great service to Alaskans and to democracy in the state, but if the governor’s Americans for Prosperity-sponsored budget road show is any indication of his commitment to the democratic process, eliminating the support for this important service seems par for his administration’s disastrous and anti-democratic/pro-corporate course.

The Department of Administration House Finance Subcommittee recently restored the funding to Alaska Public Broadcasting, but that does not mean it is safe. Even though only about ten percent of Gavel Alaska’s funding comes from the state, cutting state support threatens this vital service to our democracy. All Alaskans should let their representatives know that Gavel Alaska is important to them and the self-governing Alaska they want to see.

Nelta Edwards is the board chair of the Alaska Public Interest Research Group (AkPIRG) which was established in 1974 and has advocated for consumer protection and good government for the past 45 years.

The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at) Send submissions shorter than 200 words to or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

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Thu, 2019-04-18 15:28

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If you sign up for an account with us, either directly or through one of our affiliates or service providers (which is required in order to view some content offered through the Services or to make certain submissions), or use Facebook Connect in conjunction with the Services, then we may use your personal data to maintain your account and to correspond with you. We may use your personal data to provide you with products and services you have asked for, including allowing you to interact, comment, and participate in online games and contests. We may use your information to monitor, improve and protect our products, content, services and websites, both online and offline. We may also provide you with help and support where we believe it is required.

2. Personalize Content and Offers.

We may use your personal data to send you materials that we think would be of interest to you. We may also use cookies, web beacons, and other technology to help us recognize your computer/device and help us understand where our users go and how much time they spend there. We may also use these technologies, as well as geo-location technologies, to deliver content that is customized to you. If you do not wish to have us collect and use information collected from cookies, you should disable cookies on your computer/device. You should refer to your browser's help menu for up-to-date information on blocking cookies and other technologies. Currently, the Site is not designed to respond to any "Do Not Track" signals or other similar mechanisms. For more information about our use of cookies and similar technology, please see the "Cookies and Online Tracking" section of this Privacy Policy.

3. Send You Direct Marketing.

We may use your personal data to make decisions about what direct marketing to show you. This may include communications by post, telephone, email, messages (including push notifications from installed apps) to your devices, through social media (such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) and on the Site, or on other websites, as you browse the Internet. The communications may contain information about our products, services, events and offers. We may also send you information, offers and promotions from our commercial customers and partners where you have given your consent. To opt-out of direct marketing, please see the instructions in the "Access and Control Your Information" section of this Privacy Policy.

4. Send You Product-Related and Similar Product and Services Communications.

If you email us, submit information to us, or ask to be placed on a mailing list that we maintain, then we may contact you and send information to you. We may send you information, exclusive offers and promotions about similar products and services to those that you have already engaged with or purchased, if you have previously given your consent. We may send you service messages by email, SMS, social media, postal mail, or other methods, containing important information about changes to our services or your account. To opt-out of receiving product–related and similar product and services communications, please follow the instructions in the communication, change your account settings or email us at

5. Conduct Market Research and Perform Analytics.

We may use your personal data to improve our marketing and promotional efforts, as part of a statistical usage analysis, and/or to improve the features and content of the Services. Specifically and among other methods, we may use Google Analytics, which collects user information using first-party cookies (such as the Google Analytics cookie) or other first-party identifiers and third-party cookies (such as Google advertising cookies) and or other third-party identifiers. For more information about how Google collects and processes your data, please visit: If you wish to opt-out of Google Analytics, we direct you to Google’s opt-out mechanism at

6. Gain Audience Insights.

We may provide our commercial customers and partners with information about the effectiveness and reach of advertising campaigns that they have planned or carried out. This information is aggregated and does not identify individual people. For example, we may tell advertisers how many customers their advertisements can reach based on demographic criteria they select or how many times an advertisement was viewed.

7. Detect Ad Blockers.

When you visit the Site, we may check (using cookies, code, script or other technical means) to see if you have an ad blocker installed on your device or if your internet browser settings allow advertisements. If we detect that your device or internet browser is using an ad blocker, we may ask you to "whitelist," trust or pause blocking advertisements while you visit the Site. If you continue to use an ad blocker this may have an impact on the content you are able to see on the Site.

8. Third-Party Advertising.

In some instances, targeted advertising may be displayed on the Site by third parties. Please be aware that the Company's advertisers, business partners, sponsors, service providers, vendors and third parties accessible through the Services (such as via links from the Site and/or through Facebook Connect) may have their own privacy practices. Company is not responsible for any actions or policies of such third parties. You should check the applicable privacy policies of the third parties when providing information to them. These third parties may provide your personal data to the Company and may also use the information in accordance with their own privacy practices. Company does not provide the personal data of its subscribers to its advertisers, other than in aggregated/anonymized form. However, through use of cookies and similar trackers by Company’s advertisers, Company’s advertisers may be able to determine your IP address, website visitation history and other information simply based on your interaction with the advertiser’s ads and the websites you visit (including Company’s website). The advertisers may then deliver targeted advertising to you. You may choose not to allow certain targeted third-party advertising. For more information about this practice, including how to opt-out, please see Sections L ("Cookies and Online Tracking") and F ("Access and Control Your Information") [make links] of this Privacy Policy. Please note that if you opt out, you will still see advertising posted on the Site, but it will not necessarily be targeted as directly to your interests.

9. Provide Co-Branded Services and Features.

We may offer co-branded services or features, such as competitions or other promotions, together with a third party and may share the information you provide with that third party with your consent. These co-branded services may be hosted by the Company or by the third party. In these instances the third party may also be a data controller for your information. In this case, the third party’s use of your information will be governed by their privacy policy, which you should always read. To opt-out of sharing your information with such third parties, please email

10. Disclose Information as Permitted or Required by Law.

Your personal data may be disclosed where we are permitted or required by law to do so, such as pursuant to a court order, warrant, subpoena, or discovery request. We may also disclose your personal data where we are allowed by law in cases where we believe in good faith that it is necessary to prevent a crime, an injury or financial loss to ourselves or to third parties.

11. Ensure Services Are Being Used Appropriately.

If you engage in disruptive behavior anywhere on the Site or in the Services, including violations of the Terms of Use, we may use your personal data to stop such behavior. This may involve informing and responding to relevant third parties such as law enforcement agencies about the content and your behavior.

12. Sale of Our Business or Bankruptcy.

In conjunction with the sale or offering for sale of some or all of the Company or in the event of the Company's bankruptcy, assignment for the benefit of creditors, or similar financial circumstances, your personal data may be part of the assets disclosed.

13. Sale or License of Personal Data for Targeting Marketing.

We do not sell or license your personal data to third parties for purposes of their direct marketing to you. We may, however, provide our vendors with your personal data so that the vendors can contact you on our behalf to provide you with content that we feel may be of interest to you, or in order to provide you with other communications that may be of interest to you. You may opt-out of this practice by emailing us at or following the procedures set forth in the "Access and Control Your Information" section of this Privacy Policy.

14. Process Payments and Check Your Identity.

Customer personal data will be used to take payment for products and services and may be used to verify credit details related to this payment. Permission to do so is implicit in providing financial details to process payment. Direct debit or continuous payment authority information, including card details, may be retained in accordance with our regulatory requirements, by us or our payment processors for ease of renewal of services. Additionally, we may receive updated payment details from your bank or payment provider from time to time, which we may use to ensure that your details are kept up to date and to allow us to take future payments. Financial institutions, such as those which process credit card orders, are subject to federal privacy laws. If we provide a service to you that is dependent on age or residency, and we have an obligation to verify this information, then we may pass your details to a third party to carry out the verification for us.

15. Ensure Our Products and Services Conform with Industry Standards.

We may share your personal data with auditors for the purposes of verifying that we comply with relevant standards. This may require them to access your information in our systems.

16. Share Between Our Vendors for Analytics, Analysis, Audience Insights, Business Efficiencies, Content Personalization, and Delivery of Relevant Advertising.

The Company may rely on our legitimate interests as an advertising-funded organization to share your information with our vendors to perform analytics and analysis of how you interact with the Site, develop relevant products and services, deliver more relevant advertising and show you relevant content. To opt-out of sharing your information with such vendors, please email Please bear in mind that opting-out will relate to any future sharing and not to information already shared. A list of our vendors can be found here:

17. Disclosure to Our Processors.

We may pass your information to our processors – companies that we use to provide services on our behalf, for example for home delivery services, prize fulfilment agencies, market research or other purposes mentioned in this Privacy Policy. These processors can only use your information in accordance with our instructions and for no other purpose.


1. Legal Bases

There are a number of legal grounds that enable us to collect and use your personal data. Below are the most relevant:

i. With Your Consent ("Consent")

There are some activities where we process personal data with your consent, such as asking permission to send you marketing materials by email. You can opt-out or withdraw consent at any time. However, if you opt-out or withdraw consent, we may not be able to provide the product or service you have requested.

ii. To Fulfill a Contract ("Contract")

We may process your personal data in order to fulfil a contract we have with you. For example, we would use your information to provide you with access to your digital subscription or other products you have signed up for or to provide information regarding contests you have entered (such as to notify you if you win a prize to which you are entitled).

iii. For a Legitimate Interest ("Legitimate Interest")

We may use your information where there is a legitimate reason to do so and only if it is fair and lawful. When we rely on legitimate interests as the basis for collecting your information, we will balance our legitimate interests versus your privacy rights.

Our legitimate interests include:

  1. Support for a free press, including journalist activities of societal importance;
  2. Support for the right to receive information;
  3. Development, delivery, and maintenance of relevant and engaging products, services, and advertising;
  4. Understanding how and when our audience engages and interacts with us and other organizations;
  5. Improvement of our ability to serve our audience;
  6. Conducting commercial business; and
  7. Compliance with industry standards.

iv. To Comply with Legal Obligations ("Legal Obligation")

Under certain circumstances, we may process your personal data to ensure compliance with legal and regulatory obligations or to prosecute or defend claims.

2. Purpose of Processing

The specific legal basis for our use will depend on the purpose the information is used for. Please note that we may rely on more than one legal basis for our use.

table.purpose {border: #ccc 1px solid} table.purpose td {margin:0;padding: 2px;border: #ccc 1px solid; width: 50%;} Purpose of Processing Legal Basis Provide products and services that are relevant to you, improve your experience, and manage our relationship with you Consent, Contract, Legitimate Interest, Legal Obligation Personalize content and offers Consent, Contract, Legitimate Interest Send you direct marketing Consent, Legitimate Interest Send you product-related and similar product and services communications Consent, Contract, Legitimate Interest Conduct market research and perform analytics Consent, Legitimate Interest Gain audience insights Consent, Legitimate Interest Detect ad blockers Contract, Legitimate Interest, Legal Obligation Allow third-party advertising Consent, Contract, Legitimate Interest Provide co-branded services and features Consent, Contract, Legitimate Interest Disclose information as permitted or required by law Consent, Contract, Legal Obligation Ensure services are being used appropriately Legitimate Interest, Legal Obligation Sale of our business Legitimate Interest, Legal Obligation Sale or license to third parties for direct marketing Consent, Legitimate Interest Process payments, check your identity Consent, Contract, Legitimate Interest, Legal Obligation Disclosure to processors Consent, Contract, Legitimate Interest, Legal Obligation Share between our affiliates for analytics, analysis, audience insights, business efficiencies, content personalization, and delivery of relevant advertising Consent, Legitimate Interest Ensure our products and services conform with industry standards Legitimate Interest



1. Updating Your Information.

Please ensure your personal information is current or tell us of any changes or inaccuracies. You may update this information in your account settings or email us at Please note that we may seek confirmation of your identity before making any changes to your account.

2. Managing Your Accounts with the Site.

You may have several accounts for Services available through this Site. To access or modify your subscription account with the Site, log in at and follow the instructions to change your account settings. For other accounts, such as a newsletter account or classifieds advertisement account, you can manage your account through the account management methodology prescribed by the vendor for that Service or contact us at

3. Opting Out / Withdrawing Consent for Processing.

Under circumstances where we may rely on your consent to process personal data, you may withdraw your consent at any time. You may do this by changing your account settings as described above or by sending the details of your request to (please note that we may seek confirmation of your identity before making any changes to your account). In some instances we may still have an alternative legal basis to continue to process that personal data as set forth in the "Purpose of Processing" section of this Privacy Policy. If you do withdraw consent, we may not be able to provide the product or service you have requested.

Opting-out of Interest-Based Advertising

4. Email Promotions.

For email promotions, in addition to changing your account settings, you may opt out of receiving commercial email messages from us by following the instructions contained in those email messages.

5. Targeted Advertising.

Please see the "Cookies and Online Tracking" section of this Privacy Policy for information about how to disable cookies and other choices that may be available to you with respect to certain types of targeted advertising.

6. Retention of Personal Data.

We will retain your personal data for as long as necessary for the uses set forth in this Privacy Policy, or while there is a legitimate reason for doing so. If you ask us to delete your information before that time, we may not be able to do so due to technical, legal, regulatory or contractual constraints. For example, we would need to retain your name and contact details for suppression purposes if you do not want to receive direct marketing from us. If you ask for your account to be closed, we will do this as soon as is reasonably possible subject to any applicable terms and conditions relating to the account. Some personal data from closed accounts is retained in order to comply with legal obligations, prevent fraud, collect any fees owed and to resolve disputes.

7. Confirmation of Your Identity.

Please note that we may seek confirmation of your identity before releasing any personal data to you or making changes to your account.


Our Services may embed content from, or link to, third-party websites and services, including social media platforms, that are outside of our control. We are not responsible for the security or privacy of any information collected by other websites or other services. This Privacy Policy does not govern these third party’s content or services, and we encourage you to review the privacy statements applicable to the third-party websites and services you use.


We have put in place physical, electronic, and managerial procedures that we believe are appropriate to safeguard and help prevent unauthorized access, maintain data security, and correctly use the information we collect online. Please note that we cannot guarantee the security of our databases, Site or Services; nor can we guarantee that information will not be intercepted while being transmitted over the Internet. In order to use some of the features of the Services, you may be required to create an account with us. For your protection, this account may only be accessible by means of a password or similar security measure. If you believe that your password or email address has been compromised, you should change your account with us immediately. If you forget your password for your subscription account with this Site, follow the instructions on the login page at


1. Collection of Information.

Company does not knowingly collect personal data from children under the age of 13 through the Services unless such collection is done in accordance with the law. If you are a child under the age of 13 that intends to submit information to the Company through the Services, you must obtain your parent's consent prior to making such a submission. In the event that the Company obtains actual knowledge that you are a child under the age of 13, the Company may require that you (and/or your parent) prove to us your prior parental consent. Even if you are 13 or over, we recommend that all children under the age of 18 obtain parental consent prior to the submission or purchase of anything through the Services. To obtain a parental consent form, please contact

2. Parental Options and Review.

Parents of children under the age of 13 have the option to agree to the collection and use of their child's personal data without consenting to the disclosure of the information to third parties (subject to the Company's protection of itself and others, disclosures for legal reasons, and the Company's current technological capabilities). In addition, parents can review the personal data provided by their child under the age of 13, ask to have it deleted and refuse to allow any further collection or use of the child's information (subject to the same items as above). In order to make these requests, parents should email a detailed request to or follow the procedures set forth in the "Opting Out / Withdrawing Consent for Processing" section of this Privacy Policy. Please note that, while the Services will not require more information from children under 13 than is reasonably necessary to participate in any activity or event, deletion of required information (such as information that would permit the Company to contact the winner of a contest) may result in termination of the child's participation in an event or activity. Parents should also note that the official rules for contests and promotions on the Services may contain additional information related to their children's privacy and the parents' rights and responsibilities.


Company does not presently have an office in Europe, accept sales in the currency of an EU country, or market in the language of an EU country (other than English, the language of Company’s country). Nevertheless, Company has incorporated certain provisions into this Privacy Policy in an effort to comply with the European Union General Data Protection Regulation ("GDPR"). If you are an individual in the European Union, you may request a copy of your personal data from the Company and you may have the right to not be profiled. You can also ask us to correct any inaccuracies in your personal data. In some circumstances you may be able to ask us to transfer information you have provided to us to another organization. Similarly, you may be able to transfer your information from another organization to us, but you should check with us first to confirm this is possible. You may also have the right to object, erase, or restrict our processing of your information – for example, where we process personal data because this is in our legitimate interests, you may object to this. We will need to carefully consider your request, as there may be circumstances which require us, or allow us, to continue processing your data. To exercise any of these rights, please contact us at These rights may be restricted by law, for example we may not be able to provide a copy of your data where the data we hold is also the data of a third party and it is not reasonable to disclose this information. Please note that we may seek confirmation of your identity before releasing any personal data to you or making changes to your account.


California residents are entitled once a year, free of charge, to request and obtain certain information regarding our disclosure, if any, of certain categories of personal data to third parties for their direct marketing purposes in the preceding calendar year. California residents who are registered users of the Services and are under the age of 18 are entitled, in accordance with California law, to request and obtain removal of content and information that they themselves post on the Services. You may request such removal by emailing us at In your request, please provide a description of the material that you want removed and information reasonably sufficient to permit us to locate the material, and include your name, email address and/or Site user name, year of birth, mailing address (including city, state, and zip code), and the subject line "California Removal Request" so that we can process your request. Please note that your request does not ensure complete or comprehensive removal of the material. For example, some information that you have posted may be republished or reposted by another user or third party or may be retained for legal reasons.


This section covers our use of cookies and similar technologies, such as web beacons, Local Shared Objects ("Flash cookies") and HTML 5 Local Storage. We and third parties that provide content, advertising, or functionality to our Services, or that measure and analyze ad performance on our Services, may use cookies, web beacons, mobile ad identifiers, and similar technologies to facilitate administration and navigation on the Site, to better understand and improve our Services, to determine and/or improve the advertising shown to you on the Site or elsewhere, and to provide you with a customized online experience.

1. Cookies.

Cookies are small files that are placed on your computer when you visit a website. Cookies may be used to store a unique identification number tied to your computer or device so that you can be recognized as the same user across one or more browsing sessions, and across one or more sites. Cookies serve many useful purposes. For example:

  • Cookies can remember your sign-in credentials so you do not have to enter those credentials each time you visit a Service
  • Cookies can help us and third parties understand which parts of our Services are the most popular because they help us see which pages and features visitors access and how much time they spend on the pages. By studying this kind of information, we are better able to adapt our Services and provide you with a better experience.
  • Cookies help us and third parties understand which ads you have seen so that you don’t receive the same ad each time you access a Service.

Most browsers accept cookies automatically, but can be configured not to do so or to notify the user when a cookie is being sent. If you wish to disable cookies, refer to your browser help menu to learn how to disable cookies. If you disable browser cookies or flash cookies, it may interfere with the proper functioning of the Services.

2. Beacons.

We, along with third parties, also may use technologies called beacons (or "pixels") that communicate information from your device to a server. Beacons can be embedded in online content, videos, and emails, and can allow a server to read certain types of information from your device, know when you have viewed particular content or a particular email message, determine the time and date on which you viewed the beacon, and the IP address of your device. We and third parties use beacons for a variety of purposes, including to analyze the use of our Services and (in conjunction with cookies) to provide content and ads that are more relevant to you.

3. Local Storage and Other Tracking Technologies.

We, along with third parties, may use other kinds of technologies, such as Local Shared Objects (also referred to as "Flash cookies") and HTML5 local storage, in connection with our Services. We also may use unique identifiers associated with your device, such as mobile ad identifiers. These technologies are similar to the cookies discussed above in that they are stored on your device and can be used to store certain information about your activities and preferences. However, these technologies may make use of different parts of your device from standard cookies, and so you might not be able to control them using standard browser tools and settings. For HTML5 local storage, the method for disabling HTML5 will vary depending on your browser. For Flash cookies, information about disabling or deleting information contained in Flash cookies can be found here.

4. How to Disable Tracking Technologies.

If you wish to disable cookies and other tracking technologies, please refer to your browser’s help menu to learn how to disable them. Information about how to disable Flash cookies is set forth above. Some web browsers may transmit "do-not-track" signals to the websites with which the user communicates. The Services currently do not take action in response to these signals. Please note that disabling cookies and other tracking technologies may interfere with the proper functioning of the Services.


This Privacy Policy may be changed from time to time, so we encourage you to check back with every visit to the Services. If you do not agree to one or more of the changes, you may choose to "opt out," using the "Opting Out" procedures set forth in this Privacy Policy. Once the change has been made, all information collected by the Services after the change will be subject to the new terms of the Privacy Policy. In addition, if you affirm your agreement to this Privacy Policy, such as by clicking "I agree" when asked if you agree to be subject to this Privacy Policy or the legal terms of the Services, then all information collected prior to the change will also be subject to the new terms. The current version of this Privacy Policy is effective April 4, 2019.


For privacy concerns, you may contact our Privacy Operator / Data Protection Officer as follows:

By email:

By postal mail:

Website Privacy Issues
c/o Andy Pennington, Publisher
Anchorage Daily News
300 W. 31st Avenue
Anchorage, AK 99503

By phone: (907) 257-4200

Company may have several operators collecting or maintaining personal information. The operator listed above, or his/her successor, is responsible for responding to privacy inquiries. Third parties accessible through the Services may have their own such operators. Copyright © 2019, Anchorage Daily News, LLC. All rights reserved.

O. Vendors/Partners List (updated 04/04/2019)

table.vendors {border: #ccc 1px solid} table.vendors td {margin:0;padding: 2px;border: #ccc 1px solid; width: 50%;} Vendor NameDescription of Use ARCcontent management system Second Streetemail, contests and photo sales Talk - The Coral Project(Vox Media)commenting system ShopifyADN store Legacy.comobituaries and announcements OliveE-edition partner Syncronexsubscription/circulation management Mathermarketing information CitySparkevents calendar Geotixevents and tickets Taboolasponsored links Issuuspecial section viewer OneSignalpush notifications Wufooform builder(feedback, contests, surveys) Doubleclick for Publishers (DFP)online advertisement trafficking Teadsinstory video advertisements

Jog along with the Heart Run, party with pirates or catch some pro wrestling this weekend

Thu, 2019-04-18 14:54

Alaska Heart Run — Run your “heart” out while supporting a good cause. The Alaska Heart Run, presented by the Alaska Heart & Vascular Institute, has race lengths for any fitness level. Register for the timed or untimed 5K or the 3K length. All money raised at the Heart Run will benefit the American Heart Association. $15-$35. 9:30 a.m. Saturday, April 20, Alaska Airlines Center, 3550 Providence Drive (

Elizabeth Lopez sports The Flash superhero socks at the start of the Heart Run on Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Anchorage's university district. The Heart Run raised over $255,000 to benefit the American Heart Association. (Rugile Kaladyte / Alaska Dispatch News) (Rugile Kaladyte/)

Wrestlepro — WrestlePro brings high-flying, hard-hitting and action-packed professional wrestling to the Sullivan Arena. The event features former WWE and current Impact Wrestling Stars such as Mick Foley, Johnny Impact (John Morrison), Chris Adonis (Chris Masters) and more. $25-$75. 7 p.m. Saturday, April 20, Sullivan Arena, 1600 Gambell St. (Search “Wrestlepro Alaska” on Facebook)

Bloom — Pulse Dance Co. presents the production of Bloom, featuring new choreographic talent in Anchorage dance. Six local choreographers and a cast of dancers hailing from Girdwood, Anchorage and Eagle River will premiere the results of their three month residencies at Studio Pulse. $15. 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 20, APU Grant Hall Theatre, 4101 University Drive (

Photonz - Catch a rare appearance of The Photonz as they perform in their hometown for the close of the ski season. The jam band formed at a party in Girdwood 20 years ago and has been bringing their electric bluegrass to venues all over the state since. $10. 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 19-20, The Sitzmark Bar & Grill, 100 Olympic Circle (

Kids Day at the Museum — Stop by the Anchorage Museum for a day of fun. Make giant bubbles and explore science in the Discovery Center. Learn about walruses and polar bears in the “Aiviq & Nanuq: Sea Horse and Sea Bear of the Arctic” exhibition and create a print to take home. Hear a reading of Anchorage author Brooke Hartmann’s new book “Dream Flights on Arctic Nights,” an illustrated children’s book in which Arctic animals lead an adventure. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, April 20, Anchorage Museum, 625 C St. (

Pirates Party - Rouges & Wenches — Wear your pirate garb and head to 907 Alehouse for “Sea Shanties and Pirate Tunes” with Rouges and Wenches. Self-proclaimed "drinking band with a small piratical Irish problem,” the group of seven plays acoustic instruments and sing traditional Irish and Scottish songs, sea shanties and pirate fare. 8-11 p.m. Saturday, April 20, 907 Alehouse & Grill, 8001 Old Seward Highway (

Celtic Spring Festival — There will be 15 classes taught by local instructors, a craft fair and singing, dance and music all day at this spring festival. $5-$25. 10 a.m. Saturday, April 20, Anchorage Senior Activity Center, 1300 E. 19th Ave. (

Participants make fairy houses that can then be kept in the garden at the Celtic Spring Festival

Dark tales: Murder, adultery the focus of 2 student-directed plays at UAA

Thu, 2019-04-18 14:50

Paitton Reid, left, directs “Betrayal” by Harold Pinter, and Taran Haynes directs the play “Frozen” by Bryony Lavery. Photographed on April 15, 2019. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)

Serial killers and adulterers are the subjects of two upcoming University of Alaska Anchorage theater department productions, which take on the task of redeeming the unredeemable.

The three or four major productions at UAA each year usually feature a student cast and crew working under a faculty director. In a twist, the two UAA shows opening in the next couple weeks are being produced and directed by senior theater majors as part of larger thesis projects.

Paitton Reid directs “Betrayal,” by Harold Pinter, a three-sided story of an affair in reverse chronological order. Taran Haynes directs Bryony Lavery’s play “Frozen,” not to be confused with the Disney musical or the 2013 film “The Frozen Ground,” based on the life of Alaska serial killer Robert Hansen. “Frozen” examines grief and forgiveness from the perspective of a mother who has lost a daughter, the serial killer who murdered the girl and a writer studying the killer’s crimes.

Reid said she first decided to pursue directing in her third semester at UAA and after taking directing courses. Tarran Haynes followed a similar path. Both students worked under the guidance of UAA theater professor Brian Cook, who also plays the role of the killer in “Frozen.” He said it’s the first time in his tenure that student-directed productions have been part of the mainstage theater season.

Reid and Haynes both said they were drawn to the complexity of the characters in the small casts called for in both shows.

“The characters (in ‘Betrayal’) seem more influential when it comes to storytelling, and then we add in the other elements and it becomes much bigger than it’s supposed to be,” Reid said.

Haynes added, “What I think is really interesting about a story like (‘Frozen’) ... is that people live this. There are real life Ronas, there are real life Ralphs, there are real-life Nancys … these are real, very relatable human people, and this situation is really extreme and that’s what gives it this sense of darkness, but people live in these real circumstances.”

Haynes said he didn’t want to take “Frozen” at face value. Told from multiple perspectives, the play uses terrible acts to confront the idea of forgiveness.

“(‘Frozen’) intersects grief and trauma and forgiveness and it asks the question of ‘how do we deal with this,’ ‘what happens under these extreme circumstances’ and asks this other question of ‘is forgiveness possible?’ ” Haynes said.

Both shows offer a layered and multifaceted look into some very human truths. “Even under the most terrible circumstances, forgiveness is the way in which you move forward, in fact the only way in which you can move forward,” Haynes said.

If you go:

“Betrayal” shows Friday-Sunday, April 19-21

“Frozen” shows Friday-Sunday, April 26-28

at UAA’s Harper Studio Theater

Tickets: $5-$10, purchase tickets at

We welcome the EPA’s action plan for firefighting chemicals

Thu, 2019-04-18 13:47

FILE - In this June 18, 2018 file photo, equipment used to test for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known collectively as PFAS, in drinking water is seen at Trident Laboratories in Holland, Mich. The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to announce a plan for dealing with a class of long-lasting chemical contaminants amid complaints from members of Congress and environmentalists that it's not moved aggressively enough to regulate them. (Cory Morse/The Grand Rapids Press via AP, File) (Cory Morse/)

The Alaska Departments of Environmental Conservation and Transportation, in partnership with the Department of Health and Social Services, have been working on the identification of and response to sites contaminated with polyfluoro alkyl substance (PFAS) chemicals. We are very pleased that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has recently announced a PFAS Action Plan that includes a commitment by EPA to make a regulatory determination within the year about whether to establish a Maximum Contamination Level (MCL) for drinking water for the PFAS chemicals PFOA and PFOS.

PFAS are chemicals that have been used since the 1950s in a wide range of consumer and industrial products. A PFAS-based product known as aqueous film-forming foam puts out petroleum and chemical fires far more safely and effectively than water, leading the Federal Aviation Administration to require its use for fires and regular drills at airports around the country, including 23 state-owned airports in Alaska. Regular equipment testing is required and DOT will use the foam for responding to real fires, but foam will not be discharged into the environment unless necessary to save lives during an actual aircraft emergency.

States have responded in different ways to the PFAS issue, with most choosing to do nothing at all. Some, including Alaska in 2016, took regulatory action to set cleanup levels. In August 2018, DEC added three additional PFAS compounds in a technical memo to create a DEC action level, and began the process of promulgating new regulations based on this change. During the public comment period for the draft regulations, DEC received comments across the spectrum, including comments strongly urging the department to leave the 2016 regulations in place and postpone setting revised cleanup levels until better toxicity data and EPA standards are available. efighting foam could have impacted nearby drinking water wells. To date, well users in Fairbanks, North Pole, King Salmon, Dillingham and Gustavus have been provided with alternate drinking water based on test results.

States have responded in different ways to the PFAS issue, with most choosing to do nothing at all. Some, including Alaska in 2016, took regulatory action to set cleanup levels. In August 2018, DEC added three additional PFAS compounds in a technical memo to create a DEC action level, and began the process of promulgating new regulations based on this change. During the public comment period for the draft regulations, DEC received comments across the spectrum, including comments strongly urging the Department to leave the 2016 regulations in place and postpone setting revised cleanup levels until better toxicity data and EPA standards are available.

EPA’s recent announcement that it would take the lead on this important issue is welcomed. It will bring much-needed consistency as a national strategy for addressing the health risks of PFAS contamination is developed. The EPA will use its team of scientists, toxicologists and other experts to study PFAS when setting an maximum contaminant level. These experts will take into account the contribution from other exposures such as those from stain-resistant carpeting, waterproof outwear, food wrappers and non-stick cookware. Once a maximum level is set by the EPA, states including Alaska would be required to adopt it.

Given the EPA’s forthcoming efforts, DEC has placed its draft regulations on hold. We will continue to voluntarily test according to the EPA’s Lifetime Health Advisory level of 70 parts per trillion of PFOS and PFOA when addressing contaminated sites, as these are the two most studied PFAS compounds. DEC and DOT will be proactive and continue to sample water in other communities near state-owned airports to determine whether drinking water has been impacted and to provide alternative drinking water as a precaution. DEC will continue to require other responsible parties to test for PFAS and provide alternative drinking water as a precaution as well.

We will actively participate in EPA’s process and closely monitor future toxicology and epidemiology studies on PFAS. In the meantime, both agencies have posted information about PFAS on our respective websites. We encourage those who have questions regarding PFAS and the state’s response to visit informational websites hosted by DEC and DOT.

Jason Brune and John MacKinnon are the commissioners of the Alaska Departments of Environmental Conservation and Transportation, respectively.

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Chugiak-Eagle River residents renew effort to separate from Anchorage

Thu, 2019-04-18 13:34

Eagle River is about 9 miles north of Anchorage on the Glenn Highway. (Chugiak-Eagle River Star file photo / Matt Tunseth)

Former Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan used to refer to Chugiak-Eagle River as “the breakaway republic," and for decades residents of the northern reaches of the municipality have seen their dreams of independence remain unfulfilled.

Enter EaglExit.

“We have put together a group of people who are seriously contemplating a detachment of Assembly District 2,” said Michael Tavoliero, chair of the newly formed nonprofit whose name is a nod to the “Brexit” movement to separate Great Britain from the European Union.

Tavoliero said the new group has a website and board officers, and plans to hold an educational meeting from 7 to 9 p.m. May 3 at the Eagle River Lions Club. He’s hoping for a big turnout.

“We’d like to involve the entire community to come and listen to what we have to say,” he said.

Longtime dream

An Eagle River exit strategy has been sought by some in the area since the communities were incorporated into the Anchorage borough in the 1960s. In 1974, residents voted for separation and elected their own mayor and Assembly, but the effort was ruled unconstitutional by the Alaska Supreme Court and Chugiak-Eagle River was incorporated into the Municipality of Anchorage. In the 1980s, Fred Dyson helped lead an independence effort he called “the Great Divorce,” another unsuccessful attempt at secession from the big city 9 miles to the south.

Supporters of separation argue the Chugiak-Eagle River area has cultural, political, economic and demographic differences from the rest of Anchorage that can’t be ignored. They believe the area doesn’t have a loud enough voice in municipal politics and in matters related to public schools.

“Historically, the citizens of District 2 have been excluded from the MOA’s power structures. They have been repeatedly thwarted in their efforts to decentralize land-use decisions in their local neighborhoods, including those involving residential, commercial and industrial interests,” the group wrote in a “white paper” Eaglexit posted to its website this week. “These citizens consider detachment from the MOA a strategy to advance their vision of a well-managed community.”

One of two Assembly members currently representing District 2 (which encompasses Chugiak, Eagle River, Peters Creek, Eklutna, the Birchwoods, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and part of East Anchorage off Turpin Road), Dyson said he’s “very supportive” of the independence movement.

“There is certainly is a feeling amongst those who pay attention that the value system of most of the constituency here in the Eagle River-Chugiak area is different than the rest of the municipality and that we would do better if we were able to more control our own destiny,” Dyson said.

Those demographic and political differences include a less diverse racial makeup and more conservative voters. According to the Anchorage School District, 68 percent of Chugiak-Eagle River students are white compared to just 41 percent for the district as a whole. Republicans traditionally far outperform Democrats in the area, which has an all-Republican delegation in the Alaska Legislature and supported President Donald Trump by 3-to-1 margins over Hillary Clinton in 2016.

The 2010 U.S. census counted about 35,000 people in Chugiak-Eagle River, though Eaglexit backers say including the military base into the breakaway area would swell the new city’s population to around 50,000.

Chugiak-Eagle River does have some autonomy from Anchorage — the area has a separate Parks and Recreation Department, its own Road Service Area and a separate chapter in the municipal land use code that recognizes its more rural characteristics. But schools, utilities and public safety are mostly under the purview of the muni, which Eaglexit backers say means they have little control or say in how their children’s schools are run or where their tax dollars are spent.

“This has allowed through years of non-representative actions property tax increases, unsustainable bond issues and increasingly expensive public services with no commensurate productivity rendering District 2 voters largely powerless and disenfranchised in any efforts to politically mitigate these costly trends,” reads a proposed Assembly resolution posted to the group’s site.

Eagle River is located about 9 miles north of Anchorage on the Glenn Highway. (Chugiak-Eagle River Star file photo / Matt Tunseth)

More study needed

Details of any separation plan have yet to be ironed out, and numerous potential hurdles stand in the way of a “divorce,” ranging from the constitutional issue to ownership of municipal assets like schools — there are 11 public schools in Chugiak-Eagle River and another four on JBER.

For now, the group is simply trying to organize and raise money to commission a new feasibility study to look into the idea.

“Our hope is that we can get people involved and once they are involved make some decisions on what the thought pattern is going forward,” Tavoliero said.

Tavoliero said they think local residents could run a more efficient ship than the 300,000-resident municipality can.

“Our goal would be to simplify self-government,” he said.

When the separation idea was broached in the early 2000s, backers argued a complete “divorce” from Anchorage might not be necessary. Dyson said one idea would be to have Anchorage revert to a borough, which would allow communities such as Chugiak-Eagle River in the north and Girdwood in the south to form first- or second-class cities.

In 2007, the state of Alaska commissioned a study by Northern Economics to examine “the cost of providing services in both of the new hypothetical boroughs as well as revenues sources and estimates of new property tax rates for each of Anchorage’s 57 taxation districts.” That study found that sustaining general government services would require an increase in taxes, and educational services could not be sustained by a separate borough even with tax increases.

“The study concludes that the (Eagle River-Chugiak) Borough could not provide its potential citizens with the same level of services that the current MOA provided in 2006 without an increase in property taxes or some other form of revenue,” the authors wrote. “Further, even if the new Borough increases taxes, the new Eagle River and Chugiak School District (ERCSD) would have to reduce costs by millions of dollars to comply with Alaska’s education funding law.”

While taxes would go up in Chugiak-Eagle River, the study found a similar impact would not be seen by residents of the Anchorage Bowl.

“The effect of detachment on the Municipality of Anchorage would be much more muted,” they wrote, adding that the main costs to the muni would be related to the division of assets.

However, the study used an “apples to apples” comparison that assumed services would remain the same after a split. Tavoliero thinks that’s a flawed way of looking at things because a new Chugiak-Eagle River government would be leaner and more efficient.

“We as a group do not believe we would follow the same pattern of programming and services as the municipality,” he said.

Even if Eaglexit doesn’t happen this time around, Dyson said the effort is valuable because it sends the message that Chugiak-Eagle River residents yearn for greater autonomy.

“I think the movement itself and the stuff they’re doing will help to strengthen the cry that we out here should not be ignored and that our values — as different as they may be — need to be considered.”

Letter: Save the Ocean Rangers

Thu, 2019-04-18 13:16

The recent ADN article about Carnival and Holland cruise lines’ violations should be disturbing to every reader.

At a recent hearing of the House Finance Committee, I noted that these companies will try to get away with whatever they can relative to compliance with environmental standards and laws. I wondered if I was being alarmist. It turns out, I was understating the concern.

With impunity, these companies have violated discharge and pollution laws. Worse yet, they’ve been found to have falsified records which would have proven further violations.

Since a 2006 Initiative, Alaska has had Ocean Rangers — marine engineers — monitoring all cruise ships coming into Alaska waters. Even though the $4 per passenger fees required to fund these marine monitors will continue to be collected, many Alaska legislators want to end the program, as does Gov. Mike Dunleavy.

Please write your legislators and tell them Alaskans won’t stand for this sort of environmental abuse. Tell them that Ocean Rangers, while not the total solution, are the sort of vigilant monitoring we need for cruise line bad actors.

— Rep. Andy Josephson


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Ghost hunter’s hopes for board appointment busted by the Alaska Legislature

Thu, 2019-04-18 13:08

Alaska state Senate President Cathy Giessel, left, and House Speaker Bryce Edgmon are shown before the start of a joint legislative session on Wednesday, April 17, 2019, in Juneau. The Legislature met to consider Gov. Mike Dunleavy's picks for Cabinet-level positions and for boards and commissions. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer) (Becky Bohrer/)

JUNEAU — The Alaska Legislature on Wednesday night voted against the appointment of a Wasilla man to the state’s violent crimes compensation board after lawmakers said they were concerned about his ghost-hunting hobby and his criminal history.

John Francis is a founding member of Alaska Ghost Hunting and has occasionally appeared on television programs. He also administrates two large anti-crime Facebook groups, “Stolen in Alaska” and “Mat Valley Crime Discussion.”

“I think he’s the wrong person for this board,” said Sen. Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River, speaking in a joint session of the Legislature on Wednesday night.

Lawmakers went on to reject Francis, 9-48.

Wednesday’s joint session was called to consider the legislative confirmation of more than 100 officials appointed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy to state boards, commissions and his cabinet. It lasted more than seven and a half hours, concluding just before 9 p.m.

Lawmakers approved all 13 members of the new governor’s cabinet and agreed to name Michael Johnson, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development, third in line of succession behind Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer.

Last year, Department of Health and Social Services commissioner Valerie Davidson served in that third-place role and was named lieutenant governor after the resignation of then-Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott.

Thank you to #akleg for voting to confirm 98 of my appointments today. Together my cabinet, board appointments, and I will continue to work diligently to make Alaska a better place to work and live.

— Governor Mike Dunleavy (@GovDunleavy) April 18, 2019

Of the 88 nominees to boards and commissions, only seven weren’t confirmed by the Legislature this year.

This year, lawmakers rejected Karl Johnstone for the Board of Fisheries and deferred a vote on Scott Flamme for the Board of Veterinary Examiners after lawmakers on the floor raised concerns about alleged past improprieties that had not been previously discussed. Unless the House and Senate meet again in joint session to consider Flamme’s nomination, something lawmakers said Thursday is unlikely, it will expire at the end of the regular session.

The governor’s selection of Vivian Stiver for the Marijuana Control Board was rejected by a single vote. Lawmakers were concerned about Stiver’s past involvement with the marijuana prohibition movement.

Marisha Dieters was denied for the Board of Nursing after she was appointed to a seat intended for a nurse with a type of license different from what she currently holds.

James McDermott was turned down for a term on the Alaska Public Offices Commission; he is a registered Libertarian, and under state law, his particular seat is reserved for a Democrat. (Seats on the commission are based on the results of the previous general election.)

Michael Tavoliero of Eagle River was voted down 7-50 for a spot on the Real Estate Commission after lawmakers discovered a history of social media posts advocating violence against Muslims. Tavoliero’s resume also contained decades-long gaps in employment, and members of the committee overseeing Tavoliero’s nomination said they were dissatisfied with his responses to questions.

“It was like pulling teeth to get any information from him,” said Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Anchorage, who referred to his confirmation hearing as one of the most bizarre in her legislative history.

According to state law, the governor may or may not submit appointees to the Alaska Gasline Development Corp. board of directors for confirmation. Former Gov. Bill Walker did so; Dunleavy did not. He appointed Doug Smith and Dan Coffey to the board in January.

The approval of most of this year’s appointees falls in line with the Legislature’s usual deference to a governor. Four years ago, lawmakers turned down five of then-Gov. Bill Walker’s boards and commissions nominees.

Lawmakers accepted all of Sean Parnell’s picks following his election to a full term as governor, and they did the same for Sarah Palin after her election in 2006. (A 2009 replacement Palin pick for attorney general became the first and only cabinet official rejected by the Legislature.)

Letter: Who’s taking whose treats?

Thu, 2019-04-18 13:06

On the same recent day that the ADN published reports of a woman accosting Gov. Mike Dunleavy in Nome and pictures of protesters heckling him, an opinion letter writer from Juneau referred to PFD dividend checks as “treats” and chided Gov. Dunleavy for his proposed budget cuts.

Although many considered them little better than out-and-out thieves, I don’t recall seeing many reports about such similar attacks being directed at the immediately former governor and friends for confiscating PFD checks for the past three years.

Who’s taking whose treats? Who’s addicted to sweets? Is it really ordinary PFD-drawing Alaskans who have better chances of visiting Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory than visiting their own state capital?

Are we to believe that Alaska’s historically oil-money-rich political system has been so chronically underfeeding its non-PFD treasury money recipients such that they are disproportionately in danger of starving now that oil prices have gone down? After all, they put politicians’ names on buildings because they delivered the treasury money for the project or program, not because they didn’t.

— Louis Breuer


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Analysis: Trump’s most frequent contribution to the Mueller probe: ‘I don’t recall’

Thu, 2019-04-18 13:02

President Donald Trump arrives for a Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride event in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, April 18, 2019, in Washington. Also pictured is Wounded Warrior Project CEO Michael Linnington, right. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) (Andrew Harnik/)

One sentence in the report written by special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators summarizes President Donald Trump’s responses to their inquiries succinctly.

"We viewed the written answers to be inadequate," it says.

After battling with Trump’s attorneys for months to get an in-person interview with the president, Mueller’s investigators instead offered written questions to be answered under oath. They covered four primary topic areas: the Trump Tower meeting in June 2016, the Russian effort to interfere with the election, the proposed development project in Moscow and contacts with Russia or Russia-related issues during the campaign and transition. In total, the Mueller team asked 38 distinct questions with 37 follow-ups.

Trump offered 22 distinct answers. In 19 of those answers, he claims not to remember or recall some particular issue. Often, those failures to remember what happened constitute the entirety of his response.

In the past, Trump has touted his memory. In June, speaking at a news conference in Singapore, he assured reporters that he didn't need notes about his conversation with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un because he has "one of the great memories of all time." Unfortunately, that memory appears not to extend back to 2015, as indicated in Trump's question responses.

[Annotated: Read the full redacted Mueller report]

Here’s what he couldn’t remember when asked by Mueller.

- He didn't recall whether he learned about the Trump Tower meeting before it happened.

- He didn't recall whether he learned about it after the meeting took place or about the email chain that set it up or about Donald Trump Jr.'s various interactions that led to its happening.

- He didn't recall what parts of the days before the meeting he spent in Trump Tower.

- He didn't recall whether he spoke with Trump Jr., Jared Kushner or campaign Chairman Paul Manafort on the day of the meeting, though his calendar showed a meeting with Manafort that morning.

- He didn't recall any communications with the family of Russian developers (the Agalarovs) that set up the meeting after June 3, 2016.

- He didn't recall being aware of any communications involving his son; his son-in-law, Kushner; Manafort or any of the external people involved in the meeting.

- He didn't recall being told that the Russians supported his candidacy during the campaign, though he was "aware of some reports indicating that (Russian President Vladimir) Putin had made complimentary statements" about him.

- He didn't recall being told that a foreign government had offered to support his campaign.

- He didn't recall when he learned that the emails of the Democratic Party had been hacked or whether he learned about the hacking of emails of individuals - meaning Hillary Clinton's campaign Chairman John Podesta - before it was reported by the media.

- He didn't recall being aware of people associated with his campaign having any contact with WikiLeaks during the campaign.

- He didn't recall being told about Russian efforts to hack Clinton's emails before reading about them in the media.

- He didn't recall being told that WikiLeaks had emails related to Podesta before their release.

- He didn't recall being told that his adviser Roger Stone or anyone linked to Stone had communicated with WikiLeaks.

- He didn't recall the specifics of any conversations he'd had with Stone from June to November 2016, or ever discussing WikiLeaks with Stone.

- He didn't recall being aware that Stone had discussed WikiLeaks with members of his campaign.

- He didn't recall discussing a possible pardon for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

- He didn't recall being aware during the campaign that Russia was trying to assist his campaign by posting on social media or organizing rallies.

- He didn't recall any conversation about traveling to Russia as part of the Moscow development deal or of being aware of conversations between his personal attorney Michael Cohen and any Russian government official about a letter of intent focused on that project.

- He didn't recall being aware of people associated with his campaign - Manafort - sharing internal polling with people linked to Russia.

- He didn't recall being told during the campaign of efforts by Russian officials to meet with him or members of his campaign.

- He didn't recall details of when he learned about a change made to the Republican Party platform that was favorable to Russia.

- He didn't remember being asked to attend a chess event in Russia.

That's most of what he didn't remember, but not everything.

What did he remember? Among other things, he did remember the genesis of his comments on June 7, 2016, that he would soon be giving a speech targeting Clinton, a comment that came shortly after his son had set up a meeting with someone who Trump Jr. thought would offer new dirt on Clinton. He did remember some of the genesis of the Trump Tower Moscow deal. And he did remember that he did not know that Manafort offered to give campaign briefings to a Russian oligarch named Oleg Deripaska.

Most or all of Trump's denials that he remembered particular things may be true. Some may not be.

Cohen, for example, has testified that he was present when Stone told Trump about an upcoming WikiLeaks release in mid-July. Cohen also testified that he remembered Trump Jr. telling Trump that a meeting was set in early June, though he doesn't know that the comment was about the Trump Tower meeting.

Had Mueller’s team been able to engage in an extended period of questioning Trump, it might have been better able to determine what the president had actually forgotten. As it stands, though, Trump’s various failures of recollection are the best Mueller’s team got.

Letter: Time for a recall

Thu, 2019-04-18 13:01

It is time for people who love Alaska to stand up for our state. The Koch brothers are older than most of us and richer than all of us, but this is our home and we need to defend it.

If we had known Gov. Mike Dunleavy was going act against our students, our sick, our poor and our environment, I don’t think he would have been elected. But we did not know and now he is the governor.

I looked into what it would take to recall him and found that it will take time and organization to meet all the requirements for a recall election. This is a task that can best be accomplished by leaders with the organizational skills and the motivation to undertake this challenge. We need to have the mayors and other city officials work together to get this done. They are in all the right places, and know all the players.

Rather than spending money on lobbyists to influence the Legislature in Juneau, they should organize a recall election. If we want a state where we can thrive and raise our families, we need to take action. It is time to see democracy in action!

— Mark Beaudin


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Letter: Roadless Rule makes sense

Thu, 2019-04-18 12:51

Alaskans are proud to protect the largest remaining national forest, the Tongass. We recognize the forest as a precious resource that keeps our ecosystem healthy, contributes to a stable local economy through fishing, tourism, and science, and provides mental and physical well-being to Southeast Alaskans, as well as a million-plus tourists a year.

We recognize the Tongass as ancient and sacred land. Its beauty and wildness are balm to the weary soul. In its cool, moist air, one becomes aware that one is within the lungs of the planet. The world depends on forests to store carbon. Intact old-growth forests are a vital part of the global atmospheric carbon cycle and stabilize the climate by sequestering vast amounts of carbon dioxide. Contrary to the misinformation campaign regarding the Roadless Rule, the rule does allow some roads to be approved that deal with transmission lines, mining and hydropower. What we aim to block is industrial-scale logging. Alaskans are proud that the Roadless Rule is a model for the rest of the nation and intend to keep it intact.

The overriding importance of maintaining a stable global climate and sustainable food systems demands that we guard and protect our state’s precious resources. The world is counting on us.

— Natalie Watson

Board member, Southeast Alaska Conservation Council


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Letter: Save the dairy

Thu, 2019-04-18 12:28

One of the first statements Gov. Mike Dunleavy made after he took office was to announce that “Alaska is open for business!” Perhaps he only meant resource extraction business, because now he is proposing to kill the inspection program required by the federal government to allow Alaska’s only dairy, the Havemeister Dairy in Palmer, to sell its dairy products in Alaska stores.

The governor thinks there will be no loss if the dairy has to close its doors; Alaskans can always purchase raw milk. Thanks, but no thanks! He says he doesn’t believe agriculture in Alaska should be subsidized. Since when does state employment of a federally required inspector constitute a “subsidy?”

We can build the Ambler Road at state expense for the benefit of a private mining company, and we can give endless incentives to the oil companies, but we can’t pay for an inspector to ensure that Havemeister Dairy products can be sold in Alaska grocery stores? Something is very wrong with this picture!

If you believe, as we do, that there is a market and a need for Alaska dairy products, please contact your representatives and tell them you oppose eliminating the dairy inspection program.

— Maynard and Connie Nuss


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Dining review: Matanuska Brewing Company Anchorage serves a bit of almost everything in Midtown

Thu, 2019-04-18 12:21

Bacon cheeseburger at Matanuska Brewing Company in Midtown Anchorage (Photo by Mara Severin)

The Matanuska Brewing Company Anchorage (formerly the Anchorage Alehouse) is a far cry from Airport Pizza, owner Matt Tomter’s first dining venture. That iconic Alaska eatery, based in Nome, famously flew pizzas out to hungry diners in remote Alaska outposts. The new Midtown restaurant is part of a growing family of pubs serving their own beer, which is brewed at the former Matanuska Maid Creamery in Palmer. Part sports bar, part burger joint, part pizzeria and part burgeoning music venue, the Matanuska Brewing Company is attempting to cover a lot of bases. Instead of providing pizza for a geographically challenged few, the restaurant strives to provide something for everyone.

This makes for an interesting and dynamic spot, but also one that occasionally seems to be spreading itself too thin.

The space is clean and contemporary, with a warm color palate, surprisingly elegant beer-centric artwork, and a few whimsical touches (I love the stack of weathered kegs behind the main stage and the vintage payphone in the arctic entry). But despite the major overhaul, there lingers the ghost of chain-restaurants past. Currently, it lacks the patina that makes a restaurant feel lived-in and welcoming. To put it another way, it still has that new-car smell. After being seated and orienting ourselves, I mused to my daughter that it felt a bit like an airport bar. “But your favorite airport bar,” my daughter said, which sums it up nicely.

Roasted Brussels sprouts ($10) with a poached egg and hollandaise at Matanuska Brewing Company Anchorage (Photo by Mara Severin)

The menu offers your standard pub fare – burgers, tacos, pizza, and salads – with a few outliers like Pork Belly Burnt Ends ($13) and roasted Brussels sprouts ($10) with a poached egg and hollandaise sauce which, of course, we had to order. To follow, I opted for a classic Caesar salad ($10), and my daughter went for a basic bacon cheeseburger ($15).

In the dining room (we were seated on the bar side), guitarist/vocalist Pierre Bidondo was affably entertaining the crowd with some low-key rock standards (think the Eagles) and managing to be engaging without being intrusive, a difficult needle to thread. The bar routinely books dinner-hour acoustic entertainment, so look for acts like Jared Woods, Ken Peltier, and Steven Bacon if you enjoy a little song with your stout.

The meal started promisingly. The pork belly burnt ends were an unequivocal hit. The pork was crispy in spots and tender in others with a mellow, buttery flavor. The meat was smothered in a sweet, smoky barbecue sauce with just enough kick to make it lively, but not so much that it masked the subtle flavor of the pork. Heaped on top were crispy threads of sweet onions, which I would eat by the basketful.

The roasted Brussels sprouts were also a winner and a rather elegant take on bar food. The sprouts were charred perfectly, giving them an assertive flavor that provided contrast to the creamy hollandaise sauce. The yolks from the poached eggs added richness to the sauce and turned this “vegetable” dish into a decadent indulgence.

Then the meal went a little pear-shaped.

The salad was, basically, a non-entity. A good Caesar salad is tangy, garlicky, rich with emulsified egg yolk, and savory with umami kick from the anchovy. This was not that. The dressing was bland, and the shredded Parmesan didn’t taste or look freshly grated as described on the menu.

Prime rib tacos at Matanuska Brewing Company Anchorage (Photo by Mara Severin)

My daughter’s burger looked great, generously blanketed as it was in melted cheese. Unfortunately, that’s where it ended. The patty was under-seasoned and there was something strange about the texture – a graininess to the grind that I found off-putting. Anchorage has such an excellent burger scene that you never have to eat an imperfect one. Next time we’ll stick to the pork belly.

I returned on my own a few days later and was greeted at the entrance by a tank of morose-looking but impressive live crab. This provided either a whimsical touch or a macabre one, depending on your point of view. I hunkered down at the bar with a magazine, an appetite, and an open mind. Most patrons were following a hockey game on the TVs behind the bar and there was a musical duo (the energetic Duane & Tyrone) in the dining room competing for attention. It was a friendly crowd and I was in the right state of mind to enjoy the mash-up of Journey songs, occasional outbursts over a hockey call, and overhead snippets of conversation. My out-of-date copy of The New Yorker didn’t stand a chance.

I ordered the French onion soup ($10) and the prime rib tacos (two for $11) for a fully international experience. The tacos were well done — fresh, flavorful and generously packed with tender beef and tasty fixings.

But I want to talk about the soup. It needs an editor. There is so much cheese melted over-top and so much bread in the broth that there was hardly any soup in the soup.

French onion soup at Matanuska Brewing Company Anchorage (Photo by Mara Severin)

I never in my life thought I’d use the phrase “too much cheese,” but it has to be said. It was the textbook example of too much of a good thing. Which is a shame because the sweet oniony broth (and the threads of soft, sweet onions) was exceptional. I wanted more of it.

The missteps in the kitchen seem easily fixed. There’s an unusual pattern: They get the hard stuff right (rich soup stock, a light well-balanced hollandaise, perfectly prepared pork belly) and let themselves down with the details (bland salad dressing, an overabundance of cheese, under seasoned burger patties). Which, I think, is a much better problem to have than the opposite.

There is a lot to like about Matanuska Brewing Company Anchorage: friendly service, a lively atmosphere, and a few really winning dishes. And I haven’t even mentioned the beer. Over two visits I tried the Hazy Days IPA, the Backcountry Blue (berry), and the citrusy Magnitude 9.2 and they were all fantastic — complicated, nuanced and satisfying. And look for an impressive lineup of musical acts in the coming months when bands like Young Dubliners, Great American Taxi and Blackwater Railroad Company set to hit their stage in the next few weeks.

I’m always glad to see a national chain get shouldered out by a local business. And Matanuska Brewing Company’s commitment to the community with its focus on local food, beer, and talent means I’ll be rooting for this growing presence in the Anchorage dining scene. But, civic-mindedness aside, I’ll admit it: they had me at pork belly burnt ends and blueberry beer.

Matanuska Brewing Company Anchorage

Open daily for lunch and dinner: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.

907-677-2531 and



Chugiak-Eagle River and West Anchorage: A tale of two candidates

Thu, 2019-04-18 12:10

In 1974, Lee Jordan was elected the first-ever mayor of Chugiak-Eagle River.

He also turned out to be the last. The next year, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that the effort by Chugiak-Eagle River residents to secede from Anchorage and form a separate government was unconstitutional.

"There have been a lot of mayors thrown out of office, but I'm the only one that's had his office thrown out from under him," Jordan, now 85, chuckled during a recent interview at his home in Birchwood.

Instead of taking office, Jordan returned to his post as the editor and publisher of the local weekly newspaper, the Chugiak-Eagle River Star, now the Alaska Star. And Chugiak-Eagle River -- a collection of suburban and rural residential communities northeast of downtown Anchorage and separated from it by a military reservation -- was absorbed into the newly formed Municipality of Anchorage, though the local residents hadn't voted on unification.

Since then, the area has produced state legislators, Anchorage Assembly members and School Board representatives, but never a serious contender for Anchorage mayor. That was until earlier this month, when Amy Demboski, a Chugiak resident and first-term Assembly member from the district, won a spot in the runoff race. On the campaign trail, Demboski has emphasized less taxation and keeping the size of government in check, stances that mirror the broader viewpoints of the community she's lived in since the age of 12.

Her rival, Ethan Berkowitz, is a San Francisco native and lives in West Anchorage. In an interview, local mystery writer and former Anchorage Daily News reporter Stan Jones referred to Berkowitz as a "downtown Democrat" whose business interests include part-ownership in the popular downtown eatery Snow City Cafe.

The two candidacies highlight some of the regional differences within the more than 1,950 square miles of the municipality — more than a third bigger than Rhode Island — as well as the sometimes uneasy relationship between the core municipality and the neighborhoods farther from the city center.

Tale of two cities?

Chugiak-Eagle River spans about 65 square miles between Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and upper Knik Arm, about halfway between downtown Anchorage and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. Since the establishment of the military reservation during World War II, the area has seen decades of rapid population growth, with new arrivals attracted by the availability of land, small-town ambiance and nearby wilderness access.

There are larger lots and well and septic systems, similar to the Anchorage Hillside and Girdwood. Certain parts of the community, such as Eklutna Valley, are more rural.

"People out here don't think of themselves living in a city at all," said Rick Sinnott, retired Anchorage-area state wildlife biologist and president of the Eklutna Valley Community Council. "People in Anchorage might think of themselves being in a city."

Between 1990 and 2010, the population of Chugiak-Eagle River grew 40 percent, from 25,324 people to 34,982. In 1980, the population was 12,858. The area now makes up 12 percent of Anchorage's overall population, compared to 7.4 percent in 1980.

The economy remains largely tied to locally serving retail and service industries, though larger chain stores have arrived in the last two decades, including Fred Meyer and Walmart. A new industrial park is on Artillery Road across the highway from downtown Eagle River; future land use decisions are tied to the Native corporation that controls many of the landholdings, Eklutna Inc.

About 85 percent of Chugiak-Eagle River's employed residents commute to Anchorage for work, according to Susan Gorski, executive director of the Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce. The high commute rate, rooted in historical trends in homesteading and few job opportunities locally, reinforces the image of Eagle River as a bedroom community for the more densely populated city to the south.

"Most of the people here in this area work in Anchorage, or are in the military," said retired state Sen. Fred Dyson, a longtime representative of Chugiak-Eagle River who has advocated for more independence for the community. "And they feel very much a part of the greater Anchorage area."

Demographic data collected by the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development show about a quarter of Chugiak-Eagle River residents are members of the military, and 36.8 percent hold bachelor's degrees, compared to 26 percent statewide. The median age in Chugiak-Eagle River was 34.2 in 2010, a couple years above the median statewide age of 32. Politically, residents tend to elect conservative candidates.

According to Chugiak-Eagle River's 1993 comprehensive plan, which included a historical overview section, "dissatisfaction with the borough government" fueled the secession attempt from the Greater Anchorage Area Borough. Newcomers who didn't know the community were too often the officials planning for new facilities, according to the planning document. In the debate for independence, self-determination and cost emerged as key issues.

As the editor and publisher of what was then the Chugiak-Eagle River Star, Jordan editorialized strongly against secession.

But he said he understood the basic sentiment and joined the movement when he was elected mayor.

"People preferred to do it themselves and we thought we could do it better," Jordan said.

Us versus them

In testimony to the Anchorage Assembly more than two years ago, Demboski bluntly articulated her community's sometimes strained relationship with the rest of Anchorage. The video has been circulated online in recent weeks by critics of her mayoral campaign.

In the video, Demboski, then the president of the Chugiak Community Council, was arguing for regional representation on the Anchorage School Board. She said her community should have a voice on the board, and she only saw School Board members at her community council meetings in an election year or when they were asking for bond money.

Though she said recently she sees herself now as a "consensus builder" among different parts of the city, she didn't sound that way in 2012.

"Chugiak-Eagle River does not want to be a part of Anchorage," Demboski told the Assembly during the testimony. "I hate to break it to you, but we don't. We like our independence. We like our values. We do things differently."

Objecting to the "at large" election of School Board members, Demboski said Chugiak-Eagle River should have its own seat. "We think we deserve a voice on a board that spends nearly $850 million a year. It's a basic, basic idea. It's not about politics, it's about accountability and representation."

Asked earlier in April about the video, Demboski said she was making a point about taxation, and it's not accurate to tie her comments to her feelings on the municipality as a whole.

When the question of whether the candidates believed Chugiak-Eagle River should become a separate and distinct municipality was raised in the "yes or no" section of a debate Wednesday, there was a murmur in the audience — most people seem to have known about the video. Demboski raised her paddle to say "no."

"Don't believe everything you see on YouTube," she told the audience.

When Debbie Ossiander, a two-term Assembly representative from Chugiak-Eagle River, was elected to the Anchorage School Board two decades ago, she was the first in a long time. It was a big deal, she said.

She said the enthusiasm for Demboski seems to be more rooted in ideology than geography, though she said she likes the idea of a Chugiak-Eagle River resident serving as mayor.

"I don't think it's true we don't want to be a part (of Anchorage)," Ossiander said. "But sometimes we do feel misunderstood."

Following unification of the city and borough of Anchorage in 1975, the newly written municipal charter called for the establishment of community councils to retain some local control. Another provision allowed most government services to be determined by service area. That allowed the residents of Chugiak-Eagle River to keep control over parks, roads and water and sewer, which Jordan said was a critical tradeoff.

The system allows for more community involvement in local government, said Bill Starr, the senior Chugiak-Eagle River representative on the Anchorage Assembly in his third term in office. In addition to the service areas, a volunteer fire department in Chugiak provides emergency services to the region north of Eagle River.

"There's a natural sense of ... we don't particularly need the Anchorage oversight because we have our own system and it works just fine, thank you," Starr said.

There's generally less oversight when it comes to construction. Because Chugiak-Eagle River falls outside of Anchorage's building safety service area, there's no requirement for private developers or residents applying for a land-use permit to have plans inspected or reviewed for compliance.

Diversity questions

Chugiak-Eagle River is less diverse racially and ethnically than Anchorage. According to 2010 census data, 84.5 percent of Eagle River and Chugiak residents were white, compared to 66 percent in Anchorage overall, according to the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development. In Chugiak, out of a population of 11,384, just 15 people identified as black or African-American in the 2010 census.

The education system shows similar trends. In Chugiak-Eagle River, 71 percent of students were white, compared to 33 percent in West Anchorage and 20 percent in East Anchorage, according to an Anchorage School District report for the 2014-15 school year.

Among area high schools, Chugiak High, where Demboski graduated in 1994, had the highest concentration of white students at 72 percent. Eagle River High School and South High School were tied at 68 percent.

About 5 percent of the Chugiak-Eagle River population is Alaska Native or American Indian, according to census data compiled by the labor department. The Native Village of Eklutna, the only Alaska Native village in the Anchorage Bowl, is in the area, at the mouth of the Eklutna River 25 miles northeast of downtown Anchorage.

One Anchorage minority leader, Kevin McGee of NAACP Anchorage, said Berkowitz has invoked diversity more often than Demboski on the campaign trail. McGee called the rest of Anchorage "110 percent more diverse" than Chugiak-Eagle River.

Berkowitz, who grew up in San Francisco, moved to South Addition on the edge of downtown more than two decades ago. He now lives in West Anchorage in a home overlooking Westchester Lagoon.

His neighbor, journalist and former downtown Anchorage Assembly member Charles Wohlforth, said there are multimillion-dollar homes in the neighborhood along with a mobile home court. He said the area's residential diversity is reflective of the city as a whole.

"We don't really have a lot of class distinctions," Wohlforth said. "Our neighborhoods are all mixed up."

In Chugiak, the community council president, Maria Rentz, described herself as a "liberal-minded" resident of the area. She said she's watched her neighborhood change and become more diverse over time.

"I have no doubt that each of the candidates will defend and preserve the rural character that we value in Chugiak," Rentz wrote in an email. "The question to consider is which candidate will safeguard and celebrate the diversity and spirit that reflects the whole of the Anchorage community?"

Different perspectives

Demboski said that as mayor, her focus would be on representing the entire community, not just one piece of it. She said her strengths include an understanding of challenges facing the more rural parts of the community, such as Girdwood and the Anchorage Hillside.

"The strength that we have as a community is making sure that different perspectives are represented," she said.

Berkowitz also said in a recent interview that he seeks to understand different perspectives throughout Anchorage. He said he's lived in two neighborhoods and has ownership interests in businesses in Midtown and downtown. He cited 10 years working with Anchorage legislators in the state House, and said he's worked on issues across the city, including in Chugiak-Eagle River.

"I think people in Eagle River appreciate being able to go downtown, and people downtown appreciate attributes you find in Eagle River, going up above the trails," Berkowitz said. "It's different, and complementary."

When he was younger and growing up in Anchorage, Wohlforth said, visiting downtown Eagle River felt more like visiting a rural community. Now, he said, it's suburbanized.

Other residential areas, meanwhile, remain more rural. In Birchwood, Jordan, the one-time mayor of the short-lived Chugiak-Eagle River borough, looked out his window at the trees and said it's hard to feel like he's living in a neighborhood in a big city.

As the population grows, Jordan said, he sees the character of the area slowly changing. Subtle signs of rural independence are beginning to fade, he said. New arrivals are more used to having things done for them, he said.

Former Mayor Rick Mystrom, who as an Anchorage Assembly member supported creating a second Assembly seat for Chugiak-Eagle River and shrinking the size of the downtown district, said the community's distinct identity is comparable to the distinct identities of the Spenard neighborhood or South Anchorage.

"There isn't a sense of competition between cities, because (Chugiak-Eagle River is) not a city," Mystrom said. "It's a community of Anchorage."

Correction: A previous version of this story reported that Debbie Ossiander was the first Chugiak-Eagle River resident to serve on the Anchorage School Board. The first was actually Darlene Chapman, in the 1970s. This story has also been corrected to reflect that Lee Jordan was elected mayor in 1974, not 1964.

Letter: Save us, Betsy

Thu, 2019-04-18 11:58

Please, for the love of God, lighten up on the budget issue. Where is Betsy the Cow? Come and save us crazy humanoids, Betsy! We want to go feral, too!

— Kelli Mahoney


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Letter: Third Avenue problems

Thu, 2019-04-18 11:55

Bravo to Ron Cupples for his recent commentary.

Alaska Mill and Feed, an old Anchorage business, is a favorite. However, the necessity of driving up Third Avenue, even in the middle lane, is a deterrent to visiting, to say the least.

The municipality could certainly find a better way to spend almost $4 million than to accommodate bad behavior.

The final paragraph of Mr. Cupples’ commentary says it all.

— Barbara Halcro


Have something on your mind? Send to or click here to submit via any web browser. Letters under 200 words have the best chance of being published. Writers should disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their letters. Letters are edited for accuracy, clarity and length.