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Redoubt roars back - After period of relative calm, volcano lets go with largest blast yet

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-05-23 07:58

Originally published on March 27, 2009

Redoubt volcano exploded twice on Thursday, sending a black cloud of ash east over the Kenai Peninsula and forcing commercial airlines to halt nearly all flights in Southcentral Alaska.

Following an initial blast at 8:34 a.m., a huge explosion 50 minutes later sent ash soaring 65,000 feet above sea level -- more than 12 miles high -- topping all prior eruptions since the Cook Inlet volcano burst to life Sunday night.

Alaska Airlines canceled all flights in and out of Anchorage for the rest of the day, saying it would reassess the situation this morning, and other airlines canceled or diverted flights as well.

No ash was expected to fall in Anchorage, but late in the day a “faint trace” was reported outside the Alaska Volcano Observatory on the Alaska Pacific University campus, AVO geophysicist Rick Wessels reported.

“Basically it was an immeasurable amount here,” Wessels said.

Ash began coating Homer shortly before 2 p.m.

A purplish plume blocked the view across Cook Inlet and the smell of sulfur wafted into town as the ash cloud advanced, City Manager Walt Wrede said.

Businesses closed early and the city sent workers home for the day, Wrede said. By 4:45, skies had cleared and a small sprinkling of ash covered the snow.

“I can see little blobs of snow that have blown up against the window,” said Mary McBurney, the city manager’s wife. “If you look really closely, you can see the little fine grains of volcanic dust in them.”

The family pets were stuck inside.

“I took the dogs out for a quick pee just around noon when the ash advisory started, so I figured that they could probably last through the worst of it,” McBurney said.

Ashfall was reported as far north on the Peninsula as Kasilof and as far south as Nanwalek.

On the Sterling Highway just south of Anchor Point, Pat Ligenza stood inside Blackwater Bend, her drive-through coffee shop, and watched two clouds roll in across the Inlet at midafternoon.

One of them was approaching from the south and the other from the north -- most likely one from each of the morning’s eruptions, she guessed.

When they came together, the sky turned a yellow brown -- and ash rained down, sprinkling the cars of customers who came by for coffee.

“It’s like everything’s dirty,” Ligenza said.

The sky darkened above Nanwalek around 1:30 p.m, said Charlemagne Active, a health aide at the local clinic. As the cloud moved in, the air became hazy and ash dusted the buildings, falling for about an hour.

The Weather Service released an ashfall advisory to aviators for an area that encompassed all of the Kenai Peninsula and parts of Prince William Sound -- as well as a portion of a major air route from Seattle to Anchorage.

Anchorage International Airport remained officially open.

Era Aviation placed all flights on hold, said vice president Mike LeNorman. The commuter airline canceled flights Thursday from Anchorage to Kodiak, Homer and Bethel and two flights from Anchorage to Kenai.

FedEx also canceled flights out of its Anchorage cargo hub, and rerouted or turned back flights to avoid the city.

By day’s end, the usually bustling domestic terminal was a sleepy, lonely place. No one waited at the baggage claim or stood at the ticket counters. Footsteps echoed across the halls.

“It’s a ghost town,” said airport worker Shelley McCormick. “There’s not one single aircraft at FedEx or UPS. Nothing.”

At Elmendorf Air Force Base, training flights were scaled back and the Air Force sent several aircraft, including four fighter jets, to other Air Force bases.

“We definitely err on the side of caution because we have billions of dollars of aircraft,” said Capt. Candice Adams.

After Redoubt’s volcanic hazard status was downgraded to aviation color code orange Wednesday afternoon, the stratovolcano 100 miles southwest of Anchorage burst back to life with the 8:34 a.m. eruption, which sent an ash cloud 30,000 feet above sea level.

Following the second explosion at 9:24 a.m., a seismometer positioned on the ground east of the volcano’s summit recorded the signal of a large mud flow, called a lahar, AVO geophysicist Stephanie Prejean said.

The Weather Service subsequently issued a flash flood warning for the Drift River, which connects the Drift Glacier on the east slope of Redoubt to Cook Inlet, 27 miles downstream.

Two AVO teams -- one in a helicopter, a second in a small plane -- flew from Anchorage to Mount Redoubt on Thursday afternoon to assess both the river and the volcano.

Unlike eruptions earlier this week, the explosions Thursday came without any short-term seismic warning, Prejean said.

That wasn’t a total surprise, she said, since earlier this week the volcano figuratively cleared its throat and is now breathing freely.

“At this point we have a wide-open system, and so probably for most of the rest of the eruption we don’t expect to see short-term warnings,” Prejean said.

Whether this episode will last as long -- or longer -- than the four-month span of explosions that occurred during Redoubt’s eruptive phase in the winter of 1989-1990 isn’t clear, she said.

“We just don’t know how much magma is down there that needs to get out.”

The volcano that smothered Anchorage

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-05-23 07:50

Originally published Aug. 23, 1992

You can get used to just about anything in Alaska. Even volcanoes. So when word spread across Anchorage Tuesday afternoon that Mount Spurr had erupted, we were interested but far from frantic.

After all, it’s not like we haven’t had volcanic eruptions around here before.

In that graceful, geologic necklace known as the Aleutian arc, there are 80 volcanoes with names, including 44 active volcanoes (about four-fifths of all the active volcanoes in the United States). Hardly a year goes by anymore that one of them doesn’t blow its stack.

Stand atop any hillside in Anchorage on a clear day and you can easily see two active volcanoes on the western horizon MountRedoubt and Mount Spurr. Drive south toward Homer and you can spy a third Mount Augustine. All three have erupted in the past six years.

Some Anchorage residents have even grown a little jaded. Perhaps understandably. When Augustine blew in ’86, most of the ash fell on the Kenai Peninsula and points south. When Redoubt went in ‘89 and ‘90, the winds carried most of the debris north. It’s been nearly 40 years (not since Spurr last erupted in ’53) that Anchorage has suffered a significant dose of volcanic ash.

We’ve had our inconveniences, of course. Flights were canceled and Anchorage airports were closed by both Augustine and Redoubt. Citizens were asked to conserve power. Motorists were told to change their air filters as often as possible.

There was even a bona fide scare. In 1990 a Dutch airliner with 231 passengers aboard flew into Redoubt’s ash cloud over Talkeetna and lost all power when its jet engines shut down. For the next 12 minutes as the cabin lights went out, and the passengers’ whispers turned to cries of concern the huge jetliner lost half its altitude, plummeting two miles toward Earth. Then the engines kicked back on.

So most of us in Anchorage were respectful but cool when Spurr became Alaska’s latest volcano to explode. We’d heard that Spurr’s ash plume had rocketed 10 miles high. We heard it was headed our way. It sounded interesting.

At the Daily News, certain reporters and photographers were assigned facets of the story to cover. Certain editors prepared to stand by. The rest of us went home. A few of us got dressed for a softball game. The Daily News was scheduled to play Channel 11 at 8:40 p.m. in the last game of the season.

Humility before the power of nature sometimes comes in stages. And sometimes it comes too late.

At the Daily News, I’d just changed my clothes for our softball game. By 7:45 I was about to head downstairs when I decided to step across the hall to the west windows to see if any ash was headed our direction.

What I saw left me a little bit stunned.

The gathering sky had turned coal black on the western horizon where the sun was supposed to be like some dark, biblical revelation billowing our way. It was absolutely breathtaking.

It wasn’t clear whether the ash would pass directly over us, and it wasn’t clear how soon it might arrive. But it was impressive all the same.

Ten minutes later I was at the Cartee fields in northeast Anchorage waiting for the game before ours to end. Some of our players wondered aloud whether we’d play. The darkness had moved closer.

I asked the plate umpire whether he intended to call the game if the ash started to fall (knowing that our league officials are notorious for not canceling softball games for anything short of a monsoon).

The umpire wasn’t sure.

It was time for me to make out our lineup. I’d left my pencil in the car, and no one had a spare, so I took off at a trot toward the parking lot. On the way back, the very first particles of Spurr’s volcanic dust began to fall on our softball field. They caught in my eyes as I ran.

When I stopped I couldn’t feel the ash anymore so I started to fill out the scorecard. A few names into the lineup and the ash particles began to bounce off the scorebook like hailstones.

“The ump’s going to call the game,” someone said. “Let’s get out of here.”

“He hasn’t called it yet,” I said. “Don’t go!”

(We’d lost a game by forfeit once before simply because we’d been one player short at game time. This time it was different. Hardly anyone from the other team was there. We stood to win by forfeit if we could hang on against the volcano just a few minutes longer. We could gain undisputed possession of second place.)

But the ash was falling harder now. Things were getting confused.

“The ump’s going to call the game!” someone repeated.

“But he hasn’t yet!”

My wife and children wanted to go. Some of the players wanted to go.

Almost that very instant, the game in progress was called to a halt by the plate umpire, and everyone was running for their cars. Ash was falling hard now.

I stood still for a moment, alone in the ash storm, feeling a little foolish for having worried about the outcome of a softball game in the face of a showering, volcanic eruption.

Then the feeling passed.

Rookie first-baseman Kim Severson, a newcomer to Alaska, was pumped. “Geez!” she said, “I’ve never had a game called on account of volcano before . . . ”

Neither had I, to tell the truth, but I didn’t say so (we Alaskans have our image to maintain). I just nodded sympathetically.

Then I joined my family in the dash for the parking lot.

It was difficult to keep the ash out of your eyes. Ash is a misnomer, I thought. It’s really tiny grains of glass. And it hurt just like it does when you get sand blown in your eye. One of my daughters began to cry . . .

Once we got inside our car, though, we were all OK. We felt protected. Now it became a question of protecting the car . . .

We decided not to drive home to South Anchorage. That way was utterly black. Instead, we turned our car toward the last sliver of open skyline north of downtown, where my brother-in-law lives.

The volcanic dirt billowed all around as we drove.

Even with bright headlights on, it was hard to see the road or whether anyone was walking along its edge. We slowed to a crawl.

The powdery ash grew so thick on the street it splashed up from the wheels like rainwater.

The morning after the eruption of Mount Spurr, the town was digging itself out and all the romance was gone.

Gone to dust. A monumental blanket of dust bigger than all Anchorage.

Rubbing a little silica into the wound of it all was the fact that our summer rains had finally stopped the day before, and the sun was actually shining.

Not that you could see it. Dry weather and a few passing cars combined to whip the ash as high as a 10-story building, blotting out the sun.

Traffic was light. Many residents took care not to drive their cars. Many stayed home from work. Most of those on the road wandered through a lunar landscape searching in vain for an auto parts store that might still have air filters for sale.

“I sold 500 air filters before I even opened the shop today,” a clerk at a downtown auto supply store told me. “We don’t have much left.”

Paint shops that sold protective mouth-and-nose masks were doing just as well. Businesses bought them by the dozens for their employees. Most homeowners made do with handkerchief bandannas.

And one by one, the people of Anchorage crawled out of their homes and shops to sweep away volcano dust and get back to their lives.

Mount Spurr erupts: Anchorage wheezes to a halt in clouds of ash

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-05-23 07:46

Originally published on Aug. 19, 1992

Mount Spurr erupted Tuesday for the second time this summer, blowing a plume of ash 11 miles high, halting air traffic and blackening the evening sky over southcentral Alaska. By 8 p.m, ash was falling like rain in West Anchorage neighborhoods, street lights flickered on and a sulfurous smell hung in the air. Four Southcentral airports, including Anchorage International, were closed by 8:15 p.m., but commercial airlines had already grounded their planes.

Vulcanologist Robert McGinsey of the Alaska Volcano Observatory flew over the mountain as it was erupting Tuesday. He called the blast a “large, billowy, explosive event” and described “great big blocks being thrown up out of the cloud.”

Lying 80 miles west of Anchorage across Cook Inlet, Spurr first trembled at 3:35 p.m. Tuesday, and by 4:10 the first airplane pilot reported seeing a dark, ominous cloud rising from Crater Peak, according to the Alaska Volcano Observatory.

Half an hour later, Spurr exploded.

The ash cloud traveled 60,000 feet well into the stratosphere and winds carried it east and south across Anchorage and Turnagain Arm.

The volcano last blew on June 27, but it had been quiet since then and seismic stations on its slopes provided little warning of Tuesday’s blast.

By 8:45, just as the eruption had tapered off, Anchorage was engulfed in a darkness that could be felt and tasted.

“It looks like midnight in the middle of winter,” said Bayshore resident Melodie Gross.

“It’s like a scary movie,” said Mary Lou Wojtalik, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration, as she peered out of her downtown office windows.

But at the same time, villagers in Tyonek southwest of Anchorage said the sun was shining.

“We can see it real good,” said Tyonek village president Don Standifer. “But fortunately the wind is blowing in the right direction.”

Tuesday’s eruption appeared to be bigger than the June blast, said Mike Doukas, a vulcanologist with the Alaska Volcano Observatory in Anchorage. The June cloud was measured at 30,000 to 40,000 feet.

Winds blowing from the west and northwest were expected to spread the ash over a larger area than in June, when winds were blowing steadily to the north, Doukas said. Seismic measurements of Tuesday’s eruption made it appear somewhat stronger than June’s eruption.

Witnesses saw spectacular lightning displays in the cloud Tuesday, the result of intense static electricity generated by the billowing dust, said Steve McNutt, acting coordinating scientist for the volcano observatory. The presence of static electricity generally means much of the eruption material comes from fresh magma and has a high silica content, McNutt said. June’s eruption produced no lightning and much of the ash came from old rock that had plugged up the volcano’s cone, he said.

Ash collected like powdery snow on Anchorage’s streets, swirling around moving vehicles and obscuring motorists’ vision.

By midevening, the Anchorage Police Department announced officers would respond only to emergencies, and the municipal assembly abruptly ended its weekly meeting at 8:20 after racing through some final business. Alaska State Troopers activated the emergency broadcast system to warn drivers against venturing onto the highways.

Around Anchorage, customers lined up at local shops to buy air filters for their cars, and some merchants reported that they had sold out. Stores also saw a run on surgical masks.

Julie Bolger and her son, Kyle, stopped at the Boniface Mall to buy face masks to protect themselves from breathing the grit.

“I’m going home and getting out of this ash,” she said. “This stuff burns my throat.”

A supervisor at Grand Auto Supply in the Northern Lights Fred Meyer store said he sold about 160 air filters in two hours. The rush hit about 7:30.

“We just had a line all the way to the back of the store,” Jeff Newell said, barely able to pause between ringing up sales. “It’s been pretty crazy.”

Commercial flights to and from Anchorage were canceled and airline officials said planes may be grounded at least until this afternoon. The crew and aircraft for one Northwest Airlines flight planned to leave an hour early with no passengers, before the ash reached Anchorage, but an official said the empty flight was scrubbed.

Airline agents were busy calling passengers to advise them their flights were canceled, said Northwest cargo agent Dick Sanders. Four Northwest flights en route to Anchorage were sent back to their original stations.

United Airlines also canceled flights, leaving aircraft bound for Seattle and Chicago on the ground. Spokeswoman Kim Thomas said United had canceled its first three scheduled Wednesday flights out of Anchorage.

“We should get a better look once the sun comes up, but we don’t anticipate any new flights until tomorrow afternoon at the earliest,” she said.

At Elmendorf Air Force Base, officials began moving aircraft inside the hangars at the first report of an eruption. By the time the ash began falling, 28 planes that wouldn’t fit into hangars had been flown to other Alaska locations, said Maj. Ron McGee, a base spokesman.

The weather forecast in Anchorage was for no rain, a slight breeze but a chance of winds up to 25 miles per hour on Turnagain Arm and the Upper Hillside, creating a threat of troublesome blowing ash. After the Mount Redoubt eruption at Christmastime in 1989, ash lingered on the ground in Soldotna for several days, creating a dust cloud every time a car drove by.

Late Tuesday, the ash cloud was moving across the Kenai Peninsula, north of Seward toward Prince William Sound. There were reports of ash on the ground from Eagle River to Hope, but none on the central and southern communities on the Kenai Peninsula.

Even though the eruption began to taper off at 8 p.m., ash was expected to continue falling over Anchorage for several hours as the cloud drifted east.

Nursing supervisors at the city’s two major hospitals said no serious health problems were reported.

“Mostly, people are calling and asking for information, what to do,” said Yvonne Cairns at Providence Hospital. “We’re offering masks to any people out there that need them.”

Domino’s Pizza on Fifth Avenue delivered pizzas up until the heaviest ash fall about 8:30, manager Dave Western said. Then he shut down the operation.

“There’s no need to be going out there ruining your vehicle over pizza,” he told his drivers.

WHAT CLOSED

Anchorage International Airport, Merrill Field, Lake Hood, Elmendorf Air Force Base and Kenai Municipal Airport, People Mover buses

Daily News reporters Don Hunter, Natalie Phillips and Hugh Curran contributed to this story.

‘SPYGATE’: Trump steps up attacks on FBI’s probes during campaign

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-05-23 07:18

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump on Wednesday asserted that the FBI’s use of a confidential source to seek information from several campaign aides could turn out to be “one of the biggest political scandals in history!”

The comments were Trump’s latest salvo over reports that the FBI used a confidential source in its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

There is no evidence to suggest that the source was inserted into the Trump campaign, as the president has suggested, but the source did seek out and meet Trump campaign advisers.

Dubbing the episode “SPYGATE” on Twitter, Trump suggested the tables had now turned on those investigating his campaign for possible collusion with Russian, writing: “What goes around, comes around!”

In a series of morning tweets, the president referred to those investigating him as the “Criminal Deep State,” claiming they had been “caught in a major SPY scandal the likes of which this country may never have seen before!”

The FBI source, a longtime Republican and former University of Cambridge professor Stefan A. Halper, had contact with at least three advisers to Trump during the campaign. Trump and his allies have sought to cast that as inappropriate political spying.

In his tweets, Trump also quoted Andrew Napolitano, a former New Jersey Superior Court judge and frequent Fox News commentator, saying that “it’s clear that they had eyes and ears all over the Trump Campaign.” Napolitano appeared on “Fox & Friends” earlier Wednesday morning.

Trump and his aides have derisively used the term “deep state” to refer to long-serving unelected officials whom they claim are out to undermine his presidency.

During a television appearance on Tuesday, former director of national intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. said that the FBI never spied on the Trump campaign.

“They were not. They were spying - a term I don’t particularly like - on what the Russians were doing,” Clapper said during an appearance on ABC’s “The View” to promote a new book.

The FBI, Clapper said, was simply trying to answer the question, “Were the Russians infiltrating, trying to gain access, trying to gain leverage and influence?”

In a later tweet Wednesday morning, Trump took issue with Clapper’s assessment that the then-GOP nominee should have been grateful for the FBI’s surveillance.

“No, James R. Clapper Jr., I am not happy,” Trump wrote. “Spying on a campaign would be illegal, and a scandal to boot!”

The use of the confidential source has been at the fore of Trump and conservative lawmakers’ long-running feud with the Justice Department and special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether Trump’s campaign coordinated with Russia during the campaign.

On Tuesday, the White House said that two Republican lawmakers will be allowed to review classified information about the FBI source during a meeting Thursday with intelligence officials. The Justice Department had resisted sharing information, saying it jeopardized the source.

911 calls on cougar attack: Dropped calls and a ‘Help!’

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-05-23 07:13

Nearly 30 minutes of 911 emergency calls released Tuesday detail in real time the drama of last Saturday’s fatal cougar attack in the Cascade Mountain foothills.

The first call for help to the King County Sheriff’s Office, at 10:42 a.m., came from Isaac Sederbaum, a 31-year-old Seattle man, his ear mangled and his head, face and neck bloodied after being jumped by the big cat. Sederbaum had ridden his bicycle down a gravel logging road, looking for cellphone coverage.

The call gets through for a second, just enough to register with the dispatcher, then drops. Five minutes later, Sederbaum tries again. Again, it lasts only a second.

Then, at 10:54, a call lasts long enough for the dispatcher to hear wind in the background and one scream: “Help!” Then that call is also lost.

Sederbaum had fled down the mountain trying to find help for his riding companion, S.J. Brooks, 32, of Seattle, after the cougar had ended its attack on him and gone after Brooks.

Brooks was found dead beneath a log, dragged there by the cat. First responders said the cat was on Brooks’ body when they arrived. The exact time of the medics’ arrival was not immediately available.

The animal, a 3-year-old male that an official called “emaciated,” was treed and shot by wildlife officers and their dogs. Its carcass was sent to Washington State University for necropsy.

Sederbaum, who underwent surgery for lacerations and wounds to his head and face, was released from Harborview Medical Center on Tuesday.

“Middle of nowhere”

When the injured Sederbaum finally gets through to 911 dispatch Saturday morning, all he knows is that both he and Brooks need help. They are isolated -- “kind of in the middle of nowhere,” is how the dispatcher put it -- and Sederbaum is scared.

The 911 dispatcher who took the call transfers it to NORCOM, the emergency service for Northeast King County.

“He says him and his friend were attacked by a mountain lion. I’m trying to figure out where they’re at,” one dispatcher tells another on the tape. Another tries to calm the distraught Sederbaum.

“Sir, sir.” She’s calmly emphatic.

Sederbaum, the stress obvious in his voice, replies, “I’m on a logging road north of North Bend.”

Over the next nearly half-hour, dispatchers repeatedly try to establish Sederbaum’s whereabouts, first by asking him to search for landmarks or signs, then by attempting to obtain a GPS location by pinging his cellphone.

Help first arrives in the form of a couple in a vehicle that Sederbaum flags down.

“Can you talk to 911?” Sederbaum can be heard asking them on the 911 recording. “I got attacked by a mountain lion. My friend is up there ...”

A few seconds later, a woman comes on the line. The dispatcher keeps trying to figure out where to send the medics. It’s not easy.

“Do you know North Bend at all?” the woman says. “I’m trying to get it on map. Hold on.”

She says, “We just came upon him on the road. So can you send someone out?”

The dispatcher says, “Ma’am, help has already been sent. We’re just trying to tell them how to get there the quickest way.”

A truck arrives -- this one with a man named Matt and his companion, Meaghan, who he says is a registered nurse. They stop to help Sederbaum. Matt and the dispatcher pick up the conversation.

“Any buildings or landmarks?” she asks.

“No,” answers Matt. “We’re out in the forest.”

Looking for details

The dispatcher asks about Sederbaum, whose raised voice can be heard in the background.

“He’s conscious. He has pretty serious lacerations on his face and head. He’s covered in blood,” Matt tells the dispatcher. “He says he has a friend who may be seriously hurt” back down the road, maybe five miles.

“He’s scared and wants to get out of the mountains,” Matt says. He can be heard telling Sederbaum, “Just chill out, buddy,” as he and the dispatcher attempt to establish the GPS location via cellphone.

The dispatcher tells Matt to control any bleeding with a towel or shirt, and to keep pressure on the wound.

“He’s not got a lot of bleeding ... right now he’s starting to feel some. I think the adrenaline is starting to wear off,” says Matt.

He tells Sederbaum, “They’re sending someone, Isaac. They’re having a hard time figuring out where we are.”

When another car comes by, Matt and Meaghan decide they will take their truck up the road to look for the missing man. There is some confusion at first, but once the King County Sheriff’s Office figures out what Matt is intending, he is waved off.

“Go to a safe place,” the dispatcher tells him. “We have trained professionals looking for them ... Don’t put yourself in jeopardy ... We don’t want to have a third or fourth patient. We do appreciate your gesture ...”

Meantime, the dispatcher is talking to Sederbaum as he and the passers-by wait for deputies and an aid car. “How are you doing?” she asks.

He sounds distressed.

“I need an ambulance,” he says. “I’m so worried about my friend.”

A year later, details still scarce on leg found in Gastineau Channel

Juneau Hot Topics - Wed, 2018-05-23 07:00
The Treadwell Mine Salt Water Pump House on Sandy Beach in Douglas as seen from Mt. Roberts on September 25, 2013. (Michael Penn | Juneau ...

Ocean, jungle explosions new risks from Hawaii eruption

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-05-23 06:21

HONOLULU - Lava from Hawaii‘s erupting Kilauea volcano is exploding as it pours into the ocean, shooting rock fragments that are a danger to boaters. Inland, where molten rock is burning through jungle, methane explosions are hurling boulders while toxic gas is reaching some of the highest levels seen in recent times.

These were new risks geologists warned of on Tuesday as Kilauea’s 19-day eruption showed no sign of easing, with repeated explosions at its summit and fountains of lava up to 160 feet (50 m) from giant cracks or fissures on its flank.

Lava edged towards a geothermal power plant on Tuesday after destroying an old warehouse near the facility, County of Hawaii Civil Defense said.

Workers at the closed Puna Geothermal Venture, which provided around 25 percent of electricity on Hawaii‘s Big Island, worked to cap the last of three pressurized wells to reduce the risk of an uncontrolled release of toxic gases should they be inundated by lava.

The race at the site marked the latest challenge facing authorities during what geologists call an unprecedented, simultaneous eruption at Kilauea’s summit and from giant fissures 25 miles (40 km) down its eastern side.

“Fissures near Puna Geothermal Venture are active and producing lava slowly flowing onto the property,” Civil Defense said in a statement. “This activity has destroyed the former Hawaii Geothermal Project site,” it said referring to the warehouse.

An explosive eruption at the Kilauea summit at 3:45 a.m. (9:45 a.m. EST) sent ash to a height of 8,000 feet (2,438 meters) over Hawaii’s Big Island, civil defense said. Communities southwest of the summit were dusted with ash, said National Weather Service meteorologist John Bravender.

On the volcano’s east flank, nearly two-dozen fissures are producing 15,000 tons a day of toxic sulfur dioxide, a level “much higher than seen in recent times,” Bravender said.

MORE VIOLENT PHASE

The Puna district’s geothermal plant has been closed since shortly after lava began erupting on May 3 through newly opened fissures in the ground running through neighborhoods and roads in an area near the community of Pahoa.

About 3 miles (4.8 km) to the east of the plant on the coast, noxious clouds of acid fumes, steam and fine glass-like particles billowed into the sky as lava poured into the ocean from two lava flows.

At least 47 homes and other structures have been destroyed by nearly two dozen fissures in the Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens, and a man was seriously injured on Saturday by flying lava. Around two thousand people have been forced to evacuate, and many others have voluntarily left their homes.

Trump’s huge impact on the federal bench

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-05-23 05:46

Some day, conservative critics of President Donald Trump will have to reconcile their vehement opposition to him with their love of the Constitution, The latter is most definitely benefiting from the president’s massive impact on the federal bench, one that extends far beyond Justice Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court, though by far the most important court, still only reviews 80 or so appeals court decisions per year. The appeals courts, however, are burdened with massive amounts of decision-making year-round. Federal appeals court judges completed 96,000 case “participations” in 2017. (A case participation means that one judge heard an oral argument or reviewed an appeal on briefs. Thus, when a single appeal is heard before a panel of three judges, it is three participations.)

Trump has appointed 21 of the 167 current full-time judges and intends to fill another 20 or more vacancies by year end. The president and the GOP-controlled Senate have thus already put one-eighth of the federal appeals bench in their seats. Each of those new appointees - all principled “originalists” in the mold of the late Justice Antonin Scalia - will have more than 400 participations in 2018 alone. There are 10 more appeals court nominees in the queue and a dozenother vacancies awaiting nominees beyond those, and Senate Republicans have made these positions their priority (unless there is a retirement on the Supreme Court). With the age of initial appointment dropping and retirement age advancing, we can reasonably expect Trump-appointed judges to average 20 years on the bench. Expect a total of 40 new appeals court judges by the end of Trump’s first two years.

To assess Trump’s impact, read the annual report of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. The president has already nominated four of the 15 active judges on that circuit and is soon likely to fill the two remaining vacancies. Each active judge has averaged between 144 and 163 opinions per year for many years. We can expect that, if past is prologue, each of the new judges will author about 150 opinions from among the hundreds of opinion-generating cases in which they participate annually.

The Trump judges on the 5th Circuit and their new colleagues on other federal appeals benches across the land will be busy long into the future. Review the math presented above, and extend the trends into the future, including another 20 or so more federal circuit court confirmations expected this year. By 2019, Trump judges will be participating in more than 15,000 decisions every year, and almost all those decisions will be the law of the land. There will be no less than 400 crucial case votes and dozens of signed opinions, each year, every year for most of the Trump judges. If the judges sit for an average run of 20 years on the bench, that’s 8,000 key votes per Trump-appointed judge.

The critiques from the #NeverTrump rump have always been heated and sincere, but unbalanced by any appreciation for this remarkable record of repair of the bench. The Third Branch looks today and will look for decades into the future far more originalist because of Trump compared with how it would have been under Hillary Clinton.

Looking forward, I’ll bend the famous Carville phrase a bit: “It’s the judges, brilliant people” works for me for the midterm message of the GOP. Republicans should run hard on this record from now to the fall and promise much, much more of the same. Trump has not merely nudged the direction of the law, he has turned it decisively back toward limited government, not just through deregulation, but by seating judges inclined to look askance at the progressive idea of a “living Constitution.”

Hugh Hewitt, a Washington Post contributing columnist, hosts a nationally syndicated radio show and is author of “The Fourth Way: The Conservative Playbook for a Lasting GOP Majority.”

Walkoff win puts South Wolverines in state baseball tournament

Alaska News - Tue, 2018-05-22 20:58

The South Wolverines are headed to the state high school baseball tournament for the eighth straight season thanks to a 2-1 victory over West on Monday night.

South will join Chugiak as the Cook Inlet Conference's representatives at next week's state tournament at Mulcahy Stadium.

Chugiak fended off Service 9-8 in a Monday game that helped send South to state.

The Mustangs had already clinched a tournament berth, but South, West and Service were all in the hunt for the CIC's second tournament berth entering Monday's play.

Had Service beaten Chugiak on Monday, a playoff game would have been held Wednesday between Service and South.

Both of Monday's games ended on walkoffs.

At Mulcahy Stadium, South's Terren Sugita drove in the winning run with a bases-loaded single with no outs in the bottom of the eighth inning. At Bartlett High, Chugiak's Sam Hall drew a one-out, bases-loaded walk to drive in the winning run in the bottom of the eighth inning.

The South-West game was a pitcher's duel that needed extra innings after seven innings ended with the score tied 1-1.

In the bottom of the eighth, West starting pitcher Leland Wilson, who limited South to two hits in the first seven innings, put leadoff batter  Josh Costello on base and was replaced by Luis Nunez, who threw two wild pitches to move Costello to third base.

Two intentional walks loaded the bases for Sugita, who drove in Costello with a single to center field.

South starter Jacob Woodall went the distance, striking out seven and giving up six hits and three walks to get the victory. Wilson, who took the loss, struck out 10 and walked five.

In Monday's other game, Service led 7-1 after the top of the seventh inning only to see the CIC champion Mustangs roar back with six runs in the bottom of the inning.

Service grabbed an 8-7 lead in the eighth, but Chugiak came back with two runs in its half of the inning to deprive the Cougars of a trip to the state tournament.

Jacob Kosinski, Ian Frizelle and Gus Lewis drove in runs for Chugiak in the big seventh inning. Hall and Christian Cambridge came through for the Mustangs with RBIs in the eighth inning.

Service's Jaren Childs was 2 for 4 with four RBIs and pitched six innings, allowing three runs on three hits.

Regular-season play in the CIC wrapped up Tuesday with Dimond handing Eagle River an 11-1 loss. A game between Bartlett and East was rained out and will not be rescheduled.

Alaska is doubling the usual number of high school soccer champs

Alaska News - Tue, 2018-05-22 20:18

Alaska will crown twice as many soccer champions than ever before when season-ending high school tournaments are played this week in Anchorage.

What was once a single-classification sport is now a two-classification sport, meaning there are now two state tournaments for boys and two for girls.

Action kicks off Thursday at Service and Eagle River high schools, with the girls playing at Service and the boys at Eagle River. All four championship matches are Saturday at Service.

The biggest schools will play in the Division I tournament, where the Dimond girls and South boys are the defending champions.

Smaller schools will play in the Division II tournament, where there are no defending champs.

The advent of the Division II tournament meant the downsizing of the tournament brackets, which have six teams instead of the usual eight.

Both of Dimond's teams received first-round byes in the Division I tournament, as did the Wasilla girls and Colony boys. In the Division II tournament, first-round byes went to the Kenai and North Pole boys and the Juneau and Soldotna girls.

Juneau is the only Division II school that captured a state title back when there was a single classification.

Since 2000 the Juneau boys have made it to 11 championship matches and won five of them, including two straight in 2010 and 2011.

The Crimson Bears are the last non-Anchorage team to win a girls state title, winning it all in 2004.

Thursday's matches

At Service High School

Division I girls
1 p.m. — West vs. Service
3 p.m. — West Valley vs. South

Division II girls
5 p.m. — North Pole vs. Palmer
7 p.m. — Grace Christian vs. Kenai

At Eagle River High School

Division I boys
5 p.m. — South vs. Lathrop
7 p.m. — Service vs. West

Division II boys
1 p.m. — Grace Christian vs. Homer
3 p.m. — Juneau vs. Kodiak

Pulitzer-winning author Philip Roth dies at 85

Alaska News - Tue, 2018-05-22 20:09

Author Philip Roth, who was both hailed and derided for laying bare the neuroses and obsessions that haunted the modern Jewish-American experience, died on Tuesday at the age of 85, The New York Times reported.

The cause of Roth's death was congestive heart failure, Judith Thurman, a close friend, told The New York Times.

Roth wrote more than 30 books, including the 1991 memoir "Patrimony," which examined his complex relationship with his father and won the National Book Critics Circle Award.

In his later years, Roth turned to the existential and sexual crises of middle age, never abandoning his commitment to exploring shame, embarrassment and other guilty secrets of the self, although usually with a heavy dose of humor.

After more than 50 years as a writer, Roth decided that 2010's "Nemesis," the story of a polio epidemic in the Newark, New Jersey, neighborhood where he grew up, would be his last novel. He then went back and reread all his works "to see whether I'd wasted my time," he said in a 2014 interview published in the New York Times Book Review.

For his conclusion, he quoted Joe Lewis, the heavyweight boxing champion of the 1930s and '40s: "I did the best I could with what I had."

In 2017 he published "Why Write?," a collection of essays and non-fiction works written between 1960 and 2013.

Roth's best-known work was the 1969 novel "Portnoy's Complaint," a first-person narrative about Alexander Portnoy, a young middle-class Jewish New Yorker. The book featured several notorious masturbation scenes and a narrator who declared he wanted to "put the id back in yid."

Roth's first published book was the 1959 novella and short-story collection "Goodbye, Columbus," which won the National Book Award. Several of his novels, including "Zuckerman Unbound," "The Ghost Writer" and "The Anatomy Lesson" feature Nathan Zuckerman, a character who came to be seen as Roth's fictional alter ego.

Roth liked to play with the distinctions between fact and fiction, often writing about neurotic novelists and even naming some characters "Philip." Yet he was frequently annoyed and amused by readers' desire to project the real Roth onto his characters.

Although his novels often explored the Jewish experience in America, Roth, who said he was an atheist, rejected being labeled a Jewish-American writer.

"It's not a question that interests me. I know exactly what it means to be Jewish and it's really not interesting," he told the Guardian newspaper in 2005. "I'm an American."

Some critics said Roth's novels exposed him as a self-hating Jew who played on negative stereotypes or generally cast Jews in a bad light. He would recall the hostile reception at a symposium at New York's Yeshiva University in 1962 as the "most bruising public exchange of my life."

MULTIPLE HONORS

Roth won the Pulitzer Prize for 1997's "American Pastoral," which examined the impact of the 1960s on a New Jersey family. He was the first three-time winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award, honored for "Operation Shylock" in 1994, "The Human Stain" in 2001 and "Everyman" in 2007. Roth also received the National Medal of Arts at the White House in 1998.

Philip Milton Roth was born on March 19, 1933, in Newark, New Jersey. The son of an insurance salesman, Roth earned a bachelor's degree at Buckle University and a master's degree in English from the University of Chicago. He dropped out of the doctoral program in 1959 to write film reviews for the New Republic before "Goodbye, Columbus" came out.

Roth taught comparative literature, mostly at the University of Pennsylvania. He retired from teaching in 1992 as a distinguished professor of literature at New York's Hunter College.

Roth had a long relationship with British actress Claire Bloom but their five-year marriage ended in divorce in 1995. A year later, she published a bruising memoir, "Leaving a Doll's House," in which she portrayed him as depressed, remote, self-centered and verbally abusive.

Roth had been especially prolific in the years leading to his 2012 retirement from writing, turning out novels nearly every two years. His more recent books included 2001's "The Dying Animal" and "The Human Stain," published in 2000 and released in 2003 as a movie starring Anthony Hopkins and Nicole Kidman.

"The Plot Against America," published in 2004, imagines what would have happened had flying ace Charles Lindbergh, an isolationist who expressed anti-Semitic views, defeated Franklin Roosevelt in the 1940 election and signed a peace accord with Adolf Hitler.

Following the death of several friends, including novelist Saul Bellow in 2005, Roth wrote "Everyman," a short work of fiction about the physical decline and death of a successful advertising executive.

Roth was considered a difficult interview subject and told the Guardian he disliked discussing his books. "You should let people fight with the books on their own and rediscover what they are and what they are not."

Roth said the act of writing for him is "filled with fear and loneliness and anxiety." But, he added, "There are some days that compensate completely. In my life I have had, in total, a couple of months of these completely wonderful days as a writer, and that is enough."

In a New York Times interview in 2018, Roth reflected on his 50-plus years as a writer, describing it as: "Exhilaration and groaning. Frustration and freedom. Inspiration and uncertainty. Abundance and emptiness. Blazing forth and muddling through."

(Reporting by Eric Beech)

Letter: Enough socialist politics

Alaska News - Tue, 2018-05-22 20:06

It's sad that Charles Wohlforth tried to explain away his socialistic tendencies in his May 18 column by trying to find fault with President Donald Trump and capitalism. Since before the election, the liberal side of politics has purposely acted angry and divisive with their rhetoric and demonstrations because they didn't get their way.

Mr. Wohlforth spouts common socialistic ethics as a panacea for today's woes. "Fair economic system," "safety net" and "basic income" are all standard socialist doctrine.

The economy is not fair. It benefits those who work hard and punishes the lazy. A safety net means taking assets from one person against their will and giving them to another. That is even more true with a basic income. This is an unfair redistribution of wealth.

Once the liberal left decides everyone should contribute to the fabric of society by working at their skill level and receiving appropriate compensation, this division of our politics might go away.

Jimmy K. Walton
Anchorage

Letter: Stand for Salmon isn’t in Alaska’s interest

Alaska News - Tue, 2018-05-22 20:02

Like any fish story about "the one that got away," Dan Michels' May 14 column ("Protecting salmon is good business and the right thing to do") is a great example of a tale defined by what's missing.

Mr. Michels fails to acknowledge that the growing list of opponents to the misguided "Stand For Salmon" ballot measure includes labor unions, Alaska Native corporations, small businesses and Alaskans that span the economic spectrum. They are opposed to this measure because it pits a few wealthy out-of-state environmental activists against tens of thousands of working Alaskans represented by the Stand for Alaska coalition — your friends, family, and neighbors.

When Mr. Michels praises the greatest sockeye migration on Earth, he is actually making our point for us: The current system works. Alaska's fisheries management system is one of the best in the world, thanks to 18 different laws and regulations at the state and federal level. Let's recognize this success rather than trying to scare Alaskans into supporting an Outside cause against our state's best interests.

Marleanna Hall
Chair, Stand for Alaska coalition
Anchorage

Quick to catch, quick to cook: Meet Alaska’s humble hooligan

Alaska News - Tue, 2018-05-22 19:41

Eleven-year-old Evin Catron crushed it on his first day as a hooligan fisherman.

In about an hour's time at the Twentymile River south of Girdwood, the Palmer boy netted a couple dozen of the slender silver fish that for Alaskans represent the promise of much bigger things.

The brief hooligan season — it ends May 31 in saltwater and June 15 in fresh water — ushers in the Southcentral Alaska fishing season. Once hooligan migrate from the ocean, the salmon aren't far behind.

And while hooking a mammoth king is the prize catch for most Alaskans, the humble hooligan has its fans too.

"It's a once-a-year thing, so it's a treat," said Louise Britton, who grew up in the Lower Yukon and lives in Anchorage. "I fry them two or three minutes, turn them over and fry them another two or three minutes, and then I eat 10 of them.

"They're quick to fry, and quick to eat."

Catron didn't need to do much prep work for his day on the river. "I came here like this," he said, dressed in a T-shirt and jeans as he stood next to his bucket of fish, some of them still breathing. "Except I changed my shoes."

He didn't need to do much work afterward, either. Catron made his rookie hooligan trip under the supervision of his grandmother, Cindy Todd of Kenai, who knows exactly what to do with hooligan.

"Chop their heads off, thumb through the guts, sauté them in a pan of olive oil and eat them right away," she said.

"I eat mine right off the bone. The fresher the better."

Todd also knows what not to do with hooligan.

"I had some frozen once and I didn't like them," she said. "And I pickled some once before and I didn't like them."

Beyond that, there's not much not to like about hooligan, especially fishing for them.

No hooks to bait or lines to untangle. No pile of guts to dispose of. No limit to worry about. And very little chance of going home empty-handed.

Some people catch hooligan by the bucketful; others, like Catron and Todd, call it quits when they have enough to fill a frying pan or two. The key is that if you're fishing for hooligan while the tide is coming in, you're not likely to get skunked.

Around noon Tuesday, there were as many bald eagles fishing for hooligan as there were humans. Both species were having moderate success.

Britton was among 20 people who were at Twentymile River with the Southcentral Foundation's Elder Program. Members of the group talked about frying hooligan, baking them, smoking them and boiling them — usually with the heads still on.

"I fry them up in oil till they're crispy," group member Tasha Nelson said. "You can eat the crunchy ones like dried jerkies. I know there are bones in them, but I chew them up and swallow them."

Twentymile is the most popular place for Anchorage residents to find hooligan. There's a parking lot on the Turnagain Arm side of the Seward Highway, and you can fish on either side of the road. Many take their long-handled dipnets across the highway and make the short, rocky walk down to the riverbank.

The best time to fish is on an incoming tide.

"They're weak swimmers, so they use that tide to move up that river," said Shane Hertzog of Alaska Department of Fish and Game. "A flood tide really slows down (the fishing) because they can spread out."

The personal-use hooligan season is open to Alaskans with resident fishing licenses, which makes Bill Hagemeyer a new but devoted fan of the fishery.

Hagemeyer and his wife moved to Anchorage from Florida in November 2016. He had never heard of hooligan before but quickly developed a taste for catching them, and eating them.

"I got 600 last week," he said.

He likes them sprinkled with cayenne pepper and sauteed in a little olive oil. "The meat falls off the bone," he said. "You can even eat the bones."

Jacky Graham, who has lived in Girdwood for more than 40 years, is a bit of a hooligan gourmet. She recommends Yoshida marinade for a brine when smoking them, "and don't smoke them too long," she warned.

Graham said her goal this year is three dozen hooligan, which she will smoke, freeze and eat for the rest of the year. She still has some of last year's catch in her freezer.

"I believe before you fish you should eat fish," Graham said, "so I just ate three hooligans before I came."

The difference between killing for fun and killing for food is not a fine line. It’s a chasm.

Alaska News - Tue, 2018-05-22 19:29

It drives me nuts to have to sit inside and type on the computer. I think, upon reflection, that this may be a learned trait rather than simply genetics.

When I was a kid the internet did not exist. Television was limited to a couple of channels. Saturday morning had cartoons like "Tom and Jerry," but any daytime television was geared to the stay-at-home mom.

My entertainment came from outdoors activities. We had no close neighbors, no baseball team, so I went to the woods.

The forests taught me a way of life. The kid who played in the woods became a predator — a hunter and trapper.

The woodlands also taught me respect. I saw how hard the animals struggled for survival. The quest for food ruled all. I was a marauder, but one with a conscience.

Conscience distinguishes us from other predatory animals. The wolf who kills because he can, and feeds on his prey while it still lives, has no empathy. He has no need for sympathy because wolves can rarely kill enough excess to matter in the big scheme of things.

People are a different cut of cat altogether.  I have written in the past of folks who term themselves hunters, who kill porcupines along the road, shoot gulls and ravens at their camps and generally show disrespect for living things. I am not certain if these once-a-season woodsmen do this from boredom or laziness. Whatever their reasoning, it makes no sense to me.

[What is a sport hunter? Words don't always fit a person's motivation]

A recent event along the Richardson Highway saddened me. One day last week, I drove to town from our place south of Delta Junction. I passed a guy and his two kids hunting hares along the roadside. Varying hares are plentiful this spring, and the roadside ditches are just beginning to green-up, bringing the bunnies to vulnerable areas. Mating season is also in full swing so these little guys are not carrying a full load of smarts with them.

My thought upon seeing the hunters was, "Cool, dad is teaching his kids how to get dinner."

Sixty years in the woods and I'm still naive. Two hours later, I was headed home to find at least 20 dead hares shot and left in the ditch. I had not been smart enough to get a license plate, and in all honesty I did not even remember the type of vehicle.

What type of person possesses such a disrespect for life? This guy was passing on his contempt for the living to the next generation. Casual, senseless murder of a living thing.

There are those who suggest the hunting or trapping of any living creature can be looked upon the same way. Dead is dead. But the difference between killing for fun and killing for food is not a fine line. It is a chasm.

The wolf who kills more than his immediate need cannot be chastised for that transgression. His genetics have programmed him to survive. Food is his overriding quest.

Humans have long outgrown that genetic trigger, or maybe we never had it. As hunters and outdoors people, we need to have respect for living critters. It is OK to take animals or raise animals for food, but jumping for joy upon taking a life should not be part of the equation.

Forty years ago, two kids who lived in Paxson stopped at my cabin. They triumphantly displayed a muskrat they had just shot.

"Why did you shoot that?" I asked. I got a blank look and an "I don't know" in reply.

I showed the kids how to skin it and make a stretcher for the hide. We cleaned, fried and ate it, and the kids pronounced it "good!" I have since lost track of those kids, who would now be in their 50s, but I am still simple enough to think that short lesson might have carried into their later life.

My point? Take your children outside. Communicate the struggles of wildlife, even if it be those of the mice in your backyard. The television cannot teach that, nor can the internet. Hands-on is the way to teach that it is only permissible to take a life with good reason, and to define the chasm between fun and need.

John Schandelmeier is a lifelong Alaskan who lives with his family near Paxson.

2-year-old girl in stable condition after stray bullet hits her during Fairview shootout

Alaska News - Tue, 2018-05-22 19:11

Destinee Kangas was inside her Fairview apartment with her four children late Monday afternoon when she heard the pop-pop-pop-pop-pop-pop.

It's not that uncommon to hear gunshots, she said, even six of them in a row.

"There is a lot of violence in this part of the area," she said Tuesday, standing outside her apartment off East 11th Avenue, between Hyder and Gambell streets.

After the gunshots, Kangas heard sirens. She looked out the window and saw officers running into an apartment in the building across from her own. One of the emergency responders hurried out, holding her neighbor's young daughter.

A stray bullet had hit the 2-year-old in her upper body, police said. Family said the girl was in stable condition Tuesday as police continued to search for the suspects who had fired the weapons outside.

"I just hope she's OK," Kangas, 22, said as her 4-year-old daughter played with a doll in the window.

No one was home early Tuesday evening at the apartment where the toddler lives. The girl remained at the hospital, Kangas said.

Police have not identified the toddler who was shot. The girl's aunt said her parents were focused on her recovery and not yet ready to talk about the shooting.

Police said they first got calls about the shooting at 3:54 p.m. Monday. People reported that individuals in two moving vehicles were firing bullets at each other.

One of those bullets traveled into the apartment where the 2-year-old was in the living room with other family members. It hit her, according to police.

Police later found one of the two vehicles, a red Dodge Ram pickup, and impounded it as evidence. Officers questioned the driver and later released him, said police spokesman MJ Thim.

He said police continued to search for the other vehicle and the suspects. Police have not yet released any suspect descriptions.

Police asked anyone with information about the shooting, including surveillance video, to call Anchorage's non-emergency line, 311, or submit an anonymous tip through Anchorage Crime Stoppers at 907-561-STOP or online at anchoragecrimestoppers.com.

Alaska Legislature approves statewide workplace smoking ban - UAA Northern Light

Legislative News - Tue, 2018-05-22 18:50

UAA Northern Light

Alaska Legislature approves statewide workplace smoking ban
UAA Northern Light
Senate Bill 63, otherwise known as the “Take It Outside” bill, was approved by the Alaska House of Representatives with a 32-7 vote on May 12. The bill, written by Sen. Peter Micciche, prohibits smoking in workplaces across Alaska, such as restaurants ...

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Legislative News - Tue, 2018-05-22 17:51
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Alaska bison await shipment to Siberia in project to fight climate change

Alaska News - Tue, 2018-05-22 17:43

Twelve Alaska bison are scheduled to depart next week for the Russian Arctic to participate in an unusual experiment and documentary, recreating an ice-age ecosystem, complete with a modern version of the woolly mammoth, looking for ways to slow climate change.

"We're hauling bison to Siberia to save the world," said Luke Griswold-Tergis, an independent filmmaker from Haines who is organizing the unusual cargo flight of the 500-pound critters.

The effort to ship the yearling animals from the Stevens Village Bison Farm near Delta Junction will be part of a film that Griswold-Tergis is making about Russia's Pleistocene Park, he said.

At the park, in a 6-square-mile "test plot" near the town of Chersky, the bison will join lots of reindeer, yaks, horses and other herbivores, he said. Those animals once roamed across the region.

If things go according to plan, the plant-eating animals will prevent the growth of trees and shrubs, promoting the expansion of grassland, he said. Grasslands and snowy plains in winter reflect solar radiation better than areas with trees and shrubs, reducing impacts of climate change, Griswold-Tergis said Tuesday.

The herds will also help remove the snow's insulating properties by trampling on it, allowing the ground to stay frozen longer.

The park's goal is keeping permafrost from melting so that the massive amount of heat-trapping carbon it contains is not released into the air, making global warming worse, he said.

"These 12 baby bison are admittedly a very small step toward solving a big problem, but they are part of the proof of concept" that could be repeated elsewhere in the Arctic if it works, he said.

The park, more than 800 miles northwest of Anchorage, also hopes to acquire a modern version of the woolly mammoth, if one can be made by scientists hoping to alter the genome of elephants. The giant land mammals were part of the Pleistocene era — commonly called the ice age — that ended about 12,000 years ago.

Harvard geneticist George Church is working on that effort and plans to visit the park this summer, said Griswold-Tergis. Church hopes to have the first mammoth ready for the park by 2027, he said, according to The Atlantic.

Griswold-Tergis said he plans to name his film "Pleistocene Park," partly in a nod to the blockbuster "Jurassic Park" movies that feature cloned dinosaurs.

"This all sounds really crazy," he said.

But the project leader, Nikita Zimov, and his father, Sergey Zimov, the park's founder, are legitimate scientists, he said.

[An eperimental Siberian wildlife park hopes to restore a lost ecosystem, slow climate change]

Lining up a flight for the bison from Fairbanks hasn't been easy, Griswold-Tergis said Tuesday.  He said he's still wrapping up final details for the trip.

On Monday, the animals are expected to be loaded into crates and placed in an old DC-4 cargo airplane, he said. They've passed veterinarian inspections and are quarantined to make sure they meet requirements for traveling to Russia, he said.

"Dealing with customs in Russia has been really, really complicated because no one has (flown) livestock from Alaska to Siberia as far as I know," he said.

Griswold-Tergis said he called every cargo airline in Alaska, and only Alaska Air Fuel of Palmer agreed to make the trip.

"They are saving our butts," he said. "One place I called up said, 'Is this my son playing a joke on me?' Other people were like, 'You said what? Where? We don't fly to Russia.' "

Griswold-Tergis said he has helped raise money for the project throughonline fundraising sites, including Indiegogo. Last year, he traveled overland to the park thousands of miles, helping safely deliver 10 Russian yaks to the park.

His plans for the film took a back seat to helping the park, but it's made for good images and storytelling, he said.

Shipping the unnamed bison, three females and nine males, is approaching $200,000.

The filmmaker said he'll fly with the bison to Chersky, with a stop in Anadyr near the Bering Sea.

Joe Burgess, the bison farm manager, said the main thing Griswold-Tergis will need to look out for is making sure the animals, built to handle the cold, don't overheat in their crates. They'll be loaded into their crates, then shipped on a flatbed to the airport in Fairbanks.

"I'm hoping for the best of luck," he said.

Griswold-Tergis said that on the flight to Russia, space in the cargo hold will be tight. He'll give the bison water through a hose, crawling atop their crates to reach them.

They'll get a mild anti-anxiety drug for the trip, scheduled to take less than 24 hours, from a Delta Junction veterinarian.

"We're doing everything we can to reduce their stress," Griswold-Tergis said.

'You have to fight these things:' Why two Juneau men are standing in the way of the Alaska Legislature, Gov. Bill ... - Juneau Empire

Legislative News - Tue, 2018-05-22 17:43

Juneau Empire

'You have to fight these things:' Why two Juneau men are standing in the way of the Alaska Legislature, Gov. Bill ...
Juneau Empire
The credit program intensified after early 2010, when the Legislature gave up on the idea that the credits would ever be offset by new oil revenue. At the time, Southcentral Alaska was in danger of a natural gas shortage, and lawmakers believed access ...

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