The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

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Valdez Star photo

The tuxes came out of the closet in Valdez Saturday when the town hosted Alaska's first inaugural ball for Gov. Bill Walker and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott. Dignitaries mixed and danced with lucky ticket holders until well after midnight. Amongst the celebrants (left to right) were Mayor Larry Weaver, former Valdez mayors Bert Cottle (current mayor of Wasilla), Stephen McAlpine, Gov. Walker (also a former mayor), Lynn Chrystal and Lt. Gov. Mallott.

Ski trail closing

Ski trails from Mineral Creek Rd and the entire upper canyon will be closed this Friday and Saturday according to the Valdez Dept. of Parks and Recreation according to a press release sent to Valdez media Monday,

The temporary closure of the trails occurs annually for the Valdez High School ski team's Valdez Invite, which will be held January 9-10. The area will be closed to motorized traffic, hiking, and sledding all day Friday and Saturday until 5 p.m.

"Approximately 250 high school skiers representing ten schools from Fairbanks, Kenai, and the Matsu Valley will join the Valdez Bucs for this great event," the city said. "This closure is absolutely necessary for the preparation of the course and for the safety of the skiers. As always, we greatly appreciate your understanding and cooperation."

The start and finish area for both days is at the U.S. Coast Guard housing facility off of Hanagita. Friday's relay races begin at 3 p.m. and the main event races on Saturday begin at 11 a.m.

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Apply for dividend

(AP) With the new year, eligible Alaskans can begin signing up for the 2015 Permanent Fund Dividend.

The application period begins on New Year's Day and continues through March 31.

People can sign up online or pick up forms at designated distribution centers.

Eligible Alaska residents received checks of nearly $1,900 in October when the 2014 dividend was distributed. The money comes from investment profits from the state's oil wealth savings account.

To qualify for a dividend, new residents must live in Alaska for a full calendar year.

The fund was established in 1976 after North Slope oil was discovered. The state began distributing dividend checks in 1982.

Alaska has no income tax. Residents, however, must pay federal taxes on the payout.

Website updated for the legislature

(AP) A new user-friendlier version of the Alaska Legislature's website has been unveiled, just weeks ahead of the start of this year's legislative session.

It's the first redesign for the website in seven years. The website debuted Dec. 26 after six months in the design phase.

The goal was to make the website more accessible, Sue Cotter, the manager of Information and Teleconferencing for the Alaska Legislature's Information Office in Juneau, said in an email to the Peninsula Clarion.

``We're always striving to make it easier for the public and state employees to use,'' Cotter said.

The site features a new version of the Bill Action Status Inquiry System, or BASIS, the popular tool used to track a bill through the legislative process. It also offers access to audio and minutes of legislative sessions. The old version of BASIS will still be available as a backup through the summer in case there are glitches.

The new website also includes a ``Live Now'' tab so people can watch committee hearings online. Previously, people had to go to a different website to watch live TV.

The legislative website, which can be accessed at http://is.gd/81rDuX, also will be friendlier for smartphone and tablet users as it automatically resizes to the user's screen.

The debut comes just ahead of the 2015 legislative session, which starts Jan. 20.

Bear plates back

Valdez Star photo

Gov. Bill Walker spent time with his youngest constituents Saturday at Gilson Middle School when Valdez hosted a meet and greet for the public. Walker, left, mingled with the crowd while balloon clown Hotai Williams, right, plied his trade.

(AP) Alaska is bringing back the bear to license plates.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports Alaskans next spring will be able to choose license plates of blue and gold that reflect state flag colors or a new version of plates last offered in 1976 that feature a grizzly bear.

Outgoing state Rep. Peggy Wilson sponsored a measure last session to bring back the grizzly plates. House Bill 293 passed unanimously in the final days of the 2014 session.

The old grizzly plates had red lettering, beige mountains and a brown bear on its hind legs on a white background.

The new plates feature a darker bear on a fading blue background with a silhouette of the Alaska Range.

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