News Briefs

 

April 25, 2018

Gov. Walker's Press office

Gov. Bill Walker signing an executive order that will create a task force that will examine the feasibility of creating a military history museum.

Fiber optics expands

Copper Valley Telecom announced last week it will begin to bring its fiber optic line to Valdez businesses in the central district this summer.

It also announced that the cooperative received national recognition as a "Gig-Capable Internet Provider" by NTCA/The Rural Broadband Association, and is the first Alaskan carrier to win the certification.

Details of the fiber optic expansion to the Valdez business district will be released in the coming weeks according to the press release.

Military museum?

Gov. Bill Walker on Saturday signed an administrative order that will memorialize Alaska's military heritage and explore the creation of an Alaska Military History Museum.

He signed the order at the Ted Stevens Airport in Anchorage in front of a crowd of veterans, many who were returning to Alaska from Washington DC as part of the Last Frontier Honor Flight.

The order creates an 11 member Task Force to research and coordinate similar efforts, inventory artifacts, collect oral histories, research funding, and propose possible sites for a museum.

Walker said that Alaska has a "long and complicated" relationship with the military.

"Major components of that history currently go unrecognized," he said in a press release Saturday. "The internment of Alaska Native people in Southeast Alaska during WWII. The role African-American soldiers played in the building of the Alcan, referred to as the "Road to Integration" in the Army. The Aleutian Islands' role as the only part of North America to endure prolonged enemy occupation by Japan during World War II."


Bill Johnson for Alaska House

Unemployment

(AP) Alaska's unemployment rate remained at 7.3 percent for the third straight month in March.

Federal labor statistics show that's the highest the unemployment rate has been in the state since early 2012.

The preliminary, seasonally adjusted rate of 7.3 percent in March was up slightly from a year earlier, when it stood at 7.1 percent.

The state labor department says total employment in Alaska was down about 2,600 jobs last month from March 2017.

Nationally, unemployment stood at 4.1 percent last month.

Free and open

(AP) The Alaska Senate has narrowly approved a formal statement supporting a "free and open" internet that's equally accessible to all consumers.

The so-called Sense of the Senate also calls on Congress to overturn a Federal Communications Commission decision to end net-neutrality protections. It passed 11-7.

The FCC in December voted to gut U.S. rules meant to prevent broadband companies from exercising more control over what people watch and see online.

Sen. Bill Wielechowski (wil-a-KOW-skee), an Anchorage Democrat who sponsored the Senate statement, says it's important for state lawmakers to weigh in on the issue before the new rules take effect next week.

Bills pending in the Alaska Legislature seek to prevent internet service providers in the state from blocking or interfering with internet access. But those bills haven't moved much.

Sea lion killers

(AP) Federal prosecutors have charged an Alaska salmon boat captain and a crew member with killing 15 endangered Steller sea lions nearly three years ago.

Thirty-one-year-old Jon Nichols of Cordova, skipper of the Iron Hide, and 21-year-old deckhand Teddy Turgeon of Wasilla also are charged with obstructing the government's investigation.

The sea lion carcasses were found along sandbars in the Copper River fishing district during the salmon gillnet season that opened May 14, 2015.

Prosecutors say Nichols used a shotgun to shoot sea lions, told Turgeon to do so and steered his boat close to the animals for a better shot.

Prosecutors say the men hid the shotgun and coordinated false stories among other crewmen.

Efforts to reach Nichols and Turgeon by phone and social media were not successful.

Promising wells

(AP) ConocoPhillips say its 2018 winter exploration and appraisal program on Alaska's western North Slope produced promising results.

The Houston-based company Monday announced it had concluded 2018 winter program and that three appraisal wells supported a previously announced estimate of at least 300 million barrels of oil at its Willow Discovery leasing area within the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.


Company executive vice president Matt Fox calls the results "promising."

The company says it originally planned to drill five wells, including two appraisal wells at Willow.

Drilling efficiencies allowed the drilling of a third appraisal well plus three exploration wells.

The company says all six wells reached oil and verified potential.

The exploration wells represent new discoveries and the company will assess results in anticipation of additional appraisal next winter.

Taku adieu

(AP) Alaska's former ferry named Taku is on its way to a scrapyard, the ship's new owner said.

The Taku sailed past Singapore on Friday on the way to being scrapped, CoastAlaska news reported. Jabal Al Lawz Trading bought the 55-year-old ship earlier this year.

Co-owner Ben Evans of New Zealand said it will end its sailing days in India later this month. Evans said the company sailed the Taku across the Pacific Ocean in hopes of finding a buyer to keep it in service but that didn't work out. Evans called the situation a tragedy.

"She's going to go to the scrapyard and sold for demolition. So that's the end of the Taku," he said.

The state sold the ship for $170,000. Evans said his company will probably get about $1.5 million for the ship, but that costs associated with sailing it across the ocean will knock down the profit.

"It costs us $55,000 to insure it for the voyage. My crew payroll's running about $2,000 a day. The fuel bill was probably just under $400,000. There's some big figures there, you know," Evans said.

State officials put the Taku up for sale a little more than a year ago. The original minimum bid was $1.5 million. But it took several tries to sell it, each with a lower price.

The Taku has not been a working ferry for several years. It was tied up in 2015 because of its age, as well as budget cuts.

Evans said most of the Taku will be recycled. Some parts, such as generators, will be sold whole.

The cut-up hull will be reprocessed into rebar.

Valdez Star photo

Daffodils, hyacinth and crocus are braving the cold and rain to bring the first blooms of spring to life – a little before the tenacious gardeners of Valdez bring a riot of color to a town wary of winter white.

 

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