Web posted Friday, August 26, 2011

Bulletin Board: August 28, 2011

Supreme Court allows mining initiative on Lake and Pen ballots
The Alaska Supreme Court denied a petition filed by Pebble Partnership to remove the Save Our Salmon Initiative from the Lake and Peninsula Borough's October ballot. The initiative would amend the borough's development permitting code to prevent the advancement of any large-scale resource extraction activity, including mining, that would destroy or degrade salmon habitats.

July unemployment rate at 7.7%
Alaska's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for July was 7.7 percent, up slightly from June's revised rate of 7.5 percent, according to the state Department of Labor. The national rate was 9.1 percent. The unemployment rates for Alaska and the nation are lower than a year ago, but neither rate has changed much during 2011. The state's jobless rate is still above its 10-year average of 7.1 percent, but is healthier than the national rate. The contrast between Alaska and the nation is even more pronounced in terms of jobs. Although employment in the nation began to recover in 2010 and has continued to improve this year, the July employment number of 130.9 million puts the nation at 2004's level. In Alaska, 2011 represents an all-time high, with July employment at 355,100. Employment in Alaska has grown every year since 1988, with the exception of 2009, the end of the national recession. Employment declined by a four-tenths of 1 percent that year, but Alaska made up those losses in 2010, then surpassed them. The not seasonally adjusted jobless rates fell in every region in the state in July. Six areas' rates were below 5 percent; the lowest was Bristol Bay at 1.1 percent. Eight areas had double digit unemployment rates, with Wade Hampton Census Area the highest at 24.6 percent. Wade Hampton's unemployment rate has topped 20 percent in five of the past 10 years.

Cable company deploys subsea network upgrade
Kodiak Kenai Cable Co. LLC, a subsidiary of Old Harbor Native Corp., has deployed Infinera's Submarine Solution for its optical network upgrade spanning about 621 miles throughout the state of Alaska. KKCC chose Infinera for the ease of use, speed of deployment and cutting edge technology offered on Infinera's DTN for Submarine Line Terminating Equipment. KKCC operates Kodiak Kenai Fiber Link, a submarine fiber optic telecommunications system connecting Kodiak Island and the Kenai Peninsula with Anchorage. Servicing 10 percent of Alaska's population, the network runs from Seward down to Narrow Cape and back up to Anchorage. The fiber link provides access for broadband services to carriers, businesses, schools and government institutions, including Alaska Aerospace Development Corp. and the nation's largest Coast Guard base on Kodiak Island. The improved telecommunications service with an Infinera network also enables KKCC to enhance economic and educational opportunities and healthcare services.

UAF, research center design sustainable village
The Cold Climate Housing Research Center, in partnership with the University of Alaska Fairbanks, is designing a sustainable student village that includes a cluster of super energy-efficient homes with shared open space, a community garden and footpaths between buildings. The village will be on university property adjacent to the research center off Fairbanks Street. The goal is to build the first cluster of four 4-bedroom homes by summer 2012. As much a research project as a development, UAF students, faculty and departments will work with CCHRC building scientists to improve on each iteration of the UAF Sustainable Village over the coming years. The project will blend the latest cold-climate technology, environmentally sound land use and sustainable infrastructure with a new model of campus housing students as live-in researchers who test, interpret and help refine the design as part of their college education. It also emphasizes community design, as CCHRC is working with the UAF Office of the Chancellor, the UAF Office of Sustainability, and student groups on the concept and design. UAF is hosting a design competition this fall where groups of students submit ideas and attend design seminars for credit and the chance to join CCHRC's design team. The project aims achieve net-zero energy buildings with low construction, operating and maintenance costs.

NAC to offer scheduled freight service between Texas, Mich.
Alaska-based Northern Air Cargo announced it would begin operating flights between Laredo and El Paso, Texas, and Ypsilanti, Mich. Beginning Sept. 12, the company's 737-300 will service the markets four times per week, Monday through Thursday. NAC operates a fleet of 737 aircraft in Alaska, but has been operating charter service on a regular basis out of its Texas base since December 2009. One of the nation's oldest continuously operating cargo carriers, Northern Air Cargo is Alaska's largest all-cargo airline offering scheduled and charter services throughout Alaska, the Lower 48 and North America.

USFW seeks comments on ANWR plan
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking public comment on its draft revised long-term management plan on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Comments are due by Nov. 15. The plan can be found at http://arctic.fws.gov. Send comments to Deborah D. Webb, assistant natural resource planner, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Planning and Policy, 101 12th Ave., Room 236, Fairbanks, Alaska 99701.

Kinross Gold offers endowment for engineering students
The University of Alaska Fairbanks and Kinross Fort Knox announced a gift to support graduate student research in mining engineering at UAF. The $1 million engineering research endowment will allow UAF to provide advanced training for mining engineers by establishing a steady source of research funding. The U.S. Bureau of Mines, which closed in the mid-1990s, used to provide federal funding for mining research. Since its closure, finding funding for masters- and doctorate-level training has been a challenge, said Rajive Ganguli, chairman of the mining and geological engineering department at UAF. The mining engineering program was founded in 1917 as the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines. The Kinross Fort Knox mine, located 25 miles northeast of Fairbanks, began commercial production in 1997. In 2011 the site poured its 5 millionth ounce of gold. The mine employs more than 500 local residents.

AEA, NOAA to study Cook Inlet hydrokinetic energy
The Alaska Energy Authority and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have signed a memorandum of agreement to conduct a baseline assessment of tidal hydrokinetic energy in Cook Inlet. Over the next few years, NOAA will measure and model water levels and three-dimensional current, salinity and temperature fields within Cook Inlet to identify regions with promise for the generation of hydrokinetic energy. Alaska Energy Authority is a public corporation of the state whose mission is to reduce the cost of energy in Alaska.

Bristol companies receive federal contracts
Bristol was awarded two contracts by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. A range of services will be provided to the Corps, and work will be performed on military installations in North Carolina, as well as sites within the Los Angeles, Sacramento and Albuquerque Districts. The Corps Savannah District awarded Bristol Design Build Services LLC, a $7 million contract to construct an 18,000-square-foot tactical equipment maintenance facility at Fort Bragg, N.C. This is the final task order on the Multiple Award Task Order Contract originally awarded in 2008. The scope of work includes the construction of a hazardous waste storage building, oil storage building and vehicle parking lot. The project is required to be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver Certified, a rating that signifies a structure has been built using strategies designed to minimize impact on the environment. The Corps Albuquerque District awarded Bristol Environmental Remediation Services LLC, a $9.9 million Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity contract for munitions and environmental remediation services. An ID/IQ contract means the company will provide for an indefinite quantity of supplies or services during a fixed period of time. Work to be performed includes hazardous, toxic, and radioactive waste remediation services, range and maintenance services, as well as military munitions response program services. Bristol Design Build Services LLC and Bristol Environmental Remediation Services LLC are members of the Bristol Alliance of Cos., a group of engineering, construction and environmental services firms with offices in Alaska, Washington, Texas and North Carolina. The companies are wholly owned subsidiaries of the Bristol Bay Native Corp.

Pacific Alaska Freightways receives award
Pacific Alaska Freightways, which provides transportation services between the Lower 48 and Alaska, was honored with the 2011 Quest for Quality Award for achieving the highest overall score in the Western Region LTL carrier division and recognized with the highest scores in the categories of On-time Performance and Value. The Quest for Quality awards is voted on by readers of Logistics Management magazine, and is regarded as one of the most important measures of customer satisfaction and operational excellence in the transportation industry.

Alaska Women's Hall of Fame accepting nominations
Alaska Women's Hall of Fame is currently accepting nominations for the 2012 induction, to be held in March. Nominees may be living or deceased and must have lived in Alaska at some point. If a nominee is living, she must be at least 65 years old as of Nov. 1. A nominee's contributions should be of community, state-wide or of national importance and of enduring value. Applications must be received before noon Nov. 1. Honorees will be selected and their names will be posted in March 2012 to coincide with National Women's History Month. Find the nomination form at http://alaskawomenshalloffame.org.

Calista sells last of the ANI papers
Calista Corp. said it has sold the last two Alaska Newspapers Inc. weeklies to Edgar Blatchford. Blatchford will assume ownership of The Tundra Drums and the Seward Phoenix Log later this month. Blatchford founded ANI in the early 1980s. He currently is an associate professor at University of Alaska Anchorage. Blatchford has earned degrees from Alaska Methodist University, which is now Alaska Pacific University, Columbia University, University of Washington, Dartmouth College and Harvard University. Blatchford assumed ownership of the Seward paper in 1984. Five years later, Calista and Blatchford founded ANI. Soon after ANI purchased The Tundra Drums. All ANI weekly newspaper publications have now been sold. Jennifer Gibbons bought The Cordova Times, while Jason Evans and Kiana Peacock purchased The Arctic Sounder, The Dutch Harbor Fisherman and The Bristol Bay Times. The final publications by ANI were Aug. 15, and the ANI offices will close Aug. 31.

MEA board OKs rate decrease
Matanuska Electric Association announced that its board of directors voted Aug. 15 to authorize a decrease of 0.44 percent in base rates, effective the fourth quarter. The average MEA consumer uses just over 700 kilowatt hours of electricity per month, and would see a decrease of about 31 cents a month. Under the rules set by the Regulatory Commission of Alaska, MEA may on a quarterly basis file for limited increases or decreases in base rates, provided that the adjustments stay within certain financial parameters. The rate filing is based on the test year ending June 30, 2011, and will take effect during the first week of October 2011, pending approval by the RCA.