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AK Beat: Obama declares Yukon River flooding a disaster

Craig MedredAlaska Dispatch
"Homer," at home in a Tacoma, Wash., wildlife exhibit. The 25-year-old female, euthanized Monday, was believed to be the last surviving otter victim of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.
Photo courtesy Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

Obama offers Yukon flood aid: President Obama declared parts of Alaska damaged by Yukon River flooding last month a major disaster Tuesday, opening up federal aid to the regions. Financial assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover. Residents can begin applying for assistance Wednesday.

Man escapes after firing at trooper: UPDATE: The active SERT mission has been called off, reports Peters. The suspect has not been located, and the investigation is ongoing. Troopers advise people in Big Lake to remain cautious. Please report any suspicious activity to Troopers at 352-5401. Original report: Alaska State Troopers are searching for a man who, after a 10-minute pursuit early Tuesday, exited his vehicle and fired shots at a trooper in the Big Lake Road area of the Mat-Su. The trooper was not injured, and a Special Emergency Response Team is searching for the suspect. The man is described as 5 feet 7 inches tall, possibly of Asian descent and has a “short, tight haircut,” said troopers’ spokeswoman Megan Peters. Big Lake residents have been advised to avoid picking up hitchhikers or answer their doors and to contact troopers if they see anything suspicious. 

Last oil spill otter succumbs: Officials at the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium Tacoma, Wash., report that the last surviving sea otter known to have been a victim of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound has died. "Homer," one of dozens of otters rescued from the oil spill and sent to animal exhibits around the country, lived to the ripe old age of 25. Homer was euthanized Monday; she had not been eating very well for the past several days and had dramatically lost weight. According to The Olympian, her caretakers considered her "the best otter ever."

Alaska avoids worst of Army cutbacks: The number of active-duty Army soldiers in Alaska will be cut by 342 positions within six years – avoiding the worst of the planned 80,000-troop downsizing planned by the Army. As the military winds down from two wars, the Army plans to add positions Fort Wainwright, near Fairbanks and cut some at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson near Anchorage. The cuts come after an assessment of each Army installation earlier this year. The cutbacks will eliminate entire brigades of between 3,000 to 4,500 soldiers apiece at 10 posts in the Lower 48.

Buy Snowden a latte: As Russian President Vladimir Putin refused to turn over National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden to U.S. officials, Snowden's mug was showing up in Alaska's largest city. George Gee, the co-owner of Side Street Espresso in Anchorage who is known for his amazing dry-board artwork, captured the ever-changing drama surrounding Snowden in this drawing Tuesday (photo courtesy of Kate Consenstein).

Fairbanks Mosquito explosionMosquitoes have sucked Fairbanks businesses dry of their bug dope supplies. Entomologist Dennis Fielding says this year’s crop is indeed worse than normal, in contrast to one experts’ opinion. Based on bug spray sales, local businesses agree.

Fire Island crosser identified: Alaska State Troopers have identified the man who died in Cook Inlet on Sunday while trying to cross between Anchorage and Fire Island. Capt. Joseph Hugh Eros, a 42-year-old Army lawyer, and a companion were on their way back from Fire Island, located about three miles from Anchorage's Kincaid Park, when the tide started to rush in, forcing the pair to swim. The unnamed companion made it to shore, but Eros disappeared in the water. His body was recovered early Monday.

First-hand look at King Cove, Cold Bay:  Assistant U.S. Secretary of Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn will fly to King Cove, Alaska this week for a first-hand view of the proposed King Cove road and land exchange. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife service has recommended no action on a proposed land exchange between the state of Alaska and the federal government to build a road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. Residents say they need the year-round access to the runway for potential medical emergencies requiring evacuations. After touring the nearby Izembek Wildlife Refuge, Washburn will visit King Cove, including the town's clinic. Weather permitting, he expects to travel from King Cove by fishing vessel to Cold Bay on Saturday.