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AK Beat: Kake gasoline spill now estimated at 5,500 gallons

Craig MedredAlaska Dispatch

Kake gasoline spill update: The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) issued a situation report Monday afternoon, updating Saturday’s oil spill in the Southeast Alaska community of Kake. The spill, first estimated at 7,000 gallons of gasoline, was estimated at 5,500 gallons on Monday. A floating fuel dock severed the fuel line running from the storage tank to a boat-fueling station. The spill was discovered by Kake Tribal Fuel Co. employees at 9:47 a.m. on Saturday and was reported around an hour later to the Alaska DEC.  A 100-yard rainbow-colored sheen was reported on Saturday, and the local fire department sprayed water vapor into the harbor to suppress flammable fumes. By Sunday, no sheen or odor was present, and vessels were allowed to return to the harbor. DEC personnel will arrive on Wednesday to begin posting signs warning residents not to eat shellfish harvested from beaches near the fuel facility. 

Bad shellfish leads to import shutdown in China: China recently suspended imports of shellfish from the U.S. West Coast after government inspectors found high levels of arsenic and the toxin that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning in a shipment of geoduck clams, KUOW reported. U.S. officials think the clams came from Alaska or Washington waters. The Chinese ban, effective two weeks ago, applies to all two-shelled bivalves harvested in waters off the U.S. West Coast. The U.S. exported $68 million worth of geoduck clams in 2012 and close to 90 percent of that geoduck went to China, KUOW wrote in an article Friday. For the full story, click here.

High marks for Anchorage Film Festival: The 13th year of the Anchorage International Film Festival (AIFF) is in the books and program director Tony Sheppard said he's giving it an A+ despite a couple of small technical difficulties. Filmmakers from England and France made the long journey to the Last Frontier and joined filmmakers from Alaska and the Lower 48. But only the film "McConkey" -- about the late extreme skier Shane McConkey -- sold out. Both showings of "Icebound", about the Nome diphtheria epidemic in the early 1900s, drew big crowds but still had open seats. Sheppard said "The Frozen Ground," which was screened twice, brought in small crowds, which he claimed was because the film was released on DVD months ago. Overall, Sheppard said the festival is at a standstill until the program can attract more funding. He said the festival crew is stretched thin and doing the most it can with its meager resources.

Oil output nearing record: Oil output in United States is close to its historic highs, reports industry blog Fuel Fix. The U.S. reached its high point of petroleum production in 1970, with 9.6 billion barrels being produced each day, but the Fuel Fix forecast has the nation hitting 9.5 billion in 2016 before dropping again. Though production in Alaska has steadily declined, recently taking state revenues with it, production elsewhere has boomed. Fuel Fix credits the boom to new technology -- especially horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (more commonly known as “fracking”). While the boom will lower prices in the short term -- $92 per barrel oil is expected by 2017 -- prices will be up to $141 by 2040, according to the forecast.

Unexpected abundance in Antarctic fjords: Because of silt and meltwater from glaciers, Arctic fjords are often relatively poor places for biodiversity. But their Antarctic counterparts are proving to be much more fertile, according to a report in the journal PLOS One. The report, summarized in layperson’s terms by the site Responding to Climate Change, details the findings of researchers, who were surprised to discover sea spiders, sea cucumbers, jellyfish, bristle worms and a host of other marine fauna in their survey. The researchers suspect that the biodiversity “hotspots” may help provide food for larger creatures, including fish, birds and whales. 

Anonymous tip nets two: Acting on an anonymous tip, Alaska State Troopers arrested one man at a Wasilla residence, and another nearby, according to trooper reports. At about 4:50 Sunday afternoon troopers went to a house on St. Elias Circle, based on an anonymous tip that the house was involved in illegal drug sales and harbored people with outstanding warrants. There, troopers said, they found 20-year-old Benjamin S. Crafton of Wasilla hiding. Crafton had an outstanding arrest warrant after failing to appear in court on an initial charge of driving without insurance. As troopers prepared to leave the residence, a vehicle arrived -- then, after spotting troopers, sped off. Troopers pursued and stopped the sedan on Fairview Loop near Harness Road. According to troopers, a passenger, 18-year-old Ian Stormont, of Wasilla, was found in possession of a small amount of hashish oil. He was charged as a minor in possession of a controlled substance (fifth degree) and released on his own recognizance. Crafton was remanded to Mat-Su Pre-Trial Facility on $250 bail.

Arctic sea ice volume part of bounce back: In a rare bit of good news for Arctic ice, a new report, detailed by the BBC, suggests that the volume of sea ice in the Arctic -- not just its extent -- recovered somewhat in 2013, from lows reached in 2012. While scientists warn that it's just one bit of good news in an increasingly bleak outlook, the volume of the ice increased by as much as 50 percent over comparable figures from the same time in 2012. This is in part, scientists think, because new wind patterns meant some ice stayed put rather than migrating to places -- including Alaska -- where it would’ve been more likely to melt.