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AK Beat: Anchorage fire chief stepping down

Craig MedredAlaska Dispatch
Anchorage Fire Department Chief Chris Bushue will step down as chief in May to become a battalion commander. Anchorage Fire Department photo

Anchorage Fire Chief to step down: Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan announced on Thursday that current Fire Chief Chris Bushue will step down on May 12, and has asked to take a lower position as battalion chief. Mayor Sullivan said former AFD Chief John Fullenwider has agreed to come out of retirement to again take the helm of the city's fire department. Fullenwider, who began his Anchorage firefighting career in 1963, served as chief from 2001 until his retirement in 2006. "The citizens within the Municipality of Anchorage are fortunate. We'll draw from Chief John Fullenwider's experience as a seasoned public safety professional," the mayor said.

FBI searching for bank robbery suspect: The FBI was seeking the public’s help Thursday afternoon regarding information about a bank robbery in Wasilla on Wednesday. The suspect was described as a white male with light skin, roughly 6 feet tall with a medium build and possibly dark hair. He took an undisclosed amount of money from the Key Bank in Wasilla just before 3 p.m. He fled the bank on foot, heading south, and ran across the Parks Highway and railroad tracks and out of sight towards Railroad Avenue and Lake Lucille. Witnesses saw a car speeding away shortly after, heading eastbound on Railroad Avenue, and Southbound on Knik Goose Bay Road. The car was described as light-colored, possibly white or silver, with a black hood and black front bumper that did not match the rest of the car. Folks with information about the robbery or vehicle are asked to call the FBI at (907) 276-4441 or Wasilla Police Department at (907) 352-5401. 

Troubled mine settles prior owners' waste violations: The new owners of the ill-fated Rock Creek Mine north of Nome have agreed to pay $72,000 in fines for waste violations that the Environmental Protection Agency says were committed under previous ownership. EPA said Thursday Alaska Gold LLC -- formerly owned by Vancouver-based NovaGold Resources but purchased by Bering Straits Native Corp. in late 2012 -- will pay the fines to resolve charges concerning mismanagement of assorted hazardous wastes and used oil. EPA said the violations were discovered in an inspection conducted in June of 2010, and they have since been rectified. The Rock Creek Mine produced gold for only a few months, from September to November of 2008, before being closed by NovaGold for numerous mechanical, electrical and financial problems. The mine was later put into maintenance and reclamation status. Rock Creek Mine had been the subject of previous environmental enforcement actions. In 2009, NovaGold agreed to pay $883,628 to settle Clean Water Act violations from the mine’s construction period. In 2012, NovaGold agreed to pay $177,500 to settle Clean Water Act violations that EPA said occurred in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

Kivalina man tackled in alleged assault: A Kivalina man was taken into custody after allegedly assaulting a person with a knife and firing shots around his home while drunk.  Alaska State Troopers in Kotzebue got a call at just before 2 p.m. Wednesday that Kivalina resident Quungug Hawley, 25, was intoxicated and had assaulted Rosswell Stalker, 24, with a knife. As troopers headed to the town, roughly 80 miles away, Hawley brandished a shotgun and fired several shots around his residence, challenging people to fight him. Kivalina village police officer Henry Swan and resident Jerome Onalik sneaked up behind Hawley and tackled him, disarming him and placing him in custody. Hawley was taken to the Kotzebue Regional Jail where he was arraigned.

Skagway ferry terminal sinks: Alaska Marine Highway ferry service to southeast Alaska community of Skagway has been suspended indefinitely following the partial submersion of its dock Wednesday night. According to the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, the floating dock submerged overnight and is currently inoperable. DOT did not immediately know what caused it to sink, but said they were actively investigating the incident.

$96 million settlement ends lawsuit between Southcentral Foundation, Indian Health Service: The Southcentral Foundation announced a $96 million settlement Thursday in a long-running lawsuit with the federal Indian Health Service. The suit had contended that IHS paid Southcentral Foundation less than it was contractually obligated to -- by amounts averaging 10 percent of total payments -- for each of the past 17 years. The Southcentral Foundation administers health care for Alaska Native and American Indian residents in Southcentral Alaska, and in 2005 began lodging claims of underpayment against the federal agency for contracts dating back to 1997. In a release announcing the settlement, the Southcentral Foundation said the one-time $96 million payment will resolve all those past claims. “I personally thank President Obama for fulfilling his promise to settle contracts between Alaska Native and American Indian people and the government,” said foundation President/CEO Katherine Gottlieb.

In Canada, a real life Winnie the Pooh: And you probably thought the head-stuck-in-the-jar stunt was reserved for animated, movie bears like Winnie the Pooh. Well, think again. A real, live black bear in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada actually managed to pull off this trick on Easter. And CBC/Radio Canada has a photo to prove it. The container wasn't quite a honey pot. It was instead a plastic storage container. But the bear that found itself in Pooh's predicament got there much the same way. It was looking for food. Local police were called after the bear was spotted. The poor, temporarily blinded animal was not hard to find. "At one point, it walked into a police cruiser,'' the CBC reported. "The Ministry of Natural Resources was later contacted. The bear was tranquilized and the jar was cut off its head." It was to be released back to the wild. Whether it learned anything about the dangers of a curious nose remains unknown.

Putin wants to heat up Russian Arctic development: While the U.S. is stumbling toward an Arctic policy, Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to be setting firm and direct goals for that nation. Moscow-based RT.com, an arm of TV-Novosti, was Wednesday reporting that Putin set out a broad new policy for Arctic development at a Russian Security Council meeting on Tuesday. The news service said the Russian president specifically called for development of the Northern Sea Route to move freight from Europe through the Bering Strait to Asia. Putin wants construction of new nuclear and diesel icebreakers to keep the route open, and was quoted setting a shipping goal of "4 million tons by 2015....We need to make sure that it would be profitable and convenient for shipping companies to operate under the Russian flag, so that the majority of transport in the Arctic would be carried out by vessels under our jurisdiction.'' The Russians are also eyeing offshore oil and gas developments in the region. U.S. efforts at oil exploration have ground to temporary halt with Shell Oil floundering in its efforts of Alaska's coast.

Fishing boat runs aground near Sitka: The U.S. Coast Guard plucked two fishermen off their boat after it ran aground on Low Island -- about 10 miles west of Sitka -- on Sunday.  Neither of the men was injured in the incident. The Coast Guard said the F/V Mirage -- a 50-foot-long boat -- remained aground on the tiny island as salvage crews work to refloat it.  The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation said it appears that none of the 1,000-1,500 gallons of diesel fuel on board at the time of the grounding has leaked from the vessel.