Alaska Beat 5/9/14: More talk about a train tunnel beneath Bering Strait

From New York to London, via Beijing -- and the Bering Strait: Plans have long been floated about to build a tunnel beneath the Bering Strait, connecting the Eurasian land mass with North America, including talk a few years ago of a Russian-backed project. The latest idea, though, adds a new player: China. As Britain’s The Guardian newspaper reports, the plan is one of several China is eyeing including one that would run from Beijing to London, via Paris, Berlin and Moscow. Still, as The Guardian points out, the plan invites some skepticism: “No other Chinese railway experts have come out in support of the proposed project. Whether the government has consulted Russia, the US or Canada is also unclear. The Bering Strait tunnel alone would require an unprecedented feat of engineering – it would be the world's longest undersea tunnel – four times the length of the Channel Tunnel.”

Humpback status becomes increasingly political: Are humpback whales still endangered? The iconic creatures once seemed destined for extinction, with numbers that dropped to about 1,000 worldwide. They were a protected species even before the Endangered Species Act came into existence, and their recovery is “a genuine ESA success story,” says High Country News, in an article that takes up the question. Canada recently came to the conclusion that the whales are no longer endangered, downgrading humpbacks’ status under the Species at Risk Act from “threatened” to “species of special concern,” earlier this year, and Alaska recent petitioned the federal government to do the same. But as High Country News points out, decisions over the whales’ status -- on both Canada and the U.S. -- are shaping up to be a proxy battle between oil companies seeking to create export terminals (in Canada’s case) or drill for offshore oil and environmentalists who seek to slow or halt those developments.

Alaska Dispatch / Anchorage Daily News