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AK Beat: Brooks Range gets a few inches of snow

Alaska Dispatch News

Winter is coming: The Brooks Range was forecast to be coated with snow on Thursday and Friday, according to the National Weather Service. Several inches of snow was expected to fall on the southeastern Brooks Range, while in the northern Brooks Range, “significant snowfall” up to 4 inches was forecast. While it is not unusual for the Northern Interior to see a light dusting of snow during summer months, “to get a few inches of it is not normal,” said Ben Bartos, meteorologist with the NWS Fairbanks office. The forecasted snowfall was due to an unusually strong push of cold air making its way south to the Brooks Range, coupled with moisture holding in place in the Interior, Bartos said. Rain in the north and southeastern Brooks Range was expected to turn to snow Thursday evening and forecast to continue Friday.

Air quality initiative headed to Fairbanks ballot: Interior Alaska voters will get another chance to decide whether the Fairbanks North Star Borough should have the authority to regulate air quality in the region. The borough certified the initiative earlier this month after Rep. Tammy Wilson, R-North Pole, collected 1,900 signatures -- more than the 1,474 required -- to get the measure on the October ballot. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports this is the third time voters will get a chance to renew the law, which strips the borough of the ability to regulate air quality in favor of state regulation. However, Wilson and others have argued that the state regulations are still too strict, while proponents of borough control argue they are too weak to make a difference. High energy prices, cold temperatures and a strong weather inversion can trap heavy pollution from wood smoke in certain parts of the borough. At times, the communities often have some of the worst air quality in the world.

Why pike threaten Susitna salmon: While the causes of a steep drop salmon runs in the Yukon River aren’t yet fully determined, we know why king salmon in the Susitna River drainage are in decline, reports High Country News: pike. The piece highlights efforts to study the invaders, long known to have decimated salmon populations in Southcentral Alaska waterways, by Adam Sepulveda, a U.S. Geological Survey biologist, who notes that “Pike are the only species where fishermen will buy me a beer when they find out I'm working on them.” The HCN piece notes that while pike are invasive in the Susitna watershed -- which is cut off from the rest of the state by the Alaska Range -- they are native to other prolific salmon-producing habitats, such as Bristol Bay: “The difference, explains Sepulveda, is that salmon that have evolved in the company of pike favor deep-water refuges and steep streams, habitats that pike avoid. Salmon in Alexander Creek and other Southcentral systems, by contrast, didn’t face the same evolutionary pressure, and so tend to inhabit shallow, weedy areas — ideal conditions for a predator lying in ambush.” One possibility for fighting the invaders is a gillnetting campaign, something the National Park Service is trying with invasive fish in Yellowstone, but as HCN points out, the region’s relative lack of access would make that a daunting undertaking.

Lodge employees indicted in assault in guests: A grand jury in Juneau indicted two lodge employees on multiple charges Friday, including felony assault charges, reports the Juneau Empire. The charges come after authorities said the pair brandished firearms, including a Ruger Mini-14 and a 12-gauge shotgun, at guests during an altercation at the remote lodge last month. The Empire identified the target of the men’s threats as Steve Gorin, the owner of Diablo California-based Orovada Exploration & Mining. Yakutat Police Chief Robert Baty previously told Alaska Dispatch News that the man and his female companion -- whom the Empire identified as Gorin’s assistant, Amy Oakley -- were confronted by the pair over “mining and its effects on Alaska.” 

Smaller Bristol Bay reds could create marketing hassle: Bristol Bay sockeyes may be having a great run, but many of the fish are small, and that creates problems in finding a market for them, reports industry site Undercurrent News. The piece reports that 35 to 45 percent of the total catch is the small 2/4 size, and those fish “are not as suitable for processing into fillets or headed and gutted (H&G) in terms of productivity and marketing.” One potential market is Japan, where buyers have purchased them in large numbers in the past. But Japanese buyers also have the option of buying cheap coho salmon from Chile, the article reports, and are waiting for catches from British Columbia’s Fraser River runs, forecast to be especially strong this season.