Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- The state's Elections Division has issued petition booklets for an initiative that aims to make applications for Permanent Fund dividends double as voter registration forms, clearing the way for signature gathering to begin.

It has set an Aug. 22 deadline for the petition booklets to be submitted.

The petition sponsors have received training from state elections officials on how to comply with state signature gathering rules since the July certification of the measure by Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- Gov. Bill Walker on Friday issued a disaster declaration for Sitka, which was hit with a series of landslides earlier this month following unusually intense rainfall.

The most notable of those landslides struck in the newly developed Kramer Avenue neighborhood, killing three people.

Also damaged in the Aug. 18 landslides were a building at the city's industrial park and other structures on the access roads to the city's hydroelectric dams.

"It's a tremendous cost to us," said Mark Gorman, Sitka's city administrator.

While the declaration ensures some government costs will be reimbursed, it may do little for citizens who have suffered similar losses...

Pat Forgey

SITKA -- Standing on a gravel pile overlooking the landslide that claimed three lives last week, Mayor Mim McConnell said the thousand-foot landslide down Harbor Mountain may have also done serious damage to Sitka's hopes for more housing.

"It's going to have to take some serious reexamination of the terrain," she said last week, looking over massive debris piles left behind as the slide swept away one home, damaged another and threatened others in the new Kramer Avenue neighborhood.

The city of Sitka didn't just permit developer Sound Development to build on the benchlands between the mountain and the ocean -- it has spent years and millions of dollars doing everything that it could to get those lands developed...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- Top British Columbia mining regulators this week have been trying to improve relations with Alaska that have been strained by several controversial mines and are even talking about cleanup of a British Columbia mine that's been polluting Taku Inlet for decades.

Provincial Minister of Energy and Mines William Bennett said Wednesday in Juneau that could mean an agreement to give Alaska more of a say in what happens over the border, and that Alaska should have a larger role.

The state's bigger role might include permitting new mines and monitoring operating mines.

"I think it's fair to say that Alaska doesn't have a lot of access to that information," Bennett said...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- Sitka search crews on Tuesday afternoon recovered the body of city building official William Stortz, 62, who died in a massive landslide a week ago.

The bodies of the two other slide victims, Elmer Diaz, 26, and Ulises Diaz, 25, were recovered last week.

Sitka Mayor Mim McConnell issued a statement praising the search crews -- which included Sitka firefighters, construction workers, and volunteers from the community and neighboring towns -- and remembering the victims.

“William and the Diaz brothers will be missed. One day the landslides will be cleaned up, but Sitka will never be the same,” she said...

Pat Forgey

SITKA -- Rescue crews Friday raced against a looming weather front expected to hit late in the day, hoping to recover the body of city building official William Stortz, 62, the only one of three victims of Tuesday's deadly landslide who has not yet been found.

But Friday evening, the search had to be suspended for the weekend because of the weather, and rain began falling late in the day as the workers and heavy equipment were pulled out of the Kramer Avenue area.

Three days of clear weather had allowed searchers to recover the bodies of Elmer Diaz, 26, and Ulises Diaz, 25, the other two men who died after intense rainfall Tuesday triggered a massive landslide. Their bodies were found Wednesday and Thursday and officially identified Friday...

Pat Forgey

SITKA -- The bodies of two men have been recovered in a neighborhood hit by a massive landslide Tuesday, with the third likely to be recovered later Thursday, authorities said.

Sitkans are now remembering those their community has lost, including two vibrant young men and a highly regarded public official.

Missing after the Kramer Avenue slide were brothers Elmer Diaz, 26, and Ulises Diaz, 25, who were painting a new home, and William Stortz, 62, a city building inspector monitoring newly installed drainage systems in the area...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- Canadian mine regulators have given environmental approval to a new mine that drains into Alaska's Misty Fjords National Monument, but unique attributes of the Brucejack Mine mean that it has not raised the same concerns as several other transboundary mines.

The Brucejack project is located in an area that drains into the Unuk River, important for salmon production, and which eventually flows into Tongass National Forest in Alaska.

Unlike other British Columbia mines, such as the Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell (KSM), Tulsequah Chief and Red Chris, the Brucejack has not raised major concerns in Alaska, said Kyle Moselle, large mine coordinator for the Alaska Department of Natural Resources...

Pat Forgey

Update, 1:35 p.m. Thursday: Searchers have recovered a second body from the site of a Sitka landslide, according to Jeremy Zidek, a spokesman for the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. Authorities have not released the identity of the body, but it was found near the area of the house that was engulfed by the slide, where the first body was recovered Wednesday. A third person remains missing.

Zidek said a SEADOGS K-9 Search and Rescue Team out of Juneau were instrumental in locating the bodies, and that the dogs have caught a third scent. Crews are working their way to the area but moving slowly due to instability of the area...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- Though state environmental officials have apparently believed for years cruise ships have been violating air quality standards in Alaska, they failed to cite the cruise lines until this spring, according to the officials.

The violations had been occurring year after year, the state Department of Environmental Conservation now says, and had been documented at the time by DEC's Cruise Ship Program.

In March, DEC issued notices of violation to companies operating the ships. The violations were first reported last month by TradeWinds, an industry publication, which learned of them from filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Two of the big cruise lines say they've begun internal investigations...

Pat Forgey

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