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Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- The Alaska Department of Transportation released a new plan for a Juneau road Thursday, with Gov. Sean Parnell's re-election campaign following up later by highlighting his support for the road and challenging opponent Bill Walker to do the same.

The new plan for what's formally called the "Juneau Access Project" would cost $574 million to build, up $100 million from previous estimates, and is one in a lengthy list of megaprojects that Alaska has long studied but been unable to build.

This effort, too, is likely to be challenged, with an environmental group calling it an "incredible boondoggle."

The new road plan and cost numbers came out in a new draft supplemental environmental impact statement released by the department...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- The administrator of the Alaska Legislature's Select Committee on Legislative Ethics resigned this week, having been on the job only since June.

Reggie Drummond was formerly with the U.S. Army Inspector General's Office, where he was an Assistant Inspector General in Alaska for the last six years of a 26-year military career.

Ethics committee chair Gary Turner declined to comment on Drummond's rapid departure from the job he was just hired to do, but Drummond himself said there was no big story -- he just wasn't a good fit for the job.

"It was nothing. I simply didn't enjoy the job and I quit," he said...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- Gov . Sean Parnell Wednesday will announce the amount of the 2014 Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend, after having skipped the last two dividend announcements, a move that prompted one of his political opponent to accuse him of politicizing the announcement.

Alaska Dispatch News has estimated this year's dividend, which comes from the earnings of the Alaska Permanent Fund, at about $1,930 . The higher number comes as fund investments and the multi-year calculation formula suggest a dividend rebounding from the last two years' lows of $900 or less.

Parnell is running for re-election this year, along with lieutenant governor candidate Dan Sullivan...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- The state of Alaska is weighing in on the side of the federal government in court, hoping to help keep alive a U.S. Forest Service timber sale in Southeast, and with it what's left of a once-booming industry.

The Forest Service in August announced the Big Thorne sale on Prince of Wales Island, with nearly 150 million board feet of timber badly needed by local mills, but was almost immediately challenged in court by the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council and other environmental groups.

Gov. Sean Parnell announced this week that Alaska would seek to join the case on the side of the Forest Service.

“It is important that we take an active role in the litigation and represent the interests of Alaska’s families and communities,” he said...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- Prince of Wales Island is slated to get Alaska Marine Highway System ferry service next summer, but the primary goal isn't to improve transportation.

The reason the ferry LeConte will start serving the island, as well as an unused ferry terminal south of Petersburg on Mitkof Island, is to bail the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities out of a tight spot and potentially save the state millions of dollars.

The two unused terminals were built with federal money more than a decade ago, at a time when Alaska's congressional delegation was able to bring big bucks to the state for projects of sometimes questionable economic viability...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- Facing a new, unified challenge to his re-election bid, Gov. Sean Parnell shook up his campaign Tuesday, replacing his campaign manager with a highly regarded legislative staffer.

Tom Wright has been top staffer to House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, and previous House speakers. He replaces previous campaign manager Jerry Gallagher, a former ConocoPhillips lobbyist and legislative director for former Gov. Sarah Palin.

Parnell campaign spokesman Luke Miller declined to say why the change had been made but said Gallagher "voluntarily turned over the reins" of the campaign and that the change had been made with his "full support."...

Pat Forgey

Claim Check will regularly examine ads through the 2014 Alaska election season

• The ad: “Alaska Teachers”

• Who’s running it: Sullivan for U.S. Senate

• First aired: Sept. 4

• Spending: Campaign declines to say

In the ad, Anchorage teacher Leslie Moore said her pension took a big hit during the financial crisis, but she praises U.S. Senate candidate and former Alaska Attorney General Dan Sullivan for having “fought back” against Wall Street.

The Sullivan campaign says the statement about fighting back refers to a settlement that Alaska received for the state’s retirement trust funds while he was attorney general...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- Ketchikan legislative candidate Dan Ortiz wants people to know that he was doing the independent candidacy thing before it suddenly got popular with independent Bill Walker heading a unity ticket .

"His message about non-partisanship, I think, rings true with lot of people -- it certainly rings true with me," Ortiz said.

The race for House District 36 in southern Southeast was already shaping up as an interesting one, with an open seat following the surprise retirement of Rep. Peggy Wilson, R-Wrangell, at the end of the last legislative session...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- The Alaska Libertarian Party successfully swapped U.S. Senate candidates Tuesday and will go into the fall general election with the candidate they want.

"Our candidate for Senate is going to be Mark Fish," said Michael Chambers, chairman of the party.

The party was startled in last month's primary election when voters nominated little-known Thom Walker as the Libertarian primary winner. Better-known independent gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker was not on that ballot, leading observers to speculate that Thom Walker had garnered votes intended for Bill Walker...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- A federal court Friday took away a big victory it had earlier handed to Southeast Alaska's logging and other industries active in Tongass National Forest.

The battle is over the "roadless rule" barring new roads into the remaining big chunks of the Tongass that don't already have roads.

"It's great news for residents of Southeast Alaska," said Tom Waldo of the environmental law firm Earthjustice. "This case is about the wild, undeveloped parts of the Tongass, which are really important for hunting, fishing, tourism, recreation -- those are the driving forces in our local economy."

Earthjustice sued to overturn an exemption to the rule, representing numerous other. mostly environmental, groups...

Pat Forgey

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