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Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- The Alaska Housing Finance Corp. is hurting, and what it needs to get better is for Alaskans to pay more for their mortgages.

The state-owned housing agency makes most of its money from its central business of borrowing money on Wall Street and lending it to Alaskans to buy homes. It also finances multifamily developments and public housing projects and carries out missions such as home weatherization funded by the Alaska Legislature.

In years past, that business model made a good living for the corporation, enough even to pay dividends back to the state. It also provided Alaskans with cheaper loans than they could get elsewhere...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- Late Friday night, Alaska Communications cellphones in Juneau began blinking to life as recovery from an earthquake outage began for the company's telecommunications services throughout Southeast Alaska.

The 5.9-magnitude temblor severed an undersea cable that connects Alaska to the Lower 48. In Juneau and around Southeast, Alaska Communications and companies using its services count on the cable to provide wireless, Internet and phone service, all of which were down Friday.

"We expect most services will be restored over the weekend," said Alaska Communications spokesperson Heather Cavanaugh...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- Telecommunications services in Southeast Alaska were snarled Friday after a 5.9-magnitude earthquake apparently cut a crucial seabed data cable.

"The earthquake damaged our submarine fiber-optic cable and so we're working on repairing it right now," said Hannah Blankenship, spokesperson for Alaska Communications Systems Group.

But ACS was unable to provide much additional information about how widespread the outages were or how many customers were affected. ACS provides both wireless and Internet service.

The severed cable was the company's primary link to Juneau, connecting offshore to the company’s main fiber-optic line between Alaska and the Lower 48, she said...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU - Russia's Rosneft oil company, facing U.S. sanctions following Russia's seizure of part of neighboring Ukraine, won't be buying part of the huge Point Thomson natural gas field on Alaska's North Slope, Exxon Mobil said Wednesday.

Rosneft, one of the world's top oil producers along with Exxon, received the option last year as part of an agreement the two companies signed to expand their strategic cooperation in the Arctic.

But now, Exxon says Rosneft won't be part of the development of Point Thomson.

"Rosneft had evaluated the opportunity, and elected not to participate," said Kimberly Jordan, an Exxon spokeswoman for the company segment that includes Point Thomson and other Alaska operations...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- A Mendenhall Glacier ice cave that had become a popular but increasingly dangerous attraction has collapsed, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

Pictures showing the ice cave's spectacular blue color has made it a desirable, albeit difficult, spot to visit.

"The popularity is mostly in the name only, because it is hard to get to, and most tourists don't have the time or ability to get there," said John Neary, director of the Forest Service's Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center.

The ice that forms the cave's roof was getting increasingly thin, and Neary had just issued a public warning that it was dangerous to visit before Friday's reported collapse...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- Prompted by last year's killing of an unarmed village public safety officer in Manokotak, the state will soon allow the Native associations that employ the officers to allow them to carry handguns.

After the death of VPSO Thomas Madole, Rep. Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, asked the Alaska Legislature to expand the powers of VPSOs. His bill was passed unanimously by the Legislature and signed into law Friday in Naknek by Gov. Sean Parnell...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- A controversial half-billion-dollar road out of Juneau has been delayed again, ending chances construction could start as soon as this fall.

Now the new Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Juneau Access Improvement Project isn't scheduled for release until "late" in the year, according to a posting on the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities' project website...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- A new study says that Alaska has the most volatile state revenues in the nation, with income fluctuating more than twice as much as that of its nearest rivals -- which are often also resource states.

The study recommends that states set up and make regular deposits into "rainy day" funds, into which they can dip when tax revenues fall short.

This week, some leaders of past efforts to plan for the future said Alaska needs to resume those efforts, and new deficits may actually prompt that.

"When we've been flush, the public sees large surpluses and comes to us looking for things that the public thinks are good and needed," said Rep. Mike Hawker, R-Anchorage.

Then legislators respond with more spending...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU - Stock markets are at all-time highs, which might make this a risky time to invest in equities. Bonds are no better, with yields so low that investing there won't do much good, and might be risky as well.

But it is those financial markets in which state chief investment officer Gary Bader was handed $1 billion to invest, and he was told he's expected to make at least 8 percent per year on it for 30 years.

Oh, and he'd better not lose it, either.

"There's going to be a lot of eyes on how this is invested, and we just want to do it as prudently as we possibly can," said Bader...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- A surge of water released from behind an ice dam flowed through Juneau this week but crested late in the day Friday and had emergency officials breathing a sigh of relief.

"We did see a few homes, in areas that we're used to, get flooded, but it looks like the event has crested and started to subside," said Tom Mattice, emergency manager for the City and Borough of Juneau.

"We still have resources in the field, but it looks like we're on the right side of the curve," he said...

Pat Forgey